10 Monsters for Your Level 1 Party (That aren’t Goblins)

At level one, your party just started their adventuring careers. They don’t have high-level spells or abilities, making it hard for DMs to come up with both creative and appropriately challenging monsters. This list will provide monsters fit for low-level parties that aren’t your run of the mill goblins, orc, gnolls, or kobolds. What are the best monsters for your level one party? A fully rested and equipped level one party (of at least four members) should be able to handle a single monster with a Challenge Rating of 1 or several monsters with a Challenge Rating of less than 1. These monsters, found in the Monster Manuel, with a CR 1 and lower will not only challenge your party but provide interesting role playing opportunities. If you are looking for some options that aren’t overused goblins, orcs, or kobolds, look no farther! Want some new, color-coded dice to go with these creatures? Check out our Trinket Shop!

Twig, Needle and Vine Blights (p 32)

Location: Forests and Jungles Challenge Rating: 1/8 (25 XP) Plants animated with the will of an ancient evil that desire only destruction and chaos? Count me in! While motionless, these creatures are indistinguishable from the forest around them, making them the perfect ambush monsters. (sorry.) A forest infested with Blights attracts evil monsters and grows with unnatural speed, making it difficult to traverse. Adventurers can easily get lost in a Blight forest. Twig Blights are the weakest of the Blights. They like to take root near campsites and forest paths and wait to ambush unsuspecting adventurers. While motionless, they look like leafless, woody shrubs. When attacking, Twig Blights pull up their roots and take the shape of a humanoid figure. Twig Blights like to huddle in groups, and your party, fully rested, should be able to handle between 6-8 Twig Blights. If you are having trouble knowing exactly how much your party can handle, check out this post on Creating Balanced Encounters. Needle Blights resemble humanoids covered in evergreen needles. These needles can be shot from the Needle Blight like darts, piercing armor and flesh. Preferring to attack from all sides, when in danger Needle Blights send out pollen that brings other Needle Blights to the area. Your party should be able to handle 4-6 Needle Blights without any issue. Vine Blights are the most dangerous of the Blights, and the only ones capable of speech. Although, this speech is limited to taunting foes and bargaining with enemies. (They are still plants, after all.) While motionless, Vine Blights cannot be distinguished from tangles of vines in the forest canopy. These Blights can control the surrounding foliage, and use it to both direct and entangle victims. When an enemy is entangled, the Vine Blight uses its vines to constrict and slowly crush its victim. Because of this ability, Vine Blights can be dangerous to low-level parties and should be used as a challenge. Your party shouldn’t face more than two Vine Blights at a time, and I would suggest using only one.

Bullywugs (p 35)

Location: Swamps, Damp Caves, Rain Forests Challenge Rating: 1/4 (50 XP) These humanoid frogs are disgusting, mean, and petty. They must remain wet to live, so they live only in areas with direct access to water. Believing themselves to be the rightful rulers of whatever areas they inhabit, Bullywugs are always looking to gain the favor of their superiors. Toward this aim, they bring prisoners and treasure in hopes of impressing the higher-ups and hopefully earn a promotion. Bullywugs prefer to attack in groups and seek to capture outsiders rather than just kill them. This is one of the reasons I love to use them, in case something does go wrong, it is unlikely any party members will be killed. After catching an outsider, Bullywugs, true to their name, like to take them to their King and Queen, making the captive grovel and beg for mercy. Bullywugs can be easily bribed or tricked, making for excellent role play opportunities. These prideful, disgusting creatures with an inferiority complex make for a truly entertaining encounter. Your party should be able to handle between 4-6 Bullywugs in one encounter. However, keep in mind Bullywugs can communicate over long distances using their croaking language, bringing more and more allies to the battlefield to overwhelm stronger enemies.

Cockatrice (p 42)

Location: Forests, Plains, Mountains Challenge Rating: 1/2 (100 XP) If you are looking for a true monster for your party to slay, look no farther than the Cockatrice. This creature looks like a horrible combination of a bird, lizard, and bat, with long talons, a hooked beak, and leather wings. In the wild, the Cockatrice feeds mostly on berries, nuts, plants, and small creatures. This would make it harmless, except for its fierce and frenzied reaction to even the slightest hint of danger. If the Cockatrice feels even slightly threatened, it will attack viciously and immediately without warning. Using its talons and beak, the Cockatrice won’t run from danger. If a creature is even scratched by the Cockatrice’s beak, it rolls a Constitution Saving Throw, on a failed save, the creature is turned to stone for 24 hours. Technically, your party should be able to handle two of these creatures, I would suggest they only face one because of the Cockatrice’s unique abilities.

Quasit (p 63)

Location: Areas with a weakened veil between realms or anywhere they are summoned. Challenge Rating: 1 (200 XP) If you are looking for something more fiendish, I suggest using a Quasit. Quasits are tiny, shapeshifting fiends from the Abyss. They can appear in areas where the veil between realms is weak, or they can be summoned by spellcasters to act as familiars who loyally do their master’s bidding. Quasits have some unique and interesting abilities, making them one of my favorite monsters. Quasits can turn invisible at will for as long as they want or until they attack or use their Scare ability. Quasits can also use polymorph at will to turn into three different creatures (bat, centipede, or toad). Additionally, once a day Quasits can use an ability called “Scare” to frighten one creature for one minute. Because of these abilities, Quasits can be difficult to fight. Only use one Quasit against your low-level party and make sure they are prepared for a challenging fight!

