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


Major oops in the last post, I forgot githyanki under the "ignoring 3e" section, and grimlock, nightmare, and slaad under the "ignoring 4e" section. (Even though I'd somehow remembered death slaad...) The previous post has been corrected.

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On beyond AD&D, and into the d20 era. Source breakdowns for the 3.0 Monster Manual...

380 core monsters in the list.

257/380 from the 2e Monstrous Manual, of which:
  • 228 were from MC Vol. 1 and 2
  • 29 were from other unidentified sources (mostly if not entirely 2e)
3/380 from the MC Annual [azer, gibbering mouther, skum]
2/380 from MC Annual 2 [half-dragon, rhinoceros]
5/380 from MC Annual 3 [aranea, chain devil, formian, lillend, shadow mastiff]
1/380 from the Greyhawk MC Appendix [grugach (elf)]
5/380 from the Mystara MC Appendix [athach, choker, nightcrawler, nightwalker, nightwing]
28/380 from the Planescape MC Appendix [demons, devils, and a few others]
4/380 from Planescape MC Appendix II [aasimar, ghaele eladrin, avoral (guardinal), retriever]
8/380 from Planescape MC Appendix III [belker, devourer, rast, ravid, flamebrother and noble salamander, thoqqua, xill]
2/380 from the 2e Planescape Campaign Setting [barghest, magmin]
2/380 from Planes of Chaos [chaos beast, howler]
5/380 from Planes of Law [achaierai, hound archon, lantern archon, trumpet archon, hellcat]

Several of the above had appeared in other 2e sources as well; for example, many of the Planescape monsters had also been in the Outer Planes MC Appendix. Still, the Planescape setting was clearly a big influence on their choices for 3.0 core monsters. Also of note: the Mystara monsters were likely there to represent Basic D&D more than 2e.

2/380 had last appeared in the Basic D&D Rules Cyclopedia [panther, warhorse]
1/380 had last appeared in the Basic D&D Creature Catalog [octopus]

Doubtful that those three were meant as Basic D&D nods, though.

54/380 newly core monsters

With the previous monster book being so large, there were understandably a lot of cuts. (445, to be precise.) These included:
  • Human NPCs. (I guess you were expected to use NPC classes to represent them in 3e.)
  • Many beholder-kin, dragons, giants, golems, oozes, plants, and trolls. Also some lycanthropes.
  • Many normal and giant animals, including some dinosaurs. With some exceptions, giant animals generally appeared to be replaced by "dire" animals in 3e.
  • Many campaign-setting specific monsters.
  • Many "greater" or similar stronger variants of existing monsters.
  • Most psionic monsters (again).
Excepting generic human NPCs and most giant animals, many of these monsters did make comebacks in later 3e books (though some waited until 3.5).

EDIT: Count had accidentally forgotten the deep halfling, so it's 380 instead of 379.
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Now, let's review the new core additions in the 3.0 Monster Manual...

Core in every edition since 3.0: Hezrou, vrock, chain devil, ice devil, night hag, succubus. All but the chain devil had also been in the 1e MM, of course, but 2e had left them out of the core.

