The Right Monster for the Job: D&D Monsters Listed by Function

The idea for this post comes from my son Evan, who DMs a weekly game for his friends. He noticed that the gem stalker from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons has a Protective Link feature that enables the creature to absorb damage meant for another target. The ability means that a challenge rating 5 gem stalker can serve a protective role much like a CR 7 shield guardian. DMs writing adventures with a part for a less-powerful bodyguard could cast a gem stalker in place of a shield guardian. Evan suggested an article listing different creatures, at different power levels, able to fill the same game role.

Gem StalkerThis led me to think of other monster jobs that a dungeon master could fill for a particular adventure. Many campaigns need masterminds to plot evil schemes, guards to defend hoards, and perhaps assassins to attack when the meddling do-gooders become a nuisance. DMs creating dungeons often need undying foes that can survive a vault for a 1,000 years until foolhardy treasure hunters invade.

These lists come from the Monster Manual and  Monsters of the Multiverse and all the categories that I thought would prove useful. But I consider them a work in progress. What other jobs deserve lists? Each monster includes a short list of aspects, including types, terrain, and typical allegiances.  For now, I’ve omitted most humanoid type monsters.

Agents

Creatures that carry messages or conduct strikes and other missions for masterminds and other leaders.

CR Creature
0 Homunculus (Construct wizard)
1/4 Pseudodragon (Dragon wizard)
1/2 Jackalwere (Shapechanger lamia Graz’zt)
1/2 Magmin (Elemental fire)
1 Imp (Devil)
1 Quasit (Demon)
2 Spined devil (Devil)
3 Deep Scion (Monstrosity aquatic)
3 Redcap (Fey hags mages)
3 Wight (Undead)
4 Deathlock (Undead warlock)
4 Succubus/Incubus (Fiend shapechanger)
5 Banderhobb (Monstrosity hags)
5 Cambion (Fiend)
5 Mindwitness (Aberration telepathic)
7 Draegloth (Demon Lolth)
7 Oni (Giant)
9 Hydroloth (Yugoloth aquatic)
10 Yochlol (Demon Lolth)
12 Boneclaw (Undead)
12 Death Knight (Undead)
13 Devourer (Undead Orcus)
13 Narzugon (Devil)
17 Dragon Turtle (Dragon aquatic)

Ambushers

Creatures that attack from hiding to gain surprise.

CR Creature
1/2 Darkmantle (Monstrosity Subterranean Shadowfell)
1/2 Piercer (Monstrosity Subterranean)
1 Choker (Aberration)
2 Ankheg (Monstrosity)
2 Mimic (Monstrosity)
3 Cave Fisher (Monstrosity Subterranean)
3 Grell (Aberration Subterranean)
3 Trapper (Monstrosity)
5 Bulette (Monstrosity)
5 Otyugh (Aberration Garbage)
5 Roper (Monstrosity Subterranean)
5 Shambling Mound (Plant Forst Swamp)
11 Remorhaz (Monstrosity Cold)

Bodyguards

Protectors of other creatures.

CR Creature
2 Shadow Mastiff (Monstrosity)
3 Displacer Beast (Monstrosity)
4 Clockwork Stone Defender (Construct)
4 Flameskull (Undead)
5 Gem Stalker (Monstrosity Gem Dragon)
5 Unicorn (Celestial Forest)
7 Shield Guardian (Construct)
12 Gray Render (Monstrosity)

Collectors of secrets and lore

Creatures that find and hoard secrets and magical lore.

CR Creature
2 Berbalang (Aberration)
2 Nothic (Aberration)
4 Bone Naga (Undead)
8 Spirit Naga (Monstrosity)
10 Guardian Naga (Monstrosity)
11 Gynosphinx (Monstrosity)
17 Blue Abishai (Devil Tiamat)
17 Androsphinx (Monstrosity)
17 Nagpa (Monstrosity)
18 Sibriex (Demon)
20 Morkoth (Aberration)

Commanders

Creatures that lead groups into battle.

