In the time before the great pantheon of the gods, these gigantic creatures lurked in the primordial oceans and the underground seas. They reached out with their superior minds and enslaved the burgeoning lifeforms of the mortal realm, pushing dominion that made them like gods. Until the true gods took notice, smashing the aboleths' empires and freeing their enslaved beings.
Such an insult has never been forgotten.
General Knowledge - Aboleths in 5th Edition
Aboleths have ancient, flawless memories, and pass on their knowledge from generation to generation. This quality keeps the insult of the gods fresh and alive, perfectly preserved in their minds. They are also treasure troves of ancient lore. These entities play the long game; calling eons of planning to bear, patient and intricate.
Gods in the Lake
Ancient aquatic beings, Aboleths dwell in the deep recesses of underground lakes and rivers, and unknown depths of the grand oceans. They often reside in the Material Plane, and the Plane Of Water, but can show up just about anywhere with an underwater abyss. In these deep lairs and the lands that surround them, Aboleths are like gods, demanding worship and obedience from those that live nearby.
They also add the experiences and knowledge of all they consume to their eternal memory, creating a lust for knowledge with all they come in contact with. An Aboleth wields its telepathic powers to read the minds of creatures and know their desires, and they use this power to easily gain the creature's loyalty. While in its lair, an Aboleth can augment its telepathy, creating the illusions of such fulfilled desires for its loyal servants...but it is still just an illusion.
Enemies of the Gods
With flawless memories, and connections eons long, the Aboleths forever recall the slight of the gods. Their fall from power is written in stark clarity, for Aboleths never truly die. If an Aboleth's body is destroyed, its spirit returns to the Elemental Plane Of Water, where another body is coalesced in a month or two. Ultimately, the Aboleths dream of one day overthrowing the gods and regaining control, and dominion, over the world.
They've had eons to plan, and they never forget. Truly, they are a great danger to the cosmos.
Aboleths are a race of malevolent, eel-like gargantuan Aberrations with frightening psionic and psychic abilities.
Fish-like amphibians of immense size, often reaching 20 feet or more (6.1 meters) in length and many weighing up to 7,000 pounds. Though, as an Aboleth's body can live indefinitely if not destroyed, there are some cited at 60 feet in length, and others weighing upwards of 12,000 pounds. They resembled a bizarre eel, with long, tubular bodies, as well as a tail at one end and two fins near the head and another along the back. Aboleths' mouths are lamprey-like, filled with serrated, jawless teeth.
Aboleth underbellies were often orange-pink, while their topsides were typically sea-green. A little bit back from the head were four long tentacles, two sprouting from across each other on the top, and two more of the same on the underbelly. Their heads were triangular-shaped, with a spherical, beak-like nose. Above the nose are their three eyes, each one set atop the other. Tendrils and a few shorter tentacles dangle from the bottom of the head. Four blue-black slime-secreting orifices line the bottom of their bodies. The creature's blood is green and thick, oozing like sap.
Aboleths breathe through a thick gray mucus, which covers their body and which they exude from four pulsating organs along their body as they move. If robbed of the ability to exude this slime, an Aboleth would suffocate in water or on land alike. As such, an Aboleth had to take care of its mucus. Out of the water, an Aboleth's membrane-like skin dries out quickly, but this did not prove fatal in and of itself. Instead, the Aboleth would eventually enter a state of suspended animation, called Long Dreaming. During this process, the so-hampered Aboleth formed a tough, waterproof membrane, like a calcium deposit shell. Over enough years, this shell would grow harder than steel, forever entombing the dreaming creature.
Aboleths In Io
I admit we haven't seen many Aboleths in the campaigns I've run, though their influence has been felt. The first one encountered by a group was in the Halls of Pandemonium; a discarded, corrupted psionic entity - a far shadow of its former power. They ripped it apart, with little understanding of what it was and why it was there, whereas in reality they had released its body from an endless cycle of torment by the ancient dragon, Narizguun.
As the world continues to clarify, especially in the Fourth Age (where the Pirate campaigns reside), the Aboleth is a creature that has always had influence in the world of Io. Its power stretches to the depths of the world's memory, pulling strings and making plans. A creature of the long game, eternal and dangerous...perhaps some villains have taken notes. ;)
See you at the table.
Thoroughly afraid of the water.
The Stuff Of Legend...
