Could it be that Aboleths are older than the Gods… That before the Divine Ones came to be, such horrors shared the multiverse? Now there’s a chilling thought.
-Vaqir Zekh’r, Githzerai Philosopher and author of THE FAR REALM: REAL YET UNREAL
On first glance, the Aboleth seems like your average monster. It looks freaky, and it’s got decent stats to boot. It seems like it could be a decent giant monster fight with lots of destruction. But then you dive deeper into the lore.
Didn’t expect to be dealing with fucking Cthulu monsters, did ya?!
I already loved these guys by design alone. But upon further reading, they’ve become one of my favorite monsters in all of D&D! It’s downright amazing, with some of the coolest lore, abilities and even effects on the environment around them!
Allow me to take you away. Let’s talk Aboleths! By the time we’re done, you’ll feel fear when your DM sends one your way!
Lore: The Gods Before The Gods
Before the coming of the gods, Aboleths lurked in the primordial oceans and underground lakes. They reached out with their minds and seized control of the burgeoning life-forms of the Mortal Realm, making those creatures their slaves. Their dominance made them like gods. Then the True Gods appeared, smashing the Aboleths’ empire and freeing their slaves.
Aboleths have never forgotten.
Yeah, these motherfuckers fought the GODS back in the day!
Aboleth’s lair in subterranean lakes or the rocky depths of the ocean, though both have one thing in common: they’re placed on top of ancient Aboleth cities that have long since fallen. They spend their days in the waters, though they’ll emerge from their lairs to deal with visitors or the few worshipers they still have.
The creatures have flawless memories, so much so that it would make an elephant blush! However, despite what you’d likely believe, they are actually pretty lenient with their knowledge. They pass it on from one generation to the next, perfectly preserving the bitter taste of their defeat across the millennia.
Unlike most monsters, an Aboleth’s lair is not a treasure trove of gold, gems or armor. They are home to the greatest information in the world. Though it is typically held in the monster’s mind. They spend their eons plotting, coming up with plans so complex that only the smartest minds in the realms could even hope to conceive a small part of the Aboleth’s plan.
Within the waters, as well as the lands near one of their dwellings, Aboleth’s are still treated like gods. They demand worship and obedience, as well as the sacrifice. When an Aboleth consumes another living creature, adding their knowledge and experiences to their own. With each meal, an Aboleth’s insane knowledge becomes even more monstrous.
They’re rule is made easier thanks to their telepathic powers. They can read peoples minds, finding their inner most desires. They use this knowledge to tempt people over, creating loyalty before placing them under their control, putting them under the illusion that they’ve gained their greatest dreams.
It’s almost kind, in a sick, twisted way.
Aboleth’s, unlike most other creatures in the world, don’t truly die. When their bodies die, their spirits return to the Elemental Plane of Water, where a new body is formed within a few days or months. Thanks to this, actually slaying one of these beasts is nigh impossible.
And they’ll hold one hell of a grudge against you if you manage it even once.
More than anything, an Aboleth wants to regain their dominance over the world. They’ve had years, eons at least, to plan their revenge against the Gods. And considering how thorough they are, it’s safe to say that the Gods will have a hard time of it when the time finally comes.
These guys could serve as a perfect final boss for a long campaign. The heroes could be recruited by the Gods, or maybe a specific church, to raid an Aboleth’s lair. Or perhaps they players could be brought in by the Divine to help them defend the heavens in a grand battle. Maybe the gods aren’t even involved, and the players need to convince an Aboleth to give them valuable information to help them defeat a more pressing foe!
Maybe it could even play into a smaller story. The presence of an Aboleth has strong effects on the environment around it, such as fouling the waters or illusions that lure people to their enslavement. Perhaps a small town could hire the party to deal with this threat, and they only discover upon further investigation that the threat is much greater than they could have imagined.
The possibilities are extensive as hell for these guys! Put on your thinking caps DMs, because you could weave a whole campaign around these guys! As in a LVL 1 to LVL 20 story!
And all of that is before we get to their combat capabilities!
