Daily Monster #40: Wolf

We’ve all encountered them at some point in our campaigns, but chances are that not a lot of have really thought twice about today’s monster after the encounter was over. Let’s try to change that, shall we?

Okay, not a fiend, but definitely on the simpler side of things. Let’s be honest here, when was the last time you used wolves as more than simple wilderness encounters? Let’s take a look at this monster and see what we can do to turn this encounter into something unique.

The Wolf

The basics

Wolves are unaligned beasts with a DEX of +2 and a STR, CON, and WIS of +1. Their weakest stats are their CHA of -2 and INT of -3.

Just as with the real life creatures, D&D’s wolves are very perceptive (+3 to skill checks and a passive perception of 13) and can easily make their presence unknown with their high stealth (+4).

Wolves are considered medium size and have an AC of 13. Their hit point pool is only 2d8+2 but their movement speed is slightly above average with 40ft.

Thanks to their Keen Hearing and Smell feature, these monsters gain advantage on all wisdom checks that rely on either of these abilities.

When running these creatures you will most likely end up relying heavily on their Pack Tactics feature, which gives them advantage on any attack rolls against creatures surrounded by the wolf’s allies.

As their only attack option, wolves have a bite attack with the added slight benefit of possibly knocking their targets prone on a failed DC 11 Strength saving throw.

The lore

Like many Beast creatures, the Dungeons and Dragons version of this monster shares a majority of their traits and lore with their real life counterparts. As such, wolves are pack hunters that excel at tracking their prey by scent and sight. They are extremely well organized when it comes to hunting and work incredibly well as a team, often taking on prey far larger or stronger than themselves.

There’s a few different varieties of them in the world of D&D that we will hopefully cover when the time comes, but when it comes to the standard version of this creature, they are often found as companions for rangers and druids who have formed strong bonds with the creatures.

These creatures are pretty common in most parts of the world, often only differentiated by their build and coat patterns. Whether found in jungles or cold icy mountains, it is likely that they are apex predators within their ecosystem.

A wolf pack is often led by the alphas of the pack. Just as with the real thing, alphas are followed by betas, and then omegas. Despite their clear hierarchy, all members of the pack play their own crucial role in the hunting party.

Despite their low intelligence core, these monsters are smart enough to stay away from humanoids and their cities unless pressed by extreme circumstances.

The execution

As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, in all my years of experience with both video games and ttrpgs, I have rarely seen encounters rely fully on this creature; well, aside from random dice rolled combats on the side of the road, but there’s a good reason for this: considering both their statblocks (which is heavily reliant on pack tactics) and the lore itself, it’s just very difficult to imagine one of these creatures acting on its own, which is why we oftentimes see them paired up with a bigger threat creature, even if it’s just a stronger variety of wolf.

Which is why for this encounter I want to challenge myself and do my best to come up with an encounter based solely on these creatures. Here’s what I have in mind:

Rather than make this a purely combat oriented situation, what if the party had to defend something instead? I’m picturing hoards of wolves coming one after the other as the player characters struggle to protect a small hamlet or even some sort of valuable cargo.

I often hear Dungeon Masters complain about players short resting too often and not being able to replete any of their resources. The great this about this type of encounter is that you can play around with the number of enemies your party faces. If you’re looking to up the challenge for this mission you could even have the assault continue over the course of a couple of days without long rests in between.

Do keep in mind though, that you will have to come up with some sort of explanation as to why these creatures are set on attacking their target. It could be as simple as their being under the control of some other stronger entity that has trained them to follow commands, or perhaps some sort of substance magical or otherwise that attracts them so. Maybe it is just hunger that has driven them to this point.

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