Troglodyte is a slur going back at least a hundred years. Before Dungeons and Dragons existed, you could call someone a troglodyte, and the image of a fetid, uncivilized, uneducated, and belligerent person would come to mind.
Dungeons and Dragons took that idea and canonized it into a monster bearing much the same temperament, personality, and hygiene practices. Ew. They have remained virtually unchanged throughout the various editions of D&D, and in 5e they are still as potent as ever and not just in their smell.
Expect to see troglodytes in the near Underdark, living in filthy caves and a network of tunnels from which they can move and raid the easiest of targets.
In this post, we will begin with a player’s guide to troglodytes: what to expect if they attack you and how you should respond. The second half of the post will be for the DMs out there and will discuss how to use troglodytes in a fun and memorable way.
What Is a Troglodyte in DnD 5e?
A Troglodyte is a CR ¼ humanoid that resembles a lizard folk and lives underground. They live and raid in large, undisciplined packs.
A Player’s Guide
If you are unfortunate enough to have to face a troglodyte, there are a few things you should consider about what their capabilities are. Chances are pretty good that you may actually be fighting troglodytes right now and have landed on this article as a last-minute hope for rescue. If that’s the case, scroll down to find the bit on their tactics and how to counter them.
Medium Humanoid (Troglodyte), Chaotic Evil
- Armor Class: 11 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 13 (2d8 + 4)
- Speed: 30 ft.
- STR 14 (+2), DEX 10 (+0), CON 14 (+2), INT 6 (-2), WIS 10 (+0), CHA 6 (-2)
- Skills: Stealth +2
- Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 10
- Languages: Troglodyte
- Challenge: 1/4 (50 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
Stench. Any creature other than a troglodyte that starts its turn within 5 feet of the troglodyte must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned until the start of the creature’s next turn. On a successful saving throw, the creature is immune to the stench of all troglodytes for 1 hour.
Sunlight Sensitivity. While in sunlight, the troglodyte has disadvantage on attack rolls as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Multiattack. The troglodyte makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) slashing damage.
The first thing we see at the top of their stat block is that troglodytes are medium creatures with low hit points and an even lower Armor Class. Yay, us! By 3rd level, we should be able to kill them in one or two shots if we roll high enough.
Their stats are fairly basic with nothing over a 14. They do, however, have a 6 for their Intelligence and Charisma. That is worth noting because you can exploit that. Their stealth is decent for their level, and they have darkvision – which means these are ambush monsters.
The two most notable things about them are their chameleon skin and their stench abilities. They have advantage on all stealth checks to hide, once again contributing their abilities as ambush hunters. Their stench ability means that closing in melee with them might be a bad idea because it will subject you to a constitution saving throw vs. poison.
This means they be stanky. The funk is real. The cheese has been cut. A cloud of putrid miasma emanates from their very pores and other malfeasant orifices. Do you smell what the Trog is cookin’? Gods, I hope not.
As we mentioned earlier, these are ambush pack hunters. They are raiders who will spew out of the ground and attack as violently as possible and return with as many trophies as they can carry in their hands, mouth, and stomach. They fight to eat, they eat to fight. They will fight you and each other, and they will rarely use anything as sophisticated as a weapon.
While you may find the rare example of an advanced troglodyte who has developed some type of spell casting or ranged-weapon proficiency, these are very rare. Most often, you can expect the troglodytes to get as close as they can buy stealth before erupting into melee.
They get three attacks per turn. If they hit with all three, they will do anywhere from 3-14 damage, which could potentially take out a 1st– or 2nd-level character in one round.
In addition, you stand a fair chance of being poisoned should you end up in melee with a troglodyte. This means you will have advantage on attack rolls and ability checks. So, you can guarantee a troglodyte is going to get as close into melee as they can as quickly as they can.
In summary, expect troglodytes to be stealthy until they can attack you in melee.
Knowing this about troglodytes should give you a clue as to how to fight them.
The first step is easy: Don’t let them sneak up on you. You can manage that by having a character with high wisdom in the party or a Weapon of Warning.
Second, get as far away from them as you can, and pepper them with ranged attacks. Use traps and caltrops and grease or mold earth spells and any other dirty trick to slow them down.
