Difficult to get to and one of the most overpowered creatures in the monster manual, you’re lucky that you’ll probably never have to fight a ki-rin.
The Ki-Rin is another creature from the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manuals that’s based on mythical creatures from our world. Known as the kirin in Japan or the qilin in China, this legendary animal often has antlers like an antelope and scales like a fish or a dragon, and a quiet nature. And they may be based on real giraffes. They’re incredibly interesting mythical animals that you should definitely read up on when you get a chance, but how do they compare in D&D?
With one single unicorn horn, ki-rin are already a little different than many of their inspiration’s depictions. They’re usually lawful good, and if you’re lucky enough to encounter one of these very rare beasts, they can be very helpful to adventurers with the ability to produce food and water as well as small useable items and even cast spells up to the ninth level. But those high-level spells as well as a vicious hoof and horn attack make them dangerous potential foes.
A ki-rin’s telepathy gives them the ability to read conscious thought and intention, making them impossible to surprise. They can also generate powerful illusions, take on a gaseous form, summon weather and can enter the Ethereal and Astral planes at will. They are perhaps one of the most overpowered creatures in all of D&D, but luckily for you or your DM depending on your party’s playstyle, you’ll likely never run into one.
There are honestly almost no differences between second and third edition ki-rin. In fact, the 2E versions were far more fleshed out and explained while in third they have less than one page total. In general, it seems that ki-rin avoid combat if they can avoid it, only fighting the most evil of spirits, and while their horns are magic, the power disappears when removed from the ki-rin itself.
With legendary actions, a lair, regional effects, high powered spell casting ability, and a natural armor AC of 20, the ki-rin seems very much like it should be the big-bad at the end of your adventure. But due to their good nature and the common belief that they bring good fortune, your party probably won’t actually want to fight one of them. If anything, you’ll want to seek out the ki-rin for guidance or help, but only the most tenacious dare to climb to the highest peaks where ki-rins like to make their home and change the weather at will.
Have you encountered a ki-rin in your D&D adventures? Do you know much about the mythological creatures that the D&D versions are named for? Would your character risk the climb up the erratic weather mountain for a chance to have an audience with a ki-rin or would they prefer to stay on the ground? Let us know in the comments!