We’ve all been there. You’re relatively early on in a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign, excited to see what kind of monsters you’ll run across. You trek through the shadowy cave and are confronted by…Goblins. Again. Or maybe you’re a Dungeon Master, and are struggling to figure out what villainous civilization your players will be running up against next and all you can think of are…Orcs. Again.
Fortunately for you, the 5th Edition Monster Manual features a ton of different monster races to use instead of those old green-skinned standbys. We’ve collected our favorites below!
For my money, one of the most habitually underrepresented creature types in D&D is the Fey. No, creatures like Sprites, Pixies and Satyrs aren’t typically evil, but there’s no reason they couldn’t become rather territorial to a group of adventurers stomping through their woods killing spiders and wolves.
Unlike most races on this list, the Gith are enemies meant for higher level characters to tackle, but considering your pals don’t tap out at level 5, that should actually be pretty useful. Though they don’t typically hang out in mortal planes too often, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a reason for your characters to run up against the evil Githyanki or the more neutral Githzerai.
Gnolls are one of my absolute favorite Dungeons & Dragons races and it’s not just because I like saying the name. They’re basically evil hyena men with demonic magic. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re also massive, growing to a hulking 7 and a half feet tall. Best of all, the Monster Manual has a variety of Gnoll types, from the ½ CR standard-issue, to the 4 CR Gnoll Fang of Yeenoghu.
It might seem weird to place Humans on a list like this, but Dungeon Masters often overlook the vast amount of options for human NPCs and enemies at the back of the Monster Manual. You could have a Cult Fanatic and her flock of Cultists, a Druid and an army of assorted blights and awakened plants, a Berserker accompanied by Tribal Warriors, or any combination of the above!
Kobolds are a Dungeons & Dragons standby, but they don’t get anywhere near the love of Goblins and Orcs, likely because they never showed up in a Tolkien book. While they don’t have as many varieties as other creatures, the reptilian Kobolds come in both winged and non-winged fights, both of which boast pack tactics, which can make for some pretty exciting combat situations.
Like the Gith, Kuo-Toa are Underdark dwellers that were once enslaved by the mind flayers. What makes these fish-men so fun, however, is that they’re absolutely bugnuts insane, making up their own bonkers gods that, through their power of their subconscious minds, can actually physically manifest themselves in the real world.
Like Kobolds, Lizardfolk are reptilian in nature, but they boast much more well-developed societies, albeit ones that are completely amoral. They’re extremely territorial though, which should give you plenty of excuses for your player characters to run up against an army of Lizardfolks, their Shamans and perhaps, even their King or Queen.
So, in all likelihood, early on in you campaigns, players probably won’t be visiting the plane of Mechanus, which is where the Modrons make their home. But if they do, or if you think of a way to get these little robotic cuties onto their plane, they could make for some great, bizarre enemies, as each subtype is restricted to a certain number of activities it’s capable of performing.
Both Kuo-Toa and Sahaugin are evil fish-people, but there’s an important difference. While the Kuo-Toa are a nutty, wacky kind of evil, the Sahaugin are a vicious, terrible, invade-shoreline-areas type of evil. Their Monster Manual entry is also fully fleshed out, giving you access to a fighter, a priestess and a ruler, making for a pretty nasty war party.
Though they’re best known from their considerable presence in the world of Athas, as seen in the Dark Sun campaign setting, Thri-Kreen also warrant a page in the standard 5th Edition Monster Manual. Best of all, the help the insectoids feel even more alien, the entry also includes several Thri-Kreen specific weapons, as well as some psionic abilities.
And finally, we come to the Yuan-Ti, a fancy way of saying something rather simple: Snake People. The coolest thing about the Yuan-Ti is that the Monster Manual offers up lots of different snake-person combos, from the almost all snake Abominations to three different varieties of blended Malisons to the almost completely human looking Purebloods.
There you have it: Eleven different ways to mix up the mobs that your players will be facing in Dungeons & Dragons. Our apologies to the Duergar and Aarakocra in the audience.
Aubrey Sitterson is the creator of the ongoing sword & sorcery serial podcast, SKALD. Though he hasn’t managed to squeeze any Gnolls in yet, it’s still worth a listen. Find it on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher & Podomatic. For more information, follow Aubrey on Twitter or check out his website.