How to Use – Introduction
The yochlol comes with one of the strangest abilities in D&D. It has the ability to turn into a cloud of toxic mist, with will render anyone inside it poisoned, making it harder for them to attack and easier for them to be attacked. However, it can’t attack or do damage while in this form, making this form useless when it’s fighting alone. Given that it’s a CR 10, you would expect it to fight alone fairly frequently, making the ability useless.
This is a mistake, however. The yochlol comes with an automatic ally. It has Dominate Person.
Combat rating 12
1 Yochlol (CR 10)
2 Mummies (CR 3)
1 Otyugh (CR 5)
Combat rating 14
1 Yochlol (CR 10)
3 Shambling mounds (CR 5)
Combat rating 17
1 Yochlol (CR 10)
2 Driders (CR 6)
3 Flesh golems (CR 5)
1 Beholder zombie (CR 5)
Combat rating 20
1 Yochlol (CR 10)
2 Chimeras (CR 6)
3 Drow elite warriors (CR 5)
1 Drow priestess of Lloth (CR 8)
1 Hydra (CR 8)
Combat Encounter (difficulty 11)
Part 1: Preparation
In order to be able to use Dominate Person properly, it has to scout out the PCs with Detect Thoughts beforehand, to know who to use the spell on. [Low WIS save is first priority. If there’s a tie, you can choose based on abilities.]
It can’t do this at the beginning of battle. If they identify it as an enemy too early, the target has advantage on his WIS save. As such, it will first appear before them in female drow form, most probably a strange woman sitting in a corner of a tavern making strange gestures and mumbling to herself. [I’m assuming that monsters also need gestures and chants to cast spells. If you rule otherwise, it’s even simpler.]
If they identify it as spellcasting (possible with any [knowledge: arcana] skill check) the yochlol will insist that it’s protecting itself and refuse to engage in further conversation. It’s unlikely that they’ll attack it based on this, but if they do, it will simply flee and stalk them from hiding later.
It will start with detection of surface thoughts, and this, together with its reasonably high intelligence and wisdom, will give it a good guess as to who to target first. Once it has read one PC’s thoughts in depth, it will have a pretty good idea as to who has WIS save proficiency, as well as how valuable each PC’s knowledge is.
I would suggest choosing targets and rolling for them in advance, not during the game. This way you’re able to figure out at your leisure what the yochlol knows and what’s in its interests to know next. You’ll keep track of the order of targets, so that if the players do something unexpected you know where the yochlol is holding and can adapt.
Once it’s eventually caught [this happens as soon as a player manages a WIS save to counter Detect Thoughts] it states calmly that it needed to check them out, and then proceeds to spin them its bait.
(I’m assuming that the yochlol is interested in targeting them, at least by the time it finishes reading their thoughts. Perhaps it prefers to target more powerful foes, to impress Lloth. Perhaps it goes after enemies with valuable treasure, which it can gift to Lloth. It might prefer taking out heroes, because it knows that it does harm to all that rely on the heroes for protection by doing so. It might be proactively taking them out, because it knows that sooner or later, they’ll come after it. Obviously, if your campaign involves drow or Lloth, you don’t need the above reasons.)
There are three ways that the yochlol can lure them in. Choose one. If it read their minds successfully, choose the one you think most likely to work against your players.
Selling the Information: The yochlol, in drow form, tells them that it knows of a powerful monster and/or a valuable treasure, and offers to sell them the information. It will not give in to threats, nor lower its price [to increase the value of its information. Also, because that seems in-character for it.] If they refuse even when it walks away, it can set up one of the other two ideas, possibly working through someone whom it dominates or just plain tricks.
Regarding Detect Thoughts, it tells them that it had to see if they were strong enough to claim the treasure. Or, that it was checking how much to charge them. The yochlol is never embarrassed.
Reverse Psychology: The yochlol tells them of a monster that is residing nearby, at [give name of location.] It’s quite strong, and they’re probably too scared. [Don’t belabor the point too much. Once they realize that you’re using reverse psychology, it’s ineffective.] If they ask for directions, it will provide them. After leaving, it will kill several civilians and leave the bodies where the players will find them, for extra motivation. Regarding Detect Thoughts, it was curious if they were planning to attack the monster. Then continue from there.
Setting a Challenge: It tells them that it has been sent by its master to challenge them. It will provide directions, but not descriptions of the monster. If they refuse, it will just give basic directions and then leave. [If they ask, it says that it just came to give the message.] After leaving, it will kidnap an NPC, one that they know and will care about [ideas below].
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with having it threaten the hostage’s life. Just the fact that they know it has a hostage is enough, and this way feels more impressive. [I’ve read books where the villain, and/or the author, make a big deal of letting you know how evil they are. The villain ends up seeming pathetic.] It will let another NPC see it leave with the hostage, tying up that NPC so they don’t sound the alarm too soon.
