Dungeons & Dragons has been around in one form or another for more than 40 years, which is a lot of time for people to come up with powerful monsters people can fight. Thanks to intrepid Dungeon Masters and game designers, the game’s 1977 edition of the Monster Manual has grown from a meager combination of weak and powerful creatures into a gigantic plethora of insignificant minions to ridiculously powerful Elder Gods. Over the years, as the game developed, new methods were introduced to help streamline the process by which a band of merry adventurers might stumble upon some of these monsters. Instead of succumbing to the wills of the DM, a Challenge System was introduced in the game’s third edition to help balance out the various encounters.
This new system ensured a group of level one adventurers wouldn’t stumble upon a monster they couldn’t handle while continuing to throw the various chaff their way, which helped to build up levels in the early stages of gameplay. Similar methods were developed for Dungeons & Dragons’ other systems such as video games. No longer would an annoying player have to face off against a Red Dragon if the DM became annoyed, and that was a good thing… from the player’s perspective. Over the decades the game has been around, the changes to the Challenge System have led to more and more monsters being introduced. Instead of simply sticking to familiar characters from mythology, many different types have discovered adventurers lurking about their dungeons. We dug through the rulebooks, video games, and monster manuals to find the most powerful and the weakest monsters in all of D&D!
25. POWERFUL: LICH
When a powerful spellcaster decides to avoid death, they employ necromancy to become immortal. To become a Lich, a spellcaster places their soul into a Phylactery by performing the Ritual of Becoming. Essentially, they end themselves, but keep their soul nearby, which turns them into an incredibly powerful skeletal creature.
A Lich retains all of their memories from their life as well as their abilities. They are immortal spellcasters who are almost impossible to kill seeing as you need to locate their Phylactery and destroy it. That’s not something the Lich will just let a party do without some trouble, which makes a Lich one of the deadliest monsters in the game.
24. WEAK: GOBLIN
Goblins are some of the most prolific buggers in D&D, which is why they often show up right at the beginning of a campaign. There’s a reason Goblins will likely be the first monsters a party stumbles upon as they are often used in the game as a tutorial. Because they are physically weak, they offer an opportunity for players to engage in a battle early on.
That isn’t to say goblins can’t be problematic. One Goblin is nothing, but they know that, which is why they attack in packs. Their threat increases if there are a great number of them, which is why you should still take them seriously…especially at the beginning of the game.
23. POWERFUL: MIND FLAYER
The Illithid are a race of monsters in D&D commonly referred to as Mind Flayers. They get that name thanks to their intense psionic powers, which they use to consume the brains of sentient prey. They are relatively common around the caverns and cities of the Underdark and consider themselves to be the dominant species of the D&D Multiverse.
Mind Flayers attack via a number of psionic abilities including the Mind Blast, which fires a cone-shaped shock wave at its victims. This attack can disable an adventurer and leave their tasty brains open for consumption by the Mind Flayer. Attack only with an ability to repel psionic attacks or your character might lose their mind.
22. WEAK: KOBOLD
Kobolds were introduced in the first edition of the game as a parallel to goblins. No DM wanted to create a campaign with just goblins as their only spam enemy, which is why Kobolds were thrown into the mix. They are weak, operate in large numbers and really are nothing more than a low-level mob used to shake things up a bit.
By the time the Third Edition hit the shelves, they were tweaked a bit to make them more powerful. In recognition of their draconic origins, they were given an affinity to magic. Kobold sorcerers became a thing and the monsters became more popular and a little more powerful than their goblin buddies.
21. POWERFUL: BEHOLDER
Beholders are some of the most iconic monsters in D&D, which is why they often find themselves on the covers of Monster Manuals. These large, floating heads possess an enlarged mouth, central eye and numerous smaller eyes atop prehensile eyestalks all over its body. They have appeared in every edition of the game since its inception and are considered to be a classic monster.
A Beholder’s eyes each possess a different magical ability while its central eye can project an anti-magical cone. There are various types of Beholders spread throughout the game, but most are very dangerous and should be avoided by low-level non-magical adventurers.
20. WEAK: GIBBERLING
Gibberlings are the annoying kid at a Goblin or Kobold party. They are mindless monsters who gather in large hordes in an attempt to sew destruction on villages and parties of adventurers. Unfortunately for them, Gibberlings are so low in stats (as well as stature), that they are far more of a nuisance than a threat.
That isn’t to say some bad rolls won’t send the hardiest of warriors out looking for some healing, but they are generally easy to kill and some of the weakest monsters found in the game. Peasants regularly dispatch them without bothering adventurers, which tells you something about their abilities.
19. POWERFUL: DRACOLICH
Dragons are easily some of the most powerful monsters in the game. Throughout all of fiction, dragons are dangerous creatures, but in D&D, they are definitely on a whole new level of fierce. They not only are huge, have insanely high stats & hit points and can shoot off a breath weapon, but they also have the ability to cast spells just like a sorcerer.
