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Sahuagin, from the original Monster Manual (1977).
First appearanceBlackmoor (1975)
TypeMonstrous humanoid
AlignmentLawful Evil

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, sahuagin are an amphibious and fish-like monstrous humanoid race living in warm seas and oceans. Their strong bodies are covered in hard darkgreen scales with black fins, they have long muscular tails and are well-adapted to an aquatic life. Their bestial mouths are lined with shark-like teeth and their webbed hands and feet are also sharply clawed. Sahuagin are commonly referred to as sea devils and they are indeed ferocious hunters and carnivores, killing both for sport and food. Where they are found, sahuagin are feared for their attacks on ships and nightly raids on coastal settlements.

Sahuagin live in hierarchical and patriarchal societies, ruled by autocratic kings. Female sahuagin can only gain status through the highly respected sahuagin priesthood, a religious matriarchal cult, that all sahuagin worship and respect. The priesthood ensures that the devilgod Sekolah (He Who Eats) are satisfied and revered properly.

All sahuagin speak their own racial tongue, simply known as "sahuagin", but those of higher than normal intelligence can also speak a couple of other languages, usually Common and Aquan.

Sahuagin is pronounced saa-WHO-ah-gen,[1] or sah-HWAH-gin.[2]

Publication history[edit]

Sahuagin were created by Steve Marsh, a gamer who invented many of the game's early aquatic monsters (Gygax 1977, p. 4.) before becoming an employee of TSR. Marsh claims that an episode of the Super Friends cartoon was the original inspiration for the creatures.[3]

Original Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

The first published version of the sahuagin appeared in the 1975 Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Blackmoor by Dave Arneson. Here, they are known as the "Devil Men of the Deep", voracious creatures that are a constant threat to humans.[4]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition[edit]

The sahuagin appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977),[5] where they are described as "seadevils" that dwell in warm salt water depths, and are predatory in the extreme and kill for sport and pleasure as well as food.

The sahuagin appeared in the first set of Monster Cards in 1982.

Three related adventures which formed an underwater campaign set in the town of Saltmarsh and utilized the Sahuagin heavily. These modules were U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (1982), U2 Danger at Dunwater (1982), and U3 The Final Enemy (1983).[6]

Basic Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

This edition of the D&D game introduced the shark-kin in AC9 Creature Catalogue (1986),[7] which was reprinted in DMR2 Creature Catalog (1993).[8]

The shark-kin were presented as a playable class in PC3 The Sea People, in "The Sea People's Book" (1990).[9]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition[edit]

The sahuagin appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[10] and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[11]

The book The Sea Devils (1997),[12] along with the accompanying article in Dragon #239, "Sneaky Sea Devils",[13] and the Monstrous Arcana module series that accompanies it, greatly develops the sahuagin further.

An article in Dragon #250 (August 1998), "Heroes of the Sea", presented the Malenti, the mutant offspring of the sahuagin, as a player-character race.[14]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[edit]

The sahuagin appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000).[15]

Dungeons & Dragons v3.5[edit]

The sahuagin appears in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003).

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

The sahuagin appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008).[16]

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition[edit]

The sahuagin, sahuagin priestess, and sahuagin baron appear in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2014). They are also referenced in the introductory text of the Triton race, found in Volo's Guide to Monsters.


Sahuagin are usually green skinned, darker on the back and lighter on the belly. Many have dark stripes, bands, or spots, but these tend to fade with age. An adult male Sahuagin stands roughly 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and weighs about 200 pounds (91 kg). Sahuagin are highly fish-like, with webbed feet and hands, gills, and a finned tail. There is additional webbing down the back, at the elbows and, notably, also where human ears would be. One in 216 specimens are a mutation with four usable arms instead of two. These four-armed mutations are usually black, fading to gray in color.

The appearance of the Sahuagin has changed somewhat since its inception in 1975. Originally the Sahuagin frame was more like that of the aquatic elf not possessing a tail and having a similar skeletal structure to humans. This early interpretation of the Sahuagin is apparent in sources like the first edition Monster Manual (page 84), various images throughout the AD&D Module U3: The Final Enemy, "Monster Cards" illustrated by Erol Otus and in the sculptures of early lead miniatures from several companies. With the advent of AD&D second edition and such products as The Sea Devils, the Sahuagin changed its appearance greatly. Newer artwork now depicts the sea devils with long finned tails and a skeletal structure more fish-like (long slender webbed fingers and toes, and a large dorsal fin) and much less humanoid. The exact origins and reasons for this inconsistency is unclear but it may have its origins in the Sahuagin's swimming speed and artist's concerns with producing a viable creature to fit the swimming speed of its RPG game stats.

In D&D third edition, Sahuagin are shown with much more pronounced fishlike characteristics, especially for heads. From the images in the D&D 4th edition Monster Manual, it appears that some sahuagin have tails. In D&D 5e, sahuagins are depicted with long thick tails.


