D&D General Every core monster ever in D&D


Continuing with the 2e Monstrous Compendium (Vol. 1 and 2)... notes on their new core additions, and where are they today?

Core in every edition since the 2e MCs: Drider, drow, constrictor snake ("crushgrip constrictor" in 4e), yuan-ti (abomination and halfbreed, now malison).

Core in every edition since, except 3e: Nothing!

Core in every edition since, except 4e:
  • Bat, polar bear, cat, eagle, hawk, owl, rat, poisonous snake, weasel, killer whale: See previous comments about normal animals in 4e, under the 1e notes. Cats and hawks eventually made a return appearance (in the same issue of Dragon as the dog).
  • Behir: Held back for Monster Manual 2.
  • Kraken: Held back for Monster Manual 3.
  • Yuan-ti pureblood: Seemed to be replaced by the snaketongue cultists in the 4e MM.

Core in the 2e MCs and 5e, but no editions between:
  • Aarakocra: 3e made them a Realms exclusive; 4e only updated the Dark Sun version.
  • Bullywug: 3e also made them a Realms exclusive, but they qualified for MM2 in 4e. (You'd think their appearance in the 80s cartoon would have helped them more.)
  • Kenku: They didn't return to 3e until the 3.5 era (MM III), but did a little better in 4e (MM2).
  • Dao and marid: The earth and water genies were decidedly second-tier in 3e (Manual of the Planes) and 4e (Dungeon Magazine). Though to be fair, they were second-tier in 1e as well, and never appeared at all in Basic.
  • Demilich: 3e treated them as strictly epic-level material (Epic Level Handbook; which also got them into the SRD) while 4e held them back for a dedicated undead sourcebook (Open Grave).
  • Poltergeist: Wizards' 3e material never included them, but White Wolf remembered them, as they appeared in both the 3.0 and 3.5 monster books for their Ravenloft line. 4e gave them more respect, with an appearance in Open Grave.
  • Blood hawk, myconid: Didn't make it into 3e or 4e core, but did make respectable appearances in semi-core books (Fiend Folio and MM II respectively in 3e, mirroring their 1e appearances; MM2 in 4e).
  • Death dog, fire snake, lizard king: These veterans of the 1e Fiend Folio made non-core appearances in 3e, but not in 4e.
  • Human gentry (noble): Oddly, no generic noble statblock appeared in 3e. But MM2 brought them back with the name that stuck for 5e.
  • Giant bat, orog: 3e skipped them, but 4e brought them back in Dungeon. (Kind of surprised there was no interest in giant bats for over a decade.)
  • Falcon, (human) knight, (human) priest, urd (winged kobold), merrow, quipper: Entirely missing between 2e and 5e.

Non-core in 5e:
  • Volo's Guide to Monsters brought back the cave fisher, flind, annis hag, korred, and vegepygmy. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes only brought back the steeder (as a reprint from Out of the Abyss). Once again, if you're scoring on old-school monster updates, Volo wins.
  • Mordenkainen's Fiendish Folio (which sadly only got one volume on DM Guild) brought back two more Fiend Folio veterans who'd risen to the 2e core: jermlaine and killmoulis.
  • Minsc and Boo's Journal of Villainy revived the tasloi and wolfwere. Wolfweres, notably, had been absent since 2e (save appearances in the 3e Ravenloft monster books). Wizards did at least include tasloi in 3e, however, in Oriental Adventures (no idea why that particular sourcebook).
  • Monsters revived in 5e adventures included scrag (Tyranny of Dragons and Tales from the Yawning Portal); mongrelfolk (Curse of Strahd, where they basically stood in for Ravenloft's broken ones); tri-flower frond and yellow musk creeper/zombie (Tomb of Annihilation); pig and sheep (Storm King's Thunder); kelpie, nereid, and white pudding (Tales from the Yawning Portal); and fox and verbeeg (Icewind Dale). (Note, nereid's 5e appearance was missing from my spreadsheet; that's been fixed now.)