Some entities in fantasy have stood the test of time. They are either so old or so powerful that they have outlasted every adventuring party that has sought their ruin, or already stand amongst the gods and devils that rule the multiverse. Ancient dragons, demon lords, aberrations that rule the Underdark...these and so many more fill the world of fantasy with legend.
Legendary Resistance / Legendary Actions
Many legendary creatures are tougher than your average beastie, and show that in their Legendary Resistances. Three times per long rest, if a creature with this feature fails a saving throw, they can choose to succeed instead. This pisses off my players to no end, but this is a great mechanical representation as to why these things have survived as long as they have. An ancient being wouldn't be able to be charmed by one unlucky roll out of the gate; it has some fortifications against that.
Conversely, legendary beings are often, but not always, solo endeavors. In other circumstances, such encounters can feel a little...one-sided. As a party of 5-7 warriors gang up on a single creature, that's usually 5-7 swings on it before it gets its turn.
Legendary ACTIONS provide a pseudo-set of extra turns each round for a Legendary Creature to use, simulating its great power and rebalancing the economy of the encounter.
At the close of another creature's turn, not its own, this creature can spend 1-3 Legendary Actions to perform certain tasks, attacks, or powers, as dictated by their stat block. Some powers burn only 1 LA, while others can burn 3 at once, especially if the creature is attempting something very powerful. Sometimes it's a movement or an extra attack, or a bonus spell. Whatever it is, stay alert! There's a reason these things are legendary.
But to be clear:
Legendary Resistances only recharge during a Long Rest, but...
Legendary Actions return at the start of the creature's turn EVERY ROUND.
So you might force some saves and use up their resistances...but they're just as dangerous with their Legendary Action economy.
A Creature's Lair
Location, location, location...
A Legendary being often has a place it calls its home. A "lair," if you will.
Such a place tends to grant them superior bonuses to their defenses, like a homefield advantage, and often pose great danger to an unprepared party.
A Lair in a Legendary encounter acts on an Initiative count (often count 20) like a character, but you can't attack it or defeat it. Maybe you're fighting in a volcano, and a wave of extreme heat hits you; or a pulse of necrosis randomly strikes someone within range of the dark altar of the Lich. And many effects get worse the longer the fight goes on, so entering a Lair with a clear strategy will help keep your party alive and (hopefully) end this encounter quickly in your favor.
Pro Tip: If ever you can engage a Legendary Creature outside of its Lair, do so. Those homefield advantages, coupled with its already frustrating extra actions and resistances, make these fights particularly nasty.
Other Special Traits
Powerful creatures, not just legendary ones, can often have extra special abilities to be aware of that set them apart from your average hobgoblin or bulette.
Some monsters have the ability to cast specific spells as part of their features. These spells, unless otherwise noted, are always cast at their lowest level. If it's a cantrip, we can assume the creature's challenge rating (CR) as its level if we need to determine damage (unless it's otherwise noted).
Innate spells often have other restrictions, like "target self" or "Reaction only."
A monster with the Spellcasting feature is considered to have a spellcasting level and an arsenal of spell slots, as if they were a player class. Such a creature can choose to cast spells at higher spell slots, just as a player might, giving a large bredth of caster flexibility (and making them very dangerous).
Psionics is a form of spellcasting that allows a monster to cast spells using only the power of its mind. This tag can be attached to both Innate and standard Spellcasting, and carries no additional rules, but other parts of the game might refer to it.
Assume, though, that a spell cast using Psionics does not require components. ;)
And there you have it!
Next time, we delve into the depths and visit one terrifying little beastie. I mean it, this thing's the stuff of nightmares!
See you at the table.
Last week we took a look at the multitude of Monster Types, now let's take a look at the terminology surrounding how they MOVE and how they SEE.
A monster with a burrowing speed can tunnel through sand, earth, mud, or even ice! Bad news on a tactical map, but the monster can't burrow through solid rock unless it has a feature that says so.
Climb speed lets the creature scale vertical surfaces using all or part of its movement, and they don't have to spend extra movement in order TO climb.
Monster with fly speeds can use that movement to, you guessed it, FLY. And some monsters have the ability to Hover, making it difficult to knock them out of the air. Any decently smart creature with a fly speed (and a breath weapon) should be feared on a tactical battlefield.
Well, these are getting simple. Creatures with a swim speed can swim their speed! And they don't even have to use extra movement... Who'da thunk? Good to note, though, that a swim speed can only be used in a liquid; a semi-solid material, like mud, does not support a Swim speed (Burrow would be more appropriate), but in the same vein a Burrow speed does not allow you to swim (without costing extra movement as normal).
