The Forgotten Realms and other worlds of DnD are extremely dangerous. There is a menagerie of violent and menacing beasts and monsters that can bring an early end to adventurers if they aren’t careful. However, many adventurers may not expect that they also have to watch out for the plants.
That’s right, even plants can try to end a party’s fun early on, and one of the most lethal and exciting of them that I’ve found in my years of DMing is the star of this Shambling Mound 5e Guide.
Key Info Up Front
- Editions: 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, 5e
- Challenge Rating: 5
- Size: Large
- Type: Plant
- Book: Monster Manual
Shambling Mound History in DnD
The Shambling Mound first appeared in the original release of official monster stat blocks in the very first edition, and they have changed very little throughout the editions.
In all of its appearances in the system, the Shambling Mound has been a low-to-mid-level monster with some fun mechanical features to challenge players, like Blindsight and quickly moving through most terrain.
It’s always interesting to see what monsters don’t get tweaked as the game evolves, and the Shambling Mound is no different.
What does a Shambling Mound look like?
Shambling Mounds look like large humanoid figure that are made of a knotted tangle of various plants and foliage. They are larger than the mortal races and tend to be at least a foot taller than humans.
Their appearance has also stayed consistent throughout the editions of DnD. The official art for Shambling Mounds in 1e had a general idea, although it looks like a cross between a sludge monster and somebody in a foliage suit.
The image for the monster in 2e puts a larger emphasis on its plant origins. However, it does feature more troll-like facial features. These were rolled back with the Shambling Mound’s release in 3e, where it was modified to look more amorphous.
Instead of having clear hands and a face, it is a bundle of leaves and twigs with vine-like appendages sprouting from it. This design was kept through 4e until 5e changed things up.
The 5e version of the Shambling Mound is a mix of its predecessors. It has clearer limbs, similar to the monster’s art in 2e, but fewer facial features. Instead, it has only a massive mouth, while its limbs are interwoven vines that it can use to grapple and hold things.
The 5e art also has a really neat detail that I love: a person being absorbed into its back while the Shambling Mound continues walking forward like it hardly notices. This is a great way to not only illustrate its size in relation to the mortal races but also depict its general lack of emotion.
Shambling Mound Lore
Because they are made up of greenery, Shambling Mounds need to be created and live in a suitable environment. This means they tend to not be created in the tundra, desert, or other areas where plant life struggles. However, they particularly favor temperate climates or marshes where many different plants intersect and mix with one another on the ground.
How Are Shambling Mounds Made?
The creation of Shambling Mounds is unorthodox for 5e monsters. There are two primary ways they are created, and both involve a mass of plants getting a sudden surge of power. The first detailed explanation for their creation is the pile of plants being struck by lightning. Exactly how lightning molds all the plants together and imbues them with a basic primitive consciousness is unclear, but that’s magic for you.
The second source of power that can create Shambling Mounds is a drop of Fey magic. This explanation makes more sense in the lore of DnD since the Feywild where Fey magic comes from is so inherently strange and incomprehensible. Regardless of where the power comes from, Shambling Mounds turn out the same in that they are mindless and driven by a base need to consume.
The nature of Shambling Mounds is downright terrifying because of their inability to understand or obey orders. Even if a Wizard used Fey magic to create a Shambling Mound, it does not feel any need to heed them. Instead, they wander the wilds, searching for prey to consume to sustain further growth. It is not known precisely how large Shambling Mounds can grow, but it stands to reason that if they can continue to gather food and sunlight, they would be able to continue growing.
To make Shambling Mounds even more frightening, they are known not to usually kill their prey outright. Rather than taking the time to beat their meals to death, they instead force the creature to be absorbed into their body. Once that is done, most creatures are not strong enough to break out from the tangled mass of vines and plants. Their bones are then subsequently crushed as their meat and nutrients are absorbed to feed the plants that coil around them.
Shambling Mound Stats
Shambling Mounds only have a challenge rating of 5, but they can challenge unprepared parties that are even a level or two higher than that. They come with a solid natural Armor Class of 15 and a sizeable hit point pool of 136. Because of their ability to blend in with their plant surroundings, they also come with a +2 to Stealth alongside their basic ability scores.
