Monster Manual A-Z is a series of quick looks at each and every monster presented in the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. New monsters go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in alphabetical order, touching on lore, mechanics, and ways to use them in your campaign. To search for all Monster Manual A-Z articles, search MMAZ in the search bar as we’ve excluded them from our Roleplaying Games tag to keep things tidy.
I’ve got my eye on the Cyclops and its enormous, terrifying eye. These one-eyed giants can truly be destructive when threatened or disturbed from their simple, meager lives, so I would suggest against encroaching upon their territory. Solitary in nature, a Cyclops will lair within a day or so of other of its kind for mating and trading purposes. Other than that, they prefer to be left alone to their traditional ways, which include staying away from magic and not worshiping deities, despite allegedly being the spawn of a long-forgotten god. That said, if a creature is able to perform magic in front of the Cyclops, the one-eyed brute just might be scared enough to worship and pay tribute to the caster, lest they be found out and find themselves under the greatclub of the Cyclops!
The strengths and weaknesses of a Cyclops are exactly what you would think they are: brute strength and dim wits. Huge in nature, they make up for being easy to hit with being way harder to take down. Their strength is their best asset, and any who find themselves under the might of a swing of their weapons will not get back up easily. That said, they do have some noteworthy disadvantages. The first being their speed; for their size they move fairly slow, just about as fast as a human moves. Their one eye makes throwing boulders or other projectiles at range very hard, meaning any prey who can outpace the Cyclops shouldn’t have too hard of a time escaping, And finally their dim wits and low intelligence means they are easily tricked or persuaded, likely to their detriment.
I think if you take the Cyclops for what it is- a huge, dimwitted brute of legend, and use it as such you have a solid monster on your hands. You could always go with the classic “smarter than average of its kind” scenario and place an unexpectedly intelligent, well-spoken, and kind Cyclops as a useful ally to the adventurers, especially if it has been cast out and forced to live far away from others of its kind. Alternatively, play up their ‘spawn of a god’ legend and have them serving as guards and sentries for a god- be it real or just a mage pretending to be one. Whether tricked, happy to serve, and enslaved, each flavor can lead to different interactions with the Cyclopes as the story progresses.
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