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5 Deadly Diseases for Your Campaign in D&D 5e

The world of Dungeons & Dragons is filled with dangers, but the greatest danger of all might be lurking within your players, waiting to take hold. Diseases are a great way to create mystery, tension and intrigue in your D&D campaign!

What are the some diseases in D&D 5e?

  • Sewer Plague
  • Eye Rot
  • Cackle Fever
  • Madness
  • Homebrewed Diseases (Anything you can come up with!)

Each of these has unique symptoms, cures and effects. Knowing which disease to use at what part in your campaign can increase drama and emotion. And if your players ever “outgrow” these, you can always create your own diseases.

Sewer Plague

Symptoms & Effects

Want to travel the city quickly and stealthy? The sewers are a great option, but, not always the safest. Diseased rats and other creatures live in the sewers of cities, carrying deadly diseases.

After being bitten by a creature infected with Sewer Plague, the player must make a DC 13 Constitution Saving Throw. On a failed save, the player is infected with Sewer Plague, but does not experience symptoms until 14 days later.

Players infected with Sewer Plague suffer 1 point of exhaustion, receive half healing from expending hit dice and receive no healing from a long rest.

After each long rest, infected players must make a DC 11 Constitution Saving Throw, on a failed save player gains one level of exhaustion, a successful save reduces the player’s exhaustion level by one. If the exhaustion level is reduced to 0, the player recovers from the disease.

Cures for Sewer Plague

Sewer Plague is cured when the player’s exhaustion level is reduced to 0. Exhaustion levels are only reduced after players make a successful Constitution Saving Throw (DC 11) after each long rest.

This disease can also be cured by a Lesser Restoration spell or by the Paladin ability Lay on of Hands. The spells Healing Word and Cure Wounds have no effect on this disease.

Eye Rot

Symptoms & Effects

Adventurers rely on their sight to spot potential danger and attack enemies. Found in swamps and bogs, Sight Rot is an extremely painful disease. The most prominent symptom of Sight Rot is bleeding from the eyes which eventually causes the victim to go blind.

A player can become infected with sight rot if they ingest contaminated water, intentionally or unintentionally (such as being dragged under water during combat).

When a player drinks water contaminated with Sight Rot, he/she must make a DC 15 Constitution Save to avoid becoming infected. If infected, the next day the player’s eyesight begins to deteriorate, giving them a -1 penalty on all attack rolls and any ability check that relies on sight.

With every long rest after the symptoms first appear, the disease worsens (feel free to provide descriptions of the blood in the eyes and the pain it causes for the characters to role-play). After a long rest, the penalty increases by -1, until it reaches -5 then the player suffers from the Blinded effect.

Cures for Eye Rot

If the players have proficiency in Nature or Medicine, they can roll to see if they know the disease and the cure (DC 13 recommended). On a successful roll, the players know the effects of Sight Rot can be negated with an ointment created from a rare flower, called Sight Bright. Sight Bright is found in some swamps and I recommend a DC 15 Survival or Nature Check to find it (once per day). A player with proficiency in Herbalism can turn 1 flower into 1 dose of ointment in one hour. Applied to the infected player’s eyes before a long rest, the ointment prevents the player’s condition from worsening. After 3 doses of the ointment, the player is cured.

Note: The Dungeon Master’s Guide doesn’t specifically state if the disease itself can be cured through magical means. Lay on of Hands and Lesser/Greater Restoration do specify they can cure one disease or ailment, but if you want to make this disease curable only with Sight Bright, it could add flavor and a neat side quest to bind the party together.

If blinded from Sight Rot, a player remains blinded until healed by magical means (the flower will NOT cure blindness). Blindness can be cured by a Lesser Restoration or Heal spell or by the Paladin ability Lay on of Hands.

(Note: If you want to make this more challenging, you can require a Greater Restoration spell) Healing Word and Cure Wounds have no effect on this disease.

Cackle Fever (The Shrieks)

Symptoms & Effects

Everyone loves a good laugh…until you can’t stop.

This disease targets humanoids, however, Gnomes are immune, and victims of this disease are often taken with fits of mad laughter. The book does not specify where this disease is found, but I would suggest the following:

  • In the lair/tower of a mad wizard that has been sealed off for years players notice a strange, slightly moldy smell.
  • A large, magically locked chest found deep in a cave depicts scenes of people writhing on the ground holding their sides. The rogue finally manages to unlock it, the box contains nothing but old, moldy clothes.
  • The party enters a seemingly deserted town. Suddenly, they see a person come out of a building, walking toward them, arms outstretched, laughing madly.
  • A villain knows he/she has been beaten, as he retreats, he throws a device that emits a strange smelling gas. Oddly, the gas has no immediate effect.

When exposed to Cackle Fever, players must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution Throw, on a failed save the effects of the disease manifest 1d4 hours later. An infected player gains one level of exhaustion that cannot be removed until the disease has been cured.

In addition, players with Cackle Fever must make a DC 13 Constitution Saving Throw anytime they experience stress (such as entering combat, taking damage, experiencing fear, having a nightmare, entering a dangerous area, etc.). On a failed save, the player takes 1d10 psychic damage and becomes incapacitated with mad laughter for 1 minute.

The player may repeat the saving throw at the end of its turn each round of combat to try to end the effect early. Any player that starts his/her turn within 10 feet of the laughing player must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution Saving Throw or become infected themselves.

Once a player succeeds on a saving throw against that individual’s laughter, he/she becomes immune to that individual’s laughter for 24 hours.

(If more than one member of the party is infected, the player is not immune to the other players mad laugh, but only the one he/she succeeded against.)

Cures for Cackle Fever

At the end of each long rest, the infected player must make a Constitution Saving Throw (DC 13), on a save, the DC saving throw for the mad laughter is reduced by 1d6. The disease is cured when the DC drops to 0. After three failed saves, the player gains 1 indefinite madness trait from the chart below, this effect becomes a permanent character flaw.

Cackle Fever can also be cured with a Greater Restoration spell or a Paladin’s Lay on of Hands ability. Cure Wounds and Healing Word have no effect.


There are many reasons why a player might slowly go insane. Such as making a deal with an evil entity in exchange for power, (if this sounds cool, see my post on making deals with devils!) losing someone close to them (although that NEVER happens. Haha..ha…..ha), or even just the stresses of daily adventuring, potentially deadly encounters, or a near death experience.

Whether it is a disease such as Cackling Fever (above), or witnessing a truly horrific event, players can suffer from various madness induced ticks, the effects of which can last from minutes to a lifetime.

When to Use Maddness

Although there are many reasons a player could go mad, it is still a serious effect that should not be used without careful consideration.

When your party experiences something truly horrendous, such as a human sacrifice or the slaughtering of an entire village, or if they encounter a spell or magical item that can break the psyche of the wielder, the player should roll a Wisdom or Charisma Saving Throw, with a DC based on the intensity of the event itself.

For example, if a player witnessed a dragon burning the village in which they grew up to the ground, the DC might be high (13-16) because of the personal nature of the atrocity; however, witnessing the slaughter of an Orc village to which the player has no connection might be lower, such as DC 8-10.

Types of Maddness

There are three main categories of madness: short term, long term and indefinite. Short term madness lasts 1d10 minutes, the effect is random based on the chart found on page 529 of the Dungeon Masters Guide.

d100 Effect (lasts 1d10 minutes)
01–20 The character retreats into his or her mind and becomes Paralyzed. The effect ends if the character takes any damage.
21–30 The character becomes Incapacitated and spends the Duration screaming, laughing, or weeping.
31–40 The character becomes Frightened and must use his or her action and Movement each round to flee from the source of the fear.
41–50 The character begins babbling and is incapable of normal Speech or Spellcasting.
51–60 The character must use his or her action each round to Attack the nearest creature.
61–70 The character experiences vivid hallucinations and has disadvantage on Ability Checks.
71–75 The character does whatever anyone tells him or her to do that isn’t obviously self-­destructive.
76–80 The character experiences an overpowering urge to eat something strange such as dirt, slime, or offal.
81–90 The character is Stunned.
91–100 The character falls Unconscious.

