D&D monsters: the best D&D 5E monsters to use in your campaign

Give your campaigns a nostalgia injection with these classic D&D monsters, fit both to battle and bamboozle

Cover artwork from an earlier edition of Dungeons and Dragons' Monster Manual book

What would Dungeons & Dragons be without the malevolent menagerie of ghastly foes you encounter during your adventure? It would be rather dull, we think. A good quest requires a certain amount of danger, and a proper balance of risk versus reward. Some of this undoubtedly comes from the elaborate underground caverns, dungeons, and other locations that are visited during a campaign. But even more, it comes from the cruel and cunning enemies faced along the way.

Monster mobs can evoke feelings of power and superiority, such as when higher-level characters effortlessly dispatch a group of skeletons or goblins. On the flipside, a terrifying encounter with a dragon can teach the party that, even with all their victories, they are still just mortals.

With D&D only a few years shy of its 50th anniversary, there is a vast range of fantastical beasts to pick from. Between the five main editions, each with additional supplemental books, and homebrew material, it can be an overwhelming task sifting through them all, to pick the perfect monsters for each encounter. We’ve picked out some classic monsters that have been ruining adventurers’ days for nearly five decades, and can always make for an exciting fight!

Right up top, here are our completely objective, 100% accurate, expert picks for the very best D&D monsters of all time:

The best D&D monsters

  • Displacer Beast
  • Black Pudding
  • Mimic
  • Owlbear

Stat block image for the Displacer Beast, a monster in Dungeons and Dragons

Displacer Beast

First Appearance: Dungeons & Dragons – Greyhawk Supplement (1975)
Find it here: Monster Manual (5E) pg. 81

Known for their sleek appearance – and sleeker cloaks made from their hide – these wily creatures can serve as great ‘teachers’ for lower-level parties.

Coming in at a challenge rating (CR) of three, these majestic prowlers have the handy ability “Displacement”, which causes attacks made against them to be taken at a disadvantage.

Roll ’em up: The best online D&D character creators

However, if you do manage to hit one, that effect goes away until the start of the monster’s next turn.

Being hard to hit, paired with the Displacer Beast’s natural Multiattack feature, can give new heroes a taste of  scarier battles to come, and start them down the path of cooking up cannier strategies, to survive those deadlier encounters!

Stat block image for the Black Pudding, a monster in Dungeons and Dragons

Black Pudding

First Appearance: Dungeons & Dragons Whitebox (1974)
Find it here: Monster Manual (5E) pg. 241

Do you have that one melee-focused character that likes to just run in without thinking, and hit things? Well, do we have the perfect enemy for you, to help teach that player a little planning and patience can go a long way.

Surround your overzealous fighter with black goo

This malleable opponent will not only corrode any non-magical weapon that hits it – which can result in destroying the weapon outright – it can also split into two independent, smaller monsters, when hit with either lightning or slashing damage (both of which it happens to be resistant to, for good measure!)

Now your overzealous fighter is surrounded by goo, and their weapon is slowly wasting away. That will teach them to run in without thinking!

Stat block image for the Mimic, a monster in Dungeons and Dragons


First Appearance: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1977)
Find it here: Monster Manual (5E) pg. 220

The Mimic is the premier devious and dangerous trickster of Dungeons & Dragons. This creature’s innate ability to disguise itself as an inanimate object of its choice has no doubt given a player or two serious trust issues when it comes to their furniture.

Custom monsters

Custom monsters

You can tailor encounters against these monsters by tweaking the number of them you throw at players, or customising their stats.

If your beasties are going up against larger or higher-level parties, you can increase core stats like AC, or even add new abilities!

It is also one the most enjoyable creatures to throw at an unsuspecting group, regardless of their level, serving as a great addition to any spooky dungeon or mysterious mansion. The Mimic’s claim-to-fame, of course, is that they can shape-shift into any unassuming object, from a rocking chair, to a treasure chest – or, if you’re feeling like an especially tricky DM, a pagoda. Because no one ever suspects a pagoda.

At a challenge rating of only two, we’d advise customising and improving a mimic if your party is at higher levels. Still, a well-placed mimic can cause the group to second guess every mundane-looking knick-knack for the rest of the campaign – and that’s priceless.

Stat block image for the Owlbear, a monster in Dungeons and Dragons


First Appearance: Dungeons & Dragons – Greyhawk Supplement (1975)
Find it here: Monster Manual (5E) pg. 249

No creature better personifies “hangry” than the classic owlbear. This mammal-bird hybrid was hangry long before such a meme-era term even existed. While the owlbear is a touch more “vanilla” than some of the other monsters featured on this list, it’s no less a hallmark of Dungeons & Dragons.

Sporting a CR of three, this beast’s advantage on perception checks makes it very good at finding characters if they try a sneaky approach – and when (not if) it gets its beady eye on your characters, it’ll swipe and peck until all that’s left is a particularly messy dinner for its chicks (cubs? chickubs?)

But hey, maybe if you roll really, really highly on Animal Handling, you could tame the beaky behemoth? Just don’t forget to have a Snickers on hand at all times…

Picked out your beasties, but desperate for some tiny plastic facsimiles to represent them on the tabletop? These are the best D&D miniatures around. Or go back to party-building basics with our roundup guide to D&D classes.

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