17 April 2013

O is for Ooze

"Mad Gort walked through the dark dungeon, the light of his torch barely able to see more than twenty feet in front of him. He briefly wondered why he was using a torch; Mad Gort was a dwarf. No sooner had he decided to toss the torch when he stepped on a false flagstone, crashing thirty feet down a pit. His fall was broken by something squishy, and with a loud 'GLOOP' he was absorbed into the green floor. Looking about, Mad Gort saw a skeleton in the green goop. At glacial speed it occurred to him that perhaps he was in a bad spot. Mad Gort had met his first ooze."
An ooze is an amorphous blob, possessing several traits in common with other oozes, jellies, and slimes, like their mindlessness and inability to be crit or sneak attacked. Some oozes dissolve metal, leaving flesh and bone intact, while others burn flesh with acid. Some give off magnetic pulses, and others can turn themselves into traps. All oozes are slow, and usually cannot chase a player down, meaning that they more often than not are lying in wait to catch an adventurer off guard, usually at the bottom of a trap.

Some oozes are the size of entire caves, filling an enormous space. I once had a party that was forced to move through an ooze so large it filled a tunnel, acting as a tenuous support system for the cave. If they killed it, it would collapse, so they ended up slowly making their way from one end to the other, taking damage the whole time. In another situation, I dropped the party into an area that activated a barred forcecage when they landed. On the other side of the room, two oozes squished through the bars to come at them.

It is important to note that while an ooze or slime is slow, unless it is outright killed, it is extremely hard to stop. Their amorphous nature usually means they do not need to retain a particular shape, and can squeeze into any space large enough to allow most liquids. They can chase after an unsuspecting party for quite a while, slipping under doors, floating on water, or even catching a strong wind with a little imagination.

There are some oozes that are so small they work best as swarms, overwhelming the players. One ooze type I once used was called a bloodbloater from the D&D Fiend Folio. I covered an entire underground lake in them, and attacked the party with an aboleth to drag them in. Very quickly they were attacked by the bloodbloaters, which didn't do anything but drain one single Strength point for each and every one, quickly making swimming in the inky water quite difficult. As an addition to a fight, or as an environmental hazard, oozes and slimes excel.

Some oozes are practically transparent, making spotting them difficult. A low-level party with not a lot of points in Perception or Spot yet may completely bumble into one, making the slime's search for food incredibly easy. That is the slime's primary motivation: food. Except for a few cases, it has not the intelligence or the desire for anything else. Rarely will it actively pursue a character unless it is extremely hungry and has little option. As characters, they are severely lacking, though a plot where a mad wizard manages to create a sentient ooze could be quite entertaining.

When planning an encounter involving oozes or jellies, I would highly recommend accounting for their shortcomings, and use them in a way that makes them difficult to avoid. One great way to prevent players from simply walking around them is to have them fill the available space, or to have something they want actually inside the ooze. Though they may be slow and possess animal-intelligence, a little innovation in their use can make a party begin to dread the appearance of an ooze. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned tomorrow for "P is for Planescape".

Relevant Links
D&D 3.5 Oozes
Pathfinder Oozes


  1. Give me a red dragon over an ooze any day!!! Creepy, slimy things! I've had encounters where my character didn't know what they were so took to slashing them with his great sword. You can imagine how much my party loved me then!! Instead of one ooze we ended up fighting six!

    Also, I I'm a big fan of Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance II for the PS2 and oozes in the sewers were the death of my character. Literally!!

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