Monster ENCyclopedia: Kraken

Every world has kraken legends. Gigantic tentacled creatures lurk in the watery depths, scheming and plotting so that they might grow in power with every new edition of D&D. Krakens think nothing of mutilating slaves and refer to their own mating rituals as the Hateful Compulsion. Are they proxies of demon lords, invaders from the Far Realm or the spawn of some even greater ocean threat? Join the Monster ENCyclopedia for a look at the D&D kraken.

Monster ENCyclopedia: Kraken


This is a series of posts about specific monsters from D&D's history. Each entry takes a look at the origin of one D&D creature, and tracks its appearances and evolution across different editions. For the letter 'K' we're taking a look at one the largest and oldest of all D&D creatures -- the kraken.

Origins


The first mention of the kraken in D&D is in 1976, when it appeared in Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods, Heroes. That book cites as a source a fantasy novel by A. Merritt titled Dwellers in the Mirage, first published in 1932, but the history of the kraken as a mythological creature dates back several centuries earlier than that. Dragon: Monster Ecologies references Erik Pontoppidan's Natural History of Norway (1752), which describes the kraken as a floating island one and a half miles long. There are even older references in Icelandic literature dating back to the 13th-century in which a kraken-like creature known as the hafgufa is described.

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Dragon: Monster Ecologies (2007), from the original by Pierre Dénys de Montfort (1801)

Some of these early descriptions compare the kraken to a giant whale or crab rather than a squid-like creature, but since the 18th century, most kraken myths give it the appearance of an enormous octopus, and it is commonly believed that sailors' sightings of krakens were actually giant squids.

The kraken in Supplement IV appears in the section on Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age, the setting of Conan the Barbarian. It is a singular creature, which must be summoned from another dimension by an evil priest. Described as a giant octopus able to live on land, the kraken feeds on human souls. A victim failing a saving throw is drained of all his or her levels. The beast has an Armor Class of -2, a Move of 18", 100 Hit Points and combat ability equivalent to a 15th-level fighter. This kraken is only superficially the same as later versions, and might be better classified as "Kraken, Hyborian".

1st Edition


The Monster Manual II kraken is a potent beast. Not only does the illustration make it look like a very angry squid, it has 20 Hit Dice and up to 9 Attacks. Theoretically, if all of these attacks were to inflict maximum damage, the kraken would do 92 points of damage. In AD&D terms, that makes it a deadly threat.

The kraken already has an origin story, or at least an origin legend. As the story goes, at some time in the past, krakens were smaller creatures and lived in shallow coastal waters. They had human worshippers who brought them sacrifices. Following either a natural upheaval or a battle with the forces of good, the remaining krakens retreated to the ocean depths. Limited in number, the survivors grew in size and power. Krakens today lair in submarine caverns at least 1000 feet below the surface. It is rumoured that even now some krakens keep and breed human slaves in their lairs as servants and for food. (Much later, in the Ecology of the Kraken, we learn that krakens use the words "meal" and "slave" interchangeably.)

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Monster Manual II (1983)

Krakens seek to kill any good creatures and devour anything small enough to be eaten, which given their size, includes most other things. They are aggressive hunters, and capable of attacking ships to drag them down, sometimes keeping any survivors to restock their pool of slaves. They are capable of dragging vessels of up to 60 feet in length beneath the water. Large ships are first dragged to a halt (which usually takes no longer than 10 rounds), and then constricted using the kraken's tentacles. Once the ship is damaged, it begins to take in water, and eventually the kraken will drag it beneath the waves.

There are some unnecessarily complicated rules for combat with a kraken. Different parts of the creature have different armor classes, the body benefitting from a thick shell. The head and the tentacles have the same AC, but tentacles can be severed with 16 points of damage from sharp weapons. This also frees anyone in that tentacle's grasp. A kraken will retreat beneath the waves if more than two tentacles are severed, or if it is still under attack and already has prey held in four or more tentacles (enough food).

An uninjured kraken has ten tentacles, two of which are covered in barbs and used to rake a target (2-12 damage) and move it towards the kraken's beak, where it can be bitten (5-20 damage). Of the remaining eight tentacles, a maximum of six at once can be used for constriction (2-8 damage on the first round, 3-12 thereafter). The remainder are used by the kraken to anchor and stabilise itself.

Krakens have a swim speed of 3" and are capable of jetting backwards at a speedy 21". This form of locomotion is often combined with the release of a cloud of poisonous ink. Anyone inside the cloud takes 1-4 point of damage per round until it becomes sufficiently diluted (after 2-5 rounds).

Krakens can breath both air and water, and have an innate power to create a large sphere or hemisphere of airy water which lasts a full day. (Useful for keeping slaves alive.) They have a small repertoire of other spell-like abilities including faerie fire (which lasts eight hours), control temperature (40' radius, lasts a day), controls winds and weather summoning (each once per day). Finally, they can use animal summoning III three times per day, but only to summon (and not control) fish.

Hidden in the introductory text for demons in the Monster Manual II is the first indication that krakens inhabit planar realms. In this case, the "liquid plane ruled by Dagon".

The Monster Manual II was the last of the three AD&D monster books to be released, so the kraken does not appear in many 1st Edition supplements. T1-4: Temple of Elemental Evil has a pool chamber with a mosaic kraken, but not a real one. The lands of Deepearth, detailed in the Dungeoneer's Suvival Guide, are inhabited by a massive kraken that has adapted itself to live in freshwater. It has more than fifty slaves (humans, drow, duergar, svirfneblin and even kuo-toa) toiling away to expand its cavern lair.

To Kill a Kraken is a short adventure in I13: Adventure Pack I. One of the goals of the adventure is indeed to kill a kraken, but there is a complicated backdrop of political intrigue likely to overshadow the hunt for the beast. The political shenanigans extend into the watery depths, as a powerful mage-vampire is competing with the kraken for dominion over the ocean. The kraken's lair is located in a volcanically active portion of the seabed, as evidenced by lava pillows and sporadic bubbles of steam.

The obligatory listing in Dragon #93's pronunciation guide indicates that "kraken" can be spoken as either "KRAY-ken" or "KRA-ken". Articles on dinosaurs in Dragon #112 and later in Dragon #176 (during the 2nd Edition era) suggest that the kraken could be an exotic encounter for a Mesozoic or Paleozoic setting. An extraordinarily detailed article on ships in Dragon #116 gives precise numbers for the damage a kraken can do to a sea-faring craft.

2nd Edition


In 2nd Edition the kraken is treated as a very rare form of giant squid found only in deep oceans. It appears as part of the "Squid, Giant" entry in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two and again in the Monstrous Manual. The kraken get its first colour picture in the Monstrous Manual. A longship is shown in the clutches of a kraken, providing a visual sense of scale missing from earlier depictions.

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Monstrous Manual (1993)

Changes from 1st Edition include an increase in size to gargantuan (90'+ long) and a fixed number of attacks (9!). The amount of damage inflicted by the kraken's attacks has been beefed up somewhat, with the maximum possible damage per round now sitting at 136 hit points. The raking tentacles now do 3d6 damage (instead of 2d6), its beak does 7d4 (instead of 5d4) and the constricting tentacles do 2d6 damage in the first round and 3d6 thereafter (previously 2d4 and 3d4). It takes slightly more points of damage (18 instead 16) to sever a tentacle, and the text clarifies that the tentacles' hit points are in addition to the 20 Hit Dice the rest of the creature has.

