Daily Monster #46: Leshen (Witcher Week)

Today’s Witcher inspired Daily Monster comes to us from the depths of shadowy forests where civilization isn’t welcome.

This has got to be hands down my favorite monster for the Witcher series… Not only is it fun to fight and has compelling lore behind it, but it also gives me the creeps. I think these alone are great reasons why the Leshen deserves a place in our home campaigns, so let’s take a closer look at today’s monster:

The Leshen

The basics

As you hopefully learned from our first Witcher inspired Daily Monster, we’re going to be using Regerem’s Book of Beautiful Horrors for the Leshen’s stats.

This awesome book presents us with not one, but three different stat Leshen stat blocks depending on your needs and the level of your party. Similarly to the Drowner article, the plan is to go over all of them, so you might want to click that link and take a look at the numbers yourself.

To start things off, the standard Leshen has a STR of +7 which, if you’ve played the games you know that to be pretty accurate. Even outside of the video games your best bet is going to be relying on its slow speed (-1 DEX) unless you want to end up half dead in seconds like this guy:

Even the standard version of this creature has some insane saves and pluses to its skills, not to mention their wide list of immunities and their super high passive perception of 18. With fire being their only vulnerability, a trigger-happy Fireball casting wizard sounds pretty good about now. You know, if they can get pass the Leshen’s Magic Resistance.

Today’s monster also gets a few spells thanks to their Innate Spellcasting, though some are certainly more useful than others (looking at you Speak with Plants). Considering how there will most likely be a small swarm of animals to aid your boss Leshen in combat, I think it could be fun to use the Polymorph spell on a couple of them and make them that much lethal. Likewise, Insect Plague is bound to add even more mayhem to the already chaotic battlefield.

Just like in the video game, if you decide to run this creature you’ll have access to its Root Strike (Recharge 5-6) and a small army of forest minions though the Leshen’s Call Primal Beast action (2/day), but what really sets this encounter apart is the Leshen’s Totem Stride, which basically allows it to teleport from totem to totem at the cost of 10ft of movement.

No more hiding in the back, squishy casters.

As mentioned before, the book offers us two other variants; the first one being a Black Root, which is basically a corrupted version of the Leshen. The main changes for this variant is a switch from Wisdom to Charisma (probably because they’re really spooky), a couple of changes in resistances and vulnerabilities, and a different spell list. While the Black Root won’t be able to summon creatures at will or make roots attack their foes, they gain access to Life Drain (Recharge 5-6) and are basically indestructible thanks to their Rejuvenation feature. Your party’s only hope lies on them having done some research on how to permanently get rid of these creatures.

Last but not least, the third and final version of this creature is its Ancient form. Apparently being a very old tree trunk means your hit points increase almost by a third of the max and so does pretty much everything else. Thankfully for your party, the Ancient Leshen’s DEX is still at a -1 so at least there’s hope of running away.

Other than getting the pay to play version of the features a standard Leshen gets, the Ancient variant gets access to a couple more fun spells like Eternalness and Storm of Vengeance.

Oh yeah, and Legendary Actions.

The lore

Can I just say? It’s really refreshing to look up the lore of a creature and actually be able to find tons of information on it rather than just write bad jokes about wooden donkeys and giant crabs. Step up your lore game, WotC!

To common folk in the Witcherverse, Leshens are often venerated almost as Gods. Many consider them to be Nature’s way of protecting itself (the name Leshen comes from the Slavic word for forest). Witchers, however, are aware of their status as monsters, Relicts to be exact.

Leshens can only be found in the most primal and deepest of forests where some of them have lived for hundreds and thousands of years undisturbed by mankind. They have incredibly strong bonds with the land and its natural beast inhabitants, going as far as being able to call upon them for combat situations.

Although there are still Ancient Leshens that live undisturbed in forest areas that haven’t seen and travelers in eons, there are some others who almost preside over small villages on the outskirts of their territory. This, of course, can be a double edge sword, since despite rejuvenating the local wildlife for hunters and foragers alike, Leshens can still wreak havoc on the nearby populations if their territory isn’t treated with respect.

On a similar note, expect for these very rare occasions in which villagers are able to strike some sort of pact with the ancient woodland beings, Leshens tend to be extremely territorial and aggressive. Those who venture into the deepest part of forest might just come across dead bodies that have been impaled by massive roots, their face still contorted in terror as a warning for future trespassers.

For those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the Leshen’s lair, they’ll often find monuments, totems really, that have been erected throughout the area. In the video game, the only way to truly kill a Leshen involves destroying its totems first. In the Book of Beautiful Horrors, however, they are used as means teleportation. But truly it’s up to which version you want to use for your encounter.

While the only thing separating the standard version of that creature and the ancient one is age, Black Roots are a little different. The one way to make a Black Root is for a Hag to steal a child and trap them inside a tree trunk within a Leshen’s territory. Once the child dies, the tree grows and turns black in color, becoming the point of respawn for the now corrupted Leshen. Once this has been done, the forest in the Leshen’s territory starts to corrupt as well, animals turn sickly and infected, plants blighted.

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The execution

At this point I think it’s pretty clear that the Leshen most definitely has all the markings of a great boss for your party to fight. Even if you choose the standard version of the creature you still have a powerful creature able to summon minions at will to keep the battle going for a respectable amount of time.

Now, how are we getting our party of intrepid heroes into trouble this time? As far as forests are concerned, adventuring groups go near them frequently enough but I feel like there should be something stronger to motivate our heroes to tread Leshen territory. Maybe they hear rumors about a magical weapon that is imbued with the power of nature itself, or perhaps a local group of halfling boy scouts go missing and our heroes must rescue them, up to you really. Whichever choice you end up making, we should probably talk about the Leshen’s lair.

If you end up pitting your party against a Black Root I’d definitely recommend having the fight take place near the blackened tree so you could maybe hint at it being the key for destroying the corrupted Leshen. If, on the other hand, you’re hoping to have them fight a regular Leshen or even an Ancient one (I hope your party has life insurance), they definitely come with a preferred terrain; i.e. the area near their totems. Let’s take a look at what the Book of Beautiful Horrors has to say about this:

Other than a few interesting regional effects including stronger beasts in the area, and being able to control the weather, our Leshen is also able to use its totems as means of scrying similar to the arcane eye spell, expect limited to six miles around its lair. In terms of combat, there’s a small list of lair actions that we can take advantage of:

  • Roots and plants burst out of the ground, grappling and lashing at creatures. The area within 60 feet around the Leshen becomes difficult terrain until initiative count 20 on the next round. Huge or larger creatures are not affected.
  • The Leshen and allied creatures within 60 feet of it heal 4d8 hit points.
  • A green mist fill the lair. All creatures within 60 feet of the Leshen must succeed on a DC 18 Constitution saving throw, taking 13 (4d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

One of the most important things to keep in mind with running this encounter is the idea of using the environment to keep the player characters away from the Leshen and distracted fighting what’s around them. As a Dungeon Master you are free to use tree roots and vines, and crows and wolves, or whatever it takes to make this encounter a memorable one.

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Oh, how time flies! We’re already halfway through Witcher Week! How are you guys enjoying it so far? We’d love to hear about your favorite article and what you hope will be the last Witcher inspired Daily Monster for the week. Make sure to follow us on our social media so you won’t miss out on any of our content. We post new articles every day of the week.

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