Not in 5e:
  • The 2e MCs are yet another source with many newly core monsters that haven't reappeared in 5e. As usual, just the highlights.
  • Firbolg: These actually had a respectable run as semi-core monsters after 2e (MM II in 3e, MM2 in 4e). 5e, of course, significantly reimagined them when they became a PC species in Volo's, and they haven't had generic monster stats in 5e (just a few specialists).
  • Guardian daemon (yugoloth): One of the first yugoloths, but pretty much forgotten now. Wizards had no problem with their release into the SRD in Tome of Horrors, though they did attempt a revival in 4e's Demonomicon (as a demon).
  • Jann: The lost fifth genie, which remained core in 3e - beating out the dao and marid! - but hasn't appeared since.
  • Lamia noble: In their day they were prominent enough to get ported over to Basic D&D (as the Creature Catalogue's "lamara"), but their only appearance since was in a 3e adventure (Expedition to the Demonweb Pits).
  • Vodyanoi: Aquatic cousins of umber hulks, their last appearance was obscure (a statblock in a booklet with the 3e Forgotten Realms DM screen). They might have been supplanted by the more folklore-authentic vodyanoi in 3e's Frostburn (not that they've appeared much either).
  • Mudman: This seems like an obvious sort of monster to have in the game, but beyond a 4e Dungeon appearance, they haven't been back.
  • Cyclopskin: These have an odd history in 2e, being the default cyclops in the 2e MCs, but separated out in the Monstrous Manual. Presumably they were considered redundant after that, since that was their final appearance in a monster book. (4e's cyclops could perhaps be seen as descending more from cyclopskin than the classic cyclops.)
  • Killer mimic: In 2e, there were "common" mimics and these guys. The default mimic was intelligent, capable of speech, and could be negotiated with... while the "killer" was the violent silent type we're familiar with today. (Maybe the killers outcompeted the common ones between editions.)
  • Seawolf: One of the weirder lycanthropes to ever be core, which is probably why they never returned after 2e.
  • Narwhal: Considering narwhals were a meme for a while, I would have expected some reappearance since 2e. But nope.
  • Swanmay: While these did not return as a monster in later editions, they did appear as a prestige class in 3e's Book of Exalted Deeds.
  • Hazards and diseases: Monsters shifting to this category included russet mold (disease 4e, hazard 5e) and throat leeches (hazard, 5e). (Bookworms also returned as a hazard, but only in Tome of Horrors.)

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Nearly finished with 2e! Source breakdowns for the 2e Monstrous Manual...

702 core monsters in the list.

461/702 from the Monstrous Compendium Vol. 1 and 2.

241/702 newly core monsters. With a handful of exceptions, all of these had been published in the various looseleaf 2e MC appendices. Unfortunately, I don't have a specific breakdown of these sources handy. (If someone does, would be cool to see!) IIRC the most significant sources included what I call the "semi-core" appendices: both Forgotten Realms appendices, the Greyhawk appendix, the Outer Planes appendix, and the Fiend Folio appendix. But I believe each of the looseleaf appendices contributed at least one monster, excepting the second Ravenloft appendix (since it was all unique creatures).

One surprising discovery when I put this data together: they actually cut some monsters that had been in MC Vol. 1 and 2! Nothing major, though, just eight creatures: ant swarm, giant badger, giant boar, giant hyena, giant porcupine, giant skunk, giant weasel, and giant wolverine.

The generic "giant mammal" rules in the Monstrous Manual were presumably intended to cover all the missing giant animals... but they actually returned as unique creatures in MC Annual 2. So they were only gone for a few years. Ant swarms, on the other hand, remain missing...


Not surprised these didn't show up in core and actively surprised they did show up later. Titanothere is a well since depreciated term for the Brontotheres, particularly Megacerops.

Very different reason to us probably not seeing Dinichthys ever again, though that's more because its incredibly obscure and Dunkleosteus is far more famous.


