As you might’ve guessed, Dungeons & Dragons has more than just dragons and dungeons littering the many official sourcebooks.
When we go dungeon delving there are thousands of things we might come across; things we just might have to fight if we want to stay alive and save the day.
To make our lives easier, WotC has categorized these beings into a few different creature types. In this article, we’re going to discuss all of the various creature types and what to expect from each of them.
What is a Creature Type in 5e?
A creature type is a category that defines a broad group of beings that our characters might come across as we traverse the many worlds of D&D. While monster is a common term used for creatures, i.e. Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, creatures are much broader and encompass just about anything with a stat block.
There are fourteen different types of creatures. I’ve listed all of the creature types below, along with a brief description of each.
List of All 5e Creature Types
Alien beings from the depths of space and the vast emptiness of the multiverse. These creatures tend to have innate magical or psychic abilities along with a very strange physiology.
Animals, dinosaurs, and all varieties of natural nonhuman creatures that inhabit the world. Most of these could be found in our world, but there are a few, such as dire wolves, rocktopi, and cats, which are clearly of a fantasy background.
Often equated with angels, and in fact, including angels, celestials are creatures that hail from the Upper Planes of good. Pegasi and unicorns are some examples of non-angelic celestials.
Artificial creations, be they magical or mechanical in nature, fit into the category of construct. The ironclad rule for constructs is that they are made, not born.
Dragons. Listen, I know they could’ve just been considered beasts, but they’re in the name of the game. They deserve their own category. Wyverns, drakes, and pseudodragons all fit into this category as well so it is a bit more nuanced than you might imagine.
Elementals are native to the elemental planes of air, fire, water, and earth. These are spirits that cling to the energy of their planes and gain sentience, taking up many different forms in the process.
The fair folk, fey are the mystical creatures tied to the forest, whimsy, and trickery. Pixies, centaurs, and most things that you can picture from Narnia fit into this category.
Mainly devils and demons, fiends are the antithesis to the celestials. These creatures almost unanimously tend towards evil, hailing from the lower planes and often having some association to the hells.
Giants include all sorts of creatures that tower over humanoids. Two-headed ettins, trolls, ogres, and many other creatures sit alongside true giants in this category.
Humanoids are all the races of sentient, bipedal beings that fill the cities and villages of D&D.
These are the true monsters of the Monster Manual. Monsters are typically the products of curses, magical experimentation, or some other meddling with the natural order of things.
These are gelatinous creatures which typically have some sort of fixed shape, along with some level of sentience. The most common oozes are gelatinous cubes.
While plants obviously exist in 5e, there are also plant creatures. These flora gain sentience in some manner, typically by some sort of curse or lingering magic.
Undead creatures include all sorts of zombies, vampires, and liches. Anything that was once living, and now remains animated through some sort of magic or curse even in death counts as undead.
What is a creature in 5e?
A creature in 5e is any living (or even semi-sentient) being with a stat block.
Understanding creature types is only half the battle whether you’re making a new monster or simply choosing a nasty foe for your characters to face off against. Even as a player it can be useful to understand the anatomy of a creature.
We’re going to look at the components of a stat block so you understand how to read any of the ones you may come across.
What is a 5e Stat Block?
Above are all the stats for your average goblin. It’s broken up into a few different sections.
The first section tells us what the creature is, it’s size, it’s creature type, and it’s alignment. In this case, we can see that a goblin is a small humanoid, with a neutral evil alignment. The alignment can be important for deciding how to DM the creatures, and which decisions they would make.
The next bit includes all of the basic numeric statistics for the creature. This has everything from Armor Class to Challenge Rating. This is where the most important information lies, especially the ability scores, skills, senses, and damage resistances a creature might have.
The rest of the stat block shows us what a creature can do. In this instance, goblins have one ability called Nimble Escape, and two different attack options. In addition to all of the normal things any creature can do during combat, this is where you’ll find the creature’s specific options.
A goblin is a rather simple creature, which is well represented in it’s ¼ CR. Some more terrifying creatures might have legendary actions, actions they can take while it’s not their turn in combat, or even lair actions, actions that happen within the creature’s lair.
Stat blocks tell us just about everything we need to know about a creature, aside from the LORE, which you know we love here. In fact, just using the above background, you can make your own creature with extreme ease.
More on Creature Types in 5e
While the above information is meant to give you a brief intro to creature types, the rest of this article will look a bit deeper into what each category has to offer. We do go much deeper in individual creature type guides, so check on those for even more information.
The dictionary definition for an aberration is “a departure from what is normal, usual, or expected, typically one that is unwelcome.” This perfectly describes what these creatures bring to the table. Most of these hail from the far reaches of the multiverse, or the outer planes, and are quite literally alien in nature.
Some of the best-known aberrations are Mind Flayers, Slaadi, and Beholders. They are extremely terrifying and well worth staying away from.
The example below is a chuul, a lobster like native of the underdark. Previous editions have brought us stronger versions of these creatures with psychic abilities that are common to aberrations, and we just may see that in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, which comes out in January of 2022.
The category of beast could just as easily be called animals, but where’s the fun fantasy aspect in that. Beasts include all types of “normal” animal creatures from the tiny frog to a huge T-Rex. If you could picture it in a zoo or museum, it’s probably in this category.
There are also quite a few extraordinary beasts, mainly Giant versions of things and Awakened versions of things. So altogether, that’s animals, big animals, and animals that can sit down for a conversation and a cup of tea. Pretty standard D&D stuff.
Below is a stat block for my favorite thing to polymorph my allies into, the T-Rex itself.
These creatures are almost entirely good, although that might be a problem if your characters aren’t.
