Using Oozes Effectively – A 5e Encounter Design

Recently, I had the opportunity to explore using Oozes in a 5e “combat” encounter. My party was heading to a Crumbling Wizard’s Keep (0309 Blackmarsh). The place is described like this:

 📖 0309 This crumbling wizard’s keep dates back a thousand years to the time of the Bright Empire. An experiment gone awry left the keep infested with numerous Ochre Jellies (HD 5), including one very large black pudding (HD 10, 60 hp) in the old great hall.

I had already poisoned an important NPC with a toxin that slowly turned her into an ooze. The party sought a cure for this and followed some leads to this keep. The story I have to justify this is:

  • Atacyl created the Flesh to Ooze spell 58 years ago.
  • Havar the Mad and his party defeated Atacyl 40 years ago.
  • Havar took the Spellbinder Tome and created Reintegrate to reverse the effects of Flesh To Ooze.
  • One of Atacyl’s agents (Valefor) infiltrated the keep disguised as one of Havar’s assistants.
  • Valefor opened the Spellbinder Tome to Flesh to Ooze and placed it in the Magicae Annum.
  • This turned all living targets within a 200 ft. radius into oozes.

Some encounter info

  • I had six party members.
  • The objective is to retrieve a magical book inside the keep.
  • We are using XP for gold, so there is no value in killing monsters.

The Crumbling Wizard’s Keep

The map is something I pulled from Dyson Logos:

Crumbling Wizard's Keep map from Dyson Logos

The door to the inner rooms is barred magically (DC 25 Strength Athletics), made of lead (which I deemed impervious to corrosion for purposes of Ooze mechanics), and sealed, preventing the amorphous feature from working. At the ends of the outer hall, I placed 2 Ooze spawners; every round, they would roll a recharge (6) and spawn an Ochre Jelly if they triggered.

The Oozes pool around the door but would attack anyone nearby. They are trying to enter the inner sanctum, so if any path becomes available, they will move towards it, ignoring any creatures. The secret door in the outer hall is likewise sealed and can be found and opened with a DC Intelligence Investigation check.

The Mechanics

This encounter works by forcing the party into a confined space where they are contending with the Oozes, who will split on lightning or slashing damage (in addition to being immune). The party will quickly realize three things:

  • Their way forward is barred, requiring some application of power to move through.
  • Movement in the outer hall is tight. Moving through an ally’s space is difficult terrain, and you are unable to move through enemy spaces.
  • The Oozes keep coming, and there is no obvious way of making them stop.

Getting Inside

If the party breaks down the lead door, a couple of things will happen. First, an Elder Black Pudding is waiting above the room in the shadows of the ceiling to drop on anyone who enters. Because the door is now broken, it cannot be closed (and sealed), meaning that the Ochre Jellies will be able to enter the room.

I planned to allow the Ochre Jellies to merge with the Elder Black Pudding, adding their remaining HP to his total (no limit). If the party makes it through the secret door, they can close it to prevent the Oozes from following them.

Magic Items / Artifacts

I designed this encounter around a few core magical items/artifacts.

  • The Magicae Annum – This statue will cast any spell placed in its hand (open spell book to page of and place) once per year. If the spell has a specific target, the spell will instead target all creatures within a 200-foot radius.
  • The Spellbinder Tome – The spell book belonged to Atacyl Oathbinder and contains the spell Flesh to Ooze. Combined with the Magicae Annum, this is why the keep is overrun with Oozes.
  • Havar’s Spellbook – This spellbook belonged to Havar the Mad, a wizard working to reverse the effects of the Flesh to Ooze spell. It contains the Reintegrate spell.

The doors leading to the statue are locked, sealed, and made of lead. The statue room is also “guarded” by the Ochre Jelly that the saboteur became when the disaster occurred. In the room with the secret door, there are bookshelves (stone with glass shielding over the books) that contain information about the Magicae Annum and other magical research information.

Multiple Solutions

Murderous – One obvious solution to the encounter is to kill everything, but with the spawner going, that solution will take a while and never really end. Eventually, though, it could reduce the numbers to a point where the party could get what they wanted and leave.

Pacifist – Another solution is to place the Reintegrate spell in the Magicae Annum. This will cause all the oozes to revert to their humanoid forms from before the disaster. In this case, I planned to allow the party to gain Havar as an Ally and Sage.

Smash and grab – Oozes move a meagre 10 feet per round, meaning the party could almost certainly outpace them. They could run in, get what they need, and run out, taking only a few opportunity attacks for their trouble.

Messy – My party tried to achieve the murderous solution for a while, then found a way in (the secret door) and tried to move to a Smash and Grab before figuring out the Magicae Annum and finishing with the Pacifist solution. This resulted in the messiest of all possible worlds where all the killed Oozes reverted to the corpses of their former humans… gross.

You should check out some of our adventures while you are here, where more of our whacky encounter design is on display. You can join our mailing list to get free stuff when we make it. We always welcome feedback and comments, so hit us here if you like this, hate it, or want to say hello.

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