Your entire body is slowly being cooked alive in a living vat of acid. “The buddy system… now I understand why…” you think as your brain is slowly cooked into a stew inside your head. Maybe exploring the sewers at 3 AM after a night of drinking wasn’t the best idea after all.
A while ago, I wrote about how D&D is a super accessible hobby to get into. You don’t need fancy miniatures, a Roll20 subscription, or even any of the books to start playing! Well, while some of my Monster Monday creatures have been featured in the free 5e SRD, I wanted to choose one specifically from the ones in there to showcase it.
You’d think I’d choose some badass creature with impressive damage and features, but no, instead I’m choosing the less impressive cousin of the gelatinous cube, the gray ooze.
No way, these lovable, mindless scamps are a cornerstone of many of the cities I build for my D&D games. They deserve this recognition after all they’ve done for the various sewage systems I’ve corralled them into!
Gray Ooze Lore
The gray ooze doesn’t have much specific lore. Seriously, it only has two whole sentences in the Monster Manual. One of which is “A gray ooze is a stone turned to liquid by chaos”, which while metal as hell is not enough information to extrapolate for a whole lore section.
So let’s talk about oozes in general!
Oozes are mindless creatures with the most intelligent oozes weighing-in at an impressive 2 Intelligence. They exist solely to consume. While some oozes have a preferred type of food, they’ll all eat just about anything. Their acidic bodies can eventually digest even the strongest of metals!
A somewhat clever creature can get an ooze to work for them quite easily. Just bait and trap them with a bit of food and they’ll hang around wherever you want them to.
If you find yourself trapped inside an ooze’s body don’t panic. Either your friends will save you, or if you’re foolishly wandering around alone you’ll just succumb to a slow and painful death anyway. Struggling will only make things worse. Actually that’s terrible advice. Struggle! Struggle like your life depends on it!
Gray Ooze Stats and Abilities
Size: Medium ooze
HP: 22 (3d8 + 9)
Speed: 10 ft., climb 10 ft.
STR: 12 (+1)
DEX: 6 (-2)
CON: 16 (+3)
INT: 1 (-5)
WIS: 6 (-2)
CHA: 2 (-4)
Oof, this is a rough one. While the ability scores don’t make the creature, think of them as the framing of a house. It can still look nice and have a neat gimmick about it, but there’s still the ever-present possibility of the house collapsing on itself at any given moment.
The gray ooze’s strength is mediocre at only a +1 modifier. That’s not a great start for the creature’s statblock considering that its second-highest ability score is a 12. Their highest is a 16 in Constitution so at least it’ll be a hardy creature, right? Sure, 22 HP for a CR 1/2 creature is great.
However, that 22 HP doesn’t mean all that much when you only have an AC of 8. If you blindfold the PCs and spin them around a few times at the top of their turn they’ll still hit a gray ooze more often than not.
Everything else is genuinely garbage. Even though it has climbing speed its movement speed is still atrocious considering that it’s 1/3 of that of an average medium size adventurer. Its Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are a complete wash with a modifier of -2 being the highest of the four.
This is unfortunate, to say the least.
Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills
Skills: Stealth +2
Damage Resistances: acid, cold, fire
Condition Immunities: blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses: blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 8
CR: 1/2 (100 XP)
Thankfully, this section of the statblock plugs some of the holes in the statblock the ability score array is responsible for.
Gray oozes have resistance to damage from acid, cold, and fire type attacks. These are common damage types for lower-level spells so their resistances are actually quite great.
The gray ooze also has a bunch of condition immunities which will help prevent it from being subjected to crowd control despite it lacking in two of the three most common saving throw abilities.
Funnily enough, you can still grapple a gray ooze somehow. Not that you’d want to anyway with their movement speed of 10 ft. per turn.
Blindsight is always an enormous boon as it isn’t subjected to light or any other environmental factors. I’m still trying to think of how an ooze “sees” though. I guess I’ll just chalk it up to “because magic”.
