During these frigid winter months, there’s no better way to keep the imagination warm than gathering friends to roll dice and fight ferocious foes.
Whether you’re reuniting with a tabletop group in person or playing a socially distanced game online, these D&D 5E monsters are perfect fodder for a Christmas one-shot or a longer Dungeons & Dragons campaign that might begin in December and extend well into the new year.
Winter-themed D&D 5E monsters for a Christmas campaign
1. Bheur Hag
This hag wants to rob everyone of Christmas cheer
Bheur hags, from D&D 5E supplement Volo’s Guide to Monsters, dwell in snowy lands and manipulate the weather, wracking villages with bitter cold. With their Maddening Feast ability, bheur hags can consume the corpse of an enemy that died within the past minute, and this grotesque sight causes all who witness it to become frightened if they fail a wisdom saving throw.
For a Christmas hook involving the bheur hag, toss your players in a town suffering from a frightful blizzard. The weather has caused residents to turn against each other, with scuffles breaking out in the streets and a feeling of cantankerousness disrupting what would normally be a festive holiday season. Only through exploration of the nearby mountains will the players discover the lair of the devious bheur hag behind it all, hopefully saving the villagers from their doom and gloom!
2. Coldlight Walker
Beware the shining shamblers in the snow
Introduced in last year’s D&D 5E adventure Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, the coldlight walker was once a humanoid who died of extreme temperatures and now lives on as a corpse, radiating a blinding otherworldly light. A person killed by a walker will freeze for nine days, and during this stretch of time they can’t be thawed or raised from the dead - meaning that these horrors can really thwart the resurrection spells of a party’s cleric!
Movie buffs will recognise the coldlight walker as an homage to the figure depicted on the poster of John Carpenter’s 1982 science fiction masterwork, The Thing. Try recreating the terror of the film with a game in a wintery research camp. One fateful evening, the party stumbles upon an eldritch discovery beneath the ice that transforms their colleagues one by one into coldlight walkers. (For a little inspiration, check out our list of the scariest monsters in D&D 5E.) Can they survive and escape with their lives?
3. Frost Giant
Fee-fi-fo-fum, this giant will pummel you and all your chums
Inspired by the Norse jötunn, frost giants are a D&D mainstay. Their latest incarnation in 5E sports hefty hit points, a greataxe that can decimate a low level character and the ability to hurl rocks from afar. Volo’s Guide to Monsters also features the Frost Giant Everlasting One, a multi-headed variant that prays to Vaprak, the god of destruction. For an undead flavouring, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount feature the frost giant skeleton and the frost giant zombie, respectively.
Frost giants are notorious for ransacking settlements, so take inspiration from the tower defense genre and put players in charge of a village on Christmas Eve desperately trying to survive an assault. Begin the night with the normal frost giant, and as the hours march on, bring skeletons and zombies into the mix, ending with the Frost Giant Everlasting One.
4. Frost Salamander
A cold-blooded hunter of everything warm-blooded
Frost salamanders, found in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, hail from the Plane of Ice and pack a vicious bite as well as freezing breath. They also have an obsession for warm-blooded prey - which means they’ll run after anything that exudes heat, despite the fact that they don’t react well to fire damage.
A frost salamander stuck in a town would be an interesting challenge for a group of adventurers, particularly druids or rangers who might want to lead the creature out of civilisation without resorting to violence. Alternatively, frost salamanders make their lairs in caves that initially seem like safe shelters. Toss a group of unsuspecting players in one such cave, engineer an avalanche that closes off the entrance and then introduce them to the ornery resident who’s just had its hibernation rudely interrupted.
The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future await you
Compared to D&D 5E’s other monsters, ghosts might seem dull at first. But coming across one in-game is another matter entirely, as ghosts can both possess players and frighten them with their Horrifying Visage. One of the nastier side effects of Horrifying Visage causes players to age 1d4 times 10 years if they fail their saving throw by five or more. A human who suffers this effect could change from a 30-year-old into a senior citizen in the blink of an eye!