Its fighting tactics are the same as before, but a kraken is now only 80% likely to retreat if more than two tentacles are severed, and only 50% likely to retreat if it has prey in at least four tentacles. The kraken's ink cloud is twice as deadly, now doing 2d4 damage per round. It has exactly the same innate magical abilities as it did in 1st Edition.

The Monstrous Manual describes the kraken as "one of the most deadly monsters in existence", and their genius level intelligence means that they often end up in control of entire regions of the underwater world. They are such aggressive hunters that tropical islands in the vicinity of a kraken's lair frequently end up stripped of all animal and humanoid life.

An ominous twist is given to the origin story of krakens retreating from the shallows to the depths of the sea; it is said that at some point in the future the krakens will rise again.

PHBR11: The Complete Ranger's Handbook lists the kraken as a possible species enemy for a ranger. Even though this choice include giant squids, it still seems like a rather career-limiting selection.

Night Below includes a bloated kraken living on the bed of the Sunless Sea. Its lair is located in the remains of a sunken drow settlement, which it shares with a drow banshee. The kraken sometimes visits the nearby Isle of Derangement where it is worshipped by a small group of insane kuo-toa. The kraken finds this amusing, which doesn't stop it from snacking on a worshipper whenever it visits.

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Dungeon Builder's Guidebook (1998)

The Dungeon Builder's Guidebook includes a kraken in the underwater section of the sample dungeon. The entrance to the kraken's lair is guarded by six saltwater trolls, but after the battle with the trolls begins, several of the ridges running along the chamber floor rise up to assist them. It turns out that they are not part of the stonework, but the kraken's tentacles, extending here from where the creature lies in wait nearby.

3rd Edition


From 1st to 2nd Edition, there was a substantial increase in the kraken's power. This continues in the 3rd Edition Monster Manual, but not as sharply. The kraken still has 20 Hit Dice, but as a magical beast, they are d10s, and it gets a hefty 180 hit point bonus on top of that. That's just a default-sized specimen; krakens can advance to colossal size and an astounding 60 Hit Dice.

For some reason, the kraken's number of tentacles has dropped from ten to eight, but the creature's attacks follow the same pattern as in 2nd Edition -- two raking tentacles, six crushing tentacles and a savage bite. The damage from these has again received a slight boost. Ignoring any critical hits, the theoretical maximum damage per round is now up to 158 points.

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Monster Manual (2000)

Some of the cephalopod's special attacks have been simplified to use the rules for grappling. Damage to the tentacles is based on successful sundering attacks, and the constricting arms have fewer hit points than the two raking ones (10 and 20 hit points respectively). The kraken still withdraws from combat if enough of its limbs are severed, but now regrows lost tentacles in 1d10+10 days.

The kraken's ink cloud is no longer poisonous, and simply provides concealment to anyone inside it. The kraken's spell-like abilities have been slightly reduced. It can still control weather and control winds once per day, but the other spells have been replaced by dominate animal and resist energy, both of which are more likely to be useful in combat. Krakens can speak both Common and Aquan, and have both darkvision (60') and low-light vision.

There are no substantial differences between the kraken in the Monster Manual and the version in the Monster Manual v.3.5. Some of the kraken's skills have slightly different scores, and its favoured environment has been refined from "any aquatic" to "temperate aquatic".

Scattered throughout 3rd Edition sources are a few more game mechanics relating to krakens. Dragon #293 has an article titled Monsters with Class which sets out Effective Character Levels (ECLs) for a number of monster races. For those not familiar with 3rd Edition rules, ECLs are a mechanism of balancing player character monsters against normal PCs. Hence a 3rd-level centaur druid (ECL 7) would be balanced in a party of 10th-level characters. The kraken is listed in the article as having an ECL of 28, so a sneaky kraken thief would be a good fit for an epic-level campaign.

Dragon #300 contains a sealed section promoting the Book of Vile Darkness. One of the articles in that section is The Minions of Darkness, which presents the Deep Thrall class. This is a very specialised prestige class, and can only be chosen by someone who has been taken prisoner by a kraken. A kraken picks out exceptional individuals from its slave pools for special treatment. If a slave proves worthy, the kraken marks him or her with sucker wounds that become deep scars. Now a thrall, the slave begins to gain special powers including tentacle-like arms and huge kraken eyes. Deep thralls are used by a kraken to undertake missions on the surface world. While there, they are often forced to hide their facial scars using magic or beneath deep hoods.

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Deep Thrall, Dragon #300 (2002)

The Sea Witch class in Stormwrack is specifically noted as suitable for a kraken. A member of this class is a chaotic mage with powers over water and the ability to summon immense whirlpools, exotic creatures from the ocean depths, and even eventually conjure entire phantom ships.

In the variant combat rules in Unearthed Arcana the kraken's tentacles are one type of attack that can easily ignore a creature's facing to reach around and make a flanking attack.

The role of krakens as planar inhabitants is emphasised in 3rd Edition. The Manual of the Planes and Stormwrack both note that krakens can be found in the Elemental Plane of Water. The Manual of the Planes also includes krakens in the list of residents of the Brine Flats in the 88th layer of the Abyss, and the Fiendish Codex I implies that these krakens serve Demogorgon.

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Dragon: Monster Ecologies (2007)

The Ecology of the Kraken, written by Richard Pett, first appeared in Dragon #334 and was reprinted in Dragon: Monster Ecologies two years later. It offers a few new kraken origin stories. One proposes that evil gods made krakens to keep land-dwelling creatures out of the oceans. Another suggests that aboleths created the krakens. The third, and most intriguing is the story that krakens themselves believe. That they came from the mouth of the Great Unbeheld, a kraken of impossible size who lies asleep in the most remote depths of the ocean. Only once krakens have enslaved all other aquatic races will the Great Unbeheld arise to flood the world.

For the first time here, we get some insight into kraken reproduction. Once every century or so, instinct drives krakens into a mating ritual they refer to as the Hateful Compulsion. Krakens from vast areas gather in numbers in the deepest oceans. As might be gathered from the name, krakens do not appreciate their instincts overriding their usually coldly calculating minds. Female krakens are driven mad by their compulsions, and frequently tear to pieces the more numerous males. An oily froth of decaying kraken parts and blood washes ashore in black, foul-smelling waves. Impregnation can take months, during which time the male may face a constant struggle to avoid the deadly grip of his deranged mate. The titanic mating battles of the krakens can cause oversized whirlpools and enormous waves. The Hateful Compulsion endures until all of the female krakens have been impregnated, so these environmental effects might recur for months or even years.

Being cunning and calculating beings, some krakens have gone to extremes to avoid participating in this reproductive ritual, including performing physical surgery on themselves, and turning to undeath.

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Dragon: Monster Ecologies (2007)

Kraken eggs are large, black, membranous cylinders. They take ten years to hatch, and during this time, many eggs are lost to predators. Once a kraken hatches, it never stops growing. An average kraken is 100 feet long, but some have grown to the size of small islands. A kraken has a distinct head, with huge eyes capable of seeing even in the darkest depths. Eight tentacles attach to its body close to the kraken's huge, curved beak. Two dominant tentacles stretch to 60 feet and are covered in vicious barbs, while the remaining six reach only half that length, and have suckers and small hooks.

They are voracious carnivores, capable of tearing apart and consuming an entire whale as a meal. This means krakens need vast territories. Krakens believe that they have a divine right to rule the seas, and cannot conceive of an ocean without their presence. This leads them to be cautious about putting themselves at physical risk. A kraken might lurk in its deep sea lair for a century, plotting elaborate schemes, and breeding loyal servants. Elder krakens are quite capable of tricking younger krakens into taking risks on their behalf. This practice is so prevalent that more experienced krakens have a healthy suspicion of their own kind.

