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It's good to be the dungeon master! Not only do you get to tell fantastic stories about heroes, villains, monsters, and magic, but you also get to create the world in which these stories live. Whether you're running a D&D game already or you think it's something you want to try, this book is for you.

The {@i Dungeon Master's Guide} assumes that you know the basics of how to play the D&D tabletop roleplaying game. If you haven't played before, the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is a great starting point for new players and DMs.

This book has two important companions: the Player's Handbook, which contains the rules your players need to create characters and the rules you need to run the game, and the Monster Manual, which contains ready-to use monsters to populate your D&D world.

The Dungeon Master

The Dungeon Master (DM) is the creative force behind a D&D game. The DM creates a world for the other players to explore, and also creates and runs adventures that drive the story. An adventure typically hinges on the successful completion of a quest, and can be as short as a single game session. Longer adventures might embroil players in great conflicts that require multiple game sessions to resolve. When strung together, these adventures form an ongoing {@b campaign.} A D&D campaign can include dozens of adventures and last for months or years.

A Dungeon Master gets to wear many hats. As the architect of a campaign, the DM creates adventures by placing monsters, traps, and treasures for the other players' characters (the {@b adventurers}) to discover. As a storyteller, the DM helps the other players visualize what's happening around them, improvising when the adventurers do something or go somewhere unexpected. As an actor, the DM plays the roles of the monsters and supporting characters, breathing life into them. And as a referee, the DM interprets the rules and decides when to abide by them and when to change them.

Inventing, writing, storytelling, improvising, acting, refereeing-every DM handles these roles differently, and you'll probably enjoy some more than others. It helps to remember that Dungeons & Dragons is a hobby, and being the DM should be fun. Focus on the aspects you enjoy and downplay the rest. For example, if you don't like creating your own adventures, you can use published ones. You can also lean on the other players to help you with rules mastery and world-building.

The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren't in charge. You're the DM, and you are in charge of the game. That said, your goal isn't to slaughter the adventurers but to create a campaign world that revolves around their actions and decisions, and to keep your players coming back for more! If you're lucky, the events of your campaign will echo in the memories of your players long after the final game session is concluded.

How to Use This Book

This book is organized in three parts. The first part helps you decide what kind of campaign you'd like to run. The second part helps you create the adventures-the stories-that will compose the campaign and keep the players entertained from one game session to the next. The last part helps you adjudicate the rules of the game and modify them to suit the style of your campaign.

Part 1: Master of Worlds

Every DM is the creator of his or her own campaign world. Whether you invent a world, adapt a world from a favorite movie or novel, or use a published setting for the D&D game, you make that world your own over the course of a campaign.

The world where you set your campaign is one of countless worlds that make up the D&D {@b multiverse}, a vast array of planes and worlds where adventures happen. Even if you're using an established world such as the Forgotten Realms, your campaign takes place in a sort of mirror universe of the official setting where Forgotten Realms novels, game products, and digital games are assumed to take place. The world is yours to change as you see fit and yours to modify as you explore the consequences of the players' actions.

Your world is more than just a backdrop for adventures. Like Middle Earth, Westeros, and countless other fantasy worlds out there, it's a place to which you can escape and witness fantastic stories unfold. A well-designed and well-run world seems to flow around the adventurers, so that they feel part of something, instead of apart from it.

Consistency is a key to a believable fictional world. When the adventurers go back into town for supplies, they should encounter the same {@b nonplayer characters} (NPCs) they met before. Soon, they'll learn the barkeep's name, and he or she will remember theirs as well. Once you have achieved this degree of consistency, you can provide an occasional change. If the adventurers come back to buy more horses at the stables, they might discover that the man who ran the place went back home to the large city over the hills, and now his niece runs the family business. That sort of change-one that has nothing to do with the adventurers directly, but one that they'll notice-makes the players feel as though their characters are part of a living world that changes and grows along with them.

Part 1 of this book is all about inventing your world. Chapter 1 asks what type of game you want to run, and helps you nail down a few important details about your world and its overarching conflicts. Chapter 2 helps you put your world in the greater context of the multiverse, expanding on the information presented in the {@i Player's Handbook} to discuss the planes of existence and the gods and how you can put them together to serve the needs of your campaign.

Part 2: Master of Adventures

Whether you write your own adventures or use published ones, expect to invest preparation time beyond the hours you spend at the gaming table. You'll need to carve out some free time to exercise your creativity as you invent compelling plots, create new NPCs, craft encounters, and think of clever ways to foreshadow story events yet to come.

Part 2 of this book is devoted to helping you create and run great adventures. Chapter 3 covers the basic elements of a D&D adventure, and chapter 4 helps you create memorable NPCs. Chapter 5 presents guidelines and advice for running adventures set in dungeons, the wilderness, and other locales, and chapter 6 covers the time between adventures. Chapter 7 is all about treasure, magic items, and special rewards that help keep the players invested in your campaign.

Part 3: Master of Rules

Dungeons & Dragons isn't a head-to-head competition, but it needs someone who is impartial yet involved in the game to guarantee that everyone at the table plays by the rules. As the player who creates the game world and the adventures that take place within it, the DM is a natural fit to take on the referee role.

As a referee, the DM acts as a mediator between the rules and the players. A player tells the DM what he or she wants to do, and the DM determines whether it is successful or not, in some cases asking the player to make a die roll to determine success. For example, if a player wants his or her character to take a swing at an orc, you say, "Make an attack roll" while looking up the orc's Armor Class.

The rules don't account for every possible situation that might arise during a typical D&D session. For example, a player might want his or her character to hurl a brazier full of hot coals into a monster's face. How you determine the outcome of this action is up to you. You might tell the player to make a Strength check, while mentally setting the {@b Difficulty Class} (DC) at 15. If the Strength check is successful, you then determine how a face full of hot coals affects the monster. You might decide that it deals {@dice 1d4} fire damage and imposes disadvantage on the monster's attack rolls until the end of its next turn. You roll the damage die (or let the player do it), and the game continues.

Sometimes mediating the rules means setting limits. If a player tells you, "I want to run up and attack the orc," but the character doesn't have enough movement to reach the orc, you say, "It's too far away to move up and still attack. What would you like to do instead?" The player takes the information and comes up with a different plan.

To referee the rules, you need to know them. You don't have to memorize this book or the Player's Handbook, but you should have a clear idea of their contents so that, when a situation requires a ruling, you know where to find the proper reference.

The Player's Handbook contains the main rules you need to play the game. Part 3 of this book offers a wealth of information to help you adjudicate the rules in a wide variety of situations. Chapter 8 presents advice for using attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. It also includes options appropriate for certain play styles and campaigns, including guidelines for using miniatures, a system for handling chase scenes, and rules for madness. If you like to create your own stuff, such as new monsters, races, and character backgrounds, chapter 9 shows you how. That chapter also contains optional rules for unusual situations or play styles, such as the use of firearms in a fantasy setting.

Know Your Players

The success of a D&D game hinges on your ability to entertain the other players at the game table. Whereas their role is to create characters (the protagonists of the campaign), breathe life into them, and help steer the campaign through their characters' actions, your role is to keep the players (and yourself) interested and immersed in the world you've created, and to let their characters do awesome things.

Knowing what your players enjoy most about the D&D game helps you create and run adventures that they will enjoy and remember. Once you know which of the following activities each player in your group enjoys the most, you can tailor adventures that satisfy your players' preferences as much as possible, thus keeping them engaged.


Players who enjoy acting like getting into character and speaking in their characters' voices. Roleplayers at heart, they enjoy social interactions with NPCs, monsters, and their fellow party members.

Engage players who like acting by...


Players who desire exploration want to experience the wonders that a fantasy world has to offer. They want to know what's around the next corner or hill. They also like to find hidden clues and treasure.

Engage players who like exploration by...


Players who like to instigate action are eager to make things happen, even if that means taking perilous risks. They would rather rush headlong into danger and face the consequences than face boredom.

Engage players who like to instigate by...


Players who enjoy fantasy combat like kicking the tar out of villains and monsters. They look for any excuse to start a fight, favoring bold action over careful deliberation.

Engage players who like fighting by...


Players who enjoy optimizing their characters' capabilities like to fine-tune their characters for peak combat performance by gaining levels, new features, and magic items. They welcome any opportunity to demonstrate their characters' superiority.

Engage players who like optimization by...

Problem Solving

Players who want to solve problems like to scrutinize NPC motivations, untangle a villain's machinations, solve puzzles, and come up with plans.

Engage players who like to solve problems by...


Players who love storytelling want to contribute to a narrative. They like it when their characters are heavily invested in an unfolding story, and they enjoy encounters that are tied to and expand an overarching plot.

Engage players who like storytelling by...

A World of Your Own

Your world is the setting for your campaign, the place where adventures happen. Even if you use an existing setting, such as the Forgotten Realms, it becomes yours as you set your adventures there, create characters to inhabit it, and make changes to it over the course of your campaign. This chapter is all about building your world and then creating a campaign to take place in it.

The Big Picture

This book, the {@i Player's Handbook}, and the {@i Monster Manual} present the default assumptions for how the worlds of D&D work. Among the established settings of D&D, the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Mystara don't stray very far from those assumptions. Settings such as Dark Sun, Eberron, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Planescape venture further away from that baseline. As you create your own world, it's up to you to decide where on the spectrum you want your world to fall.

Core Assumptions

The rules of the game are based on the following core assumptions about the game world.

Gods Oversee the World

The gods are real and embody a variety of beliefs, with each god claiming dominion over an aspect of the world, such as war, forests, or the sea. Gods exert influence over the world by granting divine magic to their followers and sending signs and portents to guide them. The follower of a god serves as an agent of that god in the world. The agent seeks to further the ideals of that god and defeat its rivals. While some folk might refuse to honor the gods, none can deny their existence.

Much of the World Is Untamed

Wild regions abound. City-states, confederacies, and kingdoms of various sizes dot the landscape, but beyond their borders the wilds crowd in. People know the area they live in well. They've heard stories of other places from merchants and travelers, but few know what lies beyond the mountains or in the depths of the great forest unless they've been there themselves.

The World Is Ancient

Empires rise and fall, leaving few places that have not been touched by imperial grandeur or decay. War, time, and natural forces eventually claim the mortal world, leaving it rich with places of adventure and mystery. Ancient civilizations and their knowledge survive in legends, magic items, and their ruins. Chaos and evil often follow an empire's collapse.

Conflict Shapes the World's History

Powerful individuals strive to make their mark on the world, and factions of like-minded individuals can alter the course of history. Factions include religions led by charismatic prophets, kingdoms ruled by lasting dynasties, and shadowy societies that seek to master long-lost magic. The influence of such factions waxes and wanes as they compete with each other for power. Some seek to preserve the world and usher in a golden age. Others strive toward evil ends, seeking to rule the world with an iron fist. Still others seek goals that range from the practical to the esoteric, such as the accumulation of material wealth or the resurrection of a dead god. Whatever their goals, these factions inevitably collide, creating conflict that can steer the world's fate.

The World Is Magical

Practitioners of magic are relatively few in number, but they leave evidence of their craft everywhere. The magic can be as innocuous and commonplace as a potion that heals wounds to something much more rare and impressive, such as a levitating tower or a stone golem guarding the gates of a city. Beyond the realms of civilization are caches of magic items guarded by magic traps, as well as magically constructed dungeons inhabited by monsters created by magic, cursed by magic, or endowed with magical abilities.

It's Your World

In creating your campaign world, it helps to start with the core assumptions and consider how your setting might change them. The subsequent sections of this chapter address each element and give details on how to flesh out your world with gods, factions, and so forth. The assumptions sketched out above aren't carved in stone. They inspire exciting D&D worlds full of adventure, but they're not the only set of assumptions that can do so. You can build an interesting campaign concept by altering one or more of those core assumptions, just as well-established D&D worlds have done. Ask yourself, "What if the standard assumptions weren't true in my world?"

The World Is a Mundane Place

What if magic is rare and dangerous, and even adventurers have limited or no access to it? What if your campaign is set in a version of our own world's history?

The World Is New

What if your world is new, and the characters are the first of a long line of heroes? The adventurers might be champions of the first great empires, such as the empires of Netheril and Cormanthor in the Forgotten Realms setting.

The World Is Known

What if the world is completely charted and mapped, right down to the "Here there be dragons" notations? What if great empires cover huge stretches of countryside, with clearly defined borders between them? The Five Nations of the Eberron setting were once part of a great empire, and magically aided travel between its cities is commonplace.

Monsters Are Uncommon

What if monsters are rare and terrifying? In the Ravenloft setting, horrific domains are governed by monstrous rulers. The populace lives in perpetual terror of these darklords and their evil minions, but other monsters rarely trouble people's daily lives.

