Monster of the Week: Gelatinous Cube

This entry is part 3 of 19 in the series Monster of the Week

Unlike the previous two Monsters of the Week, this week I look at a monster which is completely unintelligent, has no tactics, and is a pushover for any party: and yet can be the most dangerous thing they ever face.

The Gelatinous Cube has been in D&D since 1st Edition, and is a classic example of a dungeon monster: it conveniently fits into all the corridors, and might pick up loot which you can extract upon killing it. Very nice. Unlike a lot of other 1st Edition monsters, it’s not uber-cruel (Green Slime, Rust Monster…), which means it’s still useful.

By the way, if you’re trying to find it in the 3.5 or 4E Monster Manual, it’s under Ooze.

The way of using the Gelatinous Cube is not to just put it in a corridor. That’s silly. Unless the party’s Spot/Perception is so low they walk into it (heh) they can just outrun it and use ranged weapons. Big non-issue, easy XP. The way of using the Gelatinous Cube is to have some other creatures get clever with it.

The best way is to use the Gelatinous Cube as a trap. Either drop it on the party, or drop the party on it.

Drop party on it:
Easy. Goblins build pit trap, Gelatinous Cube falls in. Goblins go “huh.”, and feed it stuff to keep it alive. Party falls in. Yay!

For 3.5E:

20ft deep camouflaged Pit Trap (DMG p71): CR 2
Gelatinous Cube (MM p201-p202): CR 3
Look on players’ faces: Priceless

For 4E:

Elite False-Floor Pit (DMG p87): 200 XP
Gelatinous Cube (MM p202): 400 XP
Laughing maniacally in the corner: Priceless

Note that there is some erratta for the 4E Gelatinous Cube: the Slam damage is increased by 1d6, and the Engulf should have a Melee Attack symbol.

Drop it on party:

Mainly useful to mix it up a bit, if the players are too aware of pit traps. Heh. Sploosh! Also friendlier, because if they can get out of the Gelatinous Cube they’re not still 10 ft below floor level. Use this if you don’t want to risk killing anyone, at the loss of a bit of realism: honestly, how many goblins winch Gelatinous Cubes up and drop them on people?

For this method, just use the Gelatinous Cube, with no trap. If the Gelatinous Cube falls on someone, they get automatically engulfed, and then I’d say it gets a surprise round, assuming the party isn’t immune to being surprised for some reason. See page references and the like above.

Whichever way you use, you should reward the players the full XP if they evade the Gelatinous Cube entirely: it’s basically like a trap, and you get XP for evading traps. This will also encourage sensible play.

Suffice to say, next time you want to mix things up with a tricky trap, consider the Gelatinous Cube as a healthy addition to your game. With a bit of clever thinking, I’m sure there’s even more ways you can use it. Just remember: don’t waste a Gelatinous Cube on a direct encounter.

Stay tuned next week for another great Monster of the Week!

Series NavigationMonster of the Week: Dark ElfMonster of the Week: Golems

About Duncan

Ellisthion's all about 5E D&D at the moment, but has at times has played every edition from 1E AD&D through to 5E, plus Star Wars: Saga Edition, Paranoia, and more. He DMs a lot, and tends to make overly-complicated campaigns and characters.
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