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, arguably the most famous Christmas story of all, is at its heart, a ghost tale. A campaign where the players follow in the footsteps of Ebenezer Scrooge, facing ghosts from their past - and possibly aging dramatically at the sight of these spirits - would be a worthy ode to Dickens’ masterpiece.
6. Ice Troll
Nothing feels colder than the icy innards of a troll
Trolls are another classic D&D monster well known for their regenerative capabilities, and the ice troll was introduced to 5E in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. The ice troll’s heart is particularly intriguing, since anyone who consumes it gains the ability to regenerate for 24 hours. If buried in the ground, the heart summons a blizzard, while hags are also known to turn ice troll hearts into talismans that feed on warmth.
Finding an ice troll’s heart to heal the injured child of a monarch could be a stellar adventure hook. Alternatively, craft a detective story where players need to determine why the fires in a town instantly go out. With some investigative work, they’ll learn that a hag bearing a grudge has crafted a flame-consuming artefact out of an ice troll’s heart, and it’s up to the party to hunt her down.
Santa’s delivering a fine pile of mimics for Christmas this year
Mimics are a ubiquitous part of fantasy roleplaying vernacular. Every adventurer knows the pain of stumbling upon a treasure chest only to reel as the chest grows jaws.
But why should a mimic be limited to chests? Technically, these morphing monstrosities can transform into any sort of inanimate object - and this includes Christmas presents! Imagine a one-shot where the players are a family opening their gifts, only to find themselves fighting a horde of deadly mimics. How did the shapeshifters get under the tree in the first place? Perhaps the family patriarch has enemies in high places, and assassins planted the mimics to target him and his loved ones. Suddenly you’ve got an entire campaign of intrigue opening up, hopefully complete with more mimics spawning out of unexpected objects!
Beware the not-so-jolly old man with the big red hat
Oversized hat, check. White whiskers, check. Affable grandpa who delivers presents to children? Hmm, Saint Nick this is not! Found in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, redcaps bear a passing resemblance to Santa Claus, if Santa was a homicidal fey with a huge sickle. They initially appeared in D&D’s third edition and were inspired by the goblins of Scottish folklore also known as powries. Redcaps take great pleasure in massacring their victims, and their hats need to be soaked in fresh blood at least once every three days, lest they disappear from existence.
Redcaps would be excellent antagonists in a grim game reminiscent of the cult 1984 film Silent Night, Deadly Night, which featured a serial killer dressed as Santa. Perhaps a band of these sadistic creatures has stumbled through a fey crossing to claim victims in a city celebrating the winter solstice, leading local authorities to beseech the players for help.
This tree has no time for your festive ornaments
What’s massive, lush with greenery and indistinguishable from a regular tree when standing still? A treant! These sentient shrubs, present in every D&D edition, are perfect for recreating Treebeard from The Lord of the Rings or sieging a castle.
Want to tell an unorthodox tale of a Christmas tree-come-alive? Run a game where the players are travelling through the depths of a forest, seeking to cut down the tallest tree to decorate it with tinsel. Little do they know that this tree is actually a treant, who’s none too happy with these nature-desecrating miscreants. Ambitious dungeon masters could even create a PvP skirmish, where one group of players attempt to fell the treant while the other are druids defending it.
If you see huge icy footprints in the snow, it’s best to turn the other way
Based on the creatures of Himalayan folklore, D&D’s yetis will mercilessly paralyze mountaineers with their Chilling Gaze ability. For a more powerful variant that can breath a cone of cold, take a peek at the abominable yeti, also listed within the 5E Monster Manual.
For a yeti one-shot, take inspiration from Luke Skywalker’s battle with the wampa at the beginning of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Start the players in media res, hanging upside down with their feet frozen in the icy ceiling of a yeti cave. Just a short distance away sits one of the creatures, chewing away on the remains of the party’s horses. Encourage the players to use their wits to retrieve their weapons and make it out alive, and to amp up the difficulty, make the cave home to a whole family of yetis, with an abominable yeti at the head of the pack!