D&D 5E Here's Our Favourite (and least favourite) D&D Monsters!

Last week I took a poll to determine which D&D monsters were the most loved, and which languished unliked in the back of the cupboard. The poll was limited to the D&D 5E Monster Manual, specifically the main monsters section (so not the NPCs or animals).

Aboleth - Kim Van Deun.jpg

Aboleth from Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition, by Kim Van Deun

Let's start with the monsters that nobody liked. Well, to be accurate, there were none that scored 0 votes, but the poor empyrean only squeezed in with a single vote. If there's any monster in need of some love, the empyrean is it. It's the least-liked monster in the Monster Manual.

Joining it at the bottom, though, are some other unpopular critters -- the magmin (spellchecker PLEASE let me type that word - even my OS doesn't like the magma .. err.. magma ... umm .. magmin!), darkmantle, sprite, satyr, quaggoth, and merrow.

The top of the chart was a little more predictable. The iconic mind flayer led the pack, followed closely by dragons and beholders. A little way behind those three, we had some other D&D staples in the form of skeletons, the lich, goblins, and the troll.

Demons are more popular than devils. Liches are loved more than vampires. Death knights are in the middle of the pack, neither loved nor disliked. The 'iconic' D&D monsters (i.e. the mind flayers and beholders, which D&D created) are very well loved.

Anyway, I should stop talking about it and just show you it. Here's the full list, in descending order.
  1. Mind Flayer
  2. Dragons
  3. Beholders
  4. Skeletons
  5. Lich
  6. Goblins
  7. Troll
  8. Demons
  9. Ghouls
  10. Giants
  11. Owlbear
  12. Ogres
  13. Zombies
  14. Vampires
  15. Devils
  16. Displacer Beast
  17. Kobolds
  18. Wraith
  19. Rust Monster
  20. Gnolls
  21. Orcs
  22. Elementals
  23. Hags
  24. Umber Hulk
  25. Carrion Crawler
  26. Golems
  27. Wight
  28. Death Knight
  29. Hobgoblins
  30. Lycanthropes
  31. Mummies
  32. Minotaur
  33. Lizardfolk
  34. Rakshasa
  35. Bugbears
  36. Bulette
  37. Manticore
  38. Wyvern
  39. Shambling Mound
  40. Yuan-Ti
  41. Elves (Inc. Drow)
  42. Gargoyle
  43. Shadow
  44. Hydra
  45. Mimic
  46. Oozes
  47. Dracolich
  48. Griffon
  49. Modrons
  50. Aboleth
  51. Chimera
  52. Flameskull
  53. Hell Hound
  54. Purple Worm
  55. Medusa
  56. Oni
  57. Roper
  58. Basilisk
  59. Otyugh
  60. Stirge
  61. Intellect Devourer
  62. Ankheg
  63. Dinosaurs
  64. Ghost
  65. Hook Horror
  66. Doppelganger
  67. Genies
  68. Harpy
  69. Pseudodragon
  70. Demilich
  71. Drider
  72. Gibbering Mouther
  73. Animated Objects
  74. Grell
  75. Nightmare
  76. Thri-Kreen
  77. Banshee
  78. Behir
  79. Bullywug
  80. Nagas
  81. Revenant
  82. Will-O'-Wisp
  83. Dragon Turtle
  84. Faerie Dragon
  85. Flumph
  86. Gith
  87. Mephits
  88. Sahuagin
  89. Slaadi
  90. Tarrasque
  91. Treant
  92. Cockatrice
  93. Kuo-Toa
  94. Myconids
  95. Scarecrow
  96. Specter
  97. Sphinxes
  98. Ettin
  99. Nothic
  100. Remorhazes
  101. Succubus/Incubus
  102. Water Weird
  103. Gorgon
  104. Roc
  105. Troglodyte
  106. Unicorn
  107. Angels
  108. Couatl
  109. Kraken
  110. Peryton
  111. Crawling Claw
  112. Helmed Horror
  113. Salamanders
  114. Yugoloths
  115. Centaur
  116. Dryad
  117. Duergar
  118. Grick
  119. Kenku
  120. Lamia
  121. Shield Guardian
  122. Xorn
  123. Cambion
  124. Cloaker
  125. Cyclops
  126. Fomorian
  127. Gnome (Inc Svirfneblin)
  128. Hippogriff
  129. Invisible Stalker
  130. Yetis
  131. Ettercap
  132. Fungi
  133. Jackalwere
  134. Grimlock
  135. Half-Dragon
  136. Homunculus
  137. Azer
  138. Chuul
  139. Merfolk
  140. Pegasus
  141. Pixie
  142. Aarakocra
  143. Blights
  144. Galeb Duhr
  145. Piercer
  146. Merrow
  147. Quaggoth
  148. Satyr
  149. Sprite
  150. Darkmantle
  151. Magmin
  152. Empyrean
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I have never in 39 years of playing D&D used any of those three in games I've run and have only run into #1 once as a player.
I've used Aboleths maybe four times ever - a party has to be decent-ish level to even think about dealing with one and their ecology limits them to fairly specific environments, which limits their usage a bit.

