When you play a TRPG, you can play by the book, following the guidelines and content created for the game. Alternatively, you can play homebrew games. These are campaigns and adventures designed at your convenience.
Of course, you do not need to stick to just quests; you can create NPCs, weapons, classes, magical items, spells, and even horrifying monsters to suit your campaign better. You can even adapt a premade module or campaign and twist the story.
I have run a few homebrew campaigns over the years, but most of my experience is modifying existing campaigns and hardcovers and adding my monsters and items to them. With several years under my belt, it’s great to see what kind of stuff people can come up with and how to balance and use it in my campaign.
Then I came across this well-made horror-themed monster: a False Hydra. Check out this False Hydra 5e guide to learn how to run this terrifying creature in any D&D campaign.
What is a False Hydra?
This homebrew monster has gotten traction in various communities and forums. Yes, a homebrew monster may confuse some due to its appearance in many D&D Tiktoks and Youtube channels. This means that it is not an official monster made by Wizards of the Coast; instead, it was made by Goblin Punch.
It is a creepy-looking, paranoia-inducing monster that is practically non-existent yet at the same time creeps around in the back of your mind. This monster can remove itself from your memories and walk around almost invisible.
Imagine walking into a town full of empty houses. The animals randomly freak out, and when you encounter a few locals still living here, they tell you that this is all normal. Have you ever tripped over nothing?
Or perhaps felt like you bumped into someone, but no one was there? That there was a presence nearby or had moved past you? This explains that it is not a ghost but a giant monster that hides in your memories.
Moving forwards, I will use the stat block created by Skullsplitter Dice, but I will also add my tweaks and idea on how you should run the False Hydra. This is all Homebrew, and since the original creator has not made stats for this creature, he has left it up to us, the community, to do with it as we wish.
The False Hydra is impossible to document in lore due to how it acts and is perceived. It has never been seen, and those who see it usually never live to tell the tale.
However, it is estimated to have a pale fleshy body, multiple bald heads with gaping mouths, and barren black eyes. It has elongated humanoid hands and lengthy snake-like necks; however, some depictions have it with no hands and a serpent-like body.
It is an ashen white creature only discolored when it consumes its victims and is drenched in blood. Considered a Large creature, it is roughly 10ft by 10ft and has several heads, increasing the amount over time.
As it matures, it gets increasingly more prominent and grows more heads. Supposedly it never stops growing, reaching Huge and even gargantuan if left unchecked.
You can find out if a False Hydra is nearby with a few signifiers. They usually stay beneath cities and towns, as humans are their primary diet. A village with many inconsistencies and missing people is an excellent sign of a False Hydra nearby.
They tend to stay beneath the earth, hiding in dark areas and luring their prey, so if the town has an extensive sewer system or underground area, it could have a chance of containing one of these creatures.
While a newly born False Hydra’s diet consists of worms, rats, and other Tiny creatures, its diet grows as massively as its sides, so it extends its hunting grounds accordingly.
Suppose a town with few inhabitants does not recall having more members beforehand. It would get more problematic for people you thought were there to disappear without a trace. For example, a family member or the innkeeper suddenly vanishes, and no one thinks of it weird. As if the person did not even exist, to begin with.
In simpler terms, large ghost towns and half-empty cities are all possible locations for a False Hydra. What makes it difficult to discern is that no one can confirm if there is one living there, erudite scholars would say that a False Hydra does not exist, while other folks would say it was the work of a ghost.
Some criminals and deserters may even use it as a reason for their actions, whether it is there or not.
What makes this creature so challenging to see is its “Blind Song.” a powerful ability that initially had no stat. One interpretation I have found makes it a passive ability forcing a DC15 Wisdom saving throw at the start of each creature’s turns.
On a failure, the creature forgets the Hydra is there. Creatures who can hear the song have their roll reduced by 1d4 if more than one head is singing simultaneously.
This ability truly shines when you realize that this song was meant to go for a few miles in the original source, and it could extend far outside the town and village outskirts and instantly begins the series of rolls.
The thing is, an average person might not even notice the creature’s song as the DC is meant to be difficult for regular people to pass.
On top of this song, it also has a Hydra’s level of regeneration. While they do not heal from every wound immediately, they can regenerate their heads. Unlike a normal Hydra, they do not grow two heads from one but do not have the trademark weakness to fire.
So, since this is a Homebrew creature, you can determine whatever you want for attacks it has. I found it in a stat block that said it had one bite and claw attack every turn.
The site has a +5 to hit and does 1d10+3 Piercing Damage. While the claw attack also has a +5 to hit, it does 1d8+3 Slashing Damage and has a chance of grappling.
Its abilities make it special, so its attacks are rather plain in exchange for its powerful song.
Its Constitution and Charisma are what makes this creature remarkable. So having high health and a difficult saving throw are a given. It also has better than average strength to ensure that the creatures it grabs are securely in its grasp.
While its attacks are better than average, the main strength is the song that it will keep singing unless you can silence it or destroy its heads.
Compared to normal Hydras, the False Hydra is much easier to hit. While not easy, their AC is mediocre for a mid leveled party. Damage-wise they are weak; most of their damage comes from isolating a creature and attacking it while it is unaware.
