Hydra (Dungeons & Dragons)

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Type Magical beast
Image Wizards.com image
Stats Open Game License stats
Publication history
Mythological origins Lernaean Hydra

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game, the hydra is a reptilian magical beast with anywhere from five to twelve heads.

Publication history[edit]

The hydra was one of the earliest creatures introduced in the D&D game.

Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1976)[edit]

The hydra was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), where they were described as large dinosaurs with multiple heads.[1]

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

The hydra appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977),[2] where it is described as a multi-headed reptilian monster found in marshes, swamps, and subterranean lairs. The book includes the cryohydra, the Lernaean hydra, and the pyrohydra.

Dungeons & Dragons (1977-1999)[edit]

This edition of the D&D game included its own version of the hydra, in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977),[3] and Expert Set (1981 & 1983).[4][5] The hydra was also later featured in the Dungeons & Dragons Game set (1991), the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991),[6] and the Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game set (1994).

The Expert Set also featured the flying hydra and the sea hydra.

The pig-headed hydra appeared in Top Ballista (1989).

Karakos the Zargosian Hydra appeared in the Hollow World book Milenian Sceptre (1992).

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

The hydra, cryohydra, Lernaean hydra, and pyrohydra appear first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[7] and are reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[8]

The hydra of the Dragonlance campaign setting appeared in the Tales of the Lance boxed set, in the "World Book of Ansalon" booklet (1992).[9]

The aquatic Lernaean hydra appeared in the module, Axe of the Dwarvish Lords (1999).

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

The hydra, cryohydra, Lernaean hydra, and pyrohydra appear in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000).[10] This book included the five-headed hydra, the six-headed hydra, the seven-headed hydra, the eight-headed hydra, the nine-headed hydra, the ten-headed hydra, the eleven-headed hydra, and the twelve-headed hydra.

The hydra is further detailed in Dragon #272 (June 2000), in "The Ecology of the Hydra."[11]

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

The hydra, cryohydra, and pyrohydra appear in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003), with the same number of heads from the 3rd edition Monster Manual.

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

The hydra appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008).[12]


A hydra is an especially deadly monster, since every time a head is severed, two new ones grow in its place.

A hydra is not very intelligent, and therefore usually neutral in alignment. They usually live alone in swamps, and are generally the most dangerous predator in the area they inhabit.

In the Eberron campaign setting, the hydra is the heraldic beast of the dragonmarked House Phiarlan.


The pyrohydra is a relative of the standard hydra that is able to breathe fire from its heads.

The cryohydra is another relative of the standard hydra, this one being able to breathe jets of frost.

Critical reception[edit]

The hydra was ranked tenth among the ten best mid-level monsters by the authors of Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. The authors noted that, within the game, a hydra "rewards a special tactic", that is chopping off its heads, and having another character seal the stumps with fire to prevent its heads from regrowing.[13]

Other publishers[edit]

The hydra is fully detailed in Paizo Publishing's book Mythical Monsters Revisited (2012), on pages 28–33.[14]


  1. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)
  2. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
  3. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson [1974], edited by J. Eric Holmes. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (TSR, 1977)
  4. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson [1974], edited by Dave Cook. Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set (TSR, 1981)
  5. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson [1974], edited by Frank Mentzer. Dungeons & Dragons Set 2: Expert Rules (TSR, 1983)
  6. ^ Allston, Aaron, Steven E. Schend, Jon Pickens, and Dori Watry. Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (TSR, 1991)
  7. ^ Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
  8. ^ Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  9. ^ Johnson, Harold, John Terra, J. Robert King, Wolfgang Baur, Colin McComb, Jean Rabe, Norm Ritchie, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Jeff Grubb, Doug Niles, and Michael Williams. Tales of the Lance (TSR, 1992)
  10. ^ Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  11. ^ Richards, Jonathan "Ecology of the Hydra: Heads and Tales, The" Dragon #272 (TSR, 2000)
  12. ^ Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  13. ^ Slavicsek, Bill; Baker, Rich; Grubb, Jeff (2006). Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-7645-8459-6. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  14. ^ Benner, Jesse, Jonathan H. Keith, Michael Kenway, Jason Nelson, Anthony Pryor, and Greg A. Vaughan. Mythical Monsters Revisited (Paizo, 2012)