The lairs of krakens are usually located on deep ocean floors, but occasionally closer to food and slave supplies. Lairs are always maintained by slaves, as krakens have no desire to deal with simple chores. They may breed generations of slaves who have experienced nothing beyond their aquatic prisons and servitude, and who would struggle to be integrated into normal society, even if freed. Krakens sometimes experiment on their slaves, including physical changes such as grafts. Krakens do not view physical forms as sacred, and are equally capable of modifying their own bodies if they think that will give them an advantage or increase their power.

4th Edition


There was some foreshadowing of the kraken in artwork in the Dungeon Master's Guide 2 and a brief mention of their position at the top of the food pyramid of the Sunless Seas in Underdark, but the kraken didn't get a proper 4th Edition write up until the Monster Manual 3. Two versions of the kraken are presented there: the astral kraken, which we'll look at later, and the sea kraken, which is what we're familiar with from earlier editions.

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Dungeon Master's Guide 2 (2009)

Krakens in 4th Edition are escapees from the Far Realm at the beginning of time. They sleep beneath the waves for untold ages, waiting to be called. When they emerge they slaughter at will and leave nothing but ruin in their wake. There is no mention of slaves, but these krakens are drawn to settlements of sentient creatures, and the appearance of a sea kraken is frequently linked to cult activity. These cults include aberrant creatures who see krakens as living avatars of the madness of the Far Realm. Krakens hunger for the destruction of all life and the appearance of one is devastating. Seawalls and towers are demolished by the raging beasts, and mighty warships simply vanish. Rare survivors are tormented by visions of the attacks.

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Monster Manual 3 (2010)

It is tricky to calculate maximum damage per round for a 4th Edition kraken, because of the wide variety of attack options it has. If the kraken uses Coils of Doom, it can do 42 hp of damage to creatures and 30 hp to a vehicle. If we assume it uses one of its two Action Points to do the same again, that gives us 84 hp (plus 60 hp to a vehicle). Using two minor actions to Fling and hurl a Venom Bolt, we can add 46 hp more. That adds up to a maximum of 190 points of damage in one round, including 60 hp of hull damage. Average hit points for the kraken have climbed from 290 hp in 3rd Edition to 432 hp here. An easy detail to miss is that krakens have gained telepathy as a means of communications, with a range of 20.

The description doesn't specify if these are eight- or ten-tentacled krakens, but the stat block indicates that they can grab up to eight targets at once. An honourable mention goes to Vor Rukoth for the introduction of a kraken tentacle as a 1 hp minion.

As in 3rd Edition, krakens also have a role to play in planar locations. Demonomicon suggests that sailors lost at sea occasionally stumble through portals to Absym, and to eventual death in the grip of a sea kraken guardian.

5th Edition


The mechanics for the kraken were playtested in the D&D Next adventure Dead in Thay. There, the creature is presented as a "magical simulacrum of a kraken", which is game-speak for "it's a kraken but don't worry about where it gets food". Comparing the simulacrum to the final Monster Manual version, what we have here is lower power (15 HD instead of 27 HD), but with a similar set of abilities: Multiattack, Bite and Tentacle melee attacks, a Fling attack and Lightning Storm.

In its Monster Manual presentation, the kraken is a gargantuan monstrosity with 472 hp (27 HD), more than any previous edition. It has a number of special defences including immunity to lightning, fear, paralysis and non-magical weapons. The kraken is amphibious, so it can breathe in air and water. It ignores difficult terrain and is almost entirely immune to magical or non-magical slowing or restraining effects. It is a Siege Monster, which means the kraken does double damage to objects and structures. It has acute senses, truesight and telepathy. It understands the Abyssal, Celestial, Infernal, Primordial languages, but cannot speak.

To estimate the maximum damage the 5th Edition kraken can do in a single round, we'll assume it uses Multiattack to make three Tentacle attacks, and then use its Legendary Actions to create a Lightning Storm and make one Fling attack, hurling one of the victims of the earlier tentacle attack at another opponent. That gives us 84 points of damage from the tentacles, 72 hp from the two fling victims, and 120 hp for three lightning targets. If we assume the kraken swallowed someone earlier in the fight, we can add the 72 points damage that poor soul is taking, to get a total of 348 maximum damage per round.

The kraken's ink cloud is poisonous again for the first time since 2nd Edition, doing 3d10 damage on a failed save. It doesn't last as long, dispersing after a single round, and also doesn't influence our damage calculations. As a quick review, we have the maximum damage per round as: 1st Edition - 92 hp, 2nd Edition - 136 hp, 3rd Edition - 158, 4th Edition - 190*, and 5th Edition - 348. By the numbers, the 5th Edition kraken is a tougher opponent than any previous incarnation.

*Assuming one opponent is a vehicle.

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Monster Manual (2014)

Visually, the 5th Edition kraken is quite different, departing from the traditional squid-like form. The kraken's head looks almost reptilian, and it has a toothed maw rather than a beak. Tentacles appear to be attached at different locations along a serpentine body instead of clustered around the mouth. This kraken has ten tentacles. It has a stronger connection to lightning and electrical attacks, perhaps suggesting a link to electric eels.

Often 5th Edition leans away from 4th Edition lore, and is more faithful to earlier material. In the case of the kraken, it leans towards. Krakens served as fierce warriors of the gods at the beginning of time. They broke free from servitude at the end of the gods' wars, and have slept beneath the waves for untold ages, waiting to be called forth. The emergence of a kraken is said to make nations quake, destroy ocean trade, and obliterate the greatest achievements of a civilization. Some krakens crawl up rivers to nest in freshwater lakes, destroying everything in their path during their journey. Adventurers might encounter a kraken in the ruins of a lakeside citadel.

A kraken's lair is usually a rift or cavern large enough to house sunken ships. As in 4th Edition, there is no mention of the slave holdings of earlier lairs. In 5th Edition, some high-level creatures like the kraken, have Lair Actions. The kraken's lair might flush foes in a particular direction, or send a deadly charge of lightning through the water. The influence of a kraken is so strong, that there are even some regional effects, including altered weather patterns within six miles of the lair, a build up of water elementals, and unnaturally aggressive sea creatures.

The kraken is included in the System Reference Document 5.0, so is open for use in 5th Edition OGL products. Eagled-eyes readers will notice that numbers in the SRD for the kraken don't quite match the Monster Manual. That's because the SRD takes into account the recent Monster Manual Errata v1.1, which lowered the kraken's savings throws and attack bonuses slightly.

Kraken variations


Over the years, a number of kraken variations have surfaced from the depths. The Planar Handbook introduces one version of an astral kraken, which looks like a cross between an octopus and an insect. They lurk near colour pools and prey on astral travellers. As well as tentacle attacks, these creatures can cocoon victims in a translucent resin and then gradually drain their energy, killing both the traveller's astral and physical bodies.

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Astral Kraken, Planar Handbook (2004)

The astral kraken in the 4th Edition Monster Manual 3 is a different, but even more formidable opponent. A horror of the Far Realm, it can materialise from the void, lashing out with tentacles and mental attacks. The kraken's touch can cause madness, and it is capable of dazing large groups of creatures in an instant. It can absorb the psyches of those in its grip and take over minds of those who attempt to strike against it and fail. The Living Forgotten Realms adventure EPIC5-3: Shadow Storm includes an encounter with two young astral krakens.

