Oni, Noble

A while ago I stopped using the term “ogre mage”, and started using the original Japanese name, oni. Ogres and oni have nothing in common, so the original name makes more sense.

I also realized the common oni was scalable, and I like scalable monsters. I developed the idea that oni are commoners, and giving nobles the abilities of wizards makes them pretty darn scary.

Oni, Noble

Frequency very rare
No. Appearing 1d8 (3d4 x 10)
Armor Class 4 (varies by armor)
Move 120′ / 180′ (MC:C)
Hit Dice 5+2 to 10+7
% in Lair 35%
No. of Attacks 1 (weapon) or 2 (claw, bite) or 2 (longbow)
Damage/Attack 1d12+6 or by weapon; 1d8+6, 1d6; or 1d8+6 (x2)
Special Attacks spells, see below
Special Defenses regeneration, spells
Magic Resistance Standard
Intelligence Average to Genius
Alignment Lawful Evil
Size L (8′ to 10′ tall)
Treasure G, R, S

published in & Magazine Issue 11, Creature Feature I: Ecology of the Ogre Mage

Note: This version has been updated and expanded from the published version.


The so-called ogre magi, called “oni” in their own tongue, are a conundrum. Often associated in lore with common ogres, sages note the two species have nothing in common, including size, appearance, intelligence, and magical ability. The two species are quite different, despite the common name. Note that the use of the word “species” is correct – the oni are not the same race as ogres.

The oni are taller than ogres, typically ranging from 7′ to 9′, with rare individuals topping 10′. Most have light brown skins, with blue or green tinges in areas such as the ears and between the fingers. Their hair is blonde tinged with green or blue. Their visage is fierce, having protruding tusks and small horns. The horns are ivory colored, their tusks and teeth bright white, and in contrast their finger and toenails are black.

The oni are similar to many goblinoid races but are not clearly associated with any. Their origins are steeped in mystery.


While the horns are of no obvious combat use the oni may, at extreme need, savage their opponents with their tusks, although this is distasteful to them.

They generally attack once per round using a variety of spears or bladed pole arms – weapons that human sized creatures consider pole arms. These weapons typically inflict 1d12 or 2d6 hp of damage, plus the oni’s strength. All oni are exceptionally strong by human standards and gain +6 damage on all attacks. Most carry huge longbows which fire heavy arrows, all built to utilize their great strength.

Common oni wear metal armor equivalent to chain mail and typically carry shields. Noble oni wear finely crafted hardwood armor that is enchanted to the equivalent of Chain Mail +1, +2, or even +3. They carry a similarly enchanted shield, and their weapons are also typically enchanted to up to +3 value.

Except when defending their homes, they always use good tactics and strategies, and will never sacrifice themselves needlessly, fleeing combat if the odds are against them.


All adult oni regenerate 1 hit point per melee round (lost members must be reattached to regenerate). In addition, they may perform the following feats of magic at will, one power per round: Fly (for 12 turns before resting for 6 turns), Invisibility, Darkness 10′ Radius, Polymorph Self to human (or similar bipedal humanoid form from 4′ to 12′ size). Once each per day they can use the following powers: Charm Person, Sleep, Assume Gaseous Form, and Cone of Cold (8d8 hp damage, forming a cone 5′ diameter at the base, 20′ at the terminus, 60′ long).

Most oni are the common sort. The individuals typically seen by outsiders are 5+2 HD. However, 10% to 20% of their adult population will be noble oni. The nobles are typically more powerful, able to accept or deflect greater damage then their normal brethren, their hit dice ranging from 6+3 up to 10+7. Fueling their greater stamina is magical power – noble oni study human-style wizardry and have magic user spell levels in addition to their innate abilities. They cast their spells at a mastery level equal to their hit dice.

The most common correspondence of HD to MU level ability is depicted in the HD/MU Levels table.

Noble oni maintain wizard-style spell books and must study and memorize their spells as do human magic users. The books are typically 50% to 100% larger and heavier than human books, and Read Magic will always be required to read the spells.