Design: Literal Fucking Cthulu Monsters!
I. Fucking. Love. This. Design!
As the antithesis to the Gods, these guys are absolutely perfect! Whereas the Gods are pristine and beautiful, Aboleths are horrifying and disgusting. Just one look at them tells you the basics as to what they are: monstrous beings who live in the water.
Though it is a little difficult to pick up on the whole ‘Sworn enemies of the Gods’ bit.
To me, the most important aspect of a monster is one thing: fear. If I don’t feel fear at the image of being faced down by one of these things, than that immediately knocks it down. To me, the Aboleth is one of the most dreadful monsters in any of these books. I’d die of a god damn heart attack way before this fucker even says a word to me!
And if not, having this fucker talking in my brain sure as hell would!
Stats and Abilities: Hope You Didn’t Like Having Free Will…
Armor Class: 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 135 (18d10 + 36)
Speed: 10 ft., swim 40 ft.
Abilities: Amphibious, Mucous Cloud, Probing Telepathy
Actions: Multiattack (Three Tentacle Attacks), Tentacle, Tail, Enslave (3/Day)
Saving Throws: Con +6, Int +8, Wis +6
Skills: History +12, Perception +10
Languages: Deep Speech, Telepathy (120 ft.)
I’m beginning to question the ‘Challenge Level 10’. These guys are fucking scary!
In the water, an Aboleth is nigh unparalleled. Not only do their Tentacles and Tails do high damage (on top of the Tentacles possibly adding a whole minutes worth of poison onto it’s victims), but it has a series of abilities that make it far more dangerous than your average creature. With it’s Mucous Cloud, it can disease the water it lives in, poisoning any who come near it.
Yeah. Just getting near this damn thing is dangerous!
And of course, it has the ability to enslave it’s opponent. The DC is decently challenging to beat, but it’s far from impossible. It’s also not too hard to get them out of the control, though it does require a bit of luck.
As well as a hard smack to the face.
Think it’s scary now? Think again! This mother fucker has three Legendary Actions, allowing it to either: 1) make a Perception check, 2) swing it’s tail, 3) suck the possessed victims brain power to heal itself.
These. Guys. Don’t. Fuck. Around!
Oh, and remember how I said getting near them was dangerous? Well, that also applies to it’s lair! The water in an Aboleth’s lair has all kinds of enchantments on it, each one fully capable of ruining a player’s day! That’s right, the dungeon alone is a death trap! All before facing one of the deadliest creatures in the multiverse!
The possibility for encounters with these guys is endless! There are creative possibilities abound thanks to their powers! You could turn the players against each other, forcing them to push their abilities and friendships to their limits! You could force them to chase the creature as it forces them into an endurance match, slowly making the area around them deadlier and deadlier.
However, these guys walk a thin line. They could very well become one of the most annoying, least fun encounters the party ever has to deal with. As a DM, you have to be extremely careful as to not drag the battle out and push their abilities to their limits. Otherwise, you’ll simply get on the players nerves.
Which, bit of advice as a DM: don’t do that. That’s the last thing you want to do.
Conclusion: Worthy Rivals to the Gods
Aboleth’s are among my favorite monsters in the set of D&D Manuals. From their lore to their abilities, everything about these guys is exactly what I look for in a monster: awesome and creepy! However, they walk a dangerous line. If handled poorly, they could go from one of the most dangerous and exciting encounters to one of the longest and most annoying.
Handle these guys with care. They could prove as an excellent centerpiece and villain to a campaign. But if messed up, then the whole story could fall apart. Sure, telling a compelling narrative with them isn’t very risky. But if you mess up how it’s played, then everything may fall apart.
D&D is a game, after all.
As much as I’d love to properly place it, it’s kind of hard to do so. At the moment, it’s only competition is the Aarakocra. It’s safe to say that they’re placed above those guys, as much as I love my bird boys. Currently, the list looks like this:
Thrilling, I know. But don’t worry, we’ll get there. Especially since, next week, we’ve got a big boy to talk about. It’s time to look at some Angels!