It has low Intelligence and Wisdom modifiers and an average Dexterity modifier, so attacking it with spells and trying to disable it would work well.
It has no ranged attack. However, anyone can hear its song from far away; deafening oneself is a way to navigate around the song, but it does pose problems with communication. Flight is impossible since it usually fights underground; however, if there is an opportunity to take distance, this creature can only chase after you.
As said, it is not the brightest nor the wisest. Setting a trap, even simple ones like pitfalls or caltrops, would work against this creature. Spells that debilitate it, such as Silence, Dominate Monster, and the like, would also work well against it as its mental stats are low. Do not try to charm the creature; you might end up being charmed instead.
What Made it Popular
Created in 2014, this did not gain much traction at the beginning but quickly gained recognition from various forums and communities looking for a new homebrew monster that can be used for horror-themed campaigns.
Mix that with the rise of D&D Tiktok videos and various D&D Youtubers bringing attention to it from 2020 to today, and we have a great monster with a lot of potential for use.
While it initially did not have any stats, the Goblin Punch page was full of notes on the False Hydra. From there, this creature, while not physically being described, began to haunt the players and DMs all over the world.
As its notoriety rose, so did the DMs trying to import this creature into their game. Creating stat blocks and abilities for their homebrews led to players talking about this creature. From there, the cycle continued; DMs would see it and run it, then players would gather and talk about it.
How to Use it
Given that the source material had no stats for this creature, how would one run it into a game?
You could mention rumors of it or disappearances in a nearby town. Perhaps someone has tasked them to find their brother in another city only to find it barren.
If you choose for it to be a rumor, know that this creature grows in all aspects as it feeds; gaining knowledge, size, and power as time progresses only makes for this creature to reach its perfected form.
You could also leave it as a rumor, letting it reside in the darkest corners of their minds and maybe something they want to create if they play in an evil campaign.
They may be tasked to discern why villagers or townsfolk have disappeared if it is a quest. Alternatively, this hideout for criminals and deserters never seems full no matter how many people flock to it. The False Hydra could be a pet the original owner thought was manageable until it broke free.
Use it to inspire terror and action into your players as this growing monstrosity only gets more powerful as the campaign continues.
How I Would Make it
Let’s go over the primary stats, what abilities I would give this monster, and the reasoning behind it. If you think this stat block could do with changes, go for it! It is a Homebrew, after all.
I decided that 15 would be a fair amount for the Armor class. It’s not too high that a mid-leveled party would struggle to hit, but high enough that a class not meant for attacking would have a more challenging time to hit it.
HP, I decided on 120 as a base and to add 100 for each additional head it has. This is to represent its growth and mass as a creature.
Speed is relatively low; with 25ft base movement and a 10ft burrow speed, you can easily outrun this creature so long as you do not get charmed.
For stats, I gave it 16 in Strength, 12 in Dexterity, 16 in Constitution, 10 in Intelligence, 8 in Wisdom, and 20 in Charisma. While most of the stats are your standard spread, I did emphasize its Charisma, given its Blind song. Physically it is more potent than your average human, but mentally it is weak and more monstrous.
I gave it proficiency in Strength and Charisma saving throws, as well as in Deception and Persuasion. Older False Hydras have been known to be able to speak and persuade the victims it has; whether this is a magical effect or its natural persuasion is up for debate, but I went with the more natural route.
It has immunities to charm, stunned, and unconscious conditions. I would say that due to it having multiple heads, even if you were to inflict these statuses to one of the heads, it could snap out of it with the others.
As for abilities, it has a Hydra’s trademark Multiple Heads ability, the Reactive Heads, Wakeful, and the Blind Song. I wanted to make it closer to a normal Hydra with its abilities, and I recommend letting this creature have at least two heads when encountering the party.
The blind song is an ability rather than an action to better match the lore and poses a unique threat to the players. I would rule that if the Hydra uses the bite action, they would use that head and remove it from the total.
For its attacks, I gave it a generic bite and a claw attack that can grapple enemies if it hits. It makes sense since the creature itself knows that its prey can outrun it.
Question: What is a False Hydra?
Answer: A False Hydra is a homebrew creature by the creator of Goblin Punch. It was meant to be a creature that could cause problems episodically, much like a recurring villain. While not meant to be the main threat of a campaign, the author has stated that these creatures can grow to massive sizes and become a major threat.
Question: Why is it Called a False Hydra?
ANSWER: No one (in-game) can confirm how a creature such as this grows and comes to be. The most common answer is that people say this creature grows off lies and falsehood, much like how a potato sprouts from the ground, this undulating mass of flesh spawns when lies are spoken near it.
QUESTION: HOW MANY HEADS CAN A FALSE HYDRA HAVE?
ANSWER: Unlike normal hydras, the creator has stated that false hydras should have a maximum of seven heads. However, since it is homebrew, technically, it does not have any limit on the number of heads it has.
This trend came to popularity at a great time with the rising of D&D content and the availability of Homebrew. It is no surprise that a creature such as this has landed on everyone’s radar.
It is a fantastic creature that can fit into any campaign setting and has that extra creepiness factor. Just be sure that your players are alright with this slow-burn horror; otherwise, they might be too terrified to try and take on this beast.