Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Flameskull: The Most Straightforward Monster in the Book

This is what happens when the person naming these monsters either gave up or ran out of ideas. ‘Flameskull’? Really? That’s all you could come up with? Not ‘Burning Spirit’ or ‘Vengeful Specter’? All you had was ‘Flameskull’?

The flameskull is the kind of monster you can look at and immediately forget exists. It’s about as far from the word ‘impressive’ as you could possibly get. It isn’t offensively bad and it has its uses in a campaign. But on its own, it really isn’t anything to talk about.

So imagine how difficult it was to write an entire article about the thing. Not very, but I want to pretend that it was harder than it was.

Lore: The Wizard, Reborn and Enslaved

A flameskull is a lowly servant of a dark wizard, brought back to life from the corpses of other wizards. They are bound to their creator, serving as the protector of whatever its master demands of it. They’ll follow their orders to their interpretations; as such, their master needs to be careful when writing up their orders.

Only the dimmest memories still remain of the flameskull’s old life. It may have the voice, it is but an echo of the wizard that once was. The only thing that isn’t a hollow shell of what it was is its magic.

Killing a flameskull is more challenging than just smashing it. In order to permanently kill it, one needs to use holy water or a spell that removes its curse. Should its orders become impossible to carry out any further, the skull regains its own free will.

There’s not a whole lot of lore to work with there. But the few options there are could be pretty interesting. Maybe you could have a slightly rebellious flameskull work with the party to betray its master. Or maybe an autonomous flameskull could cause some havoc for the party after regaining its free well. Nothing especially amazing, but it could be fun!

Unlike its design. Which is just… so dull.

Design: Take a Guess

Which do you hear? Skeletor or Ghost Rider?

What the fuck am I supposed to say here? What do you want from me? There’s nothing! I have literally nothing to say here! Surprise surprise, the monster called Flameskull is a flaming skull! How shocking!

This is a first for this series. There is literally nothing to talk about. This monster has literally nothing to talk about. There’s nothing good or bad to discuss. There’s just… nothing.

But I managed to fill enough space to make the article look visually appealing, so I win.

Stats: I CAST MAGIC MISSILE FROM MY EYE SOCKETS!!!

I don’t know why, but that image is simultaneously the most intimidating and hilarious thing I’ve ever imagined.

If not for its resistances/immunities, this thing would be easy to kill. Its AC is pretty low and the HP just as mediocre. It’s resistant to lightning, necrotic, and piercing, and completely immune to cold, fire, poison, and a good number of conditions.

It’s much better on the offensive than it is on the defensive. It’s got all the following spells to throw at your players:

  • Cantrip: mage hand
  • 1st level (3 slots): magic missile, shield
  • 2nd level (2 slots): blur, flaming sphere
  • 3rd level (1 slot): fireball

On top of that, it has the Fire Ray attack, which it can use twice a turn. This really isn’t anything special. Just a little bit of fire that can deal 10(3d6) damage. Nothing especially impressive or intimidating.

This can make for a decent low-level casting fight. Want to put the wizard against the wall? Wanna screw with your party with some low-level spells? This dude is the right one for the job. But is it good for an actual challenge? Not really.

Placement

This is a pretty dull monster. It has some decent lore and stats, though nothing incredible. If not for that nothing design, it would be a mid-tier monster. But as it stands, it is doomed to be low tier.

With that in mind, let’s put the Flameskull on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Dragon Turtle
  4. Green Dragons
  5. Red Dragons
  6. Blue Dragons
  7. Black Dragons
  8. White Dragons
  9. Silver Dragons
  10. Couatl
  11. Behir
  12. Aboleth
  13. Bronze Dragons
  14. Brass Dragons
  15. Copper Dragons
  16. Gold Dragons
  17. Chuul
  18. Chimera
  19. Death Knight
  20. Bone Devil
  21. Dracolich
  22. Faerie Dragon
  23. Ankheg
  24. Empyrean
  25. Drow (all four of ’em)
  26. Shadow Demon
  27. Marilith
  28. Drider
  29. Aarackockra
  30. Azer
  31. Demilich
  32. Spectator
  33. Cambion
  34. Animated Armor
  35. Banshee
  36. Basilisk
  37. Yochlol
  38. Bulette
  39. Cloaker
  40. Darkmantle
  41. Doppelganger
  42. Ettin
  43. Pit Fiend
  44. Erinyes
  45. Chain Devil
  46. Bearded Devil
  47. Barbed Devil
  48. Spined Devil
  49. Ice Devil
  50. Nalfeshnee
  51. Glabrezu
  52. Chasme
  53. Barlgura
  54. Horned Devil
  55. Balor
  56. Shadow Dragon
  57. Vrock
  58. Dretch
  59. Goristro
  60. Hezrou
  61. Manes
  62. Duergar
  63. Quasit
  64. Dryad
  65. Planetar
  66. Imp
  67. Flameskull <—————————
  68. Displacer Beast
  69. Carrion Crawler
  70. Rug of Smothering
  71. Bugbear Chief
  72. Bugbear
  73. Vine Blight
  74. Twig Blight
  75. Needle Blight
  76. Bullywug
  77. Ettercap
  78. Cockatrice
  79. Lemure
  80. Solar
  81. Deva
  82. Cyclops
  83. Centaur
  84. Fire Elemental
  85. Water Elemental
  86. Air Elemental
  87. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  88. Earth Elemental
  89. Flying Sword
  90. Crawling Claw

1 thought on “Flameskull: The Most Straightforward Monster in the Book”

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