D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Anzû

Epic Monsters is going way, way back for today’s post—we’re talking Gilgamesh or earlier. The divine creature in this post is known for soaring through the skies, keeping the company of goats, and appearing in many ancient religions: if you guessed Anzû give yourself a star!

anzu bird BANNER 5e.jpg

Also known as dZû (‘bird’) and Imdugud (‘wind’), who exactly Anzû is depends on what culture you’re talking about. In the oldest iteration he was a form of Abu, a god that was himself an amalgamation of Ninurta and Ningursu—entities all about thunderstorms. Originally this Anzû was depicted as an enormous, black, eagle-shaped thundercloud but later on gets a lion’s head to cement the association with thunder (or sometimes goats!) Later on down the line you’ve got Sumerians and Akkadians personifying Anzû as the southern wind, a half-man and half-bird demon that steals the Tablet of Destinies from Enlil getting all the gods riled up, so much so that he’s killed for it. The Babylonians saddle Anzû with the ever popular godly-parental-mutilation story you might remember from Uranus and Cronus, or Osiris and Set.

Design Notes: God-like bird creature with vast weather powers and the ability to take human form—check! While I can’t find it now I remember some of the reading talking about cold and heat with this guy, but since thunderbirds get more play as far as mythologies go I’m leaning harder into that direction. For the CR calculating folks in the audience: the DMG says 15 and the Blog of Holding’s rubric landed on 14.333, but I decided to give an automated challenge rating calculator a shot and it said 16. Sounds like a happy compromise all around at CR 15!

Huge celestial, neutral
Armor Class 18 (natural armor)
Hit Points 230 (20d12+100)
Speed 40 ft., fly 80 ft. (hover)
23 (+6)​
21 (+5)​
20 (+5)​
18 (+4)​
19 (+4)​
20 (+5)​
Skills Acrobatics +10, Arcana +9, History +9, Nature +14, Perception +14, Religion +9
Damage Resistances psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities lightning, necrotic, radiant, thunder
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 24
Languages Common, telepathy 200 ft.
Challenge 15 (13,000 XP)

Innate Spellcasting. Anzû's innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 18, +10 to hit with spell attacks). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
Constant: tongues
At will: detect evil and good, detect magic, fog cloud, gust of wind, thunderwave
3/day each: lightning bolt, shatter
1/day each: conjure elemental (air elemental only), control weather

Magic Resistance. Anzû has advantage on saving throws against magical effects and spells.

Shapechanger. Anzû can use his action to polymorph into a humanoid he has seen, or back into his true form. His statistics, other than his size, are the same in each form. Any equipment he is wearing or carrying isn't transformed. He reverts to his true form if he dies.

Tornado Aura. Ranged weapon attacks against Anzû have disadvantage. A creature can negate this trait for a single ranged weapon attack made immediately after using a bonus cation to aim.

Multiattack. Anzû makes two claw attacks, two talon attacks, and one bite attack.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d10+6) magical piercing damage.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d6+6) magical slashing damage.

Talon. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d8+6) magical slashing damage.

Create Whirlwind. A 15-foot-radius, 50-foot-tall cylinder of swirling air magically forms on a point Anzû can see within 200 feet of him. The whirlwind lasts until Anzû ends it on his turn or makes a new whirlwind. Any creature but Anzû that enters the whirlwind must succeed on a DC 18 Strength saving throw or be restrained by it. Anzû can move the whirlwind up to 60 feet as a bonus action, and creatures restrained by the whirlwind move with it. The whirlwind ends if Anzû loses sight of it.
A creature can use its action to free a creature restrained by the whirlwind, including himself, by succeeding on a DC 17 Strength check. If the check succeeds, the creature is no longer restrained and moves to the nearest space outside the whirlwind.

Tempest (Recharge 5-6). Each creature within 15 feet of Anzû must make a DC 18 Strength saving throw. On a failure, a target takes 19 (3d8+6) bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone. On a failure by 5 or more, a target is thrown 10 feet for every 5 points it failed the save. If a thrown target strikes an object, such as a wall or floor, the target takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage for each 10 feet it is thrown (minimum 1d6). If the target is thrown at another creature, that creature must succeed on a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw or it takes the same damage and is knocked prone. If the saving throw is successful, the target takes half the bludgeoning damage and isn’t flung away or knocked prone.

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


Interesting and thank you for sharing as always Mike. First, two quick comments before I look at it as is:
  1. The picture you have is typically used as a representation of the Babylonian Tiamat
  2. As typical - I could use a higher CR more god like version. I realize you went with a more "thunderbird" version, but what can i say: I like high CR monsters
Moving on:
  • I like tornado aura - more creatures (and probably all legendary / solo) need a feature like this.
  • Create whirlwind seems fun and thematic
  • Tempest is also fun, possibly more damage. I typically only assume to target 2 creatures with most area attacks and if that is the case it is less effective than a multiattack. IMO , a recharge power should always be more effective than a multiattack. The push adds some, but not much
  • A good foundation. I would probably add legendary actions, but it works for your goal I think.

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
The picture you have is typically used as a representation of the Babylonian Tiamat

Maybe! It's a matter of some debate who exactly this is depicting. I think it's fair to assume most folks reading this are going to have a very different interpretation of what Tiamat looks like though. ;)

Wikimedia said:
There are at least two interpretations of what the image is/was intended to represent.
  1. Some sources interpret the image as [Bel-Merodach] Marduk (with thunderbolt) fighting Tiamat eg History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria Vol. 3 (Maspero, G.; Sayce, A. H.) , History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria Volume 3
  2. Some modern sources state this is probably Anzu and Ninurta. eg in Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary? (Jeremy A. Black and Anthony Green ISBN: 978-0-292-70794-8) p.142 states as text to same image : " Ninurta or Adad pursues a leonine bird-monster, perhaps the Anzû or Asakku. "

Glad you are digging it!


Maybe! It's a matter of some debate who exactly this is depicting. I think it's fair to assume most folks reading this are going to have a very different interpretation of what Tiamat looks like though. ;)

Well after looking into it (I was unfamiliar with Anzu) they both have similarities and probably are to some extent the same / related entity. We often don't realize how often gods change over time or from region to region.

EDIT: For Example Tiamat and Anzu both had the Tablet of Destinies and the god Marduk (the only god brave enough to challenge the creature in both tales) confronted and killed the beast. Oddly, in my quick wiki review I didn't see anyone relating Anzu to Tiamat when it seems so obvious from both their descriptions and stories.
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I suggest the book "The Atlas of Monsters: Mythical Creatures from Around the World " by Sandra Lawrence. Do you know anything about the Buratsche-Al-Llgs? A monster from the Swiss folkore living in a lake.
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