“Plan”dom Encounter: Black Pudding

Pictorial history of the Black Pudding!

If you played D&D back in the days when most sessions were dungeon crawls you’ve encountered a plethora of slimes and oozes. While the most iconic of these is the Gelatinous Cube coming in at a very close second is the dreaded Black Pudding! If you’re a DM who’s never had the joy of running a Black Pudding or two you’re in for a treat!

6 Tips for running a Black Pudding
1) Battling Black Puddings often has a lasting impact on the party: This is especially true at lower levels when the party is “magic item poor”. Every hit with a non-magical weapon weakens it. When the Black Pudding hits someone it’s acidic nature weakens their armor. This means that even if the party manages to quickly dispatch a Black Pudding they still wind up with their AC temporarily lowered or their preferred weapon nerfed. Also non-magical ammunition is gone, consuming other precious resources. If you have a pack of STR based fighters plodding through your CR4-5 encounters with ease because they all have heavy armor… You have a dark sticky tool in your toolbox to work on that a little!
2) “Telegraph” their Acidic abilities: We’re strong advocates for telegraphing a creatures abilities. What is telegraphing? It’s foreshadowing a creatures abilities and powers when you describe the creature or the area it is in. How do you do this for a Black Pudding? Describe the section of dungeon they are entering as immaculately clean. No dust or debris is on the ground other than loose stones; maybe there’s a doorway with no door but there are places for hinges to be attached. This cues the players to the fact that something is up. If they’ve never encountered a Black Pudding before it wall all become clear the first time they hit it, or it hits them. (If you’re not telegraphing abilities already, start! It’ll change the tone of your game in a way that we believe is just better for everyone)
3) They may be slow but they can climb: A Black Pudding has a move speed of 20′ So they aren’t going to get away from the party once the beating begins (plus they’re too dumb to run away anyway). BUT…. their climb speed is ALSO 20′ so there’s a good chance they may outpace most PCs on vertical surfaces. ALSO they are totally capable of clinging to ceilings and per their description in the Monster Manual, “In dim passageways, the pudding appears to be little more than a blot of shadow.” When we run Black Puddings we don’t have them make a stealth check against perception we set a static DC for them being perceived. Even high perception characters may only see, “Odd shadows on the ceiling and along one wall,” insert evil DM laughter here. IF a Black Pudding manages to remain unnoticed and drops on a PC that first attack should be with advantage as they were an unseen attacker.
4) Splish-Splash fighter taking an acid bath: Any Melee attack made within 5′ incurs 1d8 acid damage. Black Puddings are literally squishy, but not in the same way we say wizards are squishy. Hitting one leads to a splatter of ooey gooey acidic goodness. There are few better spots for a weapon with a 10′ reach than when you find yourself dealing with a Black Pudding.
5) They is dumb! Black Puddings are real dumb. With an INT of 1 they aren’t really sentient beings. SO play your Black Pudding as such. Like a Venus flytrap to an insect Puddings react to their environments. It makes no sense for Black Puddings to lay an elaborate ambush against a party. They don’t fall back from combat when they get hurt. Black Puddings do one thing: consume. Your adventurers are just the latest things to come close enough for the Black Pudding to consume. We’ve allowed players to attempt to stealth past Black Puddings they’ve noticed IF they come up with creative ways to do so. One party “stealthed” by moving past at such a slow pace that the Black Pudding didn’t detect them with it’s Blindsight. Sort of like avoiding a motion detector using the same technique. Ultimately that’s your call as a DM though. Just play em dumb as acidy hungry dirt.
6) If one Black Pudding is fun… make it 2! As a reaction you can split a Black Pudding into two smaller Puddings (if it’s size medium or larger, we’ll address how we handle that below) with 1/2 the HP of the original. It has to be hit by Slashing or Lightning damage for this to happen though. This can make things super fun as it can tip the balance of the action economy*. So you drop one Black Pudding on the fighter or the rogue’s head and next thing the party knows there are two Black Puddings, then three!!! It’s just good fun!

End notes: Puddings, Oozes, & Slimes sizes. While not RAW we tend to drop the size of the squishy dungeon denizens in games we run as they take damage. Typically we’ll drop a size (down to small but not lower) every time it’s HP is halved. This isn’t a thing you have to do but it’s something we’ve done in the past.
We’ve also given Black Puddings’ the Grapple action before. A grappled creature automatically receives the acid damage each round from the Pudding’s Pseudopod attack stats. When we do this it has to be the same size or larger than it’s target. A restrained creature can use it’s action on it’s turn to free itself by making a str contest against the Pudding.

*Footnote: Action Economy is a SUPER important concept for you to understand as a DM. We need to make a post about it but until we do search it up there’s lots of great videos and articles out there on the web to help you understand Action Economy in your combat scenarios.

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