Last Updated on January 22, 2023
“Sometimes a chest is just a chest, but don’t bet on it.” — Anonymous
Mimics are among the most iconic, loved, loathed, and feared creatures in Dungeons & Dragons. These shapeshifting instruments of the dungeon master’s cruelty have been making players paranoid since their first appearance in Gary Gygax’s original Monster Manual published in 1977.
Today, they’re just as beloved by dungeon masters everywhere looking to teach their players that while sometimes a chest is just a chest, you shouldn’t bet your life on it.
So, whether you’re a dungeon master looking to learn a little more about one of the most fun, hilarious-yet-terrifying monsters in the whole game or you’re a morbidly curious player, we’ve got you covered. Welcome to Black Citadel’s Guide to Mimics. Open the door and step on through…
Ha Hah! The door was a mimic. Roll for initiative.
What Are Mimics in D&D 5e?
Mimics are shapeshifting predators that lurk in dungeons and take on the form of enticing inanimate objects like treasure chests or doors. When an unsuspecting adventurer comes too close to the “treasure,” the mimic reveals itself by grappling them with its sticky tongue, pulls them in close with its powerful pseudopods, and devours them with a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth.
- STR 17 (+3), DEX 12 (+1), CON 15 (+2), INT 5 (-3), WIS 13 (+1), CHA 8 (-1)
- Armor Class: 12 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 58 (9d8 + 18)
- Speed: 15 ft.
- CR (XP): 2 (450 XP)
- Senses/Languages: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 11
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
- Size: Medium
- Type: Monstrosity (Shapechanger)
- Alignment: Neutral
- Damage / Condition Resistance / Immunity: Damage Immunities Acid
Condition Immunities Prone
- Skills: —
- Saving Throws: —
Shapechanger. The mimic can use its action to polymorph into an object or back into its true, amorphous form. Its statistics are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.
Adhesive (Object Form Only). The mimic adheres to anything that touches it. A Huge or smaller creature adhered to the mimic is also grappled by it (escape DC 13). Ability checks made to escape this grapple have disadvantage.
False Appearance (Object Form Only). While the mimic remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from an ordinary object.
Grappler. The mimic has advantage on attack rolls against any creature grappled by it.
- Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage. If the mimic is in object form, the target is subjected to its Adhesive trait.
- Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage plus 4 (1d8) acid damage.
Thought to have been created long ago by powerful wizards as treasure guardians, mimics are now an endemic invasive species found throughout the multiverse. They make their homes in treasure vaults, caves, dungeons, mines — in short, just about anywhere away from the sun.
A mimic can change the texture of its skin to perfectly imitate wood, stone, and other basic materials. Over the generations, they have also learned to take on the shapes of different objects that their prey are likely to come into contact with; the more successful mimics are the ones that have learned (or evolved the ability) to take on the shape of objects that are alluring to their prey.
A mimic can change form to resemble just about anything inanimate that it’s had time to examine. Treasure chests are the classic option, but doors, tables, chairs, hat stands, desks, drinks, globes, weapons, bottles, barrels, or just about anything else you can imagine could potentially be a mimic.
The objects don’t even have to be artificial; a mimic could have easily evolved to live in the deep forest or mountains, shapeshifting into a boulder or tree stump in order to snare passing animals or travelers. An inviting bench at the top of a long and winding set of stairs is an especially devious option. A mimic in its altered form is nearly unrecognizable until potential prey gets too close. By the time the mimic’s prey hears the faint sounds of heavy breathing coming from the chair they just sat down in, it’s already too late.
When it changes into its “true” shape, a mimic becomes coated in a naturally occurring layer of adhesive that helps it seize prey and weapons that touch it. Escaping the grasp of a mimic is a truly daunting feat, and few manage it before the creature’s jaws swing wide to feast.
Mimics have no language, culture, or religion, but some of them are intelligent enough to negotiate — either with their neighbors or their prospective food — and sometimes serve as treasure guardians for more powerful monsters and villains in exchange for a regular supply of food (ideally hapless adventurers, but mimics aren’t fussy). Others are raving, feral beasts driven only by hunger and their hunting instincts.
Unfortunately, finding out which kind of mimic you’ve run into is often as much of a nasty surprise as finding the mimic in the first place.
A Player’s Guide To Surviving a Mimic
- Be prepared
- Keep your distance
- Bring something to barter with
By far the best way to prevent becoming a mimic’s next meal is to spot the creature before you get too close. Despite having darkvision up to 60 feet, mimics have a relatively low Passive Perception (11) and move slower than a drunken flail snail going up some stairs.
Use this to your advantage. Keep an eye out for suspiciously unguarded chests, doors surrounded by fresh blood spatter, areas of the dungeon that its other occupants like to avoid, etc. Remember: the mimic itself might be indistinguishable from the environment, but there should still be contextual clues to its presence.
However, context and intuition will only get you so far. A 10-foot pole (a spear or pike will also do just fine) jabbed at every door you go through is a perfectly reasonable safety precaution while adventuring — as is shooting a crossbow, sling, or damage cantrip into every suspicious piece of furniture you come across. If the chaise longue says “ow!”, shoot it again.
