Umber Hulks have been kicking around the Dungeons and Dragons world since 1983. Yes, 1983. Back when it was big hair, big houses, big cars, and big freaking monsters.
Umber hulks were some of the biggest, and they still are. As Large monstrosities, they take up a lot of space – 10 ft. by 10 ft., which means their aura ability confusing gaze stretches a radius of 40 feet for a grand total of an 80-foot circle of suck.
But don’t worry; we’ll teach you how to deal with that in this post. We will also be going over where you will likely run into these bad boys and what they will probably try to do to you. After that, we will talk to the DMs out there and give them some guidance on adding a little Black Citadel sauce to spice up their Umber Hulk adventures and campaigns.
What Is an Umber Hulk in DnD 5e?
An Umber hulk is a CR 5, Large Monstrosity with Brute-like abilities and a wicked aura effect.
Let’s check out the stat block.
Large Monstrosity, Chaotic Evil
- Armor Class: 18 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 93 (11d10 + 33)
- Speed: 30 ft., burrow 20 ft.
- STR 20 (+5), DEX 13 (+1), CON 16 (+3), INT 9 (-1), WIS 10 (+0), CHA 10 (+0)
- Senses: Darkvision 120 ft., Tremorsense 60 ft., Passive Perception 10
- Languages: Umber Hulk
- Challenge: 5 (1,800 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +3
Confusing Gaze. When a creature starts its turn within 30 feet of the umber hulk and is able to see the umber hulk’s eyes, the umber hulk can magically force it to make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw, unless the umber hulk is incapacitated.
On a failed saving throw, the creature can’t take reactions until the start of its next turn and rolls a d8 to determine what it does during that turn. On a 1 to 4, the creature does nothing. On a 5 or 6, the creature takes no action but uses all its movement to move in a random direction. On a 7 or 8, the creature makes one melee attack against a random creature, or it does nothing if no creature is within reach.
Tunneler. The umber hulk can burrow through solid rock at half its burrowing speed and leaves a 5-foot-wide, 8-foot-high tunnel in its wake.
Multiattack. The umber hulk makes three attacks: two with its claws and one with its mandibles.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d8 + 5) slashing damage.
Mandibles. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d8 + 5) slashing damage.
Stat Block Analysis
Right away we can see this monster is a Brute. Its strength and constitution are very impressive, weighing at a 20 and a 16 respectively.
It’s got loads of HP and a very high Armor Class of 18. With darkvision at 120 feet and tremorsense at 60 feet, sneaking up on this thing will be nearly impossible unless you can fly. Some DMs may allow you to use stealth if you specifically say you are walking softly, perhaps at a disadvantage.
The confusing gaze is what makes this monster a serious hassle. Not only is a big melee charger, but anyone within 30 feet has the potential to lose their turn or stab their buddy. You can avert your eyes to avoid this gaze, but this means you are effectively blinded and will be attacking at a disadvantage.
Its tunneler ability makes this a useful creature to have on your side if you can somehow manage it. When it burrows, it can choose to leave behind a tunnel that will allow Medium or smaller creatures to travel freely. If you aren’t sure, ask your DM to make a Survival or Nature check to determine if any given tunnel is an Umber Hulk tunnel.
A Player’s Guide
So, there you are, minding your own business while exploring some tunnels out in the wild when a giant, bipedal beetle with crazy eyes starts trying to eat you. First, you should question your life choices. But, what to do after that?
When, Where, and Why Are You Likely To Meet an Umber Hulk?
The Monster Manual lists these buggers as living in the underdark, which makes sense. Their tunneler ability means they can create their own dens. However, they will likely avoid large concentrations of other creatures, so you will probably not find them near drow cities, kobold tunnels, or duergar settlements.
You will likely meet them as they roam solitary paths. The Monster Manual says that any creature can be affected by the confusing gaze. This includes other Umber Hulks; so, no, they will not be used as mounts or thugs.
(Psst… For the DMs… Read on, and we will tell you how to use them as mounts and thugs, hehehe.)
As to why you will encounter an Umber Hulk — that’s easy. They gotta eat somethin’. Are you squishy under all that armor? Like a juicy meat snack with a hard candy shell?
Umber Hulk Tactics and How To Counter Them
Umber Hulks will charge the middle of your party. They may not be smart enough to single out the toughest or the weakest PC and fight them, but they are smart enough to know that the more prey animals (that’s you) they can affect with their confusing gaze, the better their chances of getting an easy meal. Once inside, they will use their overpowering strength and multi-attack ability to wear down whoever stays within reach.
To counter this, get the one or two players with the highest AC to avert their eyes and fight defensively. They won’t be able to take any offensive actions without disadvantage, but they also won’t be affected by the confusing gaze.