Magic Is Everywhere

What if every town is ruled by a powerful wizard? What if magic item shops are common? The Eberron setting makes the use of magic an everyday occurrence, as magical flying ships and trains carry travelers from one great city to another.

Gods Inhabit the Land, or Are Entirely Absent

What if the gods regularly walk the earth? What if the characters can challenge them and seize their power? Or what if the gods are remote, and even angels never make contact with mortals? In the Dark Sun setting, the gods are extremely distant-perhaps nonexistent-and clerics rely instead on elemental power for their magic.

Gods of Your World

Appendix B of the Player's Handbook presents a number of pantheons (loose groupings of deities not united by a single doctrine or philosophy) for use in your game, including the gods of established D&D worlds and fantasy-historical pantheons. You can adopt one of these pantheons for your campaign, or pick and choose deities and ideas from them as you please. See "A Sample Pantheon" in this section for an example. As far as the game's rules are concerned, it doesn't matter if your world has hundreds of deities or a church devoted to a single god. In rules terms, clerics choose domains, not deities, so your world can associate domains with deities in any way you choose.

Loose Pantheons

Most D&D worlds have a loose pantheon of gods. A multitude of deities rule the various aspects of existence, variously cooperating with and competing against one another to administer the affairs of the universe. People gather in public shrines to worship gods of life and wisdom, or meet in hidden places to venerate gods of deception or destruction. Each deity in a pantheon has a portfolio and is responsible for advancing that portfolio. In the Greyhawk setting, Heironeous is a god of valor who calls clerics and paladins to his service and encourages them to spread the ideals of honorable warfare, chivalry, and justice in society. Even in the midst of his everlasting war with his brother Hextor, god of war and tyranny, Heironeous promotes his own portfolio: war fought nobly and in the cause of justice.

People in most D&D worlds are polytheistic, honoring deities of their own and acknowledging pantheons of other cultures. Individuals pay homage to various gods, regardless of alignment. In the Forgotten Realms, a person might propitiate Umberlee before setting out to sea, join a communal feast to celebrate Chauntea at harvest time, and pray to Malar before going hunting.

Some individuals feel a calling to a particular deity's service and claim that god as a patron. Particularly devoted individuals become priests by setting up a shrine or helping to staff a holy site. Much more rarely, those who feel such a calling become clerics or paladins invested with the responsibility of true divine power.

Shrines and temples serve as community gathering points for religious rites and festivals. Priests at such sites relate stories of the gods, teach the ethics of their patron deities, offer advice and blessings, perform religious rites, and provide training in activities their deities favor. Cities and large towns can host several temples dedicated to individual gods important to the community, while smaller settlements might have a single shrine devoted to any gods the locals revere.

To quickly build a pantheon for your world, create a single god for each of the eight domains available to clerics: Death, Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, and War. You can invent names and personalities for these deities, or borrow deities from other pantheons. This approach gives you a small pantheon that covers the most significant aspects of existence, and it's easy enough to extrapolate other areas of life each deity controls. The god of Knowledge, for example, might also be patron of magic and prophecy, while the god of Light could be the sun god and the god of time.

A Sample Pantheon

The pantheon of the Dawn War is an example of a pantheon assembled from mostly preexisting elements to suit the needs of a particular campaign. This is the default pantheon in the fourth edition {@i Player's Handbook (2008)}. The pantheon is summarized in the Dawn War Deities table.

This pantheon draws in several nonhuman deities and establishes them as universal gods. These gods include Bahamut, Corellon, Gruumsh, Lolth, Moradin, Sehanine, and Tiamat. Humans worship Moradin and Corellon as gods of their respective portfolios, rather than as racial deities. The pantheon also includes the archdevil Asmodeus as god of domination and tyranny.

Several of the gods are drawn from other pantheons, sometimes with new names for the gods. Bane comes from the Forgotten Realms. From Greyhawk come Kord, Pelor, Tharizdun, and Vecna. From the Greek pantheon come Athena (renamed Erathis) and Tyche (renamed Avandra), though both are altered. Set (renamed Zehir) comes from the Egyptian pantheon. The Raven Queen is akin to the Norse pantheon's Hel and Greyhawk's Wee Jas. That leaves three gods created from scratch: Ioun, Melora, and Torog.

Dawn War Deities

Dawn War Deities
DeityAlignmentSuggested DomainsSymbol
Asmodeus, god of tyrannyLETrickeryThree triangles in tight formation
Avandra, goddess of change and luckCGTrickeryThree stacked wavy lines
Bahamut, god of justice and nobilityLGLife, WarDragon's head, in profile, facing left
Bane, god of war and conquestLEWarClaw with three talons pointing down
Corellon, god of magic and the artsCGLightEight-pointed star
Erathis, goddess of civilization and inventionLNKnowledgeUpper half of a clockwork gear
Gruumsh, god of destructionCETempest, WarTriangular eye with bony protrusions
Ioun, goddess of knowledgeNKnowledgeCrook shaped like a stylized eye
Kord, god of strength and stormsCNTempestSword with a lightning bolt cross guard
Lolth, goddess of spiders and liesCETrickeryEight-pointed star with a web motif
Melora, goddess of wilderness and the seaNNature, TempestWavelike swirl
Moradin, god of creationLGKnowledge, WarFlaming anvil
Pelor, god of the sun and agricultureNGLife, LightCircle with six outwardly radiating points
Raven Queen, goddess of deathLNLife, DeathRaven's head, in profile, facing left
Sehanine, goddess of the moonCGTrickeryCrescent moon
Tharizdun, god of madnessCETrickeryJagged counter-clockwise spiral
Tiamat, goddess of wealth, greed, and vengeanceLETrickery, WarFive-pointed star with curved points
Torog, god of the UnderdarkNEDeathT attached to a circular shackle
Vecna, god of evil secretsNEDeath, KnowledgePartially shattered one-eyed skull
Zehir, god of darkness and poisonCETrickery, DeathSnake in the shape of a dagger

Other Religious Systems

In your campaign, you can create pantheons of gods who are closely linked in a single religion, monotheistic religions (worship of a single deity), dualistic systems (centered on two opposing deities or forces), mystery cults (involving personal devotion to a single deity, usually as part of a pantheon system), animistic religions (revering the spirits inherent in nature), or even forces and philosophies that don't center on deities.

Tight Pantheons

In contrast to a loose pantheon, a tight pantheon focuses on a single religion whose teachings and edicts embrace a small group of deities. Followers of a tight pantheon might favor one of its member deities over another, but they respect all the deities and honor them with sacrifices and prayer as appropriate.

The key trait to a tight pantheon is that its worshipers embrace a single ethos or dogma that includes all the deities. The gods of the tight pantheon work as one to protect and guide their followers. You can think of a tight pantheon as similar to a family. One or two deities who lead the pantheon serve as parent figures, with the rest serving as patrons of important aspects of the culture that worships the pantheon. A single temple honors all members of the pantheon.

Most tight pantheons have one or more aberrant gods-deities whose worship isn't sanctioned by the priests of the pantheon as a whole. These are usually evil deities and enemies of the pantheon, such as the Greek Titans. These deities have cults of their own, attracting social outcasts and villains to their worship.

These cults resemble mystery cults, their members strictly devoted to their single god, though even members of aberrant cults pay lip service in the temples of the tight pantheon.

The Norse deities serve as an example of a tight pantheon. Odin is the pantheon's leader and father figure. Deities such as Thor, Tyr, and Freya embody important aspects of Norse culture. Meanwhile, Loki and his devotees lurk in the shadows, sometimes aiding the other deities, and sometimes working against them with the pantheon's enemies.

Mystery Cults

A mystery cult is a secretive religious organization based on a ritual of initiation, in which the initiate is mystically identified with a god, or a handful of related gods. Mystery cults are intensely personal, concerned with the initiate's relationship with the divine.

Sometimes a mystery cult is a type of worship within a pantheon. It acknowledges the myths and rituals of the pantheon, but presents its own myths and rites as primary. For instance, a secretive order of monks might immerse themselves in a mystical relationship to a god who is part of a broadly worshiped pantheon.

A mystery cult emphasizes the history of its god, which is symbolically reenacted in its initiation ritual. The foundation myth of a mystery cult is usually simple and often involves a god's death and rising, or a journey to the underworld and a return. Mystery cults often revere sun and moon deities and agricultural deities—gods whose portfolios reflect the cycles of nature.

The cult's ritual of initiation follows the pattern of its foundation myth. Neophytes retrace the god's footsteps in order to share the god's ultimate fate. In the case of dying and rising gods, the symbolic death of the initiate represents the idea of death to the old life and rebirth into a transformed existence. Initiates are born into a new life, remaining in the world of mortal affairs but feeling elevated to a higher sphere. The initiate is promised a place in the god's realm after death, but also experiences new meaning in life.

Divine Rank

The divine beings of the multiverse are often categorized according to their cosmic power. Some gods are worshiped on multiple worlds and have a different rank on each world, depending on their influence there.

{@b Greater deities} are beyond mortal understanding. They can't be summoned, and they are almost always removed from direct involvement in mortal affairs. On very rare occasions they manifest avatars similar to lesser deities, but slaying a greater god's avatar has no effect on the god itself.

{@b Lesser deities} are embodied somewhere in the planes. Some lesser deities live in the Material Plane, as does the unicorn-goddess Lurue of the Forgotten Realms and the titanic shark-god Sekolah revered by the sahuagin. Others live on the Outer Planes, as Lolth does in the Abyss. Such deities can be encountered by mortals.

{@b Quasi-deities} have a divine origin, but they don't hear or answer prayers, grant spells to clerics, or control aspects of mortal life. They are still immensely powerful beings, and in theory they could ascend to godhood if they amassed enough worshipers. Quasi-deities fall into three subcategories: demigods, titans, and vestiges.

{@i Demigods} are born from the union of a deity and a mortal being. They have some divine attributes, but their mortal parentage makes them the weakest quasi-deities.

{@i Titans} are the divine creations of deities. They might be birthed from the union of two deities, manufactured on a divine forge, born from the blood spilled by a god, or otherwise brought about through divine will or substance.

{@b Vestiges} are deities who have lost nearly all their worshipers and are considered dead, from a mortal perspective. Esoteric rituals can sometimes contact these beings and draw on their latent power.


Monotheistic religions revere only one deity, and in some cases, deny the existence of any other deity. If you introduce a monotheistic religion into your campaign, you need to decide whether other gods exist. Even if they don't, other religions can exist side by side with the monotheistic religion. If these religions have clerics with spellcasting ability, their spells might be powered by the one true deity, by lesser spirits who aren't deities (possibly including powerful aberrations, celestials, fey, fiends, or elementals), or simply by their faith.

The deity of a monotheistic religion has an extensive portfolio and is portrayed as the creator of everything, in control of everything, and concerned with every aspect of existence. Thus, a worshiper of this god offers prayers and sacrifices to the same god regardless of what aspect of life is in need of divine assistance. Whether marching into war, setting off on a journey, or hoping to win someone's affections, the worshiper prays to the same god.

Some monotheistic religions describe different aspects of their deity. A single god appears in different aspects as the Creator and the Destroyer, and the clerics of that god focus on one aspect or the other, determining their domain access and possibly even their alignment on that basis. A cleric who venerates the Destroyer aspect chooses the Tempest or War domain, while one who worships a Creator aspect chooses the Life or Nature domains. In some monotheistic religions, clerics group themselves into distinct religious orders to differentiate clerics who choose different domains.


A dualistic religion views the world as the stage for a conflict between two diametrically opposed deities or divine forces. Most often, the opposed forces are good and evil, or opposed deities representing those forces. In some pantheons, the forces or deities of law and chaos are the fundamental opposites in a dualistic system. Life and death, light and darkness, matter and spirit, body and mind, health and illness, purity and defilement, positive energy and negative energy-the D&D universe is full of polar opposites that could serve as the foundation for a dualistic religion. Whatever the terms in which the dualism is expressed, half of the pair is usually believed to be good-beneficial, desirable, or holy-while the other half is considered bad, if not explicitly evil. If the fundamental conflict in a religion is expressed as the opposition between matter and spirit, the followers of that religion believe that one of the two (usually matter) is evil and the other (spirit) is good, and so seek to liberate their spirits from this material world and its evils through asceticism and contemplation.

Rare dualistic systems believe that the two opposing forces must remain in balance, always pulling away from each other but remaining bound together in creative tension.