Fiendish krakens are also possible. The web enhancement for the Monster Manual v.3.5 provides a variety of sample half-fiends, including a half-molydeus kraken. The 4th Edition adventure The Rolling Tomb in Dungeon #215 has an abyssal kraken in it. This kraken isn't quite as powerful as the astral kraken, but it packs more of a punch than the ordinary sea kraken. It has a dominating Eye of the Deep attack, an Inky Shroud, and the ability to create an Abyssal Tempest.

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Corpse Kraken, Dungeon #125 (2005)

Krakens can sometimes endure beyond death. Dungeon #125 features a corpse kraken, under the animated control of a githyanki lich. Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead contains some sample ghosts, including the ghost of the kraken Narthal, Bane of the Deeps. A different type of ghost kraken features in the adventure Grasp of Thalarkis in Dungeon #203, along with its ghost tentacle minions. A powerful White Kraken is being hunted by Captain Zagiit in Dragon #345. Unusually pale in colour, this kraken could perhaps be undead; the Captain swears he killed it nearly 20 years ago.

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Ghost Kraken, Dungeon #203 (2012)

Sandstorm gives us the crawling apocalypse. They are the immortal remnants of ancient wars, when a race called the marru mummified some of the monstrosities of the sea to use as war machines. Some of them roam the desert, others remain dormant in hidden weapon depots, untouched since ancient times. These uncannily kraken-like creatures have an aura of Despair, and can inflict Mummy Rot using their tentacles.

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Crawling Apocalypse, Sandstorm (2005)

Frostburn implies that ordinary krakens are perfectly capable of defending the iceberg city of Icerazer, but for a version adapted specifically to cold environments, Knowledge Arcana #8 provides a polar kraken. White in colour, this variety has power over the ice and a strangely captivating song.

A construct version of the kraken appears in Lord of Madness. An elder eidolon is a creation left over from a previous epoch. These krakens are mindless automatons that continue to follow ancient instructions even after eons, but they are difficult to fight and enjoy significant immunities to magical attacks.

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Elder Eidolon, Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations (2005)

Kraken gods


The intermediate god Panzuriel, the Writhing One, the God of the Unseen Depths, favours krakens. Monster Mythology notes that a kraken head is sometimes used as Panzuriel's symbol, and his avatar has the ability to summon krakens. The Great Unbeheld from the kraken origin story in Dragon #334 is often considered to be a favoured child of Panzuriel. Panzuriel's herald is a 50 HD kraken known as Tirbitus. Corrupted by Panzuriel's twisted influence, Tirbitus has only one swollen, red eye surrounded by countless tentacles.

The Ecology of the Kraken suggests that the few krakens who don't worship Panzuriel turn to Tharizdun. It also suggests that Tharizdun might insidiously be growing his kraken followers by causing some brood-mothers to devour their whole clutch. This drives the mother utterly insane and any kraken witnesses have a strange tendency to turn to the God of Madness. The adventure The Styes in Dungeon #121 includes a fiendish kraken known as the Spawn of Tharizdun.

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Spawn of Tharizdun, Dungeon #121 (2005)

In the Monster Manual IV, krakens sometimes worship Tharizdun in another form, as the water aspect of the Elder Elemental Eye. Olhydra is an archomental, one of D&D's original Elemental Princes of Evil, and herself a follower of the Elder Elemental Eye. Dragon #285 notes that Olhydra commands krakens. Her coral keep in the Elemental Chaos is guarded by a hungry kraken (Dungeon #199). The 5th Edition Monster Manual agrees that some krakens are allied with Olhydra, and use her cultists to enforce their devious plans.

Fiendish Codex I confirms that some krakens venerate Dagon, Prince of the Depths. Dragon #349 goes further, suggesting that krakens are perhaps Dagon's staunchest minions on the Prime Material Plane. Less amicable is the kraken's relationship with Demogorgon. According to Dragon #357, one of the Prince of Demon's long term goals was the subjugation of the world's entire population of krakens. Demogorgon has abandoned this plan only because krakens make poor minions.

Also worth mentioning under the heading of "Kraken gods" is Worshipful K'thurall. He is a kraken worshipped as a god by the people of remote St. Telers. To the outside world the islanders appear to have quaint traditions honouring the spirits of the sea, but secretly they are the loyal Brood of Worshipful K'thurall. They sacrifice a dozen men and women lured from the outside each year in the Drowning Man ceremony. The kraken dines both on the flesh and the souls of these sacrifices, which has turned him into a soul eater (a prestige class from the Book of Vile Darkness). K'thurall has the ability to transform sacrifices into drowned undead.

The cult of K'thurall is detailed in Dragon #334. When the Ecology article was reprinted in Dragon: Monster Ecologies, a statistics block for K'thurall was added. He is presented as a 35 HD advanced elite kraken, but this version is inconsistent with the article, as it does not include any levels of the soul eater class.

Krakens and other monsters


Many of the kraken's interactions with other creatures are defined in terms of what it is willing to hunt, and occasionally, what hunts it.

The Monster Manual II mentioned that krakens battle even large sperm whales and usually win. They also hunt lesser cetus (Dragon #248), ramfish (Stormwrack), and giant moray eels (Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three). Giant moray eels will also sometimes attack a kraken, as will vurgens (Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Four) and sea serpents (Dragon #345). There are even some land-based predators capable of carrying off a kraken, including the Zakharan roc (Land of Fate).

Krakens do not get on with the giant nautilus or the hamaguan (Psionic Bestiary: Hamaguan). According to Dungeon #199, marids organise great hunts for formidable prey such as krakens. Secrets of the Lampconfirms this, adding that hunters of every race are allowed to compete in events organised by the Padisha of the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls. The hunting of krakens might be in retaliation for ancient ills; Sea of Fallen Stars reveals that krakens destroyed the Marid States thousands of years ago.

Stormwrack suggests that the aventi may have been forced to abandon their great city by krakens, while Dragon #139 notes that a searechter (marine spectator) might choose to live in an abandoned kraken lair.

Krakens sometimes have less hostile relationships. The kraken lurking in the ruined temple in Deep Horizon has reached an uneasy truce with nearby beholders, and in Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume One krakens can be found guarding the lairs of sea linnorms. Salt wiggles (MC7: Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix) enter into alliances with krakens.

Aboleths are respectful towards krakens. Lords of Madness notes that an aboleth city might try to woo a kraken as an ally but will not try to enslave one against its will. The Ecology of the Kraken informs us that creatures like sahuagin, scrags and sea hags sometime worship or pay tribute to a kraken in return for aid or protection. These relationships are tenuous, and may simply be a precursor to complete domination of the followers' race by the kraken.

One of the chapters in Elder Evils is an adventure titled The Leviathan, which we've covered previously in the Monster ENCyclopedia entry for the ixitxachitl. At the end of this adventure, the heroes face the Aspect of the Leviathan, a colossal aberration of terrifying power. This being has not one, but three krakens as henchmen.

Morkoth may be related to krakens. According to Sea of Fallen Stars, the triton word for morkoth is "kraknyth" or kin of kraken. The kraken and morkoth languages are also said to be related.

Krakens and magic


Dragon #165 notes that sea-priests use a spell called water devil in place of dust devil. This spell is particularly effective in dispersing the kraken's ink cloud. Dragon #220 includes the kraken in the list of sea monsters that can be called using the monster summoning VIII spell. Using the Player's Option: Spells & Magic rules for monster casting levels, krakens are treated as 20th level casters.

