D&D 5e’s obscure enemy type can make anything dangerous

Scott Baird
D&D 5e's obscure enemy type can make anything dangerous

Low-level monsters can easily be steamrolled by a weak D&D party, but there’s a way to transform any encounter into a threat by using an obscure enemy type.

Dungeons & Dragons 5e is an extremely well-balanced game, to the point where few classes or races could be described as “underpowered.” This means that even a level 1 group that’s poorly optimized still has a high chance of surviving traps and monsters of the intended Challenge Rating.

The established low-level threats, such as skeletons, bandits, goblins, kobolds, zombies, and wolves, need to get lucky with their rolls or use the battlefield to their advantage to have a chance against a level 1 party.

There’s a way to beef up all of these foes and make them terrifying, and it’s by applying a type from the Monster Manual that’s only used with a handful of creatures – swarms.

Swarm monsters (such as the Swarm of Rats or Swarm of Poisonous Snakes) represent a lot of monsters in a single space. Not only can they hit hard, but they can inhabit the same space as a player (activating an Attack of Opportunity if they try to move), gaining a ton of resistance and condition immunities in the process.

As discussed in a thread on the DnD Reddit, any monster in D&D 5e can be turned into a swarm. Want a swarm of werewolves, dragons, or tarrasques? Go for it.

The idea is that the swarm takes a group of weaker monsters and turns them into a single boss monster. They make up for what they lose out on in action economy in strength and durability.

Multiple swarms can also be used to replicate a mass battle, such as a riot in a city or a war. This prevents players from annihilating many enemies straight away with big AoE spells.

Swarms are also good for replicating an undead apocalypse. While a few skeletons or zombies on their own don’t pose a threat (especially to a group with a Cleric or Paladin), a massive group with a single purpose will.

The swarm rules help DMs freshen up overly familiar enemies and give experienced players a scare. A group might scoff at a group of zombies under regular circumstances, but they won’t be laughing when they rush like the fast zombies from 28 Days Later.

Related Topics

About The Author

Scott has been writing for Dexerto since 2023, having been a former contributor to websites like Cracked, Dorkly, Topless Robot, Screen Rant, The Gamer, and TopTenz. A graduate of Edge Hill University in the UK, Scott started as a film student before moving into journalism. Scott specializes in Pokemon, Nintendo, DnD, Final Fantasy, and MTG. He can be contacted on LinkedIn.