Their highest ability score is a Strength of 18, which comes with a +4 modifier. Then, their Constitution is 16 with a modifier of +3, followed by a Wisdom of 10 with its modifier of +0. Their massive size then impedes their Dexterity down to an 8 with an associated -1 modifier. Finally, both their Intelligence and Charisma are 5 with modifiers of -3. These illustrate their lack of conscious thought, resulting in them not being interested in interacting with others or thinking about anything other than consumption.
Their form built from plants also comes with interesting immunities and resistances. Perhaps most notable is their resistance to Cold and Fire damage despite these seeming like the two damage types that would be more effective against plants. They also are entirely immune to Lightning damage from any source while being immune to the Blinded, Deafened, and Exhaustion status effects.
Shambling Mounds also have a Blindsight radius of 60 feet, although they are utterly blind to anything outside of that radius. Finally, they also have the passive Lightning Absorption feature. This feature is responsible for their immunity to Lightning damage and allows them to regain hit points equal to the Lightning damage. This highlights how they were created, but remember that this only applies to Lightning damage and not Thunder damage.
Shambling Mound Abilities
Combat with a Shambling Mound is generally simple because of their limited actions. To start, they have a Slam attack option. This melee attack has a +7 attack modifier, which is pretty good at this level, and it deals 2d+4 bludgeoning damage on a successful hit, which averages out to 13.
Shambling Mounds also have an Engulf action that allows them to try putting a creature smaller than them into their body that they have grappled with. Animals that are engulfed are considered Blinded, Restrained, and unable to breathe. The only way for them to escape is to pass a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 14, which is nothing to scoff at. Each turn that the creature stays engulfed by the Shambling Mound, they suffer 2d8+4 bludgeoning damage or an average of 13. However, the Shambling Mound can only have one creature engulfed at a time.
The last element of a Shambling Mound’s kit in combat is their Multiattack action. This helps make them much more impactful on the battlefield. It allows them to make two Slam attacks each turn. However, if both of those attacks hit the same creature of an appropriate size, the creature is considered grappled, and the Shambling Mound can use its Engulf action that same turn. This makes it much more lethal and gives it a quick-hitting combo to grab an unprepared player character.
Playing a Shambling Mound
When it comes to playing a Shambling Mound in combat, I think it is crucial to play around with its Engulf action. Not only is Engulf extremely effective, but it also is responsible for giving the monster most of its character and leads to very dynamic combat encounters. Pushing players to worry about damaging the creature, keeping their distance, and saving those who have been engulfed is a lot to juggle at once but can be a lot of fun.
So, to get the most out of the Shambling Mound, you’ll have to make sure that it can get close to player characters. This can be difficult with its base speed of only 20 feet, but that can be circumvented by having it ambush the players for a surprise round of combat. If your party isn’t very experienced, they will likely not know what it is capable of, meaning that martial characters should run right up to the Shambling Mound and start attacking it.
Once you have player characters in melee range, you should focus on getting as much out of its Multiattack action as possible. This will not only put a lot of hurt on one character thanks to the two Slam attacks but will help you chain into the Engulf action. If there are creatures in range with particularly low Constitution scores or lower Armor Classes, try focusing on them. If there isn’t, however, you may have to try to Engulf a Fighter or Barbarian. This will be a bit harder, but it is definitely still possible, even if it takes a few attempts.
If you are playing with a higher-level party, I recommend sending multiple Shambling Mounds after them. It doesn’t make much sense for a Shambling Mound to team up with any other 5e creatures, so I tend to keep them with others of their kind. However, you can pair them with other sentient plants or creatures if you can think of some reason for them working together.
If you do have multiple in a fight, you will have a bit more opportunity to send the Shambling Mound after more vulnerable characters such as casters. This can be a lot of fun as it will make those players panic, and rightfully so. If you have them lie in wait and ambush the party, you can even have only one reveal itself at first and have one or two others prepare actions and lie in wait. Then, when a player steps into the wrong area of the battle map, those other Shambling Mounds can catch them off guard and raise the stakes of the encounter.
