Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Hydra: The Fantasy Cockroach, But Cool

Ah, the hydra. A classic fantasy staple. Be it from Greek myth or just a typical fantasy adventure story or even Dark Souls, every knows and loves the hydra.

Unfortunately, if we’ve learned anything from the centaur or the cyclops, it’s that they don’t exactly hold up in Dungeons and Dragons. But who knows? Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Lore: Vengeful Blood

Oh, that’s a cool title. ‘Vengeful Blood’. I might have to use that in a book sometime.

At the dawn of time, Tiamat, queen of all evil and dragons, slew a rival dragon god, Lernaea, and cast her blood all across the multiverse. Each drop spawned a multi-headed hydra with a hunger matched only by their sire’s hatred. Over time, great warriors would prove themselves champions by defeating these beasts.

To be consumed by a hydra is a vicious and excruciating death. It systematically consumes anything it can reach within its territory, then moves on to hunt elsewhere. So great is their hunger that they may even turn on themselves like a snake devouring its own tail.

Naturally aquatic, hydras can often be found near bodies of water. Rarely do they take shelter from the elements, leading to a lack of a proper lair. It is only in colder climates that a hydra might bother making one. Make no mistake, however; homeless as they are, a hydra is cautious, leaving one head awake to keep watch when it rests.

You know, for a creature born from the death of a rival to Tiamat, the lore here is pretty disappointing. It can make for some cool, creepy set pieces. Perhaps the players can wander through former hydra territory and find no living things in sight. Or maybe you can get creative and come up with some plotline to resurrect Lernaea for a proper boss fight with their blood. What little the lore gives can be bended into some really fun plots or moments.

Design: King Ghidorah Joke

I’m sorry. But the Godzilla fanboy inside me couldn’t help me. Accurate or no, I can’t help it. I see a multi-headed golden dragon-like creature, and something just clicks in my brain.

Now just add wings and have the heads spew golden lightning.

My personal kaiju biases aside, this is a decent design. It’s definitely not anything new; what new can you do with a hydra? But this look is wonderfully effective.

Just look at those heads! Those are sinister as shit! You can practically hear its stomach growling as their hissing heads slowly move to surround you. And those legs may be short, but they’re some strong-looking dinosaur limbs; you can tell that you ain’t getting far if you try to run.

It isn’t an especially creative design, sure. But you can take one look and immediately know what you’re looking at. It ain’t creative, sure, but it sure as hell is effective.

Stats: Many Foes in One

This dude is a bargain bin for an encounter! You’ve got seven enemies all in one body!

At its core, the hydra is a pretty simple monster. It’s pretty damn bulky, with a decent AC and a near 200 HP pool. All it can really do is bite, which can be pretty dangerous depending on how many heads it has.

Killing it, however, is far from easy. All thanks to its unique ability: Multiple Heads.

So long as it has more than one head, this ability is in play. With that, the hydra has advantage on all saving throws against most status effects. Should it take 25 points of damage, one head will die. However, at the end of the turn, two more will take its place, restoring 10 HP each. The only way to prevent this is to deal fire damage in the time between its turns.

On top of that, it has Reactive Heads. With this, the hydra gets an extra Reaction for every head it has. Make sure your party is willing to use the Disengage action, or they’re gonna have to deal with a lot of Opportunity Attacks.

Also, as stated in the lore, one head is always awake. So… good luck sneaking up on it.

Placement

This was a mixed bag of a monster. Mostly positive! But mixed. The lore has potential, despite how sparse it is. Its design is simple, but wonderfully effective. Its stats are simple, but they can make for unique and difficult encounter. This fantasy staple has definitely earned a spot in line for any campaign.

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

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