“One minute he was complaining about the water seeping into his boots, the next he was being yanked up into the trees. We didn’t see what happened to him, but his screaming didn’t last long after that.”
– Laurice Doven, Adventurer
Perfectly suited to their environments, Cephoreal are fierce and patient octopus-like ambush predators. Although they must use water to nest and raise their young, most of their lives are spent traversing the trees, hunting for prey careless enough to travel into their territory.
Cephoreal are found in mangroves and swamps that contain brackish water, where they lay their eggs and make their seasonal nests. Most of their time is spent silently gliding from limb to limb throughout their territory, driving off other predators and hunting prey large enough to sustain them. Cephoreal have a seemingly alien intelligence that not only makes them excellent ambush hunters but unsettling trappers as well. One of the telltale signs of stumbling into a Cephoreal’s hunting ground is the abundance of smaller game and fish in the area, not only because they prefer to expend their energy on larger animals, but because they use the smaller creatures as bait for future food, occasionally going as far as injuring a smaller beast in order to draw in a more substantial meal.
Cephoreal have impressive camouflage that makes them almost impossible to spot in their natural habitat, which they utilize to full effect, tracking their prey for hours before finding the perfect time to strike. If their potential victim is in a group, the Cephoreal has another tactic that it will use to gain the upper hand. It will release a blinding cloud in the area, disarming and distracting its targets long enough for the Cephoreal to snatch its meal and quickly drag it back into the treetops to feast.
Cephoreal must leave the branches where they’re most comfortable to nest and rear their young in the waters below. Until Cephoreal reach maturity, they’re entirely defenseless and completely dependent on their mothers for protection. Due to this, Cephoreal become incredibly aggressive while nesting, eschewing their normal natures and viciously attacking any creature that enters their vicinity. Although this is when the Cephoreal is at its most obviously dangerous, this is also when it’s at its most vulnerable, both from those seeking to eat its young and from those looking to profit from them.
Beyond the soft, membranous shell of the unhatched eggs is a kaleidoscope of different colors that can be used as a powerful and long-lasting dye for metals, ceramics, and even stone. In certain areas of the continent, Cephoreal eggs can be worth hundreds of gold, and that’s just to those seeking mundane uses for the unhatched creatures. Those with alchemical talents can use the eggs in the production of powerful camouflaging and blending potions and are willing to pay top coin for unharmed specimens, and even more for those on the cusp of hatching.
Given the potential payout, it’s no surprise that there are those who feel like that’s more than enough reason to risk a fight with an enraged Cephoreal mother. And assuming that she’s on her own, a well-prepared hunting party may even survive.
Although Cephoreal are solitary hunters, occasionally a mating pair will join territories and begin hunting together. These couples are even more deadly and calculating than they are on their own, and much more willing to take on larger and more dangerous prey. While hunting together, the Cephoreal will mimic a local bird or frog call to communicate with one another and signal when to attack. Unless their intended target has a very keen ear, they won’t notice the deception until it is too late.
While nesting, paired Cephoreal retain their cunning and patient natures, guarding their eggs in shifts and staying on the lookout for potential prey and predators. These paired Cephoreal make hunting for eggs even more of a dangerous endeavor for those looking to loot their young and have even been known to use their own spawn as bait to would-be thieves.
The following are plot hooks that you can use to introduce or interact with this new creature:
- While stopped in a tavern, your party is approached by a man who is willing to pay a significant amount of gold for a clutch of Cephoreal eggs. He knows where one is nesting, but he needs a group of brave individuals to grab them.
- As you’re passing through a small town, you’re approached by a group of hunters. One of their own was snatched by some invisible creature near the mangrove pools and they need help finding and stopping the strange beast.
- A nesting pair of Cephoreal have taken up residence in a local swamp and have made travel through the area impossible. The town elder is offering a reward for anyone who can remove them.
- After winning several games of dice against a man Alucard, you win a map to a treasure deep within the mangrove forest. He tells you that the only catch is that the area is known to be full of Cephoreal.
- The keep on the cliffs above the swamp hasn’t sent anyone to resupply in weeks. The locals are worried about the fate of their lord and his men but are too fearful to investigate themselves.
Large beast, unaligned
Armor Class 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 120 (18d10+18)
Speed 20 ft., climb 40 ft., swim 30 ft.
|18 (+4)||17 (+3)||14 (+2)||6 (-2)||10 (+0)||4 (-3)|
Skills Acrobatics +5, Athletics +6, Perception +4, Stealth +5
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
Ambusher. On the first round of combat, the Cephoreal has advantage on attack rolls against any creatures it’s surprised.
Amphibious. The Cephoreal can breathe air and water.
Blinding Cloud (Recharge 5–6). A 20-foot-radius cloud extends all around the Cephoreal. Creatures other than the Cephoreal within the cloud must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or become blinded for 1d4 rounds. The area is heavily obscured for 1 minute, although a significant wind can disperse the cloud.
Swamp Camouflage. The Cephoreal has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide in swampy terrain.
Tree Adapted. The Cephoreal can climb through the branches of trees and from tree to tree without needing to make an ability check.
Tentacles. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (4d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it is grappled (escape DC 14). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained, and the Cephoreal can’t use its tentacles on another target.
Beak. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 22 (4d8 + 4) piercing damage.
Featured Image: Cephoreal by Alex Pushkarev
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