Dungeons & Dragons is high-adventure for a lot of the time. Tolkien-esque heroic tales full of might and magic. Sometimes though, D&D adventures stride out into the horror genre.
Playing horror-based D&D is rarely an intensely scary experience. It’s hard to jumpscare when you’re carefully describing the world. A player can only be as creeped out as their imagination will allow. Yet you can build some pretty unsettling, twisted moments. The campaign book Curse of Strahd is especially effective because it leans into camp-horror; a mixed of sinister and the comical that blends really well together.
The Fantastic Beast known as an Erkling immediately inspires a horrific encounter for any D&D game.
First, the basic description of the Erkling sets it firmly in the ‘uncanny valley’. So many unnerving/scary creatures are vaguely human looking but with amorose twist, and the spindly, crooked, hunched Erkling fits the bill. I’ve seen some fanart that makes them out to be more goblin-like, but I prefer this version for maximum creepiness:
They also have a morbid pattern of behaviour that fits with the horror vibe. The Erkling has a cackling ‘laugh’ that draws the unwitting towards it’s hiding spot, at which point its dinner time. The laugh has the added layer of dread: it works especially well on children.
So whilst the Erkling isn’t the most dangerous creature ever conceived, it certainly sets up for some truly troubling encounters.
It wouldn’t be much be much of a monster if the cackle only affected children. So, this version can affect grown-ups but it works more effectively on the young.
On it’s own, the Erkling is another Fantastic Beasts that provides only a minor challenge. But that’s not why you’d bring the Erkling to the adventure. No, you’d bring this one in for the spooks. The creepy laugh in a dark forest. Spindly hands reaching out for a charmed, glossy-eyed victim. All teeth and unnatural smiles.
Now that’s a spooky encounter.
Thank You For Reading
What do you think of the D&D Erkling? If you’re a fan, have a look at the other Fantastic Beasts I’ve made so far.