Humans are social creatures, and one thing all cultures have in common is that we love to tell stories. Dangers in the deep dark woods have given rise to one of the first reoccurring antagonists, the Big Bad Wolf. Probably best known as the villain of Little Red Riding Hood, a wolf has been the bad guy in several fairy tales, such as The Three Little Pigs, the Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and Peter and the Wolf. Great wolves are even popular in modern fantasy, like the Gmork in The Never Ending Story. People have loved stories featuring big scary wolves for centuries. But as far as they know, they’re just stories. What if, instead of being myth and folklore, the stories were true?
In a generic D&D fantasy world, it probably wouldn’t be unusual to find small villages near “the wilds” where the common folk have similar stories to our own wolf stories. Maybe cast them as something more fantastic, like a dragon or a land-shark. The purposes of these stories are to warn to children of the dangers of the wilds, and why you should avoid these areas. But let’s suppose in a world rife with magic, telling and retelling a story can imbue power to them. What could happen?
A Living Story
Almost every campaign setting has an area that has a “frontier” feeling, usually near deep, dark woods. Imagine such a place in your own campaign, where commoners have to deal with all sorts of predators, both common and magical. They share stories with each other, and a great dire wolf becomes the villain of most of them. The stories are told so much and so often that the Big Bad Wolf becomes ingrained in everyday life. All of this thought, faith, fear, and respect of this archetype, coupled with the wild magic of the woods, ends up summoning the very thing from the stories into being: The Big Bad Wolf.
The Big Bad Wolf, while it appears to be a normal animal is anything but. You can capture it, kill it, and even skin it, but it isn’t an animal. It is a thoughtform, a tulpa, a story made manifest by each retelling. As long as stories of the Big Bad Wolf get told on the frontier, the wolf will return, created by the magic of belief. The Big Bad Wolf doesn’t need to eat like a normal animal, it hunts only to spread fear throughout the woods, although sometimes it will bring food back to its adopted pack. This is why it is so hard to track by hunters, since most assume it is merely a dire wolf and behaves accordingly.
In the frontier, the woods have suddenly become very ominous, and the Big Bad Wolf has suddenly become much more active and violent. The call has gone out for brave adventurers to deal with this threat. Promises of land, gold, magic, etc will attract your players to the frontier where they will begin the hunt.
One adventure hook you can use is a re-worked classic fairy tale. The three little pigs can become three brothers who are terrorized by the wolf and have bunkered up in the stone house of the youngest brother. Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother could become a witch who has become possessed by the Big Bad Wolf, and is unleashing all sorts of summoned terrors into the forest. I recommend keeping the basic elements of these classic stories but put a new spin on them, and keep the “moral of the story” intact.
Eventually your players will encounter the wolf and slay it, because that is what adventurers do. But since the Big Bad Wolf isn’t an animal, like the villain in a bad horror movie franchise, he will come back. The entire party could be decked out in fine wolf cloaks from each subsequent killing, but that doesn’t seem to stop this beast. Discovering just what the Big Bad Wolf is can be an adventure itself. They need to quest to find some lost bit of lore somewhere about the nature of the forest, and why it can make stories all too real. To resolve the story, the players figure out they need to change the way the locals view the Big Bad Wolf. Perhaps in your game, an evil cult is trying to drive the humans out of the forest and are using dark magic to bring out the darker aspects of the Big Bad Wolf each time he springs back into being. Or maybe it’s just as simple as the process of defeating the Big Bad Wolf over and over and sharing the story of these victories eventually reduces the being’s power. Or if you want to go more morally gray, perhaps there is no evil cult, but your players invent one anyway. And the players share the story of how they “rooted out” this evil cult and thus the Big Bad Wolf’s powers are diminishing. Once enough people believe this piece of fiction, the Big Bad Wolf will actually will go away, a manifest of a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out the lore behind the Big Bad Wolf. Just keep in mind that this being is a more interesting antagonist than the simple monster the players first think he is. Because he’s not a traditional monster, Big Bad Wolf can have altered stats in between each reincarnation.
The Big Bad Wolf
Large Monstrosity, Chaotic Evil
Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 142 (15d10+60)
Speed 50 ft
Str 17 (+5), Dex 15 (+2), Con 15 (+4), Int 10 (+0), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 12 (+1)
Skills Perception +5 Stealth +6
Senses Passive Perception 15
Languages Common, any other languages spoke in the forest it lives in.
Challenge 9 (5,000)
Keen Hearing and Smell. The Big Bad Wolf has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) check that rely on hearing or smell.
Pack Tactics. The Big Bad Wolf has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the Big Bad Wolf’s allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.
Multiattack. The Big Bad Wolf makes two Bite attacks, or a Bite and a Swallow.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack +9 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Hit: 16 (2d10+5) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
Swallow. The Big Bad Wolf makes one bite attack against a Medium or smaller target that is knocked prone within its melee range. If the attack hits, the target is swallowed. While swallowed, the target is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the Big Bad Wolf. The Big Bad Wolf can have only one creature swallowed at a time.
