This question contains spoilers for Out of the Abyss, although the spoilers are mostly for context (in case that influences anyone's answers at all; i.e. if there's a story-based reason why Cyrog could have a certain ability that I haven't considered, etc.) and the core of the question is about creating a stat block that doesn't exist within the published adventure.


During Chapter 11, in Gravenhollow, the party spoke with

an "echo" from the past of a mind flayer called Xetzirbor. I played him as suggested on page 154, having him grill the PCs about demon lords and acting very intrigued with what they were telling him, whilst barely revealing anything about himself besides that he's here to save Cyrog from dying. In particular, when my players mentioned "Orcus", he was very interested, and then suddenly needed to leave and ended the conversation politely but abruptly. The players were like "Maybe we shouldn't have told him all that stuff", "Have we just told our secrets to a future villain or something?", which foreshadowed the next bit quite well.

Later in Gravenhollow,

the PCs had a vision (among others), the one in particular that is revelent to this question, "Cyrog Lives! Hail Orcus!" (pg. 158), which details Orcus turning up next to the recently desceased Elder Brain "Cyrog" and "bringing it back", then Cyrog tells the colony that "Orcus has saved Cyrog" and commands them to "follow it [Cyrog] into undeath". It was at this moment that the players were like "Oh s***, we caused that! I knew we shouldn't have told him all that stuff...", etc.

However, nothing more comes of this in the adventure, so I wanted to extend the end of the adventure to include this. My plan is to extend the adventure to include dealing with Cyrog and its colony (assuming the players want to).

The upshot of all of this is that I need stats for Cyrog, who will now be an undead Elder Brain, essentially an Elder Brain Lich.


To come up with the stats for Cyrog itself, I will use the Elder Brain stat block from Volo's Guide to Monsters as a starting point. I've changed the type to undead, and will have a few traits and changes inspired by the Alhoon.

For example, a standard Mind Flayer has 12 CON, but an Alhoon has 16 CON; the Elder Brain has 20 CON, so if I increase this to 24, it will have more health by roughly the same amount that the Alhoon has over the standard Mind Flayer (I know it also has a few more hit die, but I'm overlooking that).

It should also have the Turn Resistance trait from the Alhoon, as well as proficiency in CON saving throws, and all of the damage and condition resistances that the Alhoon has; these seems to match up with the traits of a Lich as well. I don't think I need to change the Elder Brain's spells though (as tempting as it is to give it some necromancy spells, it's still a psionic spellcaster rather than an arcane spellcaster, and I don't think becoming undead would change that).

Just to recap the above:

  • Using the Elder Brain stats as a base;
  • Creature type changed to undead;
  • CON ability score increased by 4 (which impacts HP);
  • Added proficiency in CON saving throws;
  • Added Turn Resistance trait (from Alhoon/Lich);
  • Added Damage Resistances: cold, lightning, necrotic (from Alhoon/Lich);
  • Added Damage Immunities: poison; nonmagical bludgeoning/piercing/slashing (from Alhoon/Lich);
  • Added Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaused, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned (from Alhoon/Lich);

So my question is two-fold:

  • Is there anything I've missed in the above that an undead Elder Brain should have ("should" being defined as "what would make it consistent with other intelligent undead creatures")?
  • What would the CR for this creature be? More than a standard CR 14 Elder Brain surely; so does that mean CR 15?

NB: I'm aware of this, and I'm sure there's probably other homebrew out there for Cyrog, but I prefer what I've come up with so far.

  • \$\begingroup\$ would you need a phalacary or something similar? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dinomaster
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 9:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dinomaster I'm guessing not; the adventure's "vision" didn't specify anything like that, and I've only mentioned liches as a point of comparison (i.e. as an example of a powerful intelligent undead) rather than from a lore perspective (i.e. phalacaries), so I'm going to assume that it doesn't apply in this case "because Orcus". \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 9:17

1 Answer 1


The ideas below are just that - ideas. Aside from the first one, I wouldn't consider any of them essential for an undead elder brain, but they could add a nice touch and flexibility to it.

Not strictly stats, but remove the need for food, drink, air and sleep.

Undead often have this trait. Feel free to not remove the need for food/drink if you think that's thematically more suitable for an elder brain, or replace its need for brains with a need to sacrifice souls to Orcus. Either way, get rid of any requirement for air and sleep, if the elder brain needs those in the first place. The rules don't state anything like that as far as I can tell, but I think it's justifiable to rule that an elder brain doesn't need to breathe. The same goes for sleeping.

