Spawn of Kyuss Tactics

A couple of months ago, a reader asked me to take a look at the spawn of Kyuss in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Reader, I hope you’re not too disappointed.

Both the flavor text and the ability contour tell us the same thing: The spawn of Kyuss is a largely mindless brute. Its Strength is very high; its Constitution exceptional; its Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma dismal. This is a creature without any flexibility or independent judgment, or even much of a self-preservation instinct.

As an undead being, the spawn of Kyuss is driven by a compulsion—in its case, the desire to spread its parasitic infection to other beings. This is all the spawn of Kyuss does; it’s all it can do. Other than its attack actions, all of its traits are passive. One of its attacks, Claw, is just an ordinary melee attack that happens to do some extra necrotic damage. The other, Burrowing Worm, is an attempt to infect another creature by propelling a parasitic maggot at them. If the target fails their saving throw, the Burrowing Worm continues to deal damage to them. The spawn of Kyuss’s Multiattack action comprises two Claw attacks and one use of Burrowing Worm.

That’s it.

These are wind-up-and-let-go monsters. They have no capacity to distinguish one opponent from another. They have no reason to stop doing what they’re doing. They’re not beings as much as they are hazards. No judgment on the DM’s part is required. Just aim them at the player characters (or some non-player characters in the PCs’ vicinity) and let them do their thing.

Sorry, reader. The spawn of Kyuss is boring.

Next: cadaver collectors.

9 thoughts on “Spawn of Kyuss Tactics

  1. Totally understand; I don’t know what I was expecting with these things. I hope the next article isn’t too far away, because there wasn’t much needed to put this one together.

  2. Well, it’s boring in that the DM doesn’t need to make many decisions to run it. It’s potentially interesting in how PCs will react to getting infected.

    1. I think if you can establish the basics of the Spawn threat (worms + bodies = bad news) you can use them as a set-piece threat in the right dungeon. There probably not the climactic encounter but they could be fantastic in a tomb crawl. All you need are some fresh bodies nearby (maybe the orcs who were squatting in the tomb, too dumb and lazy to read the warnings and curses for anyone disturbing the tomb’s rest) for the Spawn to infest as soon as it’s free. My biggest complaint though is that the CR spike gets crazy really fast. I almost wish they were closer to CR1; they’d be a lot more fun to use. But D&D is already full of low-CR undead to throw at PCs, and there’s really nothing stopping anyone from porting only the “raises nearby corpses as Spawn” power over to regular zombies for an encounter like that.

  3. Spawn of Kyuss are a terrible, terrible monster for D&D because they essentially have a stun effect. Giving a player one turn to use an action to swipe away worms or die means that every time they get hit with it, they lose their next turn. I played in a high level game against these guys, and they almost soloed our group of 3 people because we didn’t have anything we could do that prevented the attack, and two of our party were melee fighters with poor Dex saves.

    As a DM, I’d never use these without real modifications.

    1. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I will say I think a conscientious DM never makes a situation an inescapable dead end. Maybe your PCs have only a 2 percent chance of getting out of a situation, but by gum, they have that 2 percent chance, not a 0 percent chance. If the party doesn’t have a means of curing disease, at least give them a path toward finding one.

      1. With the exception of very low level parties, for which a single Spawn of Kyuss is effectively a dungeon boss, and parties with odd member configurations (3 shadow monks and a rogue? Is this a medieval infiltration unit?), a party will almost always have access to some kind of disease-curing effect. It may be a good idea, however, if you intend to throw these things at a party of any kind, to introduce other, lesser diseases first, to give the party an opportunity to prepare in some measure. If they encounter the first disease and ignore the warning, it’s their own fault when the Spawn’s disease obliterates them.

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