In a cosmology defined by an eternal conflict between good and evil, mortals are expected to take sides. The majority of those who follow a dualistic religion worship the deity or force identified as good. Worshipers of the good deity trust themselves to that god's power to protect them from the evil deity's minions. Because the evil deity in such a religion is usually the source of everything that is detrimental to existence, only the perverse and depraved worship this god. Monsters and fiends serve it, as do certain secretive cults. The myths of a dualistic religion usually predict that the good deity will triumph in an apocalyptic battle, but the forces of evil believe that the outcome of that battle isn't predetermined and work to promote their deity's victory.

Deities in a dualistic system maintain large portfolios. All aspects of existence reflect the dualistic struggle, and therefore all things can fall on one side or the other of the conflict. Agriculture, mercy, the sky, medicine, and poetry reside in the portfolio of the good deity, and famine, hatred, disease, and war belong to the evil deity.


Animism is the belief that spirits inhabit every part of the natural world. In an animistic worldview, everything has a spirit, from the grandest mountain to the lowliest rock, from the great ocean to a babbling brook, from the sun and moon to a fighter's ancestral sword. All these objects, and the spirits that inhabit them, are sentient, though some are more aware, alert, and intelligent than others. The most powerful spirits might even be considered deities. All are worthy of respect if not veneration.

Animists don't typically pay allegiance to one spirit over the others. Instead, they offer prayers and sacrifices to different spirits at different times, as appropriate to the situation. A pious character might make daily prayers and offerings to ancestor spirits and the spirits of the house, regular petitions to important spirits such as the Seven Fortunes of Good Luck, occasional sacrifices of incense to location spirits such as the spirit of a forest, and sporadic prayers to a host of other spirits as well.

An animistic religion is very tolerant. Most spirits don't care to whom a character also offers sacrifices, as long as they receive the sacrifices and respect they are due. As new religions spread through animist lands, those religions typically win adherents but not converts. People incorporate new spirits and deities into their prayers without displacing the old ones. Contemplatives and scholars adopt complex philosophical systems and practices without changing their belief in and respect for the spirits they already venerate.

Animism functions as a large tight pantheon. Animist clerics serve the pantheon as a whole, and so can choose any domain, representing a favorite spirit for that cleric.

Forces and Philosophies

Not all divine powers need to be derived from deities. In some campaigns, believers hold enough conviction in their ideas about the universe that they gain magical power from that conviction. In other campaigns, impersonal forces of nature or magic replace the gods by granting power to mortals attuned to them. Just as druids and rangers can gain their spell ability from the force of nature rather than from a specific nature deity, some clerics devote themselves to ideals rather than to a god. Paladins might serve a philosophy of justice and chivalry rather than a specific deity.

Forces and philosophies aren't worshiped; they aren't beings that can hear and respond to prayers or accept sacrifices. Devotion to a philosophy or a force isn't necessarily exclusive of service to a deity. A person can be devoted to the philosophy of good and offer worship to various good deities, or revere the force of nature and also pay homage to the gods of nature, who might be seen as personal manifestations of an impersonal force. In a world that includes deities with demonstrable power (through their clerics), it's unusual for a philosophy to deny the existence of deities, although a common philosophical belief states that the deities are more like mortals than they would have mortals believe. According to such philosophies, the gods aren't truly immortal (just very long-lived), and mortals can attain divinity. In fact, ascending to godhood is the ultimate goal of some philosophies.

The power of a philosophy stems from the belief that mortals invest in it. A philosophy that only one person believes in isn't strong enough to bestow magical power on that person.

Humanoids and the Gods

When it comes to the gods, humans exhibit a far wider range of beliefs and institutions than other races do. In many D&D settings, orcs, elves, dwarves, goblins, and other humanoids have tight pantheons. It is expected that an orc will worship Gruumsh or one of a handful of subordinate deities. In comparison, humanity embraces a staggering variety of deities. Each human culture might have its own array of gods.

In most D&D settings, there is no single god that can claim to have created humanity. Thus, the human proclivity for building institutions extends to religion. A single charismatic prophet can convert an entire kingdom to the worship of a new god. With that prophet's death, the religion might wax or wane, or the prophet's followers might turn against one another and found several competing religions.

In comparison, religion in dwarven society is set in stone. The dwarves of the Forgotten Realms identify Moradin as their creator. While individual dwarves might follow other gods, as a culture the dwarves are pledged to Moradin and the pantheon he leads. His teachings and magic are so thoroughly ingrained in dwarven culture that it would take a cataclysmic shift to replace him.

With that in mind, consider the role of the gods in your world and their ties to different humanoid races. Does each race have a creator god? How does that god shape that race's culture? Are other folk free of such divine ties and free to worship as they wish? Has a race turned against the god that created it? Has a new race appeared, created by a god within the past few years? A deity might also have ties to a kingdom, noble line, or other cultural institution. With the death of the emperor, a new ruler might be selected by divine portents sent by the deity who protected the empire in its earliest days. In such a land, the worship of other gods might be outlawed or tightly controlled.

Finally, consider the difference between gods who are tied to specific humanoid races and gods with more diverse followers. Do the races with their own pantheons enjoy a place of privilege in your world, with their gods taking an active role in their affairs? Are the other races ignored by the gods, or are those races the deciding factor that can tilt the balance of power in favor of one god or another?

Mapping Your Campaign

When creating the world where your campaign takes place, you'll want a map. You can take one of two approaches with it: top-down or bottom-up. Some DMs like to start at the top, creating the big picture of the world at the start of the campaign by having a map that shows whole continents, and then zooming in on smaller areas. Other DMs prefer to go the opposite direction, starting with a small campaign area that is mapped at a province or kingdom scale, then zooming out as adventures take the characters into new territory. Whichever approach you take, hexes work well for mapping outdoor environments where travel can go in any direction and calculating distance might be important. A single sheet of hex paper with 5 hexes to the inch is ideal for most maps. Use a scale for your map that's best suited to the level of detail you want. Chapter 7 offers more information about creating and mapping wilderness areas.

Province Scale

For the most detailed areas of your world, use a province scale where each hex represents 1 mile. A full-page map at this scale represents an area that can be covered in one day's travel in any direction from the center of the map, assuming clear terrain. As such, province scale is a useful scale for mapping a campaign's starting area (see "Creating a Campaign," later in this chapter) or any location where you expect to track the adventurers' movement in hours rather than days.

The ground cover of an area this size will include broad stretches of one predominant terrain type, broken up by other isolated terrain types.

A settled region mapped at this scale might have one town and eight to twelve villages or farming hamlets. A wilder region might have only a single keep, or no settlements at all. You can also indicate the extent of the cleared farmland that surrounds each city or town. On a province-scale map, this will show as a belt a few hexes wide surrounding each town or village. Even small villages farm most of the arable land within a mile or two.

Kingdom Scale

On a kingdom-scale map, each hex represents 6 miles. A map at this scale covers a large region, about the size of Great Britain or half the size of the state of California. That's plenty of room for adventuring.

The first step of mapping a region at this scale is to sketch out the coastlines and any major bodies of water in the area. Is the region landlocked or on a coast? A coastal region might include islands offshore, and a landlocked area might include an inland sea or major lakes. Alternatively, the region could consist of a single large island, or an isthmus or peninsula with multiple coastlines. Next, sketch in any major mountain ranges. Foothills form a transition between the mountains and lowlands, and broad patches of gentle hills might dot the region. That leaves the rest of your map for relatively flat terrain: grasslands, forests, swamps, and the like. Place these elements as you see fit.

Map out the courses of any rivers that flow through the area. Rivers are born in mountains or inland areas that see a lot of rainfall, winding down to the nearest major body of water that doesn't require the river to cross over higher elevation. Tributaries join rivers as they grow larger and move toward a lake or the sea.

Finally, place the major towns and cities of the region. At this scale, you don't need to worry about small towns and villages, or about mapping every belt of farmland. Even so, a settled region this size might easily have eight to twelve cities or towns to put on the map.

Continent Scale

For mapping a whole continent, use a scale where 1 hex represents 60 miles. At this scale, you can't see more than the shape of coastlines, the biggest mountain ranges, major rivers, huge lakes, and political boundaries. A map at this scale is best for showing how multiple kingdom-scale maps fit together, rather than tracking the movement of adventurers day by day.

The same process you use for mapping a region at kingdom scale works for mapping a whole continent. A continent might have eight to twelve large cities that deserve a place on the map, most likely major trade centers and the capitals of kingdoms.

Combining Scales

Whichever scale you start with, it's easy to zoom in or out on your maps. At continent scale, 1 hex represents the same area as 10 kingdom-scale hexes. Two cities that are 3 hexes (180 miles) apart on your continent map would be 30 hexes apart on your kingdom map, and might define the opposite ends of the region you're detailing. At kingdom scale, 1 hex equals 6 province-scale hexes, so it's easy to put the region covered by your province-scale map into the center of a kingdom-scale map and create interesting areas around it.


The places where people live-bustling cities, prosperous towns, and tiny villages nestled among miles of farmland-help define the nature of civilization in your world. A single settlement—a home base for your adventurers-is a great place to start a campaign and begin your world building. Consider the following questions as you create any settlement in your world:

The guidelines in this section are here to help you build the settlement you want for whatever purpose you have in mind. Disregard any advice here that runs counter to your vision for a settlement.


A settlement exists primarily to facilitate the story and fun of your campaign. Other than that point, the settlement's purpose determines the amount of detail you put into it. Create only the features of a settlement that you know you'll need, along with notes on general features. Then allow the place to grow organically as the adventurers interact with more and more of it, keeping notes on new places you invent.

Local Color

A settlement might serve as a place where the characters stop to rest and to buy supplies. A settlement of this sort needs no more than a brief description. Include the settlement's name, decide how big it is, add a dash of flavor ("The smell of the local tanneries never lifts from this town"), and let the adventurers get on with their business. The history of the inn where the characters spend the night, the mannerisms of the shopkeeper they buy supplies from-you can add this level of detail, but you don't have to. If the characters return to the same settlement, start adding these local features so that it begins to feel a little more like a home base, albeit a temporary one. Let the settlement develop as the need arises.

Home Base

A settlement gives the adventurers a place to live, train, and recuperate between adventures. An entire campaign can center on a particular town or city. Such a settlement is the launching pad from which the characters go out into the wider world.

Designed well, a home base can hold a special place in the adventurers' hearts, particularly if they care about one or more NPCs who live there.

To make a home base come alive, you'll need to invest some time fleshing out details, but the players can help you with that work. Ask them to tell you a bit about mentors, family members, and other important people in their characters' lives. Feel free to add to and modify what they give you, but you'll start with a solid foundation of the nonplayer characters (NPCs) who are important to the characters. Let the players describe where and how their characters spend their time—a favorite tavern, library, or temple, perhaps.

Using these NPCs and locations as a starting point, flesh out the settlement's cast of characters. Detail its leadership, including law enforcement (discussed later in the chapter). Include characters who can provide information, such as sages, soothsayers, librarians, and observant vagabonds. Priests can provide spellcasting as well as information. Make note of merchants who might regularly interact with the adventurers and perhaps compete with one another for the party's business. Think about the people who run the adventurers' favorite tavern. And then add a handful of wild cards: a shady dealer, a mad prophet, a retired mercenary, a drunken rake, or anyone else who adds a dash of adventure and intrigue to your campaign.

Adventure Site

A village harboring a secret cult of devil worshipers. A town controlled by a guild of wererats. A city conquered by a hobgoblin army. These settlements aren't merely rest stops but locations where adventures unfold. In a settlement that doubles as an adventure location, detail the intended adventure areas, such as towers and warehouses. For an event-based adventure, note the NPCs who play a part in the adventure. This work is adventure preparation as much as it is world building, and the cast of characters you develop for your adventure-including allies, patrons, enemies, and extras-can become recurring figures in your campaign.


Most settlements in a D&D world are villages clustered around a larger town or city. Farming villages supply the town or city population with food in exchange for goods the farmers can't produce themselves. Towns and cities are the seats of the nobles who govern the surrounding area, and who carry the responsibility for defending the villages from attack. Occasionally, a local lord or lady lives in a keep or fortress with no nearby town or city.


Most settlements are agricultural villages, supporting themselves and nearby towns or cities with crops and meat. Villagers produce food in one way or another-if not by tending the crops, then supporting those who do by shoeing horses, weaving clothes, milling grain, and the like. The goods they produce feed their families and supply trade with nearby settlements.

A village's population is dispersed around a large area of land. Farmers live on their land, which spreads them widely around the village center. At the heart of the village, a handful of structures cluster together: a well, a marketplace, a small temple or two, a gathering place, and perhaps an inn for travelers.


Towns are major trade centers, situated where important industries and reliable trade routes enabled the population to grow. These settlements rely on commerce: the import of raw materials and food from surrounding villages, and the export of crafted items to those villages, as well as to other towns and cities. A town's population is more diverse than that of most villages.

