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Aboleth are massive fish-like creatures with potent psionic abilities. They are considered impossibly ancient, older than humanity itself, and in possession of horrible secrets about the early history of the world. In murky subterranean waters, they enslave entire cities, and turn them into mucous-covered, mindless aquatic servitors.

Aboleth is pronounced "AB-o-leth."[1] The plural of "aboleth" is "aboleth",[2] although the plural "aboleths" is sometimes used.[3][4]



Aboleth are vast, amphibious creatures, resembling some awful deep-sea fish, typically some twenty feet long and weighing around 6,500 pounds, with some indiviudals exceeding even this size.[4]

Their skin is gray and mottled blue-green, though they secrete a cloud of mucus when in water which obscures their appearance.[5] They have four tentacles near their head, around ten feet long, which they use in combat and to drag themselves along the ground when out of water. Their toothless maw is located on their underside, which is a pink-tan color, and four pulsating blue-black orifices in their bottom exhude the gray, stinking slime that protects their bodies. They have three slit-like, red-purple eyes, arrayed vertically their foreheads and protected by bony ridges.[6][7]

Rare, exceptionally huge "greater aboleth" exist which are up to four times the size of a typical member of its species. There are usually six or fewer such creatures in any given aboleth city, and they are revered in their culture for their vast repositories of knowledge.[8]

Personality and alignment[]

Aboleth are extremely intelligent, and possess an advanced culture.[2] They are careful, patient, and calculating creatures, and their actions are nearly always chosen with the sole purpose of furthering their own species. Their goals are nothing less than the ultimate subjugation of all sentient life, beginning with the underwater species.[8]

An aboleth's mindset is unusual. They lack the sense of self-awareness which humans have, allowing them to enact great plans or evil actions without a sense of conscience.[9]

Aboleths are typically lawful evil in alignment.[10]

Abilities and traits[]

The aboleth exude a slime that causes those touched by it to become able to breathe water, but unable to breathe air. In water, it is surrounded by a cloud of this slime. They use this slime to allow their servants to breathe underwater.[6] Aboleths themselves are unable to breathe water without this slime. Should an aboleth's membranes dry out, it enters a terrible state called the Long Dreaming, in which it may stay indefinitely.[4]

The tentacles of the aboleth cause the skin to turn into a transparent membrane. This membrane will quickly dry out in air, damaging those who are not kept damp and cool.[6]

Aboleth have a range of psionic powers, the most prominent of which is their ability to fully dominate and control other beings, which they use in combat, and to permanently enslave others.[6] Thralls serving as spies often have an emotionless obsession with completing their tasks, and formerly enslaved people often retain a sense which can detect when an aboleth is nearby.[11]

They make use of illusion in their lair.[5]

A notable trait of hte aboleth is its perfect ancestral memory, which allows it to remember as far back as the creation of its own species, as well as giving it access to an impossibly huge library of knowledge forgotten to mankind.[4] An aboleth's ability to access ancestral memories increases as it ages.[12]

An aboleth can see three times as well as a human in bright light, and can see in the dark.[4]



Aboleth lurk in aquatic regions very deep underground. Their realms are perhaps the deepest known, even deeper than the Underdark-dwelling drow and duergar. Most inhabit underwater cities of the Darksea, a vast and dark subterranean ocean.[2] They are also found in the Elemental Plane of Water.[13]


Most aboleth inhabit great underground cities (see settlements), but some live closer to the surface. Most surface-dwellers are nomadic, traveling to acquire slaves from humanoid population centers. Some remain there to flatter their ego by establishing a cult, or due to a lack of interest in aboleth society, or perhaps to take a brief sabbatical for a few centuries. Others are exiles, forced out of their city due to some philosophical disagreement or conflict with authority.[4]

These nomadic aboleth prefer to make lairs in dark, watery depths, particularly natural caverns with underground waterways connecting to deeper aboleth cities. Others may inhabit flooded ruins or similar isolated locations, traveling to cities by means of teleportation magic. Lairs are usually protected by numerous slaves.[4]

Life cycle[]