CR Creature
3 Chordrith (Monstrosity Lolth)
5 Wraith (Undead)
7 Mind Flayer (Aberration Illithid)
9 Flind (Fiend Gnoll)
9 Drow House Captain (Humanoid Lolth)
12 Death Knight (Undead)
13 Nalfeshnee (Demon)
14 Ice Devil (Devil)
16 Marilith (Demon)
18 Aminzu (Devil),
19 Balor (Demon)
19 Red Abishai (Devil Tiamat)
20 Pit Fiend (Devil)

Controllers

Creatures that support other fighters with tricks or magic.

CR Creature
1/4 Kobold Inventer (Dragon)
1/4 Kobold Scale Sorcerer (Dragon)
1 Firenewt Warlock Of Imix (Elemental Imix)
5 Kraken Priest (Monstrosity Aquatic Kraken)
8 Green Slaad (Aberration)
9 Gray Slaad (Aberration)
10 Death Slaad (Aberration)
12 Arcanaloth (Yugoloth)
12 Oinoloth (Yugoloth)
15 Skull Lord (Undead)

Enforcers

Brutish thugs and enforcers for masterminds and other leaders.

CR Creature
6 Chasme (Demon)
7 Elemental Myrmidons (Elemental)
8 Chain Devil (Devil)
9 Bone Devil (Devil)
14 Cadaver Collector (Construct)

Friends, guides, and patrons

Creatures likely to help or guide adventurers.

CR Creature
1/8 Flumph (Aberration Underdark)
1/4 Pixie (Fey Forest)
1/4 Sprite (Fey Forest)
2 Centaur (Monstrosity)
2 Pegasus (Celestial)
3 Dolphin Delighter (Fey Aquatic)
4 Couatl (Celestial)
5 Unicorn (Celestial Forest)
5 Werebear (Shapechanger Forest)
9 Treant (Plant Forest)
10 Deva (Celestial)
10 Guardian Naga (Monstrosity)
10 Stone Giant Dreamwalker (Giant)
11 Gynosphinx (Monstrosity)
12 Ki-Rin (Celestial)
16 Planetar (Celestial)
17 Androsphinx (Monstrosity)
21 Solar (Celestial)
23 Empyrean (Celestial)

Guards

Protectors of treasure or locations.

CR Creature
0 Shrieker (Plant Underdark)
1/4 Flying Sword (Construct)
1/4 Skeleton (Undead)
1/4 Zombie (Undead)
1 Animated Armor (Construct)
1 Scarecrow (Construct)
1 Stone Cursed (Construct)
2 Gargoyle (Elemental)
2 Guard Drake (Dragon)
2 Rug Of Smothering (Construct)
2 Shadow Mastiff (Monstrosity)
3 Basilisk (Monstrosity)
3 Displacer Beast (Monstrosity)
3 Hell Hound (Fiend Fire)
3 Owlbear (Monstrosity)
3 Spectator (Aberration)
3 Water Wierd (Elemental)
3 Wight (Undead)
4 Chuul (Aberration Aquatic)
4 Clockwork Iron Cobra (Construct)
4 Flameskull (Undead)
4 Girallon (Monstrosity)
4 Helmed Horror (Construct)
5 Barbed Devil (Devil)
5+ Golem (Construct)
5 Clockwork Oaken Bolter (Construct)
6 Galub Duhr (Elemental)
8 Canoloth (Yugoloth)
10 Guardian Naga (Monstrosity)
10 Yochlol (Demon Lolth)
11 Gynosphinx (Monstrosity)
12 Eidolon (Undead)
16 Stone Giant Quintessent (Giant)
17 Androsphinx (Monstrosity)
18 Demilich (Undead Tomb)

Haunts and corruptions

Creatures that bring chaos or corruption to locations and people.

CR Creature
1/8 Boggle (Fey)
1/2 Skulk (Monstosity Shadowfell)
4 Dybbuk (Demon)
4 Succubus/Incubus (Fiend Shapechanger)
5 Allip (Undead)
7 Bheur Hag (Fey)
6 Annis Hag (Fey)
9 Glabrezu (Demon)
11 Alkilith (Demon)
11 Balhannoth (Abberation)
13 Wastrilith (Demon Aquatic)

Impersonators

Creatures that can disguise to infiltrate.