Add "undead-themed" legendary actions

This could be something like "everyone within X feet of Cyrog takes Y necrotic damage", a targeted attack that turns its victims into undead if it kills them, or an action that turns Z number of corpses into undead. ("Undead" here means zombies, skeletons or ghouls)

For reference, see the Lich's Disrupt Life legendary action:

Disrupt Life (Costs 3 Actions). Each living creature within 20 feet of the lich must make a DC 18 Constitution saving throw against this magic, taking 21 (6d6) necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Add some way for the undead elder brain to create undead

This could be done via spellcasting (Innate or regular), via Legendary Actions (see also above), Lair Actions or regular actions such as a Wight's Life Drain.

Looking at Orcus statblock in MToF, I'd also add something similar to Orcus' Master of Undeath feature - i.e. a Gift of Orcus, which allows the elder brain to control undead it created indefinitely.

Add Magic Resistance

The Dracolich template for creating undead dragons lists this feature.

The dracolich has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Challenge Rating

Depending on how which features you add, the CR could change. I recommend you check out the section on Creating Monsters in the DMG, page 273-281.

Looking only at the features you added, we can see the following:

  • Elder Brain base stats: CR 14
  • +4 CON = +2 HP per hit die = 20 hit dice * 2 = +40HP. HP-wise, the elder brain would usually be CR 10, with this change it would be CR 12.
  • Resistance to necrotic, cold and lightning: These are a bunch of resistances against fairly common damage types. Therefore, we apply a 1.25 modifier (see DMG p. 277) to the effective HP (not the real HP, just for comparison), seeing as we'll probably end up in the 11-16 CR range. This leaves us with 250 * 1.25 = 312 HP, which would put us at CR17.
  • Immunities to poison and nonmagical physical damage: at the point where you fight beefed-up elder brain, noone in your party should be dealing nonmagical damage anymore (excluding bow-using party members, since magical arrows are kind of hard to come by, depending on the DM). Therefore, I believe we can ignore this immunity, it will more or less only affect summoned creatures and the like that don't deal magical damage. Combined with poison resistance, however, I'd change the 1.25 modifier from the previous point to 1.5, meaning that we're now looking at an effective 375 HP, which equals CR 20 (keep in mind that this is just the HP-based CR, there are other factors).
  • Condition immunities: Most effects that cause conditions are neglectable for high-CR creatures with good saves and the Legendary Resistance feature like dragons, or in this case, an elder brain on undeath steroids. Therefore, I wouldn't value this buff too highly, although it's certainly helpful.
  • Turn resistance: I would change this to Turn Immunity. Elder brains are pretty much completely immobile, so it can't run away. However, failing this single save would effectively take them out of combat for 1 minute or until you deal damage, meaning that you could wipe out all its servants without being bothered. This would be way too overpowered, therefore I would change it to Turn Immunity. Granted, elder brains have Legendary Resistance, but I think it'd be better (and also more suitable lore-wise) to make them immune. For reference, Demiliches, Revenants and Crawling Claws also have Turn Immunity.

In conclusion, we end up with a challenge rating difference of +5. The CR is calculated as

$$(offensive CR + defensive CR) / 2$$

We didn't add any offensive benefits, and the defensive CR increased by 10, from 10 to 20. We're looking at HP only here - other defense-related factors like AC are the same as before, so whether they lower or raise the defensive CR doesn't matter.
Therefore, the average CR increases by 10 / 2 = 5, meaning that we end up with a CR of 19.

I personally think this is too high, since the resistance- and immunity-based HP modifier table is a bit over the top in my opinion. Notably, if your party is only dealing magical slashing/bludgeoning/piercing or fire damage, they won't notice the resistances and immunities at all.
Ignoring the resistances and immunities, we would be at +2 defensive CR (+1 total) only, hence I'd go with a compromise and increase the CR by 2, to 16. This should, however, differ according to the damage types that your party usually deals.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Wow! Lots for me to take away from this. Regarding your "Add some way for the undead elder brain to create undead" section, adding a new Lair Action would also be a good way to introduce that ability as well, I think. Awesome answer, +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS thanks ^^ I added the Lair Action possibility to the relevant paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 14:02
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that even mundane arrows fired from a magical bow count as damage from a magical source, so your archers will ignore the non-magical resistance like everyone else. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 16:15

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