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Grumpy, yet verbose.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

RMA: Gargoyles

This was going to be an REF, but I was a little surprised to see that I hadn't done an RMA for Gargoyles. Perhaps because they aren't that uncommon as a monster. Since it turns out there is a lot to these rocky ruffians, I decided an RMA was more appropriate.

(from Moldvay)

AC: 5
HD: 4
Move: 90' (30')
    Fly: 150' (50')
Att: 4 (2 claws/1 bite/ 1 horn)
Damage: 1d3 ea./1d6/1d4
No. App: 1d6 (2d4)
Save: F8
Morale: 11

So, a few things leap out here. First off, FOUR attacks! None of them are exactly dragon's breath in terms of damage, but still! Secondly, it saves as an EIGHTH level fighter despite only having four hit dice. That's a resilient creature! Gargoyles also have a very high Morale. These guys aren't cutting and running too much.

Moving on, there are a couple items from the description that are worth mentioning. Magic or magic weapons are required to hit them. So right there that ups the ante for an encounter. Remember, these are Basic monsters, not Expert. The description actually states "The DM is advised to use gargoyles only if the player characters have at least one magical weapon."

Secondly, they are immune to sleep and charm magics. This limits lower level spell casters somewhat, as Sleep  is a perennial favorite option vs monsters of 4HD or less. 

"Gargoyles are very cunning and at least semi-intelligent. They will attack nearly anything that approaches them." 
Which meshes nicely with their high Morale and Chaotic alignment. These are vicious things! I wouldn't play them as highly intelligent or capable of long-term planning, but simple ambushes or clever combat tactics would be reasonable.

Couple all that with the fact that you are usually running into at least a couple of them in any given encounter makes it that much dicier.

Oh, and they can fly.

Treasure type is C; Which is respectable enough, but no one is retiring on the loot. 

While it isn't specifically stated, I would argue that their stony skin would lead to plenty of potential surprise situations.

DMs looking to make a memorable encounter should be taking all this into account. Low level parties running across a nest of these things should know they've been in a fight! If it were a planned encounter or set piece, I might be nice and drop hints about their presence. Perhaps even rumors in town about "flying demons" spotted in the hills or what have you. 

For players, I heartily hope that there is a magic weapon or two in your arsenal. Since Gargoyles appear on the Level 3 wandering monsters, I'll say your party should probably average out to 3rd level. that means you should hopefully have a 2nd level spell or two at your disposal. Hold Person  should work (they are roughly humanoid) on the clerical side. Magic-users might look to Web  or Phantasmal Force.  As always, Light to blind foes is a good choice, too! Even Levitate to partially counter their aerial advantage could be useful. And, of course, there's always running away!


  1. Also of note is that their tongue is one of the canonical "Other Languages" in most early presentations. I love how the existence of a Language could have implications of their culture, and explore this a bit in my Encounter Activities for them:

  2. I thought somewhere that gargoyles were noted as having been the creatures created by high level magic users but I can't find that reference in Moldvay. Can you remember such a reference?

    Because BX lacks any specific demons, I often present gargoyles as what the general populace in my campaign would consider to be demons.

    As I said in my reply to your post on Protection From Evil, I view gargoyles as being within that spell's barrier effect because of their highly magical, ie: enchanted, nature.

    1. Sounds like a legit way to see it. I guess it depends on the "ecology" of your world, and whether Gargoyles are just another species, or magically created creatures.