Bad things come in threes.
The Chimera is all three of those things wrapped up in one.
Ripped from Homer’s The Illiad, the Chimera of Dungeons & Dragons is a little different. It has the hindquarters of a goat, the front quarters of a lion, and the wings and tail of a red dragon. To cap all this off, all three of those savage creatures’ heads adorn the shoulders of this monstrosity. Though in The Illiad, the Chimera had just a lion’s body with back goat legs, a goat’s head coming out of its back, and a Snake for a tail. Wild, huh?
Originally, the Chimera was an omen of misfortune. It foretold all sorts of evils and bad luck. To see one was to confirm that your journey would be dangerous.
Chimeras are a sign of dark times ahead, tragic beginnings, and tragic endings. To show a glimpse of one to your players is not only foreshadowing its own fight, but showing them that shit is about to hit the fan in their greater story as well. A really easy tactic to take players by surprise is to foreshadow just one of the heads. If you make them feel like they’re fighting a dragon, or a lion, or a goat, they’ll feel safe. But all three mixed into one? That’s danger.
Tracking a Chimera is all about finding its high up lair. It makes a hole in the mountains or it rests inside a large cavern deep into a valley wall. You cannot track the Chimera by footprints, rather you must spy it flying and follow in turn. Its lair is most likely a natural cave with a large ceiling, so it can get the drop on the enemy. If you need to know how big, realize that a torch should not be able to light its entirety.
Also keep in mind that you can modify what animals make up a Chimera and add a sense of incredible power or intimidation to it! Making the dragon head a different color is a small way to do this, but the goat parts could be re-flavored as a bull, or the lion parts as a tiger! Also, you can make this Chimera more like the old one, and have the dragon head be the tail coming out of the Chimera’s hindquarters.
The Chimera is a fierce hunter, a clever scavenger, and an intelligent predator all wrapped up in one. Its primary function is aggression, and it uses its power and strength to get anything it wants. It’ll attack the easiest targets, and it will devise clever (but simple) schemes to gather a hoard of valuables, because if it has these valuables, then more prey will come.
It is not unheard of for a Chimera to set up a cave full of gold and jewels and then wait for adventurers to go inside. As they attempt to divide the loot, the Chimera slaughters them one by one. Its three heads act independently, but work together easily to dismantle any fresh food. The goat head bleats pathetically, making it seem like the weaker side, then rams and bashes in the helmets of all who get close. The dragon head uses its fiery breath to control the fight and corner the adversaries. The lion head bites forth, ending those unlucky, or unwise, enough to get close.
The Chimera knows that its hindquarters are its weak point, so if a creature attempts to go around the Chimera, have the goat or dragon heads target them.
The Chimera can be harvested for a huge amount of great loot. A lion’s mane can be turned into a headdress or cape, while its claws and teeth could be a necklace or claw weapon. Dragon scales are abundant, and the leather of the dragon’s wings could be made and enchanted into a Cape of Flying or into Boots of Striding and Springing! The goat’s horns and giant hooves could be used for style or for alchemy.
Chimeras would have a bunch of treasure in their lair if they were using it to trap adventurers. To find what sort of treasure it uses to trick the players, see the table below.
Every single Chimera fight I have done in Dungeons and dragons has been memorable. Teasing and hinting about just one or two of the heads always leads to confused looks and fear from new players, while experienced players go wide-eyed and keep their mouths shut so they don’t metagame. It’s incredible. The Chimera is surprising, terrifying, and can rip apart a party of 4th level characters if they aren’t expecting it.
Customizing the Chimera by adding new animals and effects to it makes it even more fun for the experimenting DM, so why don’t you check it out and get planning!
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Image Sources: Wizards of the Coast
Roll 1d10 to see what the crowning treasure of the Chimera hoard will be!
1: A shining lance made of the finest silver. It has five runes in Red, Blue, Green, White, and Black, and will deal an extra 1d6 damage to all dragon-like creatures, and an extra 3d6 to all Chromatic dragons!
2: A beautiful crown of solid iron. When it’s wielded by a creature, all fire attacks deal extra damage equal to half their total rolled damage.
3: A baseball sized sapphire. When it is thrown into a lake or other body of water, it becomes a tower of sapphire that is merely a fancy waterslide.
4: The solid brass toenail of an Azer Giant. While on your person and attuned to you, you have advantage on saving throws against fire attacks.
5: A golden clothes-drying rack. When a set of clothing is hung on the rack for an hour, it becomes a magical +1 AC clothing item. Only one set can benefit from the bonus at a time.
6: An indestructible crystal wine glass. All liquids poured into the glass are turned to wine.
7: A small golden bird of fire. Whoever dies within 100ft of it burns completely, and is reborn from their ashes. They are reborn as an infant form of their previous life, and age at triple the rate until they end up where they died.
8: A pair of silver scissors. They allow the wielder to cut the hair of any creature. The hair does not grow back.
9: A copper candlestick that summons odd colored ghostly flames when in the darkness.
10: A small silver belt buckle that can only be worn by small humanoids. It translates all heard languages so that the wearer can understand them, but not speak them.