A lot of Most problems in Dungeons and Dragons are solved by punching or magic-ing things to death. If we Dungeon Masters aren’t careful, this formula can make most combats feel awfully similar to one another.

Combats across a campaign shouldn’t work like a DLC pack of new skins/costumes: it looks different as the monsters have changed, but the experience is practically the same. And to the credit of Wizards of the Coast, there are plenty of nifty variations and mechanics to many of their monsters to help avoid this very problem.

What I’ve done below is whip up an encounter with a fun and interesting mechanic variation that might force players into a different tactical and strategic approach. Insert it into practically any campaign for a quick change of pace and a bit of fun flavor!

D&D 5e Encounter Idea: ‘Splodin’ Mephits

  • Suggested Party: 4 Level 5 characters
  • Monster Composition: 6 mephits (one of each from the MM), 3 Hobgoblins, 1 Hobgoblin Captain
  • CR of Encounter: Technically a 7, but I’m calling it a 6 (I explain below)

So the band of hobgoblins and their captain has rounded up one of each of the mephits (dust, ice, magma, mud, smoke, and steam) kinda like Pokemon (gotta catch em all!) and tamed them. They used them very much like Pokemon, in fact. They send them into battle instead of themselves!

But here’s the twist:

Unlike Ash Ketchum, the hobgoblins see the mephits as 100% expendable. In fact, each round of combat until every last one of the mephits is killed, the 3 regular hobgoblins ready an action.  Specifically, they draw their longbows and if one of the mephits is low on HP and within 5 feet (melee range) of a PC, they try and get the killing shot off. If the first one fails, the other two will attempt the same thing.

The idea here is to catch the PCs in the mephits’ Death Bursts to varying effects.

Mephits also have a flight speed and flying monsters are an easy way to change up an encounter all by themselves. You could have them dive-bomb the PCs in a sort of kamikaze maneuver when they’re low on health to set up the Death Burst.

Imagine being a PC in this encounter. The hobgoblins stay well back; the captain doing nothing (but perhaps laughing and slinging insults) while the other three train their bows…but don’t fire them. They’ll have no clue what your readied action is until they see it in action. That will come as a complete surprise! And a smart party might even make some alterations to their strategy in response.

The encounter with the mephits alone is only a CR 3 encounter. But with the odds fairly high that some damage will be taken and possibly even some conditions imparted by the Death Bursts, the remaining encounter with the hobgoblins and their captain (with an encounter CR of 5 total) becomes a bit more tricksy.

I demoted the total CR of the encounter by 1 (from 7 to 6) since you’re really fighting two separate encounters that are strung together as opposed to a swarm of baddies all at once.

D&D 5e Encounter Idea: ‘Splodin’ Mephits

It is absolutely worth reading through the Monster Manual (or Bestiaries if you’re running Pathfinder) to pick out a few monsters with some fun mechanics and play them up! Design unique encounters around them to shake up the standard combat formula and keep your sessions dynamic and interesting!

We have a whole series of these mash-up encounters called “Fantastic Fights.” Click here to browse through them all.

Guess what? You can even submit your own encounter ideas! Just click here!