Combat Challenge 1/2
1 Dretch (CR 1/4)
3 Giant rats (CR 1/8)
Combat Challenge 1
2 Dretches (CR 1/4)
3 Troglodytes (CR 1/4)
Combat Challenge 2
2-3 Dretches (CR 1/4)
1 Grey ooze (CR 1/2)
4 Zombies (CR 1/4)
Combat Challenge 2
2-3 Dretches (CR 1/4)
2 Needle blights (CR 1/4)
4-6 Twig blights (CR 1/8)
1 Vine blight (CR 1/2)
How to Use – Combat Encounter 1 (difficulty varies)
The dretch is the rare monster that can be used against far higher-level parties than its 1/4 CR would suggest. While its fighting skills are limited, its fetid cloud can really mess up your players. Combine it with other foes who are immune to the poisoned condition, as this will render them immune to the additional riders that come with the poison conditioned as well. (The text says “Creatures that are poisoned in this way…” and they won’t be poisoned) Easy examples are other demons and undead. You can also use ranged attackers that aren’t immune to the poisoned condition, as long as you have some melee to keep them inside the fetid cloud.
I would have the dretch arrive from the side of the combat, not start together with the other enemies, as that would make it too easy to kill through the area-of-attack spells that would anyhow be used by your players to target the enemies’ ranks. Possibly, you could have the dretch first show up in the second round of battle, when your players are already committed and will have trouble rearranging themselves.
You’ll have to let your players know about the fetid cloud beforehand. In this case, the best way would be to let your players encounter a dretch or two in an easy combat beforehand, where the fetid cloud will be a minor effect. I would suggest using at least two dretch in this encounter, as one might get killed before it has a chance to activate its fetid cloud.
Note: Like most ideas, this is fun once or twice. Do it a lot, and your players will hate it.
Dretch Tactics: The dretch will waddle forward and attack the nearest enemy that it notices. Once it arrives next to an enemy, if it isn’t in the middle of a fetid cloud caused by another dretch it will release its own fetid cloud, otherwise it will attack. It lacks the intelligence to plan out where to release its fetid cloud in any better way.
While the dretch could use the dash action to move forty feet, you might not want to do this. Having it only move twenty feet gives the players a better chance to counter it, and seems fairer. You can always say that the dretch was too dumb to think of dashing.
How does the dretch release its fetid cloud? I suspect that the Monster Manual has in mind that it farts it out. If you think that your players won’t like that, though, or if you’re playing with young players who will enjoy it too much (and won’t stop letting you hear about it for weeks afterwards), you can always have it belch up the cloud.
Combat Encounter 2: (difficulty 3)
For weaker players especially, you could put a number of dretch in the middle of the enemies, or in front of 1-2 range units.
Let your players see the enemies before the enemies see them, perhaps from a balcony of something. Consider giving your players a second way to enter the area, and a number of obstacles which they can use to their advantage. This will allow the players to send the rogue ahead to decoy the dretches to the side, where they won’t influence the main part of the battle. The players might also think to decoy the dretches away with an illusion. And it they don’t think of it? Then they’ll have a fairly hard battle to overcome. At least you’ll have given them a chance.
Combat Encounter 3: (difficulty 3)
For a variant on the previous encounter, put the dretches in cages or summoning circles, and put some range units [I suggest skeletons] behind them. The cages or summoning circles won’t prevent the dretches from releasing their fetid cloud if the PCs get near [probably within 10 feet of a dretch. While the fetid cloud has a twenty-foot range, I doubt the dretch will think to use it at that distance. They’re used to getting close to their enemies and then releasing it.]
The main difference between cages and summoning circles is that cages protect the dretches from the players ranged attacks, and summoning circles have a chance of releasing the dretches they get broken by the players.
You can also have one of the other enemies, or an automatic effect, release the dretches at a certain point of the combat.