Keeping the PCs Humble

A Dungeon Master's guide to debasing and robbing player characters, with a bit of ego bruising thrown in for good measure.

Draining Levels

In a word: undead.

The following table shows undead that you can use from the 3.5 Monster Manual, with a min and max Encounter Level (EL). The "min" EL is the Challenge Rating (CR) listed in the Monster Manual, the "max" EL is the highest CR listed under "Advancement" in the stat block for that particular monster.

min max Monster
2 none Vampire
3 8 Wight
7 14 Spectre
11 24 Devourer

Taking Away the Toys

The Dungeon Master giveth, and the Dungeon Master taketh away. Here's a list of monsters that are good at stealing or destroying treasure that the PCs collect.

min max Monster What it does
3 15 Ethereal Filcher Steals magic items
3 15 Rust Monster Rusting touch
16 42 Nightwalker Crushes magic items

Devilish "Treasure" Combinations

In addition to taking away the treasure, you can make the adveturers paranoid about touching it in the first place. Many an item has been refused due to extreme distrust. Cursed items are perhaps the most amusing items in the game. The one thing that makes them more fun is to group them together with similar magical items, mundane items, or monsters.

Mundane Magical Cursed Monster
Sack Bag of Holding Bag of Devouring, portal to an unpleasant plane Something in the sack (or something big in the bag of holding
Cloak Cloak of (whatever) Cloak of Powerlessness Cloaker
Several Treasure Chests stuff in the chest stuff in the chest Mimic
Garbage pile (with coins & stuff) stuff in the pile stuff in the pile Otyugh, Gibbering mouther
Trees, healing herbs & berries Darkwood stuff   Roper, Dryad, Shambling Mound, Tendriculous