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First appearanceDwellers of the Forbidden City (1981)
AlignmentLawful Evil (usually)

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, aboleths (/ˈæblɛθ/ AB-o-leth)[1] are a fictitious race of malevolent, fish-like aberrations with potent psionic abilities. Aboleths are some of the most ancient beings in existence according to Lords of Madness, a Dungeons & Dragons supplement book about creatures classified as "aberrations" such as aboleths, illithids and beholders.

Publication history[edit]

The aboleth was created by David "Zeb" Cook for the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)[edit]

The aboleth first appears in the module Dwellers of the Forbidden City (1981),[2] and later appears in the first edition Monster Manual II (1983).[3]

The aboleth was detailed in Dragon #131 (March 1988), in the "Ecology of the Aboleth",[4] which also describes the grand aboleth, the greater aboleth, the noble aboleth, and the ruler aboleth.

The saltwater aboleth appears in Dungeon #12 (July 1988).

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)[edit]

The aboleth appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989),[5] and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[6]

The abilities of psionic aboleths are detailed in The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991).[7]

The savant aboleth first appears in Night Below: An Underdark Campaign (1995),[8] and in Monstrous Compendium Annual Two (1995).

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000–2002)[edit]

The aboleth appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000).[9]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003–2007)[edit]

The aboleth appears in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003), along with the aboleth mage.

The psionic aboleth appears in the Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004).[10]

The aboleth receives its own chapter in the book Lords of Madness: The Book of Aberrations (2005),[11] which also includes the amphibious aboleth, the stygian aboleth, and the uobilyth (aerial aboleth).

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–2013)[edit]

The aboleth appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008), including the aboleth lasher, the aboleth slime mage, the aboleth observer, and the aboleth servitor.[12]

The aboleth movable citadel of Xxiphu is described in the Sixth Chapter of this edition's Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008), in the Settlements and Features section.[13]

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (2014–present)[edit]

The aboleth appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2014).[14] The aboleth's stat block was later reprinted in the free online supplement for the Princes of the Apocalypse (2015).[15]

Physical description[edit]

Aboleths are fish-like amphibians, twenty feet long and weighing about 6,500 pounds; they continue to grow as they age, however, and some fantastically ancient specimens reach much longer lengths. They are a kind of hybrid of fish and eel with some insectoid and annelid qualities; they have long, tubular bodies, like that of an eel, but fish-like tails at the end and two fins near the head and a dorsal fin near the back. Their bodies are also segmented, which is a worm or insect-like characteristic. Their underbellies are orange-pink, and their topsides sea-green. A little bit back from the head are four long tentacles, two on each side, two on the topside and two on the underbelly. Their heads are roughly triangle shaped, with a spherical, somewhat beak-like nose. Above the nose are their three eyes, each one set atop the other. Tendrils and a few shorter tentacles dangle from the bottom of the head. Four blue-black slime-secreting orifices line the bottom of their bodies.

Aboleths have powerful psionic powers, being natural psions like the illithids. However, the aboleth, like the other archetypal aberrations, has a much more fearsome ability: aboleths secrete a viscous grey fluid, much like mucus, which brings about a terrible transformation in air-breathing creatures. The skin of the victim is transformed into a membrane which allows it to breathe in water, but robs the creature of air-breathing. This allows the aboleth to keep slaves, which it dominates and keeps captive with its mind. This same mucus is the only way aboleths breathe at all – if robbed of the ability to extrude aboleth slime, they suffocate in water or on land. Out of the water, an aboleth's membranelike skin dries out quickly, but this does not prove fatal. Instead, the aboleth will eventually enter a state of suspended animation, called long dreaming, a fate considered far worse than simply dying. It forms a tough, waterproof membrane, but, once the membrane is pierced, liquid floods out and death is usually not far off for the aboleth. With the exception of the gained damage reduction and increased armor class, an aboleth out of water is a sitting duck.

Another strange feature of aboleths is their memory. An aboleth is born with a racial memory, each individual inheriting the memories of its ancestors. Furthermore, it assimilates the memories of those it consumes. An aboleth's memories are stored in an ever-growing part of its brain which extends down its back as it ages. Aboleths enjoy spending time lost in particularly fine memories of their ancestors, and if they have nothing better to do, they may relive entire portions of their lives.

Aboleths do not die of old age, living indefinitely barring death from violence or disease.


Aboleths are utterly self-centered as a race; they know they were among the first beings in existence, and see all else as theirs. Their enmity towards other races stems in part from their perception that these "upstart" races have stolen what is rightfully the aboleths'. All that stops them from conquering the surface is their weakness on land (though an aboleth is always a fierce opponent) and the fact that they would rather enjoy themselves than waste time subduing feeble creatures such as humans. By contrast they are greatly unsettled by the Illithids due to their lack of information over that race's creation.

Aboleth cities are vast affairs of bizarre and alien architecture, located deep underwater. The Shape of Water, located in the Underdark's Glimmersea, is the largest known Aboleth city. This is where the leaders of the race reside and hold council.

