The Top 10 Most Iconic Villains in D&D

Whether you want to use a famous villain in your home campaign or just want to learn the lore of the Forgotten Realms, this list highlights the most iconic villains seen in D&D 5th edition.

Adventurers be warned! The realms of D&D are filled with deadly foes of all kinds. In a world where nearly anything is possible, there exist many vile and hateful souls who are willing to do anything for power. From mortals seeking godhood to gods in their own right, these fiends are hell-bent on becoming the most powerful beings in the multiverse if they are not already…

10. The Hourglass Coven - A new addition to the lore of D&D villains the Hourglass Coven is a group of hag sisters residing in the strange and wonderous lands of the feywild. Children of the famed Baba Yaga, these three hags aspired to rule over their own kingdom in the realm. To do this they tricked archfey Zyblina and froze her in time and swiftly took over her domain of Prismeer in the feywild. Each of the three hags represents an aspect of time: past, present, and future which is reflected in their appearance and their lairs.

9. The Xanathar - This paranoid blue beholder controls a network of monstrous bandits who do its bidding on the surface and within the Underdark. The Xanathar is a title that has been claimed by other beholders in the past, the title passing on when a beholder is eventually slain by their successor. The current beholder has a strong affinity for its goldfish named Sylgar and lives a lavish life in its subterranean lair. Though the beast has nearly all the wealth it could desire, Madness and paranoia consume its mind constantly, always seeking to destroy the next threat to its empire.

8. Halaster Blackcloak - Known as the Master of the Undermountain, Halaster has carved out a massive multilayered dungeon filled with all kinds of strange and dangerous monsters and traps. Many treasure seekers enter his domain through the famed tavern, The Yawning Portal, but few make it far, often being slain by its many perils. Halaster's magical prowess has become so famed that he is constantly being sought by other mages, as cruel and mad as he, to gain his tutelage in the arcane. Halaster has taken on many pupils over the centuries, some of the most well-known being: Muriel the Misshapen, Arcturia, and Trobriand the Metal Mage. In an attempt to escape death Halaster created several clones of himself in case he was ever faced with a foe he could not slay.

7. Arch Devil Zariel - Once a noble and powerful angelic warrior for the god Lathander, the god of birth and renewal, Zariel was corrupted to serve as an Arch Devil in the raging Blood Wars. The god of deception: Asmodeus used Zariel's obsession to rid the multiverse of its demonic scourge against her telling her he cared more for her goals than her god. In this blindness, Zareil saw her aims aligned with Asmodeus as his realm of Avernus, the first layer in the Nine hells, had been breached by demon armies. He bestowed the title of Arch Devil to Zariel and trusts her to lead his devilish armies in the endless battles that rage across the plane.

6. Lord Soth - Also known as the Knight of the Black Rose, Lord Soth is a powerful death knight from the D&D world of Dragonlance. Soth was once a good and noble paladin and Knight of Solamnia but fell from grace after an affair with an elven princess named Isolde. Soth fell in love with Isolde after he rescued her from an ogre, shortly after which he had his wife and child murdered to be with the princess. Later on, Isolde became pregnant with Soth’s child but Soth did not believe the child was his, killing her and the baby in his jealousy. Shortly after this, Soth was killed in a fire that consumed his castle. In his undeath Soth was a feared warrior in the War of the Lance, allied to the evil goddess Takhisis in her ambition to take over the world from mortals.

5. Szass Tam -  After a successful life as a red wizard, Szass rose to be a ruler of Thay, a group known as the Eight Zulkirs, Szass was specifically appointed as the Zulkir of necromancy. Szass's ambitions did not end there, wishing to be the sole ruler of the land. He cleverly gained great amounts of power and wealth by sending out adventures to procure powerful magical artifacts for him. Szass's final act in becoming supreme ruler came when he sparked the War of the Zuricks where the other seven leaders tried to stop Szass's takeover. Their efforts were not enough as Szass controlled a massive undead army known as the Legion of Bone. When the war was won Szass became the most powerful being in Thay.

4. Strahd von Zarovich - Perhaps the most famed vampire in Dungeons and Dragons, Count Strahd von Zarovich is the tyrannical leader of the domain, Barovia. His transformation to undeath came when he made a deal with Death, distraught from the rejection by the woman he loved. The woman was named Tayana and she favored Strahd's younger brother Sergi. Strahd later murdered his brother at his wedding causing Tatyana to kill herself in grief. Even after being killed that day by the castle guard, Strahd lived on to rule Barovia absolutely from Castle Ravenloft. Barovia is known as a Domain of Dread, a realm surrounded by deadly mists on an inescapable demi-plane.

3. Acererak - Also known as The Devoured Lord of Undeath and Acererak the Scarlet, this powerful lich was famous for creating one of the most deadly Dungeons in Dungeons and Dragon lore: The Tomb of Horrors. While the ultimate goal for the Tomb of Horrors remains a mystery his most recent plan occurred on the isle of Chult on the world of Toril. Acererak invaded the ancient Tomb of the Nine Gods on the isle and began to feed the souls of Chult's inhabitants to a stillborn god, a creature known as an atropal. The lich acquired these souls with a machine he dubbed the Soul Monger which would trap souls of the departed nearby and stop them from moving on to their afterlife. With the device, Acererak hoped to grow the atropal by feeding it souls, so it could become a fully formed deity who could take over Toril at his behest.

2. Tiamat - Vile goddess of all chromatic dragons, Tiamat has existed since before the First World was made. Tiamat sought to keep the First World only for dragon kind but was eventually struck down and imprisoned by the humanoid deities who took over creation. In the current age, Tiamat is imprisoned in the Nine Hells, on its first layer: Avernus. While the Blood War currently tears across Avernus some of Tiamat's most devoted and powerful warriors plot her eventual release. Tiamat herself is a truly terrifying creature, possessing five heads one of each color of the chromatic dragons. These ancient dragon heads crave wealth and power above all else and wish to see an age where dragons rule creation once more.

1. Vecna - One of the most deadly and vile foes in Dungeons and Dragons, Vecna is a being of humble origin as a caste in the world of Oerth. Vecna began his childhood as a servant for a number of wizards after his mother passed, orphaning him. Guided by a mysterious voice in his head, Vecna sought to learn the arcane arts by stealing into his master's libraries to study. Once confident he had learned all he could, Vecna killed all the mages who lived there. On that day Vecna was again guided by the voice to write his book of vile darkness where all his most wicked ideas were penned. He continued on to conquer many different worlds and planes amassing many followers and servants including a fallen paladin named Kas the Bloody Handed. For his service, Kas eventually rose to be at Vecna's right hand and was gifted a powerful weapon known as the Sword of Kas. This would be the weapon that would take down Vecna when Kas betrayed this master, leading to the downfall of Vecan’s rule. On many worlds, the only remnants of this terrible lich are his eye and severed hand. While he was destroyed in many worlds there are some realms this Vecna grew so powerful he became a god.

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