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Boss Fights: Haunted Giant

Boss Fights: Haunted Giant

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 can be 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 time focuses on modifying existing abilities that match the tone of the battle for each phase.

Haunted Giant

This article adapts the haunted giant from the Kobold Press Creature Codex. Haunted giants are permanently haunted by three ghostly spirits. Each spirit defines a different phase of this boss fight.

The giant’s lair is a damp ogre barrow pocked by roots and worms. The giant has been tasked by the ogres to restore their dead kin to repopulate the tribe. The giant relies on lackeys to protect the lair while it attempts to help raise the dead ogres: ogre zombies and ogres.

The PCs have come to the barrow to respond to the twin threat of the ogre menace and necromantic activity. They are unlikely aware of the haunted giant’s true intentions, and they may be unswayed should they learn of them.

The haunted giant doesn’t solely depend upon its lackeys however. The barrow itself responds to PC interference. The spirits of the dead ogres make the earth shake and destabilize the barrow. The spirit that haunts the giant offers it unique abilities from phase to phase.

Each boss phase represents the haunted giant’s reaction to trespassers upon this lair: harrowed giant, guarded giant, and enraged giant.

While normally CR 6, this haunted giant is CR 8 while in its lair. PCs who defeat the enraged giant receive 5,400 XP.

In the initial phase, the haunted giant focuses on identifying the spirits of restless ogres still in the barrow with the aid of her late uncle, Korlgar the Farseer. The giant looks unkindly on anyone trying to disrupt this sacred task, targeting those who would stalk the barrow unseen.

Harrowed Giant (Phase 1)

Huge Giant, Usually Chaotic Neutral

Armor Class 20 (natural armor)
Hit Points 63 (6d12 + 24)
Speed 40 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
21 (+5)8 (−1)19 (+4)5 (−3)9 (−1)6 (−2)

Saving Throws Dexterity +2, Constitution +7, Wisdom +2
Skills Athletics +8, Perception +2
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages Giant
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)         Proficiency Bonus +3

Ancestral Spirit (Korlgar). A ghostly spirit of a shaman haunts the giant. This spirit is incorporeal, remains within 10 feet of the giant at all times, and can’t take actions, but can use lair actions. He uses the giant’s AC and saving throws, and can only be harmed by radiant damage. If this ancestral spirit takes damage, it comes from the giant’s hp, and an ancestral spirit can’t be turned.

In this phase, Korlgar allows the giant to see invisible creatures and objects as if they were visible and can see into the Ethereal Plane.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The giant makes two Greatclub attacks.

Greatclub. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (3d8 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 60/240 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d10 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

BONUS ACTIONS

Soul Snatching. One creature within 10 feet of the giant makes a Charisma save or become Incapacitated until the end of its next turn. If the save is successful, it instead takes 14 (4d6) psychic damage.

The Barrow Stirs (1/phase). The giant summons 1d4 + 1 lackeys (ogre zombies with 10 hp and without the Undead Fortitude feature). These lackeys act on initiative count 10.

LAIR ACTIONS

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Korlgar takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects:

  • Jump Scare. Two creatures of the giant’s choice within 30 feet make DC 16 Wisdom saving throws. They take 13 (5d4) psychic damage on a failed saving throw or half as much on a success.
  • Trick of the Eyes. The giant or one lackey teleports to an unoccupied space it can see within 30 feet.
  • Unfathomable Fog. The ghostly spirit creates a 20-foot-radius sphere of fog centered on a point within the lair. The sphere spreads around corners, and its area is heavily obscured. This fog lasts until the start of the next lair action.

In this phase, the haunted giant fights attempts to sway him from his purpose with the aid of his late cousin, Sulfuch the Stalwart. Sulfuch uses her lair actions to confuse and tire her foes and provide added survivability to the ogre zombies.