CR 1/2 is fair. Despite the resistances and immunities, a gray ooze is still a failure in the defense/survivability department. However, as you’ll see in a moment, they can lay on some hefty hits with their Pseudopod attack.
Abilities and Traits
Amorphous. The ooze can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.
Corrode Metal. Any nonmagical weapon made of metal that hits the ooze corrodes. After dealing damage, the weapon takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to -5, the weapon is destroyed. Nonmagical ammunition made of metal that hits the ooze is destroyed after dealing damage. The ooze can eat through 2-inch-thick, nonmagical metal in 1 round.
False Appearance. While the ooze remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from an oily pool or wet rock.
Amorphous is just here to remind us that oozes and elementals are terrifying. They can drop down on us at any moment! For your safety, always check the dungeon’s ceilings and walls for large cracks.
Corrode Metal is a slick survivability trait. While the ooze may not be lucky enough to benefit much from corroding the fighter’s greatsword, the creatures that fight the party their encounter with an ooze will be grateful. It’ll take a few swings to get through their 22 HP too, so consider the consequences before you strike!
False Appearance just means that these creatures can make for excellent traps. Stick them in the bottom of a pit, toss them into a large pile of rocks, do what you will with them, they’ll get a surprise round and attack the closest creature with advantage!
Oh, you can do some devilish stuff by creatively using Amorphous and False Appearance. Trust me.
Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) bludgeoning damage plus 7 (2d6) acid damage, and if the target is wearing nonmagical metal armor, its armor is partly corroded and takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.
Pseudopod hits like a truck when you consider that it’s coming from a CR 1/2 creature. It deals a whopping total of 11 average damage dispersed between bludgeoning and acid damage. Not to mention that any successful attacks will also lower the target’s AC, making them easier to hit on subsequent attacks.
The downside is, of course, that pesky +3 to hit. Kobolds are out here at 1/8 CR with a +4 to hit despite their below-average ability scores.
You’ll need to find ways to get the gray ooze advantage on its attacks in order for it to be successful against any heavily-armored targets.
Gray Ooze Strengths
No guts, no glory! Well, either oozes don’t have guts or they are just a singular, giant, acidic gut. We’ll go with the latter because 11 average damage for a CR 1/2 creature is glory.
But it’s not only your HP that a gray ooze hits. They also hit your supplies. Their attacks corrode your armor making it weak or even outright useless. Their bodies corrode your weapons each time you swing them.
An ooze encounter is fighting a war of attrition. Perhaps the ooze won’t fell your party, but they’ll make it easier for the next encounter to do so.
I’m not hiding the fact that +3 to hit is pretty bad. However, the ooze does have some features in its kit that can help you pump the numbers in their favor.
False Appearance is there for you to effortlessly and perfectly disguise an ooze and ensure that it has a surprise round and an attack at advantage at an unsuspecting creature that comes within melee range of it.
Amorphous is at your disposal for you to literally drop an ooze ontop of a party member. Leaky ceiling pipes? Don’t stand under them, there could be an ooze hiding up there!
Their +2 to Stealth despite having -2 to Dexterity checks can also help you secure a surprise round or sneak attack on the party. They’re stealthy little blobs.
Gray Ooze Weaknesses
22 HP is great for a CR 1/2 creature. It’s even better when you account for their resistance to three very common damage types.
However, 8 AC throws this (mostly) out the window. This AC is exceptionally terrible. The ooze’s enemies are going to be hitting it almost constantly, so while it may have enough HP to withstand 3-5 hits from low-level characters, it’ll probably be down and out within 1 round of combat.
While it has quite a few condition immunities, the ooze is still able to be afflicted by a couple of conditions. If you’re able to impose any of the few that they’re not immune to, you have a good shot at doing so as long as it doesn’t require a Constitution saving throw.
Actually Slower Than Molasses
We’ve got one shot, one opportunity. We’ve got +3 to hit for 11 average damage. Hopefully, we have a surprise round and were hiding so it’s at advantage. Actually then maybe we have two shots if we rolled high on initiative despite a -2 to Dexterity.
