Beware of the blob, it creeps
And leaps and glides and slides
Across the floor
Right through the door
And all around the wall
A splotch, a blotch
Be careful of the blob
Alright, Steve McQueen’s sillier sci-fi dalliances aside, let’s talk about giant piles of goo that want to eat your town.
Oozes are a deceptively lethal category of monsters in Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
They’re big, ponderous, brainless piles of jelly that rely on camouflage and ambush tactics to get a hold of their prey, whereupon their acidic bodies quickly dissolve pretty much everything.
If an ooze gets you, it’s leaving nothing but bones behind.
There are different kinds of ooze in D&D 5e. Gray Oozes hang on ceilings of natural caves or lie around disguised as rocks, ready to snag a passing meal with a pseudopod.
The iconic gelatinous cube schlorps its way along the corridors of caves and dungeons, hoovering up anything in its path and relying on its near-transparent jelly to trick foolhardy adventurers into walking straight into it, and then there’s the black pudding…
Huge, heaving piles of black, corrosive tar that can eat through a door just as quickly as it can seep underneath it. Black Puddings are the apex ooze.
Bigger, deadlier, capable of corroding metal as well as flesh, wood, and clothing, Black Puddings have been striking fear into the hearts of adventurers since the earliest editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
What Is a Black Pudding?
A Black Pudding is a CR 4 ooze that resembles a writhing mound of sticky black sludge and is virtually invisible in dim light, resembling little more than a patch of deep shadow — until it strikes, that is.
Large Ooze, Unaligned
Armor Class: 7
Hit Points: 85 (10d10 + 30)
Speed: 20 ft., climb 20 ft.
STR 16 (+3), DEX 5 (-3), CON 16 (+3), INT 1 (-5), WIS 6 (-2), CHA 1 (-5)
Damage Immunities: Acid, Cold, Lightning, Slashing
Senses: Blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), Passive Perception 8
Challenge: 4 (1,100 XP)
Proficiency Bonus: +2
Amorphous: The pudding can squeeze through spaces as narrow as 1 inch wide.
Corrosive Form: A creature that touches the pudding or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 4 (1d8) acid damage. Any nonmagical weapon made of metal or wood that hits the pudding corrodes.
After dealing damage, the weapon takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to −5, the weapon is destroyed.
Nonmagical ammunition made of metal or wood that hits the pudding is destroyed after dealing damage.
The pudding can eat through 2-inch-thick, nonmagical wood or metal in 1 round.
Spider Climb: The pudding can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.
Pseudopod: Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage plus 18 (4d8) acid damage.
In addition, nonmagical armor worn by the target is partly dissolved and takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.
Split: When a pudding that is Medium or larger is subjected to lightning or slashing damage, it splits into two new puddings if it has at least 10 hit points.
Each new pudding has hit points equal to half the original pudding’s, rounded down. New puddings are one size smaller than the original pudding.
The black pudding is the kind of monster that players remember fighting. They remember the overconfidence, the mounting horror and, if they survive, the long-lasting consequences.
First of all, it’s damn lethal. A mixture of 1d6 + 3 bludgeoning and 4d8 acid damage is bad enough, but anyone who hits a black pudding within melee range is going to be subject to some more guaranteed damage. But that’s not the nastiest part.
Some monsters in D&D 5e attack your agency (like a mind flayer’s psionic blast or an umber hulk’s confusing gaze) or your stats (like an intellect devourer), but the vast majority just hit your hit point pool.
Players get very good at judging how dangerous a monster is — how much punishment the party can take — when they fight a monster that just chips away at their hit points.
Black puddings definitely eat away at your hit points, but they also hit parties in a place where it hurts even more: their stuff.
These monsters are going to ruin your PCs’ gear. Players don’t know how to deal with that, especially at lower levels when they may not have magic weapons and armor.
Now your fighter’s weapon that they need to use to kill the monster is not only made permanently worse every time they hit the monster, but dealing slashing damage to that monster makes more monsters.
Oh, and standing near that monster and hitting it also hurts you.
It’s easy to see why black puddings have a reputation as TPK machines.
The can soak up tons of damage and dish out loads in return, and pretty much every turn your party spends not countering its abilities, their gear is going to be destroyed and/or they’re going to create more puddings which, while not adding more overall hit points to the monsters’ side of the encounter, adds an extra attack (1d6 + 3 + 4d8), extra splash damage (1d8) in melee, and another turn of player character weapons and armor being turned into bubbling piles of molten slag.
Put a fighter with a brand-new set of shiny plate mail they paid more than a thousand gold pieces for on a collision course with a black pudding, and you have a recipe for a memorable (okay, traumatic) encounter.
How Do You Fight a Black Pudding?
Did you ever see a video of a lion trying to bring down a gazelle? If the chase goes on for more than a few seconds, all that initial speed and leaping ability in the lion disappears and they have to abandon the hunt.
Fighting a black pudding is basically that but much, much slower.
These are — to get a little into dungeon ecology here for a second — ambush predators.
They rely on basic stimulus to identify a target (blindsight for just 60 feet and then nothing beyond that), the element of surprise, and overwhelming strength.
Much like the lion and the gazelle, however, if a black pudding doesn’t get its prey at first, there’s not a whole lot it can do to catch up.
A measly 20-foot speed means that even a heavily encumbered halfling in plate mail is going to be able to outrun one of these things (albeit barely), so the most likely way that a black pudding is going to attack is using the element of surprise, either dropping from the ceiling or lying in wait in the dark.
Split the Pudding?
Of course, if you have access to some big AoE spells and want to deal with a pudding in one big hit, the thing to do is to get it to divide as much as possible (it could divide as many as seven times, assuming each hit does 1 damage and it has the average 85 hit points), and then hit it with Fireball or something similar.
Because AoE spells hit everything in an area, instead of dealing 20 damage to a monster with 85 hit points, you’re going to deal 20 damage each to seven different monsters with 10 hit points, wiping them out.
Keep in mind, however, that a pudding can only split once per round, so it’s going to take several turns to sufficiently break one down, and every new pudding is an extra attack against the party.
Oozes in general and black puddings specifically are the bane of martial classes, in addition to rendering any slashing (and lighting) damage your Fighter or Barbarian deals useless.
If you want to avoid your shiny new suit of plate-mail armor or any of your party’s nonmagical weapons getting turned into puddles of bubbling slag, focus on attacking Oozes from range. Reach weapons are your friend.
Use your characters’ superior movement speed to keep the Ooze at bay, hit it with spells or ranged weapon attacks if possible, and just make sure you don’t let it chase you down any dead ends.
If anyone has a magical weapon and/or magical armor, make sure you put them front and center.
DM’s Guide To Running a Black Pudding
Black puddings are, I’m convinced, one of the most fun ways to turn D&D from a heroic power fantasy into a white-knuckle horror movie with serious Cronenberg connotations.
Played right, these monsters are absolute unmitigated nightmare fuel — who wouldn’t have nightmares about being eaten by a giant blob of murder tar? — up until your players figure out not to use slashing or cold damage and to attack from range, of course.
Once the heroes have started throwing torches ahead of them, attacking from range, and generally exploiting the black pudding’s weaknesses, these monsters do risk going from completely lethal to a total cakewalk.
The way to prevent this is to make use of the black pudding’s natural environment: the dungeon.
Chase your players’ characters down dead-end corridors, or make them wade through waist-deep murky water and wind their way through labyrinthine cellars.
Shorten their sight lines. Take away their light sources. Make the world feel small and dangerous.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.