Celestials are a wide range of majestic creatures that fill the heaven adjacent planes of the Forgotten Realms often using radiant energy and all the things you might picture as part of a stereotypical paladin or cleric, these creatures are pretty predictable.
They’ll show up, do “the right thing” and return to their plane to continue living in paradise.
Below is a celestial that you might be familiar with, the pegasus.
Constructed creatures include a pretty wide span, since we’re talking about any creature that is made, rather than being born. We have things like clockwork birds, golems, and huge living statues. There are even living spells, spells that have gained sentience from a powerful magic field.
Below is a shield guardian, a construct that you as a player can actually bring to life.
Dragons are really self-explanatory, and yet there is a whole book now devoted to them. While the concept of large ancient magical reptilian creatures often capable of flight is pretty well understood, it should be stressed that there are a lot of variations on the common dragon archetype.
There are over a hundred different dragons to encounter, including several named dragons like Niv-Mizzet and Umbraxakar.
Below is the stat block for a young red dragon, perhaps the most basic member of the dragon family.
Elementals are a sort of broad category. Generally, they are formed when a spirit attaches itself to the energy of one of the elemental planes. This can create basic elementals, all sorts of genies, and plenty of other creatures. One thing is for sure, they’re bound to have a deep connection to the elements.
Below is the stat block for an air elemental.
Fey, faerie folk, fair creatures, there are many names for these creatures. Fey creatures focus on trickery and magic to get their way. Often they abide by a strict set of rules, taking neutral alignments to very extreme places.
Below is the stat block for a sprite.
While no creature type has a lock on being evil, fiends are probably the closest to doing so. Every demon or devil, which yes, are very distinct, is a fiend hellbent on some sort of evil purpose. Sooner or later you’re bound to run into some of these in a campaign, and that day will not be fun.
Below is the stat block for an imp, a rather nasty, if relatively weak, fiend.
Giants have a shocking amount of lore within the worlds of D&D. Their rune magic is so powerful there’s even a fighter subclass devoted to using it. Coming across one is going to be extremely exciting, even if it’s also extremely deadly.
I’d love to get all into the hierarchy here and now, but that’ll have to wait for their close-up article.
Below is the stat block for a hill giant.
Humanoids are… you! More than likely. Almost all of the playable races are humanoid, so you can look forward to being affected by anything that can affect them.
As a creature type, humanoids include everything from peasants you’ll come across in a town to evil knights sworn to Asmodeus. It’s a pretty wide swing.
If you want some idea of a humanoid’s stat block, look at your character sheet. Of course, you can always scroll back up and look at the goblin stat block.
Monstrosity is an interesting category. While the description I gave in the brief is true, it really feels like this is the dumping ground for all sorts of beings that didn’t fit neatly into the other options.
Fine by me, the more the merrier. That being said, there aren’t many common threads to be found as far as damage, alignment, attitude, or really anything is concerned.
I’ve said all I need to on oozes but listen. Spoiler Alert for Out of the Abyss. There is an amazing GelatinousCube named Glabbagool (he gave himself that name), who just wants to be friends with everyone. I love him and would kill for him.
Here’s the stat block for a gelatinous cube, throw in telepathy and an intelligence of 10 and you’ve got the best boy out there.
If you think plant creatures sound extremely boring, you’re not alone. I too was once as naive as you. Jokes on us, they are amazing and if you’re looking for fun poisons, telepathic mushroom people, or just a forest full of talking trees you’ve come to the right place.
All of their abilities are so cool and based in natural magic, they’re like a dream for druids everywhere. They’ve even got some of the best horror potential out there! Seriously, throw some plants in your campaigns you cowards.
Here’s a stat block for a Treant. Consider it a small treat compared to the feast that lies within the rest of this creature type.
Aside from a name that always feels counterintuitive to me, undead are pretty self explanatory. They are the things that go bump in the night. For more information, here is my good friend zombie, presenting his very own stat block.
Why do Creature Types Exist in 5e?
We use creature types as a neat way to distinguish creatures from each other. However, there are also mechanical reasons for splitting up the creatures. There are many spells, class abilities, and even items that specifically target creature types.
Without simple, easily defined categories, we wouldn’t be able to set simple, easily defined limits on spells like Polymorph and Protection from Evil and Good. Let’s look at some of these abilities so you know what to expect.
- Polymorph; 4th-Level Transmutation – Turns a creature into a new form that can be any beast of a CR equal to or less than the target’s CR or level. This spell specifies the creature type beast, meaning that you can’t just turn a creature into a dragon, since dragons aren’t beasts. This is such an important distinction in terms of power level, but it also matters for the larger 9th level version of this spell called True Polymorph, which allows you to change a creature into any other creature.
- Abjure the Extraplanar – This channel divinity option for the Oath of the Watchers paladin allows you to turn each aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, or fiend within 30 feet of you. Turned creatures spend their turns doing everything they can to get away from you. The watcher paladin has a few abilities that specifically relate to these types of creatures, because these “extraplanar” beings are the ones they have sworn to protect the material plane from.
- Planar Binding; 5th-Level Abjuration – This spell let’s you attempt to bind a celestial, fiend, fey, or elemental to your service. These creatures are typically summoned to the material plane first (or whatever plane you’re on) and then binded through the wording of this spell.
- Giant Slayer (rare item) – This magic weapon, which can be an axe or sword, deals an extra 2d6 whenever you hit a creature that has the type “giant.” It includes ettins and trolls, along with many other giants that aren’t specifically named as giants. Many DMs will break out other “____ Slayer” weapons which have the same effect for other creature types. There are also Bolts of Slaying, arrows which have a very similar wording and in RAW can be specified for any creature type.