If the Big Bad wolf takes 30 damage or more on a single turn from the swallowed creature, the Big Bad Wolf must succeed on a DC 15 constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate the creature, which falls prone in a space within 10 feet of the Big Bad Wolf. If the Big Bad Wolf dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 15 feet of movement, exiting prone. Or another player can cut the Big Bad Wolves belly open to release the creature.
Big Bad Wolf Modes
The Big Bad Wolf is a living story, because of this the exact abilities it has change each time it returns from the energies that birthed it. Each time the players encounter the Big Bad Wolf, it should have a different subset of powers. You can roll randomly, or build your adventure around the new abilities the Big Bad Wolf has acquired in this incarnation.
1 or 2 – Beast of the Mists
3 or 4 – Frozenheart
5 or 6 – Spirit Wolf
7 or 8 – The Wolf King
9 or 10 – What Big Eyes you Have
Beast of the Mists
The Big Bad Wolf’s body is shadowy and insubstantial in this form. An unnatural mist seems to follow it wherever it goes. In this form, the Big Bad Wolf becomes much more of an ambush predator. He lurks through the forest and stalks his prey, but his lurking continues through keeps, castles, and villages. Once he’s ready to pounce, an impossibly large Wolf suddenly appears in room deep inside a castle, like a villain in a bad horror movie.
Using this Mode, the Big Bad Wolf gains the following abilities and actions:
Amorphous. The Big Bad Wolf can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.
Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness the Big Bad Wolf can take the Hide action as a bonus action.
Teleport (Recharge 4-6). The Big Bad Wolf magically teleports along with any equipment it is wearing or carrying, up to 40 feet to an unoccupied space it can see. Before or after teleporting, the Big Bad Wolf can make one bite attack.
The Big Bad Wolf brings on winter, a preternatural cold coursing out of its cold frozen core. An unnatural chill takes over the forest, and the coats of animals turn white out of season. You know the Big Bad Wolf is near when it begins to snow in summer. The Big Bad Wolf will normally take over as alpha of a wolf tribe, and convert them into Winter Wolves.
Using this Mode the Big Bad Wolf gains the following abilities and actions:
Snow Camouflage. The Big Bad Wolf has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide in snowy terrain.
Snowfall. The Big Bad Wolf generates a cloud of frozen mist and snow around it, and thus it always has the benefits of half cover (+2 AC) for ranged attacks.
Cold Breath (Recharge 5-6). The Big Bad Wolf exhales a blast of freezing wind in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 27 (6d8) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
The Big Bad Wolf uses its nature as a being created by thought to alter the perceptions of others. In this mode, it will attempt to enter a village and become the leader, dominating the people in town.
Using this Mode the Big Bad Wolf gains the following action.
Possession (Recharge 6). One humanoid that the Big Bad Wolf can see within 5 feet of it must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or be possessed by the big bad wolf; the Big Bad Wolf then disappears, and the target is incapacitated and loses control of its body. The Big Bad Wolf then controls the body but doesn’t deprive the target of awareness. The Big Bad Wolf can’t be targeted by any attack, spell, or other effect, and it retains its alignment, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma. It otherwise uses the possessed target’s statistics, but doesn’t gain access to the target’s knowledge, class features, or proficiencies.
The possession lasts until the body drops to 0 hit points, the Big Bad Wolf ends it as a bonus action, or the Big Bad Wolf is forced out by an effect like the spell Dispel Evil and Good. When the possession ends, the Big Bad Wolf reappears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the body. The target is immune to the Big Bad Wolfs possession for 24 hours after succeeding on the saving throw or after the possession ends.
The Wolf King
The Big Bad Wolf has sought out and taken over a local pack of wolves, and sometimes he will merge several packs together. The Big Bad Wolf is a crafty hunter and gets these wolves to work together in ways that’s unusual for its kind. Typically this means attacking farms using military tactics, like luring people out of the houses, or laying siege. Any wolf pups that the Big Bad Wolf sires quickly grow to be adult Dire Wolves. The Big Bad Wolf gains no bonus abilities or powers, but it is often found with a great number of normal wolves, and possibly a few Dire Wolves.
What Big Eyes You Have
Sometimes the Big Bad Wolf can take other forms and disguise itself as normal people. Usually, it gives itself away fairly quickly, because while it can take anyone’s shape, it cannot gain memories, and its predatory nature quickly becomes apparent. To elude hunters, the Big Bad Wolf shape-shifts often. Optionally, you may allow the Big Bad Wolf in this mode to spread lycanthropy like a werewolf.
Using this Mode the Big Bad Wolf gains the following abilities and actions:
Shape changer. The Big Bad Wolf can use its action to polymorph into a wolf-humanoid hybrid, or into a humanoid. Its statistics other than its AC are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed.
Multiattack (Hybrid form only). The Big Bad Wolf makes three attacks, one with its bite and two with its claws.
Bite (Hybrid Form). Melee Weapon Attack +9 to hit, reach 5 ft, one creature. Hit: 1d8 + 4 piercing damage.
Claws (Hybrid Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack +9 to hit, reach 5 t, one creature Hit 1d8 + 4 slashing damage.