Peryton: Gruesome Beauty

Lore: A Bird After Mine Own Heart… Literally

A viscous carnivore, the peryton prefers to eat humanoid creatures like elves, half-elves, and humans. After it kills its prey, it will rip out its heart and carry it back to its nest to feast. Beautiful though the creature may be, it is as terrible as any predator.

Interestingly, its shadow takes on a humanoid form. There are many theories exploring possible explanations for this. Some postulate that the pertyons were originally humans who had been cursed or fell victim to a magical experiment. There are songs that tell of a wife who murdered the woman who stole her husband and devoured her heart in a dark ritual to win his favor back. While the ritual is said to have worked, she was eventually exposed for her sin and hanged. According to the story, the carrion that fed on her corpse transformed into the first perytons.

Well. That was… graphic.

In order for a female peryton to reproduce, they must devour a fresh humanoid heart. Once they do, their shadow will briefly change to reflect their true form. In order to achieve this, the peryton will fight with relentless fervor, attacking until either it or its prey is dead. If one somehow drives it away, it will stalk them until it sees the chance to strike again.

Living in high caves and roosting atop mountain ridges, perytons prey on the creatures living in the vales below, attacking wandering travelers who brave their mountain. As normal weapons aren’t particularly effective against them, most villagers now to avoid them. If a peryton preys too long on a certain village, however, the leaders may hire adventurers to deal with the birds.

This lore is surprisingly good! You can craft some cool short D&D stories with this. Maybe the party is just passing through and they take a job to destroy a peryton nest. Or you could explore the monster’s roots, creating a murder mystery culminating in the birth of the first peryton.

Even if you just want it to be a random encounter in the mountains, you can craft a really creepy set piece with it; the party could discover heartless corpses while being haunted by a humanoid shadow before being attacked. It’s shockingly impressive how much you could do with this monster!

Design: Beauty of the Murder Bird

Well, at least you’d know that your heart would be going to feeding something beautiful. Evil and terrible, sure, but at least it’s pretty!

Just why is it so colorful?

This is a really cool design. It perfectly balances majestic grace with terror. If you focus on the bird body, you might think it’s just a normal creature. But take one look at its elk-like head, with its sinister eyes and yellow fangs, and you’ll realize that you’re looking at evil incarnate.

Is it the most interesting thing we’ve seen? Not quite. But it’s still really solid all around.

Stats: Dive-Bomber

Flying enemies. Everyone’s favorite thing in anything.

On the surface, the peryton doesn’t seem particularly tough. Both its AC and its HP are on the low side. If it weren’t resistant to all non-magical melee damage, it would be easy to take out of the sky.

Its attacks aren’t especially deadly. It can gore you with its beak or stab you with its talons, or do both in the same turn. However, with its Dive Attack ability, all of these suddenly become a lot more dangerous; if it comes flying at you from thirty feet up, you’re in for some pain.

And it can get away to do just that really easily. Thanks to Flyby, you can’t hit it with any opportunity attacks. So if you’ve got a player who annoys you by constantly shouting ‘I get attack of opportunity!’, throw one of these guys at them and watch them squirm.

Oh yeah, it also has Keen Sight and Smell. Does that matter? Not really.

This can make for a fairly decent fight. Sure, it’s still a slugfest. But with the peryton’s unique mobility and abilities tied to it, it does require some level of strategy and creativity. Be careful; if you’re not careful, this could get annoying really quickly.

Placement

Surprisingly enough, this is a pretty strong monster! It’s lore is surprisingly deep, it’s design is creative and interesting, and its stats are simple but can make for a strong early game fight.

Is it top ten worthy? Not quite. But it’s still really good.