Aboleth are hermaphroditic species, which each individual having both male and female sex organs. An adult lays one egg every five years, hidden in some remote location, which it covers in slime. It guards the egg during its development, a lengthy process which takes around five years.[7]

Once hatched, the aboleth takes around ten years to reach full maturity. When they hatch, aboleth automatically inherit all knowledge from their parent, including truly ancient and terrible truths that pre-date the existence of humankind.[7] They are born already intelligent and cognizant as a result, and obey their parent unquestioningly for the first ten years of their life. Its psionic powers develop gradually over this period.[4]

Aboleths continue to grow slowly throughout their lifetime, eventually reaching as long as 40 feet. Larger specimens may exist, although their growth rate at this point is so slow [4]

Aboleths are effectively immortal. They can be killed, but do not die of old age. The aboleth have no such thing as a graveyard, rituals for the dead, or belief in an afterlife. The aboleth's minions are left to dispose of the body.[4] If an aboleth's body is destroyed, its spirit returns to the Elemental Plane of Water, where a new body is formed.[10]

Aboleth savants, the spellcasters, are infertile. They rarely leave their cities, except for the training of other savants, and often send out underlings for tasks such as collecting food or slaves.[14]


Aboleth are omnivores, and can consume any organic matter. Their diet includes algae and micro-organisms. They will occasionally eat intelligent species, since an adult aboleth possesses the ability to absorb the knowledge of any being it consumes[7] (although the amount of information gained in this way is thought to be limited to a few random flashes of memory and emotion). They greatly prefer fish and meat to algae wherever possible, considering land-dwelling creatures a delicacy, ideally transformed by their tentacle slime for proper seasoning. They are particularly fond of humans, gnomes, and svirfneblin, and for convenience may eat their own slaves (or parts of them). A single human-sized person is enough for the aboleth to subsist on for a full month.[4]

The aboleth maintain large kelp farms and deep rothé ranches as food sources for their slaves. However, the aboleth themselves do not rely on agriculture for their own food source.[15]

Society and culture[]

Relationships and family[]

An aboleth brood consists of one parent and up to three offspring.[16]


Aboleth society is rigidly organized, with a well-defined social hierarchy.[8] Their cities have formal systems of government, which convenes sessions to make decisions.[17]

A few specialized aboleth spellcasters exist, known as aboleth savants. They are noted by their bony protective head ridges, calcified nodules along their tentacles, and their ability to cast both arcane and divine magic. Many specialize in enchantment magic. They are also especially good at noticing invisible creatures, and enslaving creatures by mind control, which they use as bodyguards. They are highly arrogant, and are known to enter a frenzy if severely injured. Only around 2% of aboleths possess the ability to become a savant.[14]

Aboleth savants commonly take up positions of power in cities, containing a leader who takes the title of Grand Savant. However, even these high-ranking individuals are not absolute rulers, but are merely respected individuals. All politicals decisions are made by consensus after lengthy telepathic debates.[15] In larger cities, multiple savants may share the role of leadership, while smaller cities may have only one.[4]

Aboleth may come into conflict and fight one another using their tentacles, as they are resistant to the magical efects of their own species. Aboleth may fight over control of valuable slaves.[18]

According to the drow sage Alzor, aboleth possess a highly efficent society where each member has its own specialized, well-defined role. The four main roles are slave-gathering, slave maintenence, scientific research, and ruling.[19]

Brandon Grist's Ecology of the Aboleth makes several claims which are contradicted by later works. These include two-parent reproduction, mating once every 500 years, and a limited life span of only a few thousand years. However, it establishes other details which would be reflected in later works, such as eggs hatching after five years, reaching maturity within ten years, and the existence of a ruling "grand" aboleth.