Core only in 3.0 and 5e:
  • Azer, chuul, bearded devil, gibbering mouther, grick, shield guardian, warhorse, vampire spawn: These were core in the 4e MM, but didn't make it into the Monster Vault.
  • Dretch: Not in the 4e MM, but did make it into the Monster Vault.
  • Angels (deva, planetar, solar): 4e had its own unique take on angels, which fell by the wayside when 5e brought back the classic variants.
  • Ape: While they were skipped in the 4e core rules, apes got a rather distinctive writeup in MM3.
  • Darkmantle: Held back for MM2.
  • Dust mephit: However, they did make an appearance in 4e Dragon.
  • Half-dragon: From its origins as a PC race in 2e, to a template in 3e, to absent in 4e, it finally ended as one of the few templates in 5e.
  • Lizard, octopus, toad: See previous posts on 4e's general disinterest in mundane animals.
  • Magmin: Also completely absent in 4e.
Non-core in 5e:
  • Volo's Guide to Monsters brought back the barghest, bodak, devourer, girallon, shadow mastiff, vargouille, and yeth hound. Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes brought back the allip, choker, gray render, howler, and retriever. Volo's only came out slightly ahead here for 3.0 core reps! The (cavern) choker, notably, had also been core in 4e.
  • Mordenkainen's Fiendish Folio brought back the xill (another 1e Fiend Folio vet).
  • Minsc and Boo's Journal of Villainy brought back the achaierai and the bebilith. (The bebilith had also appeared in 4e's MM2.)
  • Chains of Asmodeus brought back the hellcat.
  • 5e Planescape restored the classic archons (hound and lantern) as well as the avoral (guardinal).
  • Explorer's Guide to Wildemount brought back the frost worm. (Which is largely the reason why I counted EGTW as a source, despite being a borderline third-party setting.)
  • Other monsters revived in 5e adventures included the assassin vine (Tomb of Annihilation) and the skum (Ghosts of Saltmarsh).
Not in 5e:
  • As previously, not covering every omission, just some highlights.
  • Tiefling: Tieflings were core in both 3e and 4e, and obviously do exist in 5e... just not as monsters.
  • Aasimar: Similar to the tieflings, except that they were skipped in 4e (the deva PC species pretty much filled their niche) and are non-core in 5e.
  • Dire animals: One of 3e's new ideas was making "dire" versions of animals, likely to replace earlier editions' giant animals (and riffing on the long-running dire wolf). A handful of these carried forward into 4e, but 5e brought back giant animals and basically dropped the "dire" concept.
  • Templates: One of 3e's other big ideas was monster templates: celestial creature, fiendish creature, etc. 5e only has a few of these in its core rules, and hasn't done much with them since. (I wonder if the 2025 update will drop them.)
  • Formian: Very clearly meant to replace modrons as the default lawful planar creatures in 3e. 4e likely dropped them due to not fitting into their cosmology; 5e has instead given all their love to modrons, and forgotten the formian.
  • Mephits: 5e seems pretty content with their core lineup of mephits, so who knows if we'll see the air, earth, ooze, salt, or water variants again? (Arguably the 5e mud mephit is an updated ooze mephit, but as there's precedent for multiple mephits for the same elemental source, can't be sure.)
  • Chaos beast: Originating in 2e Planescape, 4e did give them another chance in the Book of Vile Darkness. (Maybe 5e will bring them back for the Vecna adventure?)
  • Ghaele eladrin: A version remained part of the 4e elf-PC eladrin (the 4e MM has a "eladrin ghaele of winter"), but the 5e eladrin no longer echoes its Planescape incarnations.
  • Thoqqua: A veteran of the 1e Fiend Folio and 2e Planescape, but apparently not interesting enough for later editions.
  • Lillend: Similar to the thoqqua, they were in 1e (Dragon) and 2e Planescape - and were even escalated to 2e's MC Annual 3 - but haven't appeared since.
  • Belker, rast, ravid: These oddballs from the late Planescape line likewise haven't returned since 3e.
  • Animated object: 4e just gave them an appearance in Dungeon; 5e prefers bespoke animated objects to generic ones.
  • Aranea: A Basic D&D veteran like the athach and nightshade, and even a PC option at times, but vanished since 3e.
  • Deep dwarf, grugach: For whatever reason, 3e dug up a few obscure racial variants and included them as monsters. Deep dwarves haven't been back (they are kinda redundant with duergar), but there was actually an attempt to bring back grugach in 5e (as seen in Unearthed Arcana).
  • Arrowhawk, delver, digester, ethereal filcher, mohrg, phantom fungus, phasm, shocker lizard, spider eater, tendriculos, tojanida, yrthak: 3e was probably the last edition to try and invest in lots of totally new core monsters. Of course, some - like these - just didn't work out. (Pathfinder has occasionally made use of them, though. I wish 5e would at least revive the very kaiju-like yrthak...)
  • Destrachan, ethereal marauder, krenshar: That said, a few of these less popular 3e originals must have had supporters, as they got one more chance in 4e. The destrachan was even core again, in the 4e MM!
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Interrupting the 3e analysis... I just discovered that there's another set of monsters for "naval adventures" in the third booklet of OD&D. While technically I had listed Monsters & Treasure as the core monster source for 0e, excluding these monsters for that reason would just be overly picky. So I added them to the chart as well!