CR Creature
3 Doppelganger (Monstrosity)
4 Succubus/Incubus (Fiend Shapechanger)
7 Maurezhi (Demon Gnoll)
7 Oni (Giant)
8 Green Slaad (Aberration)
9 Gray Slaad (Aberration)
10 Death Slaad (Aberration)
10 Yochlol (Demon Lolth)
13 Rakshasa (Fiend)
15 Green Abishai (Devil Tiamat)

Masterminds and arch-villians

Creatures that lead and plot, often while avoiding direct action.

CR Creature
2 Sea Hag (Fey Aquatic)
4 Deathlock Mastermind (Undead Warlock)
4 Lamia (Monstrosity Desert Graz’Zt)
5 Night Hag (Fiend Planes)
7 Mind Flayer (Aberration Illithid)
7 Oni (Giant)
8 Spirit Naga (Monstrosity)
10 Aboleth (Aberration)
10 Alhoon (Aberration Illithid Wizard)
10 Death Slaad (Aberration)
11 Genie (Elemental)
12 Death Knight (Undead)
13 Beholder (Aberration)
13 Rakshasa (Fiend)
13 Vampire (Undead)
13 Ultoloth (Yugoloth)
14 Death Tyrant (Undead)
14 Elder Brain (Aberration Illithid)
15 Mummy Lord (Undead Tomb)
15 Skull Lord (Undead)
17 Nagpa (Monstrosity)
18 Sibriex (Demon)
19 Balor (Demon)
20 Pit Fiend (Devil)
21 Lich (Undead Wizard)
23 Empyrean (Celestial)
23 Kraken (Monstrosity)
V Dracolich (Undead Wizard)
V Dragon (Dragon)

Mounts

CR Creature
1 Hippogriff (Monstrosity)
1 Steeder (Monstrosity)
2 Griffon (Monstrosity Cliffs)
2 Pegasus (Celestial)
3 Nightmare (Fiend)
6 Wyvern (Dragon)
11 Roc (Monstrosity Mountain)

Protectors of nature

Creatures that defend natural places.

CR Creature
1/4 Sprite (Fey Forest)
1 Dryad (Fey Forest)
5 Unicorn (Celestial Forest)
5 Wood Woad (Plant Forest)
9 Treant (Plant Forest)

Soldiers

Creatures who follow orders to fight in number.

CR Creature
1/4 Skeleton (Undead)
1/2 Chitine (Monstrosity Loth)
1/2 Nupperibo (Devil)
1/4 Zombie (Undead)
1 Firenewt Warrior (Elemental Imix)
1 Sea Spawn (Monstrosity Aquatic)
3 Bearded Devil (Devil)
3 Bulezau (Demon)
3 Wight (Undead)
4 Merregon (Devil)
5 Barlgura (Demon)
5 Mezzoloth (Yugoloth)
5 Red Slaad (Aberration)
5 Salamander (Elemental Fire Efreet)
5 Tanarukk (Demon)
6 White Abishai (Devil Tiamat)
7 Armanite (Demon)
7 Blue Slaad (Aberration)
7 Dhergoloth (Yugoloth)
8 Hezrou (Demon)
8 Howler (Fiend)
11 Horned Devil (Devil)
14 Fire Giant Dreadnought (Giant)
V Giant (Giant)

Spies and assassins

Creatures that spy or assassinate using stealth.

CR Creature
0 Cranium Rat (Aberration Illithid)
0 Homunculus (Construct)
1/4 Pseudodragon (Dragon Wizard)
1/2 Darkling (Fey)
1 Clockwork Bronze Scout (Construct)
1 Imp (Devil)
1 Quasit (Demon)
2 Darkling Elder (Fey)
5 Cambion (Fiend)
5 Oblex Adult (Ooze Illithid)
7 Black Abishai (Devil Tiamat)
10 Oblex Elder (Ooze Illithid)

Support soldiers

Creatures that typically augment other troops.