That last part comes in handy should a dragon ever decide to become a Dracolich. They dump their souls, become undead and retain all of their original attacks. What’s more, they can control the undead, which means every adventurer who ever died at their feet comes back to life to fight for the Dracolich.
18. WEAK: LEMURE
D&D has some of the most interesting and deadly demonic creatures in all of fantasy and role-playing. They have named demons and all sorts of creatures in the demonic food chain for adventurers to fear and run away from. At the very bottom of the totem pole, you have the Lemure.
These beasts are piles of rotting flesh borne into a bipedal grotesque monster when a soul is damned to the underworld for crimes committed in life. They are slow, deal 1D4 damage and have only 13 hit points. In terms of demonic monsters, these are certainly the weakest of them all.
17. POWERFUL: ELDER BRAIN
Most parties hate Mind Flayers due to their ability to psionically paralyze an entire party, but they’re a walk in the park compared to their leader. The Elder Brain is the ruler of a community of Mind Flayers and while it amounts to little more than a gigantic brain in a jar, it’s so powerful, you can’t get near the thing without it knowing.
When Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was released, the Elder Brain was akin to a 20th level psionicist, which made it more powerful than mages of the same level. It was eventually toned down in subsequent editions, but not by much. These need to be engaged with a seriously powerful party of adventurers.
16. WEAK: CRAWLING CLAW
The Crawling Claw is exactly what you think it is: the animated hand of a corpse. These are often enchanted through a ritual on anything from a human to an orc’s hand or any number of animals, which offers some variety to the creature. Evil magicians often enchant them to act as servants used to accomplish menial tasks.
They don’t represent much of a threat to anyone seeing as their 2 hit points and 1D4+1 damage won’t harm most players. They may poke someone in the eyes, but you can slaughter these things by the dozen without too much trouble. They are low-level for use early in the game and not much more.
15. POWERFUL: DEMILICH
Occasionally, a Lich can grow weary of being a skeleton version of their former self. Their powers grow over time, which leads them to transfer all of their power into their skull, which then becomes a new monster called a Demilich. It’s basically a Lich boosted in strength and power to become some of the deadliest spellcasters in the game.
Instead of sitting on a mantle somewhere, a Demilich floats about with more immunities than you can shake a stick at. It’s almost impossible to damage without some serious firepower, can swallow the souls of anyone it looks at and has ended more games of D&D than many of the monsters on this list.
14. WEAK: SKELETONS
Skeletons are the undead equivalent of Goblins and Kobolds in the game. They tend to pop up early in an adventure or are thrown about in dungeons as mobs that a party has to fight through to keep the campaign going. They are resistant to a number of attacks due to their undead nature, and stabbing weapons often go right through them.
Their power is dependent upon their size, which leads a human skeleton to be more powerful than the animated skeletal remains of a rat. That being said, a Giant Skeleton presents a challenge, but overall, they are not the deadliest monsters an adventurer might face in the game.
13. POWERFUL: LESHAY
The leShay were once a race of immortal beings who hailed from the universe before the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse came into being. After an intense conflict, their numbers dwindled to a paltry few who clawed their way into the realms of D&D where they established themselves.
A single leShay is an intensely powerful Monster possessing more than 800 hit points and an armor class of 52. They carry weapons far superior to any an adventurer that might stumble upon in a dungeon somewhere, and they can cast high-level spells which make them some of the deadliest spellcasters in the game.
12. WEAK: MUDMAN
Players know many rules in order to play D&D, but one of the best-known rules nobody talks about is how to avoid a puddle and avoid a very annoying fight. In a game where everything can be deadly, it makes sense that a puddle would be something dangerous. Mudmen are pretty much what they sound like: large, bipedal creatures made of mud.
They can’t attack directly, but they are able to reduce a player’s movement speed by hurling mudballs. If they make contact, they throw themselves on a player and reduce their movement speed to zero. The player then begins to suffocate, which is about the most embarrassing way to lose a character in all of D&D.
11. POWERFUL: ATROPAL
While we aren’t throwing in any gods on this list, we do have to pay some respect to the Atropal. These horrific monsters are stillborn gods who became undead creatures of immense power. They should be avoided by most adventurers thanks to their range of damaging abilities including one, which allows them to permanently drain five Constitution points with a touch.
They have many more abilities including shooting negative energy, which drains levels from combatants. Hitting them with spells and ranged weapons is the best way to handle them if running in the opposite direction while leaving a puddle of urine behind isn’t a valid option.
10. WEAK: CRANIUM RAT
Not all monsters in D&D are huge, horrible creatures pulled from the darkest depths of mythology. Some creatures are little more than enhanced versions of your everyday, run-of-the-mill vermin. Rats are common in D&D campaigns, though most of the time, they are larger versions called Dire Rats. For Cranium Rats, they aren’t enlarged, but they are modified.
A Cranium Rat is a rat that was experimented upon by Mind Flayers. Their brain pulses with an intense glowing light, which makes them easy to see from a distance. They don’t represent a challenge to anyone unless they are sleeping, but you could always roll over on them if they get too close.
