Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Secret Masters: Aboleths

Aboleths are a classic D&D monster that go all the way back to the 1e module Dwellers of the Forbidden City (1981). The Pathfinder supplement Sunken Empires: Treasures and Terrors of the Deep includes a nice essay by the designer David Cook, who created the aboleth for Dwellers. Cook notes that “the aboleth was a nod to things Lovecraftian, an unspeakable horror silently dreaming of ancient secrets more terrible than man can bear.” Aboleths were also the ultimate villains behind the huge 2nd edition Night Below boxed set (1995).

Aboleths are exceptional boss monsters because they are individually powerful, with formidable mind-control and illusion abilities. But they also have an interesting and mysterious back story that blends D&D with eldritch horror as well as elements of weird supra-science.

That said, the first time I ever had a chance to use an aboleth was in a long-running 3e retro-campaign: we had played through conversions of the Giant (G1-2-3) and Drow (D1-2-3) modules. However, rather than move on to Queen of the Demonweb Pits, the group sailed out of the Vault of the Drow down to the Sunless Sea, where I used some Night Below set pieces before running a conversion of the 2e Kingdom of the Ghouls.

The single toughest encounter in that entire campaign was an aboleth, which dominated the party tank, the Bold Salamander. The Salamander, a heavily armored, hard-hitting fighter then proceeded to slaughter his teammates, very nearly resulting in the first TPK of my entire DMing career. In a campaign that had a lot of great moments, my first chance to use an aboleth remains one of my favorite memories.

Despite the ongoing popularity of aboleths, there has been a surprising lack of miniatures for these horrors. I don't think one was ever produced for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd edition. In fact, as far as I known the first and only official D&D aboleth figure was the rather uninspiring “Aboleth Slime Mage” for the 2009 Dangerous Delves set. The distinctive appearance of the aboleth makes it a little tricky to produce a third party miniature without infringing on the intellectual property of Wizards of the Coast. Reaper Miniatures has therefore produced a comparable monster with its own look: the goroloth, sculpted by Michael Brower. This figure was part of an expansion set of the second Reaper Bones Kickstarter.

The goroloth is a nice sculpt that took me a long time to get around to paint—I just never found a reference illustration that really grabbed me. I originally started by painting directly onto the figure, but I have never had much luck with painting large unprimed figures. I quickly abandoned this effort, soaking the figure in Simple Green and starting from scratch. For round two I primed the figure using Army Painter Uniform Gray, and then thin translucent layers to get a color I liked. Although there is a hole in the bottom of the figure, it does not come with a mount so I used a LITKO 3 inch RPG Flight Stand, which worked really well. I attached the figure to the stand using green stuff, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the model balanced on the stand very nicely without anything.

The following text is Open Game Content.


Four long tentacles writhe from this three-eyed fish-like creature’s flanks, and its green body glistens with thick, greyish slime.

Alien and Cold and Endlessly Plotting. The aboleth is a revolting fishlike amphibian, very rarely seen but greatly feared for its powerful mental abilities. These evil, alien creatures prefer to act from a distance through enslaved proxies.

Largely Unknown to the Surface World. Aboleths are found primarily in subterranean lakes and rivers, and are rumored to have erected immense cities in the underground seas deep below the earth.

Among the World's Oldest Forms of Life. They once ruled the world with vast empires, and today view most other forms of life as either food or slaves—and sometimes both.

An aboleth has a pink belly. Four pulsating blue-black orifices line the bottom of its body and secrete gray slime that smells like rancid grease. It uses its tail for propulsion in the water and drags itself along with its tentacles on land. A typical aboleth is nearly 20 feet long and weighs about 6,500 pounds. Particularly large specimens are said to be over 40 feet long.

Aboleth CR 7

Usually LE Huge aberration (aquatic)

Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +16, Spot +16

Languages Aboleth, Aquan, Undercommon


AC 16, touch 9, flat-footed 15
(+1 Dex, +7 natural, -2 size)

hp 76 (8d8+40 HD)

Fort +7, Ref +3, Will +11


Spd 10 ft., swim 60 ft.

Melee 4 tentacles +12 (1d6+8 plus slime)

Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft.

Special Attacks enslave (DC 17), mucus cloud (DC 19), slime (DC 19)

Psionics (CL 16th)

At will—hypnotic pattern (DC 15), illusory wall (DC 17), mirage arcana (DC 18), persistent image (DC 18), programmed image (DC 19), project image (DC 20), veil (DC 19)


Before Combat Aboleth encounters are particularly dangerous, as the creatures are highly intelligent and rarely met by chance.

During Combat An aboleth attacks by flailing with its long, slimy tentacles, though it prefers to fight from a distance using its illusion powers.

Morale If faced with powerful foes or reduced to less than 30 hp, the aboleth will use its illusions and any servitors to distract opponents while it makes its escape, often through an underwater tunnel.