A monster with Blindsight can perceive its surroundings without relying on sight, depending on the radius. Creatures without eyes, like an ooze or grimlock, will usually have this sense, as do creatures that might use echolocation (like a bat) or something with heightened senses (like a dragon).
A naturally blind monster might also use this term to indicate the MAXIMUM RANGE of its perception.
A creature with darkvision can see in the dark within the specified radius. Just like with player characters, they can see in dim light as if it were bright like, and in darkness as if it were dim light. And, just like PCs, the monster can't discern color palettes, only shades of gray. Expect creatures who tend to live underground to have this special sense.
A monster with Tremorsense can detect and pinpoint the origin of vibrations within its specified radius, provided that IT is not in contact with the same ground or substance. No, it cannot be used to detect flying or incorporeal creatures. Expect monsters that tend to burrow, like an Ankheg or Umber Hulk, to also have this ability.
A popular thing among high-level players, a creature with Truesight can see (out to a certain range) in normal and magical darkness, see invisible creatures and objects, automatically detect visual illusions and succeed on saving throws against them, and perceive the original form of one who is a shapechanger or someone transformed by magic. Furthermore, the creature can see into the ETHEREAL PLANE out to the same distance. A few ancient or psionic creatures might have this ability, but it is much more rare.
This is a magical ability that allows a creature to communicate mentally with another creature within the specified range. The contacted creature doesn't need to share a language in order to communicate, but it needs to understand at least one language (so the Google Translate has something to do). A creature without telepathy can still receive and respond to telepathic messages, but can't initiate them.
A telepathic monster doesn't need to see the contacted creature and can end the contact at any time. The contact is also broken if the two creatures ever exceed the range of the sense. It often goes without saying, but contact is broken if the creature is incapacitated.
Note: A telepathic creature within an Antimagic Field or another location where magic does not function will not be able to send and receive telepathic messages.
Sometimes you smack that enemy really hard and it does nothing, or you hurl a particular potent concoction, roll real bad, and deal double damage...or you find yourself somewhere in-between. There are reasons why and these are the terms you need to know going in.
When a creature is Vulnerable to a damage type, it is assumed that the type deals twice as much damage to it. Some DMs will have players roll twice as many dice, or, for speed and efficiency, simply double the number rolled. Whatever the method, the creature can be considered "weak" to this type, and will therefore suffer more when dealt it.
A very common term among the monsters in 5E, a Resistance indicates the creature will only suffer half of the damage (rounded down) dealt to it of this type. It can be expected that many Fiends will probably be resistant (if not Immune) to fire damage.
An immunity indicates that the monster either cannot be affected by the named status effect or suffers no damage (even if an ability might punch through a Resistance otherwise - ahem, Elemental Adept feat - cough) from the indicated type. Powerful undead can be Immune to necrotic damage, or a large fiend Immune to fire damage, or how a construct might be Immune to being poisoned.
A trait often reserved for older, more powerful beings, (the Yuan-Ti Purebloods also enjoy this at level 1 in Volo's Guide To Monsters) a creature with Magic Resistance rolls with Advantage against ANY MAGICAL EFFECT THAT REQUIRES A SAVING THROW. Any. Magical. Effect. Yeah, that's awesome...or terrible, depending on which side of the screen you are positioned. :)
Next time on Dragonball Z
Legendary Creatures, Lairs, and what the heck that all means.
See you at the table, sipping on my coffee.
...Gods I need more coffee...
There are a plethora of creatures that dominate the D&D multiverse. Some haunt your nightmares, while others inspire your dreams. They pour from beyond the stars and leak from the depths of the underworld. And I love them all.
And, not unlike Pokemon, there are many different types (though I wouldn't recommend catching all of them).
Aberrations are creatures that are utterly alien. Many of them have innate magical abilities drawn from their psionic mind rather than the mystical weave of the world. Iconic Aberrations are Aboleths, Beholders, and Mind Flayers.
Beasts are non-humanoid creatures that represent the natural part of this fantasy world's ecology. Some of them have magical powers tied to the complex natural weave, but most are unintelligent and lack any frame of society or language, aside from pack dynamics and simple ideas. Beasts include all varieties of ordinary animals, dinosaurs, and the giant versions of animals (yes, there are giant deer; don't hit them with your cart).
