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 from Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition, by Kim Van Deun Let's start with the monsters that nobody liked. Well, to be accurate, there...

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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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.
 
Last edited:

Von Ether

Legend
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.
 

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