Monster Manual A-Z: Doppleganger

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.

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Doppleganger

“Hey, what’s up with Greg? He’s been acting weird, almost like he didn’t know me.” Classic Doppleganger warning sign! Dopplegangers are natural shapechangers who can change their appearance to match just about any humanoid they have seen. They exist in all communities, many of which are never uncovered, posing as merchants, nobles, servants, and everything in between. Dopplegangers who are planning on impersonating someone for a a long time have the benefit of being able to stalk or imprison their target and reading their thoughts to gain names, fears, quirks, and even some surface memories so that they can act convincingly around others. Interestingly, Dopplegangers don’t care to take care of their young; rather when they want to reproduce they will take the form of a male for a given species and seduce a female, who will then give birth to and raise the child. Young Dopplegangers appear normal until they reach adolescence, where they discover their true identity and leave in search of their own kind.

It should be no surprise that Dopplegangers perform best when they surprise their targets, revealing their intentions when backs are turned or guards are down. Not only are they more likely to hit targets they get the jump on, but they deal extra damage as well when doing so. They can use their strong arms to club their enemies when they find themselves without weapons, and even without armor they are swift enough to avoid strikes and hearty enough to take a few before falling. Outside of combat, the aforementioned shapeshifting allows them to turn into any creature that’s roughly between the size of a kobold and a goliath, giving them plenty of options, while their ability to read thoughts helps them with diplomacy and insight when talking to others.

There are literally an infinite number of possibilities when using a Doppleganger- they all just involve the Doppleganger posing as someone else and being found out. Whether it’s a king, a merchant, or a criminal mastermind, you will have a hard time telling a Doppleganger from the real deal. I’ll let you in on something I have in my current campaign. There is an agency that anyone can hire for protection services that my players are aware of. They supply the normal guards for hire, scouting parties into dangerous areas, and even wizards that can help protect from divination. But perhaps their most fun offering is for a Doppleganger to take your place when you might find yourself in danger. Spend some coin to hire and some time to volunteer your thoughts, and you could have a perfect body double in no time. I used this, and best part was a cult that my players are hunting down hired a Doppleganger to fill in for the player’s target, only to find out, when the Doppleganger was the last one standing and revealed himself, that their target not only wasn’t who they were, but was also technically an ally to the group by association. This led to some serious discussion about how to go about dealing with this possibility, and now they think twice when dealing with certain NPCs.


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