Dungeons and Dragons is just about the ultimate nerd experience; after all, you're getting together with a group of other turbo-nerds and playing pretend for hours on end. It involves elves, dwarves, orcs, all the standards of fantasy, described in passable detail by one nerd crazy enough to be the Dungeon Master. In Dungeons and Dragons, players create a fantasy character, and roleplay as that character in an adventure through a fantasy world. Guided by the Dungeon Master, the world grows, changes, and reacts to the actions of the players, often to the Dungeon Master's dismay. The main threats players will face are, of course, monsters. The diverse array of classes allows for multiple ways of approaching encounters, but the vast array of monsters allows the Dungeon Master to tailor encounters to the party.
First published way back in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons has gone through several revisions over the years. From the very basic First Edition, to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, to the massively popular Third Edition (in its slightly updated 3.5 form), to the much maligned Fourth Edition, on to today's Fifth Edition. For a lot of players, Fifth Edition is a step in the right direction. Keeping some of Fourth Edition's streamlining, while maintaining a fair chunk of mechanical complexity from 3.5, it has quickly gained popularity since release. This list will cover some of the most powerful and dangerous monsters in Fifth Edition. While 3.5 and Fourth Edition had hundreds of supplementary books featuring stronger monsters, Fifth Edition has miraculously kept it simple. And so will we.
Solars are the Dungeons and Dragons term for angels. Servants of Good gods, Solars are (almost) unwaveringly good, and immensely powerful. Supposedly, there are only 24 solars in existence, and each is threatening enough to fell an entire adventuring party single-handedly.
Fortunately, due to their inherently good nature, it is highly unlikely that a party will encounter them. Nevertheless, they can still fall, and become evil. Retaining their powers, but losing their moral compass, they can be immensely dangerous foes.
Elder Elementals are the most powerful elementals a summoner can conjure. Often, the mere act of summoning these immensely powerful beings is enough to kill the summoner, and their very appearance on the Material Plane is enough to herald apocalyptic destruction.
One of these Elder Elementals is the Zaratan, an Elder Earth Elemental. When summoned, the earth rises to form the shape of a gargantuan turtle. The mere act of walking causes widespread earthquakes powerful enough to topple buildings. Fortunately, the Zaratan is both slow and slow-witted, and not particularly aggressive. While it is immensely powerful, it is not actively malicious.
Illithids, or mind flayers, are terrifying, powerful, psionic beings that eat brains. Liches are powerful wizards who have embraced undeath as a means to immortality. And as the name implies, an Illthilich is an illithid lich. A powerful illithid spellcaster becomes an undead to become immortal.
It maintains its psionic abilities, as well as its massively powerful spellcasting abilities. Since Illithids are already powerful, adding spell-casting up to 9th-level spells (the really powerful ones), and then making it undead on top of that, Illithilichs are one of the most powerful "mundane" threats in D&D, even more powerful than some ancient dragons.
Just as there are angels in Dungeons and Dragons, you best believe there are demons. Hell is in a constant state of war between the demons, followers of Chaos, and devils, followers of Law. Leading the demons and devils are, respectively, the archdemons and archdevils. One of these archdevils is Geryon.
Geryon is somewhat unique among the Demon Lords. Rather than commanding his legions from behind, he prefers to be on the front lines, hunting down foes and feeling the kill himself. Unfortunately (for him), this leaves little time for collecting souls, and places him near the bottom of Hell's hierarchy. He is still an exceedingly dangerous foe for an adventuring party to face.
On the flip side of the Lawful archdevils, there are the Chaotic archdemons. One of these archdemons is Baphomet, the Horned King and Prince of Beasts. Lord of mythical minotaurs, he creates vast labyrinths to entrap foes, and can never be lost in his own mazes.
Although he is filled with bestial bloodlust, it is backed by cruel and cunning intellect dedicated to corrupting and subverting civilization back to a primal savagery. At 20 feet tall, he is also an immense and immediate physical threat.
20 ELDER TEMPEST
The most powerful of the Elder Elementals, an Elder Tempest is an Elder Elemental of Wind. Created from clouds, wind, rain, and lightning, the elder tempest takes the form of a titanic feathered serpent. Its mere presence causes a massive thunderstorm, with the elder tempest at the center.
Further, the elder tempest can control the storm, calling down precise or widespread lightning strikes and summoning massive, mile-long, gale winds. And this says nothing of the elder tempest's own capabilities as a massive lightning storm dragon-serpent thing.
Another archfiend (there's going to be a lot of them on this list), Fraz-Urb'luu is another Chaotic archdemon, like Baphomet. The Prince of Deception and the Demon Lord of Illusion, he can create powerful illusions to deceive and terrify.