That adds, or upgrades, the following monsters to the 0e core:
  • Dragon turtle
  • Leech, giant (was listed for Blackmoor)
  • Crocodile
  • Crocodile, giant (was listed for Blackmoor)
  • Snake, sea - giant (listed as just "giant snake" but clarified to be "of the Sea")
  • Octopus, giant (was listed for Blackmoor)
  • Squid, giant (was listed for Blackmoor)
  • Crab, giant (was listed for Blackmoor)
  • Fish, giant (this one is new)

I updated the following older posts, the only ones really affected by this change:
  • The OP : Removed Monsters & Treasure specificity.
  • 1e breakdown: Changed numbers and final comment.


Finishing up the d20 era, let's look at the 3.5 Monster Manual... which won't take long.

413 core monsters in the list.

379/413 from the 3.0 Monster Manual.
34/413 newly core monsters. At least a few of these had previously appeared in sourcebooks during the 3.0 era; many of the rest were variants of existing monsters.

There was only one cut from the 3.0 Monster Manual: the lernaean hydra, which was basically assimilated into the standard hydra (since it now rapidly regrew heads).


And since the 3.5 overview was pretty short, we'll go right into reviewing the new additions!

Core in every edition since 3.5: Githyanki, hyena. (Does someone at Wizards have a fondness for hyenas? They even made it into the 4e MM.)

Core only in 3.5 and 5e:
  • Githzerai: They remained paired with githyanki in the 4e MM, but didn't make the cut for the Monster Vault.
  • Swarms of bats, centipedes, rats, spiders: Swarms had existed as a rules concept in earlier editions of D&D, but 3.5 was the first version to pay so much attention to them, with fixed rules and many varieties. Swarms did continue into 4e, but their status varied. Rats made it into the 4e MM but not the MV; spiders were in the MV but not the 4e MM; centipedes were only in MM2; and bats only in Dungeon Magazine.
  • Mummy lord: One of many upgrades of common monsters in the 3.5 MM, this basically displaced the greater mummy of 2e and 3.0. It did make it into the 4e MM, but was pushed aside from MV in favor of other mummies.

Non-core in 5e:
  • Volo's Guide to Monsters brought back the gauth (beholder) and babau (demon). Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes brought back the marut. Note that the gauth and babau had been core in the MV, while the marut had been core in the 4e MM (as the marut "concordant").
  • 5e Planescape revived the marut's fellow inevitable, the kolyarut.
  • Tales from the Yawning Portal revived another monster upgrade introduced in the 3.5 MM, the elder black pudding.

Not in 5e:
  • Various monster upgrades: As noted, the 3.5 MM made a point of including many upgraded versions of common monsters. This was likely a way to demonstrate mechanics such as advancement, templates, and adding classes. Most of these were left behind in later editions, but a few apparently caught the fancy of 4e designers and made appearances there. These include the displacer beast pack lord, which remained core in both the 4e MM and MV; the celestial charger and dread wraith, which also appeared in the 4e MM; and the werewolf lord, which returned in MM2.
  • Bralani eladrin: Like the ghaele, this got a nod among the elf-eladrin variants in the 4e MM (the eladrin "bralani of autumn winds") but wasn't referenced in the 5e update.
  • Leonal (guardinal): Considered worthy of inclusion in the 3.5 MM among other guardinals, but not in 4e or 5e.
  • Locust swarm: One of the ancestors of the 3.5 swarms (appearing under "insect swarm" in the 2e Monstrous Manual), but also not considered worthy of future upgrades. (Even though swarms of locusts are kind of an iconic real-life swarm.)
  • Manta ray: Only calling out this normal animal because 3.5 was its last appearance in D&D, after a long history in the game. Manta rays went all the way back to 0e's Blackmoor, and appeared in both Basic D&D and AD&D as core creatures. (I suppose we still have the ixitxachitl.)
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Nearing the end of our journey, we move into the GSL era, with the 4e Monster Manual.

326 core monsters in the list.