Towns arise where roads intersect waterways, at the meeting of major land trade routes, around strategic defensive locations, or near significant mines or similar natural resources.


Cities are cradles of civilization. Their larger populations require considerable support from both surrounding villages and trade routes, so they're rare.

Cities typically thrive in areas where large expanses of fertile, arable land surround a location accessible to trade, almost always on a navigable waterway.

Cities almost always have walls, and the stages of a city's growth are easily identified by the expansion of the walls beyond the central core. These internal walls naturally divide the city into wards (neighborhoods defined by specific features), which have their own representatives on the city council and their own noble administrators.

Cities that hold more than twenty-five thousand people are extremely rare. Metropolises such as Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms, Sharn in Eberron, and the Free City of Greyhawk stand as vital beacons of civilization in the D&D worlds.


What do the adventurers first notice as they approach or enter a settlement? The towering wall bristling with soldiers? The beggars with hands outstretched, pleading for aid outside the gate? The noisy hubbub of merchants and buyers thronging the market square? The overpowering stench of manure?

Sensory details help bring a settlement to life and vividly communicate its personality to your players. Settle on a single defining factor that sums up a settlement's personality and extrapolate from there.

Maybe a city is built around canals, like real-world Venice. That key element suggests a wealth of sensory details: the sight of colorful boats floating on muddy waters, the sound of lapping waves and perhaps singing gondoliers, the smells of fish and waste polluting the water, the feel of humidity. Or perhaps the city is shrouded in fog much of the time, and you describe the tendrils of cold mist reaching through every crack and cranny, the muffled sounds of hooves on cobblestones, the cold air with the smell of rain, and a sense of mystery and lurking danger.

The climate and terrain of a settlement's environment, its origin and inhabitants, its government and political position, and its commercial importance all have a bearing on its overall atmosphere. A city nestled against the edge of a jungle has a very different feel than one on the edge of a desert. Elf and dwarf cities present a distinct aesthetic, clearly identifiable in contrast to human-built ones. Soldiers patrol the streets to quell any hint of dissent in a city ruled by a tyrant, while a city fostering an early system of democracy might boast an open-air market where philosophical ideas are traded as freely as produce. All the possible combinations of these factors can inspire endless variety in the settlements of your campaign world.


In the feudal society common in most D&D worlds, power and authority are concentrated in towns and cities. Nobles hold authority over the settlements where they live and the surrounding lands. They collect taxes from the populace, which they use for public building projects, to pay the soldiery, and to support a comfortable lifestyle for themselves (although nobles often have considerable hereditary wealth). In exchange, they promise to protect their citizens from threats such as orc marauders, hobgoblin armies, and roving human bandits.

Nobles appoint officers as their agents in villages, to supervise the collection of taxes and serve as judges in disputes and criminal trials. These reeves, sheriffs, or bailiffs are commoners native to the villages they govern, chosen for their positions because they already hold the respect of their fellow citizens.

Within towns and cities, lords share authority and administrative responsibility with lesser nobles (usually their own relatives), and also with representatives of the middle class, such as traders and artisans. A lord mayor of noble birth is appointed to head the town or city council and to perform the same administrative functions that reeves carry out in villages. The council consists of representatives elected by the middle class.

Only foolish nobles ignore the wishes of their councils, since the economic power of the middle class is often more important to the prosperity of a town or city than the hereditary authority of the nobility.

The larger a settlement, the more likely that other individuals or organizations hold significant power there as well. Even in a village, a popular individual—a wise elder or a well-liked farmer-can wield more influence than the appointed reeve, and a wise reeve avoids making an enemy of such a person. In towns and cities, the same power might lie in the hands of a prominent temple, a guild independent of the council, or an individual with magical power.

Forms of Government

A settlement rarely stands alone. A given town or city might be a theocratic city-state or a prosperous free city governed by a merchant council. More likely, it's part of a feudal kingdom, a bureaucratic empire, or a remote realm ruled by an iron-fisted tyrant. Consider how your settlement fits into the bigger picture of your world or region-who rules its ruler, and what other settlements might also lie under its control.

Forms of Government

Forms of Government

Typical and fantastical forms of government are described below. Choose one or randomly determine a form of government for a nation or city from the Forms of Government table.


One hereditary ruler wields absolute power. The autocrat either is supported by a well-developed bureaucracy or military or stands as the only authority in an otherwise anarchic society. The dynastic ruler could be immortal or undead. Aundair and Karrnath, two kingdoms in the Eberron campaign setting, have autocrats with royal blood in their veins. Whereas Queen Aurala of Aundair relies on wizards and spies to enforce her will, Kaius, the vampire king of Karrnath, has a formidable army of living and undead soldiers under his command.


Various departments compose the government, each responsible for an aspect of rule. The department heads, ministers, or secretaries answer to a figurehead autocrat or council.


Each individual city or town within the confederacy governs itself, but all contribute to a league or federation that promotes (at least in theory) the common good of all member states. Conditions and attitudes toward the central government vary from place to place within the confederacy. The Lords' Alliance in the Forgotten Realms setting is a loose confederacy of cities, while the Mror Holds in the Eberron campaign setting is a confederacy of allied dwarf clans.


Citizens or their elected representatives determine the laws in a democracy. A bureaucracy or military carries out the day-to-day work of government, with positions filled through open elections.


One supreme ruler holds absolute authority, but his or her rule isn't necessarily dynastic. In other respects this resembles an autocracy. In the Greyhawk campaign setting, a half-demon named Iuz is the dictator of a conquered land that bears his name.


The typical government of Europe in the Middle Ages, a feudalistic society consists of layers of lords and vassals. The vassals provide soldiers or scutage (payment in lieu of military service) to the lords, who in turn promise protection to their vassals.


Elders preside over this society. In some cases, long-lived races such as elves or dragons are entrusted with the leadership of the land.


A feudal or bureaucratic government where every member, except one, is subordinate to another member. In the Dragonlance campaign setting, the dragon armies of Krynn form a military hierarchy, with the Dragon Highlords as leaders under the dragon queen Takhisis.


This government is composed of groups or individuals primarily seeking wealth for themselves, often at the expense of their subjects. The grasping Bandit Kingdoms in the Greyhawk campaign setting are prime examples. A kingdom run by thieves' guilds would also fall into this category.


The governing body is composed of spellcasters who rule directly as oligarchs or feudal lords, or participate in a democracy or bureaucracy. Examples include the Red Wizards of Thay in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting and the sorcerer-kings of Athas in the Dark Sun campaign setting.

Matriarchy or Patriarchy

This society is governed by the eldest or most important members of one gender. Drow cities are examples of theocratic matriarchies, for each is ruled by a council of drow high priestesses who answer to Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders.


The most intelligent and educated people oversee the society, often with a bureaucracy to handle the day-to-day work of government. In the Forgotten Realms, scholarly monks preside over the fortress-library of Candlekeep, overseen by a master of lore called the Keeper.


Military leaders run the nation under martial law, using the army and other armed forces. A militocracy might be based on an elite group of soldiers, an order of dragon riders, or a league of sea princes. Solamnia, a nation ruled by knights in the Dragonlance campaign setting, falls into this category.


A single hereditary sovereign wears the crown. Unlike the autocrat, the monarch's powers are limited by law, and the ruler serves as the head of a democracy, feudal state, or militocracy. The kingdom of Breland, in the Eberron campaign setting, has both a parliament that makes laws and a monarch who enforces them.


A small number of absolute rulers share power, possibly dividing the land into districts or provinces under their control, or jointly ruling together. A group of adventurers who take control of a nation together might form an oligarchy. The Free City of Greyhawk is an oligarchy composed of various faction leaders, with a Lord Mayor as its figurehead.


Society is governed by the wealthy. The elite form a ruling council, purchase representation at the court of a figurehead monarch, or rule by default because money is the true power in the realm. Many cities in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, including Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate, are plutocracies.


Government is entrusted to representatives of an established electorate who rule on behalf of the electors. Any democracy in which only landowners or certain classes can vote could be considered a republic.


Conquerors and representatives of another government wield power, ruling the settlement or region as part of a larger empire. The satraps are bureaucrats and military officers, or unusual characters or monsters. The cities of Highport and Suderham in the Greyhawk campaign setting are satrapies controlled by agents of a vicious gang of marauders known as the Slave Lords.


Rulership falls to a direct representative or a collection of agents of a deity. The centers of power in a theocracy are usually located on sacred sites. In the Eberron campaign setting, the nation of Thrane is a theocracy devoted to the Silver Flame, a divine spirit that resides in Thrane's capital of Flamekeep.

Sample Hierarchy of Noble Titles

Sample Hierarchy of Noble Titles
6thEarl or Count/Countess


Even small villages can provide characters access to the gear they need to pursue their adventures. Provisions, tents, backpacks, and simple weapons are commonly available. Traveling merchants carry armor, martial weapons, and more specialized gear. Most villages have inns that cater to travelers, where adventurers can find a hot meal and a bed, even if the quality leaves much to be desired.

Villages rely heavily on trade with other settlements, including larger towns and cities. Merchants pass through regularly, selling necessities and luxuries to the villagers, and any successful merchant has far-reaching contacts across the region. Traveling merchants pass on gossip and adventure hooks to the characters as they conduct their business. Since merchants make their living traversing roads that might be menaced by bandits or wandering monsters, they hire guards to keep their goods safe. They also carry news from town to town, including reports of situations that cry out for the attention of adventurers.

These merchants can't provide the services normally found in a city. For instance, when the characters are in need of a library or a dedicated sage, a trainer who can handle the griffon eggs they've found, or an architect to design their castle, they're better off going to a large city than looking in a village.


The straightforward terms "gold piece" (gp), "silver piece" (sp), "copper piece" (cp), "electrum piece" (ep), and "platinum piece" (pp) are used throughout the game rules for clarity. You can imbue these denominations with more interesting descriptions in your game world. People give coins specific names, whether as plain as "dime" or lively as "gold double-eagle." A country typically mints its own currency, which might correspond to the basic rules terms. In most worlds, few currencies achieve widespread distribution, but nearly all coins are accepted worldwide-except by those looking to pick a fight with a foreigner.

{@b Example: The Forgotten Realms}

The world of the Forgotten Realms provides an extensive example of currencies. Although barter, blood notes, and similar letters of trade are common enough in Faerun, metal coins and trade bars are the everyday currency.

Common Coinage

Coins appear in a bewildering variety of shapes, sizes, names, and materials. Thanks to the ambitious traders of Sembia, that nation's oddly shaped coins can be found throughout Faerun. In Sembia, square iron steel pence replace copper coins. Triangular silver pieces are ravens, diamond-shaped electrum pieces are harmarks (commonly called "blue eyes"), and five-sided gold pieces are nobles. Sembia doesn't mint platinum coins. All coinage is accepted in Sembia, including copper and platinum pieces from abroad.

In Waterdeep, the bustling cosmopolitan center of trade, coppers are called nibs, silvers are shards, electrum pieces are moons, gold pieces are dragons, and platinum coins are suns. The city's two local coins are the taol and the harbor moon. The taol is a square brass trading-coin pierced with a central hole to permit it to be easily strung on a ring or string, worth 2 gp in the city and nothing outside Waterdeep. The harbor moon is a flat crescent of platinum with a central hole and an electrum inlay, named for its traditional use in the docks for buying large amounts of cargo at once. The coin is worth 50 gp in Waterdeep and 30 gp elsewhere.

The northern city of Silverymoon mints a crescent-shaped, shining blue coin called an electrum moon, worth 1 gp in that city and 1 ep elsewhere. The city also issues a larger coin called an eclipsed moon, which looks like an electrum moon combined a darker silver wedge to form a round coin worth 5 ep within the city and 2 ep outside it.

The favored form of currency in the kingdom of Cormyr is the royal coinage of the court, stamped with a dragon on one side and a treasury date mark on the other. There, coppers are called thumbs, silvers are silver falcons, electrum pieces are blue eyes, gold pieces are golden lions, and platinum coins are tricrowns.

Even city-states mint their own copper, silver, and gold pieces. Electrum and platinum pieces are rarer in these lands. Smaller states use coinage borrowed from other nations and looted from ancient sources. Travelers from certain lands (notably the wizard-dominated realms of Thay and Halruaa) use the currencies of other realms when trading abroad because their own coins and tokens are feared to be magically cursed, and so are shunned by others.