But more dangerously, he is incredibly intelligent and cunning, using every trick, lie, and half-truth to manipulate others to do his bidding. Such are his deceptive abilities that most of his servants don't even know they're serving him until it's too late.
Deep beneath the ocean, immensely ancient beings known as krakens slumber, awaiting a calling or sign that will awaken them and call them to action. Existing since the literal dawn of time, krakens are god-like sea monsters, capable of controlling weather and ocean currents around their location.
Even more terrifying, they are not bound by the ocean, capable of breathing air just as easily as water. The mere act of a kraken awakening can bring cities to ruin. A kraken bent on destruction is nigh-unstoppable and only concerned with the ruination of all things.
Surprise! Another archfiend. Zuggtmoy is an archdemon, the Demon Queen of Fungi, Lady of Rot and Decay. Unlike other Demon Lords, Zuggtmoy is an alien creature only concerned with infecting all living things with spores. This transforms them into mindless servants, and eventually, hosts for the mushrooms and other fungi she spawns.
Zuggtmoy's humanoid form is entirely a facsimile. In reality, she is simply a vast collective of fungus that has gained some approximation of sapience. Like Fraz-Urb'luu, she corrupts mortals without their knowledge, infecting them with spores and steadily gaining more and more control.
Acererak is an immensely powerful lich, and one of the main villains in the generic Dungeons and Dragons setting. Formerly a wizard of great renown, he became a lich and one of the most feared beings in the multiverse.
A powerful spellcaster, Acererak's most recent goal was to nuture an atropal, an undead, unfinished immortal modeled after the gods, to full godhood. Acererak is among the most powerful mortals in Dungeons and Dragons, only surpassed by some breeds of ancient dragon.
15 MAEGERA THE DAWN TITAN
Maegera the Dawn Titan is a fire primordial. One of the most powerful elementals in existence, Maegera has fortunately been trapped by the powerful rune magic of the dwarves of Gauntlgrym. While it is kept slumbering, it still puts out such immense heat that it powers the legendary forges of Gauntlgrym.
Because of its immense power, many less noble parties seek its power, such as the Fire Giants of Ironslag. Like the dwarves, the Fire Giants wish to use Maegera to power their forges. While Maegera isn't likely to be encountered in person by adventurers, it is still immensely powerful, and can wreak havoc if freed or not contained properly.
Juiblex is another archdemon, the Faceless Lord and the Oozing Hunger. Like Zuggtmoy, who it shares a realm with, and unlike its brethren, Juiblex has little concern for the machinations of demons and manipulation of mortals. It exists only to consume, digesting living matter and transforming it into more of itself.
Worshiped only by the truly insane, Juiblex absorbs its followers. Transforming them into piles of semi-sentient ooze, they exist only as extensions of Juiblex's body, as Juiblex slowly digests their identities.
Like Solars, Emypreans are one of the few Good powerful creatures. Unlike Solars, Empyreans are not servants of the gods, but rather their children. These powerful creatures reside in the Upper Planes, and are so powerful that even their emotional shifts can affect their surroundings.
Like other Good creatures, adventurers will rarely encounter these creatures in battle. But, like Solars, Empyreans can fall, and do in far greater numbers than Solars. These Evil Empyreans often retreat to the Material Plane to rule over a kingdom of mortals as an indomitable tyrant.
Yet another archdemon, Yeenoghu is known as the Beast of Butchery and the Gnoll Lord. Gnolls are hyena-like beastmen, supposedly created when Yeenoghu hunted the Material Plane, followed by a massive pack of hyenas. Those that ate of his kills became gnolls, and went on to wreak havoc on the Material Plane in his absence.
Yeenoghu is not as subtle as his brethren, seeking only slaughter and senseless destruction. Unlike most of his brethren, he won't even consider conversation or corruption, jumping straight into battle with a furor.
Graz'zt is an archdemon, the Dark Prince of Pleasure. A beautiful creature, he can change shape at will into any form that pleases him, or might attract new followers. Obsessed with beauty and pleasure, he represents the worst aspects of both, unrestricted and unmitigated.
Far more focused on self-induced corruption, Graz'zt usually prefers charm and manipulation to direct combat. Which is not to say he is not capable of terrible violence. Capable of using a number of powerful Enchantment spells, Graz'zt is one of the more dangerous foes in Hell, simply because he disarms with his charm first.
10 ANCIENT DRAGONS
What would Dungeons and Dragons be without dragons? Well, Dungeons, we guess. But that's beside the point. Dragons are one of the icons of Dungeons and Dragons. These incredibly long-lived creatures only grow more powerful with age, and Ancient Dragons are the peak.