HD/MU Levels table
HD MU Level
6+3 3
7+4 5
8+5 7
9+6 9
10+7 11


Outside of their home, the oni encountered are typically small groups of 1d8 individuals.

They live in clans of 30 to 120 adults, their numbers equally divided between males and females. A clan usually has a number of children equal to the adult population, and the children will have 1 to 4 HD. The older children (4 HD) can and will fight as ogres. Younger children have no effective combat ability.

Their homes are typically hidden in out-of-the way places, difficult to find, and quite dangerous to enter. They have an affinity for stone similar to gnomes and tend to live in caverns or stone buildings. They fiercely defend their homes and children, and never check morale when doing so. Both sexes attack at +1 to hit and +2 hp/die of damage when defending children.

Savants note that the resemblance between oni culture and dwarven culture is strong. Both races focus firmly and clan and family, although the difference in basic ethos produces obvious differences.

The oni tend to avoid non-oni, and interactions with other species take place away from their homes. They do engage in trade, selling finely made metal weapons and armor at premium prices.

The oni live with a stringent code of honor – their worst crime is violating their clan’s code. The letter of their word will always be kept, and their reaction to non-oni breaking their given word is typically fatal to the oath breaker.

The oni keep some lesser races as slaves, mostly to perform manual labor. Their standard of behavior is seen by other species as harsh, but the oni are never, by their own beliefs, unnecessarily cruel. It is usual that a clan will keep a number of slaves equal to that of the adult oni population.

Oni that have been expelled or voluntarily left their clans are an exception. These are few in number but tend to be dangerous beyond their personal abilities. Often these unsavory characters serve as mercenaries or leaders for goblinoids and evil giants, and those expelled for crimes tend towards neutral evil.

Note: It has been discovered that groups of oni have lived in large human cities, disguising themselves as humans using their Polymorph Self ability (see below). But their purpose(s) for living in the cities has never been determined. Were they spying, or just hiding in plain sight?


The oni government is a form of magocracy, with their most powerful wizards as the clan’s ruling council. The ability to use wizardry is apparently inherited, so it is not unusual for leadership to pass from mother to son. The clans are typically widely separated and do not compete for resources, and they engage in trade, including the children of one clan marrying into another.

The few sages conversant with oni customs note that they have no apparent class boundaries – all oni are princes or princesses, and it is not uncommon for a powerful wizardess to marry a common “prince”. It is noted that their species has many romantics, although such may not be obvious by human standards.

Oni typically speak numerous languages, including the local human common tongue, various trade and goblinoid languages, plus their own. Few outsiders speak oni.


Druidic sages note the existence of a variant of oni, a separate race aligned to nature and neutrality. If the oni are very rare, the druidic ones are even rarer. Their appearance differs – it is reported that their brown skin has a green cast to it, as do their horns, and their hair is generally a dark green. Their nobles study druidic lore rather than wizard lore, and have as great an ability in that area as their “normal” cousins.

One story says that the druidic oni who live in desert areas have no green hue to their coloration, but this story is unsubstantiated.

Level/XP Value

I use the 5% Rule Tables published by Len Lakofka in Dragon Magazine. The following provides XP values for both the AD&D and 5% Rule.

The common oni have 5 Special Abilities (missile discharge, regeneration, high intelligence affecting combat, use of minor spells [powers], and cause more damage than like monsters due to strength), and 0 Exceptional Abilities.

Noble Oni also have 1 additional Special Ability (using magic armor or weapon) and 1 Exceptional Ability (spell use).

Hit Dice AD&D 5% Rule
5+2 HD 525 + 6 xp/hp 525 + 6 xp/hp
6+3 HD 1,150 + 8 xp/hp 1,150 + 8 xp/hp
7+4 HD 1,700 + 10 xp/hp 2,800 + 12 xp/hp
8+5 HD 2,800 + 12 xp/hp 4,200 + 14 xp/hp
9+6 HD 4,200 + 14 xp/hp 5,275 + 15 xp/hp
10+7 HD 4,200 + 14 xp/hp 6,350 + 16 xp/hp

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