Aboleth cities are commonly located at the bottom of subterranean lakes, up to 300 feet below the water's surface. While aboleth can survive at much greater depths, their society is reliant on slaves, who have difficulty surviving at such depths due to the pressure and cold. Their cities mostly consist of smsmooth contoured buildings, one or two-stories tall, with ceilings from 10 to 25 feet in height, and decorated internally with urns and statuettes. Smooth ramps exist rather than stairs. The aboleth themselves inhabit taller towers. Inhabitants other than aboleths and slaves are rare.[15]

Aboleth cities are commonly named for the aboleth savant who founded the city.[4]

Aboleth maintain a floating outpost city in the underground lake of Deepearth. Typical of aboleth cities, it is a broad disk some 1,000 feet across with six towers that peer out above the water, made from a mysterious substance that shares properties with wood, stone, and metal. The city is surrounded in a cloudy mucus. The city's buoancy is controlled by the aboleth, and it can raise or sink at will. Each building in the city is a spherical single-room structure, half-filled with water and with ledges along the interior walls. Some 300 aboleth inhabit the city, divided into three clans, plus numerous slaves or captives.[17]

The capital in the Darksea is the center of their culture. It is a grandiose structure some three times larger than the city at Deepearth, and is encircled by 36 towers.[20]

The city of Great Shaboath is home to the Grand Savant Aboleth.[21] Here, aboleth inhabit single-story buildings, and the buildings are damp and slimy. The grand savants have the power to track intruders with ease thanks to divination magic. There are many non-slave inhabitants here, including a baatezu embassy, a powerful mercenary group called The Raveners, a kuo-toa barracks, and an illithid quarter.[22]

Aboleth architecture is heavily inspired by the forms of the great cities of the first aboleth empire: great twisted towers supported by water, melted shapes, and buildings pock-marked with holes to allow water currents to pass through. In rare cases, some cities are built upon the surviving ruins of one of the first cities, and those surviving original buildings are treated with great respect. Aboleth cities are disquieting and alien to outsiders.[4]

One lake may house several aboleth cities. At least one lake in the Underdark houses four cities, who compete with each other by having slaves battle.[23]

In Faerûn, following the Spellplague, a group named the Abolethic Sovereignty established a capital in the floating city of Xxiphu in the Sea of Fallen Stars.[24]

Some managed to travel to space, with mind flayer allies construction ships for the aboleth as part of an alliance on the planet Falx.[25] Sleeping aboleth are known to secretly inhabit the world of Talos.[26]


The aboleth are powerful, and fear no natural predators.[15]

The aboleth hate most land-dwelling species.[6] They particularly attempted to eradicate the deepspawn, without success.[27]

The aboleth are particular enemies of the sapphire dragons.[28] Deep dragons are known to favor the aboleth as food.[29]

Although aboleths have on occasion been known to deal with the drow, they often refuse to collaborate. The aboleth do not respect the drow ambition as rulers of the Underdark, while the drow dislike the fact that mind-controlled are aboleth slaves are resistant to the drow's source of power: fear. Aboleth also commonly capture drow as slaves, and the notion of losing free will to mind control particularly terrifies the drow.[30][31]

Allies and minions[]

Aboleth inhabit the Brine Flats, realm of Demogorgon, where they serve in his armies.[32]

The ixzan are friendly with the aboleth, and usually subservient to them.[33] Aquatic species in general are more likely to form successful alliances with the aboleth. The ixitxachitl, kopru, and kuo-toa are commonly selected for alliances, while the aboleth show a great deal of respect to the powerful krakens.[4]

Non-aquatic minions often employed by aboleth include enslaved adventurers, baatezu, constructs (particularly elder eidolons, truly ancient machines surviving from the first cities), derro, and oozes.[4] They may also acquire all manner of minions, including a thoon hulk, or ally themselves with the enigmatic and powerful star spawn.[34]

The mind flayers, openly hostile to most species, peacefully coexist with the aboleth for little-understood reasons. Legends suggest a connection between their two species, and occasional alliances form between groups of the two species.[8] The aboleth respect for the mind flayer is influenced by the fact that no aboleth has any memory of where the mind flayers came from, and this worries them.[4]

Aboleth often hold numerous slaves in their cities. Escape is difficult, due to the deep and remote locations of these cities.[8] They may use slaves to lure in new victims.[23] Slaves are also employed as spies.[35]

The skum are are an aquatic species bred by the aboleth as a slave race.[36]

The Grand Savant Aboleth of the city of Shaboath created the shaboath golem, a water golem.[21]

