A Sense of Immersion: Gelatinous Cube

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What combines a fear of drowning, a fear of being eaten, and a fear of the word “moist?”

That’s right! The Gelatinous Cube!

Reminds me of that one neighbor who never cleaned their pool.

Gelatinous Cube Genesis
The Gelatinous Cube may look weird, but it’s certainly not at all that funny. These things are absolutely freaky. They were created by Gary Gygax (the father of D&D) in order to fill up the entirety of a standard dungeon hallway, leaving it a literal roadblock for any group that needs to get by. Locked doors do this as well, but locked doors never tried to engulf anyone into their acidic mass, now did they?

One would assume Gygax used this creature to fill out the massive halls of his legendary dungeon, Castle Gygax. Its first official publishing was inside of the original 1977 Monster Manual. The dense ten-foot by ten-foot cube of solid acidic goop, and apparently averages around 15,000 pounds in weight, according to the Forgotten Realms Wikia. That’s a heavy blob.

Like the previously discussed Owlbears, one can only assume that those pesky wizards had something to do with this creature. However, it seems that Oozes are in general fragments of a Demon lord named Juiblex. They don’t need to sleep, but they love to eat. Generally they’re kept around in various crypts, dungeons, and lairs as a sort of clean-up crew. Just because the Lich didn’t put them there, doesn’t mean he can’t benefit from it!

The freakiest thing about the Gelatinous Cube is the fact that you don’t know it’s even there. These creatures are completely transparent, and a perception check with a DC of 15 is needed to even see them, meaning somebody’s gonna take a swim.

The key tactic of the Gelatinous Cube is to sniff around a dungeon for food, usually on logical and efficient paths. It will scour every single square foot it can reach for rats, spiders, and adventurers. It has no morals, and cannot be reasoned with. Adventurers might hear this rhyme in a tavern—a rhyme that others use to remind themselves of the easily forgotten invisible danger.

A/ If dungeon halls be wide
B/ and dungeons floors be clean,
A/ a cube there lies inside
B/ and a cube there lies unseen. 

You’ll feel the gooey residue it leaves on walls and floors if it’s been through the corridor recently. It’s not unlike the feeling of spilled soda on your kitchen floor. Mix that with the slightest scent of chlorine, and the gelatinous cube will churn anyone’s stomach.

I’ve made reference to it, but to be quite frank the main purpose of the Gelatinous Cube is to engulf whatever organic stuff it senses within its sixty-foot blindsight. The animals, people, or other creatures lie suspended within the cube, slowly burning away with acid unless they can escape with a DC 12 strength check.

When you finally see the cube, it is a tremendous wall of clear ooze. Maybe it didn’t sneak up on any of you and it has a body suspended inside it, or maybe you see plates of armor and a single magical weapon glimmering in its trap. The cube absorbs the noise you make, minimizing the usual echo of long stone hallways. It is an oppressive and fearful sight. As it starts to move towards you, the shimmering torches on the other side of it cast an eerie glow through the clear, almost water-like mass.

Once you have the chance to think, there is no more feeling. It was cold and wet, and suddenly everything goes numb. You cannot breathe, and your lungs burn with the savage feeling of need, mixed with dense pressure all around you. You notice the hairs on your arms and body starting to dissolve as you try to get out, only being pulled in deeper as your limbs struggle against the solid and viscous slime. It feels like swimming in a pool of silly putty.

Your eyes fog over, and you feel a skull or something bump into you as you thrash around in slow motion, your muscles working overdrive to push your body through the muck. It tastes like vile chemicals and death as it fills your nose, ears, mouth, and eventually, your lungs.

You might have been lucky enough to be saved or just strong enough to have escaped on your own, but the truth of the matter is you would not have lasted very much longer within the full body gunk coffin that is the Gelatinous Cube. Its 6d6 a turn damage was eating away at your body, and the Cleric gets to work healing the patches and chunks missing all over your body. The Barbarian offers you her axe and you spit out a nasty hunk of chlorine jam and bite down through the pain of the medical work.

The ooze melts away, but its chemical smell fades slowly. It will sting your skin for a few days following the adventure. Whatever was inside clatters to the ground, freed from its prison far past any chance of survival. You see dead bodies, old corpses, and a few magical items lying untouched in the puddle. Were they worth the horror? Will you have to do that again? You sit there and ponder as another cube slowly moves towards your party from behind.

Thank you all yet again for the read! This one was really fun to write, as the Gelatinous Cube is another one of my favorite monsters from the more classic Dungeons and Dragons days. I just want to make sure that one thing is clear before I sign off.

The origins of the cube are all fact, straight canon from the D&D lore. But the actual before/during/after chapters are my own narrative creation. These are my ideas and my own inspirational chunks of writing in order to properly inspire and invite the Game Masters who read this to do their own thing or use my ideas!

Please be sure to stop by every Tuesday and Friday for more articles from me!
Be sure to check out my Patreon if you’d like to support me! It would really help.

Go ahead and roll a D20 to see what stuff is in the Gelatinous Cube!

1: A Mimic and 1 Magic Item from the B table in the Dungeon Masters Guide.

2:  1d4 Magic Items from the A table in the Dungeon Masters Guide, along with 1d6 x 10 Gold Coins that suspiciously haven’t been destroyed.

3: The corpse of a type of creature found within the dungeon. Serves as a good clue.

4: A few magical glass bottles that contain some Ooze from the Gelatinous Cube.

5: An Adventurer that the Players know of.

6: A putrid smelling torch that, when alight within 100 ft of Oozes, glows a sickly green.

7: Magical Robes, a Staff, and a Hat once belonging to a great but bizarre wizard. Grants the user of all three 18 intelligence, and the Gelatinous Cube is technically wearing them.

8: A whole bottle of food dye, wasted! The Cube is bright pink now.

9: A sling and some bullets. The Cube can launch said bullets out for 1 damage each, at a range of 30ft. It bubbles delightfully when it strikes someone.
(Using Pseudopod attack for sling.)

10: A large group of Chess Pieces all set up on a board. The Cube is ready to play but needs an opponent.

11: The remains of a creature half hanging out the side of the cube, preserved on the outside and burned away and skeletal on the inside.

12: A beautiful shield with a Medusa’s Head on it.

13: Two skeletons that are holding one another for comfort.

14: The remains of an Ogre. When the Cube moves, it looks like the Ogre is walking.

15: A small silver device in the center of the Cube.

16: A novelty apron that says “Let’s Eat!”

17: 2d4 Goblins that owe a life debt to whoever saves them.

18: A long dormant Warforged. Its soul has kept its body from burning away. It has amnesia, and a small dent in its head.

19: An absurd amount of arrows.

20: Roll twice on this table!

I've been a huge fan of RPGs for the longest time now. Dungeons & Dragons has become my favorite hobby, and connected me with all sorts of people all over the world.

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