Guarded Giant (Phase 2)

Huge Giant, Usually Chaotic Neutral

Armor Class 19 (natural armor)
Hit Points 63 (6d12 + 24)
Speed 40 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
21 (+5)8 (−1)19 (+4)5 (−3)9 (−1)6 (−2)

Saving Throws Dexterity +2, Constitution +7, Wisdom +2
Skills Athletics +8, Perception +2
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages Giant
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)         Proficiency Bonus +3

Ancestral Spirit (Sulfuch). A ghostly spirit of an honored guard haunts the giant. This spirit is incorporeal, remains within 10 feet of the giant at all times, and can’t take actions, but can use lair actions. She uses the giant’s AC and saving throws, and can only be harmed by radiant damage. If this ancestral spirit takes damage, it comes from the giant’s hp, and an ancestral spirit can’t be turned.

In this phase, Sulfuch grants the giant immunity to the charmed and frightened conditions.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The giant makes two Greatclub attacks.

Greatclub. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (3d8 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 60/240 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d10 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

BONUS ACTIONS

Spirit Shield. Melee Weapon Attack:+8 to hit, reach 10 ft, one target. Hit: 14 (4d6) psychic damage. Until the end of its next turn, the target has disadvantage on attacks targeting the giant, but hit the giant until the end of his next turn.

The Barrow Stirs (1/phase). The giant summons 1d4 + 1 lackeys (ogre zombies with 10 hp and without the Undead Fortitude feature). These lackeys act on initiative count 5.

LAIR ACTIONS

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Sulfuch takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects:

  • Lost In Memory. The giant chooses 1d4 + 1 creatures who must make a DC 16 Charisma saving throw or move 15 feet in a random direction as a reaction. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
  • Undead Vigor. Lackeys regain use of their Undead Fortitude feature.

Withering Stare. Two creatures must make DC 16 Charisma saving throws or take 10 (3d6) necrotic damage and suffer a level of exhaustion. On a success the creature only takes half damage and isn’t exhausted.

In the final phase, the haunted giant recognizes that death may come soon. To avert this outcome, the giant reluctantly calls upon his late father, Yulhammor the Inexorable. As clan leader, Yulhammor was known for infusing his warriors with a great fury before battles—a trait that his spirit bestows upon his son and his ogre allies, living and dead.

Enraged Giant (Phase 3)

Huge Giant, Usually Chaotic Neutral

Armor Class 18 (natural armor)
Hit Points 63 (6d12 + 24)
Speed 40 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
21 (+5)8 (−1)19 (+4)5 (−3)9 (−1)6 (−2)

Saving Throws Dexterity +2, Constitution +7, Wisdom +2
Skills Athletics +8, Perception +2
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages Giant
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)         Proficiency Bonus +3

Ancestral Spirit (Yulhammor). A ghostly spirit of a vicious berserker haunts the giant. This spirit is incorporeal, remains within 10 feet of the giant at all times, and can’t take actions, but can use lair actions. He uses the giant’s AC and saving throws, and can only be harmed by radiant damage. If this ancestral spirit takes damage, it comes from the giant’s hp. An ancestral spirit can’t be turned.

In this phase, Yulhammor infuses the giant with recklessness. The giant can gain advantage on all melee weapon attack rolls during that turn, but attack rolls against him have advantage until the start of its next turn.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The giant makes two Greatclub attacks.

Greatclub. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (3d8 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 60/240 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d10 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

BONUS ACTIONS

Enraged Guards (1/phase). The giant summons 1d4 + 1 lackeys (ogres with 10 hp). These act on initiative count 15.

Wild Swing (Recharge 5–6). The giant makes a greatclub attack against every creature in a 10-foot radius of him.

LAIR ACTIONS

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Yulhammor takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects:

  • Haunted Quake. Each creature in a 20-foot radius must succeed on a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. Creatures who fail by 5 or more are instead incapacitated until the end of their next turn.
  • Reckless Abandon. Until the next lair action, lackeys can gain advantage on all melee weapon attack rolls during that turn, but attack rolls against them have advantage until the start of their next turn.
  • Wailing Doom. Each enemy creature within 30 feet of the giant must make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw, taking 16 (3d10) thunder damage on a failed save, or half as much on a success.

Find more amazing monsters in Tome of Beasts 3, on sale now!


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

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.

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