With all that in mind, the Peryton is going to #35 on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Mind Flayer
  4. Dragon Turtle
  5. Mummy/Mummy Lord
  6. Nagas (all three of ’em)
  7. Green Dragons
  8. Red Dragons
  9. Blue Dragons
  10. Black Dragons
  11. White Dragons
  12. Silver Dragons
  13. Couatl
  14. Behir
  15. Aboleth
  16. Sea Hag
  17. Lamia
  18. Bronze Dragons
  19. Brass Dragons
  20. Copper Dragons
  21. Gold Dragons
  22. Chuul
  23. Kuo-Toa
  24. Gibbering Mouther
  25. Kraken
  26. Intellect Devourer
  27. Chimera
  28. Death Knight
  29. Fomorian
  30. Bone Devil
  31. Dracolich
  32. Faerie Dragon
  33. Gelatinous Cube
  34. Lich
  35. Peryton <————
  36. Orcs (all four of ’em)
  37. Magmin
  38. Kobold
  39. Kenku
  40. Hobgoblins
  41. Night Hag
  42. Green Hag
  43. Black Pudding
  44. Ankheg
  45. Hook Horror
  46. Oni
  47. Storm Giant
  48. Hill Giant
  49. Empyrean
  50. Efreeti
  51. Grimlock
  52. Minotaur
  53. Dao
  54. Cloud Giant
  55. Manticore
  56. Drow (all four of ’em)
  57. Shadow Demon
  58. Modrons (all five of ’em)
  59. Marilith
  60. Drider
  61. Aarackockra
  62. Azer
  63. Demilich
  64. Spectator
  65. Gray Ooze
  66. Ochre Jelly
  67. Hydra
  68. Marid
  69. Harpy
  70. Werejackal
  71. Otyugh
  72. Half-Dragon
  73. Cambion
  74. Fire Giant
  75. Nothic
  76. Animated Armor
  77. Banshee
  78. Basilisk
  79. Yochlol
  80. Bulette
  81. Cloaker
  82. Darkmantle
  83. Doppelganger
  84. Ghoul and Ghast
  85. Ettin
  86. Medusa
  87. Pit Fiend
  88. Erinyes
  89. Chain Devil
  90. Bearded Devil
  91. Barbed Devil
  92. Spined Devil
  93. Ice Devil
  94. Mimic
  95. Djinni
  96. Merrow
  97. Nalfeshnee
  98. Glabrezu
  99. Chasme
  100. Grell
  101. Barlgura
  102. Horned Devil
  103. Balor
  104. Shadow Dragon
  105. Myconids (all four of ’em)
  106. Werebear
  107. Lizardfolk
  108. Vrock
  109. Dretch
  110. Gnolls (all three)
  111. Goristro
  112. Hezrou
  113. Manes
  114. Frost Giant
  115. Weretiger
  116. Werewolf
  117. Duergar
  118. Quasit
  119. Dryad
  120. Flumph
  121. Goblin
  122. Nightmare
  123. Wereboar
  124. Wererat
  125. Githyanki
  126. Owlbear
  127. Planetar
  128. Imp
  129. Ogres/Half-ogres
  130. Clay Golem
  131. Flameskull
  132. Displacer Beast
  133. Carrion Crawler
  134. Githzerai
  135. Grick
  136. Invisible Stalker
  137. Rug of Smothering
  138. Bugbear Chief
  139. Bugbear
  140. Flesh Golem
  141. Vine Blight
  142. Twig Blight
  143. Needle Blight
  144. Mephits (all six of ’em)
  145. Bullywug
  146. Hellhound
  147. Ettercap
  148. Gas Spore
  149. Cockatrice
  150. Lemure
  151. Homonculus
  152. Merfolk
  153. Solar
  154. Deva
  155. Gorgon
  156. Hippogriff
  157. Griffon
  158. Cyclops
  159. Centaur
  160. Ghost
  161. Pegasus
  162. Fire Elemental
  163. Water Elemental
  164. Air Elemental
  165. Stone Giant
  166. Deep Gnome
  167. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  168. Iron Golem
  169. Stone Golem
  170. Earth Elemental
  171. Galeb Duhr
  172. Helmed Horror
  173. Flying Sword
  174. Crawling Claw
  175. Violet Fungus
  176. Shrieker
  177. Gargoyle
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