For the best choice of hostages, people the players will mind getting kidnapped include the following. Any NPC’s that they are friendly with, of course (although if they get kidnapped a lot, it will become resentment.) An NPC that had quest relevant information, an NPC that owed them money or a favor, a merchant who was going to sell them something that they wanted. These are even better as people to have the yochlol kill, if you’re going that way.
When kidnapping, logically it would just kill them and hide the corpse as soon as it reached a place where the PCs wouldn’t discover that the person is dead.
Leaving the Meeting: It should know, assuming it read one PC’s thoughts successfully, whether they’ll kill it or imprison it if it surrenders. [Use your best guess.] If the answer is imprison, it will willingly surrender. Mist form means it can break out of imprisonment with ease. If the answer is kill, it will run away spider-woman style, climbing walls and crossing Web bridges where they can’t follow.
It will reach its lair well before them, being able to climb walls and cross chasms, and will be waiting for them when they arrive.
Part 2: The Battle
The lair I have in mind for the yochlol consists of 8-10 small islands in the middle of a swamp or sluggish river. The water has been poisoned, or has acid-like qualities, doing damage to whoever enters the waters. Also, the bottom is muddy, and pulling oneself free after sinking into the mud is not easy.
(Running this encounter will require you to draw up a battlemap beforehand. I apologize for not providing it, but I don’t have time at present to do so. I will describe it thoroughly, and provide descriptions that you can print out and place beside the battlemap, with numbers to show where each description belongs.)
The islands are formed in a shape roughly like two circles. I would use the approximate shape of a pentagon, with the point facing the party, and have the inner circle consist of a triangle, a diamond, or another, smaller pentagon, with the tip pointing away. The far tip of the inner circle is the yochlol’s nest, and if you provide any form of treasure, I would place it there. [I’m sort of hoping to draw a web shape using islands and bridges. That said, you can only use so many islands, which will limit it’s ability to look like a web.]
Connect as many of the islands with each other as you possibly can. Many of the bridges are going to get destroyed once the battle starts, so it’s important for there to be as many as possible at the beginning.
The plan for this combat is as follows: many of the bridges are designed to be easily destroyed, and some of the islands are designed to collapse, or have structures on them that are designed to collapse. The idea is to force the party to split itself among the islands, first in trying to rescue the dominated player and then in trying to reach each other.
Where does the yochlol start the battle? This depends on whether they can identify the yochlol on sight. If they can, he’ll have to start hidden, most probably behind a derelict structure and a pile of rubble. If they see him, they’ll roll for initiative, and he’ll have disadvantage on Dominate Person. If they don’t know what a yochlol looks like, he can just stand still and pretend to be a weird tree. The yochlol doesn’t exactly look like a monster, after all. (descriptions1&2)
One more detail: The players will probably arrive half-expecting to see the female drow they met before. You could have a drow lying sleeping [actually; dead] on the island you want to players to visit, with her face turned away so they can’t recognize her until they reach her. (Description 3)
In order to reveal the deception, you could have the yochlol briefly assume the drow form, or part of it, in its death throes.
A different idea I like would be to have the yochlol grow her face onto one of its limbs mid-combat, so it could sneer at the PCs. To make it clear that this is a demon that was disguised as a drow, not a drow with super powers, have it open its mouth mid-dialogue to reveal fangs, or sharp pointy teeth, or have its eyes shift into two clusters of multiple small eyes. To be clear, none of this should use up an action. [This idea is technically homebrew, but not in a way that affects the battle at all.]
The yochlol’s strategy: it will start the combat with dominating a PC, then will assume mist form to aid the PC as he plays hit and run against the other players. As soon as he takes damage, he gets to make another saving throw, so it’s important the he avoid taking damage as much as possible. This necessitates keeping the other PCs apart, as much as can be managed. As for the yochlol, being in mist form will allow it to make any concentration checks with advantage, and if it’s enfolding a PC, it will be almost impossible to hit it with ranged attacks or spells without hitting the PC also.
The dominated player’s strategy: A lot of this depends on his class. If he’s melee based, he should sneak up on different PCs and hit from hiding, he might also be able to grapple them and force them into the water where they will spend a turn extricating themselves. He will allow pursuit in order to pull one PC away from the others, and break the bridges or sabotage the islands when the following PC is part way across, forcing him to jump to the same island and stopping anyone from following.
If the dominated player is ranged or spellcaster, he’ll use his attacks from hiding, shifting his position to get PCs to follow him, and keeping his powerful attacks for wreaking havoc to the bridges and islands to keep the players apart.