Long Term madness is a random effect from the chart found on page 260 of the Dungeon Masters Guide and lasts 1d10 hours.

d100 Effect (lasts 1d10 × 10 hours)
01–10 The character feels compelled to repeat a specific activity over and over, such as washing hands, touching things, praying, or counting coins.
11–20 The character experiences vivid hallucinations and has disadvantage on Ability Checks.
21–30 The character suffers extreme paranoia. The character has disadvantage on Wisdom and Charisma Checks.
31–40 The character regards something (usually the source of madness) with intense revulsion, as if affected by the antipathy effect of the Antipathy/Sympathy spell.
41–45 The character experiences a powerful delusion. Choose a potion. The character imagines that he or she is under its Effects.
46–55 The character becomes attached to a “lucky charm,” such as a person or an object, and has disadvantage on Attack rolls, Ability Checks, and Saving Throws while more than 30 feet from it.
56–65 The character is Blinded (25%) or Deafened (75%).
66–75 The character experiences uncontrollable tremors or tics, which impose disadvantage on Attack rolls, Ability Checks, and Saving Throws that involve Strength or Dexterity.
76–85 The character suffers from partial amnesia. The character knows who he or she is and retains Racial Traits and Class Features, but doesn’t recognize other people or remember anything that happened before the madness took effect.
86–90 Whenever the character takes damage, he or she must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be affected as though he or she failed a saving throw against the Confusion spell. The Confusion effect lasts for 1 minute.
91–95 The character loses the ability to speak.
96–100 The character falls Unconscious. No amount of jostling or damage can wake the character.

Finally, indefinite madness lasts until cured. A random effect from the chart also found on page 260 which becomes a new character flaw.   

d100 Flaw (lasts until cured)
01–15 “Being drunk keeps me sane.”
16 – 25 “I keep whatever I find.”
26–30 “I try to become more like someone else I know—adopting his or her style of dress, mannerisms, and name.”
31–35 “I must bend the truth, exaggerate, or outright lie to be interesting to other people.”
36–45 “Achieving my goal is the only thing of interest to me, and I’ll ignore everything else to pursue it.”
46–50 “I find it hard to care about anything that goes on around me.”
51–55 “I don’t like the way people judge me all the time.”
56–70 “I am the smartest, wisest, strongest, fastest, and most beautiful person I know.”
71–80 “I am convinced that powerful enemies are hunting me, and their agents are everywhere I go. I am sure they’re watching me all the time.”
81–85 “There’s only one person I can trust. And only I can see this special friend.”
86–95 “I can’t take anything seriously. The more serious the situation, the funnier I find it.”
96–100 “I’ve discovered that I really like killing people.”

Cures for Madness

Calm emotions can subdue the effects of madness for a time, but it cannot cure long-term or indefinite madness. Lesser Restoration can cure short- and long-term madness but only a Greater Restoration spell can cure indefinite madness.

Note: Depending on the cause of the madness, you may choose to have no cure for the player’s madness or to make the cure harder to obtain, such as a Wish spell.

Creating Your Own Disease

If you want to create your own disease or use a common disease, such as malaria, use the following guidelines:

Incubation Time

How long does it take for your disease to take hold? Hours? Days? Weeks? Roll 1d4 or 1d6 to determine the minutes, days or weeks it takes for the symptoms to begin to appear. Also think about how the disease spreads and how quickly. Are others in danger of catching this disease from the infected player?


The most common symptoms for most diseases are fever, disorientation, and exhaustion. Depending on the disease, you can give the player penalties for ability checks requiring strength, wisdom, or dexterity.

For example, if the player is suffering from a disease that makes them feel weak, they would have a -1 or -2 penalty to all strength ability checks, depending on how long they have been sick. Likewise, a player suffering from a high fever that is making them delusional would have disadvantage on all perception checks.

Give your disease a tell-tale symptom, like Sight Rot’s bleeding from the eyes, or Cackling Fever’s mad laughter. It could be as simple as black veins spreading from a wound or coughing up blood. Whatever the symptom, it should get the player’s attention and be identifiable.

Symptoms should also worsen over time, eventually leading to a permanent effect or death. Saving throws are useful for determining if the player gradually gets better or worse, make sure to set a specific DC ahead of time. Common diseases should have low DCs while rare diseases should be much higher.

Curing the Disease

Don’t let your players use magic as a “get out of everything free” card. Some diseases are curses from the gods and, as such, cannot be cured with mortal magic. Other diseases are rare, or particularly aggressive, meaning players must find another cure before time runs out. What is the cure for your disease? Is there a cure?

Don’t be afraid to make the players seek out powerful Clerics or Paladins for a cure for the disease afflicting their friend. Perhaps the Cleric needs certain materials to craft a cure and the players must go gather what is needed before time runs out.

Diseases can be a great way to add threat and tension to the game without relying on combat. Depending on the size of the outbreak, a disease can even be a major plot point. Perhaps an angry lesser god has cursed a region with a disease until a stolen artifact has been returned to his shrine. Or a deadly, long extinct disease is released to wreak havoc on the world when the party opens a tomb which has been sealed for centuries. Monsters are fun, but nothing quite hits the heart and fears of a party like seeing first hand the devastation of an incurable disease.

I hope this has given you some ideas to add challenge and role-play to your game.

Until next time,

may your game have advantage, my friends!

-Halfling Hannah

Creating Balanced Encounters in Dungeons & Dragons 5e

Monster encounters are the heart of Dungeon & Dragons, but even after years of DMing I was still struggling to create thrilling encounters. However, once I realized what I was missing, everything changed.

How do you create balanced encounters in Dungeons &Dragons 5e? You should carefully consider these areas of encounter building to keep combat fun, interesting and balanced:

  • Monster Challenge Rating and Abilities
  • Your Party Level and Size
  • Encounter Challenge Level
  • Terrain and Maps
  • Impact and Purpose

If you are looking to build encounters that make your party’s hearts skip a beat, (I am talking about encounters that are the stuff of legends in your campaign) then you need to consider these aspects carefully. Some of these you may already know, but some of these you might be leaving out, like I was. Ignore even one of these and your encounters will never reach their full potential.


Monsters by Terrain

The first thing to consider before you start building an encounter is the terrain in which your party will be fighting. The terrain will determine the monsters your party could encounter. The most common terrains are:

Forest & Jungles

Here nature rules supreme. Among the thick foliage and tangles of vines, adventurers are sure to find wildlife in its most natural forms. Common to normal forests are wolves, giant eagles, ankhegs, and bears. However, forces of evil often like to corrupt forests, twisting them into places of horror. Common in these types of forests are tree blights, giant spiders, and dire wolves.

Jungles are home to more tropical creatures, such as snakes creatures like Yuan-Ti and frog types, like Grungs. Creatures like these and many others rely on the thick, uncharted jungles to protect them from prying eyes and provide them the water and warmth they need to survive.


High above the earth in rocky outcropping and perilous cliffs, monsters scrap a living out of stone. Here Peryton rule the sky, searching disparately for human hearts on which to feed and Stone Giants create works of art within the mountain’s stony face. Here your party is sure to encounter a harpy, chimera, troll, or maybe even a dragon..


Wide, flat, grassy plains can give players a sense of security. After all, they can see for miles! Nothing could seek up on them here. What they don’t see, stalking towards then in the tall grass, is the swishing tail of a lioness getting ready to pounce, or the bandits patiently waiting for night to fall..

A variety of creatures and people roam the plains. From buffalo and farmers, to Rocs and bandits. Weather is also especially dangerous in the plains where there is no place to hide. Strong winds and storms often sweep through the plains, leaving destruction in their wake.

Oceans & Lakes

Whether you are running a nautical campaign, or your party just wanted to try out their new “Water Breathing” spell, you should know that it is a whole new world under the waves. Under water is the hunting grounds for Merrow and Merfolk alike, as well as the domain of Sea Hags. Some creatures your party could encounter under water include sharks, dragon turtles, Kuo-Toa and Sahuagin.

If you need a complete guide to under water combat, you’ll want to check out this article I wrote, Everything You Need to Know About Underwater Combat 


Adventuring below the surface world? Your party will find fresh horrors every hour they traverse the Underdark. Here, everything is out for blood. From Giant Fire Beetles to Intellect Devourers, everything is poised to kill. Depending on how deep your party goes, they could run into Purple Worms, Piercers, Ropers, and bats toward the surface. Deep below is the realm of Mind Flayers, Fire Snakes and Fire Giants.   