139/326 from the 3.5 Monster Manual

11/326 from 3e's Monster Manual II [banshee (wailing ghost), fire bat, death knight, war devil, spitting drake, eidolon, fomorian, galeb duhr, hook horror, bone naga, phoenix]
11/326 from 3e's Fiend Folio [blood fiend, dark creeper, dark stalker, abyssal ghoul, iron cobra, shadar-kai, flame snake, scarab beetle swarm, vine horror, sword wraith, yuan-ti anathema]
11/326 from Monster Manual III [astral stalker, battlebriar, boneclaw, rage drake, death giant, blackscale lizardfolk, longtooth and razorclaw shifter, war troll, warforged, mezzoloth (mezzodemon)]
4/326 from Monster Manual IV [balhannoth, dragonspawn (blackspawn stalker [gloomweb], bluespawn godslayer, redspawn firebelcher)]
5/326 from Monster Manual V [banshrae, carnage demon (evistro), skull lord, wild hunt hound, guulvorg]

Shifters and warforged, of course, actually first appeared in the Eberron Campaign Setting, but MM III was the first to introduce the generic version that 4e made core. The similar proportions from MM II, FF, and MM III make me wonder if there was a conscious effort to get a balanced sample of those sources.

7/326 from the D&D Miniatures Game [angel of vengeance, macetail behemoth, visejaw crocodile, human bandit, stormrage shambler, boneshard skeleton, snaketongue cultist]
1/326 from 3e Dragon [fire archon]

Seven of these eight were almost certainly intended as a sneak preview of 4e's core monsters, which would make them unique in D&D monster history: creatures explicitly made for one edition, but retro-converted into an older edition to show off before their premiere. (The eighth, human bandit, was hardly a new idea.)

5/326 from the Epic Level Handbook [atropal, gibbering orb, larva mage, phane, black (void) slaad]
3/326 from the Miniatures Handbook [kruthik, magma hurler, gravehound]
3/326 from Libris Mortis [angel of decay (rot harbinger), fiery (blazing) skeleton, slaughter wight]
3/326 from Fiendish Codex I [Orcus, barlgura, goristro]
2/326 from Fiendish Codex II [merregon (legion devil), spinagon (spined devil)]
2/326 from Monsters of Faerun [spectral panther, sword (blade) spider]
2/326 from Lost Empires of Faerun [flameskull, helmed horror]
1/326 from 3e's Deities and Demigods [cyclops]
1/326 from 3e's Draconomicon [dracolich]
1/326 from Lords of Madness [grell]
1/326 from 3e's Oriental Adventures [bog hag]
1/326 from Eberron Campaign Setting [iron defender]
1/326 from Sharn: City of Towers [spiretop dragon (drake)]
1/326 from Expedition to the Demonweb Pits [cambion]
1/326 from the Dragon Compendium [trap haunt]

109/326 newly core monsters

Say what you will about the 4e Monster Manual, but it's clearly second only to the 2e Monstrous Manual in terms of diversity of sources.

However, it also cut plenty of monsters (275) that had been in the 3.5 Monster Manual. A lot of these cuts had a long history in the game before 4e; but many of them, like metallic dragons, reappeared in MM2 and MM3 (and a few of these were updated again for Monster Vault, making them core again).

Other notable cuts included:
  • Lots of normal animals: Discussed in previous posts, but mentioned again because it's definitely the largest chunk of the cuts.
  • Celestials (angels, archons, etc.): Casualties of 4e's big cosmology shift. The classic demons and devils found a place in the World Axis, but the classic celestials were apparently ripe for reimagining.
  • Blink dog, dragon turtle, cloud giant, sea hag, merfolk, spirit naga, titan, werebear: Despite their long history in the game (going back to 0e!) these never found a place in 4e. 5e, of course, brought them back immediately. (I'd be curious if there was some reasoning behind their 4e absence, or if it was just disinterest.)
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Not in 5e:
  • Like the Rules Cyclopedia, a lot of 1e monsters have yet to make a return for 5e (even as some recent products have tried to fix that). Also like with the RC, I'm going to be picky with the below highlights.
  • Eye of the deep: One of the first beholder-kin, yet it hasn't returned since 3e. Not really sure why, since we've gotten other variant beholders in 5e (even the obscure astereater, as Spelljammer 5e's "eye monger").
I have a particular beef with this omission because: A) it's an awesome creature with a long history in the game, and B) I painted up the Reaper miniature for it recently and had to home-brew it to use it on DnDBeyond.

Eye of the Deep.jpg

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