Not surprised these didn't show up in core and actively surprised they did show up later. Titanothere is a well since depreciated term for the Brontotheres, particularly Megacerops.
To be fair, I would assume titanothere was the correct term in 1977. But I get the impression they were struggling to keep up with developments in paleontology by the 1990s...

Very different reason to us probably not seeing Dinichthys ever again, though that's more because its incredibly obscure and Dunkleosteus is far more famous.
Speaking as someone who loved dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals as a kid, I can say Dinichthys was definitely better known back in the 1980s than Dunkleosteus. Totally believe that it outranks them now, though.


Speaking as someone who loved dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals as a kid, I can say Dinichthys was definitely better known back in the 1980s than Dunkleosteus. Totally believe that it outranks them now, though.
Basically the fish we now know as Dunkleosteus was originally grouped under Dinichthys, but it was far enough away it got split pretty hard. This was defo the case it at least the 90s

And of course well before today firstly finding these would have all had shark-like bodies, not the eel shape, and then the famous Shrunk the Dunk incident where we managed to actually find a reliable way to guess how long they were, leading to Dunkleosteus getting shrunk

To be fair, I would assume titanothere was the correct term in 1977. But I get the impression they were struggling to keep up with developments in paleontology by the 1990s...

The funny thing is that Brontosaurus has traveled the exact opposite path - not being the correct term in 1977 (or whenever it first appeared in the game), but now is considered back to being a valid taxon by much of the paleontological community. D&D lasted long enough for things to circle back around in its case!


Wrapping up 2e, let's review the new core additions in the Monstrous Manual, and how things went for them after.

Core in every edition since the Monstrous Manual: Balor and marilith, pit fiend. After the initial 2e core retired fiends, the Monstrous Manual launched their comeback as core monsters.

Core in every edition since, except 3e: Cyclops, death knight, githyanki. (Mind, 4e's cyclopes were Feywild flavor rather than Greek, but they were still there.)

