Last Updated on November 2, 2023
- STR 18 (+4), DEX 8 (-1), CON 16 (+3), INT 5 (-3), WIS 10 (+0), CHA 5 (-3)
- Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 136 (16d10 + 48)
- Speed: 20 ft., swim 20 ft.
- CR (XP): 5 (1,800 XP)
- Senses/Languages: Blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), Passive Perception 10; Languages: —
- Proficiency Bonus: +3
- Size: Large
- Type: Plant
- Alignment: Unaligned
- Damage / Condition Resistance / Immunity: Damage Resistance (cold, fire), Damage Immunity (lightning), Condition Immunity (Blinded, deafened, exhausted)
- Skills: Stealth +2
- Saving Throws: —
Lightning Absorption. Whenever the shambling mound takes lightning damage, instead of being damaged, it is healed for a number of hit points equal to the damage dealt instead.
Multiattack. The shambling mound makes two slam attacks. If both attacks hit a Medium or smaller target, the target is grappled (escape DC 14), and the shambling mound uses its Engulf on it.
- Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage.
Engulf. The shambling mound engulfs a Medium or smaller creature grappled by it. The engulfed target is blinded, restrained, and unable to breathe, and it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw at the start of each of the mound’s turns or take 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If the mound moves, the engulfed target moves with it. The mound can have only one creature engulfed at a time.
What Is a Shambling Mound?
Shambling mounds are slow, ponderous, all-consuming masses of animate vegetation and organic matter that devour anything and everything in their path.
Shambling mounds are created by a combination of lightning, fey magic, and swamplands. Though amorphous and ever-shifting, their rotten bodies often form into a featureless “head” that rests atop their vast, ponderous bulk.
Lumbering, stinking, grasping — an unnatural horror formed of rotten branches, bones, moss, and strange, misunderstood magics. Fire cannot hurt it, and lightning only makes it stronger. Get too close, and it drags you inside its huge, shapeless body, into a mass of razor sharp thorns, strangling vines, and choking mold.
If you die in its embrace, your body will become a part of the heaving, reeking mass: just another part of the Shambling Mound.
Fighting a Shambling Mound – Tips for Success
Shambling mounds have been around since the very first edition of D&D, and as such, they’re a bit… weird.
It’s not quick with a walking (and swimming) speed of just 20 feet, so we’re to assume that it largely prefers to hunt by surprise.
The Shambling Mound wants to attack and grapple, engulfing its prey before the startled adventurer has time to react.
A party of adventurers that chooses (or is forced) to fight a shambling mound, may find themselves in for a series of nasty surprises.
There’s plenty about this frankly bizarre monster that doesn’t work how you’d expect.
You might think fire vs plants, but that won’t work.
Then, if anyone tries lightning damage (less likely but a very unpleasant surprise if it happens) the mound is going to be healed.
Shambling Mound Attacks: More Dangerous Than You Know.
When a Shambling Mound attacks, if both attacks hit, it completely envelopes the target. Meaning they are restrained, blinded, taking damage, and suffocating.
The suffocation is especially bad. A character can hold their breath for a number of minutes equal to 1 + Constitution modifier (minimum 30 seconds).
Once a creature “runs out of breath or is choking, … (they) can survive for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum of 1 round).”
This means that a low-constitution character absorbed by the mound has an incredibly short life expectancy if the mound engulfs it.
Then, because the automatic damage against an engulfed target doesn’t stop when you enter death-save territory, an unconscious character inside a shambling mound is going to automatically accrue death-save failures every round.
The result is that an encounter with a shambling mound can go from good to bad to catastrophic very quickly.
A Dungeon Master’s Guide to Shambling Mound Encounters
Shambling mounds are one of my favorite monsters for a few reasons.
Firstly, they’re weird and unexpected, which makes them dangerous; they’re a learning encounter for the players.
Secondly, they can either make for an interesting solo challenge (perhaps as part of a random encounter) or fit into a larger dungeon or string of encounters.
Thirdly, they don’t have to be monsters at all; thanks to their low speed and relatively simple mechanics, shambling mounds can also serve as an environmental hazard.
Take the five-room dungeon method of encounter design, for example. A shambling mound is a great choice for a first room or guardian encounter — something for the PCs to figure out how to get past rather than an intelligent enemy that needs to be fought.
I also think the lore (or lack thereof) surrounding shambling mounds and their creation is interesting.
According to the Monster Manual, a shambling mound is created when “lightning or fey magic invigorates an otherwise ordinary swamp plant,”
Personally, I like the idea of lightning that strikes areas suffused with fey magic creating shambling mounds.
The mounds are stupid, but they aren’t mindless and will likely stay near to wherever they are regularly fed.
Of course, there are other ways to deploy this monster as well.
Lorghoth the Decayer: A Famous Shambling Mound
Lorghoth the Decayer
One of the classic introductory adventures for 5e is the opening to Curse of Strahd, the notoriously brutal and unforgiving 1st-level module called Death House.
In addition to a specter, a gang of cultists, and several other brutal undead foes, players in this adventure will eventually have to contend with a “half-submerged pile of refuse” that the cultists have dubbed Lorghoth the Decayer.
This is, of course, a shambling mound. Lorghoth is kept happy and healthy behind its portcullis at the very bottom of the basement of the Death House, fed regularly by the cultists as part of their adulation for the darklord Strahd himself.
Describing Shambling Mounds
When I run shambling mound encounters, I like to emphasize the amount of death, rot, and decay inherent to these monsters.
Skulls and bones jut out through the leaf mold; scraps of armor, broken spears, and weapons stick out through the vines and foliage.
They smell of sweet, earthy decay mixed with the sharp tang of ozone — lightning never really leaves a shambling mound
Perhaps most terrifying of all, they attack in complete silence, broken only by the creaking and snapping of branches and the rustle of leaves.
Whatever role that a shambling mound takes in your campaign — whether you want to give the local cult to a death god something to worship or just make the nearby swamp feel especially nasty — your players should be in for a dangerous, terrifying time.
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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.