Ditto Beholders; though I have in the past built one or two adventures around them and they really do rock. They are also a bit more flexible in where they'll live than are Aboleths, which helps.

Mind Flayers are slowly emerging as a primary enemy in my current campaign so they're on heavy rotation for the time being. After this campaign I'll probably never want to see another one, the same as I am with Drow now after years of them being a primary villain in an old long-running game.
 
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Indeed, I was surprised that Aboleths were so far down the list.

I'm surprised too as the Aboleth has gotten a bit of exposure as a SRD monster 3pp publishers can actually use compared to the other two. Though, my strongest memories of that is back in 3e. Perhaps 5e 3pp haven't used it as often.

Perhaps it's because most of its powers and tactics are for the final physical confrontation as compared what the creature was doing before to get the PCs attention. Its true "mastermind" power in most editions has been to allegedly use telepathy to tempt NPC with promises and lies until they get close enough to be enslaved or transformed into pawns (line of sight, 30 feet) so as to serve the masterplan. The pawns usually trick more people by bringing them near and the creature helps by casting illusions so the victim has their guard down until the last moment.

The most straightforward solution, a very long distance Charm effect, seems to be the one thing every designer has avoided. since 3e, probably out of fear of getting a party overly dominated.

In 5e, it's more roundabout and not spelled out as much. The creature has to capitalize on Probing Telepathy but it doesn't have a Deception skill (which would be an 8+ or so). And an Aboleth's telepathy is only 120 feet. A humanoid pretty much as to trip over the monster to become agent 0 in the creature's plans for upper world domination. Especially since they are out of the way places.

So in trying to keep PC from being dominated or charmed over long distance or over a long time (which admittedly is not fun and a hassle to juggle as a GM), the monster's abilities to create an NPC network gets lost in the shuffle.

Sometimes, I'd like to see small adventure paths that break out some these classic creatures. Like a 1-10 AP for an Aboleth storyline. Or beginners adventure vs a Wight (they have a 10 Int, so they are not mindless.)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I'm surprised too as the Aboleth has gotten a bit of exposure as a SRD monster 3pp publishers can actually use compared to the other two. Though, my strongest memories of that is back in 3e. Perhaps 5e 3pp haven't used it as often.

Perhaps it's because most of its powers and tactics are for the final physical confrontation as compared what the creature was doing before to get the PCs attention. Its true "mastermind" power in most editions has been to allegedly use telepathy to tempt NPC with promises and lies until they get close enough to be enslaved or transformed into pawns (line of sight, 30 feet) so as to serve the masterplan. The pawns usually trick more people by bringing them near and the creature helps by casting illusions so the victim has their guard down until the last moment.

The most straightforward solution, a very long distance Charm effect, seems to be the one thing every designer has avoided. since 3e, probably out of fear of getting a party overly dominated.

In 5e, it's more roundabout and not spelled out as much. The creature has to capitalize on Probing Telepathy but it doesn't have a Deception skill (which would be an 8+ or so). And an Aboleth's telepathy is only 120 feet. A humanoid pretty much as to trip over the monster to become agent 0 in the creature's plans for upper world domination.