CR Creature
1 Half-Ogre (Giant)
2 Ogre (Giant)
2 Ogre Bolt Launcher (Giant)
2 Ogre Howday (Giant)
2 Ogre Zombie (Undead)
3 Hell Hound (Fiend Fire)
3 Manticore (Monstrosity)
3 Ogre Chain Brute (Giant)
4 Ogre Battering Ram (Giant)
5 Troll (Giant)
8 Shoosuva (Demon)
9 Nycaloth (Yugoloth)
11 Horned Devil (Devil)
12 Erinyes (Devil)
17 Goristro (Demon)

Stalkers

Creatures that seek targets for termination.

CR Creature
3 Slithering Tracker (Ooze)
4 Yeth Hound (Fey)
5 Revenant (Undead)
6 Chasme (Demon)
6 Invisible Stalker (Elemental)
8 Canoloth (Yugoloth)
10 Orthon (Devil)
14 Retriever (Construct Lolth)
16 Steel Predator (Construct)

Story creatures

Creatures that work better as story elements than as combat foes.

CR Creature
1/2 Gas Spore (Plant)
2 Nothic (Aberration)
4 Ghost (Undead)
25 Marut (Construct Inevitable)

Threats, subterranean

Dangers that lair underground.

CR Creature
1/4 Grimlock (Humanoid Illithid)
1/2 Gray Ooze (Ooze)
2 Quaggoth (Humanoid Lolth)
3 Hook Horror (Monstrosity)
4 Black Pudding (Ooze)
5 Umber Hulk (Monstrosity)

Threats, undying

Creatures that can perpetually survive in a location until disturbed

CR Creature
1/4 Mephit (Elemental)
1/4 Skeleton (Undead)
1/2 Shadow (Undead)
1 Specter (Undead)
2 Gibbering Mouther (Aberration)
2 Will-O’-Wisp (Undead Desolation)
3 Deathlock Wight (Undead Warlock)
3 Mummy (Undead Tomb)
4 Banshee (Undead)
4 Shadow Demon (Demon)
5 Spawn Of Kyuss (Undead Aquatic)
5 Wraith (Undead)
6 Medusa (Monstrosity Ruins)
8 Sword Wraith Warrior (Undead)
6 Bodak (Undead Orcus)
8 Sword Wraith Commander (Undead)
14 Cadaver Collector (Construct)

Threats, urban

Creatures typically met in cities.

CR Creature
2 Wererat (Shapechanger)

Threats, wandering or hunting

Creatures that roam, often seeking to slake their hunger.

CR Creature
1/2 Jackalwere (Shapechanger Lamia Graz’Zt)
1/2 Rust Monster (Monstrosity Subterranean)
1 Ghoul (Undead)
1 Meazel (Monstrosity)
1 Vargouille (Fiend)
2 Carrion Crawler (Monstrosity)
2 Gelatinous Cube (Ooze Subterranean)
2 Intellect Devourer (Aberration Subterranean Illithid)
2 Ochre Jelly (Ooze Subterranean)
2 Ogre (Giant)
2 Meenlock (Fey)
2 Merrow (Monstrosity Shore Aquatic)
2 Rutterkin (Demon Abyss)
3 Displacer Beast (Monstrosity)
3 Flail Snail (Elemental)
3 Vampiric Mist (Undead)
3 Yeti (Monstrosity Cold)
5 Xorn (Elemental Subterranean)
5 Tlincalli (Monstrosity Desert)
6 Drider (Monstrosity Underdark Spider)
6 Vrock (Demon)
8 Cloaker (Aberration Subterranean)
8 Hydra (Monstrosity Shore Aquatic)
9 Abominable Yeti (Monstrosity Cold)
10 Death Kiss (Aberration)
11 Roc (Monstrosity Mountain)
13 Devourer (Undead Orcus)
13 Neothelid (Aberration Subterranean)
15 Nabassu (Demon)
15 Purple Worm (Monstrosity Subterranean Mountain)
17 Dragon Turtle (Dragon Aquatic)
20 Leviathan (Elemental Aquatic)
20 Nightwalker (Undead)

Threats, wild

Dangers that appear in wild places often in or near a lair.