Kuo-Toa (p 199)

Location: Subterranean Lakes and Rivers Challenge Rating: 1/4 (50 XP) Crazy, god inventing, fish-people who were once enslaved by Mindflayers, Kuo-Toa live in underground lakes and rivers and will attempt to capture any outsiders that come near their territory. Having lived in the dark for so long, the Kuo-Toa are no longer able to stand sunlight. Their weapons are mostly designed for capture, including nets, grappling claws, and shields treated with a sticky goo that latches on to anything it comes into contact with. Kuo-Toa are unreasonable and nonsensical due to the effects of the Mindflayers mind control. They cannot be bribed or reasoned with and will attempt to capture outsiders to present to their arch-priest as potential sacrifices to their self-created gods. These slippery, revolting creatures are a unique option for an underground adventure and your party should be able to take on 3-4 Kuo-Toa in one encounter.

Lizardfolk (p 204)

Location: Swamps and Jungles Challenge Rating: 1/2 (100 XP) If your party is traversing the swamps or jungles, it is likely they may wonder near the domain of Lizardfolk. Lizardfolk resemble lizards that walk on two legs and have arms much like a human. They are true neutral creatures who have been known to make alliances with other races, but only rarely. Lizardfolk will most often send small hunting parties to harass or kill unwanted visitors to their domain. They have a special fondness for humanoid flesh, and will often capture humanoids to become the center piece or main dish for a feast or a religious rite. Lizardfolk have a rich society and history and you could easily make gaining their alliance a side quest for a low level party. Or, if you just need a quick encounter, Lizardfolk hunting parties are just as intriguing. Your party should be able to handle two Lizardfolk, any more will become a real challenge.

Magmin (p 212)

Location: Anywhere they have been summoned Challenge Rating: 1/2 (100 XP) Small fire elementals, Magmin appear in the Material Plane only when summoned from the Elemental Plane of Fire. Magmin are impulsive and mischievous, gaining great delight from setting everything around them ablaze. Magmin attack by simply touching enemies, dealing fire damaging and igniting anything flammable. When the Magmin dies, it explodes in a burst of fire and magma, dealing 2d6 of fire damage and setting everything within 10 feet of it on fire. I like to use Magmin when my party first encounters the boss of the campaign or a low level villain. Instead of fighting the party his/herself, the villain summons a Magmin to deal with them. It is a challenging fight for the party and gives them a taste of the villain’s power. Your party should face no more than two Magmin at level one.

Piercer (p 252)

Location: Caves Challenge Rating: 1/2 (100 XP) With their one massive eye shut and mouth, full of razor sharp teeth, closed, these monsters are difficult to distinguish from a cave’s ordinary rock formations. Piercers are the larva form of Ropers, and either cling to the tops of caves, or anchor themselves to the ground. While Piercers can see, they prefer to react to the heat and sounds of their prey, positioning themselves above a hunting spot and waiting patiently for its chance to fall and crush it. Piercers resemble large slugs with one eye and large mouth. Their soft bodies are protected by a rock-hard outer shell. When a Piercer falls or is attacked, it excretes a foul-smelling slime. Piecers are extremely slow and can only attack by falling on their prey, dealing 1d6 of damage for every 10 feet it falls. This means your party should be able to easily outrun even several Piercers, as long as no one gets hit by one as they fall. I like to put several Piercers in stretches of caves forcing the party to dodge and run. This is a great alternative to traps, which can get tedious. As long as your group is fairly dexterous, they should be able to handle 2-3 Piercers.

Shadow (p 269)

Location: Anywhere Challenge Rating: 1/2 (100 XP) Shadows are undead creatures that look like a humanoid’s shadow. This creature feeds off the vitality of living creatures, seeking to devour their strength. Each time the Shadow feeds on a creature, it decreases that creature’s strength by 1d4, when the creature reaches 0 strength, it dies and births a new Shadow. Shadows can move through spaces as small as 1 inch without squeezing, don’t require air, food, drink, or sleep, and can hide in dim light or darkness as a bonus action. Shadows are resistant to most forms of damage but can be hit by magic. These abilities make Shadows excellent guardians of tombs, vaults, crypts, and long-forgotten castles. Shadows can be tricky to fight because of their immunities and resistances. Your party should not fight more than 1 Shadow at a time, but if you are looking for a truly challenging encounter, they should be able to handle two.

Scarecrow (p 268)

Location: Fields/Farms Challenge Rating: 1 (200 XP) Scarecrows are already creepy, but if you bind them to an dead evil creature or spirit, they are terror embodied. If you are looking for a spooky encounter, a Scarecrow just might do the trick. When and evil creature dies, its spirit is sometimes bound to a scarecrow by a hag or witch. This gives the once inanimate scarecrow both mobility and purpose. The Scarecrow seeks to do its master’s will and if its master dies, the spirit will continue to do the last command it was given, or seek revenge on whoever killed its master. Scarecrows are great quests for a level one party. Have a farmer or village elder hire your group to slay the Scarecrow in the corn fields and enjoy the terrifying experience that ensues. Scarecrows can frighten creatures with its terrifying gaze and make two claw attacks (which can also frighten creatures). Not to mention if a Scarecrow remains motionless, it looks exactly like a regular scarecrow. Meaning your party could pass by one and never even know it.. For a blood-curdling, spooky challenge, pit your party against 1, and only 1, Scarecrow. They had better come prepared.. I hope this list has given you some ideas for level 1 encounters that are out of the ordinary. I’m sure your players will love seeing something other than goblins for once! Note: If you like these options but your party is higher than level one, you can always scale these up to fit your needs by simply adding more creatures! Until next time, May your game have advantage, my friends! -Halfling Hannah

Related Questions

How do I know how much my level 1 party can handle? Each player has a total amount of XP for one adventuring day. The amount depends on their level. At first level, each player has 300 XP for the day. This means if you have a party of 4 first level players, your party can handle encounters equal to 1200 XP in one adventuring day. For more information see Creating Balanced Encounters.

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