One of my favorite things about Dungeons & Dragons is the monsters. There’s so many incredible creatures throughout the history of D&D! My go-to method for creating adventures in my own games is starting with a monster and developing ideas from there. So it’s no surprise the Monster BFF series from the Nerdarchy YouTube channel ranks high on my list of likes. In this series, the crew takes two or three 5E D&D monsters, puts them together and discovers what sort of encounter emerges. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on two planning sessions for these videos and contributing ideas. The first one got me hooked enough to work on an adventure based around the monster pairing. And the second one, in the video below, I helped turn into Nerdarchy’s first Monster BFF product over on the Dungeon Master’s Guild. The Roper Wrangler’s got ropers (duh), it’s got fomorians, it’s got faerzress, it’s got an Underdark location — basically it’s got deadly peril for adventurers who stumble across this encounter. Because sometimes a creature’s gotta hit a creature with another creature.
5E D&D monsters are the juice
The original idea for this encounter was a creature that had weaponized another creature. This notion evolved into sort of a monstrous fishing pole. One of the 5E D&D monsters would cast its line and ensnare a hapless adventurer for some nefarious purpose. What would do such a thing, and why? These are the tough questions we asked ourselves. Lots of ideas were thrown into the mix. (One of them became a new Monster BFF concept all it’s own, perfect for Halloween — stay tuned!)
In the end we settled on the roper as the weaponized creature. These large monstrosities are repugnant, cruelly evil creatures. In a sense they are simply predators, evolved to survive and thrive in the Underdark. But with 7 Intelligence and neutral evil alignment, they’re more than just predatory beasts. They’re cunning and when they put the chomp on adventurers, you know they’re enjoying the pain and misery they’re causing.
A roper is also a large creature, so it was going to take an even bigger creature to wield this thing. With the incredibly useful D&D Beyond search filters, the field of potential BFFs for our roper was narrowed down to 10 evil candidates of huge or gargantuan size found in the Underdark. They ranged in challenge from a CR 8 fomorian to a CR 20 nightwalker. If I recall correct we all took one look and were sold on the first of those 5E D&D monsters on the list. Fomorians are repulsive, cruel and depraved. A fomorian would capture and enslave adventurers for no other reason than it’s own wickedness. But with its roper BFF there’s a mutual benefit.
Back at its lair, the fomorian runs a roper farm. Creatures caught during fishing expeditions are brought back to use as feed for the roper’s piercer progeny, breeding more monstrosities to terrorize the Underdark. With the roper riding shotgun inside a cage on the fomorian’s back, the evil giant stalks the lightless caverns. A fomorian is relatively stealthy (for a giant) and waits for the perfect opportunity to ambush. At 50 feet, the fomorian can use its Curse of the Evil Eye to impose severe penalties against a target — the kind of penalties that give the roper an even better chance for its Grasping Tendrils to reel them in. Once caught, into a iron box the victim goes.
And that’s when the cruelty just begins.
Back at the roper wrangler’s farm, even more danger awaits. Opportunistic duergar siblings set up a waystation where denizens of the dark can relax and enjoy some horrific entertainment. The waystation is built around an arena where a terrible competition called the Piercer Pacer is held. Unwitting competitors run a hazardous obstacle course for the amusement of patrons, but the true purpose of the Piercer Pacer is to feed the roper progeny scuttling along the ceiling.
If you want to learn more about the Roper Wrangler and the Piercer Pacer, you can head over to the DM’s Guild and get a copy of the PDF. It’s pay-what-you-want so what have you got to lose? I had a lot of fun helping develop the idea for this Monster BFF video, and designing the encounter for with Nerdarchist Dave. It’s very dangerous, so beware! Adding in the concept of faerzress from Out of the Abyss was particularly great. The weird Underdark radiation is something I enjoy using in my own games and players in my longrunning Spelljammer campaign know strangeness awaits whenever the eerie emanations suffuse an area.
5E D&D monsters inspire adventures
There’s countless ways to approach adventure design for 5E D&D, but my favorite is starting with the monsters. For a Dungeon Master there is such an enormous toybox of creatures to play with! My entire Spelljammer campaign is informed by the awesome void dragons inside the Tome of Beasts from Kobold Press. Prior to taking it in that direction, the adventures involved aquatic cultists because of how much I like sahuagin. Episode 1 of Ingest Quest was designed around the final encounter with a gibbering mouther.
Every DM has their own methods for developing adventures. They could be inspired by the characters’ backstories, a villain’s motivations, a desire to explore particular themes or a million other ways. That’s the beauty of this game we all love. For me, it’s all about those monsters. Starting there, I build outwards until my ideas intersect with the players’ characters. Answering the 5 W’s is the simplest start. Taking a 5E D&D creature answers the “who” and from there, figuring out the what, where, when, and why provides the synopsis for an adventure. Then it’s just a matter of finding a connection to the characters and adventure ensues.
For the adventure I’m working on inspired from an earlier Monster BFF, those questions provided a setting, conflict and themes I’ve wanted to explore for a while now. In the case of the Roper Wrangler, our monsters gave us all the info we needed for a great encounter. Two cruel, evil creatures who team up for mutual benefit gave us their motivation, the environment, a perilous location and several ways adventurers can encounter and interact with this deadly duo.
But what about you? Do your adventures start with your favorite 5E D&D monsters? Got any ideas for Monster BFFs you’d like to see the Nerdarchy crew take a shot at? Have you run the Roper Wrangler encounter — and did the characters survive? I’d love to hear what you have to share down in the comments below!
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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, world building, or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy or his own blog The Long Shot, he’s a newspaper designer, copy editor and journalist. He loves advocating the RPG hobby and connecting with other nerds and gamers on social media and his site thelongshotist.com.