Str 26, Dex 12, Con 20, Int 15, Wis 17, Cha 17

Base Atk +6; Grp +22

Feats Alertness, Combat Casting, Iron Will

Skills Concentration +16 (+20 casting defensively), Knowledge (any one) +13, Listen +16, Spot +16, Swim +16


Environment underground

Organization solitary, brood (2–4), or slaver brood (1d3+1 plus 7–12 skum)

Treasure double standard

Advancement 9–16 HD (Huge); 17–24 HD (Gargantuan)

Special Abilities

Enslave (Su) Three times per day, an aboleth can attempt to enslave any one living creature within 30 feet. The target must succeed on a DC 17 Will save or be affected as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 16th). An enslaved creature obeys the aboleth's telepathic commands until freed by remove curse, and can attempt a new Will save every 24 hours to break free. The control is also broken if the aboleth dies or travels more than 1 mile from its slave. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Mucus Cloud (Ex) An aboleth underwater surrounds itself with a viscous cloud of mucus roughly 1 foot thick. Any creature coming into contact with and inhaling this substance must succeed on a DC 19 Fortitude save or lose the ability to breathe air for the next 3 hours. An affected creature suffocates in 2d6 minutes if removed from the water. Renewed contact with the mucus cloud and failing another Fortitude save continues the effect for another 3 hours. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Slime (Ex) A blow from an aboleth's tentacle can cause a terrible affliction. A creature hit by a tentacle must succeed on a DC 19 Fortitude save or begin to transform over the next 1d4+1 minutes, the skin gradually becoming a clear, slimy membrane. An afflicted creature must remain moistened with cool, fresh water or take 1d12 points of damage every 10 minutes. The slime reduces the creature's natural armor bonus by 1 (but never to less than 0). The save DC is Constitution-based.

A remove disease spell cast before the transformation is complete will restore an afflicted creature to normal. Afterward, however, only a heal or mass heal spell can reverse the affliction.

Skills An aboleth has a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.

Psionic Aboleths

Campaigns using the psionics rules should make the following changes to the standard aboleth described above:

Usually LE Huge aberration (aquatic, psionic)

Special Attacks slime

Feats Alertness, Combat Manifestation, Iron Will

Spell-like Abilities A psionic aboleth does not possess spell-like abilities or the enslave ability of the standard aboleth. Instead, it has psi-like abilities, including psionic dominate.

Psi-Like Abilities (ML 13th)

At will—disable (30-ft. cone, 12 HD, DC 20*), false sensory input (five targets, DC 16*), mental disruption (20-ft. radius, DC 18*), mindlink (unwilling, nine targets, DC 14*)

3/day—ego whip (ML 7th, 2d4, DC 17*), id insinuation (ML 7th, three targets, DC 17*), psionic dominate (any target, 24 hours, DC 20*), thought shield (power resistance 21, 3 rounds*)

1/day—psionic modify memory (DC 17), remote viewing (DC 17), wall of ectoplasm (DC 17).

*Includes augmentation for the aboleth’s manifester level.

Advanced Aboleths

Although aboleths typically advance by hit dice, their great intelligence also allows them to advance by class levels. Aboleths with class levels often serve as researchers and savants for aboleth communities.

Aboleth Mage CR 13

Aboleth wizard 10

Usually LE Huge aberration (aquatic)

Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +15, Spot +17

Languages Aboleth, Aquan, Undercommon


AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 15
(+3 Dex, +7 natural, -2 size)

hp 177 (8d8+56 plus 10d4+70 HD)

Fort +14, Ref +10, Will +16


Spd 10 ft., swim 60 ft.

Melee 4 tentacles +18 (1d6+9 plus slime)

Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft.

Special Attacks enslave (DC 16), mucus cloud (DC 21), slime (DC 21)

Psionics (CL 16th)

At will—hypnotic pattern (DC 14), illusory wall (DC 16), mirage arcana (DC 17), persistent image (DC 17), programmed image (DC 18), project image (DC 19), veil (DC 18)

Typical Wizard Spells Prepared (CL 10th)

5th—hold monster (DC 22), empowered lightning bolt (DC 18), wall of force

4th—greater invisibility, phantasmal killer (DC 21), scrying, stoneskin

3rd—dispel magic, displacement, fly, lightning bolt (DC 18)

2nd—blur, bull's strength, darkness, fox's cunning, see invisibility

1st—alarm, charm person (DC 18), color spray (DC 18), mage armor, magic missile (2)

0—daze, detect magic (2), resistance


During Combat The aboleth mage uses a number of spells, such as displacement, greater invisibility, and wall of force, to protect itself while seizing control of its foes with spells and innate abilities.

Morale An aboleth mage fights until reduced to 70 hp.


Str 28, Dex 16, Con 24, Int 20, Wis 16, Cha 14

Base Atk +11; Grp +28

Feats Combat Casting, Empower Spell, Eschew Materials, Extend Spell, Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Scribe Scroll, Spell Focus (enchantment), Spell Focus (illusion)

Skills Bluff +13, Concentration +25 (+29 casting defensively), Decipher Script +15, Diplomacy +6, Disguise +2 (+4 acting), Intimidate +4, Knowledge (arcana) +15, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +25, Knowledge (history) +15, Knowledge (the planes) +15, Listen +15, Search +11, Sense Motive +14, Spellcraft +20, Spot +17, Survival +3 (+5 following tracks, on other planes, and underground), Swim +17

SQ summon familiar

Special Abilities

Enslave (Su) Will DC 16 save resists.

Mucus Cloud (Ex) Fortitude DC 21 save negates.

Slime (Ex) DC 21 Fortitude save resists.


The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.

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