Monster Mayhem

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Beholder (February)
Umber Hulk (March)
Vampire (April)
Ethereal Marauder (May)
Orc (June)
Delver (July)
Half-Dragon (Aug)
Troll (Sept)
Diamondback Viper (Oct)
Stellar Deva Celestial (Nov)
The Vrill (Nov)

Building a Dungeons & Dragons monster with the new edition of the game isn't just about slapping down a few numbers and drawing in a few fangs . . . it's about balance, challenge levels, and out-and-out cruelty. At this year’s Gen Con game fair, Monster Manual author Skip Williams, Monsters of Faerun codesigner James Wyatt, and editor Jennifer Clarke Wilkes engaged hundreds of convention attendees in a discussion about how they built monsters for the newest edition of D&D.

Now, here’s the best part. Skip and Jennifer got together with the audience to create a unique new monster. The crowd suggested features, and the panelists built the critter out of a supply of props and statted it up.

If you weren’t one of the lucky attendees there to see the fun, Jennifer has passed along the result of this monster bash: the diamondback viper. Enjoy. 

Diamondback Viper

Tiny Aberration
Hit Dice: 1/2d8 (2)
Initiative: +5 (Dex)
Speed: 5 ft, fly 20 ft. (clumsy)
AC: 21 (+2 size, +5 Dex, +4 natural)
Attacks: 3 bites +7 melee and poison, tail slap +5 melee
Damage: Bite 1d4–4, tail slap 1d6–4
Face/Reach: 2 1/2 ft. by 2 1/2 ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: Poison
Special Qualities: Scent, darkvision 60 ft., jet
Saves: Fort +0, Ref +5, Will +2
Abilities: Str 3, Dex 20, Con 10, Int 15, Wis 11, Cha 12
Skills: Bluff +5, Disguise +5, Hide +17, Listen +4, Move Silently +9, Spot +4, Tumble +9, Wilderness Lore +2
Feats: Weapon Finesse (bite, tail), Multiattack
Climate/Terrain: Any underground
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: Double standard (gems only)
Alignment: Usually chaotic neutral
Advancement Range: 1–2 HD (Tiny)

The diamondback viper is a cunning predator that exploits the greed of sentient creatures.

This viper is very small, at most 2 feet long, and superficially resembles a snake. However, its three heads and flimsy wings, as well as the gemlike shell in which it hides, readily distinguish it from mundane serpents. The creature usually hides among piles of gems or other crystals, curled in its shell, awaiting likely prey. When necessary, however, it can drift about clumsily in the air using a sort of swim bladder in its shell filled with lighter-than-air gases. Its tiny wings allow minimal steering.

Diamondbacks are quite clever and often work with xorns to attract prey: the diamondback gets flesh, while the xorn obtains a supply of precious metals and gems (some of which are left to bait the trap.) They rarely speak but understand Common, Draconic, and Terran.


The diamondback viper lies curled in its shell, waiting for a curious or greedy creature to pick it up so that it can attack with surprise. Its strike is lightning quick, delivering a hallucinogenic poison that quickly saps a target’s resistance. Victims of the poison enter a catatonic state, staring raptly into its gemlike shell as the creature consumes their body fluids at its leisure.

Poison (Ex): Bite, Fortitude save (DC 11); initial and secondary damage 1d6 temporary Charisma.

Jet (Ex): Once per round, an airborne diamondback can jet backward as a double move action, at a speed of 80 feet.

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