Even cities boast their share of monsters, though they are better hidden. Underground sewer systems are a great place for swarms of disease carrying rats (see more on disease in this post of mine! 5 Deadly Diseases for Your Campaign in D&D 5e) 

Walking the streets of cities, or posing as chief politicians are doppelgangers, devious shapeshifters who can be found in every land and culture. Of course, your party will also have to watch out for pickpockets and drunks looking to start a fight, which are a bit more typical.

Dungeons & Castles

Of course, what would Dungeons & Dragons be without dungeons! Encounters in this terrain are especially fun as a mad mage could have put anything in a dungeon! Not only are your monster choices unlimited, but so are your terrain choices! You build the dungeon, meaning you can include whatever elements you want. It’s good to be the DM!

Some of my favorite monsters for dungeons and castles include Oozes and Gelatinous Cubes (classic!), Shadows, Rug of Smothering, Mimics, Beholders and Hell Hounds.

Each of these areas has it own set of monsters and creatures, a few of which I listed. You can find even more monsters for each terrain type in the Monster Manuel and Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Don’t have these yet? You can pick them up on my DM Must Have page.

Each terrain also has its own unique set of limitations and perks, which I will get to later on in this article. 

Understanding Monster Challenge Rating & XP

Each monster encounter you create will have a difficulty level for your party based on the monsters’ Challenge Rating (or CR). The higher the CR, the more experience points (or XP) players will receive from defeating it and the more difficult it will be to bring down.

The CR and XP of monsters can be found in the box just below the stat box (circled in the picture below). When building encounters, you will want to use XP to get an idea of how difficult the monster will be for your party. But more on that a little later.

Understanding Monster Abilities

Every monster has unique abilities it can use. In the example above we see the Nilbog can cast several spells at will, without components, and can charm creatures that try to harm it. Nilbogs also have the reaction “Reversal of Fortune” that allows it to reduce incoming damage to 0 and regain 1d6 health.

The Nilbog on its own doesn’t look like that tough of a creature, after all, it only has 7 hit points (HP), but these abilities make Nilbog difficult to deal with, thus giving it a higher challenge rating than your typical goblin.

When picking monsters, you need to pay attention to the monster’s abilities and use them. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in games where the DMs didn’t understand or use monster abilities, and then wondered why the encounter was so easy! Often times monsters have high CRs because of their abilities, not just their HP.

If you want your encounters to be challenging and interesting, use the monster’s abilities! These abilities create epic moments in campaigns by bringing surprise, fear, and anticipation to the table.

Use the Unusual

Encounters can get a bit stale after the second or third time your party has encountered a monster. If your party is having to fight off wolves every night while traveling through the woods, you can bet your next wolf encounter will be met with groans, not excitement.

As a general rule, I try to not have my party encounter the same monster twice in the same story arc. I also like to scale up my monsters with my party, so instead of using the same low CR monsters in greater numbers, I use less of the higher CR monsters.

While this method certainly takes more preparation on my party, it creates excitement every time I bring out a battle map, because the players don’t know what they are facing. There are plenty of monsters available, so there is no fear of running out. If you do though, you can always create your own!

I also try to avoid the usual fare, even at low levels. While there is a place for kobolds and goblins, they can get repetitive and boring. Don’t know what to use for low level players? Check out my post on 10 Monsters for Your Level 1 Party (that aren’t goblins). Just looking for something new? Try my post on 5 Monsters to Encourage Role Play

There are tons of cool and unique monsters out there for your players to encounter. Don’t get in a monster rut, try something out of the ordinary!

Consider Your Party

While monsters are one half of the equation, your party is the other. You can’t just go through the Monster Manuel and pick out a bunch of cool monsters and throw them at your party willy-nilly. You need to know what your party can handle. To do that, you have to do some math (I know! Just stay with me! We will make this as painless as possible.)

Calculating Your Daily Adventuring Budget

Adventuring is hard work and, most likely, your party will have multiple encounters between each long rest. To understand just how much your party can take in one day, you need to do some math.

Wizards of the Coast provides a chart, based on experience levels of your party, which will give you the experience per level per day for each member of your party. Here are the first 5 levels, for higher levels look on page 56 of the “Basic Rules” guide here:

Adventuring Day XP

Level Adjusted XP per Day per Character
1 300
2 600
3 1,200
4 1,700
5 3,500

Adding up each player’s daily XP limit and then adding all the players’ together will give you your party’s XP budget for the day. Every encounter you throw at the party will deduct from this pool. When the party has no more XP for the day, they will likely be out of spells, out of hit points, and in need of a long rest.

Knowing your party’s daily XP limit is very helpful when planning encounters. This is the number your will refer to when looking at monster XP while building encounters. This number tells you what your party can handle each day. This can help to balance not only individual encounters, but the pace of encounters as a whole.

Party Size

The bigger your party, the more XP in their budget for the day, the more they can handle. A party of 8 first level players can handle more or tougher monsters than a party of 4. Keep this in mind when building encounters!

Using the chart above, we can see that a party of 8 first level players will have an XP budget of 2,400 XP vs. the party of 4 first level players with a total of 1,200 XP. Just because a party is 1st level, doesn’t mean they can’t fight higher level monsters.

Party size has a large impact on what kinds of encounters you should be creating. Larger parties can handle more difficult monsters, while small party of any level can’t handle as much.

Understanding Your Party’s Abilities

Running an appropriately challenging encounter is far different from running a balanced encounter. To be balanced, you shouldn’t set up your encounters so that the wizard’s cool new spell isn’t effective at all, but you also should be keeping track of spells and abilities that can completely negate a carefully crafted dungeon.

You want your party to feel like heroes, but you also want them to earn the title. Here’s an example from experience:

I was running a mini campaign where all my players made one shot characters at level 10. They were all heroes of the Platinum Dragon and had been called together from the four corners of the world to defeat a great and raising evil.

Drow had kidnapped an entire village of gnomes and taken them, alive, into the Underdark.

The party pursued and it led them to the temple of Lolth in what looked like an abandoned, rotting city. As they entered the temple, they faced a long room with a raised platform at the other end. On the platform was an alter attended by a Priestess of Lolth, two wizards, two Driders. Along both sides of the room ran raised platforms, each held 10 Drow (for a total of 20 Drow), each with 2 gnomes chained beside them. As the adventures entered, the Drow killed all the kidnapped gnomes as a Priestess of Lolth chanted a dark incantation.

Drider D&D 5e

The party charged in and managed to kill the Priestess, but only after she had completed her spell. The warlock stood on the platform and saw that as the Drow drew on the platforms with the slaughtered gnomes blood, arcane symbols began to light up on the walls and floor of the chamber. The other party members killed the wizards and Driders, one party member falling in the fray.

All out of spells, the warlock focused his energy on the remaining Drow on the platforms and proceeded to cast Eldritch blast… for the next hour…knocking each of the Drow off the platforms and keeping them off before they could complete the ritual.

He was able to do this because he took the warlock ability Eldritch Evocation which makes Eldritch Blast push enemies back 10 feet.

I had neglected to look at this feature when creating this final encounter, so I was completely unprepared and had left my Drow in the open with nowhere to hide from this attack.

This led to a very unbalanced fight where the fighters and barbarians were dying, but the warlock didn’t even take damage because he sat in the corner blowing everyone away.

This campaign ended disappointingly and certainly lacked the epic nature of a true boss fight, all because I failed to make my encounter balanced. The CR rating was right on, it was a deadly encounter, but I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to my party’s abilities and ended up sorely disappointed by the results.

Remember, a deadly encounter rating doesn’t automatically make for an epic fight.

Encounter Terrain

Wherever you are fighting, you need to know the terrain. Plan out (preferably on paper or in a map builder) exactly what the area looks like. Plan out the features, know what is in the area, this is critical to making epic encounters, not epically frustrating ones.

Know the Limitations & Perks of Your Terrain

Is the area cramped, limiting movement? Is the party fighting precariously close to the edge of a cliff? The terrain of the battle greatly affects player options, choices, and possible outcomes, and can be a source of great frustration if not explained.

Each type of terrain will have its own limitations and advantages. Its your job as the DM to know what they are in your specific situation and adequately explain them to your players. Set the stage for the encounter. Describe the details of what the players see around them that they could use or that they need to avoid. If they are in an enclosed area, such as underground, tell them (or draw for them) exactly how much room they have from side to side and from floor to ceiling.

Players like to be, and should be, creative in how they deal with monsters. By telling them exactly what they have to work with, you will encourage that creativity within your confines, not create frustration by constantly telling your players what they can’t do.

