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Boss Fights: Hoard Drake

Boss Fights: Hoard Drake

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 modifying a monster’s traits to match the tone of the battle for each phase. That might not make a ton of sense right now, so check the numbered footnotes ([1], [2], etc.) in each phase of the boss for more on that.

Hoard Drake

This article adapts the hoard drake (see Tome of Beasts 2). Adventurers have encountered its treasure heap, and the drake uses part of its treasure to drive off the interlopers with help from three lackeys: animated swords, clacking skeletons (see Creature Codex) and greed swarms (see Tome of Beasts 2 again).

Each boss phase represents the hoard drake’s unfolding reaction to trespassers: cautious drake, aggressive drake, and desperate drake.

While normally CR 8, this hoard drake is CR 9 in its lair. PCs who defeat the desperate drake receive 5,000 XP.

Although often languorous, the hoard drake acts with ardor and zeal when adventurers threaten its accumulated wealth. The drake doesn’t initially risk its possessions, instead using past victims and its own stifling breath to deter.

While lackeys later join the fray via lair actions, the drake may initially ally with animated armor.

Cautious Drake (Phase 1)

Large Dragon, Usually Neutral Evil
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 52 (5d10 + 25)
Speed 40 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
18 (+4)7 (−2)20 (+5)16 (+3)10 (+0)12 (+1)

Saving Throws Str +7, Con +8
Skills Arcana +6, History +6, Nature +6, Perception +3
Damage Immunities fire
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Common, Draconic
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)            Proficiency Bonus +3

Miser’s Fury. The drake knows the scent of every coin, gem and item of value in its hoard. The drake has advantage on Wisdom (Perception and Survival) checks to find and track its hoard. In addition, it has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if the creature is in possession of any portion of its hoard.

Treasure Sense. A drake can pinpoint, by scent, the location of precious metals and minerals, such as coins and gems, within 60 feet of it. In addition, it can differentiate between various types of metals and minerals and can determine if the metal or mineral is magical.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The drake makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (3d8 + 4) piercing damage.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (3d6 + 4) slashing damage.

Repulsion Breath (1/short rest). The drake exhales a torrid breath of air in a 30 foot cone. Each creature in the cone must make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, a creature takes 18 (4d8) fire damage and is pushed 15 feet. On a success, the damage is halved and the creature isn’t pushed. Any movement in the cone is difficult terrain until the drake’s next turn. [1]

REACTIONS

Tail Slap. When a creature the drake can see targets it with a ranged attack within 60 ft., the hoard  drake can fling coins at a target creature, imposing disadvantage on the attack.

LAIR ACTIONS

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

  • Glitch. A malfunctioning magic item in the horde breaks and targets two creatures who must each succeed on a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or take 13 (3d8) cold, lightning, or thunder damage.
  • Sinkhole. Two sinkholes open in the hoard, each in a 5-foot radius. Creatures who start their turn on or enter the sinkhole’s area must succeed on a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or are grappled by sliding into the treasure pile. Grappled creatures can use their action to end the grapple.
  • Unearth Victim. The gilded remains of past trespassers (two clacking skeletons with 7 hp) arise from the hoard, acting on this initiative count.

[1] Repulsion Breath is a change from the normal Hoard Drake’s breath weapon, Midas Breath. It saves the exciting molten gold breath weapon for the finale in phase 3. The recharge is also changed to 1/short rest instead of the Recharge 6, to save the GM some record keeping. It’s probably only going to go off once, so GMs don’t really need to bother checking every round for recharge. But if the PCs retreat for some reason, the hoard drake will have it ready again when they return.

Since the adventurers haven’t gotten the clue, the drake begins weaponizing its treasure. The drake may also tunnel into its hoard to gain temporary reprieve from attacks.

Aggressive Drake (Phase 2)

Large Dragon, Usually Neutral Evil
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 52 (5d10 + 25)
Speed 40 ft., burrow 40 ft. [1]

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
18 (+4)7 (−2)20 (+5)16 (+3)10 (+0)12 (+1)

Saving Throws Str +7, Con +8
Skills Arcana +6, History +6, Nature +6, Perception +3
Damage Immunities fire
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Common, Draconic
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)            Proficiency Bonus +3

Miser’s Fury. The drake knows the scent of every coin, gem and item of value in its hoard. The drake has advantage on Wisdom (Perception and Survival) checks to find and track its hoard. In addition, it has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if the creature is in possession of any portion of its hoard.