Conversely, the coins of long-lost, legendary lands and centers of great magic are honored, though those who find them are wise to sell them to collectors rather than merely spending them in markets. The coins of the old elven court of Cormanthyr are particularly famous: thalvers (coppers), bedoars (silvers), thammarchs (electrum), shilmaers (golds), and ruendils (platinum). These coins are fine, numerous, and sometimes still used in trade among elves.

Trade Bars

Large numbers of coins can be difficult to transport and account for. Many merchants prefer to use trade bars-ingots of precious metals and alloys (usually silver) likely to be accepted by virtually anyone. Trade bars are stamped or graven with the symbol of the trading company or government that originally crafted them. These bars are valued by weight, as follows:

The city of Baldur's Gate mints large numbers of silver trade bars and sets the standard for this form of currency. The city of Mirabar issues black iron spindle-shaped trade bars with squared ends weighing about 2 pounds each, worth 10 gp in that city, markedly less in nearby trade centers, and as iron is normally valued elsewhere (1 sp per pound).

Odd Currency

Coins and bars aren't the only forms of hard currency. Gond bells are small brass bells worth 10 gp in trade, or 20 gp to a temple of Gond. Shaar rings, pierced and polished slices of ivory threaded onto strings by the nomads of the Shaar, are worth 3 gp per slice.

Creating Your Own

As shown in the previous examples, currency doesn't need to obey a universal standard in your world. Each country and era can have its own coins with its own values. Your adventurers might travel through many different lands and find long-lost treasures. Finding six hundred ancient bedoars from the rule of Coronal Eltargrim twelve centuries before offers a deeper sense of immersion in your world than finding 60 sp.

Varying names and descriptions of coins for the major contemporary and historical realms of your world adds an additional layer of texture. The golden lions of Cormyr convey the noble nature of that kingdom. If a nation mints gold coins stamped with leering demonic faces and called torments, that currency expresses a distinct flavor.

Creating new coins connected to specific locations, like the taols of Waterdeep or the eclipsed moons of Silverymoon, provides another level of detail. As long as you keep the value of these new coins simple (in other words, don't invent a coin worth 1.62 gp), you add local flavor to key locations in your world without adding undue complexity.

Languages and Dialects

When fleshing out your world, you can create new languages and dialects to reflect its unique geography and history. You can replace the default languages presented in the Player's Handbook with new ones, or split languages up into several different dialects.

In some worlds, regional differences might be much more important than racial ones. Perhaps all the dwarves, elves, and humans who live in one kingdom speak a common language, which is completely different from that spoken in the neighboring kingdom. This might make communication (and diplomacy) between two kingdoms significantly more difficult.

Widely used languages might have ancient versions, or there might be completely different ancient tongues that adventurers find written in tombs and ruins. Such languages can add an element of mystery to inscriptions and tomes that characters encounter.

You might invent additional secret languages, besides Druidic and thieves' cant, that allow members of certain organizations or political affiliations to communicate. You could even decide that each alignment has its own language, which might be more of an argot used primarily to discuss philosophical concepts.

In a region where one race has subjugated another, the language of the conquerors can become a mark of social status. Similarly, reading and writing might be restricted by law to the upper classes of a society.

Factions and Organizations

Temples, guilds, orders, secret societies, and colleges are important forces in the social order of any civilization. Their influence might stretch across multiple towns and cities, with or without a similarly wide-ranging political authority. Organizations can play an important part in the lives of player characters, becoming their patrons, allies, or enemies just like individual nonplayer characters. When characters join these organizations, they become part of something larger than themselves, which can give their adventures a context in the wider world.

Adventurers and Organizations

At the start of a campaign, backgrounds are a great way to connect adventurers to your world. As the game progresses, though, background ties often become less important.

Factions and organizations aimed at player characters are a way to keep higher-level adventurers connected to your world, providing ties to key NPCs and a clear agenda beyond individual gain. In the same way, villainous organizations create an ongoing sense of menace above and beyond the threat of solitary foes.

Having different characters tied to different factions can create interesting situations at the gaming table, as long as those factions have similar goals and don't work in opposition to one another all the time. Adventurers representing different factions might have competing interests or priorities while they pursue the same goals.

Adventurer organizations are also a great source of special rewards beyond experience points and treasure. Increased standing in an organization has value in and of itself, and might also come with concrete benefits such as access to an organization's information, equipment, magic, and other resources.

Creating Factions

Factions and organizations that you create for your campaign should grow out of the stories that are important to the world. Create organizations that your players will want to interact with, whether as allies, members, or enemies.

As a starting point, decide what role you want an organization to play in the world. What is it all about? What are its goals? Who founded it and why? What do its members do? Answering these questions should give you a good sense of the organization's personality. From there, think about typical members. How might people describe them? What are the typical members' classes and alignments? What personality traits do they tend to share?

Choosing a symbol and a motto for the organization is a way of summing up the work you've done so far. A faction that uses a stag as a symbol probably has a very different personality from one that uses a winged viper. For a motto, choose not just a message but also a tone and style of speech that fits the organization as you've defined it. Consider the motto of the Harpers: "Down with tyranny. Fairness and equality for all." The Harpers have a straightforward message of freedom and prosperity. Contrast that with the motto of a group of politically allied cities in the North calling themselves the Lords' Alliance: "Threats to home must be terminated without prejudice. Superiority is our security." These are sophisticated people involved in a delicate political alliance, with more emphasis on stability than on fairness and equality.

Finally, think about the ways that player characters might come into contact with the organization. Who are the important members-not just the leaders, but the agents in the field that the adventurers might encounter? Where are they active, and where do they have headquarters or strongholds? If adventurers do join, what kind of missions might they be sent on? What rewards can they gain?

Sample Faction: The Harpers

The Harpers is a scattered network of spellcasters and spies who advocate equality and covertly oppose the abuse of power, magical or otherwise.

The organization has risen, been shattered, and risen again several times. Its longevity and resilience are largely due to its decentralized, grassroots, secretive nature, and the autonomy of its various members. The Harpers have small cells and lone operatives throughout the Forgotten Realms, although they interact and share information with one another from time to time as needs warrant. The Harpers' ideology is noble, and its members pride themselves on their ingenuity and incorruptibility. Harpers don't seek power or glory, only fair and equal treatment for all.


Down with tyranny. Fairness and equality for all.


The Harpers' beliefs can be summarized as follows:


Gather information throughout Faerun, discern the political dynamics within each region, and promote fairness and equality by covert means. Act openly as a last resort. Thwart tyrants and any leader, government, or group that grows too powerful. Aid the weak, the poor, and the oppressed.

Typical Quests

Typical Harper quests include securing an artifact that would upset the balance of power in a region, gathering information on a powerful individual or organization, and determining the true intentions of an ambitious political figure or evil spellcaster.

Sample Faction: The Zhentarim

The Zhentarim (also known as the Black Network) is an unscrupulous shadow network that seeks to expand its influence and power throughout the Forgotten Realms. The public face of the Black Network appears relatively benign. It offers the best and cheapest goods and services, both legal and illicit, thus destroying its competitors and making everyone dependent on it.

A member of the Zhentarim thinks of himself or herself as a member of a very large family and relies on the Black Network for resources and security. However, members are granted the autonomy to pursue their own interests and gain some measure of personal wealth and influence. As a whole, the Zhentarim promises "the best of the best," although in truth the organization is more interested in spreading its own propaganda and influence than investing in the improvement of its individual members.


Join us and prosper. Oppose us and suffer.


The Zhentarim's beliefs can be summarized as follows:


Amass wealth, power, and influence, and thereby dominate Faerun.

Typical Quests

Typical Zhentarim quests include plundering or stealing a treasure hoard, powerful magic item, or artifact; securing a lucrative business contract or enforcing a preexisting one; and establishing a foothold in a place where the Zhentarim holds little sway.


Renown is an optional rule you can use to track an adventurer's standing within a particular faction or organization. Renown is a numerical value that starts at 0, then increases as a character earns favor and reputation within a particular organization. You can tie benefits to a character's renown, including ranks and titles within the organization and access to resources.

A player tracks renown separately for each organization his or her character is a member of. For example, an adventurer might have 5 renown within one faction and 20 renown within another, based on the character's interaction with each organization over the course of the campaign.

Gaining Renown

A character earns renown by completing missions or quests that serve an organization's interests or involve the organization directly. You award renown at your discretion as characters complete these missions or quests, typically at the same time you award experience points.

Advancing an organization's interests increases a character's renown within that organization by 1. Completing a mission specifically assigned by that organization, or which directly benefits the organization, increases the character's renown by 2 instead.

For example, characters with connections to the noble Order of the Gauntlet complete a mission in which they free a town from the tyranny of a blue dragon. Because the order likes to punish evildoers, you might increase each character's renown within the order by 1. Conversely, if killing the dragon was a mission given to the adventurers by a senior member of the order, completing the task might instead increase each character's renown by 2, showing the adventurers as effective allies.

Meanwhile, the party's rogue might have looted a box of rare poisons from the dragon's hoard and sold it to a fence who is secretly a Zhentarim agent. You might increase the rogue's renown within the Zhentarim by 2 since this action directly increased that group's power and wealth, even though the task was not assigned by an agent of the Zhentarim.

Benefits of Renown

The benefits of increasing renown within an organization can include rank and authority, friendly attitudes from members of the organization, and other perks.


Characters can earn promotions as their renown increases. You can establish certain thresholds of renown that serve as prerequisites (though not necessarily the only prerequisites) for advancing in rank, as shown in the Examples of Faction Ranks table. For example, a character might join the Lords' Alliance after earning 1 renown within that organization, gaining the title of cloak. As the character's renown within the organization increases, he or she might be eligible for further increases in rank.

You can add rank prerequisites. For example, a character affiliated with the Lords' Alliance might have to be at least 5th level before becoming a stingblade, at least 10th level to be a warduke, and at least 15th level to be a lioncrown.

You can set these thresholds of renown to any numbers that work for your game, creating appropriate ranks and titles for the organizations in your campaign.

Examples of Faction Ranks

Examples of Faction Ranks
RenownHarpersOrder of the GauntletEmerald EnclaveLord's AllianceZhentarim
25Wise OwlVindicatorWinterstalkerWardukeArdragon
50High HarperRighteous HandMaster of the WildLioncrownDread Lord

Attitudes of Organization Members

As a character's renown within an organization grows, members of that organization are increasingly likely to have heard of the character. You can set thresholds at which the default attitude of an organization's members toward the character becomes indifferent or friendly. For example, members of the Emerald Enclave—a faction dedicated to preserving the natural order—might be less friendly toward characters who have not cultivated at least 3 renown within that organization, becoming friendly by default only when a character has gained 10 renown within the Emerald Enclave. These thresholds apply only to the default attitude of most members of an organization, and such attitudes aren't automatic. NPC faction members might dislike an adventurer despite that character's renown—or perhaps because of it.


Earning a rank within an organization comes with certain benefits, as defined by you. A character of low rank might gain access to a reliable contact and adventure leads, a safe house, or a trader willing to offer a discount on adventuring gear. A middle-ranked character might gain a follower (see chapter 4, "Creating Nonplayer Characters"), access to potions and scrolls, the ability to call in a favor, or backup on dangerous missions. A high-ranking character might be able to call on a small army, take custody of a rare magic item, gain access to a helpful spellcaster, or assign special missions to members of lower rank.

Downtime Activities

You might allow characters to spend downtime between adventures building relationships and gaining renown within an organization. For more information on downtime activities, see chapter 6, "Between Adventures."

Losing Renown

Disagreements with members of an organization aren't enough to cause a loss of renown within that organization. However, serious offenses committed against the organization or its members can result in a loss of renown and rank within the organization. The extent of the loss depends on the infraction and is left to your discretion. A character's renown within an organization can never drop below 0.


With a few alterations, the renown system can also serve as a measure of a character's link to the gods. It's a great option for campaigns where the gods take active roles in the world.

Using this approach, you track renown based on specific divine figures in your campaign. Each character has the option to select a patron deity or pantheon with goals, doctrine, and taboos that you have created. Any renown he or she earns is called piety. A character gains piety for honoring his or her gods, fulfilling their commands, and respecting their taboos. A character loses piety for working against those gods, dishonoring them, defiling their temples, and foiling their aims.

The gods bestow favors on those who prove their devotion. With each rank of piety gained, a character can pray for divine favor once per day. This favor usually comes in the form of a cleric spell like bless. The favor often comes with a sign of the divine benefactor; for example, a character dedicated to Thor might receive a spell accompanied by the boom of thunder.

A high level of piety can also lead to a character gaining a more persistent benefit, in the form of a blessing or charm (see chapter 7, "Treasure," for such supernatural gifts).