Celestials are creatures native to the Upper Planes. Many of them are the servants or hands of deities, employed as messengers, voices, or agents in the mortal realm and throughout the planes. Celestials are good by nature, so the exceptional celestial that strays toward the fallen path is a horrifying threat. Obviously, iconic Celestials are Angels, Couatls, and Pegasi.
Constructs are built for the job, not born. Some are programmed by their creators to follow a simple set of instructions, while others are imbued with sentience and capable of independent thoughts and feelings. Iconic constructs are usually Golems, but there are others native to the plane of Mechanus, like Modrons, that were constructed by the raw will of other powerful creatures.
Here they are, ladies and gentlemen: the staple of the game. Large reptilian creatures of ancient origin and tremendous power. True dragons, good and evil, are highly intelligent and have innate magic. Also in this category are creatures that are distantly related to true dragons, but are less intelligent and much less magical, such as Wyverns and Pseudodragons.
Elementals are creatures native to the Elemental Planes (Earth, Fire, Water, and Air, usually). Some creatures of this type are little more than animate masses of their element, including creatures simply called elementals. Others have biological forms infused with elemental energy. The races of genies, including djinn and efreet, form the most important civilizations on the elemental planes. Other elemental creatures include Azers, Invisible Stalkers, and Water Weirds.
**DM Note: The elementals in Io are considered one of the Primal Forces responsible for the birth of the universe, so the four main Elemental Planes have transitional planes (making 8 in total), and thus there can be "hybrid" elementals, but that is unique to my world.**
Fey are magical creatures closely tied to the forces of nature. They dwell in twilight groves, mystical bogs, and misty forests. In some worlds, they are closely tied to the Feywild. Some are also found in the Outer Planes, like Arborea and the Beastlands. Iconic Fey can include Dryads, Pixies, and Satyrs. There are also very powerful Fey, called Archfey, that can rule over the Feywild and may make deals with mortals in exchange for arcane power (see: Warlock).
Fiends are wicked creatures native to the Lower Planes. A few are servants of deities, but most labor under the leadership of archdevils and demon princes. Evil priests and mages sometimes summon fiends to the material world to do their bidding (but such tethers of subservience are often haphazard). If an evil Celestial is a rarity, a good Fiend is almost inconceivable. Iconic Fiends are Demons, Devils, Hell Hounds, and Rakshasas.
Giants tower over humans and their kind. They are humanlike in shape, though some have multiple heads (Ettins) or deformities (Fomorians). The six varieties of true giant are Hill Giants, Stone Giants, Frost Giants, Fire Giants, Cloud Giants, and Storm Giants. Besides these, creatures such as Ogres and Trolls are also considered giants.
Humanoids are the main peoples of the D&D world, both civilized and savage, including humans and a tremendous variety of other species. They have language and culture, few if any innate magical abilities, and a bipedal form. The most common humanoid races are the ones most suitable for player characters: humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. Almost as numerous, but far more savage and often evil are the branches of goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears), orcs, gnolls, lizardfolk, and kobolds.
Monstrosities are monsters in the strictest sense - frightening creatures that are not ordinary, not truly natural, and almost never benign. Some are the results of magical experimentation gone haywire (like owlbears), and others are the product of terrible curses (like minotaurs). They defy categorization, and in some sense serve as a catch-all category for creatures that don't fit into any other type.
Oozes are gelatinous creatures that rarely have a fixed shape. They are mostly subterranean, dwelling in caves and underground spaces and feeding on waste, carrion, or creatures unlucky enough to get in their way. Black pudding and gelatinous oozes are probably the most recognizable.
Plants in this context are vegetable creatures, not simply ordinary flora. Most of them are ambulatory, and a few are carnivorous. Most think of the shambling mound or the treant, but fungal creatures like the gas spore or myconid also fall into this category.
Once-living creatures brought back to a horrifying state of undeath through the practice of necromantic magic or some wicked curse. Iconic undead include walking corpses, such as vampires and zombies, as well as bodiless spirits, like ghosts and spectors.
Before we delve into our individual monsters, we'll first identify and define what makes them special in how they move and sense, and then understanding what makes some of them LEGENDARY. After that, we'll start moving through nearly 30 years of lore. Let's get cookin'.
I'll see you at the table.
...With a cup of coffee.
Game On! Director, musician, music teacher, game designer, and professional game master. In short, I'M A BIG NERD.