So in trying to keep PC from being dominated or charmed over long distance or over a long time (which admittedly is not fun and a hassle to juggle as a GM), the monster's abilities to create an NPC network gets lost in the shuffle.

Sometimes, I'd like to see small adventure paths that break out some these classic creatures. Like a 1-10 AP for an Aboleth storyline. Or beginners adventure vs a Wight (they have a 10 Int, so they are not mindless.)
Problem with the aboleth is it’s a fish.
 



RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
The interesting thing for me is that many of the monsters I love and voted for were creatures I fell in love with after making many changes to them.

1. Aboleths - while I do still have the normal aberrant Aboleths, I’ve created Celestial and Elemental Aboleths that are more common in my world. The Elemental Aboleths have replaced the genies as the top of the elemental pecking order outside of the elder elementals and primordials. The Celestial Aboleths have a deep connection to the divine weave due to their great mother being the god that controls the divine portion of the weave of magic.

2. Devils - They are no longer backstabbing, soul corrupting, loophole exploiting creatures, but harsh but fair dark arbiters of law and civilization that act as protectors of the planes from evil forces wishing to wreck havoc. Each Devil has a total of eight variants, the standard form and seven that align with one of the seven arch-devils.

3. Displaced Beast - These creatures are connected to the Shadowfell and the goddess of darkness Volumdremaak. There are also no longer evil.

4. Driders - No longer reside in the Underdark, and they have been cured from the suffering inflicted by Lolth’s curse (though they are still spider centaurs). They have integrated themselves into surface society and are just another normal race.

5. Gnolls - My gnolls act more like the Dalish Elves for Dragon Age, nomadic hunters and gatherers with deep connections to nature and it’s magic. They have a strong reverence for Hyaenodons, who they see as first born of their late god and view as honored members of their clans. They also have a strong cultural bond with Halfling due to past events between the races.

6. Hydras - They are all Draconic offspring of the World Serpent, an Elder Primal Spirit and nature god. Lesser Hydras are still the same but greater Hydras are intelligent and imbued with primal magic.

7. Rakshasa - these Fiendish Felines have been turned into Devils, and are big players in devil politics and negotiations.

8. Sahuagin - As one of the races who’s cultures are strongly tied to my devils, they often act as powerful underwater strike forces that like to populate areas where planar tears exist and spawn out various outsiders onto the material plane.

9. Yuan-ti - The pure bloods don’t exist, and they don’t experiment on humanoids to make more of themselves. While their are standard Yuan-ti, Worldspeaker Yuan-ti who follow the primal spirits and use nature magic, and Twilight Yuan-ti that are masters of divine magic and healing.
 

Omand

Hero
I will dig out my books and see if I can find the reference to share.

Cheers :)
OK, about the Darkmantle ...

So, my memory was sort of playing tricks on me.

The Darkmantle first appeared in the 3E Monster Manual. The creature was native to caverns and the Underdark, and the lore included the line that "Scholars believe that the darkmantle recently evolved from a less capable predator." The text also had the Darkmantle disguising itself like a stalactite.

In the 3.5 revision a bit more text was added about the appearance and size of the darkmantle, but it was basically copied over with no changes, unlike some other creatures.

As far as I can find, the Piercer did not appear in official WotC 3E or 3.5

Reading between the lines I think the suggestion by the 3E team is the the silly Piercer (one of Gary's gotcha/joke monsters) was redesigned into a more cool opponent.

The Darkmantle returned in 4E (MM2) as a creature from the Shadowfell. No language about how it evolved or if it is descended from another creature.

In 5E the Darkmantle is back to being from the Underdark.

It is the 5E Monster Manual that upgrades lore for the Piercer and Roper. The Piercer is now the larval form of a Roper. Once a Piercer eats and grows enough, it permanently descends from the ceiling and lives on the floor instead.

So my bad for linking them all together, they are not explicitly so in 5E.