According to the Ecology of the Kraken, spells like control water, transmute rock to mud, and move earth could be useful when trying to trap a kraken on land. Krakens themselves usually use their own resist energy spell to resist electricity, according to the Ecology article, and if they have spellcasters as slaves, they may also be covered by long-lasting defensive spells like mage armor, protection from arrows, or shield other.

View attachment 74572
Dragon: Monster Ecologies (2007)

For someone desiring the tentacles of a kraken, there is the lash of the kraken spell from Dragon #334. This spell, available to druids, wizards and sorcerers, transforms a limb into a barbed-covered kraken tentacle, which can be used to attack and to grapple. Stormwrack presents the more powerful doom of the seas spell, which allows a high-level druid to summon a fiendish kraken as a servant for a few rounds. The spell comes with a detailed statistics block for the kraken known as the Doom of the Seas. A single dried sucker from a kraken's tentacle is the material component for the blackwater tentacle spell, also from Stormwrack.

Dragon #334 recommends helms of underwater action and potions of water breathing as useful when planning to fight a kraken, as well as devices which assist in escaping, such as a cape of the montebank, a cloak of etherealness, or a ring of freedom of movement. The conch shells used by tritons to summon marine animals have no effect on krakens, according to the Monstrous Manual.

There are many kraken-themed magic items in D&D. One of the cards of the variant totem deck of many things from Dragon #271 is the kraken card. The first waterborne craft set foot on by someone who has drawn the kraken card sinks in 1d4 days. The Notched Spear detailed in Weapons of Legacy provides Concealment of the Kraken, by producing a dark cloud mimicking the kraken's ink spill.

View attachment 74573
Krakentooth Trident, Stormwrack (2005)

Stormwrack details the mighty Krakentooth trident, seven feet in length with the ability to shock those it impales, and the Purpleheart Kraken, a living figurehead that can be animated to reach out to hold fast an enemy ship.

The Trench of Lopok is named for the locathah word for kraken, and the weapon known as Kayas the Krakenscourge has slain more than twenty krakens emerging from the depths of the trench. It is a unique two-blade sword resembling a spear. It is made from razor-sharp Jhimar coral, which despite its delicacy, is nearly unbreakable. Kayas the Krakenscourge is described in full in Dragons of Faerûn.

View attachment 74574
Kayas the Krakenscourge, Dragons of Faerûn (2006)

In the D&D Encounters series adventure War of Everlasting Darkness, there is a potion salesman in Silverymoon offering a variety of dodgy beverages, including a Kraken potion. Imbibing this potion causes a character to temporarily sprout a kraken tentacle from his or her body.

Dragon #340 has a couple of articles referencing krakens. Bazaar of the Bizarre: Items of the Zodiac includes a kraken's bracelet, which resembles interlinked tentacles and provides a boost to the wearer's knowledge skills, as well as a twelve-sided wyvern's die, which includes a skill-boosting kraken face.

View attachment 74575
The Kraken constellation, Dragon #340 (2006)

The article Astrology in D&D doesn't deal with magic, but horoscopes and fortune telling. One of the constellations featured is the kraken. Someone born under the sign of the kraken tends to have a wide network of contacts and associates, and views life as an elaborate game. Also not quite a magic item in the traditional sense, Magic of Incarnum includes the Kraken Mantle soulmeld. This grants exceptional swimming abilities, the ability to deal extra damage to grappled opponents, and the ability to breathe in water.

Al-Qadim


The article Campaign Journal: Scimitars against the Dark in Dragon #198 presents a horror-themed spin on the Al-Qadim setting. The sample campaign in the article is for seafaring adventurers, and is built on escalating conflict with pirates and slavers, culminating in a confrontation with a great kraken. At the end of the article, there is a Monstrous Compendium entry for the Zakharan kraken. This is an albino version of the ordinary kraken, with more hit dice but some slightly weaker tentacle attacks. The uncanny resemblance between this illustration and the 5th Edition kraken suggests that this version may have been used as a reference for the kraken's most recent incarnation.

View attachment 74576
Zakharan Kraken, Dragon #198 (1993)

Cities of Bone details Ur, the Great Squid. Ur is a highly intelligent kraken who masterminded the draining of the Jacinth Sea, turning it into the Sea of Salt, in order to create its vast subterranean lair. The opportunity to make Ur a Zakharan kraken is missed, and the Great Squid is just an ordinary kraken.

Birthright


The Birthright setting has both krakens and the Kraken. The lands of Cerilia are populated by powerful beings known as awnsheghlien. They rule over considerable domains, wield significant power and hunger for more. Each awnsheghlien is a unique being, and the Kraken is just one of many. Nonetheless it is the second largest of all of them, and possibly also the most ancient. Its behaviour is animalistic, although some say it is exceptionally intelligent. The Kraken resides beneath the island of Krakenstaur in the Krakennauricht.

View attachment 74577
Blood Enemies: Abominations of Cerilia (1996)

Legends of the Hero-Kings makes it clear that the setting also has ordinary krakens. During an ocean voyage, the adventurers encounter a summoned kraken, which is in a foul mood precisely because it doesn't appreciate being summoned. Later in the adventure, the slain kraken returns as an undead creature. (Even if the adventurers didn't kill the kraken earlier, it still comes back undead, having been punished for failing to kill them.) So terrifying is its appearance now that it may induce panic for 2d8 rounds. Being undead also gives the kraken tentacles that can impale targets.

View attachment 74578
Legends of the Hero-Kings (1996)

The kraken makes a guest appearance in TSR's collectible card game Spellfire. Card #25 of the Birthright expansion for the game is titled "The Kraken Attacks!". The artwork is recycled from Blood Enemies.

View attachment 74579
Spellfire, Birthright expansion, card #25 (1996)

Dark Sun


Athas has deserts, not oceans, so krakens do not feature in the Dark Sun setting. However we know from Dungeon #184 that they lived there once, since greater silt elementals take on the physical forms of legendary aquatic krakens, as if compelled to do so by Athas itself.

The silt seas of Athas are also home to a great elemental power known as the Dust Kraken. Called Ul-Athra or the Mouths of Thirst, it is worshipped by elemental cultists. The silt horrors that roam the seas of sand are said to be the spawn of the Dust Kraken, according to the 4th Edition Dark Sun Campaign Setting.

Dragonlance


A strong contender for the most bizarre kraken encounter in D&D history is the one in Gnomes - 100, Dragons - 0. Here, the adventurers are flung (literally) into an encounter with three amazons. After some chit-chat or combat, someone notices the enormous kraken in the ocean nearby. Fortunately, it can be killed with one shot from the spaser (steam-powered laser) which is conveniently located on the beach near some rockets and submarines. All of this takes place in a chamber inside Mount Nevermind.

View attachment 74580
Gnomes - 100, Dragons - 0 (1987)

DL15: Mists of Krynn creates some doubt about krakens being native to the setting. It includes an encounter with one, but Takhisis has imported the kraken from another dimension, implying that they are not native. Belying that, the kraken is included in the encounter tables in the 2nd Edition MC4: Monstrous Compendium Dragonlance Appendix, and in the Fifth Age version of Dragonlance.

View attachment 74581
Fifth Age: Dramatic Adventure Game (1996)

Krakens are mentioned in several 3rd Edition Dragonlance sources, including Dragons of Spring and Holy Orders of the Stars, which notes that a kraken is the herald of the god Zeboim. Price of Courage includes a run-in with a kraken along the Goblin Coast. Dragons of Krynn mentions an ocean-dwelling "kraken-like" monster called an abyss lurker, which first appeared in the novel Dragons of Time.

