5th edition has been out for nearly seven years now, which is nearly as long as the edition I ‘grew up’ with, 3rd. Going back through the 3rd edition Monster Manual, it’s interesting to see how many creatures have made it into 5th edition – and which ones haven’t.
This article is a review of all the monsters that haven’t survived to 5th edition (yet). By ‘5th edition’, I am including all official published materials, including adventures and Mordenkainen’s Fiendish Folio. I am ignoring monsters that changed names (eg, titans, which became empyreans, and ogre mages, which became oni) and monsters which changed significantly between editions (eg, eladrins, locathahs, skum). I am also ignoring creatures like elementals and dragons which previously covered a bigger size range. I am looking at distinct entries. If you spot a mistake, let me know in the comments!
A to C
First up, the achaierai is a large flightless bird from the infernal battlefield of Acheron. They have been in D&D since the 1st edition Fiend Folio and still exist in Pathfinder. Maybe it’s hard to take them seriously? You could make a vrock flightless and you’d be essentially there. Update (23/1/2022): achaierai feature in Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villainy.
The aranea or werespider is a sorcerous, shapechanging spider. In my view, this is a cool idea, and I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t come back. Perhaps 5e has too many spider monsters already.
Archons are the guardians of Celestia. I’m surprised these guys haven’t returned yet, either: they’ve been in D&D since the 1st edition Manual of the Planes (a sourcebook which has been conspicuously absent in 5th edition so far). They had three forms in the 3rd edition Monster Manual: hound archons, lantern archons, and trumpet archons.
As far as I can tell, arrowhawks exist only in 3rd edition. They have four wings and four eyes and can fire a ray of electricity at their enemies. Due a return?
Last in the ‘A’s, the athach, a creature that survived into Pathfinder 2e but seemed to get beyond 3rd edition in D&D. These huge creatures look much like ogres except for the third arm that extends from their chests. They also have a poisonous bite, which strikes me as a little comical. Interestingly, 3rd edition categorizes them as aberrations, not giants, and doesn’t really explain why.
Just one ‘B’: the belker, an elemental in smoke form with a vaguely demonic appearance. Done right, these could be quite creepy.
Just one ‘C’, too: the chaos beast. This creature constantly changes form, and its blows cause a terrible transformation called ‘corporeal instability’. Essentially, this causes the target to melt into an amorphous goo. Fun!
D to E
If the delver were to be reintroduced into 5th edition, it would probably have happened in Out of the Abyss, so I don’t expect it to return now. And honestly? I’m OK with that. They’re kind of silly looking.
The bebilith is a poisonous arachnid demon, last seen in the 4th edition Monster Manual 2. Perhaps, like the aranea, it was one spider monster too many. It has survived into Pathfinder 2e, interestingly. It has a cool ability to rend armour. Update (22/1/2022): bebliths get a brief mention in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (p 222). Many thanks to Derek Boobyer in the comments for this one! Update (23/1/2022): bebliths also feature in Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villainy. Many thanks to Jay Weiler in the comments for this and the achaierai.
The destrachan has survived into Pathfinder, too, and was considered mainstream enough to appear in the 4th edition Monster Manual. There’s no sign of it reappearing in 5th edition, however. An aberration, it looks rather like an eyeless dinosaur, and it attacks by emitting a powerful sonic blast from its mouth. Another creature that might have appeared in Out of the Abyss, but didn’t.
You’ve heard of hell hounds, but have you heard of hellcats? Also called bezekiras, these devil can only be seen in darkness, where they resemble a flickering, wraith-like lion. In D&D, they haven’t been seen since 3rd edition, but like many of the monsters on this list, they survived into Pathfinder.
Possibly the most ridiculous monster on the list: the digester. Just . . . no. But hey, we have flumphs and modrons, so who am I to judge?
5th edition switched from ‘dire’ animals to ‘giant’ ones. (Dire wolves are the one exception, possibly because they are a real prehistoric creature.) For reasons unknown, some of the dire animals didn’t survive the crossover to 5th edition, including wolverines, tigers, lions, and bears (oh my). I wonder if this was a balance issue for polymorph and wildshape?
Also known as liondrakes, the dragonne combines the features of a lion and a brass dragon. I can see this one making a return to 5th edition, since this is only edition in which it hasn’t featured. Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, perhaps? (In 3rd and 4th editions it was a magical beast, so it would probably be a monstrosity in 5th edition rather than a dragon.)
Two planar creatures next: the ethereal filcher and the ethereal marauder. I don’t think either of these exist outside 3rd edition, and, let’s face it, they’re kind of goofy.
F to L
What about formians, though? These colonizers from Mechanus have the potential to be quite sinister, I think. Another one for a 5e Manual of the Planes?
