Dragon Encounters

Creative Combat Encounters, and other ways of using the monsters of dungeons and dragons

BULLYWUG: Making Crossing Rivers Hard


Combat rating 1/2


1 Bullywug (CR 1/4)

3 Stirges (CR 1/8)


Combat rating 1


3 Bullywugs (CR 1/4)

2 Giant frogs (CR 1/4)


Combat rating 2


5 Bullywugs (CR 1/4)

3-4 Mud mephitis (CR 1/4)


Combat rating 2


2 Bullywug (CR 1/4)

1 Will-o’-wisp (CR 2)


How to Use – Combat Encounters (difficulty 3)

Bullywugs are ambushers. When running ambushers, especially at low levels, it is sometimes worth having a routine ambush first so that the players know what to expect. This prevents the more elaborate ambushes from overwhelming them.

The easiest ways to do that are as a series of random encounters or by making them minions for the villain. Since they don’t fit the mold of minion, and since a series of random encounters that don’t move the plot forward aren’t going to be popular with most players, I’ll suggest something else.

A plot idea used in fiction is that the main character sees something, thinks nothing of it, and only later does he realize that it was incredibly important and he has to regain it. (Of course, by that time, it’s far more difficult. This gets used at least twice in Harry Potter, once in book 2 and once in book 7. See if you can figure out where.)

In this vein, the players are trying to find a set of magic talismans. They’re traveling to get the first one when they get ambushed by the bullywugs, one of whom has a strange pedant. He gets away, or he gets killed and another bullywug picks up the pedant and runs off with it, [or that fails also, in which case you send them on a quest to capture/question the main bullywug to find out where they got it so as to get a lead on the third.] After they get the talisman that they were after, they now know that they need the pedant and will have to go back to the swamp after it. (Or if they’re plot savvy, they immediately head after it as soon as the bullywug flees with it, leaving the talisman they were already after for later.)

Other ideas to stop them getting it in the first fight: The pedant’s power should be something that works at a distance. You can put swampland between them and the user. They aren’t yet on a quest to get the talisman; they’re traveling to get to the quest giver and only then will they learn that they need to collect talismans (he also has a picture which is how they recognize it.) The talisman has the power to temporarily enchant pedants (which strict limitations on number and time, for when the players get their hands on it.) They don’t see the talisman itself in the first encounter, just a pedant that was enchanted through it.

As for the pedant’s power, casting a [specific] cantrip with one extra damage dice should be sufficient. Alternatively, a [specific] first level spell that the holder can cast at will. Obviously, the full power of all three will be something big [and very specific,] but these are powerful enough that the players will feel they gained something and not so powerful that it should cause you trouble.

I’m not going the describe the basic bullywug encounter because Keith Ammann already did it here. These are encounters designed to add on to the basic.

Swamp encounters:

  • The players are crossing a river with large trees growing along its banks. Most likely, they will either get a rope across or knock one of the trees down and cross along its length. Either way, they will have to cross one by one. After half of them are over, a group of bullywugs that were sneaking up on them make their appearance. (I would suggest having them attacking on both sides simultaneously, possibly by jumping over, as being the most interesting way to run the battle.)
  • The players need to cross another river. (This time you can provide stepping stones, if you’d like, although as they’re slippery the players will have to make a DEX save to avoid falling into the river.) There are bullywugs hiding on the far bank, ready to pounce as soon as the first PC gets across. Worse, they’ll hem in that person, not leaving any room for the other players to join him. (The players will probably suspect an ambush after the previous one. I would also suggest an obvious hiding place on the far side, such as a thick clump of reeds, where the bullywugs are hiding. If the players think to shoot into them, they will hear the noise of bullywugs moving hastily out of the way. Finally, they can always retreat after the ambush and try again later.)
  • The players find a skiff [small swamp boat/raft] stashed in the reeds alongside a river or small lake. If you’ve been giving them trouble with crossing rivers and/or marshy ground (such as in the previous two encounters) they’ll very likely choose to use it to travel. You can also give them a large river or lake which they have to cross, in which case using it is pretty much mandatory. The bullywugs ambush them by jumping into the boat when they pass near a shore. In addition to the difficulty of fighting with very little room to move around, you could also add a threat of capsizing. I would suggest the rule being that if the weight on one side of the boat exceeds that other by 50% or more for two turns in a row, they capsize. [The bullywugs can swim and won’t mind. They’re also dumb and won’t realize.] [Note: the boat can be unbalanced side to side or front to back. Either way will capsize is.]

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About Me

I have been a DM for several years, and I was designing home RPG games since my young childhood. I have been a fan of many different types of games (computer, board, RPG, and more) and have designed several for my own entertainment. This is my first attempt to produce game content for a wider audience.