Magic in Your World

In most D&D worlds, magic is natural but still wondrous and sometimes frightening. People everywhere know about magic, and most people see evidence of it at some point in their lives. It permeates the cosmos and moves through the ancient possessions of legendary heroes, the mysterious ruins of fallen empires, those touched by the gods, creatures born with supernatural power, and individuals who study the secrets of the multiverse. Histories and fireside tales are filled with the exploits of those who wield it.

What normal folk know of magic depends on where they live and whether they know characters who practice magic. Citizens of an isolated hamlet might not have seen true magic used for generations and speak in whispers of the strange powers of the old hermit living in the nearby woods. In the city of Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms setting, the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors is a guild of wizards. These arcanists wish to make wizardry more accessible so the order's members can profit from selling their services.

Some D&D settings have more magic in them than others. On Athas, the harsh world of the Dark Sun setting, arcane magic is a hated practice that can drain life from the world. Much of Athas's magic lies in the hands of evildoers. Conversely, in the world of Eberron, magic is as commonplace as any other commodity. Mercantile houses sell magic items and services to anyone who can afford them. People purchase tickets to ride airships and trains propelled by elemental magic.

Consider these questions when fitting magic into your world:

The answers to some questions suggest the answers to others. For example, if spellcasters of low-level spells are common, as in Eberron, then authorities and common folk are more likely to have access to and use the results of such spells. Buying commonplace magic isn't only possible, but also less expensive. People are more likely to keep well-known magic in mind, and to protect against it, especially in risky situations.

Restrictions on Magic

Some civilized areas might restrict or prohibit the use of magic. Spellcasting might be forbidden without a license or official permission. In such a place, magic items and continual magical effects are rare, with protections against magic being the exception.

Some localities might prohibit specific spells. It could be a crime to cast any spells used to steal or swindle, such as those that bestow invisibility or produce illusions. Enchantments that charm or dominate others are readily outlawed, since they rob their subjects of free will. Destructive spells are likewise prohibited, for obvious reasons. A local ruler could have a phobia about a specific effect or spell (such as shapeshifting effects if he or she were afraid of being impersonated) and enact a law restricting that type of magic.

Schools of Magic

The rules of the game refer to the schools of magic (abjuration, illusion, necromancy, and so on), but it's up to you to determine what those schools signify in your world. Similarly, a few class options suggest the existence of magic-using organizations in the world—bardic colleges and druid circles-which are up to you to flesh out.

You could decide that no formal structures like these exist in your world. Wizards (and bards and druids) might be so rare that a player character learns from a single mentor and never meets another character of the same class, in which case wizards would learn their school specialization without any formal training.

However, if magic is more common, academies can be the embodiments of the schools of magic. These institutions have their own hierarchies, traditions, regulations, and procedures. For example, Materros the necromancer could be a brother of the necromantic Cabal of Thar-Zad. As a sign of his high standing within its hierarchy, he is allowed to wear the red and green robes of a master. Of course, when he wears these robes, his occupation is easily identified by those who know of the cabal. This recognition could be a boon or a nuisance, since the Cabal of Thar-Zad has a fearsome reputation.

If you go this route, you can treat schools of magic, bardic colleges, and druid circles as organizations, using the guidelines for organizations presented earlier in this chapter. A player character necromancer might cultivate renown within the Cabal of Thar-Zad, while a bard seeks increasing renown within the College of Mac-Fuirmidh.

Teleportation Circles

The presence of permanent teleportation circles in major cities helps cement their important place in the economy of a fantasy world. Spells such as plane shift, teleport, and teleportation circle connect with these circles, which are found in temples, academies, the headquarters of arcane organizations, and prominent civic locations. However, since every teleportation circle is a possible means of entry into a city, they're guarded by military and magical protection.

As you design a fantasy city, think about the teleportation circles it might contain and which ones adventurers are likely to know about. If the adventurers commonly return to their home base by means of a teleportation circle, use that circle as a hook for plot developments in your campaign. What do the adventurers do if they arrive in a teleportation circle and find all the familiar wards disabled and guards lying in pools of blood? What if their arrival interrupts an argument between two feuding priests at the temple? Adventure ensues!

Bringing Back the Dead

When a creature dies, its soul departs its body, leaves the Material Plane, travels through the Astral Plane, and goes to abide on the plane where the creature's deity resides. If the creature didn't worship a deity, its soul departs to the plane corresponding to its alignment. Bringing someone back from the dead means retrieving the soul from that plane and returning it to its body.

Enemies can take steps to make it more difficult for a character to be returned from the dead. Keeping the body prevents others from using raise dead or resurrection to restore the slain character to life.

A soul can't be returned to life if it doesn't wish to be. A soul knows the name, alignment, and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it and might refuse to return on that basis. For example, if the honorable knight Sturm Brightblade is slain and a high priestess of Takhisis (god of evil dragons) grabs his body, Sturm might not wish to be raised from the dead by her. Any attempts she makes to revive him automatically fail. If the evil cleric wants to revive Sturm to interrogate him, she needs to find some way to trick his soul, such as duping a good cleric into raising him and then capturing him once he is alive again.

Creating a Campaign

The world you create is the stage for the adventures you set in it. You don't have to give more thought to it than that. You can run adventures in an episodic format, with the characters as the only common element, and also weave themes throughout those adventures to build a greater saga of the characters' achievements in the world.

Planning an entire campaign might seem like a daunting task, but you don't have to plot out every detail right from the start. You can start with the basics, running a few adventures, and think about larger plot lines you want to explore as the campaign progresses. You're free to add as much or as little detail as you wish.

The start of a campaign resembles the start of an adventure. You want to jump quickly into the action, show the players that adventure awaits, and grab their attention right away. Give the players enough information to make them want to come back week after week to see how the story plays out.

Start Small

When you first start building your campaign, start small. The characters need to know only about the city, town, or village where they start the game, and perhaps the nearby dungeon. You might decide that the barony is at war with a nearby duchy, or that a distant forest is crawling with ettercaps and giant spiders, and you should note these things. But at the start of the game, the local area is enough to get the campaign off the ground. Follow these steps to create that local area:

1. Create a Home Base

See the "Settlements" section earlier in this chapter for guidance on building this settlement. A small town or village at the edge of the wilderness serves as a fine home base in most D&D campaigns. Use a larger town or city if you want a campaign with urban adventuring.

2. Create a Local Region

See "Mapping the Campaign" earlier in this chapter for guidance. Draw a map at province scale (1 hex = 1 mile) with the home base near the center. Fill in the area within a day's travel-about 25 to 30 miles-of the home base. Pepper it with two to four dungeons or similar adventure locales. An area that size is likely to have one to three additional settlements as well as the home base, so give thought to them as well.

3. Craft a Starting Adventure

A single dungeon makes a good first adventure for most campaigns. See chapter 3, "Creating Adventures," for guidance.

A home base provides a common starting location for the characters. This starting point might be the village where they grew up or a city that attracted them from points beyond. Or perhaps they begin the campaign in the dungeons of an evil baron's castle where they've been locked up for various reasons (legitimate or otherwise), throwing them into the midst of the adventure.

For each of these steps, give the locations only as much detail as they need. You don't need to identify every building in a village or label every street in a large city. If the characters start in the baron's dungeon, you'll need the details of this first adventure site, but you don't have to name all the baron's knights. Sketch out a simple map, think about the surrounding area, and consider whom the characters are most likely to interact with early in the campaign. Most important, visualize how this area fits into the theme and story you have in mind for your campaign. Then start working on your first adventure!

Set the Stage

As you start to develop your campaign, you'll need to fill in the players on the basics. For easy distribution, compile essential information into a campaign handout. Such a handout typically includes the following material:

Keep this handout short and to the point. Two pages is a reasonable maximum. Even if you have a burst of creative energy that produces twenty pages of great background material, save it for your adventures. Let the players uncover the details gradually in play.

Involving the Characters

Once you've identified what your campaign is about, let the players help tell the story by deciding how their characters are involved. This is their opportunity to tie their characters' history and background to the campaign, and a chance for you to determine how the various elements of each character's background tie into the campaign's story. For example, what secret has the hermit character learned? What is the status of the noble character's family? What is the folk hero's destiny?

Some players might have trouble coming up with ideas-not everyone is equally inventive. You can help spur their creativity with a few questions about their characters:

Listen to the players' ideas, and say yes if you can. Even if you want all the characters to have grown up in the starting town, consider allowing a recent arrival or a transplant if the player's story is convincing enough. Suggest alterations to a character's story so it better fits your world, or weave the first threads of your campaign into that story.

Creating a Background

Backgrounds are designed to root player characters in the world, and creating new backgrounds is a great way to introduce players to the special features of your world. Backgrounds that have ties to particular cultures, organizations, and historical events from your campaign are particularly strong. Perhaps the priests of a certain religion live as beggars supported by a pious populace, singing the tales of their deity's exploits to entertain and enlighten the faithful. You could create a mendicant priest background (or modify the acolyte background) to reflect these qualities. It could include musical instrument proficiency, and its feature probably involves receiving hospitality from the faithful.

Guidelines for creating a new background are provided in chapter 9, "Dungeon Master's Workshop."

Campaign Events

Significant events in the history of a fantasy world tend toward immense upheavals: wars that pit the forces of good against evil in an epic confrontation, natural disasters that lay waste to entire civilizations, invasions of vast armies or extra planar hordes, assassinations of world leaders. These world-shaking events title the chapters of history.

In a D&D game, such events provide the sparks that can ignite and sustain a campaign. The most common pitfall of serial stories without a set beginning, middle, and end is inertia. Like many television shows and comic-book series, a D&D campaign runs the risk of retreading the same ground long after the enjoyment's gone. Just as actors or writers drift away from those other mediums, so can players-the actors and writers of a D&D game. Games stagnate when the story meanders too long without a change in tone, when the same villains and similar adventures grow tiresome and predictable, and when the world doesn't change around the characters and in response to their actions.

World-shaking events force conflict. They set new events and power groups in motion. Their outcomes change the world by altering the tone of the setting in a meaningful way. They chronicle the story of your world in big, bold print. Change-especially change that occurs as a result of the characters' actions-keeps the story moving. If change is imperceptible, the actions of the characters lack significance. When the world becomes reliable, it's time to shake things up.

Putting Events in Motion

World-shaking events can happen at any time in a campaign or story arc, but the biggest incidents naturally fall at the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

That placement reflects the structure of dramatic stories. At the beginning of a story, something happens to shake the protagonists' world and spur them into action. The characters take action to resolve their problems, but other forces oppose them. As they reach a significant milestone toward their goal, a major conflict disrupts the characters' plans, shaking their world again; failure seems imminent. At the end of the story, they succeed or fail, and the world is shaken again by the way the characters changed it for good or ill.

At the beginning of a D&D campaign, world-shaking events create instant adventure hooks and affect the characters' lives directly. In the middle, they make great turning points as the characters' fortunes reverse-rising after a defeat or falling after a victory. Near the end of a campaign, such events serve as excellent climactic episodes with far-reaching effects. They might even occur after the story has ended, as a result of the characters' actions.

When Not to Shake It Up

In constructing a narrative, beware of "false action," or action for its own sake. False action doesn't move a story forward, engage characters, or cause them to change. Many action movies suffer from false action, in which car chases, gunfights, and explosions abound but do little more than inconvenience the characters and eventually bore the audience with their repetition and dearth of meaningful stakes. Some D&D campaigns fall into the same trap, stringing world-spanning disasters together one after another with little impact on the characters or the world. Thus, it's probably not in the DM's best interest to reorder the world every single time there's a lull in the action, lest world-shaking events become ordinary.

As a general rule, a campaign can sustain up to three large-scale, world-shaking events: one near the beginning, one near the middle, and one near the end. Use as many small-scale events that disturb the bounded microcosms of towns, villages, tribes, fiefs, duchies, provinces, and so forth as you like. Every significant event shakes someone's world, after all, no matter how small that world might be. Let unexpected and terrible events regularly afflict the world's smaller territories, but unless your story demands it, save the large-scale map-spanning events for the biggest, most important moments of your campaign.

World-Shaking Events

You can use this section for ideas and inspiration to expand on world-shaking events already occurring (or soon to occur) within your world. Alternatively, you can roll on the tables below to randomly generate an event to inspire your imagination. The attempt to justify a random result can reveal unforeseen possibilities.

To get started, select a world-shaking event category or roll on the World-Shaking Events table.

World-Shaking Events

World-Shaking Events
1Rise of a leader of an era
2Fall of a leader or an era
3Cataclysmic disaster
4Assault or invasion
5Rebellion, revolution, overthrow
6Extinction or depletion
7New organization
8Discovery, expansion, invention
9Prediction, omen, prophecy
10Myth and legend

1-2. Rise or Fall of a Leader or an Era

Eras are often defined by the prominent leaders, innovators, and tyrants of the day. These people change the world and etch their signatures indelibly on the pages of history. When they rise to power, they shape the time and place where they live in monumental ways. When they fall from power or pass away, the ghost of their presence lingers.