Treasure Sense. A drake can pinpoint, by scent, the location of precious metals and minerals, such as coins and gems, within 60 feet of it. In addition, it can differentiate between various types of metals and minerals and can determine if the metal or mineral is magical.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The drake makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (3d8 + 4) piercing damage.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (3d6 + 4) slashing damage.

Burying Breath (1/short rest). The drake exhales treasure at a point within 30 ft. Each creature in a 10 ft. radius from that point must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw or take 27 (6d8) bludgeoning damage and is both prone and restrained until the end of its next turn. On a success, a creature takes half the damage and is only knocked prone. [2]

REACTIONS

Gold Bile. When a creature the drake can see targets it with a melee attack, the drake vomits molten gold onto the attacker, who must reroll the attack.

LAIR ACTIONS

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

  • Cashflow. Currents of coinage surge around the lair. Three target creatures must make DC 16 Strength saving throws. On a failure, they are pushed 15 ft. and knocked prone. On a success, they are only pushed 5 ft. and aren’t knocked prone.
  • Fluttering Blades. Three lackeys (flying swords with 7 hp) emerge from the horde, acting on this initiative count. 
  • Whoops. A potion in the hoard bursts. Each creature in a 10 ft. radius of the potion makes a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or takes 14 (4d6) poison damage, or half as much on a successful save.

[1] The burrow speed is an addition to the hoard drake’s normal walking speed. This allows the drake to burrow through its treasure and surprise PCs in a way unique to this phase of the fight.

[2] As in phase 1, the Burying Breath is a change from the normal Hoard Drake’s breath weapon, Midas Breath, for the same reasons.

Enough is enough. The drake begins destroying part of his hoard to protect the remainder. He melts precious metals to empower attacks, and other treasure clusters to harry his enemies.

Desperate Drake (Phase 3)

Large Dragon, Usually Neutral Evil
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 84 (8d10 + 40) [1]
 Speed 40 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
18 (+4)7 (−2)20 (+5)16 (+3)10 (+0)12 (+1)

Saving Throws Str +7, Con +8
Skills Arcana +6, History +6, Nature +6, Perception +3
Damage Immunities fire
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Common, Draconic
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)            Proficiency Bonus +3

Miser’s Fury. The drake knows the scent of every coin, gem and item of value in its hoard. The drake has advantage on Wisdom (Perception and Survival) checks to find and track its hoard. In addition, it has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if the creature is in possession of any portion of its hoard.

Treasure Sense. A drake can pinpoint, by scent, the location of precious metals and minerals, such as coins and gems, within 60 feet of it. In addition, it can differentiate between various types of metals and minerals and can determine if the metal or mineral is magical.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The drake makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (3d8 + 4) piercing damage.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (3d6 + 4) slashing damage.

Midas Breath (1/short rest). The drake spits molten gold in a 30-foot cone. Each creature in the area must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw. On a failure, a creature takes 36 (8d8) fire damage and the gold clings to it. On a success, a creature takes half the damage and the gold doesn’t cling to it. A creature with gold clinging to it has its speed halved until it takes an action to scrape off the gold. The gold produced by Midas Breath can be collected once it has cooled, providing roughly 50 gp worth of gold dust and scraps each time it spits molten gold. [2] 

BONUS ACTIONS

Healing Treat (Recharge 5–6). The drake recovers 10 (1d10 + 5) hit points after consuming a mouthful of gems.

REACTIONS

Thrashing. When the drake is damaged by a melee attack, the drake can thrash around. Each creature within 5 ft. of the drake must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw to avoid being knocked prone.

LAIR ACTIONS

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

  • Molten Weapons. Melted gold coats the drake’s allies, adding 7 (2d6) fire damage to their melee attacks until the next lair action.
  • Molten Pools. A 10 ft radius area becomes difficult terrain and deals 7 (2d6) fire damage to each creature starting their turn in, or moving through the area.
  • Weaponized  Greed. 1d4 lackeys (greed swarm with 7 hp and without the Gather feature) fly up from the hoard and act on this initiative count.

[1] Phases 1 and 2 were roughly 1/3 of the normal hoard drake’s hit points. However, for the final phase, the drake digs deep and comes with more staying power. This is one of the reasons for the increased CR for the total encounter.

[2] Here is the final phase, the characteristic Midas Breath finally appears and is all the more awe-inspiring for the wait.


This was great, but now you’re thinking, “I could really go for another drake.” You love drakes! And who can blame you, really?
Find all-new drakes like the bakery drake, the cactus drake, the venom drake, and more 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

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