My point is, with 10 ft. of movement speed, Pseudopod will probably only be used 1 or 2 times unless the party’s frontline is for some inexplicable reason staying within melee range of the gray ooze. If they move even 20 ft. away from the ooze, it has no opportunity to attack.
Low movement speed without ranged options is a death sentence through and through. If you are able to create difficult terrain through either a spell effect or sheer ingenuity you may as well write the encounter off as finished.
How to Play a Gray Ooze
Drop Down and SmackDown
With +3 to hit, we need to take every advantage we can. Literally, we need to get advantages.
False Appearance is an excellent way to ensure that your gray ooze will be hidden well enough to give them a surprise round if combat breaks out. It also ensures that the gray ooze will not initiate combat until they are able to attack something.
As I said previously, a gray ooze is driven solely by instinct. That means once something comes into their attack range, or close enough for them to lurch toward a target, they’ll attack. They’re not going to spring into action as soon as the party comes within 60 ft. of them. It just doesn’t make sense.
Combat encounters with a gray ooze should start with a surprise round due to their False Appearance.
Gray oozes can also be a bit more assertive thanks to Amorphous. They can traverse through pipes, small holes, or other openings to drop-down on the party or emerge in the party’s immediate vicinity. You can even use it to squeeze a gray ooze into a weird location and have it sit there with False Appearance.
You’re a Trash Mob, Just Do Your Best Out There!
Unless you get a lucky crit or a solid hit on a low-level caster a gray ooze probably won’t be the demise of your party. Honestly, if you TPK an adventuring party with a gray ooze I’d be impressed.
What a gray ooze can do, however, is waste the party’s resources. They have a solid enough health pool to soak up a few offensive spells. They can dish-out some impressive damage requiring the party to take a short rest and spend hit dice, or use healing spells/potions/features to recoup.
Thanks to their Corrode Metal and Pseudopod, gray oozes can permanently reduce the effectiveness of the party’s weapons and armor, increasing the damage potential and survivability of the rest of the ooze’s allies.
A gray ooze is a disruption. They’re best used as either part of a trap or an ambush and they’re solely there to get a couple of hits on the party to soften them up for the rest of the dungeon.
5 Gray Ooze Plot Hooks
- The Escape of the Sewer Ooze – “I don’t know what happened. One of them escaped. No seriously no one left the gate open, but if someone did it definitely wasn’t me! Please, just help get it out of the city streets before my boss finds out!”
- Goblin Fortifications – A local group of goblins is looking to purchase a few gray oozes to use as traps to keep adventurers out of their den. Hmm.
- MY CHICKENS! – A poor farmer’s flock of chickens (and their coop) has been devoured by a gray ooze. Get rid of it so that they may start rebuilding their livelyhood.
- The Ooze Exhibit – The museum’s ooze exhibit is a clear violation of all health and safety codes. Oozes keep escaping from their pens! Unfortunately, they have no idea how. Could you help them figure it out?
- Lord of the Ooze – A failed student of the wizard academy has taken up residence in an abandoned tower. He has stockpiled a number of oozes and the guard finally sees him as a threat to himself and public health. He’s not dangerous, just dumb. Please take care of him.
As I mentioned earlier, I have gray oozes packed in the sewer system of major cities. They’re perfect garbage disposal units and it’s really a win-win for the city since they’re easy enough to corral or flee from. They’re great creatures to use for roleplay purposes or as traps.
A gray ooze encounter is also a decent, mostly nonlethal way to teach a group of new players about D&D combat. They’ll learn about kiting a creature by using ranged attacks or the Disengage action. Oozes also have damage resistances and condition immunities so that’s yet another unique mechanic they can learn from.
That being said, gray oozes are not an enormous threat to your typical party. They’ll maybe get one good hit in and if that doesn’t drop anyone to 0 hp the fight is basically over thanks to their 10 ft. per turn movement speed.
I love them, but they’re just your friendly neighborhood garbage collector in most of my games. Well, that is unless the party decides to mess with one of the oozes for literally no reason.