9. POWERFUL: ELDER TITAN
Any player will tell you that a giant is no easy monster to take on. They are huge and tough, but they are nothing when compared to the Titans who are some of the deadliest monsters in all of D&D. When it comes to Titans, the most powerful version of these is the Elder Titan, which is a giant’s giant that wields a hammer bigger than a house.
Not only are they immense in size and stats, but they are also powerful spellcasters who are more than capable of taking on a party in ranged combat. That’s important seeing as melee attacks aren’t wise when attacking something as large and powerful as an Elder Titan.
8. WEAK: MYCONID
Believe it or not, there is a fungus-based monster in D&D. Actually, that’s not very surprising given the nature of monsters in the game. The man-sized mushrooms are a race called the Myconoid, who spit poisons at players causing serious damage. While some Myconids are tough, not all mushrooms are created equally.
The weakest of the race are called Shriekers, and they got that name for a good reason. These critters don’t have any ability to attack, but they can scream at the top of their lungs whenever an adventurer stumbles past. This makes them effective alarm systems, but other than an early warning system, they don’t offer much in terms of power.
7. POWERFUL: HECATONCHEIRES
Just about every monster in D&D came from various world mythologies in the earliest days of the game. Some were kept at bay until the Epic Level Handbook hit the shelves, which introduced the Hecatoncheires, a giant monster from Greek Mythology, which featured 100 arms. For D&D, the creature was switched to become a monster made from 100 different people merged into one.
They are able to attack 100 times per turn, but that depends on the size of its target. When engaging a party, an adventurer will get hit 15 times each turn, but that can double as the Hecatoncheires has the ability to summon another one of itself once per day.
6. WEAK: SEA CAT
Throughout D&D, there are plenty of marine monsters people are familiar with. Mermaids, Krakens and many others roam the watery environs threatening players, but there are some less-familiar creatures spread about including the dreaded Sea Cat! Sea Cats, also called Sea Lions, are half-fish, half-feline creatures who prefer to mind their own business.
Normally, they won’t attack an adventurer, but will defend its territory as all cats are wont to do. They typically live in small prides of between five and 12 individuals. They are considered animalistic, and not intelligent. They can be a threat, but remain neutral in alignment.
5. POWERFUL: AVANGION
In the world of Athas, there are no dragons, but it’s possible for someone to become one. The process is painful and difficult, which is why it is only attempted by evil sorcerers. When they complete the process, they become some of the most powerful magical beings in the game, but there is another creature who can challenge them.
When a good being decides to transform themselves into a creature similar to a dragon, they begin the process of becoming an Avangion. These beings are ridiculously OP and start out with the power of a level 40 character. They have an impenetrable shield, which defends against magical attacks and are significantly more powerful than dragons.
4. WEAK: FLUMPH
The Flumph is a Lawful Good creature who debuted in the Fiend Folio. It looks like a large, airborne jellyfish, which is a pretty accurate description of what it is. It can spray a skunk-like attack at a player, which stinks and makes your party want to leave you behind.
It also has an acid attack when it drops down on a player, but its attacks aren’t much of an issue. To defeat them, you just need to turn it over. Like a turtle, a Flumph cannot right itself once it is turned on its back, which makes it one of the easiest monsters to defeat in all of D&D.
3. POWERFUL: PRISMATIC DRAGON
A list of powerful D&D Monsters could easily be nothing more than dragons, but we wanted to limit our dragon selection to a single living and undead version to keep things interesting. In terms of power, the strongest dragon of them all is the Prismatic Dragon introduced in the Epic Level Handbook.
These great wyrms have more than 2,000 hit points, a strength stat that’s off the charts and the ability to breathe a prismatic spray spell from their mouths. They cast spells equal to a level 38 spellcaster, and are so powerful, it would take hours to even damage one to any level of significance.
2. WEAK: DUCKBUNNY
Not many people fear a duck, and few people outside of the Monty Python fandom fear bunnies. Put them together and you have something sort of cute and sort of dangerous: the Duckbunny! These creatures are exactly what you think they are, a combination between a duck and a bunny. They are the result of magical crossbreeding by junior wizards.
While they may have the goal of creating something like an Owlbear, you have to start somewhere. Duckbunnies are small pack animals with 1-3 hit points. They aren’t really worth a player’s time, but will net seven XP for each one you take out.
1. POWERFUL: TARRASQUE
A Tarrasque is what you get when you combine the biggest dinosaur with Godzilla, King Kong, and an atomic bomb. They are colossal monsters capable of destroying whole cities by just walking through them. In the current edition of D&D, the Tarrasque is the most powerful monster there is, though it was even more powerful in previous editions.
Originally, you needed to cast a wish or miracle spell to keep them from regenerating after killing them, but that has been retconned. They are insanely durable, can perform multiple attacks each turn and are basically impossible to kill for pretty much anyone, anywhere and anytime.
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