View attachment 74582
Dragon #250 (1998)

An earlier Dragonlance novel, The Dargonesti, has another contender for the most bizarre kraken encounter. The lead characters begin their adventure magically transported to a remote island. They explore a cave, only to discover that it is a kraken's "blowhole", and the kraken then unceremoniously dumps them into the ocean. Given that krakens (until now) haven't had blowholes, this is an impressive feat.

Eberron


Steel krakens, detailed in Five Nations, are essentially warforged krakens, constructed by Cyrans to defend their coastline. Since the Mourning, many of these creatures have abandoned their orders and now roam the southern shores of Khorvaire freely.

View attachment 74583
Steel Kraken, Five Nations (2005)

Krakens have a strong connection to the House Lyrandar, and appear on the House seal. Some think that Lyrandar heirs have the potential to become immortal krakens, remaining in the depths of the sea to guide their descendants with dreams and visions (see Dragonmarked). If called to do so, these lurking krakens may even arise to ensure Lyrandar dominance over the seas, at least according to the 4th Edition Eberron Campaign Guide.

City of Stormreach hints that dragons and krakens battled during the Age of Demons, and gives the krakens a similar role in manipulating the powers of the deep as the Lords of Dust play on the surface. Some of Eberron's sahuagin serve krakens, while others violently oppose them.

City of Stormreach also introduces Zlotharkis, a half-fiendish kraken said to be behind the recent increase in kraken activity in the Thunder Sea. By a strange coincidence, no Lyrandar vessel has been targeted so far, and it is suggested that if there is any truth to the legends of the link between House Lyrandar and krakens, Zlotharkis could be Lyran himself.

The Explorer's Handbook includes an encounter with two krakens creating severe weather. Travelers’ tales (in Dragons of Eberron) speak of krakens near the continent of Argonnessen. Finally, according to Dragon #410, the waters around Farlnen in the Bloodsail Principality are home to zombie krakens.

Forgotten Realms


Krakens can be found in many waters of the Forgotten Realms, including the Lake of Dragons to the south of Cormyr (Elminster's Ecologies), the Lake of Shadows beneath the Dagger Hills (City of the Spider Queen), the Alamber Sea, coasts of Aglarond and the waters of Thay (Spellbound). Lands of Intrigue mentions a kraken dwelling in the centre of the island of Irphong, one of the Nelanther Isles, and another (rumored) in the Lake of Steam.

According to Empires of the Shining Sea, a kraken has recently awakened off the coast of Calimshan. This creature appears to have been building up large numbers of armed forces for several years. Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark mentions Cephalopolop, a renegade kraken that wields power quietly within the city of Sloopdilmonpolop, The City of Pools. At least one kraken resides in the Darklake (Underdark).

The ruins of Ascarle on Trisk's north shore are home to a kraken known as Slarkrethel (FR5: The Savage Frontier, The North, Villain's Lorebook). This particular kraken has many allies, including an illithid, a band of nereids and a tribe of merrow. As well as the bountiful slaves it keeps submerged in its lair, Slarkrethel has also enslaved the people of Trisk, and forced them to create the Kraken Society, a nefarious spy organisation spanning the north.

Slarkrethel was born in 151 DR, the Year of the Kraken, and became Umberlee's seraph in 1358 DR, although there are rumours (in Demihuman Deities) that the kraken secretly serves Panzuriel. Lords of Darkness lists Slarkrethel as a 20th-level wizard, as well as Chosen of Umberlee. The deepest reaches of Waterdeep Harbor are known as Umberlee's Cache after the accumulated tributes dropped into the depths by sailors in thanks of safe passage. They are guarded by krakens and other dangerous creatures.

View attachment 74584
Tribute gatherers in Umberlee's Cache, City of Splendors: Waterdeep (2005)

According to Sea of Fallen Stars, krakens have less influence in the underwater realm of Serôs than might be expected. Storm giants and merrow continuously hunt kraken, and keep their numbers low. There has not been a significant Serôsian kraken since Xisal the Blue Kraken, last seen during the Tenth Serôs War. There have been recent rumours of sightings of a possible offspring of Xisal.

The Legacy of Deep Death is a temple of Myrkul on the bed of the Sea of Swords. According to Faiths & Avatars, it is guarded by a variety of undead sea creatures, including at least one kraken.

In the adventure The Akriloth in Dungeon #79, the mer-city of Voalidru is in the clutches of the kraken Qol'in'taroq. Qol'in'taroq is 100 feet long. Its ventral surface is midnight blue, fading to a dark green on the dorsal surface. Just in case fighting a kraken isn't enough of a challenge, Qol'in'taroq is also a ninth-level cleric.

In 4th Edition, the balance of power between aboleths and krakens has swung in the favour of the aboleths. Xxiphu, the floating city of the Abolethic Sovereignty terrorises the Sea of Fallen Stars. Freshly wakened from an age-long slumber, these aboleths have taken control of populations of krakens, morkoths and kuo-toa and modified them to suit their needs. Known as "unfettered" krakens, those that guard Xxiphu and serve the Sovereignty have the ability to fly and breathe air indefinitely.

The genasi city of Brassune was destroyed by unfettered krakens roughly fifty years ago. An unfettered kraken guards the Court of Meiriona in the High Moor. Groups of kraken hunters with colourful names offer their dubious services for hire in the harbor districts of Westgate. SPEC3-3: Dance of the Sun and the Moon has a variation of the kraken called a Humboldt kraken. This is an unfettered kraken with jagged claws protruding from each of the suckers on its tentacles.

In Neverwinter Campaign Setting, the Sons of Alagandar are raising a plaguechanged kraken as a potential weapon against New Neverwinter. This creature seems to have been reduced to animal intelligence by the effects of the Spellplague. Adventurers participating in the D&D Encounters adventure Lost Crown of Neverwinter have a run in with this kraken, or at least its tentacles.

Game of Thrones


Over the years, Dragon Magazine has featured D&D articles on many settings not owned by TSR/WotC. From Dragon #307, we know that krakens occur in Westeros. Specifically, giant krakens are rumoured around Pyke. It is suggested that there exists a magical horn capable of summoning the beasts.

Greyhawk


Kraken are found on Oerth, although they are not common. According to From the Ashes, krakens inhabit Jeklea Bay in the Azure Sea. One of these krakens is named Slash Eye and is in possession of a magic item known as the Orb of the Wyrmkin (Dragon #230).

Deep sea kraken have attacked ships in the Solnor Ocean (Ivid the Undying). The Sinking Isle is jointly controlled by sahuagin and krakens (Greyhawk Adventures). Schoffmund the Strong of the Suel barbarians defeated the kraken of Grendep Bay (Living Greyhawk Gazetteer).

A number of kraken variations have appeared in Living Greyhawk adventures. A half-water elemental kraken is detailed in BDK6-09: To Bleed or Die, and a flying kraken in COR8-04: Bridge Over Svartjet. Gaaree'eeki and Varchulanga are two half-fiend krakens, from NMR5-05: Winds of Change. A spellwoven kraken named Sieg features in VTFIN7-02: Ley of the Land.

Historical reference


Krakens are suitable both for viking campaigns (HR1: Vikings Campaign Sourcebook) and encounters in ancient Greece (HR6: Age of Heroes Campaign Sourcebook).

Mystara


The Known World's kraken is first detailed in AC9: Creature Catalogue. It is a very large kraken, with a body over 150 feet long, and each of ten tentacles reaching 750 feet! Although they usually remain deep in the sea, these krakens have been known to pose a danger even to low-flying creatures on the rare occasions they surface. When they do so, they resemble a greenish-blue mass of kelp.

