Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Carrion Crawler Stat Block
large Monstrosity Neutral, Unaligned
13 Natural Armor
51 (6d10 + 18)
30ft, Climb 30ft
Perception +3, Passive Perception 13
2 (450 XP)
The carrion crawler has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
The carrion crawler can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.
The carrion crawler makes two attacks: one with its tentacles and one with its bite.
Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1 d4 + 2) poison damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. Until this poison ends, the target is paralyzed. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the poison on itself on a success.
Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft ., one target. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Suggested Encounters for Carrion Crawlers
Quick Tactics: Carrion Crawlers
Carrion Crawlers: What Are They?
Carrion Crawlers are a CR2 Large Monstrosity that resembles a giant caterpillar. Poisonous tentacles, ability to climb almost any surface. They are typically scavengers but will attack unwary adventurers.
In Depth Look at the Carrion Crawler
More Tactics, Background, DM Tips, Story Seeds
Some of the most terrifying monsters in fantasy fiction are scaled-up bugs and insects. For the pure horror factor, Tolkien’s giant spider Shelob beats out every other villain in Lord of the Rings. Even the terrifying Nazghul can’t compare.
Everything about these micro beasts, from their physical appearance and the way they move to their hunting and feeding habits, is scary. Once they’re large enough to pose a real threat to humans, they’re the fuel for endless horror.
Carrion crawlers are amongst the most horrible creatures in D&D. These pale many-legged grubs fall into the Large size category, meaning they’re of comparable size to horses.
Everything about them, from their huge alien eyes to their maw of layered, razor-sharp teeth, is terrifying and revolting.
Masses of poisonous tentacles sprout from below a carrion crawler’s mouth. These tentacles are the carrion crawler’s main hunting tool. They are a sensory organ used to detect the smell of prey from far away.
They also secrete paralytic poison and are used to paralyze and ensnare the carrion crawler’s victims.
While they’re lethal predators, carrion crawlers are primarily scavengers. They’re attracted by the scent of blood, however fresh, but they prefer to consume decaying flesh.
A carrion crawler will often drag a fresh corpse to a safe spot within its territory for decomposition. Carrion crawlers’ love for decaying flesh means that they’ll sometimes even raid graveyards in search of a meal.
Carrion crawlers are often (but by no means exclusively!) cave dwellers. Their Spider Climb ability allows them to move just as easily on walls or ceilings as they can on the ground and they often prefer to travel along cave or dungeon ceilings, both to avoid other predators and to more easily ambush prey.
Carrion crawlers are patient and cautious predators. They’re capable of planning ambush attacks and will often follow prey for hours, waiting for the scent of blood or weakness before they strike.
A Player’s Guide to Carrion Crawlers – How to Fight Them & Things to Look Out For
With a challenge rating of two, a lone carrion crawler isn’t an especially dangerous encounter, even for low level characters, at the start of a day’s adventure.
Carrion crawlers are unlikely to engage in a fair fight, though. These creatures are most likely to attack when the party is at its weakest – after they’ve faced multiple tough encounters and their resources are low.
If you wander into a carrion crawler’s territory then you may come across decomposing carcasses, especially of creatures that were clearly killed elsewhere and dragged to where they now lie.
If you suspect that you’ve passed through a carrion crawler’s lair then you should keep watch for anything that could be following you, particularly on the ceiling.
If you can force an encounter early, when the party is strong, then you can avoid an ambush later when your health and resources are depleted.
If you think a carrion crawler could be following you, you should be vigilant not to split the party. Carrion crawlers’ paralysis poison makes them particularly dangerous to lone adventurers – a single target can be much more easily stun-locked.
In combat, a carrion crawler’s calling cards are its Spider Climb ability, which allows it to move on walls and ceilings, and its paralysis poison. The paralysis poison forces the target to make a constitution save so low-constitution characters should be particularly wary here.
The carrion crawler’s tentacle attack – the attack that inflicts its poison – can also be made from a range of 10ft. Environmental features, like a high ceiling, can sometimes allow the carrion crawler to make this attack from outside of PCs’ melee range.
It’s a good idea, especially if your party is melee-heavy, to consider the vertical space of the battlefield when fighting these creatures.
A DM’s Guide to Carrion Crawlers – How to Run Them Tactically & Narratively
Smart, But Also Not
Carrion crawlers are driven entirely by instinct. They’re not capable of complex plans or thoughts and they can’t be tamed or bargained with. Simultaneously, carrion crawlers’ instinctive behaviors can often appear tactical or intelligent.
Carrion crawlers will begin following potential victims long before those creatures are sufficiently weakened for the carrion crawler to attack.
They often wait to ambush prey, out of sight around corners. They move stealthily on ceilings to avoid detection.
It’s a good idea to decide, before you use a carrion crawler in your game, what the parameters of its behavior will be.
What will trigger a carrion crawler’s instinctive responses to attack or retreat? How far will it follow the players and how cunningly will it conceal itself from them?
These are important questions to answer ahead of time if you want your carrion crawler to behave believably.
If a carrion crawler attacks the PCs, it’s usually looking for its next meal. Carrion crawlers are predators and scavengers. Particularly outside its territory, a carrion crawler may retreat once it’s secured a meal, whether that meal is a downed PC or an unrelated carcass.
Tactics In Combat
Mechanically, there are only two things that make carrion crawlers unique – their poisonous tentacle attack and their Spider Climb ability.
The tentacle attack will usually be used every turn and doesn’t require much thought from the DM in itself. Upon a successful application of poison though, the carrion crawler may try to make its escape with the paralyzed victim.
As a Large creature, the carrion crawler can move at its full speed while carrying Small characters like gnomes or halflings. It can also carry characters grappled by its tentacles up sheer cliffs and walls where the other PCs might not be able to follow.
A large part of what sets carrion crawlers apart is how viscerally horrible they are. If they’re successfully ambushed, the PCs might not initially grasp what they’re fighting.
Evocative descriptions of the creature’s tentacles and eyes and teeth will help to convey that confusion and panic to your players.
Foreshadowing An Attack
When setting up an ambush encounter, you should create moments of foreshadowing so that players don’t feel that the creature has suddenly materialized out of nothing.
The extent of foreshadowing you use should depend on how attentive your players are. Very attentive players may see through heavy-handed foreshadowing so you should be more subtle.
Simultaneously, subtle clues may be lost on some players – in these cases, you should use more obvious foreshadowing.
There are many ways to hint at a carrion crawler attack but the easiest and most obvious one is to allow your players to pass through the carrion crawler’s lair long before the encounter.
If they’ve already seen the creature’s decomposing victims, that helps the creature itself feel like a part of the world.
You should also allow the players to foil the carrion crawler’s ambush if they notice your foreshadowing and take relevant steps to be vigilant. This rewards players’ attentiveness and allows them to feel that their actions are impactful.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].