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Boss Fights: Black Pudding

Boss Fights: Black Pudding

Ooze by Chris McFann

Boss monsters are a hallmark of adventure design. In the climactic battle, the PCs end the boss’s schemes and save the day.

Especially at lower levels though, boss monsters can be dull. They are frequently guileless and lack interesting abilities beyond swinging a sword and commanding underlings to an early grave.

So how do we fix boss monsters? We rebuild them into dynamic stat blocks.

See previous Boss Fights articles here!

The Sausage Making

Building a dynamic boss battle involves several steps. To make your own, follow these steps:

1. Separate the monster’s attitude toward combat into three phases.

2. Break out the monster’s published stat block to match each phase.

3. Use or modify existing abilities that match the attitude for each phase. To improve boss effectiveness and survivability, add new reactions and bonus actions to make good use of the action economy.

4. Introduce lackeys with low hit points. Several full-blown allies can bog down combat, but lackeys (with a fraction of hit points that a standard monster of their type would have) provide an obstacle without slowing the tempo.

5. Add lair actions. A clever boss fights on their own terms. Even cornered, a boss monster chooses the battlefield, which grants them special actions on their turf.

Each article focuses on different aspects of these boss fights. This article focuses on using lackeys in a dynamic encounter.

Luthor, Pudding Monarch

This article adapts the black pudding from the SRD, which is a strange boss given its Intelligence score.

Luthor was an average black pudding until it killed a wizard wearing a headband of intellect, bestowing intelligence and personality upon the pudding. Now gifted with humanoid thoughts, goals, and dreams, Luthor is building a domain of oozes in her dungeon home. Luthor’s lair is a large dungeon room with a cracked stone floor, strewn with sharp debris, and wood beams to support the ceiling.

The three phases of this boss monster represent Luthor’s evolving reaction to combat with PCs: controller Luthor, wrecker Luthor, and panicked Luthor.

While black puddings are normally CR 4 monsters, Luthor is CR 6. PCs who defeat panicked Luthor receive 2,300 XP.

The PCs have reached Luthor’s lair. Anticipating battle, she has split off four black pudding lackeys, which has reduced her size and Constitution. To drive off the intruders, Luthor creates many “children” to constrain the PCs’ movement and destroy their weapons and armor.

Once reduced to 0 hp, Luthor and her lackeys retreat through cracks in the dungeon floor. After two rounds, they use their movement to appear anywhere in the room. Go to Phase 2.

Controller Luthor (Phase 1)

Medium Ooze, Any Evil
Armor Class 7
Hit Points 44 (8d8 + 8)
Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
16 (+3)5 (−3)12 (+1)19 (+4)6 (−2)1 (−5)

Damage Immunities acid, cold, lightning, slashing
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 8
Languages Common
Challenge 2 (450 XP)            Proficiency Bonus +2

Amorphous. Luthor can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

Corrosive Form. A creature that touches Luthor or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 4 (1d8) acid damage. Any nonmagical weapon made of metal or wood that hits Luthor corrodes. After dealing damage, the weapon takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to −5, the weapon is destroyed. Nonmagical ammunition made of metal or wood that hits Luthor is destroyed after dealing damage. Luthor can eat through 2-inch-thick, nonmagical wood or metal in 1 round.

Spider Climb. Luthor can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

ACTIONS

Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage plus 7 (2d6) acid damage. In addition, nonmagical armor worn by the target is partly dissolved and takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.

REACTIONS

Split. When Luthor has at least 10 hp and is subjected to lightning or slashing damage, a new black pudding lackey is created. The lackey shows up adjacent to Luthor and acts on the same initiative as Luthor. Each new lackey created reduces Luthor’s current hit points by 5.

LAIR ACTIONS

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Luthor can take one of the following lair actions:

  • Surprise! A stream of black pudding falls from the ceiling. The target creature must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 7 (2d6) acid damage.
  • Desperate Split. Luthor rolls around in sharp detritus, creating 1d3 new black pudding lackeys adjacent to itself. Luthor’s hp is not reduced.

Once defeated in phase 1, Luthor sinks into the cracks of the dungeon floor and re-emerges after two rounds. Luthor has grown after absorbing lackeys into her form, which she uses to dominate the battlefield.

The attack in this phase that reduces Luthor to 0 hp irreparably damages the headband of intellect. Go to Phase 3.

Wrecker Luthor (Phase 2)

Large Ooze, Any Evil
Armor Class 7
Hit Points 51 (6d10 + 18)
Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
16 (+3) 5 (−3)16 (+3)19 (+4)6 (−2)1 (−5)

Damage Immunities acid, cold, lightning, slashing
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 8
Languages Common
Challenge 2 (450 XP)            Proficiency Bonus +2

Amorphous. Luthor can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

Corrosive Form. A creature that touches Luthor or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 4 (1d8) acid damage. Any nonmagical weapon made of metal or wood that hits Luthor corrodes. After dealing damage, the weapon takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to −5, the weapon is destroyed. Nonmagical ammunition made of metal or wood that hits Luthor is destroyed after dealing damage. Luthor can eat through 2-inch-thick, nonmagical wood or metal in 1 round.

Reabsorb. When Luthor moves into the same space as a black pudding lackey, Luthor absorbs the lackey and recovers 10 hp.

