I have this concept for an NPC that I would like to throw into a world I am building for my friends. We are all novices to dungeons and dragons.

The NPC is a Baron in a backwater village that sits in the borderlands between three realms. The Baron first appears to the characters in an encounter where he is confronting peasants he is accusing of hoarding his grains. He is an elderly man, sinewy, and hunched stature. He has a constituent tremble, and walks with a cane. People in a later age might interpret as Parkinsons, though the local peasants believe it is the price of all his evil doings, now haunting him in his old age.

So the Baron is a human, with a concealed Rapier in his cane. However he also happens to keep a dark secret. The villagers are right to be wary of him. He has lived for hundreds of years, kept alive by an arcane artifact that he keeps in his manor. The artifact is a book, his Diary of Dorian Gray, mixed with a touch of Mr Hydes ink.

The book has a couple of special properties.

  1. Firstly, so long as the Baron continues to make entries it grants him one more tenday/month/year (havent got that far yet) of life (Of course despite him writting in the most minute hand the book soon filled, and part of the degeneration of the Barons faculties is in fact a consequence of the erasures he makes to eek out ever more parchment...or maybe it has infinite pages, haven't decided yet).

  2. The Mr Hyde aspect comes about because when the Baron has the book in his immediate possession he is able to perform a magical rite that allows him to transform into a winged brute. A creature that has all the size and grace of the Hulk. It's giant wings beat slowly, allowing it to lift into the air, with difficulty, somewhat like a giant beetle taking off. The emergence of this creature might mean almost certain death for a level 1 party foolish enough to engage it in combat, it's hulking mass makes running away from it very much a good idea. I think it is important to note that the Baron must have the book with him to do this, either the beast is locked away inside the artifact, or he has degenerated to the point that he can no longer recall how to cast the spell without the book on him (I'll decide on one I swear).

I would like the book to function a little like the picture from Dorian Gray. The Baron is highly possessive of it, keeping it locked away in his study. No one living knows of it's existence. However should the adventurers find a way to take it into their possession they will have alot of leverage over the Baron. He won't be able to go full beast, and they could slay him by damaging the book (might require magical items, or fire could do it I guess).

So how might I use the systems of DnD to make such a concept come to life? Are there existing artifacts that I could use for this? And what type of creature would be a good fit for the beast? The beast doesn't need any other special properties, just needs to be big and flying. (Oh and has a desire to bite the heads off it's foes in combat...)


2 Answers 2


You shouldn't work too hard to make your concept fit within the existing published spells, items, monsters etc. If you read published modules or fiction, particularly for something like the Forgotten Realms setting, you will find the place is completely littered with ancient spells artifacts that are unique and/or overpowered. When authors just base a story on vanilla PH abilities, it usually reads as tedious fanfic.

As a DM you are free, nay encouraged, not to build an NPC monster as if you were a player putting together a character. Start with the fiction, then think of powers the NPC might have. Is he actually much stronger than he looks? Does writing in the book help him regain hit points? Maybe throw in a touch of Doctor Faustus, and decide that his extended life is the result of a dark pact.

As for the monster, there are various things like the Giant Stag Beetle that come close. You can flavour it to bite people's heads off if they take lethal damage.

As a starting point the Dungeon Master's Guide provides some basic options and guides for creating stat blocks and magic items, chapter 4 focuses on creating NPCs and mentions different methods for NPC stat blocks on page 92. Chapter 9 goes more in depth and provides guides for creating monster stat blocks on page 273 and magic items on page 284.

Remember, rules are just guidelines for the DM. You have a cool concept, have fun with it, and make sure your players do too. Have one eye not to make it too OP, so you end up with a wipe-out. As an intelligent creature, it may often prefer to fly away rather than stand and fight.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think including links to the DMG pages that discuss these topics would be helpful as a very basic starting point. Chapter 4 is all about creating NPCs and has a small section discussing some options for giving it statistics, which also points to Chapter 9 which has a decent enough basic guide for creating your own monster stats and some bits about magic items. They are super basic but I think at least mentioning they exist is beneficial. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 11:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Pepijn I agree, and would be grateful to anyone to add suitable references. I admit to not yet having access to a complete set of 5E material to do it myself. \$\endgroup\$
    – richardb
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 11:50

The book

There is no exsiting artifact in the published rules that would allow you to do what you want to do here. You'll need to develop it yourself.

You can find guidelines on how to design artifacts in the technical sense (and several example artifacts) starting on page 221 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

The beast

You can find guidelines on how to design new monsters starting on page 273 of the Dungeon Masters Guide. It also recommends you first try to re-skin and modify an exisiting monster.

For example, if you want a large, physical brute kind of monster, you could use the stats of an Owlbear and reduce its speed to 20, and add a flying speed of 20 (and change the looks description however you like). If you wanted it to be deadly but not almost certain death, you could use something like a Polar Bear and do the same to it.

(For something to be "almost certain death" for an entire party of first level characters, it would likely have to be challenge rating 3, because according to the guidelines for encounters on page 82 of the DMG, a CR2 monster worth 450XP would be a "deadly" encounter that could be lethal for one or more player characters, but is not almost certain death for all of them. An encounter worth 100 XP per character, or 400 XP for a party of four, is a deadly one on level 1.)

The Baron

One thing I would consider is what happens if the player characters just decide to kill the baron in his human form when they first meet him. If he is old and frail, and not a dangerous combatant himself with his cane rapier, this could easily be a way to end this adventure early. This may be totally fine, of course. Or you could decide this is too easy a solution, and they really need to find and destroy the book. In that case, you need to think how you want to accomplish that -- either have the book revive him, or make him an old, but capable combatant himself.


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