Don’t mind me, just putting Sci-Fi Week on hold for D&D.
Remember the Aboleth? Well, I have good news for you! Because today’s monster is designed to add-on to them in every way! They are the perfect fodder enemy leading up to the final battle with the Aboleth itself!
Even on their own, the Chuul is a super cool monster! It has some decent stats for a lower level monster, an incredibly creative and interesting design, and their lore, while heavily tied to the Aboleth, is still really cool on its own! They place pretty high on the Best of the Bestiary.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Lore: Primeval, Tireless, and Ever Waiting
Words cannot describe how much I love the lore behind these monsters. It makes them so easy to use in lots of fun, creative and effective ways! The storytelling possibilities these guys have are perfect spices to the steak that is the Aboleth!
Long ago, when the Aboleths ruled the world, they created the Chuuls to enforce their will on the surface. They went and gathered sentient life and magic for their masters, thus expanding their army. With each passing day, a Chuul becomes larger and more powerful. Thus, when the Aboleths fell by the hands of the Gods, they managed to survive and carry on.
Even after their fall, the Chuul remain to protect the Aboleth’s empire. Any treasure hunter that seeks riches in their master’s lair will meet death by the Chuul’s claws, regardless if their master is still alive, or even still there. Then, ever eager to expand their master’s resources, the Chuul will take the riches left behind by the corpse and add them to the hoard.
Should a Chuul be found by an Aboleth again, it takes no time for them to resume their service. The ancient links between the two creatures will never fade. Thus, no matter how much time may pass, the Aboleth will always have a loyal, and powerful, servant.
On their own, the Chuul is decently effective. But if you’re writing a campaign building up to an Aboleth for the final boss? They are an absolute must! They make for the perfect enemy, both as an early-game boss fight and as a late-game fodder enemy!
Even if you aren’t doing an Aboleth-centered campaign, these guys can still work well for an underground lake dungeon! Perhaps the players find an ancient temple guarded by Chuuls which contains a great treasure! Or maybe a lake town keeps losing citizens because an abandoned Chuul is still fulfilling his duty to his masters! They make for a perfect enemy in numerous varieties of quest!
Designs: Mini-Cthulu Bug Centaurs
Does that sound awesome? Because it absolutely is!
On ‘Best of the Bestiary’, I look for creative designs that simultaneously look cool and tell a story. Luckily for the Chuul, Wizards of the Coast decided to go all-out on them! Their design is absolutely perfect!
The monster’s crab-like design communicates its roots in the water, which hints at the connection to the Aboleth! The tentacles and pincers are immediately recognizable as a threat! The shell looks tough, which perfectly communicates that this is a creature with a high AC! The size of the claws and length of the body sells the large size of the monster perfectly!
Plus, it just looks fucking bad-ass! Describing this thing to a group of players, especially low-level ones, is an absolute blast!
This design is an easy A+! I fucking love this shit! We need more monsters like this!
Stats: Low-Level Boss, High-Level Fodder
One of my favorite tropes in a video game is the returning first boss. Having the first boss of the game return later as a basic enemy is a fun way of showing the player how strong they’ve grown. Unfortunately, none of the monsters we’ve discussed thus far can be used for that purpose.
Which might be why I love the Chuul so much!
As servants of Aboleths, the Chuul makes for perfect fodder in their lairs. At higher levels, they aren’t much of a threat. But at low levels? These guys can be really scary! As such, they are the perfect monster to serve early as a boss at the end of a dungeon, perhaps an abandoned Aboleth lair, then later in the campaign as a fodder enemy in a similar dungeon, maybe a lair helmed by an active Aboleth.
They have decently high HP and an impressive AC to match. They can breathe both air and water, so that takes that tactic off the board immediately. On top of that, their Sense Magic ability makes it hard to use magic to get the jump on them. Plus, they are completely immune to poison, both in terms of damage and the status effect. Taking them down is far from easy at a low level and far from quick at a high one.
They’re also quite the threat in terms of attacking. The Chuul can attack twice with its pincers, then again with its tentacles if the enemy is grappled by it. The pincer does a decent 11(2d6+4) damage with a decently challenging DC to avoid for the grapple. The tentacles, while they don’t do any damage, are more than a threat thanks to their paralyzing effects. Getting in close with a Chuul is not an advisable tactic.
In this case, the monster’s simplicity works greatly to its advantage. It has the perfect balance between stats and abilities to encourage creative tactics on the part of the players. Whether you’re using them as a boss or as fodder, these guys will fit the need perfectly!
Going into this, I wasn’t expecting to love these guys as much as I do. I thought I’d be singing the praises of a cool looking monster with lackluster lore and stats. I was expecting a mid-tier monster.
I was not expecting a new top-tier!
With that said, let’s put the Chuul on the Best of the Bestiary!
- Death Tyrant
- Chuul <———
- Animated Armor
- Carrion Crawler
- Rug of Smothering
- Bugbear Chief
- Vine Blight
- Twig Blight
- Needle Blight
- Flying Sword
If it were a completely stand-alone monster, it would likely be a middle-tier monster. But being the support monster to the Aboleth immediately boosted it up to a top-tier! They are fun in every way, from their design to their lore! Of all the monsters I want to play with, the Chuul is near the top of the list!
Mostly because I want my Aboleth battles to be as awesome as possible.