Monster Analysis: Circus Undead

Thanks to @luckiestsquid for this art piece!

  • First Appearance: 01 Curious Beginnings
  • Armor Class 12
  • Speed 30 ft
  • Undead Fortitude
  • Creature 1: 74 damage taken, 13 killing blow by Yasha
  • Creature 2: 75 damage taken, 13 HDYWTDT by Beauregard

Welcome to the Fletchling and Moondrop Traveling Carnival of Curiosities! The carnival is not responsible for any astonishing, mysterious, transformative, or detrimental effects that may occur as a result of the evening’s performance, including (but not limited to) the first combat encounter of the new campaign...

The Carnival's Undead

There is still quite a bit of mystery surrounding the origins of these undead creatures. The carnival flyer’s disclaimer against the sick and elderly certainly draws attention, but whether the potential for this to happen was known to those running the carnival remains to be seen.

Commoners who died to the creature's jaws would quickly lend their corpse to the same fate. Both the original monster and its spawn had an equal constitution, strength, and fortitude in attempt to spread its curse even further. To state anything more than what we've seen would venture into speculation, which, frankly, appears to be the intent of the dungeon master for the players to fall further in for the sake of the investigation and the story.

The closest comparison we have in the Monster Manual (MM) are zombies, due to their undead chaotic nature and supernatural ability to stay standing as long as they survive a constitution check against the last damage they received (Undead Fortitude). However, both the amount of damage both source and spawn were able to deal were much higher than that of a textbook zombie. Their armor class was also much improved over that of a textbook zombie (AC 8), implying that these creatures are significantly more swift. The MM also states nothing about zombies turning humanoid corpses, though this extra ability requires little addition.

The Party

Welcome to level 2 combat! Most players had a single action they could utilize per round, and nearly as few available options for what to do for that action. Compare barbarian Yasha, who could rage and do one weapon strike on her turn, to barbarian/fighter Grog, who could frenzied rage, make two weapon attacks, use an action surge, and attack twice more.

Spellcasters, in particular, have to very conscious of themselves at low levels. Their spellcasting abilities are limited, and their hit points are equally limited. Caleb, for example, has cantrips and three spell slots, and a whopping 12 hit points.

To that end, Caleb and Nott the Also Squishy hid themselves in the retreating crowd to avoid the creatures’ drive to hurt whatever was closest to them. This put them in the terrified crowd’s way, but both fairly easily dodged getting trampled. Caleb stuck to ranged spell attacks (Chromatic Orb), while Nott used her crossbow instead of shortsword. Jester had to balance wanting to attack using Guiding Bolt with knowing that her companions would need healing (love your clerics, folks). The damage of her cantrip, Toll the Dead, will increase as she levels, though 1d12 necrotic damage at level 2 is nothing to sneeze at. (If you do, you will not be welcome in the carnival tent.)

On the slightly less squishy side, Fjord, Beau, Molly, and Yasha represent the melee damage dealers. All four of them made sure to stay in range of the creatures to both deal the most damage they could and absorb the attention and damage of the creatures. Fjord cast Hex to increase his falchion’s damage. Molly injured himself (those scars across his chest in the official art didn’t get there by themselves) to activate his blood rite, dealing additional cold damage to the creatures. Yasha and Beau did what barbarians and monks do best: hit hard and hit a lot. Yasha dealt extra damage thanks to her rage, while Beau used her Flurry of Blows to get three attacks per round. Yasha ended up with the killing blow on the first creature, while Beau got the HDYWTDT on the second.

Ultimately, these early encounters will serve as a great introduction to both the players and the viewers. We, the audience, receive a great preview of what we can look forward to in the coming years. The players, meanwhile, have a chance to learn what role each individual will best serve as the campaign continues and how they will work off of each other in future encounters, both in combat and roleplay.