dungeons has experienced a massive explosion in popularity in recent years, whether through actual game shows like critical role or the series that features their most iconic monsters stranger things. With this skyrocketing popularity, more new Dungeon Masters are gearing up for their first campaign than ever before, and for those wanting to add an element of horror to their games, you can’t beat a Goblin Punch homemade monster called the False Hydra.
As the name suggests, a false hydra is a multi-headed monster that tries to devour everything around it. What sets a false hydra apart from other hydras—and what makes them so effective as horror monsters—is the way they hunt prey. A false hydra is capable of singing a song that causes anyone who hears it to forget its existence, constantly keeping the creature out of sight and mind. Additionally, anything eaten by a fake hydra is forgotten, and even past relatives move on as if the victim never existed. These two abilities combine to create something truly terrifying – as long as the DM is willing to use them.
How to set up a fake hydra
If DMs plan to use a fake Hydra, they should always prepare in advance. A fake hydra is primarily a narrative experience, so it’s important to make sure the creature doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere. DMs should look for ways to subtly introduce elements that point to forgotten characters related to the group, introducing odd objects or elements that don’t make sense until the group posts that they all forgot a helpful NPC or character. A lone sending stone in particular can be extremely effective, as players may wonder where the paired stone is, only to find out it belonged to a forgotten ally that was eaten by the wrong hydra.
Hints of a fake Hydra should be almost imperceptible until the nature of what players are dealing with becomes clear. Other effective methods include having outsiders comment on the fake hydra’s hideout, how few people move in or out of the area, or how many don’t remember exactly how many people live there. Over-preparation is a good thing when working with a fake Hydra, and DMs looking to take on the challenge should make sure things are planned when their players eventually face the threat.
Beginning of a fake Hydra encounter
With a Fake Hydra’s ability to be forgotten and make others forget, encountering one will be much less action packed than a boss fight against something from the Abyss. A village that has become a fake hydra’s lair should appear strangely empty, with many well-kept houses but no one living in them. NPCs should appear slightly paranoid and there should be occasional human or animal outbursts. These serve as brief moments when someone spots the creature and reacts before forgetting about it. A common trick is to have players rest in a tavern owned by a married couple, only to find out the next morning that there is only one owner who has never been married before.
DMs should also use music effectively during this time, as the Fake Hydra’s ability to get out of people’s minds only works while she’s singing. Stopping the music when it feeds on someone in the village can help let players know the effect is sound based. If necessary, an NPC with stuffed ears yelling at other villagers to notice the monster could give players the kick they need when they still don’t realize what’s going on. If they’re up to the task, DMs can also suddenly introduce an additional gear set with the party, revealing to players that they had a different adventure partner all along but forgot they existed after being eaten by the wrong Hydra .
The Battle and Consequences of a Fake Hydra
Since the psychological nature of a Fake Hydra is its main selling point, the physical stats for the creature are different and can change depending on how difficult a DM wants to make the fight. More important is to allow players to understand the creature and fight it effectively by providing ancient texts describing a memory-eating monster, or notes scrawled by someone when they were agreeing on what to do with the creature City happened before the players even arrived. When it comes down to going against the creature, DMs should provide players with enough tools to ensure they don’t forget why they’re fighting each turn.
After a fight with a fake Hydra, DMs are fantastic at making use of the creature’s strange abilities. When a Fake Hydra dies, the memories of those who ate them can return, suddenly causing hysteria and confusion as players and NPCs suddenly remember people they forgot. Effective use of the fake hydra can dramatically change the way characters see themselves and each other, elevate a campaign to even greater heights, and advance other storylines. With how flexible dungeons Rules are DMs are free to tweak and change how wrong Hydra affects gameplay to best suit players and campaign style. No matter what, a fake Hydra, done right, is an experience players will not forget.