A Dungeons & Dragons designer has released a design for a very fun (and dangerous) version of a classic monster.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager of the Dungeons & Dragons design team and is one of the lead designers for the game's current Fifth Edition. Each week, Mearls hosts the "Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour" on D&D's Twitch channel and provides a running commentary as he works on some early designs for new subclasses or monsters.
This week's episode featured Mearls working on Monster Design, specifically a Burning Skeleton. Burning Skeletons aren't exactly a new concept in Dungeons & Dragons, but we haven't seen these classic monsters appear in the current Fifth Edition of the game. Mearls re-envisioned the monsters as creations of Orcus, a demon lord and prince of the undead.
Since the designs seen in "Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour" are just preliminary ideas that haven't experienced any sort of playtest or balancing, Mearls doesn't usually publish the designs outside of the Twitch feed. However, Mearls posted a revised version of the Burning Skeleton on his Twitter Wednesday, along with an explanation of the tweaks he made from his initial design.
The big thing that jumps out about the Burning Skeleton design is that it's a danger both in melee and in ranged combat. Players who come close to a Burning Skeleton takes Fire damage just for being close to it, but it can also shoot explosive embers that can dish out a ton of splash damage to players trying to beat it from a distance. There's also the "Explosive End" feature, which causes a Burning Skeleton to explode when it's defeated. Not only does this make fighting a Burning Skeleton in melee more dangerous, it also increases the possibility of more Burning Skeletons spawning in the future.0comments
While the Burning Skeleton certainly seems a bit overpowered for a simple CR 1 monster (which means that four Level 1 characters should be able to fight it and survive), it's vulnerable to bludgeoning damage...which means that a monk, a barbarian, or a fighter might be able to defeat it with just one or two attacks.
If you're looking to give your new D&D party a dangerous encounter, you might want to give this Burning Skeleton a try. While it's not playtested for balance, it definitely looks like a threat and should really sell the idea that the world they're inhabiting is a very dangerous one.