The aboleth are suspected to have created the death minnow, a bright orange deep sea fish.[37] They are also speculated to have created the slyths.[38]


The aboleth, in general, do not worship any god.[8] While they rationally acknowledge the existence of deities, they deny that any being deserves worship. The concept of faith is alien to the aboleth.[4]

However, a few serve as priests of the demon lord Juiblex (also known as an aspect of Ghaunadaur), believing that he is responsible for maintaining their membranes and environment, and that he will one day reward them with ancient magical secrets.[39] A number worship Yeathan, god of the depths of the sea.[32] Yet others revere Tharizdun, who might be considered an Elder Evil. Such worship is more akin to an alliance with a god to gain power, although many aboleth consider the following of a deity to be treasonous. A few aboleth even serve as druids.[4]

Although most aboleth do not engage in worship, most hold a special reverence for the Elder Evils, the beings more ancient than themselves. Among them are Bolothamogg, Him Who Watches From Beyond the Stars, who they revere by leaving large open spaces in their construction; Holashner, the Hunger Below, who they honor by building spindly protrusions or tangled buildings; Piscaethces, the Blood Queen, who is said to bless aboleth savants with their spellcasting ability,[14] and is revered by construction of large domed red crystal windows; Shothotugg, Eater of Worlds, honored by the placement of pools or vortex patterns; and Y'Chak, The Violet Flame, revered by building huge magical pillars of flame which are used to send signals or mark time.[4]

Cults occasionally arise which worship and aboleth.[5][40] One might inhabit a flooded abandoned mine, where it attracts a cult of followers.[41]


Aboleth have a complex spoken language, spoken through multiple orifices along their flanks, which they also use to breathe and spew mucus. It is practically impossible for a creature with only one mouth to speak the aboleth language, except for the simplest of words, although respectable attempts have been made using musical instruments.[4]

Aboleth savants use a complex writing system known as aboleth glyphs, which can also be manifested as a powerful form of magic. This system of magic is highly revered for its ability to defend an aboleth city from invasion.[14] As a written language, it is etched into stone or metal tablets using thick acids, using crystal thimblelike writing instruments which fit over the aboleth's tentacles. All four tentacles are used to write a character at the same time . The written language includes hundreds of thousands of detailed hieroglyphic-like symbols.[4]

Aboleth names vary greatly in complexity. Known names for aboleths or aboleth cities (their language makes little distinction between the two concepts) include Dupapn, Mavad'Nidhuned, Nevek'Dithasig, Sochsna, Torop'Jethixur, and Urdol.[4]



Aboleth typically have no need of equipment, although aboleth savants particularly covet magic items.


Aboleth may keep treasure at the bottom of a deep underground lake, where it is difficult for non-aboleth to recover.[42]


Aboleth oil is used as a form of contact poison.[43] A potent ingested toxin made of spider eggs and aboleth slime is known as the calling.[44] Aboleth slime concentrate is a toxin invented by the aboleths themselves which reduces the target's resistance to psychic attack.[45]

Aboleth mucus clouds are used as an ingredient in the potion of domination.[46]

Mages of the Underdark have been known to bind spell books in aboleth hide.[47] At lest one extremely valuable set of weighing scales was created from aboleth bone.[48]



The aboleth are one of the most truly ancient of species, pre-dating the existence of humanity,[49] and even the gods themselves. Countless millions of years old, they have seen the rise and fall of worlds. Only the Elder Evils, a group of nightmarish primordial entities (including among them the progenitor of the aboleth race), are certain to be older than the aboleth.[4]

The first primal aboleth was created when the Elder Evil Piscaethces, who the aboleth call the Blood Queen, brushed against the Material Plane for some unknownable reason. Piscaethces quickly abandoned her creation and left the material world. All aboleth, possessing a kind of perfect genetic memory, can remember this moment.[4][50]

In the world of Eberron, aboleths are said to have first spawned from the deep after the progenitor wyrm Khyber was bound in the planet's depths.[51] Some credit its creation directly to Khyber, while others credit an aquatic daelkyr lord.[52]

In the Nentir Vale, aboleth are believed to hail from the Far Realm.[53]

The connection between the aboleth and the Far Realm was mentioned in Wizards Presents: Worlds and Monsters (2008), p.78, in a sidebar by the Far Realm's creator Bruce R. Cordell. His suggestion was that the aboleths in our world were a remnant of a failed colonization attempt prior to the Dawn War.