Sahuagin are the natural enemies of aquatic elves. The two cannot coexist peacefully: wars between them are prolonged, bloody affairs that sometimes interfere with shipping and maritime trade. Sahuagin have an only slightly less vehement hatred for tritons. Precisely why the two races hate each other so much is unknown, but what is known is that the presence of an aquatic elf community within several miles of a sahuagin community occasionally causes some sahuagin to be born as malenti; mutants who resemble aquatic elves.

They also hate the Kuo-toa, another fish-like race, though the two races have been known to ally.

Multiple births are frequent among them. Sahuagin deal very harshly with offspring who are not robust or aggressive enough—they are eliminated by compulsory fighting to the death between young sahuagin. Sahuagin seem fixated on all aspects of consumption, and are eager to weed out anything they see as weak or unworthy to compete for resources. Savage fighters, sahuagin ask for and give no quarter. When swimming, a sahuagin is able to tear with its sharp feet, using them as weapons. About half of any group of sahuagin are also armed with nets. Since there are many illustrations of sahuagin wielding spears, these would seem to also be favored weapons.


Sahuagin worship Sekolah, the lawful evil god of sharks, as their patron deity and the father of their race. They also perceive him as the ultimate adjudicator and incarnation of punishment, officiating over an endless struggle between mythic figures. These figures are the hunter "He Who Eats" and the hated "It That Is Eaten", with the struggle between them reflected in every aspect of life. Because of this, sharks are seen as holy creatures to them, and dolphins are hated for their friendship with aquatic elves. The sahuagin make regular, living sacrifices to Sekolah by feeding the sacrificed being to the sharks that follow every sahuagin priest. In the first edition of the Monster Manual mention of being "devil worshipers" is likewise made on page 84. This also suggests there may be fiendish cults that venerate other diabolical gods not yet known.

In the Forgotten Realms Moonshae trilogy by Douglas Niles, the sahuagin priestess Ysalla worshipped Bhaal, the Lawful Evil deity of Death and Murder.

Campaign settings[edit]


In the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, sahuagin are known to inhabit the Azure Sea, and once threatened the Keoish coastal town of Saltmarsh in the 570's CY. The sahuagin laid siege to a lair of lizardfolk and drove them out of their home. The sahuagin converted this lair into a base of operations from which to launch an attack on Saltmarsh. The buildup of sahuagin forces caused an alliance to be formed between the citizens of Saltmarsh, an aquatic elf tribe (the Manan), a tribe of mermen, a tribe of locathah, and the original lizardfolk who were driven from their home.[citation needed]

Forgotten Realms[edit]

One origin story explains that a Dark Elven wizard's desire to become a god resulted in him utilizing experimentation to create the Sahuagin. He ensured that the Sahuagin were created from, and the natural enemies of, the aquatic elves. This was explained in the "Secrets of Blood, Spirits of the Sea" By Elaine Cunningham contained in the forgotten realms novel, "Realms of the Arcane".

In Faerûn, sahuagin are known to live in the Sea of Fallen Stars. In the eastern parts of this large inland sea, somewhere in the Alamber Sea, and before the Spellplague changed the planet's geography, the sahuagin ruled the underwater Kingdom of Aleaxtis and wreaked havoc on seafarers and the coastal towns of Unther.[17]


  1. ^ Williams, Skip. The Sea Devils (TSR, 1997)Page 47
  2. ^ "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  3. ^ Appelcline, Shannon. "Product History", Monstrous Arcana: The Sea Devils for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition (for digital-only re-release on Drive-Thru RPG). Retrieved Jan. 31, 2019
  4. ^ Arneson, Dave. Blackmoor (TSR, 1975)
  5. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
  6. ^ Browne, David J, and Don Turnbull. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (TSR, 1982); Danger at Dunwater (TSR, 1982); The Final Enemy (TSR, 1983)
  7. ^ Morris, Graeme, Phil Gallagher and Jim Bambra. Creature Catalogue (TSR, 1986)
  8. ^ Nephew, John. Creature Catalog (TSR, 1993)
  9. ^ Bambra, Jim. The Sea People (TSR, 1990)
  10. ^ Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
  11. ^ Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1994)
  12. ^ Williams, Skip. The Sea Devils (TSR, 1997)
  13. ^ Williams, Skip. "Sneaky Sea Devils". Dragon #239 (TSR, 1997)
  14. ^ Wyatt, James. "Heroes of the Sea". Dragon #250 (TSR, August 1998)
  15. ^ Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  16. ^ Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  17. ^ See Old Empires, p.7 and others..


  • Skip Williams (1997): The Sea Devils, TSR.
    Sourcebook on the Sahuagin race, written for AD&D 2nd edition.

Further reading[edit]