Using Terrain for Your Advantage

The terrain may be foreign to your players, but it certainly isn’t to the monster. The monster has lived here its whole life and is perfectly adapted to life here, what might that look like?

Does it have a cave nearby it could retreat to if hurt? If intelligent, has it set traps? Does it know of a certain area it likes to lead prey that is filled with sinking sand or poisonous mold? The possibilities are limitless!

Truly great encounters use the terrain as much as they use creatures. The terrain can give even weak monsters the upper hand in combat, especially if the players are not familiar with the area.

Using Terrain to Help Your Players

Occasionally, you may have an encounter in mind that you know will be difficult, even deadly for your players. Perhaps it is just a little over their limit, and you want to give them every advantage you can to win. Terrain can be a great way to do this without fudging rolls (cause, who does that? ha. ha…)

Creating terrain that your players can use both encourages their creativity and could give them a place to hide if things go way south. Whenever possible, I love to include places for my rogue to hide, boxes, crates and barrels for my wizard to fling around (and loot later) and objects dangling from the ceiling for the ranger to shoot.

These aspect of the terrain add life to my battle map and options for my players. You can do this a variety of ways, but in the end, what you want is a place for them to get 3/4 cover and objects for them to use as missiles. The objects themselves change based on where the encounter takes place, but the purpose remains the same.

Lair Actions

Some monsters are powerful enough that the terrain responds to them. These “Lair Effects” cause the ground to shake, air to freeze or torrential winds to blow depending on the monster. Here are some monsters whose lairs have their own effects:

Ancient Blue Dragons

  • Part of the ceiling collapses above one creature that the dragon can see within 120 feet of it. The creature must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage and be knocked prone and buried. The buried target is restrained and unable to breathe or stand up. A creature can take an action to make a DC 10 Strength check, ending the buried state on a success.
  • A cloud of sand swirls about in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on a point the dragon can see within 120 feet of it. The cloud spreads around corners. Each creature in the cloud must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be blinded for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
  • Lightning arcs, forming a 5-foot-wide line between two of the lair’s solid surfaces that the dragon can see. They must be within 120 feet of the dragon and 120 feet of each other. Each creature in that line must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 10 (3d6) lightning damage.

Night Hags

  • One creature the hag can see within 120 feet of her must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or be banished to a prison demiplane. To escape, the creature must use its action to make a Charisma check contested by the hag’s. If the creature wins, it escapes the demiplane. Otherwise, the effect ends on initiative count 20 on the next round. When the effect ends, the creature reappears in the space it left or in the nearest unoccupied space if that one is occupied.
  • The hag targets up to three creatures that she can see within 60 feet of her. Each target must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be flung up to 30 feet through the air. A creature that strikes a solid object or is released in midair takes ld6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet moved or fallen.

Regional Effects

Legendary creatures have an effect on the area around them, causing regional effects by there mere presence. Such effects could be any of the following:

Difficult Terrain

Make an area within the lair difficult terrain until the top of the next round.

Obscure Sight

Make an area within the lair obscured until the top of the next round.


Objects appear that ensnare creatures within the lair (or on hostile action). Dex save to avoid, Str (Athletics) / Dex (Acrobatics) to break free.


The lair shakes or does something that knocks characters prone if they fail a Dex save.

Light Changing

Magical darkness or light that can block normal and darkvision, etc.

Heal Dampening

Stop a target, or targets from healing for the round.

Spell Dampening

Make spell effects act as if targets have advantage on saves, or resistance to the damage type.

Effect on Enter/Exit

Perform a single action, ability, or spell effect on entrance or exit of the lair.

Using Maps & Miniatures

As much as I LOVE theater of the mind, some times a map is just necessary to fully convey the scene. Whenever I can, I use battle maps, miniatures and models during my encounters.

While Dungeons are amazing (learn how to make your own here!) For every day encounters, I simply don’t have the time to create full battle models. Instead, I rely on my trusty old, grid battle map. Using wet erase markers, I can draw out the confines of the encounter area and my players know exactly how far they can move, who will be in the path of fireball and where the monsters are located.

I love to use monster mini’s, when I have them. I get WizKids unpainted minis and paint them myself to save money. (See my top recommend miniatures and paints on my DM Must Have page as well as check out my painting tutorials here!)

However, because I like to us unusual monsters, it can sometimes be hard to find the miniatures I need. When I don’t have what I need, I just use marker beads to represent the space the monsters would occupy and go into detail with my description.

Finally, I use hand molded and painted miniatures of barrels, crates, and other objects as needed. I love to use these because they add flare to the scene, but they also let the players know exactly where things are located around the room.

To see how you can make your own, check out my Crafts & Mini’s page!

Encounter Challenge Level

Here’s where we bring it all together. To know just how much your party can handle, you will need to do some math using your character’s experience point budget and the monster’s CR and XP.

There are four levels of encounter difficulty:

Easy: doesn’t tax the player’s resources and holds no real threat to the players

Medium: Usually has one or two scary moments, but you and the players know they will be fine.

Hard: This could go badly if not done well. Weaker characters will struggle and one or two players be downed.

Deadly: Just like it sounds. This encounter holds a real possibility that one or more players might die.

To know which category your encounter falls, add up the XP for each character by their level, and you will have a one encounter XP threshold for each level.

XP Thresholds by Character Levels

Character Level Easy Medium Hard Deadly
1 25 50 75 100
2 50 100 150 200
3 75 150 225 400
4 125 250 375 500
5 125 500 750 1,100

This process can get a little complicated, so let’s look at an example.

A party of 4, 1st level players would fine an encounter with a total of 100 XP (4 x 25 XP) to be easy, 200 XP (4 x 50 XP) to be medium, 300 XP (4 x 75 XP) hard and 400 XP (4 x 100XP) deadly.

Deadly is the MAXIMUM single encounter your party can handle. This is a one-time boss battle when they are fresh. Anything below that will fall into easy, medium or hard encounters. If you run an encounter at the party’s max, someone will probably die. It is considered a deadly encounter. It is perfectly fine and even encouraged to run deadly encounters at critical moments, but keep in mind they carry serious consequences.

Understanding Monster Multipliers

If your encounter includes more than one monster, you will need to apply a multiplier to more accurately judge the difficulty of the encounter. More monsters means more chances to hit, thus raising the difficulty of the encounter. Use the following chart when calculating encounters with multiple monsters.

Number of Monsters Multiplier
1 X 1
2 X 1.5
3-6 X 2
7-10 X 2.5
11-14 X 3
15 or more X 4


1 wolf = 50 XP

2 wolves= 125 XP (50 + 50 x 1.5)

3 wolves= 300 XP (50 + 50 + 50 x 2)

Encounter Examples by Difficulty

So, what does this mean in terms of enemies? In the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide (pages 306-309) Some basic monsters are listed by CR and XP. Using this, we can see possible encounters at each difficulty level for our party of 4 players, all at level 1:

Easy encounter (100-150 XP): 2 wolves (50 XP + 50 XP x 1.5) or 3 Kobolds (25 XP +25 XP + 25 XP x 2 )

Medium encounter (200-250 XP): 1 Bugbear (200XP), or 2 zombies and 1 kobold (50 X + 50 XP + 25 XP x 2).

Hard encounter (300-350): 1 Hobgoblin and 2 Giant Rats (100 XP + 25 XP + 25 XP x 2).

Deadly encounter (400-450 XP): 1 Wererat (450 XP) or 1 Dragon Wyrmling (450 XP)

Remember, each encounter you run during a day of adventuring pulls out of your daily budget. At level one, a party of 4 would have a daily XP budget of 1,200XP.

If you used both easy encounters listed above, this would take away 300XP from this budget, leaving me with 900 XP for the day. This means, in theory, you could still do 2 hard encounters during this day. However, consider your party’s resources before maxing out the daily XP budget.

Unless your party is comprised of veteran Dungeon and Dragons players, this amount of combat in one day will be exhausting to everyone. Just because the party, could handle it, doesn’t mean you should throw it at them.

Keep in mind that sometimes your players roll poorly and take more damage than they should in an encounter. Sometimes they will simply not think and the combat will be more difficult, other times they will have a brilliant idea that makes a medium encounter easy.

Use the XP budget as a guide, not as an end-all-be-all on what the party will face in a day.