Aboleths have no gods. While they acknowledge the presence and power of gods, they have memories of a time long before any modern gods were worshipped and recall such gods' birth and often demise. They are not concerned with an afterlife since they intend to live forever, considering death a failure. They do have a certain respect and reverence for the ancient beings known as the "Elder Evils" Bolothamogg, Holashner, Piscaethces, Shothotugg, and Y’chak, based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. According to the 2nd edition box set Night Below they do have a god, known as the Blood Queen.[8]

Other sources also indicate that a minority of them worship Juiblex.[16]

In the 4th Edition Underdark sourcebook, it is noted that some sages are unsure whether aboleths have a true self-awareness, or instead have a form of psyche utterly alien to all existence. It is also noted that aboleths were originally native to the Far Realm, and they actually seek to have not just the world, but the totality of the Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos as well, subsumed by the Far Realm.


An aboleth brood consists of a parent and one to three offspring. Though the offspring are as large and as strong as the parent, they defer to the parent in all matters and obey it implicitly.

Aboleth have both male and female sexual organs. A mature aboleth reproduces once every five years by concealing itself in a cavern or other remote area, then laying a single egg and covering it in slime. The parent aboleth guards the egg while the embryo grows and develops, a process that takes about five years. A newborn aboleth takes about 10 years to mature.

Alternatively, it has also been noted that most aboleth mate about once every 500 years. It takes five years for their egg to hatch, an additional one-year mutation for it to fully form into a miniature version of its parent, and 10 more years before reaching its adult stage. Ruler aboleth mate only once in their lives, and the growth process takes a total of about one hundred years, though it is the same in its various stages. Some noble aboleth have performed occasional cloning experiments, but one has yet to meet with any great success.[17]

The omnivorous aboleth will eat any organic matter, usually algae and micro-organisms, but they are also fond of intelligent prey so they can absorb nutrients and information at the same time. Aboleth have no natural enemies, as even the mightiest marine creatures give them a wide berth.

In campaign settings[edit]

Forgotten Realms[edit]

The aboleth were eventually roused from a period of hibernation that spanned millennia, and the city of Xxiphu has since risen above the Sea of Fallen Stars,[18] and the aboleth conquered territory for the Sovereignty.[13]

The Xxiphu citadel, a "glyph-inscribed obelisk wrapped in an eternal storm that soars over the surface of the world," is said to hold in its inscriptions meanings too ghastly for mortal minds to comprehend and remain sane, as well as the consciousnesses of some of the few enormous conscience-altered elder aboleths, whose minds are inimical to creatures not part of their ancient Sovereignty.[13]


In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the aboleths are the base species in a genus of creatures called the Alghollthu.[19] They are responsible for shaping much of the pre-history of humanity and many other races of the setting's world, Golarion. This ended when the aboleths called down a massive meteor in retaliation when their human slaves revolted.[20] The ubiquity of aboleth influence on and creation of the races of Golarion is so widespread that it has become a subject of cautionary humor among the authors.[21]

Other publishers[edit]

The aboleth appeared in Paizo Publishing's book Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary (2009), on page 8.[22]


SyFy Wire in 2018 called it one of "The 9 Scariest, Most Unforgettable Monsters From Dungeons & Dragons", saying that "this is not a monster you want to ever get on the bad side of! If they haven't recovered from their grudge with the gods, they certainly won't forget you."[23]


  1. Mentzer, Frank. "Ay pronunseeAY shun gyd" Dragon #93 (TSR, 1985)
  2. Cook, David. Dwellers of the Forbidden City (TSR, 1981)
  3. Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual II (TSR, 1983)
  4. Grist, Brandon. "Ecology of the Aboleth." Dragon #131 (TSR, 1988)
  5. Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (TSR, 1989)
  6. Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  7. Winter, Steve. The Complete Psionics Handbook (TSR, 1991)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sargent, Carl. Night Below: An Underdark Campaign (TSR, 1995)
  9. Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  10. Cordell, Bruce R. Expanded Psionics Handbook (Wizards of the Coast, 2004)
  11. Baker, Rich, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter. Lords of Madness (Wizards of the Coast, 2005)
  12. Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Cordell, Bruce R., Ed Greenwood, and Chris Sims. Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  14. Mearls, Mike, Jeremy Crawford. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2014)
  15. Princes of the Apocalypse (Wizards of the Coast, 2015)
  16. Sargent, Carl. Monster Mythology (TSR, 1992)
  17. Grist, Brandon. "Ecology of the Aboleth." Dragon #131 (TSR, 1988)
  18. Bruce R. Cordell. City of Torment (Wizards of the Coast, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7869-5184-0 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  19. Greg A. Vaughan. "The Ecology of the Alghollthu," Pathfinder Adventure Path #121: The Lost Outpost (Paizo Publishing, 2017)
  20. Michael Brewer (September 28, 2009). "Tested: Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting".
  21. James Sutter (September 27, 2010). "Inside the Pit: Monster Design 101". Paizo.com. "The attached image, sometimes known simply as the Aboleth Flowchart, represents a basic but often overlooked tenet in the creation of new monsters for Golarion."
  22. Bulmahn, Jason (lead designer). Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary (Paizo Publishing, 2009)
  23. Granshaw, Lisa (October 24, 2018). "The 9 scariest, most unforgettable monsters from Dungeons & Dragons". SYFY WIRE.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baur, Wolfgang. "Secrets of the Sunless Seas." Dragon #222 (TSR, 1995).
  • Jacobs, James. "The Ecology of the Kaorti." Dragon #358. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing,
  • Schneider, F. Wesley and James Lafond Sutter. "The Lightless Depths." Dungeon #144. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2007.

External links[edit]

  • Aboleth – d20 System Reference Document entry

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