Core in every edition since, except 4e:
  • Grimlock, nightmare, slaad: They almost qualify, as they were part of the 4e Monster Manual, but didn't make it into Monster Vault.
  • Cloaker: Held back for Monster Manual 3.
  • Ice, lava (magma), and steam mephits: Eventually made appearances in 4e Dragon.
  • Triceratops, tyrannosaurus rex: The Monstrous Manual brought dinosaurs back to the core alongside fiends, but 4e retired them again, for the entire edition. Dinosaurs were replaced in 4e by "behemoths" - perhaps to evade the paleontology issues just mentioned? FWIW, the triceratops does have a behemoth analogue, the "trihorn behemoth" in Adventurer's Vault. (Surprisingly, the T-Rex never did, AFAIK.)
  • Deep gnome (svirfneblin): While they never appeared as a monster in 4e (unlike the standard gnome, which infamously did), svirfneblin did appear near the end of 4e as a species option, in Into the Unknown.
  • Titan: Completely absent from 4e.
Core in the Monstrous Manual and 5e, but no editions between:
  • Spectator: After being sourcebook material in 3e (Lords of Madness) and magazine material in 4e (Dungeon), 5e gave them an elite place as one of the three core beholder variants.
  • Thri-kreen: Had a respectable run in non-core monster books between the two editions (MM II in 3e and MM3 in 4e).
  • Crawling claw, death tyrant: 3e made them Realms exclusives; 4e reserved them for Open Grave.
  • Peryton: Another Realms exclusive in 3e. In 4e, they appeared in the only dedicated Nentir Vale setting book, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale.
  • Shadow dragon, faerie dragon: Reserved for the Draconomicons in 3e and 4e.
  • Quaggoth: Started off in 3.0 as a Realms exclusive, then was associated with Underdark-related sourcebooks in 3.5 and 4e.
  • Intellect devourer: Exclusive to 3e's psionic sourcebooks (which also put them in the SRD), but upgraded to MM3 in 4e.
  • Revenant: Another 3e Realms exclusive. In 4e they weren't monsters, but did appear as a PC option (most prominently in Heroes of Shadow).
  • Scarecrow: Appeared more than once in magazines in the 3e era, but never in a proper sourcebook. 4e gave them more respect with an appearance in MM3.
  • Ogrillon: Nearly forgotten during 3e (just one appearance in Dungeon) but did get a slightly more prominent appearance in Threats to the Nentir Vale.
  • Vulture and giant vulture: Both appeared in 3e, neither in 4e.
  • Sprite: Both 3e and 4e dropped sprites as monsters, though they did appear as a familiar in 4e.
  • Ankylosaurus, pteranodon: Ankylosaurs appeared in 3e's MM II, but 3e's pteranodons were a Realms exclusive (in Serpent Kingdoms). 4e, as noted, didn't have dinosaurs at all, but both had analogues among the behemoths (the 4e MM's macetail, and MM3's skinwing, respectively).
  • Goat: Just a single minor appearance in 3e Dungeon (same issue as the ogrillon, to be exact).
  • Smoke mephit: Entirely missing between 2e and 5e.
Non-core in 5e:
  • Tabaxi, of course, appeared as a PC option in Volo's Guide to Monsters. (They also appeared as monsters in Tomb of Annihilation.)
  • Volo's Guide to Monsters also brought back two beholder variants (death kiss and gauth), the deinonychus, the neogi, the rothé, the stench kow, the thorny, and the yuan-ti histachii (broodguard). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes reprinted the derro (from Out of the Abyss) and also brought back the abishai, giff, phoenix, spirit troll, vampiric mist, and zaratan. Both showed proper respect for the Monstrous Manual! Notably, a few of these had been core in the meantime: derro and deinonychus (3.0 and 3.5 MM); gauth (3.5 MM and 4e Monster Vault); and phoenix (4e MM).
  • Fizban's Treasury of Dragons revived the gem dragons (which, bar 4e, had appeared since 1e), as well as the deep dragon.
  • 5e Spelljammer brought back the arcane ("mercane", as they'd been renamed since 3e), pirate of gith ("githyanki buccaneer"), and curiously, the feyr (which had previously been associated with the Forgotten Realms, not Spelljammer).
  • Mordenkainen's Fiendish Folio brought back the assassin bug, crab folk, fog giant, and mite (all vets of the 1e Fiend Folio, of course).
  • Minsc and Boo's Journal of Villainy revived the gibberling, sirine ("sirene"), skeleton warrior, and sword spider. The sword spider was also core once in the meantime (4e MM, as the "blade spider").
  • Giant fly: Buried in the DMG.
  • Other monsters revived in 5e adventures included wereraven (Curse of Strahd); jaculi and juggernaut (Tomb of Annihilation); giant raven (Storm King's Thunder); werebat (Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage); sea zombie (various "drowned" in Ghosts of Saltmarsh); ice troll (Icewind Dale); grippli (Candlekeep Mysteries); giant dragonfly and glass ("glasswork") golem (The Wild Beyond the Witchlight); and aurumvorax (Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel).