View attachment 74585
AC9: Creature Catalogue (1986)

It turns out that the Basic D&D version is late contender for most powerful kraken. It has 64 Hit Dice, and can potentially make ten tentacle attacks, each doing up to 42 points of damage, plus an 80 point bite attack. That totals 500 points of damage in a round, capping even 5th Edition's record of 348. Basic D&D steals the title!

The kraken is reprinted in DMR2: Creature Catalog with the same stats and artwork, but with a bonus kraken-in-action picture.

View attachment 74586
DMR2: Creature Catalog (1993)

GAZ7: The Northern Reaches mentions a kraken who is an occasional threat to shipping in Northland waters. An article in Dragon #171 mentions a sea dragon named Thundar who lairs in a fossilised kraken. The 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium Mystara Appendix lists the kraken in the encounter tables for temperate and tropical saltwater depths.

View attachment 74587
PC3: The Sea People (1990)

The adventure Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in PC3: The Sea People, culminates with the rescue of Hamish McGregor. Hamish is a refugee from the surface world, and he is about to be sacrificed by a devilfish matriarch in order to awaken a kraken. Unless the heroes fail to stop the ritual, only the kraken's tentacles participate in the combat. Even then, the kraken strikes its own ixitxachitl followers, and not the PCs unless the DM is feeling mean.

View attachment 74588
PC3: The Sea People (1990)

Oriental Adventures


The Kara-Tur boxed set mentions krakens offshore from the fishing village of Min Loh, and the 3rd Edition Oriental Adventures also lists the kraken as a suitable creature for the setting. However, it is really the krakentua that steals the limelight here.

First mentioned in OA2: Night of the Seven Swords, the krakentua is a gargantuan demon spirit with a humanoid body and a kraken-like head. The Kara-Tur boxed set mentions that a krakentua rules over the Isle of Gargantuas. This krakentua plays a significant role in the adventure OA7: Test of the Samurai and also gets a full-page Monstrous Compendium style entry. This entry is reprinted (with new art) in MC6: Monstrous Compendium Kara-Tur Appendix.

View attachment 74589
Krakentua, OA2: Night of the Seven Swords (1986), OA7: Test of the Samurai (1989) and MC6: Monstrous Compendium Kara-Tur Appendix (1990).

The Grand History of the Realms notes that thousands of years in the past, rampaging krakentua razed the Imperial City of Inupras. The Cult of Demogorgon has been blamed for the presence of the spirit creatures.

Planescape


According to Planes of Chaos, on the oceanic second layer of Arborea there are reports of enormous kraken in the waters of Caletto. Along with gigantic sea serpents, krakens guard the rocky island that is home to the Gates of the Moon on the plane of Ysgard. The briny depths of Gaping Maw, one of the layers of the Abyss are ruled by krakens, ixixachitl, and their lord Demogorgon.

Krakens sometimes threaten Selkies' Grotto, a realm hidden on the ocean layer of Thalasia in the plane of Elysium. The residents of the island paradise of Portico revere a being known as the Great Shelled One. In Planes of Conflict, a legend is told that when a great kraken that lives in the depths of the Thalasian sea awakens and battles the Great Shelled One, Portico will be destroyed.

Ravenloft


The adventure Neither Man nor Beast has a soul-kraken, a great ghostly creature that roams the Sea of Sorrows. It keeps the heads of its victims impaled on the ends of its tentacles. According to Ravenloft Gazetteer: Volume III, krakens are found in the domain of Mordent.

Spelljammer


The water world of Thalassa, detailed in SJR4: Practical Planetology, includes krakens as inhabitants.

Computer games


In the Gold Box game Gateway to the Savage Frontier, the adventurers are hired by agents of a kraken in the city of Yartar. Later, they are sent back to the city to destroy the kraken base.

View attachment 74590
Gateway to the Savage Frontier (1991), image taken from Giant Bomb.

Kraken names


Cephalopolop, Gaaree'eeki, Gethshemeth, Khalk'ru, K'thurall, Narthal, Qol'in'taroq, Sieg, Slarkrethel, Slash Eye, Tharlarkis, Tirbitus, Ur, Varchulanga, Xisal, Zlorthakis.

Comparative statistics


View attachment 74591

Thanks


Thanks to the following EN World members for suggestions for additions to this entry when it was originally posted: Lancelot, Dire Bare.

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Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, p61, 139 (June 2006)
Wizards of the Coast web site, Monster Manual Web Enhancement: (Half)-Fiendish Variety (June 2006)
Dragon #345, p49, "Excursion" (July 2006)
Dragon #345, p55, "Sea Serpents" (July 2006)
Monster Manual IV, p7 (July 2006)
Dragons of Faerûn, p134-135 (August 2006)
Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords, p139 (August 2006)
Dragon #349, p40, "Demonomicon of Iggwilv: Dagon" (November 2006)
Dragonmarked, p47 (November 2006)
Price of Courage, p32 (November 2006)
Knowledge Arcana: Issue 8, p10 (December 2006)
BDK6-09: To Bleed or Die, p29 (2006)
Dragons of Time, p256-257 (April 2007)
Dragon: Monster Ecologies, p68-73 (May 2007)
Dragon #357, p24, "Demonomicon of Iggwilv: Demogorgon: Prince of Demons (July 2007)
Dragons of Krynn, p136 (September 2007)
The Grand History of the Realms, p18, 142 (September 2007)
Dragons of Eberron, p23 (October 2007)
Elder Evils, p78-79 (December 2007)
VTFIN7-02: Ley of the Land, p119 (2007)
Dragons of Spring, p100 (January 2008)
City of Stormreach, p127, 139 (February 2008)
Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, p36, 90, 174 (August 2008)
Plague of Spells, p72, (December 2008)
COR8-04: Bridge Over Svartjet, p37 (2008)
Eberron Campaign Guide, p221 (July 2009)
Dungeon Master's Guide 2, p9 (September 2009)
Dragon #271, ,p42, "The Totem Deck: A Deck of Many Wild Things" (May 2000)
Underdark, p78 (January 2010)
Monster Manual 3, p122-123 (June 2010)
Demonomicon, p85 (July 2010)
Vor Rukoth, p23 (July 2010)
Dark Sun Campaign Setting, p179 (August 2010)
Dungeon #184, "Eye on Dark Sun: Silt Elementals" (November 2010)
Lost Crown of Neverwinter, p42-45 (August 2011)
SPEC3-3: Dance of the Sun and the Moon, p36-38 (August 2011)
Neverwinter Campaign Setting, p163-164 (August 2011)
Dungeon #199, "Bestiary: Dao and Marid" (February 2012)
Dungeon #199, "Olhydra and Yan-C-Bin" (February 2012)
Dragon #410, "Eye on Eberron: The Bloodsail Principality" (April 2012)
Dungeon #203, "Grasp of Thalarkis" (June 2012)
War of Everlasting Darkness, p42 (October 2012)
Dungeon #215, p19, "The Rolling Tomb" (June 2013)
EPIC5-3: Shadow Storm, p44 (January 2014)
Dead in Thay, p91 (April 2014)
Monster Manual, p197 (September 2014)
Monster Manual Errata v1.1, p1 (January 2016)
System Reference Document 5.0, p327 (January 2016)

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Comments

This is awesome! Thank you Echohawk!

I wonder exactly why the Kraken was part of the Conan/Hyborian chapter of OD&D? Probably there was some novel where Conan fights a kraken.

Does anyone know if the original "Conan of the Isles" novel has a kraken in it? (The comic adaptation does.)
 