Here endeth the lesson and we now return you to your regular thread.

Cheers :)
 

Erdric Dragin

Adventurer
The Empyrean’s concept is incredibly cool, children of the gods who’s emotions are charged with their divine power. The execution is lacking though. The forms and powers of the gods are so varied, yet all the Empyreans look like large statuesque humans/giants with a singular standard stat block. They are the same regardless of who their parents are and that seems really strange. You are telling me that an Empyrean child of Bahamut will look the same and have the same exact powers as an Empyrean child of Corellon or Moradin?
It's because TSR/WotC made the mistake of tying Titans (the actual name of Empyreans) to the gods, but never specifying which gods. At the same time they tried to maintain their connection to the Olympian gods. In retrospect, they should have created two different types.

They should have left the Empyreans for the Olympian gods mythos and made the Titans tied to the Giant pantheon. Forgotten Realms did it correctly by tying Titans to the Giant Pantheon, but unfortunately they still overlap the Greek ones. Which makes things awkward for the lore.
 

Stormonu

Legend
OK, about the Darkmantle ...

So, my memory was sort of playing tricks on me.

The Darkmantle first appeared in the 3E Monster Manual. The creature was native to caverns and the Underdark, and the lore included the line that "Scholars believe that the darkmantle recently evolved from a less capable predator." The text also had the Darkmantle disguising itself like a stalactite.

In the 3.5 revision a bit more text was added about the appearance and size of the darkmantle, but it was basically copied over with no changes, unlike some other creatures.

As far as I can find, the Piercer did not appear in official WotC 3E or 3.5

Reading between the lines I think the suggestion by the 3E team is the the silly Piercer (one of Gary's gotcha/joke monsters) was redesigned into a more cool opponent.

The Darkmantle returned in 4E (MM2) as a creature from the Shadowfell. No language about how it evolved or if it is descended from another creature.

In 5E the Darkmantle is back to being from the Underdark.

It is the 5E Monster Manual that upgrades lore for the Piercer and Roper. The Piercer is now the larval form of a Roper. Once a Piercer eats and grows enough, it permanently descends from the ceiling and lives on the floor instead.

So my bad for linking them all together, they are not explicitly so in 5E.

Here endeth the lesson and we now return you to your regular thread.

Cheers :)
I think the link you're looking for is actually in the designers notes from 3E (good luck finding those)! I mentally recall the link between piercer - darkmantle - roper as well. As I recall, darkmantles primarily came to be because the designers were disappointed how helpless a piercer was after its initial drop (basically a trap more than a monster). You could probably also include the Storoper ("stone roper") in that as well, as an elder form of roper with a tougher shell and the ability to "petrify" opponents.
 

Omand

Hero
I think the link you're looking for is actually in the designers notes from 3E (good luck finding those)! I mentally recall the link between piercer - darkmantle - roper as well. As I recall, darkmantles primarily came to be because the designers were disappointed how helpless a piercer was after its initial drop (basically a trap more than a monster). You could probably also include the Storoper ("stone roper") in that as well, as an elder form of roper with a tougher shell and the ability to "petrify" opponents.
Thanks @Stormonu you may well be correct.

I thought that I had read it in the 5E material though, but it could be my brain playing tricks and thinking back to 3E material. I binged on books in 3E and also absorbed tonnes of material from the website.

Cheers :)
 

Richards

Legend
When 3E was still in the development stage, I was asked to write up an "Ecology" article for Dragon focusing on one of the new creatures that would be debuting in the 3E Monster Manual. (I was part of the NDA group and had been sent draft copies of the three core books at the time.) At that point there wasn't a whole lot to choose from so I picked the "darcmantle" (that was its original spelling; I convinced them to spell it normally) specifically because it was apparent - to me, at least - that this was an upgraded version of a piercer, and as "The Ecology of the Piercer" had been the very first article that spawned the whole "Ecology" series (back in Dragon #72) I felt that made the darkmantle especially appropriate. I had planned on the entire darkmantle race having been derived from a group of piercers whose bodies had been warped by the energies of the Demiplane of Shadows, but that wasn't allowed because at the time the designers hadn't yet worked out whether there was even going to be a Demiplane of Shadows (or if it was going to be upgraded to a full plane or possibly even done away with). So I didn't get to use that origin, but "The Ecology of the Darkmantle" did get published in Dragon #275, the first to use the 3E rules.