CR Creature
1/8 Stirge (Beast)
1/2 Cockatrice (Monstrosity)
1 Harpy (Monstrosity Cliffs)
1 Hippogriff (Monstrosity)
2 Ettercap (Monstrosity Spider)
2 Giffon (Monstrosity Cliffs)
2 Merrow (Monstrosity Shore Aquatic)
2 Peryton (Monstrosity Mountain)
3 Basilisk (Monstrosity)
3 Manticore (Monstrosity Pack)
3 Owlbear (Monstrosity)
3 Werewolf (Shapechanger Pack)
4 Wereboar (Shapechanger Orc)
4 Ettin (Giant Solo)
4 Girallon (Monstrosity)
4 Weretiger (Shapechanger Jungle)
5 Catoblepas (Monstrosity Swamp)
5 Gorgon (Monstrosity)
5 Troll (Giant)
6 Chimera (Monstrosity)
6 Wyvern (Dragon)
8 Corpse Flower (Plant)
9 Frost Salamander (Elemental Cold)
10 Froghemoth (Monstrosity Swamp)
11 Behir (Monstrosity)
11 Remorhaz (Monstrosity Cold)

Creatures that cause cataclysms

Creatures that cause unnatural disasters.

CR Creature
16 Phoenix (Elemental)
23 Elder Tempest (Elemental)
23 Kraken (Monstrosity)
30 Tarrasque (Monstrosity)

Tricksters and troublemakers

Creatures that favor mischief over battle.

CR Creature
1/8 Boggle (Fey)
1/4 Pixie (Fey Forest)
1/4 Mephit (Elemental)
1/2 Satyr (Fey)
1 Quickling (Fey)
1+ Faerie Dragon (Dragon)
2 Will-O’-Wisp (Undead Desolation)

12 thoughts on “The Right Monster for the Job: D&D Monsters Listed by Function

  1. jubalbarca

    This is neat – also, kind of helpful when thinking about what additional monsters might need for seeing where the gaps are. The urban monster list is interestingly short, and it’s interesting how protectors of nature tend to be very woodland-focused which may mean there are gaps for other biomes. Though I guess some things could appear on more lists than they do (I sort of think of Otyughs as almost an urban monster, but that might just be the sewers of Athkatla and Baldur’s Gate talking).

    Reply
  2. mattzane

    What an incredibly useful list — I love how you’ve broken down the categories too. Definitely adding this to my “DM resources” bookmark folder!

    Reply
  3. Igor Coura de Mendonça

    Really awesome.
    I have some books that help me out: the Villains and Monster Codex from Pathfinder 1, and specially the 13th Age Bestiaries. They are organized not by mere alphabetical order, but thinking in plot devices or themes.

    You made me think of something similar for spells. I am a DM with a TERRIBLE memory regarding lists, and spells are the worst for me. What I always wanted was a new way of getting to know them, and you give this idea.

    The concept of utility spells may trigger for some traumatized 4e players… But it would be indeed good to organize spells by their purpose, specially spells that are really useful outside combat. Something like:

    # Spells that improve skills
    # Spells that manipulate characters
    # Spells useful for travelers

    Etc.

    If only the writers of this game stopped writing pretending their rules are like magic cards, and start describing design notes, suggestions for DM, intentions and cautions…

    Keep up the good work, and long as you enjoy!

    Reply
  4. Igor Coura de Mendonça

    Ah! Another point!

    Remember in 3rd edition, when they usually create tables with the list of spells or feats, with a one sentence quickly explaining them?

    I’s buy something like this on DM’s Guild. If anyone knows about it, please contact me on my Twitter @4ventos

    Reply
  5. Pingback: The Right Monster for the Job: D&D Monsters Listed by Function – DND5e

  6. Ryan

    I would love to see this in a print-friendly format that I could add to my DM’s Binder. Any chance of getting something like that?

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Mastering Dungeons – Fifth Edition Revisited, Pt. 3 – Misdirected Mark Productions

Leave a Reply to jubalbarca Cancel reply