  • Also the steel dragon, which appeared as a silver dragon variant in Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage... then got retconned in Fizban's as "actually just other types of metallic dragons that choose to look different".
Not in 5e:
  • The Monstrous Manual had more monsters than any D&D monster book before or since, so unsurprisingly there are - once again - a lot that didn't make to 5e. Once again, doing just the highlights.
  • Gremlin: You'd think a monster as iconic in pop culture as gremlins would have been a lock after 2e, but they've only appeared once since, in 4e's MM3.
  • Dark naga: Apparently one of the more successful new variants of an established monster, since they remained core through 3e and in the 4e MM. But while other naga returned in 5e after their disappearance from the 4e Monster Vault, dark nagas did not.
  • Spriggan: Made respectable return appearances in 3e and particularly 4e (MM2). Would have expected a 5e return by now, considering this edition's embrace of fey.
  • Deepspawn: Returned to being a Realms exclusive in 3e, but surprisingly hasn't made a comeback (even though it's the perfect plot device for a weird, random dungeon).
  • Obliviax: Made it through 3e (Dragon) and 4e (MM3's "oblivion moss"). Suspect the very similar oblex has taken their place in 5e (even though it's a new creation).
  • Maedar: Male analogues of medusae, these did return in 3e, but were replaced by a different style of male medusa in 4e.
  • Crypt thing: A personal favorite, this only returned for the 3e Fiend Folio. But it also wound up as OGL content thanks to the Tome of Horrors, which led to appearances in Pathfinder.
  • Living wall: This creepy bit of undead body horror surely seems like it should have come back repeatedly, but nope, just in 3e (though at least it did appear in both Dragon and Ravenloft products).
  • Wemic: Another personal favorite, since it was also a PC option in 2e. It became a Realms exclusive in 3e and hasn't returned since. (Guess lion-centaurs aren't appealing enough.)
  • Phantom: Hasn't appeared since 2e. One synonym for ghost too many?
  • Snyad: Also disappeared after 2e. Not to be confused with the synad, a psionic species from 3e.
  • Other beholder-kin: Some of these (director, hive mother, and overseer) made it to 3e's Lords of Madness, but the rest have just plain disappeared since 2e.
  • Other dragons: Brown and mercury dragons became Realms exclusive in 3e, then appeared in 4e's Draconomicons, but apparently missed the cut for Fizban's. Mist dragons also became Realms exclusives in 3e, but disappeared after. The cloud dragon and the Monstrous Manual's yellow dragon haven't appeared at all since (though the cloud dragon became OGL, and other yellow dragons have made official appearances).
  • Other giants: 3e revived three of them: the desert ("sun") giant, the jungle ("forest") giant, and the mountain giant. Subsequent editions seem to have been pickier about their giant rosters. The wood giant (voadkyn), which had premiered in 1e, made its last appearance in the Monstrous Manual, but did become OGL via Tome of Horrors. Reef giants haven't returned at all.
  • Dragonlance monsters: Various Krynnish birds, the eyewing, the hatori, and the horax only returned for 3e's Dragonlance books.
  • Ravenloft monsters: Greater mummies returned in 3e's Deities and Demigods, but seem to have been displaced by the mummy lord since. Broken ones reappeared in 3e's Ravenloft books, but as previously noted, seem to have been replaced by mongrelfolk in 5e. Ravenloft's bone, doll, and gargoyle golems, quickwood, and zombie lord similarly made their last appearance in the 3e Ravenloft books.
  • Dark Sun monsters: Gith appeared in 3e and 4e's Dark Sun revivals; kirre just in 4e's.
  • Elven cat: How "cats, but for elves" hasn't reappeared since 2e is beyond me. (I was going to lump the cooshee in here too, but just discovered they did reappear once, in 3e's Races of the Wild ("elven hound"). Another spreadsheet update!)
  • Hazards and diseases: Olive slime did not become one of these in official D&D, making a reappearance as a monster in 3e Dungeon. However, their appearance in Tome of Horrors did make it a hazard.
EDIT: Messed up my spreadsheet work and missed the githyanki, grimlock, nightmare, and slaad! More details in this post.
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Yeah, the lack of an update for spriggans in 5e has puzzled me as well. You would think that some adventure or other would have had them make an appearance!


Yeah, the lack of an update for spriggans in 5e has puzzled me as well. You would think that some adventure or other would have had them make an appearance!
Just pondered this more, and a possible reason comes to mind: the main spriggan shtick (small thing that embiggens) has basically been stolen by duergar in 5e. Maybe they can't think of a replacement spin for 5e spriggans. (4e did introduce some other types of spriggans, but they might not be appealing enough to the designers.)

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