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Low-Magic, High-Rollers: Episode 4

Nice Creatures Gone Wrong: expanding your grim setting’s monsters by corrupting the Context of the pure and cute monsters in D&D.



In this series, I’ll be covering aspects and themes that continue to vex Dungeon Masters and Players with styles and tastes that often run on the darker and/or visceral end of how they enjoy their D & D. 

As we don our deep-set cowls and evilly leaf through our sourcebooks for the next creature to elude and creep-out our brave adventurers on a dark campaign that has been wrought in evil beings, we take a deep sigh, lean our heads on a pensive fist, and bite our knuckles in frustration. What on sweet Earth are we going to throw at them next? 

You’ve horrified them with oozes and flesh golems, creeped them out with the echoing cackles of Hags and the wailing screech of Banshees. At this point, they expect plenty, and approach carefully. So if you want to surprise them, take an old note from a master of modern mythology and fantasy, George Lucas.

“Dare to be cute.”

That’s right, today, I’m going to highlight some usually good and sweeter-than-plum-wine creatures that are the last thing your party will expect to turn on them and show you how cute and beautiful can make your skin crawl.

Pop culture at large has often associated beauty with goodness. Examples are abundant, so making something that is inherently pure or beautiful and color-coded to resemble a good creature is the perfect thing to make evil in a campaign. I like to think of the message of what Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand said when George Lucas asked him why he wanted a Mon Calamari (Fish/Squidfolk) to be the face of the Rebel War Hero, Admiral Ackbar, he responded…

“I think it’s good to tell kids that good people aren’t necessarily good-looking people and that bad people aren’t necessarily ugly people.”

In light of both of those messages, let’s make some cute, creepy. 


We start with some ease with something mysterious and bound to the woods. These creatures are beautiful, curious, shy, and share a symbiosis with trees in the forests they inhabit and watch over. Often they were cursed by more powerful fey and are bound to a specific tree that turns their fey spirit into a Dryad. Luckily the Monster Manual makes this one easy; If the tree they are bound to dies they turn to madness. Dryads have often been fey spirits that have fallen in love with mortal beings and thus were cursed by their superiors. So a very Beauty and the Beast story could be built around a Dryad, they are only CR 1 but it doesn’t mean you can’t bump up their HP and spells and make an entire grove with lair actions that become their very Poison Ivy-esque domain. Perhaps a village has cut too deep into the nearby forest for a special tree that yields the strongest lumber, and they cut down the Dryad’s tree while they were away from it. Now the Village lumberjacks have been disappearing or have been found embedded into trees and are afraid of what is within since the Dryad descended into madness. For extra potency, perhaps the Dryad fell in love with one of them and was betrayed when they returned with the rest of the village lumberers to strike down their special tree. Now the Dryad is destroying all humans nearby with extreme prejudice.

Pixies & Sprites

Fey are generally easy to swing both ways between good and evil, most Player Characters hail from the civilized world whereas Pixies and Sprites are beings of the forest and feywild plane. That being said, interactions with them, whether social or aggressive, are often still filled with whimsy which may not be your style. To change it up, refer to the eerie-but-beautiful melange that is the Fey in the movie Legend. They are self-interested in holding power and making sure it does not get into the hands of mortals. Granted, they have seen mortals fall to using magic for bad, but are so jaded they have become heavily opposed to them. These winged creatures often sparkle and flutter around with bug-like wings, to give that more edge, add a more beetle-winged feeling to their look. Perhaps sprites don’t wear leathers but instead, have light plate armor fashioned of beetle chitins. Turn their mentality to a more aggressively territorial one, attacking any non-beast or fey that passes through their lands, and convert their tranquilizer arrows into heavily-poisonous ones. The Pixies on the other hand can be made to be insidious in their intent of friendship with strangers. Perhaps their initially-gorgeous grove has a canopy of bloodthirsty vine blights which the Pixies co-exist with, feeding their “new friends” to the blights by sprinkling adventurers with pixie dust so they’ll float up into their clutches. 


Pure, Elegant, and oft the steeds of great Heroes of virtue. Flipping the script of a Unicorn’s presence on the Party will truly be a shock. If you’re playing a low-magic or grimdark setting Unicorns are extremely rare at best, so their presence could mean a desperate attempt in helping heroes combat the darkness by rewarding them one as a companion and mount. What happens when that ominous omen is intercepted? The Divine Being places it in a grove or a golden meadow but it is caught by evil beings who corrupt its purity, without removing their beautiful visage. It acts as normal in its locale but it is triggered to turn on the Party as soon as they are in proximity, its golden hair turns to flames and the horn’s twist glows like heated steel. Now it’s a Nightmare Unicorn! Or intercepted by a vampire? Its teeth turn sharp and its hair an endless cascade of trickling blood. Blood Unicorn! You’re welcome edgy DM’s. With a little tweaking, you could also apply this to Pegasi and Ki-Rin as well.


Yup, we’re going there, one of the most beloved and cute creatures. Surprisingly, when you look closely in the Monster Manual it’s very easy to convert these friendly and psionically-empathetic creatures into buffering forces that serve evil. Since most of their sources of psionic power are siphoned from evil beings, they are very privy to something akin to a computer virus or brainwashing. Perhaps an elder brain’s lair is deep in the ground and a cloister of Flumphs have mysteriously appeared on a mound above where shepherds used to graze their sheep… Until the potency of the psionic power of the elder brain was so apparent that the flumphs turned into unwilling minions of the brain and chased off those who cross their path, bewildering those living nearby. Turn their tendril attack into something that can influence the target mentally if they fail a save, thus turning their parasitic nature against innocent bystanders and adventurers.

Now armed with some clever and creepy spins on the cute and pure creatures in D&D, go forth and shock your unsuspecting adventurers.

Dare to be cute.

Written By 
Christian Petrozza
IG: L2S_Entertainment
Twitter: @Late2theShowEnt

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