The Umber Hulk will have advantage on attacks against them normally since they are effectively blinded. However, if they are fighting defensively, they impose disadvantage on attacks. Therefore, the two will cancel each other out, and the Umber Hulk will roll only one die to hit like normal.
The support squad of the party (clerics, bards, and artificers) should make sure they use all of their abilities and spells to support these players with healing and buffs. Everyone else should use ranged and magical attacks to deal damage to the Umber Hulk.
If you can not use the above strategy, then your character needs to avert their eyes and use any attack or ability they have that relies on saving throws. Blinded means you have disadvantage on attack rolls, but if you can use your hearing or peripheral vision to get a general idea of where the Umber Hulk is, you can force it to make a saving throw.
Make sure to use Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws as much as possible. And uh, don’t get hit. This thing does a LOT of damage.
A DM’s Guide
Umber Hulks have a lot of potential to be memorable encounters for your band of monster slayers. Below we’ve got some ideas on how to switch it up and give them an interesting yet logical place in your adventure.
Umber Hulks are usually solitary. However, the Neogi are said to have bred and trained Umber hulks to be their servants. Young Neogi are even given an Umber Hulk in order to begin their training in mental enslavement. How does this even work? As the DM, you will have to decide. The Neogi’s enslave ability only works within 30 feet as does the Umber Hulk’s confusing gaze.
Here are some options for you to consider:
- The Neogi are exposed to the confusing gaze of their juvenile Umber Hulk slave to the point where they gain immunity to it. If this is the case, then many young Neogi are definitely killed by their Umber Hulks – a fact that would not bother Neogi society at all.
- The Umber Hulks can suppress their confusing gaze if they wish. Since the Neogi have them charmed and well trained, then the Umber Hulk chooses not to use its gaze on its master.
- The particular breed of Umber Hulks used by the Neogi do not have a confusing gaze and can instead use a fear effect with the same DC as a bonus action every turn.
Advanced Tactics for Umber Hulks
Alright, some of these, admittedly, can be pretty weird, but that’s good, right? It makes it memorable!
- The Umber Hulk is being ridden by a blindfolded duergar that uses aura spells and emanation spells like thunderwave to buff itself and the Umber Hulk.
- The Umber Hulk has learned that magic tastes the best, and it targets any and all spellcasters.
- The Umber Hulk waits underground using its burrow speed and pokes its eye stalks out of the ground. When the party is confused, it erupts into the middle of them.
- The Umber Hulk is placed in a tunnel of reflective minerals or mirrors, and this expands its confusing gaze by 45 feet and makes it impossible to avert your eyes. You must close them.
Umber Hulk Variants
Why have one big slobbering monster when you can have multiple breeds? Check these out:
- Earth Movers – These Umber Hulks are a bit smaller, but they specialize in creating tunnels and maneuvering through the earth. Give them a 13STR (this means a -3 to all of the Strength-based rolls in the stat block). Also, give them the Mold Earth cantrip and the Catapult spell. Instead of casting the spell with spell slots, give it a recharge of 6.
- Ambushers – This Umber Hulk has become a specialist in their confusing gaze ability. If a creature is under the effect of the confusing gaze, they also take psychic damage equal to the number they rolled on the d6. If a creature is averting its eyes, this Umber Hulk will attempt to Shove the creature and knock it prone so that it looks up. Instead of a mandible attack, the Umber Hulk shoves the creature with the same DC as their confusing gaze. If the creature falls, it must make a Dexterity saving throw vs. DC 10 in order to close its eyes in time.
Umber Hulks, as giant bug-like creatures, make great natural enemies of the Thri-Kreen.
In this campaign, a band of Thri-Kreen have infiltrated an urban environment after tracking an Umber Hulk to this location. They have tried to remain out of sight and incognito, but that is proving to be very difficult. The PCs are tasked to find the Thri-Kreen and make them leave the city, either by the authorities or by whatever crime boss they owe the most money to.
Once approached, they discover the Thri-Kreen have uncovered an Umber Hulk breeding pit, and they will not leave until it is eradicated. Hopefully, the PCs will help. While helping, they discover that the Umber Hulks are being bred by a wealthy councilman who is using them to trade with Neogi for exotic slaves for… whatever purpose suits your game. To dig in the mines, to fight in an underground battle arena… whatever works for you.
Will the PCs free the Umber Hulks and take down the councilman only to have the Umber Hulks killed by the Thri-Kreen and invite the wrath of the Neogi? Or will they support him and take out the Thri-Kreen?
The PCs run the risk of being killed by the Thri-Kreen in the early game, the Umber Hulks in the mid-game, and the councilman’s crew in the end game.