Determine the kind of leader that influences the new or passing era. You can choose the type of leader or determine one randomly using the Leader Types table.

Leader Types

Leader Types
d6Leader Types

Political leaders are monarchs, nobles, and chiefs. Religious leaders include deities' avatars, high priests, and messiahs, as well as those in charge of monasteries and leaders of influential religious sects. Major military leaders control the armed forces of countries. They include military dictators, warlords, and the heads of a ruler's war council. Minor military leaders include the heads of local militias, gangs, and other martial organizations. At the broadest scale, a criminal or underworld leader wields power through a network of spies, bribes, and black-market trade. On the smallest scale, these are local gang bosses, pirate captains, and brigands. A leader in art or culture is a virtuoso whose work reflects the spirit of the age and changes the way people think: a prominent playwright, bard, or court fool in whose words, art, or performance the people perceive universal truth. On a smaller scale, this might be an influential local poet, minstrel, satirist, or sculptor.

A major leader in philosophy, learning, or magic is a genius philosopher, a counselor to emperors, an enlightened thinker, the head of the highest institution of learning in the world, or an archmage. A minor leader might be a local sage, seer, hedge wizard, wise elder, or teacher.

Rise of a Leader, Beginning of an Era

In dramatic stories, a new leader's rise often comes at the end of a period of struggle or turmoil. Sometimes it's a war or uprising; other times it's an election, the death of a tyrant, a prophecy fulfilled, or the appointment of a hero. Conversely, the new leader might be a tyrant, a fiend, or black-hearted villain, and the era that just ended could have been one of peace, tranquility, and justice.

A new leader shakes the foundations of your campaign world and begins a new era in the selected region. How does this person or this era begin to affect the world? Here are several things to consider when determining the leader's impact on the world:

Fall of a Leader, End of an Era

All that begins must end. With the fall of kings and queens, the maps of the world are redrawn. Laws change, new customs become all the rage, and old ones fall out of favor. The attitude of the citizens toward their fallen leader shifts subtly at first and then changes dramatically as they look back or reminisce about the time before. The fallen leader might have been a benevolent ruler, an influential citizen, or even an adversary to the characters. How does the death of this person affect those formerly under his or her influence? Here are several things to consider when determining the effects of a leader's passing:

3. Cataclysmic Disaster

Earthquake, famine, fire, plague, flood-disasters on a grand scale can eradicate whole civilizations without warning. Natural (or magical) catastrophes redraw maps, destroy economies, and alter worlds. Sometimes the survivors rebuild from the ruins. The Great Chicago Fire, for instance, provided an opportunity to rebuild the city according to a modern plan. Most of the time the disaster leaves only ruins-buried under ash like Pompeii, or sunk beneath the waves like Atlantis.

You can choose the cataclysm or determine one randomly using the Cataclysmic Disasters table.

Cataclysmic Disasters

Cataclysmic Disasters
d10Cataclysmic Disaster
6Rain of fire (meteoric impact)
7Storm (hurricane, tornado, tsunami)
8Volcanic eruption
9Magic gone awry or a planar warp
10Divine judgment

Some of the disasters on the table might not make immediate sense in the context of your campaign world. A flood in the desert? A volcanic eruption on grassy plains? If you randomly determine a disaster that conflicts with your setting, you can reroll, but the challenge of justifying the catastrophe can produce interesting results.

With two exceptions, the disasters on the table resemble those that affect our own world. Think of planar warps and magic gone awry like nuclear incidents; they're big events that unnaturally alter the land and its people. For example, in the Eberron campaign setting, a magical catastrophe lays waste to an entire country, transforming it into a hostile wasteland and ending the Last War.

Divine judgment is something else entirely. This disaster takes whatever form you want, but it's always a big, bold, unsubtle sign of a deity's displeasure.

You might decide to wipe a town, region, or nation off the map of your world. A disaster ravages the land and effectively eliminates a place the characters once knew.

Leave one or two survivors to tell the characters what happened, and ensure that the characters feel the depth of the catastrophe. What are the ongoing effects of this cataclysm? The following points can help you define the nature and consequences of the disaster:

4. Assault or Invasion

One of the most common world-shaking events, an invasion occurs when one group forcibly takes over another, usually by military strength, but also by infiltration and occupation. An assault differs from an invasion in that the attacking force isn't necessarily interested in occupation or taking power. On the other hand, an assault might be the first step of an invasion.

Regardless of the scale, a world-shaking assault or invasion stands out because its repercussions change the characters' world, and its effects echo long after the initial attack or takeover.

Imagine that part of your campaign world is attacked or invaded. Depending on the current scale of your campaign, the area might be as small as a section of a city or as large as a continent, world, or plane of existence.

Define the aggressor and whether it represents a known enemy or a previously unknown adversary. Select a threat that already poses a danger to the area you've chosen, or use the Invading Forces table to determine the aggressor.

Invading Forces

Invading Forces
d8Invading Forces
1A criminal enterprise
2Monsters or a unique monster
3A planar threat
4A past adversary reawakened, reborn, or resurgent
5A splinter faction
6A savage tribe
7A secret society
8A traitorous ally

Now consider these other aspects of the conflict:

5. Rebellion, Revolution, Overthrow

Dissatisfied with the current order, a person or group of people overturns the dominant regime and takes over-or fails to take over. Regardless of the result, a revolution (even an attempted one) can shape the destiny of nations.

The scale of a revolution need not involve the common masses against the nobility. A revolution can be as small as a merchants' guild revolting against its leadership or a temple overthrowing its priesthood in favor of a new creed. The spirits of the forest might attempt to overthrow the forces of civilization in a nearby city that cut down trees for timber. Alternatively, the scale can be as dramatic as humanity rising to overthrow the gods.

Imagine that part of your campaign world erupts in revolution. Pick a power group in your current campaign and name (or invent) a group that opposes it, fomenting revolution. Then let the following points help you flesh out the conflict:

6. Extinction or Depletion

Something that once existed in the campaign world is gone. The lost resource might be a precious metal, a species of plant or animal that held an important place in the local ecology, or an entire race or culture of people. Its absence causes a chain reaction that affects every creature that uses or relies on it.

You can eliminate a people, place, or thing that previously existed in a certain location or area in your campaign world. On a small scale, the last of a family dynasty passes away or a once-thriving mining town in the region dries up and becomes a ghost town. On a grand scale, magic dies, the last dragon is slain, or the final fey noble departs the world.

What is gone from the world-or the region of the world you've chosen-that once existed there? If the answer isn't immediately evident, consult the Extinction or Depletion table for ideas.

Extinction or Depletion

Extinction or Depletion
d8Lost Resource
1A kind of animal (insect, bird, fish, livestock)
2Habitable land
3Magic or magic-users (all magic, or specific kinds or schools of magic)
4A mineral resource (gems, metals, ores)
5A type of monster (unicorn, manticore, dragon)
6A people (family line, clan, culture, race)
7A kind of plant (crop, tree, herb, forest)
8A waterway (river, lake, ocean)

Then consider these additional questions:

7. New Organization

The foundation of a new order, kingdom, religion, society, cabal, or cult can shake the world with its actions, doctrine, dogma, and policies. On a local scale, a new organization contends with existing power groups, influencing, subverting, dominating, or allying with them to create a stronger base of power. Large and powerful organizations can exert enough influence to rule the world. Some new organizations benefit the populace, while others grow to threaten the civilization they once protected.

Perhaps an important new organization arises in one part of your world. It could have humble or auspicious beginnings, but one thing is certain: it is destined to change the world as long as it progresses along its present course. Sometimes an organization's alignment is apparent from inception, but its morality can remain ambiguous until its doctrines, policies, and traditions are revealed over time. Choose the type of organization, or use the New Organizations table to generate ideas.

New Organizations

New Organizations
d10New Organizations
1Crime syndicate/bandit confederacy
2Guild (masons, apothecaries, goldsmiths)
3Magical circle/society
4Military/knightly order
5New family dynasty/tribe/clan
6Philosophy/discipline dedicated to a principle or ideal
7Realm (village, town, duchy, kingdom)
10Secret society/cult/cabal

Then consider some or all of the following options:

8. Discovery, Expansion, Invention

Discoveries of new lands expand the map and change the boundaries of empires. Discoveries of new magic or technology expand the boundaries of what was once thought possible. New resources or archaeological finds create opportunity and wealth and set prospectors and power groups in motion to vie for their control.

A new discovery-or rediscovery-can impact your campaign world in a meaningful way, shaping the course of history and the events of the age. Think of this discovery as a big adventure hook or series of hooks. This is also an opportunity to create a unique monster, item, god, plane, or race for your world. As long as the discovery matters, it doesn't have to be wholly original, just flavored for your campaign.

A discovery is particularly impressive when the adventurers in your campaign are the ones who make it. If they discover a new mineral with magical properties, map a new land that's eminently suitable for colonization, or uncover an ancient weapon with the power to wreak devastation on your world, they are likely to set major events in motion. This gives the players the opportunity to see exactly how much influence their actions have on your world.

Decide on the type of discovery that is made or use the Discoveries table to generate ideas.


1Ancient ruin/lost city of a legendary race
2Animal/monster/magical mutation
3Invention/technology/magic (helpful, destructive)
4New (or forgotten) god or planar entity
5New (or rediscovered) artifact or religious relic
6New land (island, continent, lost world, demiplane)
7Otherworldly object (planar portal, alien spacecraft)
8People (race, tribe, lost civilization, colony)
9Plant (miracle herb, fungal parasite, sentient plant)
10Resource or wealth (gold, gems, mithral)

Once you have determined the type of discovery, flesh it out by deciding exactly what it is, who discovered it, and what potential effect it could have on the world. Ideally, previous adventures in your campaign will help you fill in the blanks, but also keep the following in mind:

9. Prediction, Omen, Prophecy

Sometimes the foretelling of a world-shaking event becomes a world-shaking event: an omen that predicts the fall of empires, the doom of races, and the end of the world. Sometimes an omen points to change for the good, such as the arrival of a legendary hero or savior. But the most dramatic prophecies warn of future tragedies and predict dark ages. Unlike otherworld-shaking events, the outcome doesn't happen immediately. Instead, individuals or factions strive to fulfill or avert the prophecy-or shape the exact way it will be fulfilled-according to how it will affect them.

The prophecy's helpers or hinderers create adventure hooks in the campaign by the actions they take. A prophecy should foretell a big event on a grand scale, since it will take time to come true (or be averted).

Imagine that a world-shaking prophecy comes to light. If events continue on their present course, the prophecy will come true and the world will change dramatically as a result. Don't shy away from making this prophecy both significant and alarming, keeping in mind the following points:

10. Myth and Legend

If wars, plagues, discoveries, and the like can be called regular world-shaking events, mythic events exceed and surpass them. A mythic event might occur as the fulfillment of an ancient or long-forgotten prophecy, or it might be an act of divine intervention.

Once again, your current campaign probably provides a few ideas for the shape of this event. If you need inspiration, roll a {@dice d8} on the World-Shaking Events table, instead of the normal {@dice d10}. Address the bullet-point notes for that disaster, but magnify the result to the grandest scale you can imagine.

The rise or fall of a leader or era is the death or birth of a god, or the end of an age or the world. A cataclysmic disaster is a world-drowning deluge, an ice age, or a zombie apocalypse. An assault or invasion is a world war, a world-spanning demonic incursion, the awakening of a world-threatening monster, or the final clash between good and evil. A rebellion dethrones a god or gods, or raises a new force (such as a demon lord) to divinity. A new organization is a world-spanning empire or a pantheon of new gods. A discovery is a doomsday device or a portal to eldritch dimensions where world-shattering cosmic horrors dwell.

Tracking Time

A calendar lets you record the passage of time in the campaign. More importantly, it lets you plan ahead for the critical events that shake up the world. For simple time tracking, use a calendar for the current year in the real world. Pick a date to indicate the start of the campaign, and make note of the days that adventurers spend on their travels and various activities. The calendar tells you when the seasons change and the lunar cycle. More importantly, you can use your calendar to track important festivals and holidays, as well as key events that shape your campaign.

This method is a good starting point, but the calendar of your world need not follow a modern calendar. If you want to customize your calendar with details unique to your world, consider these types of features.

The Basics

A fantasy world's calendar doesn't have to mirror the modern one, but it can (see "The Calendar of Harptos" sidebar for an example). Do the weeks of a month have names? What about specific days of each month, like the ides, nones, and calends of the Roman calendar?