The aboleth built their first great empire when the earth was still a barren volcanic rock, the skies blotted out by ash and dust, and the oceans expanses of boiling water. After establishing uncontested dominion across the world, they turned to the creation of living things, with the ultimate goal of automating away the boring tasks of maintaining their empire.[4]

There they made creatures of gradually increasing intellect: first constructs, oozes, and elementals, eventually producing vermin, animals, magical beasts, and finally humanoids. The aboleths' creations were twisted and monstrous in form, as fitting the aesthetic of the aboleth. For millions of years thereafter, the aboleth ruled over a world inhabited by living beings crafted in their own image.[4]

Finally, after millions of years, the great aboleth empire fell. The reason is uncertain (even the aboleth do not care to dredge up such a painful event from their long and deep memories), but it is popularly believed that the aboleths' humanoid slaves rebelled against their masters after discovering a new power: faith. Belief in deities actually caused those deities to manifest, and those gods threw down the aboleth empire for their believers. Alternative theories suggest perhaps that the empire fell due to internal struggle, natural disaster, or destruction caused by the return of the aboleth progenitor.[4]

After millions years more, a handful of surviving aboleth returned to the surface to discover it populated by new land-dwelling creatures, perhaps evolved from their original creations, or perhaps created anew by some deity. The aboleth began enacting long-term plans to conquer and destroy these land-dwelling creatures, which continues to this day. Across thousands of years of forgotten history, the aboleth have raised various empires, though none as great or as long-lasting as their first, and in each case the peoples of the world managed to overthrow them.[4]

Ancient history[]

Aboleth have inhabited the deepest Underdark since prehistoric times.[54]

Long ago, a centuries-spanning conflict known as the Alignment Wars took place between opposing theological coalitions of humans, elves, and dwarves. The ultimate result was that several subraces, such as the drow (or dark elves) and duergar (or gray dwarves) were forced into a subterranean existence, stealing territory from species such as the mind flayers and cloakers. While the kuo-toa likewise came to inhabit subterranean waterways, the aboleth popular was largely unaffected due to the great depths of their lairs, allowing them to retain ultimate control.[2]

Recent history[]

Recently, the kuo-toa race is waning. The aboleth are believed to be responsible, at least in part.[8]

In Faerûn in 1369 DR, a dozen aboleths attacked the city of Waterdeep.[55]

Notable aboleths[]

For a full list of aboleths, see Category:Aboleths.

Related creatures[]

While aboleth physiology has notable not evolved since they were created, in rare cases, they have been known to adapt to different terrain. They include the amphibious aboleth, who survive readily in swamps and marshes and have resistance to drying out; the Stygian aboleth, adapted to the cold of the layer of Stygia in the Nine Hells; and the uobilyth or aerial aboleth, a deeper green-blue colored creature who possess the ability to fly, lack the lawful alignment, rarely take slaves, and make their homes inside artificially maintained clouds.[4] There also exists a very rare saltwater aboleth with bluish skin.[70]

Related spells and items[]

The spell aboleth slime causes the target to be affected as if by an aboleth's slime.[71] The spell aboleth curse similarly affects them.[72]

A savant aboleth created the potion of domination, which gives the drinker visions of an aboleth city and weakens their resistance to aboleth mind control.[73]

Aboleth created a magical spear wielded by the orc priest Argripyek, which makes allies fearless. It is decorated with aboleth glyphs, but weakens the bearer to aboleth mind control.[74]

Aboleth create aboleth grafts, bizarre symbiotic creatures often attached to their minions.[75]

The Stone of Golorr is a rare artifact.

Publication history[]

AD&D 1st edition[]

The aboleth first appeared in I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City (1981). It was subsequently included in Monster Manual II (1e) (1983), p.8. It was detailed in Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (1986).

