If you’re planning on running a horror-themed Dungeons & Dragons 5E one-shot or campaign for your adventuring party and you’re not sure where to start, then why not begin with the potential monster they could encounter? There are some absolutely iconic monsters across D&D history, from beholders to mind flayers, but which ones will give your players the absolute creeps? We’ve curated a list of the scariest monsters to include in your Dungeons & Dragons games that are guaranteed to give them the heebie-jeebies.
Scariest monsters in Dungeons & Dragons 5E
The monsters on this list range from some you might already be familiar with to others that are much more recent additions to the D&D canon, but nevertheless make for excellent picks to ramp up the spookiness. A big shout out to our EGX audience who supplied two of these monsters during a live panel in which we had to draw Dungeons & Dragons monsters from memory. So, here are seven of the scariest monsters in Dungeons & Dragons history.
1. The Bagman
You'd want companionship too if you'd been stuck in a bag for years.
The Bag of Holding has become an essential piece of adventuring party kit. Knowing that you’re going to come up against some enemies with a sizable amount of booty that you’ve got to take on the road with you somehow, makes the Bag of Holding almost invaluable. What are you going to do? Leave that potion of water breathing there? Who cares if you’re playing a water genasi, it’ll definitely come in handy!
The Bagman is said to be a creature with the ability to hoist itself out of any Bag of Holding and potentially drag an adventurer back into the vast inner world of the Bag with him, leaving only trinkets in their place. This thirst for companionship within the bag may be due to the fact that he himself was once an adventurer, before abandoning his party in a moment of peril and diving into the Bag of Holding itself. Apart from the chilling character art you can find in the D&D 5E sourcebook Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, there are many reasons why this creature has us leaning toward purchasing the Handy Haversack over The Bag of Holding.
In a very ‘Bloody Mary’ twist, it is said that talking too close to an open Bag of Holding may prompt the Bagman to appear. Or, if you are looking for faster results, whispering the phrase “follow my voice” three times into the opening of the bag might just lure him your way. Though this skeletal, troll-like monster has quickly become a hit within the D&D community, you might be surprised to hear that it doesn’t actually have an official stat block. That hasn’t stopped homebrew stat blocks from emerging with some truly fear inducing results. Have you fought a Bagman in your Dungeons & Dragons campaign? Let us know how it went in the comments.
This monster is truly disgusting to behold.
This particular monster was brought to our attention during one of our EGX live shows and if we have to know it exists that means you do too! This demon roams The Abyss in search of as much forbidden lore as it can get its grubby little tubes on, leaving nothing but blood and bile and contamination in its wake. That’s right, this mass of teeth, chains and stringy bits is unfathomably intelligent and, for whatever reason, extremely charismatic?
The pussing amalgamation sure can weave a tale. Also, apologies for using the word ‘pussing’. If that’s the sort of thing that is going to upset your party members when fighting this monster though, then they’ll absolutely despise the sheer amount of body horror that comes with it. This guy is made of several heads mashed together, pustules covering every inch of its skin stretched taut and sloping at the same time. We’ve honestly gotten so sick of looking at it just over the course of writing this list.
One of the worst things about this creature is that, due to its frankly baffling level of charisma, you’re going to struggle to have your party’s cleric bamf it away with a banishment spell. Last, but not least, the Sibriex leaves not only bile in its wake but its own babies as well. Okay, not babies but mini-Sibriexes known as ‘Rutterkins’. They are basically set loose into the Abyss by the Sibriex to find and devour intruders. Such good boys they are.
Who knew that something with no bones could pose such a threat.
You might be thinking to yourself - “ the out of the box thinking on this list has gone too far this time. You expect me to believe that something with no bones is going to harm me? Boneless? More like harmless.” And to that we say this list isn’t necessarily about how many D6s you get to roll when you attack! The Boneless is pretty much what it sounds like, an undead sack of humanoid skin flopping and smacking its way along the ground, searching for vengeance or just adhering to the sinister whims of their master. This creature’s restless afterlife is usually brought about by some horrific death such as skinning someone alive or crushing them with brute strength.
Now, we all know that necromancers want a little more bang for their buck, and that’s why you will sometimes find one kind of zombie that looks more off than it usually might. That’s because the Boneless’ skin has just slopped off, but its bones are still moving. Two separate undead entities made from just one deceased soul. If that’s not enough to scare your socks off, maybe check to see if all the gaps in your home (or campsite) have been plugged up, because these troubled beings can compress themselves to fit through any gap that’s at least an inch wide. Waking up to a hug from these guys isn’t as wholesome as we’d like it to be, as it’s crushing embrace ability will leave you unable to breathe and taking damage each round it remains attached to you.