Make it Meaningful

Finally, if you want to build better encounters, you need to make them meaningful. I don’t just mean profitable, though encounters should provide some kind of loot, that shouldn’t be the only motivation for them. Each encounter you create should have a purpose.

Using Encounters for Plot Twists

Sometimes you want to shake the status-quo or throw in a wild twist, encounters can be a great way to do that! After battling and capturing the leader of an enemy tribe, your party might find out they are being lied to and used by the village elder. Or perhaps they find out a monster they have been sent to kill, isn’t really that monstrous at all..

Encounters don’t have to solely focus on killing, they can be great plot devices that provide shock value and even change the course of your campaign!

Using Encounters for Story Progression

My favorite way to use encounters is as story progressions. I plan major encounters throughout the course of the story. During or after the encounter, players get the next piece of the puzzle they are trying to unravel.

This helps me have guideposts to the main story line, lets me plan my battle maps and miniature purchases (#DMbudget) and provide meaningful encounters regularly. But, this isn’t the only way I use encounters to progress the story. I also have my PC (player characters) stories I want to grow.

Each encounter, even if “randomly” triggered, has some kind of purpose in my campaign. If I can’t see a purpose to it, I don’t run it. Simple as that. The purpose isn’t always as grandiose as revealing the villain of the story, but there is always a purpose.

For example, if my level one party enters the Dark Wood for the first time, they will encounter wolves, spiders and other low level creatures. Why? Because they are need to know that the wood is full of danger, but I don’t want to kill them…yet. After this first night in the woods, I won’t use these low level creatures again, there purpose has already been served.

The secret to creating better encounters is to give each encounter its own purpose.

Building encounters is both the blessing and bane of every DM. When they go well, it makes you feel like a champion, when they fall flat, there isn’t much worse. If you are looking to build better encounters that your players will be talking about for years to come, this is a great place to start.

Until next time,

may your game have advantage, my friends!

-Halfling Hannah

Casting Dungeons: What I Wish I Would Have Known

Casting Dungeons & Models: What I Wish I Would Have Known

Most likely you have seen the amazing models created by Matt Mercer on Critical Role or maybe you have filled your Pinterest board with hand-cast and painted D&D accessories. You keep thinking about how great it would be to hear your players exclaim when you pull up a battle map filled with stone ruins or a wizard’s crumbling castle. Perhaps you are standing on the edge of this decision, just about to take the plunge… Before you buy the molds and plaster and start the long, dark descent into the world of dungeon casting, allow me to tell you all the things I wish someone would have told me before I hit the point of no return.

This list is NOT intended to stop you from casting and building your own buildings and dungeon sets, as a matter of fact, I am enthusiastic in expressing how much I love this hobby to anyone who will listen! This is simply the truth of what you should expect to spend on this hobby. Hopefully, this will allow you to make an informed decision about whether or not this hobby is right for you.

#1. The (Real) Cost

I thought the only cost I would have to start creating my own custom dungeons and buildings was the cost of the molds and a little plaster. I was so very very wrong. First of all, it is worth mentioning that the molds themselves are fairly expensive, at least for my small budget. If you think you can get away with only buying one mold to have on cost, you should know you will be casting that mold 15-30 times or more for just one build. You can do this (I did) but be prepared for a single dungeon to take you 2-3 months to build.

No, this is not an exaggeration. This happened to me. You will need multiples of each type of mold for buildings and at least three floor molds. At $25-$40 a mold, this alone can get pricy. Once you have purchased all the molds for the cavern your players are exploring, suddenly they are leaving the caverns and you need all new molds to create rocky terrain or a village. There is never really an end to this rabbit hole. Trust me.

The next expense I didn’t fully take into consideration was the plaster. I innocently thought I could just use Plaster of Paris for all my molds, which I could purchase in bulk at the hardware store for just $12 a sack. Except…Plaster of Paris produces low-quality casts, no matter how careful and meticulous you are. Not to mention these low-quality pieces also break and chip VERY easily, revealing the ugly white plaster under your excellent paint job.

Because they chip and break easily, pieces made from Plaster of Paris cannot be stored together. The jostling against one another over time will reduce your pieces to dust. The solution is to use high-quality dental stone instead of normal plaster. Dental stone produces exceptionally clear casts and is incredibly durable, but it is also expensive. 12 pounds of dental stone costs $60, compared to 20 pounds of Plaster at $12. You will need every bit of 12 pounds to create one full-sized dungeon with accessories. Constantly buying dental stone to make pieces becomes a reoccurring expense I didn’t consider when I first started out.

Paint. If you are already painting your own miniatures, this will not be an additional cost to you, but if you have never painted minis before and are looking to also buy paint and brushes along with your molds and plaster, this will be another expense you may not have considered. Quality crafting paints can get pretty pricy, make sure this is accounted for in your budget.

#2. Time

I was not fully prepared for the massive amount of time this hobby would demand. I knew it was work, but I was expecting a full dungeon to take one weekend, not two months. Granted, I only had 1 set of molds and this drawback can be somewhat mitigated by purchasing several molds at the same time, but, even so, casting, painting, and assembling a full dungeon or village will take significantly longer than you think.

Firstly, you must cast the pieces, which doesn’t seem so bad until you take into consideration the amount of time it takes to set up, clean after each cast, and cure. Dental stone only takes about 20 minutes to harden to the point it can be removed from the mold, but it takes 24 hours to fully cure before pieces can be painted and glued together. This means that IF you can cast all the pieces you need for your project in one day (which is a BIG if) you cannot even begin assembling and painting them until the following day.

After casting and curing, the pieces need to be assembled. Most pieces are in sections in the mold and require gluing together to make a full piece, like a cavern wall, for example. This doesn’t seem like it would take long to do, except that you just cast over 200 pieces of cavern wall which you let cure overnight. Now all those pieces are mixed together, and you have to play the worst game of “Where’s Waldo” you have ever experienced.

All of them are the same color, all of them look like they could fit, none of the letters turn out clear enough to see without examining. Sure, you could be a super-organized person and sort each tiny piece when it comes out of the mold, but by about the 10th round of casting, it just isn’t going to happen.

Finding and assembling all the pieces, letting the glue dry, and priming the pieces will take another full day. And then…there’s the painting.

I love painting miniatures. I really do. That’s part of why I wanted to start building my own dungeons. But there is nothing fun about painting the same cavern wall the same way 200 times. It is tedious. It is tiring. If you don’t’ LOVE painting, you will HATE your dungeon before it is even halfway completed.

Painting my cavern dungeon consumed every spare minute of my life for a MONTH. Again, I don’t regret it, but you need to be prepared for this to happen. If you are looking for something quick and easy, look at some other options. Don’t make this kind of commitment, you aren’t ready. Trust me.

#3. Market for Selling

“Well, yeah, this is expensive now,” I reasoned with myself, “But I can sell dungeon sets and dice towers and make enough to support my hobby!” Looking back, I would say “oh. You poor, sweet, innocent thing… “Yes. You can do this, and I have done this, but it is not easy. People always love the accessory pieces and dungeon sets, but the price tag is hard for most of them to swallow. You have the cost of the molds, dental stone, and hours upon hours of time to try to pay for. It would be more than fair to sell that massive set for $300-$400, but that rarely happens. After working for a month on a dungeon set, it will tear out your soul to sell it for $100, but I have found few are willing to pay more than that.

Yes, they will say it is worth more than that. They will even say how much they want it, but the reality is most of us gamers is broke. Few of us have the cash to spend on a dungeon set we will probably only use once.

If you are considering selling online to expand your customer base, the shipping fees will kill you. I once sold a dungeon set for $100 with free shipping only to find out that dental stone is really heavy. I paid $60 in shipping cost and lost a lot of money on the deal. Now, I focus on selling accessory packs with treasure chests, campfires, doors, and other essentials DMs will use again and again regardless of the setting of their specific campaign. I price them at $40 and still have some trouble moving them.

Again, this isn’t a big deal if this is a hobby you can afford, but if you are counting on selling pieces to pay for the initial purchase like I was, then this is good to know.

#4. Storage

Pieces. Pieces EVERYWHERE. In tubs, on the table, in the garage. Pieces that were extra after a build, pieces curing to be painted, pieces being painted. Painted pieces we aren’t using. They will consume you! Go ahead. Try to keep them organized. I dare you. If you figure it out, please, teach me! I am a simple person with 0 organizational skills, and I wish I would have fully realized just how difficult it was going to be to store everything.

