Monster Combinations in D&D — The Witch of Flame Skull Peak

I was sitting with the Nerdarchists talking about effective monster combinations for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons and we came up with a lot of really cool ideas. Some of those ideas were displayed in the recent Monster BFF video, but my thoughts kept racing, creating all manner of scenes I really need to share with all of you to calm my turbulent mind. So, together we will go through a few more ideas for monster combinations in D&D that were brought up during the discussion and put them together into a scene I hope you’ll use in your campaign, or at least just find some inspiration and enjoyment.

Artwork as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

Bheur hag and her frost salamander pet

Terrible winds of the north

A magma mephit as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
I know what you’re asking yourself, “How can we make a frost salamander and a bheur hag any cooler than they already are?” (Pun intended.)

I’ll tell you reader. We do this by adding character and story to our terrible hag. The cold and ruthless nature of our bheur hag found in Volo’s Guide to Monsters is only thawed by one thing: her beloved frost salamander pet. Like an old spinster or a crazed loon, she has only shows compassion for her pet. It’s just unfortunate for everyone else she didn’t find a cat to love.

This massive elemental is happy to be coddled and pampered by this frozen horror as she keeps the beast content and fed. This relationship has gone on so long, the elemental sees the hag as its means of food and shelter, willing to defend her if anything or anyone attempts to cross her. This symbiotic relationship is balanced on one simple fact: the bheur hag has food, but what does this frost salamander eat?

This hag has been feeding her pet magma mephits. The frost salamander entry in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes shows a dark mountain peak in the shape of a skull with burning eye sockets and I loved the image so much, I imagine that is where our duo resides. There isn’t much food in that icy mountain cave. but the hag is magically inclined. She has found her ability to summon minor elemental servants like mephits is ideal because the frost salamander has a hefty appetite for all things spicy.

Well, spicy in the sense it loves to eat pure fire. So she uses her ability to conjure magma mephits. I like to think she’s gotten so adept at this she doesn’t just simply summon them to feed, but instead summons them to cage them, fattening them up before giving them over to her one-and-only.

The hag is still a hag, so she has all manner of evil deeds she inflicts on the town below at the base of the mountain. All the town sees when they look up in fear is the flickering flame glow of Flame Skull Peak.

Let’s craft a module

We have the basics of our lair, but how do we get our players and their characters to care?

A bheur hag as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Volo’s Guide to Monsters. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
The hag still has to eat herself, so it would not be out of character for her to send creatures to collect a townsperson who has strayed too far from the town. Maybe she summons more mephits for this deed or if you’re worried about overdoing it with mephits, maybe you can use the often overlooked yetis. Twisting and controlling the simple yetis of the mountain to bring her fresh wanderers could cause a ruckus in the town as more and more people are coming up missing.

Maybe it comes to a head when a merchant or noble child is taken. The adventurers are hired, being warned of the terrible evil that has befallen the town in the months since the skull eyes became lit. The party ventures forth, dealing with all manner of mind-altered beasts as they make their ascent. Once in the lair, the party might come upon the mephit cages. You might have this play out that they trick the party into letting them free and try to torture them for their good nature.

Or maybe their pleading is genuine. The mephits know what will happen to them and are eager to merely escape the bheur hag’s horrible clutches. However you deploy it, eventually the party will meet the hag and her pet. The hag just about to feed on the child they are to rescue, or if the party took one-too-many short rests, maybe she’s just finished her meal, looking up and giving the party a bone deep fright.

The battle is brutal, the frost salamander freezing and crushing everything it can, while the hag pinpoints weaknesses and isolates individuals. Maybe she summons mephits for the salamander to eat, recharging his breath and maybe even healing him a bit. This all comes down to making decisions in the moment. If the party is doing well, ramp up the tension with mephits or other minions midway through the fight or if they’re getting handled, perhaps the salamander does something clumsy, enraging the hag for a split second, giving the party their chance to turn the tide.

Like most, this fight has a lot of dials that can be tweaked during the encounter to keep the tension high without sacrificing challenge.

I hope you find these ideas interesting and at the very least are inspired to make your own encounters. If you do end up using anything here, let us know how it goes. I’m curious to see if the Witch of Flame Skull Peak is as fun as I hope it is. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time. Stay nerdy!

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Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn’t separating planes.

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Follow Jacob Kosman:
Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn't separating planes.

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