It was explored in great detail in The Ecology of the Aboleth, Dragon #131 (Mar 1988), p.36-39 by Brandon Grist. That article also introduced the greater aboleth, noble aboleth, ruler aboleth, and the unique grand aboleth.

Aboleth appear in Intrigue in the Depths, Dungeon #12 (Jul/Aug 1988).

AD&D 2nd edition[]

The aboleth appeared in Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989) and Monstrous Manual (1993), p.6. The aboleth savant, powerful aboleth spellcasters, are detailed in Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two (1995).

The aboleth appeared as card #435 in the TSR 1991 Trading Cards set.

Their culture is detailed in Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark (1999). DMGR4 Monster Mythology (1992) briefly refers to aboleth followers of Juiblex.

They appear in adventure modules or sourcebooks a number of campaign settings Dragonlance's DLE3 Dragon Keep (1989), the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2e) (1993), WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins (1990), and LNA2 Nehwon (2e) (1990).

Aboleth appear notably in Dark and Hidden Ways (1990), Night Below (1995), and The Rod of Seven Parts (1996). The savant aboleth introduced in Night Below are extended in Secrets of the Sunless Seas, Dragon #222 (Oct 1995) by Wolfgang Baur. They appear notably in Lair of the Leviathan, Polyhedron #87 (Sep 1993) and Llurth Dreier: City of Ooze, Polyhedron #140 (Feb 2000).

D&D 3rd edition[]

The aboleth appears in the Monster Manual (3.0) (2000), p.15 and Monster Manual (3.5) (2003), p.8-9. A variant psionic aboleth rules set appears in Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004).

The definitive work on aboleths is Lords of Madness (2005), which devotes a chapter to the creatures.

An aboleth encounter appears in the Book of Challenges (2002). They are mentioned in Drow of the Underdark (3e) (2007), p.41 and their society is described in Underdark (3e) (2003). They appear in Beyond the Light of Reason, Dungeon #96 (Jan/Feb 2003), The Styes, Dungeon #121 (Apr 2005), Graymalkin Academy, Dungeon #140 (Nov 2006), and The Lightless Depths, Dungeon #144 (Mar 2007). They particularly appear in the cover of Dungeon #152 (Nov/Dec 2007).

Their connection to mind flayers is mentioned in Tag Team Terror, Dragon #288 (Oct 2001), and their spells are described in Guardians of the Deepest Seas, Dragon #314 (Dec 2003).

Aboleth grafts appear in Fiend Folio (3e) (2003). Aboleth oil as a poison appears in the Arms and Equipment Guide (3e) (2003).

D&D 4th edition[]

Aboleth appeared in the Monster Manual (4e) (2008), p.8-9, which introduced the level 17 brute aboleth lasher, level 17 artillery (leader) aboleth slime mage, and level 18 elite controller (leader) aboleth overseer).

They feature prominently in That Which Never Sleeps, Dungeon #195 (Oct 2011).

Children of Darkness, Dragon #367 (Sep 2008) features the calling, a type of poison made of aboleth slime, as does Assassin Poisons of the Underdark, Dragon #423 (May 2013), which introduces aboleth slime concentrate. An aboleth den appears in Explore Airspur, Dragon #378 (Aug 2009), and the species' lack of connection to the gods is mentioned in Unearthed Arcana: Ignorance is Blessed, Dragon #398 (Apr 2011).

They are detailed in Into the Unknown (2012), p.91, and particularly Underdark (4e) (2010).

The Abolethic Sovereignty of Faerûn is detailed in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008) and Neverwinter Campaign Setting (2011). A city of the creatures appears in City of Aboleths, Dungeon #170 (Sep 2009).

D&D 5th edition[]

The aboleth appear in Monster Manual (5e) (2014), p.13-14.

They have a role in Ghosts of Saltmarsh (2019).

Creative origins[]

The aboleth first appeared in David "Zeb" Cook's I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City (1981), parts of which originally appeared in the 1980 Origins Game Fair. Its inspiration is unknown, although it may have been influenced by blind cavefish or the Lovecraftian mythos.

Reception and influence[]

I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City (1981), which introduced the aboleth, was ranked the 13th greatest D&D adventure of all time by Dungeon Magazine in 2004.


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