The MM states:

A monster is defined as any creature that can be interacted with and potentially fought and killed. (MM 4).

However, despite this apparent distinction, both the MM and DMG seem to treat the two terms as synonyms of each other. Even PHB spells such as hold monster state:

Choose a creature that you can see within range... (PHB 251).

Emphasis mine. Are the terms monster and creature actually synonyms? Or is there a difference that the manuals are just ignoring?

  • \$\begingroup\$ In what way specifically do you believe that the the quoted definition separates the two terms? Or is that what you are asking? "Does a creature exist that cannot be interacted with and/or fought?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Jonathon
    Jul 29, 2017 at 16:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @JonathonWisnoski The definition seems to imply that monsters are a subset of creatures, but the way the terms are used in the manuals implies that they are synonymous. It doesn't help that "creature" doesn't appear to be defined anywhere (at least not that I could find). \$\endgroup\$
    – Saladani
    Jul 29, 2017 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why doesn't the MM definition you cite answer your question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    Jul 29, 2017 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire To me, the definition seems at odds with the way the two words are used within the MM, DMG and spell descriptions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Saladani
    Jul 29, 2017 at 18:23

1 Answer 1


Yes, there's a difference

A creature is the superset of that contains monsters. As proof, consider the player characters themselves: they are creatures, clearly, but they are not monsters. Monsters are what you throw at the player characters so they can fight it and maybe kill it.

For specific spells which seem to equate "monster" and "creature" together: note that using a harmful spell against someone, like dominate monster, is an inherently adversarial act. Casting a harmful spell (that is meant to target monsters) at a creature is an act of fighting it, thereby putting that targeted creature into the basket of "monster."

It isn't a very useful distinction

To separate creatures from monsters strictly isn't too useful, if you accept that anyone that the PCs battle is moved to the basket of "monster," because the members of that "monster" set can change. A more useful distinction would be PC vs NPC, protagonist vs antagonist, or ally vs enemy.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since PCs can battle other PCs and of course interact with them, how are they not monsters by definition as well? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jonathon
    Jul 29, 2017 at 21:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonathonWisnoski Do PCs battle other PCs in your games regularly? \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    Jul 29, 2017 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain I am not saying it is common, but the potential is there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jonathon
    Jul 30, 2017 at 1:30

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