Looking to have your adventurers get lost in the forest while looking for that temple, elven village or whatever? Let us do the work for you. Here is a list of 10 Awesome Monsters for a Forest Encounter from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Monster Manual. I decided that after a year of playing D&D 5th edition, it was time to do a little updating of this story.
Since this was first published in October 2014 the Dungeon Master Guide was released and provides lists of Monsters by Environment in Appendix B, but the lists are basic. In this article, you’ll find monsters that I think fit in a forest setting and some ideas on how to create encounters with each of them.
Challenge Rating: 4
When your adventurers make camp for the night the faint cries of a banshee will keep them awake. A banshee was once a female elf, but now she can frighten and hurt your party with just her wail and horrible visage. In my current campaign, I had my players find an abandoned ship full of ghouls and a banshee in the lower hold.
Challenge Rating: 1/4 to 1/2
Needle, twig and vine blights are not the most powerful monsters. Blights can be controlled by a Gulthias Tree and used to fill its growing corrupted forest or they can be part of a vine invasion the quickly takes over a forest settlement. In my current campaign, my players were traveling through a dying forest full of giants spiders and blights.
Challenge Rating: 2 to 8
So your group of adventurers are walking through a forest when they hear a loud crash from the trees up ahead. Suddenly, a huge T-Rex crashes into the forest clearing, bearing its massive teeth. The Monster Manual has 5 dinosaurs you can send out for a forest encounter, but you should have a reason for the dinosaurs being there. Are you running a prehistoric campaign? Are you players exploring a lost world? Are the dinosaurs the creation of an insane magic user? Maybe dinosaurs never went extinct and raptors are bring used as mounts by halflings. If you want to go Jurassic World check out my homebrew Velociraptor and Indominus Rex monster builds.
Dinosaurs are awesome and kids love ’em. I was really happy when I found out dinosaurs were going to be in 5th edition Monster Manual. I made sure that I had dinosaurs roaming around a couple of islands in my steampunk/pirate homebrew world. I created an encounter inspired from an Eberron module, where the PCs must defeat a monster to prove they’re worth hiring. For a similar encounter in my steampunk/Victorian city I swapped out the Dire Ape for a T-Rex, placed in a glass greenhouse full of lush vegetation and creeping vine plants.
Dinosaurs work well in a forest and in most cases even better in a jungle.
Challenge Rating: 2 to 22
Green dragons are cunning, treacherous and nasty. A green dragon would be right at home in a cave located in the center of a forest shrouded in acrid fog. They are also known for taking both living and material treasures to their lair. With four dragons to choose from you can have your adventurers battle a green dragon before they are super heroes.
Let your players know that someone is going on in the forest with regional effects such as tickets forming forest labyrinths and changes to the forest animals with less large game and smaller animals acting as the eyes and ears of the dragon. Make sure to put the green dragon in its lair to create a forest environment that comes to life with grasping roots and vines, thorn walls springing into existence and magical fog.
Giant Spiders & Ettercaps
Challenge Rating: 1 and 2
These humanoid spiders raise and take care of spiders deep in the forest. Ettercaps love to destroy forests and will choke out forest life creating gloomy web filled mazes. Throw in some giant spiders with their web walker ability and let some Hobbit style fun begin. Add some blights to fully choke out the life from a once lush forest.
Challenge Rating: 3
Green hags will often be found deep in a dying forest in a cave lair. Green hags lure their victims to them using illusions and with mimicry to create false cries for help. The green hag can act as your classic witch with a cauldron that the adventurers need to hunt down to kill or ask for help.
Werebears, Werewolves and other Lycanthropes
Challenge Rating: 3 to 5
Werebears are often loners that have some control over their monstrous nature created by a curse, but could be found in a forest hiding to protect innocent people or escaping after their last kill. Werebears grow to enormous size when they transform and are large and covered in hair when in humanoid form. Create a Goldilocks situation for your players to stumble into when they enter an empty cottage. When three werebears return home to find the adventurers looting their place, watch the fur fly!
Werewolves are a classic fit for a forest hunt and there are countless stories of the isolated village being attacked by these monsters. In my current campaign, my players are currently aiding a werewolf hunter named Lucy Recap hunt down a very huge and dangerous werewolf that has regeneration.
Wereboars and Weretigers are an excellent fit for the forest too and might be a bigger surprise for your players to encounter. A wereboar attacking with its gore attack suddenly along a forest trail could be devastating to a lower level character and a weretiger in humanoid form could turn the tables and hunt your players with its bow.
Challenge Rating: 3
The screech of an owlbear might be the last sound you hear as you become its prey. These nocturnal hunters emerge from their den to hunt in dense forests. Owlbears also make savage companions if someone is patient enough to tame one of them. When you players make camp for the night, an owlbear on the hunt could give lots of clues before its attack with hooting and screeching from nearby. You could give whoever is on watch a chance to figure out the threat with some nature or survival checks and avoid a deadly surprise round with everyone asleep.
Challenge Rating: 9
These awakened trees are most likely found in ancient and magical forests. Adventurers should be careful not to cross these guardians who can call on the forest itself to ensnare and attack enemies. With some careful diplomacy from your party’s druid or ranger, the treants could become a powerful ally to battle against an evil baron who is felling the forest for profit or an evil wizard who is turning animals into an army (Dr. Robotnik from Sonic).
In the Nentir Vale, the treants are in the midst of a civil war with each other, with the conifers in the north and the deciduous in the south. Your group could get involved in this conflict or just end up stuck in the middle of a treant battle while they try to survive below.
Challenge Rating: 2
Adventurers that chase one of these evil balls of light can be lured into a trap such as quicksand, a monster lair or worse… if they are not killed by the wisp first. A wisp like light could also be used as a way for a good creature to draw the adventurers to them for help in an escape.
Bonus Monsters & Beasts
Here are even more forest monsters or check out the Monsters by Environment in Appendix B of the D&D 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide.
- Awakened Shrub and Awakened Tree
- Black or Brown Bears
- Dire Wolf
- Elk and Giant Elk
- Owl and Giant Owl
- Shambling Mound
- Worgs, Wolves and Dire Wolves