The most powerful dragons are Red and Gold dragons, but all ancient dragons are incredibly dangerous. Vastly intelligent, with centuries of experience to back it up, an ancient red or gold dragon is far and away the most powerful "generic" creature in Dungeons and Dragons an adventuring party could reasonably expect to face.
If ancient dragons are the most dangerous mortal creatures in Dungeons and Dragons, Klauth is the most dangerous ancient dragon. One of the oldest, largest, and most fearsome dragons ever known, Klauth gained this status by slaughtering any dragon that might potentially surpass him.
While being an ancient red dragon already makes him naturally highly dangerous, Klauth is also a highly accomplished spellcaster, rivaling many other wizards for power. This spellcasting allows him to view much of the world, allowing him a vast array of knowledge that other mortals might only dream of.
Marut are magical beings created by Primus, the most powerful being in service of order. These creatures were created to arbitrate and enforce contracts between planar beings like gods and demons. By making a contract through a marut, the marut is bound to enforce the terms and punish any who break the contract.
Because it deals with such powerful beings, a marut must be immensely powerful itself. It can travel to anywhere in the many planes at will, and can force a being to return to arbitration if necessary. Only a few of the most powerful beings in existence can overcome a marut, and even then it would be difficult.
Like Klauth, Slarkrethel is a particularly dangerous unique version of an already highly-dangerous creature. Slarkrethel is a kraken, awakened long ago, who has enslaved a chain of islands. Krakens are already highly intelligent beings, and Slarkrethel puts his intelligence to great use, wreaking havoc and terror on the ocean waters surrounding his realm.
Again like Klauth, what sets Slarkrethel apart from other kraken is his spellcasting ability. His spellcasting power is such that he rivals all but the absolute most powerful wizards, on top of his already vast natural kraken abilities. Forming a vast network of spies and worshipers, Slarkrethel is also one of the most influential beings in the world, manipulating comings and goings to his own ends.
Fans of Stranger Things will be a bit familiar with this entry. Demogorgon is another archdemon, the Prince of Demons, the Sibilant Beast, and Master of the Spiraling Depths.
Where other demons have a specific goal usually to their own benefit, Demogorgon seeks nothing more than to drag all of reality into chaos and madness. In addition to being physically powerful, Demogorgon can drive others mad with a glance, and even his symbol can cause madness if contemplated too long.
Remember way back at the beginning of the list, when we said Solars could fall? Well, Zariel is what happens when Solars fall. Initially tasked with observing the eternal war between demons and devils, Zariel succumbed to the corrupting influence of Hell and fell.
Zariel is one of the most powerful beings in Hell, and one of the few to have absolute control over her realm. She is also the most dangerous physical combatant in Hell, second only to Orcus (who will be on the list) and Asmodeus, Lord of Hell himself (who won't), in absolute power.
This is the very last archdemon on the list, we swear. The Demon of Prince, the Blood Lord, Orcus is the lord of all undead, whether they know it or not. His primary goal involves turning all of reality into a vast necropolis populated solely by undead under his command.
Like most of the powerful creatures on this list, Orcus' primary strength comes from his spellcasting ability. Armed with the Wand of Orcus, he has a myriad of necromantic spells at his disposal.
The Tarrasque is possibly the most dreaded creature on the Material Plane. It's also a bit of an oddity on this list. It has no spellcasting ability, and it fact is little more than an animal. A really, really big and dangerous animal that's strong enough to make almost every other creature on this list quake in their boots, but still an animal.
Although it is not particularly malicious, it can still wreak epic-scale havoc simply by moving from one place to the next. It is also a predator, and a beast on this scale can devour entire towns, and even consume dragons.
If the Tarrasque is the most dreaded creature on the Material Plane, Tiamat is the most dreaded creature in the multiverse. The evil goddess of chromatic dragons, Tiamat is infinitely cunning, cruel, and intelligent. Even further, as a goddess, she is truly immortal, and unable to be truly killed, merely banished to her realm for a time.
Tiamat is so iconic to Dungeons and Dragons, and so powerful, that she is often used as a "final boss" of sorts. She even serves as the main villain for several settings, including the popular Dragonlance.
1 THE DUNGEON MASTER
The important thing to remember about all of these creatures is that they're nothing without a Dungeon Master behind them. A Dungeon Master is far and away the most dangerous creature in Dungeons and Dragons. After all, they're the one throwing these horribly strong creatures at you.
Even more, the Dungeon Master can and often does warp reality simply to keep the plot moving forward, or just to adapt to the actions of the players. They can wipe out parties with a word, or save them from certain doom with the same. There are many gods in Dungeons and Dragons, but the Dungeon Master sits above them all.