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  • Running a False Hydra in your DND Game

    May 05, 2024 5 min read

    Author: Chris Katrev

    Running a False Hydra in your Game Session

    In recent years, Dungeons & Dragons has witnessed a substantial surge in popularity, propelled by actual play shows like Critical Role and the portrayal of its most iconic monsters in series like Stranger Things. This surge has resulted in a record number of new Dungeon Masters preparing for their inaugural campaigns. For those aiming to infuse horror into their games, the False Hydra, a homebrew monster, is the perfect choice.

    What is a False Hydra?

    The False Hydra is a fan-made, unofficial creation absent from official source books and lacking an official stat block. However, it has garnered a dedicated following within the tabletop community, featuring prominently in streamed games on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. While its exact origins remain shrouded in mystery, players may find echoes of The False Hydra's abilities in various mythological realms.

    The term "False Hydra" originated from a post by blogger Arnold Kemp in 2014, detailing his concept of the creature. Kemp's vision serves as a foundational resource for Dungeon Masters interested in incorporating the False Hydra into their campaigns.

    What Makes A False Hydra So Good?

    The False Hydra is widely regarded as a horrifying adversary capable of challenging any party's resilience. Despite its seemingly innocuous appearance, its true malevolence lies beneath the surface. Although it shares characteristics with the Hydra, it is distinctively unrelated. This multi-headed creature possesses the ability to regenerate its heads and generate new ones. While younger False Hydras begin with a solitary head, they gradually accumulate a sustenance source, patiently manipulating nearby minds and sustaining themselves on the unsuspecting.

    False Hydras possess elongated necks adept at navigating subterranean tunnels they carve. With age, they sprout additional heads, expanding their reach to distant areas in various directions. Similar to how mermaids enchant their prey, False Hydras employ a captivating song to manipulate nearby victims, luring unsuspecting villagers to their demise. This influence extends to erasing the memories of others from their victim's existence. Unrestrained, False Hydras eradicate entire settlements, leaving behind desolate ghost towns in their wake.


    Every memorable journey begins with a compelling setup, and this is particularly crucial in a False Hydra campaign. The hook employed to captivate the party sets the adventure's tone, leveraging their strengths and weaknesses to draw them in.

    Various intriguing entry points exist beyond the cliche "mysterious person" at the Inn. A distressed town might dispatch a City Watch representative seeking specialists to unravel a mystery. Alternatively, the party might stumble upon a bounty for a mythical beast's head or details about missing family members. For regular groups, gradually build intrigue across multiple adventures, hinting at a larger impending mystery.


    The False Hydra scenario resembles a murder mystery, featuring a diverse cast of monsters, villagers, and witnesses, leading up to the final encounter with the False Hydra. Avoid rushing or needlessly prolonging the plot. Seed ample clues beforehand, allowing players to discover them organically, without coercion. Careful execution is essential to prevent the adventure from feeling contrived.

    Feel free to bend the rules if it serves the narrative. Early stages of the campaign are narrative-driven, so grant players some flexibility with failed rolls. You can reintroduce ideas later. Encourage player enjoyment; there are ample chances to delve into character and setting. Religious sites and town libraries offer rich exploration opportunities. Books provide valuable information; census records, news scrolls, and personal journals deepen immersion. Incorporating notes from past adventurers adds layers to the world.

    Here are some key reminders:

    1. The False Hydra resides beneath settlements, utilizing its elongated necks for exploration, mesmerizing song, and manipulation of prey. Ensure accessibility to the creature by incorporating a nearby cave system or concealed tunnel within one of the town buildings.
    2. Considering storytelling, The False Hydra's song may impact Player Characters, yet their experience and status as adventurers offer some defense. NPCs lacking worldly experience are more vulnerable to suggestion and mind control, potentially succumbing to its influence.
    3. A puzzling question arises: how do townsfolk or villagers detect missing individuals when a False Hydra erases their memory? How did this village come to your attention? One suggestion is to examine town records and population data. A traveler's welcoming sign displaying a population count exceeding the actual number of residents could hint at the disappearances.
    4. Consider examining the broader area. A dwelling on the outskirts of the influence might elude mind control, prompting occupants to voice concerns. The empty houses strewn about further support this notion. Though appearing inhabited, they reveal signs of abandonment. For instance, perhaps vanished occupants have set tables for meals, leaving half-finished food behind. Or maybe tools lie scattered, suggesting an interrupted task. Emphasizing "show don't tell," allow players ample space to draw their own inferences.

    Final Encounter

    Your players have unraveled all the clues, delved into the False Hydra’s den, and now confront the ultimate challenge. This phase might prove the most demanding of the campaign. The False Hydra boasts various abilities that, if mishandled, could tilt the odds against the players. Crafting and adhering to a strategic plan is paramount for victory. Consider each ability a hurdle to surmount, refraining from reusing them once overcome. While the False Hydra should be defeatable, it doesn’t imply leniency in the challenge presented to the players.

    Dividing the False Hydra's actions and abilities into a recurring sequence of turns enables both you and the players to navigate combat effectively. Below is an illustrative example:

    Turn 1 – Attack the Players

    Engage players in combat by utilizing one or more of its heads to attack, possibly lunging to capture and consume a player. For added dramatic tension, if the beast succeeds and the player fails their save, prompt them to re-roll. If subsequent attempts succeed, they escape by cutting their way out through the neck, effectively decapitating the head. The False Hydra possesses alternative attack methods, including claws, enabling it to stomp and crush its foes despite not being the swiftest creature.

    Turn 2 – Mind Control

    The False Hydra possesses the ability to exert control over creatures, including the players. During combat, the duration of this control should be brief and susceptible to breaking. There is no prescribed minimum or maximum duration, but extended control weakens over time, reflecting the challenge of sustaining it in battle. Additionally, the False Hydra can exert control over NPCs, who may act on its behalf. This form of control, having endured for a prolonged period, is more deeply entrenched and considered passive, requiring less effort to maintain.

    Turn 3 – Healing And Growing Heads

    False Hydras possess the ability to regrow or grow additional heads, but this process is complex and conditional. Regeneration or growth should be a deliberate action, distinct from other turns, to avoid confusion and allow players the opportunity to respond. The creature requires a viable food source for this process, which could include smaller animals like penned sheep, dungeon inhabitants, or controlled village residents. If the False Hydra already has the maximum number of heads, there's a chance it can regrow a lost head; otherwise, it may attempt to grow a new one. Both actions entail considerable risk of failure, with regrowth having a higher success rate, such as 10% compared to 5% for new growth.

    Turn 4 – Rinse and Repeat

    Continue cycling through the previously described turns until the players successfully defeat the creature.


    By now, you should feel more equipped to run your own False Hydra campaign. When handled effectively, they offer enjoyable experiences and allow you to showcase your DMing skills. Consider breaking the campaign into separate adventures spanning several in-game days rather than tackling everything at once. Remember, the essence of the campaign lies in unraveling a mystery, not just solving puzzles. Draw inspiration from popular culture, such as shows like Doctor Who and movies like Dune and Tremors, and feel free to sprinkle in references to them along the way.