Random Encounter: Darkmantles

Hello everyone, I am bringing back a segment that hasn’t been done for a while, the Random Encounter! This time I will discuss one of my favorite monsters to use the Darkmantle.

darkmantle__matt_bulahao

Darkmantles are a weird cavern dwelling animal, essentially a cave squid. They lurk on the ceilings of caves, blending in with the stalactites, until unsuspecting prey passes by. Then they create a Darkness Aura, while using their Echolocation  to pounce on their prey. Once latched on they squeeze and constrict until their victim is slain. They are well adapted to their subterranean dwellings, able to glide slowing in the air (somehow).

Darkmantles are one of my favorite monsters for a few reasons.

First, they are a low level creature that gives a very different set of tactical challenges from common low level creatures PCs face. As an animal, Druids and Rangers can attempt to communicate with them to peacefully pass by. Their unique combination of Darkness Aura and Ecolocation puts the players in a new situation, where they can’t see their enemy, but it can see them. They also add some much needed variety into early game play.

Second, they can easily fit into most campaigns. According to the 5th edition Monster Manual, “Thriving in that dark realm (the Underdark or other caves), they fill an ecological niche similar to bats on the Material Plane.” Basically, they live in in caves, which are scattered throughout D&D.

Third, they are animals, and so they can easily show elements of ecology in your dungeons, making the areas more life-like. Perhaps the party fights a few Darkmantles, at the entrance to a cavern. Deeper in the cave, the Goblins are found feasting on one of the creatures. Suddenly you have created clear connections and logic to the various encounters in your dungeon, making exploring it a much more rewarding experience. (Dungeon ecology is one of my favorite things to think about in my own games)

Finally, they are creepy cave squids, that isolate and freak out a party, without posing too much of a threat to anything but a 1st level character. I love singling out a character, describing to the whole party that they have plunged into darkness. I will then write the targeted player a note explaining that something has latched onto their head, and slimy tentacles are writhing around their neck, attempting to squeeze the life out of them, and that they cannot communicate with the party. Usually said player will curse or stomp, or do some other thing that gets the rest of the party worried, their silence will worry the party even more. This element of the unknown creates a loss of control, creating some great drama, until A) the grappled player escapes or B) the Darkmantle is inevitably slain or flees, but until then it’s great fun!

Do any of you have great Darkmantle stories? Have you used them before in your game? Did you even know this monster existed? (I find they are often overlooked)

Well I hope you enjoyed hearing about one of my favorite monsters, the Darkmantle, perhaps I even gave some DMs a few ideas :).

 

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