A forgotten genie now: the jann, the weakest of the genies (note: not pictured above). These genies are composed of all four elements and must therefore spend most of their time on the Material Plane, where they travel from oasis to oasis. They look like tall humans, so perhaps they were dropped because they weren’t quite fantastical enough. (Incidentally, Gygax used jannee as the plural, but I believe the correct Arabic plural is جِنَّان or jinnan. A similar mistake was made with efreeti, where the singular form is efreet. Keith Ammann uses efreets as the plural.)
Halfway now. Guardinals appeared in the 3.5 revision, but I don’t believe they were in the Monster Manual before then. These celestials are native to the planes of Elysium (hmm, another planar creature?) and in the 3.5 Monster Manual they come in two forms: the bird-like avoral and the lion-like leonal. They closely resemble aarakocra and leonins, respectively, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect them to return.
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes brought back the maruts, but there were previously other inevitables including the kolyarut (a longsword-wielder with a vampiric touch attack) and the zelekhut (a winged clockwork centaur that attacks with spiked chains). All three were monsters from the 3.5 revision – the original 3rd edition Monster Manual didn’t have inevitables at all.
Krenshars survived into 4th edition but haven’t been seen since. They aren’t much different from a wolf or hyena except for their signature scare attack. You could easily reskin this with a cause fear attack and leave it at that.
The lammasu is one of the few creatures on this list to exist in mythology outside D&D, specifically the religion of ancient Mesopotamia. These noble beasts (not celestials, interestingly) resemble a cross between lions and eagles, and they live to promote goodness throughout the world. In mythology, they often had the body of a winged bull rather than a winged lion, and you can see statues of them in the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Something that maybe feels like real-life mythology, but isn’t: the lillend. These celestials (another planar creature!) are lovers of music and art and resemble human or elven women with patterned wings and serpentine, multicoloured tails.
M to R
Mephits exist in 5th edition D&D, of course, but a few subtypes didn’t make the cut, including the four ‘elemental’ mephits (air, earth, fire, and water) and two more: ooze and salt mephits.
I could have sworn the mohrg was somewhere in 5th edition, but I can’t find it anywhere. Correct me if I’m wrong. This rather horrible-looking creature is an animated corpse with a long, clawed tongue that it uses to paralyse its opponents. I would love to see these return. For what I can tell, they only existed in 3rd edition.
Two types of nagas that haven’t appeared in 5th edition: the dark naga and the water naga (not pictured above). The former is purple with a barbed stinger on the end of its tail, while the latter is green and lined with frilled spines. Both would be fun to see in a future supplement. (Neither is pictured above.)
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes has the horrible nightwalker, but there were two other nightshades in the 3rd edition Monster Manual: nightcrawlers (think a purple worm, but deep black) and nightwings (like nightwalkers but batlike). Both could easily be reskinned from existing monsters. (Neither is pictured above.)
Whatever happened to the phantom fungus? I can live without this one. Ditto the phasm.
The rast (another planar creature) is a ‘floating, fleshy sack of teeth and claws’ from the Plane of Fire. It is a cunning creature of ash and cinder which, rather oddly, feasts on blood.
The long, serpentine ravid hails from the Positive Energy Plane. It has a single claw that juts forward near its head.
S to Y
We’re nearly there. The dog-sized shocker lizard lives in swamps and marshes, and guess what? It’s a lizard that shocks things. Fun. The spider eater is a horse-sized hornet with bat wings which lays its eggs inside a host – spiders, if it can.
Sprites in 3rd edition were a category of fey rather than a specific creature, and there were two types, grigs and nixies, which haven’t appeared in 5th edition. Perhaps they will return for the new feywild adventure, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. Grigs are tiny tricksters with the lower body of a cricket; they can play their fiddles to make people dance. Nixies are aquatic sprites and are notably larger than other fey, being about the size of halflings.
I feel like the tendriculos would have been at home in Tomb of Annihilation. I’m not sure it is distinct enough from a shambling mound to warrant revival, however. The thoqqua is a worm-like fire elemental with a body hot enough to melt solid rock. Could be a fun dungeon adversary.
The last two: the tojanida and the yrthak. Tojanidas are a bit like snapping turtles; they hail from the Elemental Plane of Water. A yrthak is kind of like a big, eyeless pterodactyl, yellow-green in colour, with a fin on its back and a horn protruding from its crocodilian head. This horn can be used to create a sonic lance attack, which is powerful enough to explode rock walls.
Which are your favourites? Which do you never want to see again? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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4 thoughts on “Last chance to see: extinct (?) D&D monsters”
Bebilth is referenced under Retreiver in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, but is not given a stat block. Under the Demon-Infused section.
Nice! I missed this. Thanks for the info. Will edit later.
Bebelith and Achaierai appear in Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villians, which is an official WOTC book (even though it can only be ordered online, but you can get it in print. super weird.)
You’re right! I hadn’t really bothered with it before, but there are some cool stat blocks in that book. I’ll update the post now.