Before you think a few tackle boxes will fix your problems, let me tell you, it isn’t just the pieces. Where are you going to put all that dental stone you bought in bulk to help lower the overall cost? What about your collection of paints? You need a space where you can easily find what you need. Not to mention paintbrushes, paper towels, water cups, mixing containers, the molds themselves, and countless other small items needed to create stunning pieces. My hobby room has quickly become overrun and, to my husband’s dismay, I began to expand into other parts of the house.

Even now with minimal inventory, my room is a mess with paints, brushes, pieces, molds, and countless other items I use to create effects on my models. If you have a small space to work, or a spouse who is a minimalist, enter this hobby with caution.

Player Experience

There is nothing quite like bringing out a dungeon set or a village or even just a few accessories, and hearing your players ooh and aww. There is something about models that makes players want to up their game. When players can see where they are and with what they are interacting, it encourages role play and creativity like few other items can.

I truly believe the player experience can be greatly enhanced with the addition of just a few items on a standard battle map. Boss fights become legendary affairs when a full-size dungeon set is involved. I have even noticed that my players will interact with NPCs in taverns more if they can see them than if they are only described.

Build a standard tavern which you can use every time your players go into an Inn or bar and put random miniatures around the room as NPCs who whom the party can interact. Most players will talk with NPCs, perhaps even gaining needed information to move the story forward, if they can physically see where they are in the tavern. Something about seeing it in front of them prompts them to move or at least helps them remember they aren’t the only ones in the place.

Final Thoughts

This hobby is expensive. This hobby is time-consuming. This hobby is space consuming. But this hobby is incredibly satisfying. The satisfaction that comes from doing an incredibly difficult task well has few equals.

Having a treasure chest or dungeon you have worked hard on for months admired by others makes you stand a little taller. Just the knowledge that what you have created will be used and enjoyed for years to come is worth the time and money spent. If this deep and profound satisfaction isn’t what is driving you, I would suggest looking into some other methods of providing visuals to your group, such as these quick, easy, budget-friendly builds!

If you are ready to embark on this challenging but rewarding adventure, then I have plenty of tips and tricks to help you be successful!

Whatever you decide to do,

until next time,

may your game have advantage, my friends!

-Halfling Hannah

Everything You Need to Know About Underwater Combat

At some point, your players will likely want to try out the spell “Water Breathing” and will venture into the ocean, a river, or lake. Which means, you are going to have to know how to run combat underwater.

The idea of running combat underwater terrified me as a new DM! But it turns out the rule are intuitive, and it turned out to be one of the best adventures in the campaign! So don’t worry, its not as complicated as you might think!

How do you run underwater adventure in Dungeons & Dragons 5e? Here are some the rules to remember:

  • Unless a creature has a swim speed, its movement is halved
  • After each hour of swimming, a creature must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution Saving throw or gain 1 level of exhaustion
  •  Melee weapon attacks have disadvantage (exceptions: dagger, javelin, shortsword, spear, or trident)
  • Ranged weapon attacks made outside of the base range automatically miss
  • Unarmed strikes have disadvantage
  • All creatures fully immersed in water have resistance to fire damage
  • a player can hold his/her breath for a number of minutes equal to 1+ their Constitution modifier (minimum of 30 seconds).
  • A player can last the number of rounds equal to his/her Constitution modifier (minimum of 1) when they run out of oxygen before they drown.
  • When a player begins to drown, their hit points fall to 0 at the start of their turn and they cannot receive the benefits of a healing spell or potion until they are able to breath again.

Movement Underwater

While in the water, movement speed is halved. Each foot of movement requires two feet of movement speed. For example, if a player normally has a movement speed of 30 feet, then he/she can only move 15 feet while in the water. This rule does not apply to players who have a swim speed.

It is also good to remember that while in water, players can move omnidirectionally as if they were flying. Players can move up, down, or diagonally allowing for some creative options during underwater combat!

However, this can be difficult to track on a regular battle map. I suggest picking up a couple of flight pads to track upward movement.

Vision Underwater

Not all water is clear and, depending on the depth, precious little sunlight may reach beneath the surface of the water. Use the following rules for vision when they apply:

  • Lightly Obscured– If the water is slightly murky or deep enough to be considered dim light, players have disadvantage on Wisdom (perception) checks which are sight-based.
  • Heavily obscured– If the water is very murky, sediment has been kicked up, or the depth is enough to heavily block sunlight, then players suffer the blinded condition. If players are blinded, then players automatically fail ability checks which rely on sight, attack rolls against the blinded creature have advantage, and the blinded creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

The range of vision for players in water also depends on the murkiness of the water. Use the following visual range for each type of water:

Clear Water, bright light: 60 ft.

Clear Water, dim light: 30 ft.

Murky water or no light: 10 ft.

Holding Breath Underwater

Unless your party has Water Breathing (either magically or naturally) then they are going to need to pay attention to their oxygen supply.

According to the Player’s Handbook, a player can hold his/her breath for a number of minutes equal to 1+ their Constitution modifier (minimum of 30 seconds). This element of underwater combat is often overlooked or neglected because it takes 10 rounds of combat for 1 minute to pass, meaning a player with a +3 Constitution modifier will have 4 minutes, or 40 rounds of combat before he/she begins to drown.

But, if you have ever been underwater then you know that movement and actions will decrease the amount of time for which you can hold your breath. Now imagine getting hit, stabbed, or grappled, how would those things affect how long you could hold your breath?

How you deal with this problem (if you see it as a problem) is entirely up to you. Because there isn’t a standard rule or roll for “losing your breath” here are some options you could use. Feel free to pick and choose, combining options to better fit your challenge level, experience, and game style:

  • When hit, players must roll a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, players roll d100, the roll determines the percentage of oxygen they lose. For example, if a player has 1 minute’s worth of oxygen in their lungs and they roll 60, they lose 40 seconds (or 60% in rounds) of oxygen. Leaving them with only 4 rounds (40 seconds) before they begin to drown. (When using this rule, I always round down to the nearly tenth to make it easier.)
  • When a player is hit with a critical attack, they immediately lose all their oxygen and will begin to drown on their next turn.
  • When a player is surprised and does not have time to prepare to enter the water, then their oxygen supply is halved (again, to a minimum of 30 seconds).
  • Taking the Dash action automatically reduces a player’s oxygen supply by 2 rounds.

Drowning in Underwater Combat

When a player runs out of breath, they begin to drown. A player can last the number of rounds equal to his/her Constitution modifier (minimum of 1) when they run out of oxygen. At the beginning of his/her next turn, the player drops to 0 hit points and must make a death saving throw against a DC of 10. At the beginning of each of his/her turns after that point, the player must make a death save against a DC of 10. The player cannot regain hit points until he/she is stabilized and able to breathe.

Melee Weapons in Underwater Combat

Water is thicker than air, which means that weapons that depend on swinging motions to generate damage are at a disadvantage. Longswords, battle axes, staffs, glaves, and any other long weapon not designed to be thrown have disadvantage on attack rolls when underwater.

The only melee weapons which can be used effectively underwater are daggers, javelins, short swords, spears, and tridents. These roll attack as normal.

There is a way to avoid this penalty, however. Creatures with a “swim speed,” either granted to them naturally (such as a Triton) or magically do not have disadvantage on melee attacks rolls. If a creature has a swim speed, then their melee attack rolls are rolled as normal.

Unarmed strikes in Underwater Combat

Just like with melee weapons, unarmed strikes have disadvantage underwater. Because of the lack of force that can be generated, punches, kicks, and other unarmed melee attacks must roll with disadvantage.

This rule can make underwater combat especially challenging for a Monk. There is a monk monastic tradition called Way of the Four Elements includes Shape the Flowing River, which allows the monk to change a 30-foot cube of water to ice within a 120-feet. While this could be useful in underwater combat, there is still no monk ability within the Way of the Four Elements that would give a monk of that monastic tradition advantage on attack rolls underwater.

Ranged Weapons Attacks in Underwater Combat

Ranged weapons do not have disadvantage in underwater combat. Crossbows, nets, or a weapon that is thrown like a javelin (including darts) do NOT have disadvantage on attack rolls underwater. However, if ANY ranged weapon attempts to make an attack outside of its base range, the attack automatically misses.