Spider Climb. Luthor can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

ACTIONS

Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage plus 7(2d6) acid damage. In addition, nonmagical armor worn by the target is partly dissolved and takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.

REACTIONS

Split. When Luthor has at least 10 hp and is subjected to lightning or slashing damage, a new black pudding lackey is created. The lackey shows up adjacent to Luthor and acts on the same initiative as Luthor. Each new lackey created reduces Luthor’s current hit points by 5.

LAIR ACTIONS

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Luthor can take one of the following lair actions:

  • Black Pitch. One black pudding lackey boils into sticky tar, killing it. Ground within a 10 ft. radius of its corpses becomes difficult terrain for 1 minute.
  • It’s Coming Apart. The puddings have dissolved the wooden supports of the dungeon. Creatures in a 10 ft. radius of Luthor must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 9 (2d8) bludgeoning damage and falls prone. On a successful save, the creature takes half damage and isn’t knocked prone.

Now damaged, the headband of intellect begins emanating dangerous arcane energy. Luthor becomes panicked and desperate, raging (both verbally and physically) against her impending loss of personality. At 0 hp, she dies.

Panicked Luthor (Phase 3)

Large Ooze, Any Evil
Armor Class 7
Hit Points 51 (6d10 + 18)
Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
16 (+3)5 (−3)16 (+3)10 (+0)6 (−2)5 (−3)

Damage Immunities acid, cold, lightning, slashing
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 8
Languages Common
Challenge 2 (450 XP)            Proficiency Bonus +2

Arcane Radiation. Creatures starting or ending their turn adjacent to Luthor take 4 (1d8) poison damage.

Amorphous. Luthor can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

Corrosive Form. A creature that touches Luthor or hits it with a melee attack while within 5 feet of it takes 4 (1d8) acid damage. Any nonmagical weapon made of metal or wood that hits Luthor corrodes. After dealing damage, the weapon takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to −5, the weapon is destroyed. Nonmagical ammunition made of metal or wood that hits Luthor is destroyed after dealing damage. Luthor can eat through 2-inch-thick, nonmagical wood or metal in 1 round.

Spider Climb. Luthor can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Reabsorb. When Luthor moves into the same space as a black pudding lackey, Luthor absorbs the lackey and recovers 10 hp.

ACTIONS

Arcane Blast. Ranged Spell Attack: +2 to hit, range 60 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d8) force damage.

Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage plus 18 (4d8) acid damage. In addition, nonmagical armor worn by the target is partly dissolved and takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.

REACTIONS

Split. When Luthor has at least 10 hp and is subjected to lightning or slashing damage, a new black pudding lackey is created. The lackey shows up adjacent to Luthor and acts on the same initiative as Luthor. Each new lackey created reduces Luthor’s current hit points by 5.

LAIR ACTIONS

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Luthor can take one of the following lair actions:

  • Aetheric Pulse. Each creature within 30 ft of Luthor must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or fall prone.
  • Collective Panic. Each black pudding lackey moves up to half its speed and can reabsorb with Luthor.
  • Uncontrolled Energy. Luthor randomly targets three creatures with Arcane Blast. If an attack reduces a target to 0 hp, all creatures within 5 ft. of the creature must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 9 (2d8) force damage from the exploding corpse.

Lackeys

Lackeys are versions of existing monsters who die after 1–2 hits. You can make lackeys as monsters with fewer hp (orc with 5 hp) or with certain features removed (ghast with 5 hp and without the Stench feature). When monsters have many features, you may create a lackey stat block.

Black Pudding Lackey

Small Ooze, Unaligned
Armor Class 7
Hit Points 6 (1d6 + 3)
Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
16 (+3)5 (−3)16 (+3)1 (−5)6 (−2)1 (−5)

Damage Immunities acid, cold, lightning, slashing
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 8
Languages
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)                       Proficiency Bonus +2

Amorphous. As Luthor.

Corrosive Form. As Luthor.

Spider Climb. As Luthor.

ACTIONS

Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage plus 2 (1d4) acid damage. In addition, nonmagical armor worn by the target is partly dissolved and takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.


This was great, but now you’re thinking, “I could really go for another ooze.” You love Oozes! And who can blame you, really?
Find all-new Ooze monsters in Tome of Beasts 3, on sale now!


about Matt Dunn

Matt Dunn lives near Fredericksburg, Virginia with his wife and son, who he has written an adventure with. He works as a teacher, program manager, and part-time writer. Many of his outings have been with Eastman Dunn Press, writing for DMsGuild, Kobold Press, and Onyx Path Publishing.

About Benjamin Eastman

Benjamin L. Eastman was introduced to D&D by his four closest friends—who immediately betrayed his trust by sacrificing his first character to a demonic artifact. Undeterred, he’s played all manner of RPGs in the intervening years. In addition to writing Warlock Lairs and monsters for Kobold Press, he’s contributed to the Stargate RPG and Americana, and co-authored DMs Guild adventures including Baby Tarrasque. He is perhaps proudest of the bar brawl—his first published monster in the Creature Codex

3 thoughts on “Boss Fights: Black Pudding”

  1. Three raccoons in a trenchcoat

    One of my best boss fights was a gelatinous cube that swallowed a wizard but didn’t destroy their headband of intellect, spellbook, and bag of spell components. Watching my players’ eggs bug out of their heads when the gelly cube cast fireball was one of the purest joys I’ve ever experienced.

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