Hussar

Legend
Two Thumbs Up! Love these articles.

Makes me want to use a Kraken in my Primeval Thule Campaign now. :D
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
Awesome article, as always.

I seem to recall a major kraken appearance in the BECMI Creature Crucible splat-book "The Sea People", which I'm surprised to not see listed here. I don't have my books with me at work, but I think a kraken featured as the climactic story hook for an adventure included in that supplement - one of the big Mystaran bad boys!

If I recall correctly, the adventure was geared for mid-level characters, so the kraken wasn't even statted out. It featured as part of the level map (you see it's tentacles, dwarfing the ruins the heroes are exploring) and the creature itself is basically a timer. Finish the mission before a certain number of rounds pass, or the kraken yanks the entire dungeon off the continental shelf and into the sea trench below. Cool stuff.
 

Dire Bare

Adventurer
I was just browsing through "Sandstorm", a 3E book about desert wastes, and I found another kraken variant! The Crawling Apocalypse is a mummified kraken that mindlessly stalks the sandy desert wastes!
 

Von Ether

Explorer
Right, so if you're still irked that the party steamrolled your Aboleth so many moons ago, you can get your revenge by Kraken down on them when they get near an ocean.
 

Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
Lancelot, your memory is spot on. Here's the map with the tentacles intruding, and an illustration of Hamish who is being sacrificed to the kraken and must be rescued by the heroes. Sadly, the interaction with the kraken is pretty limited. As you said, it basically serves as a six-round game timer.

Edit: I've updated the article to include this encounter.
 
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Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
Good catch, Dire Bare. The crawling apocalypse is definitely sufficiently krakeny to be worth mentioning.

Edit: I've added it to the variants section.
 
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Jhaelen

Villager
Wee! Another aquatic monster entry - awesome!

For me, kraken have always been a prime candidate for a BBEG. Especially when playing up their intelligence and Cthulhuesque qualities.
I actually included one in my 3e campaign, but only as a red herring. (The real threat were illithids trying to summon Ilsensine to take over the Prime Material Plane...)

Anyway, the article features an amazing wealth of Kraken-related material that I hadn't heard of before. Thanks for another great article, Echohawk!
 

Cleon

Adventurer
The first mention of the kraken in D&D is in 1976, when it appeared in Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods, Heroes. That book cites as a source a fantasy novel by A. Meritt titled Dwellers in the Mirage, first published in 1932, but the history of the kraken as a mythological creature dates back several centuries earlier than that. Dragon: Monster Ecologies references Erik Pontoppidan's Natural History of Norway (1752), which describes the kraken as a floating island one and a half miles long. There are even older references in Icelandic literature dating back to the 13th-century in which a kraken-like creature known as the hafgufa is described.

The kraken in Supplement IV appears in the section on Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age, the setting of Conan the Barbarian. It is a singular creature, which must be summoned from another dimension by an evil priest. Described as a giant octopus able to live on land, the kraken feeds on human souls. A victim failing a saving throw is drained of all his or her levels. The beast has an Armor Class of -2, a Move of 18", 100 Hit Points and combat ability equivalent to a 15th-level fighter. This kraken is only superficially the same as later versions, and might be better classified as "Kraken, Hyborian".
You've just added another creature to my Creature Catalogue monsters waiting for conversion list.

Oh, and Mr Merritt's name is spelled with two Rs, not one.
 

Cleon

Adventurer
I wonder exactly why the Kraken was part of the Conan/Hyborian chapter of OD&D?
Yes, I was wondering that too, since the "Kraken" in question is from a story by Abraham Merritt which is neither a Conan story nor set in the Hyborian age. The Dwellers in the Mirage is set in then-modern times (the 1920s or early 1930s) and stars a Scandinavian-American. It's definitely sometime after World War I.

Much of the story takes place while the hero is on the "Fairchild expedition" to Mongolia, which I suspect is either a reference to or inspired by the famous expeditions to that country led by Roy Chapman Andrews during the period 1922-1925. It's worth noting the purpose of the expedition was to test the human ancestry theory of Henry Fairchild Osborne who was president of the American Museum of Natural History at the time. So Dwellers in the Mirage is most likely set sometime between 1922 and 1932.

Probably there was some novel where Conan fights a kraken.
I'm pretty sure Conan never fought a Kraken in any story by Robert E Howard, although he might have done so in one or more of the pastiche non-Howard novels. He certainly fought his fair share of giant cephalopods in the comics!

That said, the monster would fit in nicely with a Robert E Howard fantasy story.

Does anyone know if the original "Conan of the Isles" novel has a kraken in it? (The comic adaptation does.)
It's been years since I've read it, but I don't remember a Kraken. Unless my memory deceives me there were incorporeal horrors that killed with a touch called "Red Shadows" and "Dragons" that lived on a lost continent (I vaguely recall Conan fighting dragons on a giant step-pyramid at the end of the book). But it's so long I may just have forgotten a Kraken. I can always pull it out for a re-read.

Besides, wasn't Conan of the Isles published in the mid-70s, around the same time as Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods, Heroes? That seems a bit too recent for a literary monster to appear in that OD&D supplement, didn't most of the book-sources beasties in it dated from the 1930s or earlier?

I'll just go and check...

...ah, Conan of the Islands was first published in 1968, but the first British edition appeared on my shores in 1974. That's probably why I was thinking it was a mid-70s book.
 
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Cleon

Adventurer
Speaking of monsters related to the Kraken, is it worth mentioning the Krakentua from Monstrous Compendium 6 - The Kara-Tur Appendix (1990)?

It's a colossal sea demon with a humanoid body and the head of a Kraken.

EDIT: Oh dang it, you already mentioned it near the end of the article.

Never mind, nothing to see here!

EDITED EDIT: Actually, there is something to say. My version of Echohawk's Complete D&D Monster Index gives OA7 a date after MC6 (August 1990 vs June 1990), while the above article is correct that OA7 appeared before the Kara-Tur Monstrous Compendium (it was published in 1989).

It'd be nice to have an updated Index you know, Echohawk… Hint hint… It's not like it's a horrendously time consuming task or anything. :p
 
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Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
Oh, and Mr Merritt's name is spelled with two Rs, not one.
Fixed, thanks.

Actually, there is something to say. My version of Echohawk's Complete D&D Monster Index gives OA7 a date after MC6 (August 1990 vs June 1990), while the above article is correct that OA7 appeared before the Kara-Tur Monstrous Compendium (it was published in 1989).
The 2008 release of the Monster Index predates the Collector's Guide series -- a lot of the dates were corrected or updated when I put those together. OA7 is a tricky one to date, because it was confusingly released six months before OA6.

It'd be nice to have an updated Index you know, Echohawk… Hint hint… It's not like it's a horrendously time consuming task or anything. :p
I promise to get right on that when I run out of monsters for the Monster ENcyclopedia series :p
 

Cleon

Adventurer
I promise to get right on that when I run out of monsters for the Monster ENcyclopedia series :p
Well you managed to do two last month, so if you maintain that rate you only have seven and a half months to finish off the alphabet. :)
 

Cleon

Adventurer
The 2008 release of the Monster Index predates the Collector's Guide series -- a lot of the dates were corrected or updated when I put those together. OA7 is a tricky one to date, because it was confusingly released six months before OA6.
Speaking of OA7, this discussion spurred me to leaf through my copy and I noticed it includes abbreviated stats for a Krakentua Spawn in the body of the adventure (see page 60). That isn't in the index or covered in our Creature Catalogue conversions.

I guess that's yet another beastie for my to-be-converted list...
 

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