For example, the base range of a short bow is 80 feet, even though it has a long-range of 320 feet, if a player attempts to make an attack with a short bow farther than 80 feet, the attack automatically misses.

This rule applies to all ranged weapons. For example, a hand crossbow does not have disadvantage on attack rolls underwater, but if a player attempts an attack outside of the hand crossbow’s base range (30 feet) then the attack automatically misses.

If you are thinking of having your players encounter enemies underwater, don’t let the rules of underwater combat scare you away! 

Keep it simple and do what works best for your party. If you are comfortable running combat, add in some more realistic features. If this is your first time trying, don’t get so caught up in the rules that you forget to have fun.

Hopefully, this list will help you find what you need quickly to keep your game rolling.

Until next time,

may your game have advantage, my friends!

-Halfling Hannah

Related Questions

What are the rules for shooting into water in D&D 5e?

While there are no official rules for shooting into water in D&D 5e, most DMs will either give the shooter disadvantage on the attack or give the creature being attacked 3/4 cover (+5 to the creature’s AC).

How does underwater combat affect spell casting in D&D 5e?

A players ability to cast spells is not affected by being underwater in D&D 5e. Spells which require a verbal component can still be cast as the water distorts the sound after it leaves the caster’s mouth, but it does not prevent the sounds from being made. Many DM’s create a house rule for losing oxygen while casting underwater, but this is up to your preference.  

5 Unique Monsters to Encourage Role Play

The world of Dungeons & Dragons can be a terrifying place for novice and veteran players alike. It is filled with monstrosities and evils of all kinds. Some creatures resemble wild animals, while others look like they were born straight from a nightmare (looking at you Gibbering Mouth). But the world your players encounter doesn’t have to be solely terrifying. It might surprise you to know that there are some inhabitants of the nine realms with whom your party just might fall in love! Here are 5 underused monsters to use in your campaign to add depth, role-playing opportunities, and intrigue to your next adventure.

Faerie Dragon

Wizards RPG Team (2014). Monster Manual 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 133. ISBN 978-0786965614.

If you think all dragons are evil, greedy, and murderous, then you haven’t met this little guy! Colorful butterfly wings attached to a cat-sized, magical dragon, who loves a good practical joke? Sounds like a recipe for role play!

As the Faerie Dragon ages, it changes colors, moving through all the colors of the rainbow, and gains new spellcasting abilities with each color change. Unlike its larger cousin, the Faerie Dragon doesn’t plunder or cause mass destruction and pain in its wake; this little guy simply wants to have a little fun, at your expense!

When wanderers happen by its forest home, the Faerie Dragon turns invisible and plays pranks and tricks on its unsuspecting victims. These pranks are harmless (mostly), and the Faerie Dragon will often even reveal itself after it has had its fun, as long as the subjects aren’t too angry.

Faerie Dragons do share one trait in common with the larger variety of dragons: a propensity towards treasure. Faerie Dragons are easily enticed to guide travelers or to provide safe passage through their homelands by the promise of baubles, sweets, or other trinkets.

Don’t get me wrong, forests can, and should be, dangerous places as all kinds of monsters dwell in the forest. But, it might be a nice change of pace to encounter a trickster, rather than a real threat, especially if the party has just been through a series of rough combats.

Try it out and have some fun! The great thing about encountering a Faerie Dragon is that anything can happen!

Campaign Tie-In Ideas for the Faerie Dragon

  • Your party camps in the woods, in the morning they find their bag of holding/equipment/coin purses has gone missing. A trail of coins leads deeper into the woods. As they follow it, they find themselves transported to another Realm (thanks to the Faerie Dragon’s spell “hallucination terrain”).
  • Every so often one member of your party feels a tap on his/her shoulder (this works best on the one quickest to anger). The party member behind them promises he/she isn’t doing it…
  • As you travel along the long-forgotten forest path, everything seems serene and quiet. All of a sudden, one of your party members becomes a chicken. A floating mouth with a toothy-grin tells you the only way to turn him/her back is to go on a “quest.” (This scenario works best at lower levels before any members of the party get the “Dispel Magic” spell)


Wizards RPG Team (2014). Monster Manual 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 231. ISBN 978-0786965614.

The Underdark is, arguably, the most terrifying terrain in Dungeons & Dragons. This pitch-black world will easily overwhelm outsiders of any level or experience. Mind flayers, Aboleths, Intelligence Devours, and many other evil creatures reside and hunt in the Underdark. But thriving in this harsh environment are underground hippies called Myconids.

These colorful, peaceful fungi live in communities called “circles.“ They are intelligent, can move and speak, and seek peace above all else. Deploring violence, they are happy to provide shelter and safe passage through their territory to travelers.

But, here is where things get psychedelic. Myconids see “the meld” as their one purpose in life. During a meld, all the Myconids in the circle come together and share one consciousness, thanks to special spores they naturally secrete. They then release hallucination spores and share a dream. This ritual is all about community and entertainment and the dream serves to lift them out of the dreary world in which they live.

However, as peaceful as these fungi are, they are still fungi. They decompose dead creatures and can even reanimate corpses, turning them into spore servants.  

Campaign Tie-In Ideas for Myconids

  • One of your party members dies while fighting against a great evil in the Underdark. Grieving, the rest of the party stays with the body. They begin to notice several colorful mushrooms nearby that they hadn’t noticed before. They keep getting closer. Upon closer inspection, they are revealed to be tiny humanoid fungi who tell the party they know a way that their friend can live again. After taking the body back to their home, the party watches in horror as their friend is turned into a Spore Servant. Alternatively, if they leave the body, upon returning to the Underdark they see their friend, but he/she is not the same…
  • After accidentally stumbling upon a circle of Myconids engaged in a Meld, your party (or members of your party) hallucinate and become addicted to the hallucination spores produced by the Myconids.


Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Monster Manual

Another resident of the Underdark, Flumphs are, in my opinion, the most interesting monsters in D&D. They resemble floating jellyfish with tentacles hanging below the Flumph’s body and two eye stocks protruding from its top. Unlike the mindless jellyfish, Flumphs are highly intelligent beings. They are wise and have advanced knowledge of religion, philosophy, mathematics, and countless other subjects.

Much like a monster mood-ring, Flumphs change colors based on their emotions. Soft pink means the Flumph is amused. Deep blue means sadness, green means curiosity, and crimson, anger.

Flumphs live in peaceful, utopian communities that have no need for leaders or rulers and they communicate through telepathy and Flumphs can sense all telepathy and will even seek out creatures who have good thoughts.

Unlike just about every other creature in the Underdark, Flumphs do not kill or feed on flesh. Instead, they feed on psychic energy, but only what they need, and creatures do not feel any discomfort from such feedings. Flumphs are often found near Mind Flayer communities where they are treated like harmless parasites.

If your party is deviling into the secrets of the Underdark, they know they will encounter dangerous and evil creatures. They are expecting Aboleths, and ancient evils, so why not Flumph it up a little? Before encountering the deadly Mind Flayer city, have them spend some time in a Flumph community. This could provide a great opportunity for role play, as well as give the party useful information they might not otherwise have discovered.

Campaign Tie-In Ideas for Flumphs:

  • After making camp in the Underdark, your party wakes up surrounded by green, gently glowing creatures. They hear gently echoing in their minds, “Greetings Surface Dwellers! We are pleased to make your acquaintance!”
  • One of your party members is separated from the group having been chased by monsters and gravely wounded. From around a rock, they see two eyes on long stocks peering at them, glowing a deep, sad blue.


Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Quick Reference, Wizards RPG Team (2014). Monster Manual 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 188. ISBN 978-0786965614.

A high-level wizard or sorcerer can mix clay and a little blood to (sometimes) create a new best friend. The appearance of the Homunculus depends on the will of the creator, meaning this monster can take the shape of whatever you want.

Homunculus have a strong connection to their master, sensing, feeling, and experiencing everything in unison with him/her, even from long distances. The Homunculus’s alignment entirely depends on their creator and when the master dies, so does the Homunculus.

Homunculus are extensions of their masters and can share thoughts with them, making a good homunculus a trusted ally, and an evil one an undetectable spy.

