Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Harpy: Carnivorous Maidens of the Skies

Ah, the Harpy. Yet another staple of fantasy. Because if we’ve learned anything from the cyclops and the centaur and the gargoyle, it’s that those guys place high. Always unique and interesting.

I see that, but I put just about every dragon at least in the top ten. So… call me a hypocrite?

Whatever, let’s get started.

Lore: The Ancient Cursed

Harpies love few things more than causing suffering and death. Their songs, so sweet and beautiful, have lured many a would-be hero to their ends. From there, they’ll consume their fill.

Ages ago, a wandering elf heard a birdsong so wonderful that she was moved to tears. When she moved to find it, she found a handsome young elf male, a reclusive god named Fenmarel Mestarine. He fled, but his divine presence stole her heart.

The elf searched the forest for the god, yet found nothing. In her despair, she cried out to the elven gods to help her. The goddess of the sky, Aerdrie Faenya, heard her cry and was moved to help. She appeared in the forest as a beautiful bird that sang a song so wonderful that it lured the god out. Afterwards, the goddess taught the young elf the same song.

Unfortunately, she failed to capture the song’s magic and could not lure the god to her. Angered and heartbroken, she cursed the names of the gods and invoked a terrible power that placed a curse upon her. Her curse affected not only her body, but her soul, turning her feelings of love into hunger for flesh. From this day on, she was the first harpy.

A harpy’s song is the most beautiful sound in the world. Any traveler who succumbs to its magic will be lured in like a blundering fool to their deaths. Should they break free of this spell, however, a harpy will be quick to flee. Never will a harpy partake in a fair fight. Though should they fall for their trap, they’ll find a hellish death, as the harpy relishes in causing suffering.

Harpies will collect little nick-knacks from their victims. Jewelry, gold, anything of value. But should these not exist, they’ll simply take their hair or bones or other body parts. Their nests are often a disgusting cluster of valuable items and rotting pieces of corpses.

The lore here is surprisingly extensive for a low-level monster. You could legitimately tell an entire story with it! Perhaps the players need to find a missing person who was taken by a harpy in a side quest. Or they could have a much longer quest involving the gods involved in the myth. Your options are extensive!

Design: You Ever Seen a Harpy Before?

You know what to expect here. Lady with wings and talons. It ain’t complicated.

It’s a classic look. A true staple of the fantasy genre. From Greek myths to fantasy epics, the harpy is a tried and true creature. And in all of those previous tales, the harpy looks just about the same.

As is the case here. It’s the most standard harpy design you could come up with. It has no exotic flare to make it stand out from its contemporaries. It’s just a harpy.

I wish they had done something with it. Maybe given a few variations! Maybe you could have a raven harpy with black wings, or a macaw harpy with colorful wings! I dunno, just give me something more interesting than this!

It’s a classic look. But in terms of creativity? It falls incredibly short.

In short: dull. Next.

Stats: How’s Your Singing?

This is a very bog-standard fight. It has low AC, low HP, and most of its moveset is just simple melee attacks bolstered by Multiattack. Effective for a low-level enemy like this one, but far from interesting.

Save for one ability: Luring Song.

The effect of this ability is incredibly simple. It starts to sing, forcing everyone within 300ft of it to make a Wisdom saving throw. Fail, and they’ll fall under the Harpy’s spell. On subsequent turns, the harpy must take a bonus action to continue singing. Though you can end the song by incapacitating it.

Shocking, I know.

While under the effects of the spell, the victim is incapacitated and ignores other harpy songs. Should they be more than 5 feet away from the harpy, they must move directly towards it until they are within that range, regardless of what’s in their path. They cannot avoid opportunity attacks. However, before walking into hazardous terrain, such as lava, they can make the saving throw again. They can also repeat this saving throw at the end of each of their turns. Once they break free, they are immune to its effects for 24 hours.

This single ability makes the harpy a much more interesting and dangerous foe. What happens when half the party falls under its spell? Will they be able to break free before getting clawed to shreds or walking into something dangerous? What does the terrain look like and how easily can the harpy lure them into something deadly? Suddenly, the environment becomes just as much of a threat as the harpy itself. Even more so of one, given the creature’s weak stats.

But once everyone gets free, it becomes a straight-forward slugfest. Which is never all that interesting.

Placement

Huh. This is actually surprisingly cool! The lore is extensive, giving DMs plenty of options for fun storytelling. Its stats can make for a memorable encounter thanks to its Luring Song power, even if it ultimately becomes a slugfest by the end. My only real problem with it is the unoriginal design.

With all that in mind, let’s put the Harpy 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. Sea Hag
  14. Bronze Dragons
  15. Brass Dragons
  16. Copper Dragons
  17. Gold Dragons
  18. Chuul
  19. Gibbering Mouther
  20. Chimera
  21. Death Knight
  22. Fomorian
  23. Bone Devil
  24. Dracolich
  25. Faerie Dragon
  26. Night Hag
  27. Green Hag
  28. Ankheg
  29. Storm Giant
  30. Hill Giant
  31. Empyrean
  32. Efreeti
  33. Grimlock
  34. Dao
  35. Cloud Giant
  36. Drow (all four of ’em)
  37. Shadow Demon
  38. Marilith
  39. Drider
  40. Aarackockra
  41. Azer
  42. Demilich
  43. Spectator
  44. Marid
  45. Harpy <——————-
  46. Half-Dragon
  47. Cambion
  48. Fire Giant
  49. Animated Armor
  50. Banshee
  51. Basilisk
  52. Yochlol
  53. Bulette
  54. Cloaker
  55. Darkmantle
  56. Doppelganger
  57. Ghoul and Ghast
  58. Ettin
  59. Pit Fiend
  60. Erinyes
  61. Chain Devil
  62. Bearded Devil
  63. Barbed Devil
  64. Spined Devil
  65. Ice Devil
  66. Djinni
  67. Nalfeshnee
  68. Glabrezu
  69. Chasme
  70. Grell
  71. Barlgura
  72. Horned Devil
  73. Balor
  74. Shadow Dragon
  75. Vrock
  76. Dretch
  77. Gnolls (all three)
  78. Goristro
  79. Hezrou
  80. Manes
  81. Frost Giant
  82. Duergar
  83. Quasit
  84. Dryad
  85. Flumph
  86. Goblin
  87. Githyanki
  88. Planetar
  89. Imp
  90. Clay Golem
  91. Flameskull
  92. Displacer Beast
  93. Carrion Crawler
  94. Githzerai
  95. Grick
  96. Rug of Smothering
  97. Bugbear Chief
  98. Bugbear
  99. Flesh Golem
  100. Vine Blight
  101. Twig Blight
  102. Needle Blight
  103. Bullywug
  104. Ettercap
  105. Gas Spore
  106. Cockatrice
  107. Lemure
  108. Solar
  109. Deva
  110. Gorgon
  111. Griffon
  112. Cyclops
  113. Centaur
  114. Ghost
  115. Fire Elemental
  116. Water Elemental
  117. Air Elemental
  118. Stone Giant
  119. Deep Gnome
  120. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  121. Iron Golem
  122. Stone Golem
  123. Earth Elemental
  124. Galeb Duhr
  125. Flying Sword
  126. Crawling Claw
  127. Violet Fungus
  128. Shrieker
  129. Gargoyle

3 thoughts on “Harpy: Carnivorous Maidens of the Skies”

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