If you have a high enough Constitution to consider going into melee with a troglodyte, use your action economy wisely. Move in, attack, and then move out or shove them if you can. The stench ability only works if you start your turn within 5 feet of one. If you can make them have to close with you on their turn, then you can avoid the righteous funk.
This will open you up to opportunity attacks if you aren’t a rogue or a monk or have taken the mobile feat. Deal with it, sorry. There is no way around that unless you are high enough level to start casting spells like misty step or blur.
Third, force them to make Charisma or Intelligence saving throws by casting harmful illusion or enchantment spells. They will more than likely fail these. Mind Sliver, Mind Whip, and Phantasmal Force are the best options here.
Troglodytes have been a staple foe for quite some time. They are big, dumb, violent, and disgusting. As if that weren’t memorable enough, let’s turn the Trog-o-meter up to 11 with some variations in where and how they can operate.
Troglodytes are said to live in the Underdark near the surface, acting as itinerant raiders on unsuspecting towns, cities, and traveling companies. Quite often, they are relocated to sewer systems in advanced metropolitan areas. This works quite well also and has been done before very successfully.
But, have you considered putting them on a pirate ship? There is very little space to run from their stench in a naval-invasion encounter. Granted, troglodytes don’t have the sophistication to operate a ship, but maybe they’ve become allies with a crew that doesn’t need to breathe.
Troglodytes would also acclimate to the gladiatorial arena life very easily. They live on violence, they can stay in unkempt conditions underground, and they can eat their fallen foes. They would make a very good investment for the wise arena master.
In planar games, they could operate in the Shadowfell or any of the boundaries between the elemental planes of earth and water.
Troglodytes don’t get on well with each other, let alone behave civilized enough to tolerate the company of other monsters and humanoids. That being said, they are attracted to places with easy sources of food and plunder.
For this reason, you could put them in a large city sewer system in constant turf wars against goblins or kobolds. You could place them between lizard folk and sahuagin, acting as a natural and violent boundary.
Troglodytes could also act as perimeter guards to a particularly hostile dragon, such as a topaz or black dragon. They could stay far enough away to avoid the dragon’s ire but close enough to watch its tunnels. Legends of the beast could attract the type of adventurers that troglodytes like to ambush.
Finally, Troglodytes would make great introductory monsters to a chain of creatures that span from low CR to high CR. Consider using Troglodytes as the entry-level monster to a complex system of caves and ruins that lead deeper underground. After Troglodytes, you could move on to slaads, oozes, corespawn, mind flayers, and aboleths all while keeping a vaguely aquatic and repulsive theme.
Story Seed – Save the Troglodytes
In the undercity of a massive metropolitan area, a community of drow lives in one neighborhood while their ancient enemy, the duergar, lives in another. Between them live a large clan of Troglodytes that often form into bands and raid them both.
Ultimately, this is kind of a good thing from an evil point of view. The Troglodytes serve as a living, violent boundary between the drow and duergar communities. Without that boundary, the two communities would erupt in a violent war big enough to disturb the general working of the metropolis.
That would be bad for business, and so the metropolis is willing to let the occasional troglodyte skirmish serve to keep the two more advanced cultures from fighting each other as well as keep the troglodyte population in check — except that isn’t working any longer. Duergar and Drow citizens have come into conflict more over the past year than they have in the previous decade. Somehow, the PCs are charged with getting to the bottom of the problem and stopping it one or the other.
Follow these steps in as many sessions as it takes in order to run this Troglodyte campaign.
1. Hook the PCs. They are hired to stop the war between the drow and duergar before it truly begins.
2. Enquiry. The PCs must answer the question, “Why are the two fighting?” Other than their ancient grudge, the real answer is that the Troglodyte population is decreasing, so there is less of a barrier between the two.
3. Investigate. The PCs must enter the Troglodyte realm to discover what is threatening them — they will probably have to fight a few Troglodytes to get an answer and to get permission to stay in the Troglodyte realm. The answer? The troglodytes are being hunted. They do not know by what.
4. Discover. A small clan of Derro is purposefully reducing the troglodytes in order to stoke hatred between their enemies, the drow and the duergar.
5. Respond. Take out the Derro and negotiate a temporary peace between the drow and duergar so the Troglodyte population can recover and restore normalcy.