Campaign Tie-In Ideas for Homunculus

  • A good wizard helps the group from afar using his/her Homunculus to guide and assist them. Until one day, your adventurers watch in horror as their little friend slowly turns to dust…
  • An evil wizard sends his homunculus to befriend his enemies. Your party receives it as an adorable pet. They have no idea that they are being watched…


Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Monster Manual

Grungs are small, sentient, humanoid frogs. Living in fiercely guarded territories of the rain forest and jungles, Grungs resemble poison dart frogs walking on two legs. They are brightly colored, have large eyes, and weld tiny, poisoned weapons.

But what the Grungs lack in size, they make up for in cruelty.

Grungs think of themselves as far superior to other creatures and will attempt to enslave any other creature they come across. In order to keep the slaves under control (Grungs are small, after all) they constantly keep captured creatures poisoned with a toxin they secrete from their skin.  After long term exposure to this toxin, the slave will become a husk of its former self, only being restored through magic or a wish.

Grung society uses a caste system in which each color of the Grung’s skin represents a caste. The color of Grung also determines the poison effect a creature suffers after touching a Grung or after being hit by a  poisoned Grung weapon. Poison effects range from paralysis (green) to being charmed (gold).

*See the Monster Manual for a full list of poison effects

Campaign Tie-In Ideas for Grungs

  • While in a city that borders the jungle, your party comes across a flyer or (hears from someone) about a job opportunity. Apparently, people entering the jungle are going missing, and adventurers are being sought to put an end to the mystery.
  • While hacking and slashing through the thick jungle, your party catches a glimpse of something colorful among the trees. After taking a closer look, they are awed by the candy-colored frogs which come out of the trees to meet them. They are adorable until the net falls from above.

Bonus! Wood Woad

Wizards RPG Team (2016). Volo’s Guide to Monsters. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 198. ISBN 978-0786966011.

These human-size walking trees rarely talk. They silently guard forests and areas of supernatural beauty, and often follow Treants and other creatures with a strong connection to nature.

You might never guess that these seemingly harmless creatures are the product of a dark ritual.

Powerful Druids remove a victim’s heart(while they are still alive) and place a seed inside it. The heart is then planted in the hollow of a tree which is watered with the blood of the sacrificed person. After three days, a sprout forms and quickly grows into a Wood Woad who will ceaselessly follow the orders of the one who created it.

A Wood Woad is immortal and does not require anything other than earth and sunlight to live. This means that Wood Woads often outlive their original purpose. When this happens, Wood Woads have been known to go looking for a new purpose, following creatures with a powerful connection to nature.

Campaign Tie-In Ideas for Wood Woad

  • When the Druid in your party reaches a high level, each time he/she goes into the forest, roll a percentage die to see if a Wood Woad begins following them. This becomes a great role-playing opportunity when the Druid begins to collect a parade of Wood Woads who say nothing, but won’t leave the Druid alone.
  • A woman asks your party to get rid of a monster that has been stalking her home. As your party investigates, they find that the father of the family was sacrificed in a dark ritual. When not commanded to do otherwise, he returns to his old home to keep watch over his family from afar.

Your game will certainly have high-level villains and monsters to fight, but by using some lesser-known and more role play designed creatures, your campaign can begin to feel more like life and less like just a game. The next time you are looking for something for your party to encounter, I hope you will try one of these monsters, I am sure you will not be disappointed!

Until next time,

May your game have advantage, my friends!

-Halfling Hannah

How to Make Drinkable Potions of Healing

Potions of healing are the most iconic element of D&D. I have seen many people making Potions of Healing with dice in potion jars, but here at Halfling Hobbies, we like our potions, well, a little more liquid. That’s why I came up with this Potion of Healing Cocktail/Mocktail!

At any level, Potions of Healing can be life savers, literally, and you can bet your party will wander around every town asking for them. Why not liven up your game and bring out real, beautiful, shimmering Potions of Healing the next time they buy them in game?

How do you make drinkable Potions of Healing? These potions are made from bottles I found 50% off at Hobby Lobby, luster dust for the classic glittering effect, and a mix of champagne or sparkling white grape juice and pomegranate juice, depending on if you want them to be alcoholic or not.

You will need the following to make your own potions of healing:

  • Potion bottles
  • Corks (if your bottles don’t come with them)
  • Labels
  • Clear drying craft glue (like ModPodge) and a paintbrush
  • Twine
  • 1 bottle of Sweet champagne (I recommend Toad Hollow) or Sparkling White Grape Juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Gold Luster Dust (this is what makes the magic happen!)

Making Potion Bottles

Your first quest is to obtain clear, 6-8 ounce bottles and corks. There are several places I would recommend to look. I found mine at Hobby Lobby. they came in a pack of six with this cool wooden rack that I thought looked perfect for an alchemist shop! Hobby Lobby puts their glassware on sale for 50% off every 3 weeks, but if you can’t wait that long, they always have a coupon for 40% off online.

Be warned, Hobby Lobby has many beautiful colored bottles that are tempting, but colored bottles will not show off the gorgeous swirling glitter you are going to put in these potions, so stick to the clear for now.

Another great place to look for cheap bottles is Dollar Tree.  My Dollar Tree has started to add a large selection of glassware. The problem here is that you can never be sure what they will have, or if they will have the amount that you need. You may end up with a hodge-podge of bottle types (not necessarily a bad thing!)

If you don’t have access to either of these places, Amazon has some amazing options! Just be careful to look at the description and order bottles that hold 6-8 ounces. I once made the mistake of ordering bottles that were only 1/8 of an ounce, so make sure you are reading carefully!

Your next quest is to turn those clear bottles into potion bottles.

To do this, you will need to wash the bottles with warm, soapy water and dry them thoroughly. Gather your twine, glue, paintbrush, scissors, and labels.

I chose to designate the mocktail (non-alcoholic) from the cocktail by using different labels. The mocktails I labeled at Potions of Healing and the cocktails I labeled at Superior Potions of Healing.

The Potion of Healing label I made using the free app “Canva.” I chose earthly browns and flower accents to make the label feel more rustic. If you don’t have the time to make your own labels, or you aren’t that good at digital design, feel free to download mine. below!

The Superior Potion of Healing label I chose to leave to the professionals. I found these vinyl stickers and fell in love! My players are all huge fans of Critical Role and appreciated all the details on them. I highly recommend these if you want to go that route. Check them out here!

First, apply your labels using ModPodge or some other clear drying craft glue. Make sure to apply glue with an old paint brush to avoid wrinkles in your paper. If you simply spread some glue in line on the back of your label, the paper will wrinkle and bubble and it will not look as good.

If using ModPodge, after the label has dried, apply a thin layer over the top of the label to make it water proof.

After the label is attached, place a generous amount of clear drying glue on the neck bottle and tightly wrap the twine around it. Make sure it is tight! You don’t want gaps in the twine. This step really helps give the potion bottles an old world feel, but can be skipped if you are pressed for time.

Cocktail/Mocktail Recipe

After your bottles have dried completely, it is time to fill them with liquid magic!

In a pitcher, combine the entire bottle of champagne (or sparkling grape juice) with 1/3 as much pomegranate juice (to your taste).

1 bottle of champagne or juice is enough to fill six, 6-ounce bottles.

 Next, add 1-2 teaspoons of Gold Luster Dust and stir gently. It might seem like a tiny amount when you put it in, but this is enough to make bold swirls in your potions. If you want a more subtle effect, use 1/2 a teaspoon.  Personally, I can’t get enough of the glittering swirls and always add more than I need!

Slowly pour the mixture into each bottle using a funnel. Make sure to pour slowly as champagne is especially bubbly and will make a mess if you go too fast.

Cork the bottles and serve immediately for the best effect. The luster dust will settle after a while, but if this happens, simply use a straw to gently stir each bottle and it will be just as lovely as when you first poured it!

You can store these up to one day in the fridge, but I wouldn’t do more than that. The corks aren’t designed to be airtight, so your champagne or sparkling grape juice will go flat if you store it longer.

And there you have it! Beautiful, glittering, drinkable Potions of Healing that will dazzle your players! Be prepared for your game to be derailed for 10-20 minutes when you first bring these out. My party was mesmerized! They couldn’t focus on anything but staring at the swirls, they didn’t even want to drink them because they were so cool, but they got over that quickly after they had their first sip!

Not only do they look like I always imagined potions of healing would look, but they taste amazing! Your players won’t get enough of these, and I guarantee everyone will feel better after opening one of these potions. The best part? The bottles are reusable! So you can mix these up anytime you go into combat!

Until next time,

May your game have advantage, my friends!

-Halfling Hannah