The goal is to force the mimic to reveal itself while you’re out of range, then keep it out of range while you whittle it down with ranged attacks. It moves at half the speed of most humanoids, so keeping it at least at arm’s length shouldn’t be too challenging.
If someone is unlucky enough to get caught; the mimic corners you; or you really, really need to get past the mimic and your DM is, like, really, really into linear dungeon design, first send them Jason Alexander’s great blog post on Jaquaysing the Dungeon. Then, before going whole hog on murdering that mimic, maybe see if there’s a way it can be bought.
As the owner of a completely food-oriented cat, I can comfortably say that waving a piece of raw chicken around in front of a pretty stupid animal should be enough to get its attention. Mimics, being about as intelligent as my very stupid fuzzy boy, have about a 50:50 shot at figuring out that a free meal is a better deal than trying to fight a whole adventuring party.
Some mimics, according to the Monster Manual, can even carry on a conversation in common or undercommon, and though they’ll be far from fluent, waggling a nice juicy steak and shouting “fetch!” seems pretty universally understandable. Bringing along a dead chicken (or just hiring some local peasants that you’ve taken the time to liberally rub down with goose fat and sprinkle with oregano) is a much easier way to solve your mimic problems than fighting these nasty opponents.
Such mimics might even make useful allies in a dungeon setting. It stands to reason that these creatures move around in search of food — perhaps setting up in one location for a day or two before moving on to another. Who knows what gossip they overhear or what other creatures they observe moving around their territory? Mimics are predators, and probably don’t look too kindly on larger things muscling in on their turf.
A smart mimic (once adequately placated with food) would probably be overjoyed at the idea of sending some adventurers to kill a nearby troll or ooze — something too big for the mimic that it’s forced to share a food supply with.
A Dungeon Master’s Guide To Using Mimics
- Mimics are an act of psychological warfare
- Embrace this
- But don’t be a dick about it
In much the same way that it’s considered bad form for Tiamat to swoop down from a clear sky with all five heads spewing death upon the PCs’ terrified heads, psychological warfare via “everything’s a mimic” is generally considered to be a dick move of proportions somewhere between parking in a handicap spot outside Trader Joes and CIA-sponsored coups of democratically elected South American presidents.
The reason is about power imbalance. Sure, a DM can make everything a mimic — they can make rocks fall or the floor lava or any number of unfair unpleasantnesses occur. The trick here is either to make it fair (maybe “sporting” is the better word) or to make it feel real. Ideally, you manage both.
Luckily, you can accomplish both of these things in the same way: tell your players (not in so many words) that there are mimics up ahead. This can be subtle, like a shaft of light illuminating a single, lonely treasure chest surrounded by bleached bones, or they can be woefully over the top. My personal favorite is a piece of paper nailed to the wall in the first goblin guardroom the players clear out that reads “MIMIC FEEDING SCHEDULE — DO NOT FORGET!!”
Basically, it’s my belief that the real fun isn’t the first reveal of “ahah! It’s a mimic!”; the real sadistic joy begins when your players know there’s a mimic somewhere nearby (maybe they find some sticky residue on a pillar), and now every single inanimate, innocuous object is a suspect. Doors, hatches, chests, etc. Everything instantly becomes threatening in a way that only fuels the players’ paranoia with every mimic-free minute that ticks by.
All you have to do is sit back and wear your best poker face.
The concept of horror is a very difficult thing to execute in D&D — in any game that’s essentially a power fantasy. Even in specifically horror-themed adventures like Curse of Strahd or in other systems entirely that are designed to tell stories in the horror genre, a lot of the time the fear is only skin deep. You can revel in the aesthetics and the gross-out factor (my personal favorite) and even dim the lights, but real adrenaline-pumping fear is something very few DMs ever manage to inspire in their players.
Mimics make the players do this to themselves. They’re the perfect monster because they’re a jumpscare the players sting themselves (and each other) with time and time again.
Honestly, you can even let the players find the first mimic.
It’s the second mimic — when they think it’s all over and the context clues they’re seeing are all pointing to the mimic they just fought — that really gets them, especially when the mimics are smart. This is when you can pull the gotcha traps that people on the DnD subreddit love meming about. Examples include…
- A chest in an empty room with one door in and one door out. The chest is normal. The door is a mimic.
- A room full of furniture, cups, weapons, etc. A bunch of things that could be mimics. The carpet is a mimic.
- The mimic hides in a room with a bunch of treasure chests.
- The mimic hides inside a treasure chest.
- The room is a mimic.
And so on…
Basically, my advice here is to let your players know what they’re getting into before getting devious with it. Let them know they’ll be exploring the disused dungeons of a mad wizard. Let them spot the first mimic chest trap. If they’re smart, let them bargain with it. Let them learn there are more mimics. Let them learn there are mimics everywhere.
Then sit back and enjoy.
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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.