I’m including below a list of different features for the islands and bridges. I’d suggest you paste it into a document you can print out (I wish I had that capability on my website. Hopefully someday) and then you can cut out the pieces you want him to see. Alternatively, you can cut and paste it into your smartphone and email him it bit by bit, as wanted.
Once the Dominate Person spell is broken, the yochlol will shift back into its real form. It might try playing hit and run with the players for a few rounds, but this can only last so long. [It can use its Web to entangle players, or to cross islands to safety without the PCs being able to follow.] After a bit, it will be time to shift to endgame.
Endgame: You could finish off the fight by having the yochlol try to fight the PCs one at a time, running and luring them apart any time two or more get together. I worry that this won’t be climatic enough, though.
I would suggest thatthe yochlol has taken hold of a few giant spider or phase spider nests, and taught them to fear it and obey it. Alternatively, he keeps them locked up in several large baskets, and releases them when needed. (There is a description of such baskets down below, in case you decide to go this way.) When summoned/released, the players are met by a sudden wave of spiders that, if they’re split up, they will be hard pressed to deal with, especially as the yochlol will join into the battle.
Should Dominate Person fail, should the PC being targeted roll improbably high, I would start with the spiders almost immediately. I would also decide that there are extra waves, so that the players can’t just hunker down and fight the spiders if they want to win, they have to fight the yochlol. In the meantime, the yochlol will still use hit and run tactics and try to split them up, except where they seem split up enough that it’s worthwhile to attack.
(As to why he doesn’t release all the spiders at once, perhaps they come from different groups and will attack each other if released together. If you don’t like cheating, you can say that it always starts with many waves worth, but after fighting in mist form for a while, the yochlol becomes too bloodthirsty to go back after more waves.)
You can also use this if you don’t want such a complicated scenario. Just use a single one of the traps, [I would suggest the rubble falling when the Web spell disappears, and the structure that can be knocked down easily, as the best ones. See below] and add giant spiders to give the yochlol a few minions.
Part 3: The Web
This section is to list all the ways that bridges and islands can be made to collapse around them. At the end will be a list of description for you to print out and share with your players, if you wish.
I would suggest that before the battle, the yochlol gathers a large pile of rubble into an especially unwieldy mound, and uses Web to keep it together. I would put this on the first island, and have that island be the only one to connect to the mainland. If you think your players will suspect a trap and insist of finding a different way onto the islands, put it where the cavern widens out and they first see the islands instead. In that case, I would put multiple bridges from the mainland to the islands.
A third way is to have it find a way to tear the web into pieces after summoning it, and use it to wrap multiple piles of rubble. (Descriptions 4&5)
The idea is that as soon as the yochlol casts Dominate Person, it automatically loses concentration on its Web spell, which causes the piles to shift. PCs can get buried, swept into the water, or merely separated from each other by large amounts of rubble. This will give the dominated person a good excuse to run away and separate himself, and hopefully the other players will do likewise.
If they try to climb the rubble afterwards, force them to make saves against the rubble shifting and trapping them or sliding with them into the waters.
- Several of the bridges can be anchored improperly, making it easy for someone with strength to uproot the bridges and knock the planks into the water. [These bridges consist of a narrow beam of wood across the river in the first place.] (Descriptions 6-8)
- The wood of the bridge has several places, one in the middle and one toward either side, where the wood has been cut partly through, or otherwise weakened. Hitting it with an attack there, or possible just stomping down strongly enough, can cause it to begin to give way. (Descriptions 6-8)
- The wood of the bridge is dry, extremely flammable. If the one dominated is a spellcaster, setting it alight will be easy. Even if they’re not, at some point fire spells will probably be used, and since there’s some amount of wood on many of the islands, the yochlol or the one dominated can pick it up a large piece and throw it at the bridge. (Descriptions 9&10)
- There is also a place or two with boulders overlooking the bridge. Send a boulder rolling down at the PC who just crossed. He’ll jump out of the way, and the bridge will snap or lose its supports. (description 11)
- The island contains a large, now derelict building. If someone [dominated person or yochlol] knocks out one more of its supports, it will collapse around any person that’s in or next to it. [The dominated person is told by the yochlol of the safest place to stand, and the yochlol probably digs him out, unless he can collapse it from the outside. The yochlol can escape through mist form.] (descriptions 12&13)
- The structure occupies almost the entire island. It only has a single entrance, which makes it useless for traveling through. Knocking holes in the walls may cause the structure to collapse, trapping the people inside. Roll for luck if they try. There are parts of the island around the edges of the house that have been weakened, and will collapse, possibly causing the one who stepped on them to fall into the water, and preventing anyone from traveling that way again. [The yochlol has spider climb. If you like, you can have it hide a rope and lasso or grappling hook for the one dominated.] (description 13)
- The structure occupies almost the entire island. The floor is missing inside the structure. A beam spans the length of the pit, but the beam isn’t strong and is easily uprooted or destroyed. (descriptions 12&15) (The descriptions only describe the outside. You’ll have to describe the inside when they enter.)
