For more than 40 years, Dungeons & Dragons has introduced us to some incredible monsters. As your adventuring party explores the world built by your dungeon master, you encounter many of these fearsome foes along the way. The tabletop game has everything, including classic, ferocious dragons and cuddly-looking — but dangerous — owlbears. Yet the scariest monsters you hope never to encounter are not the ones that are just going to put up a tough fight. You may never want to cross paths with the hard-hitting monsters that can totally wipe out your party (known as a TPK), but there are more horrifying creatures lurking around the corner in D&D.
These creatures have an extra element that makes them particularly monstrous. It can be because they don't die even when you destroy their bodies, or because falling into their clutches means a slow, particularly painful death or because they jump from the shadows when least expected. These additions make them much creepier than your average monster. Some give you chills just thinking about them, which is what makes them the scariest of all.
Here are nine monsters we think are the most horrifying in Dungeons & Dragons' fifth edition, counting down to the most monstrous.
You’re probably thinking "oozes? On this list? In a world with dragons? Really?" However, oozes in D&D are extremely disturbing because everything may seem fine one minute and then the next you're on the way to death! Oozes are hard to spot. They easily blend in with shadows in a dark passage or remain so clear you have no idea they're right in front of you. The different types include black pudding, gray ooze, and the classic gelatinous cube. While your friends can try to help you escape if you're caught by one, they'll have to do their best to not get sucked in too! It's a rather torturous death if you end up in their path, which is what makes them so frightening.
Intellect devourers may be considered tiny aberrations, but if they get you you're a goner. The Monster Manual describes them as walking brains "protected by a crusty covering and set on bestial clawed legs." They are bred by mind flayers, which we'll get to further down this list, and used for the horrifying purpose of consuming another creature's mind and memories. It knows everything that creature knew as it takes over the body to do its masters' bidding. Even if it's driven out of the body, the only way to restore the creature's brain is with a powerful wish spell. Your best friend could be controlled by an intellect devourer on the orders of a mind flayer and you might never know! The idea of having your brain consumed and just becoming an evil puppet is truly terrible.
These creatures are from a time before the gods apparently arrived, so the fact that they're that ancient already should set off warning bells in your mind. Unhappy with their loss of power in the world due to the gods, they strive to retake that power and will use the masses to do it. Aboleths stick to water environments and have telepathic powers they use to contact mortals, discover their desires, and use this knowledge to turn them into slaves. Their presence can warp the environment around them and their lairs give them additional nasty abilities for adventurers to contend with. Add to that the fact that if their body is destroyed they don't just die but go to the elemental plane of water where a new body is created in days or months, and this is not a monster you want to ever get on the bad side of! If they haven't recovered from their grudge with the gods, they certainly won't forget you.
Beholders are an iconic Dungeons & Dragons monster and one you don’t want to come face to eyestalk with if you can help it. Beholders are paranoid creatures that see all other beings as inferior, which of course leads to them not thinking much of taking the lives of others and can even lead to them becoming dangerous tyrants. They are also very smart. This makes them more than worthy foes for those who come across them. Add to their intellect the fact that they can shoot horrible rays out of their eyestalks like a disintegration ray, death ray, and petrification ray, and you'll need to think fast to survive an encounter with a beholder!
What's worse than a regular evil wizard? An undead one. Liches are classic monsters not just in D&D, but when you face one in the tabletop game you better be ready for a tough fight and more. The lich is powerful and only cares about increasing its own power. They are spellcasters with numerous resistances, immunities, and legendary characteristics. If you try to face them in their lairs, you'll end up facing a lot of other horrors too. Not to mention that unlike many creatures, liches don't worry about death because as long as their phylactery is intact, their body can reform if it is destroyed. That means you need to destroy the phylactery, which the lich feeds souls to, first and since it's so important to the lich, you can bet it's going to be well protected.
There's much more to the lich than just facing it head on and don’t get me started on dracoliches…
The sibriex is an extremely intelligent horrifying creature that looks as disgusting and dreadful as it actually is. The sibriex has "rivulets of blood and bile" cascading down its body that pollute the ground these touch. They are found in the Abyss contaminating the world around them and creating new demons. One horrifying ability they have is to warp creatures, which can lead to different flesh warping like arms becoming tentacles. Just being near this thing can change you. They also spend a long time collecting knowledge so that even demon lords seek them out for advice. It's never a good sign to face a creature demons want help from!
There are endless horrific possibilities when it comes to hags. Hags are cruel, ancient, evil, magical creatures that come in a variety of types like night hags, green hags, and sea hags. Each type comes with its own terrifying characteristics, though the night hag has the worst feature in our opinion. These hags can intrude into your dreams filling it with doubts and fears so you might perform "evil acts in the waking world." This keeps happening until you die, and if you have done evil things, your corrupted soul ends up in their soul bag on the way to Hades!
Hags can look like anything and like to trick mortals into deals that put you in horrible situations. They're even worse together. Three hags make a coven, which gives them extra abilities. If that wasn't bad enough, they make new hags by stealing children, eating them, and then birthing daughters that look human but become hags when they turn 13. While hags may sometimes raise these kids, they also sometimes leave the daughters in the place of the children they ate so families don't know what happened until the kid turns 13. Just. Horrible.
Mind flayers are another classic monster like the beholder. Also known as illithids, mind flayers are intelligent, evil creatures that want to bring their empire back. At one point, they dominated worlds. They are mind-controlling tyrants who like to enslave different races. Those disturbing tentacles are also put to a disturbing use: they use them to extract brains that they then eat or use to create intellect devourers. Despite them being intimidating on their own, they are also part of colonies that are actually controlled by an elder brain.
This is a brand new monster, not brought over from any past editions, that first appeared in Modenkainen's Tome of Foes. It is the wonderful result of a boy named Nolan Whale from the Make-A-Wish program. His wish was to spend a day working on D&D and then the idea for this creature came about. How can it manage to top our list as the most monstrous monster from Dungeons & Dragons? Well, first it combines two of the already horrible creatures on this list. The oblex is the result of mind flayer experiments, which is never good, on of all things oozes. They feed on memories and that act can kill the victims they stalk. These memories then allow them to recreate that person often in a physical form. These forms can then lure more victims to them. All that sets them apart from the original individual is a faint sulfurous smell and a tether of a tendril of goo that connects the creation to the main oblex.
Eaten by an ooze that can then use your memory and form to trick and lure others in? That’s the stuff of horrors — and the stuff of an epic adventure. If you weren't paranoid about other characters before, you should be now!
What D&D monster do you think is the scariest? Share with us in the comments!