4. Swarm of Maggots
They might be tiny, but maggots are dangerous in large numbers.
Here at Dicebreaker we make sure to cater to each facet of your unbearable nightmares. So, may we now present to you - some creepy crawlies! However, there is but one grub that awakens a primal fear in us, a fear of decay and death and just ick. The maggot has a universal connotation of disease and despair, despite doctors having tried to use ‘maggot therapy’ to clear up wounds back in the day. You should probably keep this swarm away from your various adventuring lacerations though as these tiny beasts swarm upon any creature’s occupied space and commence their attack.
These little nibbles aren’t the biggest threat, but the constitution saving throw you have to make against them is. When failed, the constitution check will have characters contract a terrible disease that could potentially blind them, reduce their hit points or give them disadvantages on their future rolls. None of these are ideal. So, if you walk into a haunted manor and see maggots feasting on a corpse, maybe just leave them to it.
The Oni's hunger for flesh is what drives its terrible deeds.
The Oni is the literal Bogeyman of the D&D universe, as it features in unsettling nursery rhymes that bother children and adults alike. The only difference between the Bogeyman’s legacy in our world and theirs is that, in their world, the Bogeyman is very very real. One of the main driving forces behind the Oni’s motives is its seemingly unending hunger. Which we can absolutely relate to. The only thing is, when we’re ‘bad’ at dinner time, we might go for seconds. But when the Oni’s bad he eats babies.We have to mention that if you incorporate that into your campaign, then please do so with caution and open communication with your players. You don’t want the scariest thing in your campaign or one-shot to be a lack of communication.
Something that is very off putting about the Oni is that it can change shape, taking on the appearance of a humanoid or giant. A party could suddenly discover that their fighter or artificer is an Oni, but by that time it’s likely to be too late to do anything about it. This polymorphing tactic allows the Oni to blend in as a regular member of society, casing things out and figuring out who might be a prime target for abduction and consumption. It’s basically a supreme manipulator with no conscience and is there really anything worse than that?
6. Chain Devil
These monsters get a kick out of causing suffering.
A lot of the fearsome creatures on this list commit heinous acts because they’re under someone else’s control, they’re a shadow of their former selves or because they’re just hungry. But this literal fiend does bad things out of pure malice, with a desire to inflict pain and suffering on those they guard. That’s right, they’re the prison guards of the nine hells who take their jobs way too seriously. It’s like “Dave, this guy’s soul is already damned for all eternity, maybe give him a break.” But, nope, the only break Dave is prepared to give someone is the psychological kind and their methods of doing so are rather creative, so to speak.
The Chain Devil is adorned in chains that it can animate as well as any others lying about, inflicting physical pain to prisoners, before using an ability called Unnerving Mask to take on the visage of someone they know. This could be the face of either their victim’s bitter enemy or a dearly departed loved one. So, not only are you being tortured, but that torture is being carried by your long lost love or even your pet! This particularly monster does bring up the point that sadness can be extremely scary when running an RPG. It might be difficult to pull off but it will be something that sticks with your players for a long time.
7. Mind Flayers
Imagine a zombie, but much smarter and they look like an eldritch horror.
We have made it clear that we’re not going on challenge rating alone for this list and this is another example of why that’s the case. Mind Flayers (illithids or aloons) are the worst nightmares of first level players, whereas higher level players might find them easier to brush off. Unless they get to your brain first that is. These awful aberrations are presented pretty prominently when it comes to D&D, with Baldur’s Gate 3 - a video game created by Larian Studios that’s set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe - featuring them heavily. The video game does so in a way that does a great job at depicting them as sinister overlords who only care about expanding their reach and slippery hold on the world.
Sure, they look unsettling but what can they actually do to you? Well, they can eat your actual brain for starters, your heart for main and your liver for dessert - we’re just kidding. Mind Flayers can make an attack roll to grapple you and deal 10d10 damage, which can amount to an absolutely enormous amount of damage if you’re unlucky. If you don’t survive that grapple, then it reduces your hit points down to zero and your assailant gets to snack on your brain, something that even revivify can’t fix.