This article is part of a series! You can find all of them here.
Chuuls are large lobster-like beings with yellowish shells, a semi-upright posture, and a mass of little red tentacles dangling from their faces. They’re a mainstain of the Underdark in every edition they appear in, including this one. They didn’t appear on the Monster Vault, but later on they got a Monster Vault-style update in Dungeon #192, so we’ll be looking at that as well.
Chuuls are Aberrant Magical Beasts (aquatic). We saw the aquatic keyword already, back when we read about aboleths, but I don’t think I explained it. Aquatic creatures suffer no penalties for operating underwater and usually have a swim speed. They also get bonuses when fighting non-aquatic enemies underwater.
As magical beasts, chuuls are sapient. They’re not very smart, with Int 4, but they’re conversant in Deep Speech. They lurk in underwater lakes, still pools and other sufficiently large bodies of stagnant water, and emerge to snatch prey with their huge claws. Chuuls don’t care if that prey is sapient, and will eat every single part of their bodies except for the brain, whose taste the creatures dislike. Predictably, this makes them good neighbors to mind flayers, who will use a chuul pool as a dumping ground for brainless bodies.
The Dungeon article adds a bit more lore. Chuuls live in small groups called pods, in bodies of still water large enough to support them. They’ll happily use rivers and seas for long-distance travels, but there’s nothing like an underground lake or still swamp to settle down and raise your kids. These creatures only have two ambitions in life: to be left alone and to eat people. When the first one is frustrated, it means they’re about to satisfy the second.
Chuuls reproduce by laying sacs of slimy yellow eggs, which they protect fiercely. Sometimes they’ll attach these sacs to the bottom of ships or riverboats as a way to help the species propagate further.
As chuuls grow older, they grow bigger and sometimes develop psychic powers. They also mutate very easily, which makes them a preferred subject for mind flayer experimentation, and might give even wild chuuls a few extra interesting traits. Finally, they all share a kind of racial memory. An individual will remember its previous generation very clearly and have a dimmer recollection of the ones that came before. One memory from the dawn of time remains very strong, however: hate humans. Kill them. Devour them.
In both the Monster Manual and the Dungeon article, we get the same two varieties of this monster:
The classic Chuul is a Level 10 Soldier with 109 HP. It’s Large, has darkvision and both a walking and a swimming speed of 6. Its basic attack is a claw whose damage is exactly half of what it should be for its level, but that’s surprisingly okay here because the chuul can make 2 claw attacks per turn despite not being Elite. These do extra damage against immobilized targets.
If both attacks hit the same target, the Chuul will make a attack against the victim’s Fortitude using its face tentacles. This does no damage, but immobilizes on a hit. The tentacles also figure in the Tentacle Net ability, a passive which automatically immobilizes anyone hit by the chuul’s opportunity attacks.
The chuul’s ambush predator tactics make it seem like a lurker, but I guess it doesn’t try to hide again after first emerging, though it prefers to stick to the water. The Dungeon/Monster Vault version has better claw damage, but is still largely the same.
Next we have the Chuul Juggernaut, a Level 23 Elite Soldier with 434 HP that’s either very old or was experimented on by mind flayers. It’s Huge, has ground and swim speeds of 7 and also psychic powers! Psychic Lure is a ranged 10 attack against Will that does psychic damage and pulls the target 5 squares on a hit. The Juggernaut otherwise fights like the classic model, but is much less shy about leaving the water. We’re back to having to fix its damage: as an elite it’s supposed to make two full-damage attacks and not two half-damage ones. This damage fix is exactly what the Dungeon version does, being otherwise identical.
The first is level 10, 2 chuuls, a feymire crocodile, and a bog hag. Just to show you these things also live on the surface and associate with people that are not mind flayers.
The second is level 23, a chuul juggernaut and three blood fiends. I got nothing on this one.
The chuul lore in the MM didn’t exactly spark joy, y’know? The additions from the update make them more interesting in that front. Mechanically they’re solid opposition, as evidenced by the fact that the update didn’t do more than increase their damage a bit.