D&D 5E Most deadly monster?

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
For the most part, monsters in 5e get a rap for being weak. Certainly true for many when comparing to earlier editions. In TSR era, petrification and poison were largely save or die, and in 5e they are save, then you can try again if you fail. Or keep trying every turn.

But what are some of those monsters that will ruin a PCs day (when compared to when they typically will be encountered by PCs, so not just high CR)?

The intellect devourer? It's a CR2 creature, so mostly encountered by lower level parties if you follow the CR system. But fail an INT saving throw (which many will), and you're truly screwed.

The blue slaad? A CR 7 creature, so mostly encountered between level 6-10 I'm guessing. But if you fail a saving throw, it's a death sentence unless you can find a wish spell. How many level 6-10 PCs have access to a wish spell?
 

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toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
I have to caveat all these with: Or, the PCs get initiative and drop it in 1 round.
  • Quickling. This CR1 gave one of my parties fits. With its insane movement, it can run around to your caster, attack a whopping 3x at +8 for a boatload of damage (average 24 if all hits), and flee while being hard to hit at all times. In prior editions, its speed rendered it invisible.
  • Intellect Devourer. CR2 that can target a weak save for most characters (INT), and if this doesn't kill you, it might 1-shot you by dropping your INT to 0, and then it might take over the body of your toughest party member. Even if you spot the tiny blindsight bastard, it's got resistance to normal weapons. Nasty.
  • Manticore. This CR3 doesn't appear crazy until you have it fly from afar and pepper any ranged PCs with tail spike attacks till they die. Any monster that can fly and (effectively) attack from afar fits this category, such as bow-equipped aarakokra.
  • Banshee. CR4, but she can move through walls and fly until she gets where she can take out an entire group with 1 ability, her wail. Not as potent as prior editions, but still any creature that can wipe all PCs with a single ability no matter their current HP is nasty.
  • Beholder Zombie. A CR5 that has a 25% chance of rolling disintegrate. Combined with its unwillingness to die and ability to fly, could be nasty.
  • Invisible Stalker. CR6 aside, permanent invisibility and strong fly movement means this thing can hit and run, using 3D to hide anywhere it pleases, rendering AOOs and targeted spells useless.
  • Solar. It's what I expect from a CR21. A multi-use teleport every round to kite, a sword it can leave anywhere to attack you, and a bow that can instant kill if your HP drops low enough if it's ungodly bonus damage of 6d8 radiant isn't enough. It's one of the few foes that actually might live up to its CR rating against epic PCs.
 

Oofta

Legend
For a lot of them it's how you run them. Dragons are just a pile of hit points if you fly in, land, and duke it out. Use hit and run tactics, pick up trees to set them on fire and then drop on PCs? Fly behind terrain and wait for your breath weapon to recharge or fly by, snap up a PC in your jaws (assuming the PCs don't have reach weapons) with a grapple and make them your chew toy in private.

But lower level monsters? Flameskulls get my vote. Cast blur, fly in to fireball range. Kind of a one trick pony but at a CR 4, 5 or so are a medium encounter for a level 10 party of 6, right?
 

Intellect Devourer and Mindflayer, easily - you're only, what, two bad rolls from being dead dead deadski.

But perhaps more insidious, are the monsters that can damage your character concept. A ghost can leave a player stuck with a septuagenarian greyhair where they once played a youthful bubbly adventurer.
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
For a lot of them it's how you run them. Dragons are just a pile of hit points if you fly in, land, and duke it out. Use hit and run tactics, pick up trees to set them on fire and then drop on PCs? Fly behind terrain and wait for your breath weapon to recharge or fly by, snap up a PC in your jaws (assuming the PCs don't have reach weapons) with a grapple and make them your chew toy in private.
I think young dragons should get special mention, because of the way that breath weapons scale. On average damage a young red dragon (CR 10) can one shot a level 10 character with d6 HD and a +1 Con bonus or a d8 with +0 Con.

Random recharges add to dragon swingyness. A recharge on round two can be brutal.
 



J.Quondam

CR 1/8
  • Manticore. This CR3 doesn't appear crazy until you have it fly from afar and pepper any ranged PCs with tail spike attacks till they die. Any monster that can fly and (effectively) attack from afar fits this category, such as bow-equipped aarakokra.
Manticore is a great, especially since it's likely the very first monster encountered in the Essentials kit -- a tiny, little, TPK-ready quest, for a reward of 25 shiny gold pieces. Great stuff for a brand new DM with brand new players! 😅
 



If they don't manage to do enough to disrupt the ritual, yeah, the PCs are walking into a death trap with that encounter. My party managed to do enough to make her manageable, but even though they were about 12-strong, she still held her own against them and the only reason no one died was pretty much because the cleric spent every turn healing.

Tyranny of Dragons' Tiamat.
 




Mort

Legend
Supporter
I wouldn't call them deadly, but the monster that elicited the most abject terror from the players - the rust monster.

Group had just discovered a cache of Adamantine weapons and armor. The look of fear on the PCs faces when a bunch of Rust monsters showed up was absolutely priceless.

This cache wasn't magical, but if it ever comes up again with magical loot - I'm definitely ignoring the 5e Rust Monster caveat that magic weapons armor are unaffected!

This goes with something I've found over the years. Attack the characters - even with overwhelming lethal force? Most players react with meh, that's what happens in the game.

Attack/steal/take away their stuff? Most players react with near irrational levels of fear/anger/resentment against the perpetrating party!
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
Properly played, Helmed Horrors can be pretty nasty - especially with the proper spell immunities and if the DM is stingy with magical weapons.
 

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