Not every island, [for that matter, not necessarily every structure] has to be trapped. You don’t want them all trapped, or the players will run out of places to move to. These are ideas for the ones that are.
- The island was artificially constructed from boats covered with mud, or other floating material. Once a hole or two is forced through it, the island starts to fill with water and gradually sinks. (descriptions 16&17) (I would describe the first patch of ground they step on as feeling loose, as though it might break off of the island, and the rest as being boggy, constantly shifting underfoot.)
- A large tree with lots of branches is on the island. Its roots have been partially disconnected or dug up, which means that it will fall over as soon as it takes a strong blow in the right place. This will cause a PC standing in the wrong place to need a turn or two to extract themselves, will create an obstruction in the middle of the island, and should the tree be dead, will create a bonfire and bigger obstacle if hit with a fire or lightning spell or burning ember. (description 18)
- The grass/thorns/mud of the island conceal multiple places where the crust of the island is thin. When walking on this island, there is an excellent chance that a PC will put their foot down in the wrong place and become stuck. The yochlol has mapped a path of boulders that it can use to navigate the island. (descriptions 19&20)
The is a list of descriptions for the various locations of the island. I’m writing them out so that you can print them up and add them to your map, if you would like.
A tall tree that seems to be made of yellow slime stands on the corner of the island. The island’s floor is covered with dead leaves. A few rocks stand up at the sides.
A tall tree that seems to be made of yellow slime stands at the back of the island. A large box is lying underneath it, and a small cluster of dark flowers are next to the box. The rest of the island floor is bare mud, and a few rocks.
On the island, a female drow is lying down asleep on a bedroll. The face is turned away from you, so that you can’t make out any details. The floor of the island is sand.
At the center of the island, a large collection of stones forms a tall column. The floor of the island is black stone.
The right side of the island is inaccessible. It looks as though several hundred stones of all sizes fell from the ceiling and all landed at that exact spot. (The ceiling itself looks whole, although you can’t tell with the poor light in the cavern.) The left side is plain rock.
A long beam, of the type usually used to hold up rooftops, has been placed across the river. A pile of stones has been gathered at the two ends to hold up the beam, although the stones seem to have mostly fallen apart of the left island, and the ends of the beam are touching the ground.
There are narrow stone walls at the sides of both islands. A large plank of wood has been placed on the walls at both sides, forming a bridge.
A large, decorative wooden bridge with walls used to stand between the two islands, but it has long since fallen over. Or perhaps it was salvaged and brought here. Either way, the result is a large, partially rotten bridge lying on its side, with one of the walls of the bridge available to walk on.
Two poles stick out of the ground on both sides. A rope bridge has been tied to them on both sides. Several of the planks are missing, but the structure still looks usable.
A bamboo bridge connects the two islands. One of the sides is partially rotted away, and the floor is stained with grime, but it looks like one of the most stable bridges in the area.
A large house occupies the center of the island. It looks like the front part of a mansion, if the rest was pulled away and collapsed into the waters. This floor is plain dirt, with only a partially broken line of stones to hint that it might have once been a garden.
A roof on columns lies in the center of the island, of the type often raised to provide shelter for sentries. One of the columns is leaning heavily, and the roof is cluttered with stones and refuse, the debris of countless years. The rest of the island is dead leaves, stones, and muck.
A small, ruined tower occupies the island. You see a door on the southwestern side, but the rest of the wall seems smooth. There is very little of the island besides the tower, but a lip of rock goes around the outside of the tower.
A large warehouse fills the island. There are several places where parts of the walls have collapsed, especially on the left side. Several of these holes look big enough to slip through.
The island is in the shape of a small hill, able to be climbed without too much difficulty, although there is a small track worn into the side of the hill. The ground is bare earth, with scattered stones lying around of various sizes. Several of the stones at the top are outright boulders.
An island of plain, muddy ground. The floor is full of small mounds, giving it a bumpy appearance.
A large oak stands at the back of the island, spreading its branches over the island. The oak has a thick trunk and numerous branches, but only a few, isolated tufts of green. The floor of the island is bare mud, with a few pebbles.
A large, dead tree rises up on the left of the island. Its many branches, some as thick as your heads, some thinner than your smallest fingers, stand testament to the strength this tree once had in its prime. The floor of the island is dry soil and loose twigs.
A large growth of thorns, with green sprouts in between the thorns, covers the floor of the island.
The island is large and flat, with a covering of large swamp grass and reeds.