The Crafty DM’s Guide to Monster Tactics.
This is my very first article where I will give DM’s a guide to how they could use various monsters. In this first post I will take the humble Bullywug. I will cover tactics and roleplaying suggestions alike. These will be based on the information written in the monster manual etc. However I will also be adding my own ideas into the mix.
The subject of this article is the not so noble Bullywug. As readers will likely know Bullywugs are an amphibious race of frog men who dwell in swamps and other damp places. They are described as being “thoroughly evil” in the Monster Manual. These unpleasant muck dwellers also like nothing better than to take captives and lord over the dry landers. So the first point to remember is they are more interested in taking captives than most creatures. They are also unlikely to stick around in a fight with vastly superior foes. If they are out matched they will cut and run. .
The Set Up.
The Bullywug is a very low level critter and would be most effective against players of up to 5th level at most. With this in mind I suggest two Bullywugs for each player in the party at 3rd level. You should add another per level up to four at 5th level. Playing to their strengths Bullywug’s would favour an ambush over an open conflict. This would make good use of their “Swamp Camouflage” ability giving them advantage on stealth in swampy terrain. So with the Bullywug group hidden they can gain the advantage of surprise over the players. Assuming a 3rd level party of four characters that is eight Bullywugs. I would also add a single Giant Frog to the attacking group as the idea of swallowing players amuses me.
From hidden positions on all sides of the players the Bullywugs should get a round of surprise attacks. Unless they roll very poorly on their stealth even with advantage and +3 for stealth that is. For this first strike I would make a small change from the listed equipment and give them each a net to use. Nets are a simple weapon that is very much in keeping with their goal of capture. With eight nets they should score a few hits and tie up (pun intended!) the players actions for the following round. Alternatively four of them could toss nets while the other four use their multi-attack to make spear and bite attacks. This could then be repeated in the second round of combat by those still with nets to throw.
In the Thick of It.
Once the element of surprise is gone the Bullywugs should try to subdue and party member’s restrained by their nets and gang up on the stronger characters. If they succeed in taking a party member they could demand the groups surrender. Failure to comply would see the captive tossed into the deep water and force players to divert from the fight to save drowning team mates. This would further allow them to gang up on those players left to hold the line. It is worth mentioning that as well as the nets the Giant Frog can try to swallow a suitable player. This would further reduce the number of players able to fight. It is also pretty fun to have monsters eat the players. Overall the tactic should be subdue and surround. They would aim for the weaker looking characters first allowing them to overwhelm the stronger ones with numbers.
Be the Bullywug.
As has been mentioned the aim of the Bullywugs is to take prisoners. They do this to curry favour with their frog overlord and thus gain status. Throughout the battle they should make demands for the players to give up. Croaking calls in halting common should ring out in the murky swamps. They should also taunt the players at every turn. If they net the party Wizard they should make threats and even try to carry him or her off back to their village. They may also offer terms if they sense things are not going to go their way. In exchange for some valuable item they may let the players pass unmolested. The frog lords value loot as well as captives.
Most of the tactics used by the Bullywugs would fall under the bracket of “Dirty Tricks”. That being said those DM’s feeling particularly crafty could go further. Firstly DM’s could decide to lay the ambush in an area of deep bogs and quicksand. This could cut the party down to size as characters fight to stay above water.
Characters in quicksand must make a DC 10 Swim check every round to simply tread water in place, or a DC 15 Swim check to move 5 feet in whatever direction is desired. If a trapped character fails this check by 5 or more, he sinks below the surface and begins to drown whenever he can no longer hold his breath (see the Swim skill description).
Secondly the DM might add a team of two Bullywugs armed with a man catcher. This pair would target the toughest looking player and try to use the polearm to keep them out of combat. It also has great comic value.
If you hit a medium humanoid or beast with a man catcher you may make a grapple check against it. When you move a creature grabbed with the man catcher, you can choose to move it adjacent to you or keep it at reach.
And lastly you could add a spellcaster to the warband. Even a 1st level Bullywug wizard could cause the party real trouble. With the use of ranged cantrips like Poison Spray to cause damage and Fog Cloud to hide the upcoming quicksand. Future posts will dive deep into how you can utilize spellcasters as a DM.
All of the above should hopefully be useful in making fun frog themed encounters. Always remember that encounters should pose a challenge but they should also be fun. I personally found some of the best encounters are with hordes of weak monsters. They certainly have created some great moments for me as a DM.