At the time, there was no link between piercers and ropers - that must have started with 5E.

Johnathan
 

Omand

Hero
When 3E was still in the development stage, I was asked to write up an "Ecology" article for Dragon focusing on one of the new creatures that would be debuting in the 3E Monster Manual. (I was part of the NDA group and had been sent draft copies of the three core books at the time.) At that point there wasn't a whole lot to choose from so I picked the "darcmantle" (that was its original spelling; I convinced them to spell it normally) specifically because it was apparent - to me, at least - that this was an upgraded version of a piercer, and as "The Ecology of the Piercer" had been the very first article that spawned the whole "Ecology" series (back in Dragon #72) I felt that made the darkmantle especially appropriate. I had planned on the entire darkmantle race having been derived from a group of piercers whose bodies had been warped by the energies of the Demiplane of Shadows, but that wasn't allowed because at the time the designers hadn't yet worked out whether there was even going to be a Demiplane of Shadows (or if it was going to be upgraded to a full plane or possibly even done away with). So I didn't get to use that origin, but "The Ecology of the Darkmantle" did get published in Dragon #275, the first to use the 3E rules.

At the time, there was no link between piercers and ropers - that must have started with 5E.

Johnathan
Thanks @Richards.

I have that magazine in my collection (in storage) and definitely read it. Must be part of my muddled memories.

Cheers :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
3. Displaced Beast - These creatures are connected to the Shadowfell and the goddess of darkness Volumdremaak. There are also no longer evil.

4. Driders - No longer reside in the Underdark, and they have been cured from the suffering inflicted by Lolth’s curse (though they are still spider centaurs). They have integrated themselves into surface society and are just another normal race.
Funny - I went the opposite direction and made Driders the divine servants, or minions, of Llolth (similar to how Valkyries are the minions of some of the Norse deities); much like it seems you've done with Displacer Beasts and Volumdremaak.

Which means if you ever see a Drider in my games, assume it's there because Llolth has a direct interest in proceedings.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Emperyans are frankly boring, they another celestial alt-angel with no real flavour that cant be got from Solars/Planetars etc.

I am suprised that both pixies and sprites score low, but then suppose theres lots of other fey options for a game.

also fun to see that the classic Rust Monster is still Top 20

disappointed Mindflayers topped the list rather than Dragons
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
OK, about the Darkmantle ...

So, my memory was sort of playing tricks on me.

The Darkmantle first appeared in the 3E Monster Manual. The creature was native to caverns and the Underdark, and the lore included the line that "Scholars believe that the darkmantle recently evolved from a less capable predator." The text also had the Darkmantle disguising itself like a stalactite.

In the 3.5 revision a bit more text was added about the appearance and size of the darkmantle, but it was basically copied over with no changes, unlike some other creatures.

As far as I can find, the Piercer did not appear in official WotC 3E or 3.5

Reading between the lines I think the suggestion by the 3E team is the the silly Piercer (one of Gary's gotcha/joke monsters) was redesigned into a more cool opponent.

The Darkmantle returned in 4E (MM2) as a creature from the Shadowfell. No language about how it evolved or if it is descended from another creature.

In 5E the Darkmantle is back to being from the Underdark.

It is the 5E Monster Manual that upgrades lore for the Piercer and Roper. The Piercer is now the larval form of a Roper. Once a Piercer eats and grows enough, it permanently descends from the ceiling and lives on the floor instead.

So my bad for linking them all together, they are not explicitly so in 5E.

Here endeth the lesson and we now return you to your regular thread.

Cheers :)

Still a neat piece of lore. As someone who has unapologetically used piercers in many past games (and my two current ones), I didn't need them to be linked to anything else to be interesting to me - but this certainly gets my creative juices flowing more.
 

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