Catoblepas (Dungeons & Dragons)

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First appearanceThe Strategic Review #7 (April 1976)
Based onCatoblepas
AlignmentNeutral Evil

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game, the catoblepas (/kəˈtblɪpəs/ or /kæˈtɒblɪpəs/)[1] is an Aberration.

Publication history[edit]

The catoblepas is based on the catoblepas, an Ethiopian legendary creature from Roman myth.[2]

The catoblepas first appeared in The Strategic Review #7 (April 1976), and then in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement (1976).[3]

The catoblepas appeared in the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the original Monster Manual (1977).[4] David M. Ewalt, in his book Of Dice and Men, discussed several monsters appearing in the original Monster Manual, describing the catoblepas as looking like "an overweight buffalo with stumpy legs, a giraffe-like neck, and a warthog's head".[5] The creature was further developed in "The Ecology of the Catoblepas (or, looks can be very deceiving)" in Dragon #73 (May 1983).[6]

The creature appeared as the nekrozon in the D&D Master Rules set (1985),[7] and later in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991).[8]

The catoblepas appeared in the second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[9] and later reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[10]

The catoblepas appeared in the third edition in the article "The Horrors of Cormyr" in Dragon #299 (September 2002), and the Monster Manual II (2002).[11]

The catoblepas appeared in the fourth edition in Monster Manual 3 (2010), including the Catoblepas Harbinger and the Catobepas Tragedian.[12]

The catoblepas appeared in the fifth edition in Volo's Guide to Monsters (2016).[13]

In-universe description[edit]

A catoblepas has a large, bloated bison's body with short, stumpy legs like those of a hippopotamus. At the front of its body is a shaggy mane of dark brown hair, from which sprouts a long, weak, snake-like neck. The creature's head like that of a warthog with bloodshot eyes. The beast's coiling, serpentine tail has a stony mass of stubby spikes at the end. The catoblepas is orange-reddish-brown, and its hide is covered with warts, scabs, and bits of encrusted dung. In the 3.5th edition Dungeons & Dragons game the catoblepas is described in Monster Manual II as:

a bizarre, loathesome creature that inhabits dismal swamps and marshes...(it) is a meandering grazer...but once a month, usually under the light of a full moon, it hunts for meat to round out its diet of reeds and grasses.[11]

Catoblepae are typically neutral evil.

Use in campaign settings[edit]

Forgotten Realms[edit]

In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, catoblepae are sometimes kept by powerful, evil mages, kings from Zakhara, and other such people.

In a Forgotten Realms product "Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog" (1992) Marco Volo described "death cheese" made from the milk of catoblepas dwelling in the Vast Swamp at Cormyr's border.[14]

In the article "The Horrors of Cormyr" in Dragon #299 (September 2002), it is suggested that the catoblepas was created by an arch-wizard of Netheril, and notes that they are rare throughout most of the Realms, with the exception of the Farsea Marshes of Cormyr. The article also gives an alternative explanation for the origins of Death Cheese: human Marsh Drovers have learned to domesticate and herd the beasts, and they produce and sell the cheese.

Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast notes that the Marsh of Chelimber holds the largest known concentration of catoblepases in the Realms, and this is confirmed in Serpent Kingdoms (2004). "The Environs of Waterdeep" web enhancement (2006) for City of Splendors (2005) notes that catoblepases can rarely be encountered in the Rat Hills south of Waterdeep.[15] In H2: The Mines of Bloodstone (1986), there is a lone catoblepas dwelling in the "Muckhole of the Catoblepas" in the Temple of Orcus.


The statistics for the nekrozon in the D&D Master Rules set were reprinted in CM9: Legacy of Blood. The Monstrous Compendium Mystara Appendix confirmed that the nekrozon is identical to the catoblepas, and that the name catoblepas is considered an archaic term.


The adventure Circle of Darkness notes that catoblepases are commonly found in the domain of G'Henna.

Other media[edit]

A catoblepas miniature was made for D&D, as part of Ral Partha's line of metal miniatures in the early 1990s (product code 11-422).

The catoblepas appears on card #468 in the 1991 Trading Card set.

Other games[edit]

The catoblepas was included on page 52 of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 2 (2010, Paizo Publishing), which is part of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.[16]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ward, Kyla. "The Petit Tarrasque and Other Monsters." Dragon #329 (Paizo Publishing, 2005).


  1. "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  2. DeVarque, Aardy R. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 2007-07-21. Retrieved April 9, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)[unreliable source?]
  3. Gygax, Gary; Blume, Brian (1976). "Eldritch Wizardry" (1 ed.). Lake Geneva, WI: TSR.
  4. Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
  5. Ewalt, David M. (2013). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. Scribner. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-4516-4052-6. Search this book on Logo.png
  6. Elliott, Chris, and Richard Edwards. "The Ecology of the Catoblepas" Dragon #73 (TSR, 1983)
  7. Gygax, Gary, Frank Mentzer. Dungeons & Dragons Set 4: Master Rules (TSR, 1985)
  8. Allston, Aaron, Steven E. Schend, Jon Pickens, and Dori Watry. Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (TSR, 1991)
  9. Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
  10. Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bonny, Ed; Grubb, Jeff; Redman, Rich; Williams, Skip; Winter, Steve (2002). Monster Manual II. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 9780786928736. Search this book on Logo.png
  12. Mearls, Mike, Greg Bilsland, and Robert J. Schwalb. Monster Manual 3. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2010
  13. Mearls, Mike, Jeremy Crawford. Volo's Guide to Monsters. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2016
  14. Brown, Anne; King, J. Robert (1992). Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog. TSR. ISBN 1560763272. Search this book on Logo.png
  15. "The Environs of Waterdeep : New Historical and Geographical Information for Use With City of Splendors: Waterdeep" (ZIP). Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  16. Baur, Wolfgang, Jason Bulmahn, et al. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 2 (Paizo Publishing, 2010)

External links[edit]

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