Monster Manual A-Z is a series of quick looks at each and every monster presented in the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. New monsters go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in alphabetical order, touching on lore, mechanics, and ways to use them in your campaign. To search for all Monster Manual A-Z articles, search MMAZ in the search bar as we’ve excluded them from our Roleplaying Games tag to keep things tidy.
What’s worse than an evil fish-like aberration with telepathy? An evil fish-like aberration with telepathy that used to rule like gods and can enslave you for eternity, among many other powers. These creatures, Aboleths, are believed to be older than the gods themselves, shaping the world in their image and enslaving other creatures uncontested. While they favor deep, subterranean waters they also inhabit the elemental plane of water, luring creatures with the promise of rewards and then enslaving them to a life of servitude, or eating them to gain their knowledge and experiences to add to their already perfect memories. Combine all that with a few more abilities and extra powers within its lair and you have one dangerous enemy.
Aboleths are no joke; they have a large arsenal of abilities to mess with a group of adventurers both in and out of water. Legendary actions allow it to drain life from any creature it has charmed, and it’s tentacle attacks grant a disease causing anyone unfortunate enough to contract it to be in pain if not submerged. Combine that with it’s defensive mucous cloud that grants a different disease- one that only allows those that contract it to breathe underwater- and you’ve got some serious firepower right there. But wait, there’s more! As mentioned before, it can enslave creatures indefinitely through magical charming, figure out a creature greatest desires by speaking with it telepathically, and cause any number of magical and dangerous effects within the confines of its lair, making any adventurers who seek one out likely to perish or be enslaved. Oh, and while it can swim decently, it can also walk on land at a slow pace with its tentacles, so leaving the water doesn’t guarantee safety.
Aboleths actually present a lot of fun encounters and ways to use them, including some ways to lure your players toward them. Current or previous slaves could either lure or warn of the creatures existence, or using its ability to project illusions of itself within a mile of its lair could lead to a ‘spotting’ seen by either the players themselves or by locals. Once they’ve decided to seek out the creature, you could introduce the knowledge that the minions of the aboleth are charmed, adding a moral dilemma on how to deal with them even as the charmed attack the group. And then when they finally meet the aboleth itself, I would not rush to charm the players and then kill them. If the aboleth successfully charms one, you could easily have the player voluntary enter the mucous near the aboleth and take the saving throw for that disease, making them vulnerable even if they break free later on. Remember, aboleths have perfect memories, included those of their ancestors and their prey that they eat. Despite being a weird, evil three-eyed fish monster, play them as cunning and prepared as the next major villain and one step (or swim) ahead of the players.
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