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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Waldman

Monster Monday #16: Qilin

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

Happy Monster Monday everyone! I'm continuing with my Zodiac-inspired monster choices, and in the last poll both Virgo and Libra were tied for the top, and so I have Libra's choice this week, and will have a crack at Virgo next Monday! Seeing as Libra is so closely associated with themes of justice, lawfulness and balance I wanted a creature with heavy ties to those themes and here is my choice - the Qilin! Also known as the Kirin, it originates within Asian mythology and is a legendary, chimeric being famous for its appearance during the arrival or passing of important figures, as well as being innately able to judge a person's character at will and dole out divine justice against evil. It is certainly a fanciful creature too, said to be made up of lots of different beasts and accounts of its appearance vary. Many cite it as having the head of a dragon with either a single horn or the antlers of a deer, being covered in scales, and having the hooves of either a goat, ox or horse.

The image of and word 'Qilin' became heavily associated with Giraffes during the Ming dynasty after the explorer Zheng He took a trip to Africa and procured some for the Emperor. Its alternate names Kirin, Giren or Gilen are found to describe the creature in Japanese, Korean and Thai mythology as well as being tied to the modern day Giraffe. Despite their fearsome appearance, Qilin are known to be very peaceful creatures that do not enjoy violence or harming life. They punish only the wicked, and have been known to preside over court appearances thanks to their abilities in knowing the true intent of a person's actions. There are many depictions that also associate them with fire, with either parts of their bodies being covered in flame or being wreathed in flame and smoke. Buddhist depictions of the creatures highlight their docile natures, and even have them walking on the clouds or water so that they do not harm the grass.

The Qilin is a specific creature in the Chinese 'Lin' family of one-horned, mythical beasts. There are others within that family that are similar. The Xiezhi for example resembles an ox or a goat with dark fur and a single horn protruding from it's forehead. It is known for distinguishing guilty from innocent just as the Qilin does, though is a little more violent in its approach and skewers the wicked, particularly hunting corrupt officials. The Pixiu are also hybrid creatures that are commonly associated with wealth. They resemble lions, and the males (known as Tiānlù) are said to have single horns also. Many comparisons have been drawn between the Unicorn of western myth and the Qilin, as it is also a creature known for its innately good nature, with horse or goat-like features and a single horn on it's forehead.

In modern day media, the Qilin has made an appearance or been the inspiration for creatures or lore countless times. In the Pokémon universe, both Suicune and Arceus are inspired by it in both their look and actions. It is available as a summon within the Final Fantasy games as well, resembling a western Unicorn with two horns upon its head. The forest spirit in Princess Mononoke bares some resemblance to it also, and the creature has even made a special appearance in the animated My Little Pony series with some references to it's fiery powers. In live-action cinema, the Kirin made an appearance in 47 Ronin too, as well as the very recent Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.


So - time for some stat blocks? I'm really excited by what I have lined up!

First up, let's take a look at the obvious choice - the Ki-rin (Volo's Guide To Monsters, page 163).

This CR 12 Huge Celestial is a powerful being, and clearly directly based on the real-world mythology surrounding the creature. I think it does a fantastic job of representing some of the key aspects of it! To start with, it has a lot of innate magic and powerful spellcasting, and the kinds of spells found match a lot of the folklore (particularly the peaceful, Buddhist depiction) very well. Its ability to fly at 120 ft. per round make its speed very intimidating, but even on land a 60 ft. movement speed is nothing to scoff at! All the on top of Legendary resistances, a horn and hoof attack combo, and Magic resistance live up to the CR of such a creature. I also love it's Legendary actions - its ability to make Perception or Insight checks definitely match the lore of being able to innately know who is innocent and who is guilty. The regional effects that a Ki-rin resident will have upon an area was also really interesting to read about!

Next up, Wizards Of The Coast also have a Unicorn stat block (Basic Rules, page 351).

At a CR 5, this Large Celestial is a bit of a step down from the Ki-rin and I think would be an excellent substitute when placed in an encounter with lower level parties, whether you are planning combat or for it to aid them in some way. It is very much designed to support, with plenty of healing magic and abilities available to it, as well Teleportation and a Shimmering Shield legendary action. It can still do some serious damage however, with a Charge ability that allows it to add additional damage on top of its Horn attack. It cannot fly and perhaps lacks some of the elemental links within its spells, but it does have some pretty cool lair actions going for it too!

So now I thought I'd have a little fun and pick something a bit more out there, this time from Kobold Press. The Sarsaok (Tome Of Beasts II, page 313) is certainly a very interesting choice for the job!

When looking at this CR 7 Huge Monstrosity, it certainly doesn't aesthetically fit the script for a Qilin stand in. It is not a chimeric beast, being pretty much solely a bull. It has too many horns also. But what I liked was the base stat block, and its potential for a more fiery, wrathful version of the creature. Its Divine Horns, Charge, and Gore attack all mean that if you wanted a more combat-oriented version of the Qilin, you could get that here and flavour it as a single horn or antlers. Secondly, the stat block has two great fire-based abilities - Heated Body and Immolating Purge. If you are choosing a Qilin wreathed in flames then look no further than here. Lore-wise, the Sarsaok looks very intimidating but is actually quite peaceful and is a divine creation of the Gods. There is so much potential here, the look of the beast just needs some tweaking! For something of a similar vibe, perhaps also consider checking out the Aatxe (Creature Codex, page 6-7) for a stat block that puts a lot of focus on a guardian protector of sorts that might be fun to play around with!

Outside of these sources that I love, I found a great option in Dragonix's Monster Manual Expanded III for a Ki-rin Foal (page 169), which is a CR 6 version of the Wizards Of The Coast stat block and would make a fantastic baby version of the creature, or lower power encounter. Legendary Games are definitely including a Kirin stat block in their Asian Monsters book that I have yet to get hold of, though if the picture of it on the front cover is anything to go by then it will be EPIC. Metal Weave Games have done a little work in their Atlas Animalia and accompanying Stat Block book on some variant Unicorns and the CR 4 Okapi Unicorn (page 164 and page 100) reminded me a lot of the association that the original mythical beast has with the giraffe. Its abilities and lore are also about promoting peace and prosperity within its chosen home too, which works out rather well. I would also recommend using their Baby Bestiary book (page 42) for reference if you are looking to introduce a Kirin Foal to the party to take care of and raise.


So we have some great stat blocks to draw from, now its time to look at hooking your players! Here's some ideas to draw from!

  1. While travelling, a powerful, evil threat attacks the party and threatens to overwhelm them, but they find themselves saved by a Qilin that gives them some information on how they may be able to eliminate it once and for all.

  2. The party visit the palace of an important ruler and find that they are accompanied by a beast that knows whenever the party are lying and is able to sense any evil deed that the party members have performed in the past.

  3. The party stumble upon a group of powerful criminals that have captured the foal of an odd looking creature covered in golden fish scales and with the legs off a goat. It telepathically begs the most divine or innately good of the party members to return it to its parent.

  4. The party are sent to a village to track down a criminal that has been hiding there. Little do they know that living amongst its people is a creature that has sworn to protect all residents within the community and will not take kindly to the threat that they pose.

  5. While travelling, a strange being made entirely of fire appears before them and tells them that it has been sent to hunt one of their beloved NPCs, for a terrible crime committed long ago. If they agree to give up their friend and help it in the name of justice, it will be a valuable ally in the future. If not, they will incur its wrath.


I hope you enjoyed this latest Monster Monday post! Have you ever heard of the Qilin? Do alignment-based creatures such as this one feature heavily in your games? Let me know!

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