Another way to add some dynamic elements to a Shambling Mound fight is to emphasize their usual terrain. Whether they are in a marsh, jungle, or even just a forest, you can create an encounter space filled with difficult terrain quickly. This has a few effects. Firstly, it helps give the world some more personality and makes the location of the encounter feel more meaningful. Secondly, it poses your players with a difficult challenge during the fight as they try to either avoid the problematic terrain or deal with its slowing effects. Finally, difficult terrain can also help slow players down, making the Shambling Mound’s slower movement speed not as detrimental.
Because of the limited senses of the Shambling Mound, there is a good chance that your players will get the opportunity to observe one in the wild before fighting it. If this happens, some parts of the monster are helpful to keep in mind. The biggest is that it is a primitive beast driven only by its eternal need to consume. You can illustrate this by having it not pay any attention to its non-living surroundings, like running into trees or rocks in its paths.
You can also show this by having it consume another creature, which will help educate your players on what they should be wary of while fighting it. To do this, I recommend using a decently imposing creature like a Wolf or some other beast. This will tell your players that it is a formidable opponent, even though it is just made of plants. If your party is too low of a level to survive an encounter with the Shambling Mound, you can have it kill a creature they are already scared of. This should keep them away until they are more leveled and confident in their combat abilities.
When my players found a Shambling Mound, I also had a lot of fun describing the sound of its movements and possible growls or moans that it made. While there is no official information about the sounds it makes in the Monster Manual, it is easy to imagine what it could sound like. This can be a fun way to flesh out the Shambling Mound’s personality as well as showing that it isn’t capable of speech or complicated thoughts.
Shambling Mounds in the World
If you’re going to put a Shambling Mound in your campaign, I think it is also important to communicate some of their lore to your party. One of the coolest aspects of a Shambling Mound is their strange origins and how unthinking they are. These aspects are very difficult to communicate to your party solely through combat. So, you may have to build around the encounter a bit in your session to get the information across.
There are a lot of ways to do this, and you can find one that suits your personal DMing style. You could have a low-level caster try to create one to carry out its will in front of the party like a knock-off of Doctor Frankenstein. Then, when it is created, it can kill its creator out of indifference and fight the party as a mini-boss.
Or, you can have another character fill the players in or give them warnings about Shambling Mounds. Then, you can fill in the details of their creation as if it is a local myth or legend and maybe even make it seem like their existence is questioned. This gives them some gravitas that will send shivers down the spines of your players when they first encounter one.
Once your party is aware of how a Shambling Mound is created, it can also be a lot of fun to incorporate it into the storyline of the campaign. You could even have a Shambling Mound created as a consequence of the party’s actions or mistakes. This can motivate the party to maybe hunt it down or just make them more invested in destroying it to atone for something they did wrong.
You could have one be made by the party accidentally using a lightning spell improperly or even by having them tear a hole in the Feywild, releasing some Fey magic that has corrupted the surrounding area in ways that they could not have predicted.
Question: How do you beat a Shambling Mound in DnD?
Answer: If you find your party up against a Shambling Mound, it is important to maintain proper positioning in combat. You’ll want your ranged characters or those with low Constitution to stay as far away as possible while your sturdier characters keep it still. Then, focus on dealing damage and make sure to avoid using any damage types that heal it or are reduced.
Question: Can a character escape being engulfed by a Shambling Mound in DnD?
Answer: Yes, all they have to do to escape is pass a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 14. This can be made once on each of their turns, and your Dungeon Master may also allow other characters to try and help pull the character free of the Shambling Mound.
Question: Can Shambling Mounds hear?
Answer: No, the only sense that Shambling Mounds have is Blindsight with a radius of 60 feet. They are unable to sense anything outside of that radius, but Blindsight does mean that there is very little players can do to prevent it from finding them while within that radius.
Shambling Mounds are a very unique monster in 5e and a great example of how even simple-seeming concepts can be fun to play around with. The unfeeling nature of their psyche makes them terrifying foes to face off against, and their odd lore can be a great world-building tool for you to use.
Their plant-based nature is also a great way to catch your party off guard with a combat encounter that literally pops out of their surroundings and attacks them.