Physical Cycles

Determine when the seasons fall, marked by the solstices and equinoxes. Do the months correspond to the phases of the moon (or moons)? Do strange and magical effects occur at the same time as these phenomena?

Religious Observances

Sprinkle holy days throughout your calendar. Each significant deity in your world should have at least one holy day during the year, and some gods' holy days correspond to celestial phenomena such as new moons or equinoxes. Holy days reflect the portfolio of a deity (a god of agriculture is honored in the harvest season) or significant events in the history of the deity's worship, such as the birth or death of a holy person, the date of a god's manifestation, the accession of the current high priest, and so on.

Certain holy days are civic events, observed by every citizen of a town where a god's temple can be found. Harvest festivals are often celebrations on a grand scale. Other holy days are important only to people particularly devoted to a single deity. Still others are observed by priests, who perform private rites and sacrifices inside their temples on certain days or specific times of day. And some holy days are local, observed by the faithful of a specific temple.

Give some thought to how priests and common folk celebrate holy days. Going into a temple, sitting in a pew, and listening to a sermon is a mode of worship foreign to most fantasy religions. More commonly, celebrants offer sacrifices to their gods. The faithful bring animals to the temple to be slaughtered or burn incense as an offering. The wealthiest citizens bring the largest animals, to flaunt their wealth and demonstrate their piety. People pour out libations at the graves of their ancestors. They spend all-night vigils in darkened shrines or enjoy splendid feasts celebrating a god's bounty.

Civic Observances

Holy days provide the majority of the special celebrations in most calendars, but local or national festivals account for many others. The birthday of a monarch, the anniversary of a great victory in a war, craft festivals, market days, and similar events all provide excuses for local celebrations.

Fantastic Events

Since your setting is a fantasy world and not a mundane medieval society, add in a few events of an obviously magical nature. For example, perhaps a ghostly castle appears on a certain hill on the winter solstice every year, or every third full moon fills lycanthropes with a particularly strong bloodlust. Also, the thirteenth night of every month could mark the ghostly wanderings of a long-forgotten nomadic tribe.

Extraordinary events, such as the approach of a comet or a lunar eclipse, make good adventure elements, and you can drop them in your calendar wherever you want. Your calendar can tell you when there's a full moon for a lunar eclipse, but you can always fudge the date for a particular effect.

The Calendar of Harptos

The world of the Forgotten Realms uses the Calendar of Harptos, named after the long-dead wizard who invented it. Each year of 365 days is divided into twelve months of thirty days each, which roughly correspond to months in the real-world Gregorian calendar. Each month is divided into three tendays. Five special holidays fall between the months and mark the seasons. Another special holiday, Shieldmeet, is inserted into the calendar after Midsummer every four years, much like leap years in the modern Gregorian calendar.

Ending a Campaign

A campaign's ending should tie up all the threads of its beginning and middle, but you don't have to take a campaign all the way to 20th level for it to be satisfying. Wrap up the campaign whenever your story reaches its natural conclusion. Make sure you allow space and time near the end of your campaign for the characters to finish up any personal goals. Their own stories need to end in a satisfying way, just as the campaign story does. Ideally, some of the characters' individual goals will be fulfilled by the ultimate goal of the final adventure. Give characters with unfinished goals a chance to finish them before the very end.

Once the campaign has ended, a new one can begin. If you intend to run a new campaign for the same group of players, using their previous characters' actions as the basis of legends gives them immediate investment in the new setting. Let the new characters experience how the world has changed because of their old characters. In the end, though, the new campaign is a new story with new protagonists. They shouldn't have to share the spotlight with the heroes of days gone by.

Play Style

By building a new world (or adopting an existing one) and creating the key events that launch your campaign, you determined what your campaign is about. Next, you have to decide how you want to run your campaign.

What's the right way to run a campaign? That depends on your play style and the motivations of your players. Consider your players' tastes, your strengths as a DM, table rules (discussed in part 3), and the type of game you want to run. Describe to the players how you envision the game experience and let them give you input. The game is theirs, too. Lay that groundwork early, so your players can make informed choices and help you maintain the type of game you want to run. Consider the following two exaggerated examples of play style.

Hack and Slash

The adventurers kick in the dungeon door, fight the monsters, and grab the treasure. This style of play is straightforward, fun, exciting, and action-oriented. The players spend relatively little time developing personas for their characters, roleplaying noncombat situations or discussing anything other than the immediate dangers of the dungeon.

In such a game, the adventurers face clearly evil monsters and opponents and occasionally meet clearly good and helpful NPCs. Don't expect the adventurers to anguish over what to do with prisoners, or to debate whether it's right or wrong to invade and wipe out a bugbear lair. Don't track money or time spent in town. Once they've completed a task, send the adventurers back into the action as quickly as possible. Character motivation need be no more developed than a desire to kill monsters and acquire treasure.

Immersive Storytelling

Waterdeep is threatened by political turmoil. The adventurers must convince the Masked Lords, the city's secret rulers, to resolve their differences, but can do so only after both the characters and the lords have come to terms with their differing outlooks and agendas. This style of gaming is deep, complex, and challenging. The focus isn't on combat but on negotiations, political maneuverings, and character interaction. A whole game session might pass without a single attack roll.

In this style of game, the NPCs are as complex and richly detailed as the adventurers, although the focus lies on motivation and personality, not game statistics. Expect long digressions from each player about what his or her character does, and why. Going to a temple to ask a priest for advice can be as important an encounter as fighting orcs. (And don't expect the adventurers to fight the orcs at all unless they are motivated to do so.) A character will sometimes take actions against the player's better judgment, because "that's what the character would do." Since combat isn't the focus, game rules take a back seat to character development. Ability check modifiers and skill proficiencies take precedence over combat bonuses. Feel free to change or ignore rules to fit the players' roleplaying needs, using the advice presented in part 3 of this book.

Something in Between

The style of play in most campaigns falls between these two extremes. There's plenty of action, but the campaign offers an ongoing storyline and interaction between characters as well. Players develop their characters' motivations and relish the chance to prove their skills in combat. To maintain the balance, provide a mixture of roleplaying encounters and combat encounters. Even in a dungeon setting, you can present NPCs that aren't meant to be fought but rather helped out, negotiated with, or just talked to.

Think about your preferred style of play by considering these questions:

A World to Explore

Much of a campaign involves the adventurers traveling from place to place, exploring the environment, and learning about the fantasy world. This exploration can take place in any environment, including a vast wilderness, a labyrinthine dungeon, the shadowy passages of the Underdark, the crowded streets of a city, and the undulating waters of the sea. Determining a way around an obstacle, finding a hidden object, investigating a strange feature of a dungeon, deciphering clues, solving puzzles, and bypassing or disabling traps can all be part of exploration.

Sometimes exploration is an incidental part of the game. For instance, you might gloss over an unimportant journey by telling the players that they spend three uneventful days on the road before moving along to the next point of interest. Other times exploration is the focus, a chance to describe a wondrous part of the world or story that increases the players' feeling of immersion. Similarly, you should consider playing up exploration if your players enjoy solving puzzles, finding their way around obstacles, and searching dungeon corridors for secret doors.

Character Names

Part of your campaign style has to do with naming characters. It's a good idea to establish some ground rules with your players at the start of a new campaign. In a group consisting of Sithis, Travok, Anastrianna, and Kairon, the human fighter named Bob II sticks out, especially when he's identical to Bob I, who was killed by kobolds. If everyone takes a lighthearted approach to names, that's fine. If the group would rather take the characters and their names a little more seriously, urge Bob's player to come up with a more appropriate name.

Player character names should match each other in flavor or concept, and they should also match the flavor of your campaign world-so should the nonplayer characters' names and place names you create. Travok and Kairon don't want to undertake a quest for Lord Cupcake, visit Gumdrop Island, or take down a crazy wizard named Ray.

Continuing or Episodic Campaigns

The backbone of a campaign is a connected series of adventures, but you can connect them in two different ways. In a continuing campaign, the connected adventures share a sense of a larger purpose or a recurring theme (or themes). The adventures might feature returning villains, grand conspiracies, or a single mastermind who's ultimately behind every adventure of the campaign.

A continuing campaign designed with a theme and a story arc in mind can feel like a great fantasy epic. The players derive the satisfaction of knowing the actions they take during one adventure matter in the next. Plotting and running that kind of campaign can be demanding on the DM, but the payoff is a great and memorable story.

An episodic campaign, in contrast, is like a television show where each week's episode is a self-contained story that doesn't play into any overarching plot. It might be built on a premise that explains its nature: the player characters are adventurers-for-hire, or explorers venturing into the unknown and facing a string of unrelated dangers. They might even be archaeologists, venturing into one ancient ruin after another in search of artifacts. An episodic game like this lets you create adventures-or buy published ones-and drop them into your campaign without worrying about how they fit with the adventures that came before and follow after.

Campaign Theme

A theme in a campaign, as in a work of literature, expresses the deeper meaning of a story and the fundamental elements of human experience that the story explores. Your campaign doesn't have to be a work of literature, but it can still draw on common themes that lend a distinctive flavor to its stories. Consider these examples:

With a theme such as "confrontation with mortality," you can craft a broad range of adventures that aren't necessarily connected by a common villain. One adventure might feature the dead bursting from their graves and threatening to overwhelm a whole town. In the next adventure, a mad wizard creates a flesh golem in an effort to revive his lost love. A villain could go to extreme lengths to achieve immortality to avoid confronting its own demise. The adventurers might help a ghost accept death and move on, or one of the adventurers might even become a ghost!

Variations on a Theme

Mixing things up once in a while allows your players to enjoy a variety of adventures. Even a tightly themed campaign can stray now and then. If your campaign heavily involves intrigue, mystery, and roleplaying, your players might enjoy the occasional dungeon crawl—especially if the tangent is revealed to relate to a larger plot in the campaign. If most of your adventures are dungeon expeditions, shift gears with a tense urban mystery that eventually leads the party into a dungeon crawl in an abandoned building or tower. If you run horror adventures week after week, try using a villain who turns out to be ordinary, perhaps even silly. Comic relief is a great variation on almost any D&D campaign, though players usually provide it themselves.

Tiers of Play

As characters grow in power, their ability to change the world around them grows with them. It helps to think ahead when creating your campaign to account for this change. As the characters make a greater impact on the world, they face greater danger whether they want to or not. Powerful factions see them as a threat and plot against them, while friendly ones court their favor in hopes of striking a useful alliance.

The tiers of play represent the ideal milestones for introducing new world-shaking events to the campaign. As the characters resolve one event, a new danger arises or the prior trouble transforms into a new threat in response to the characters' actions. Events need to grow in magnitude and scope, increasing the stakes and drama as the characters become increasingly powerful.

This approach also allows you to break your design work down into smaller pieces. Create material such as adventures, NPCs, maps, and so on for one tier at a time. You only need to worry about the details of the next tier as the characters approach it. Even better, as the campaign takes unexpected turns in response to the players' choices, you don't have to worry about redoing much work.

Levels 1-4: Local Heroes

Characters in this tier are still learning the range of class features that define them, including their choice of specialization. But even 1st-level characters are heroes, set apart from the common people by natural characteristics, learned skills, and the hint of a greater destiny that lies before them.

At the start of their careers, characters use 1st- and 2nd-level spells and wield mundane gear. The magic items they find include common consumable items (potions and scrolls) and a very few uncommon permanent items. Their magic can have a big impact in a single encounter, but it doesn't change the course of an adventure.

The fate of a village might hang on the success or failure of low-level adventurers, who trust their lives to their fledgling abilities. These characters navigate dangerous terrain and explore haunted crypts, where they can expect to fight savage orcs, ferocious wolves, giant spiders, evil cultists, bloodthirsty ghouls, and hired thugs. If they face even a young dragon, they're better off avoiding a fight.

Levels 5-10: Heroes of the Realm

By the time they reach this tier, adventurers have mastered the basics of their class features, though they continue to improve throughout these levels. They have found their place in the world and have begun to involve themselves in the dangers that surround them.

Dedicated spellcasters learn 3rd-level spells at the start of this tier. Suddenly characters can fly, damage large numbers of foes with {@spell fireball} and {@spell lightning bolt} spells, and even breathe underwater. They master 5th-level spells by the end of the tier, and spells such as {@spell teleportation circle}, {@spell scrying}, {@spell flame strike}, {@spell legend lore}, and {@spell raise dead} can have a significant impact on their adventures. They start acquiring more permanent magic items (uncommon and rare ones) as well, which will serve them for the rest of their careers.

The fate of a region might depend on the adventures that characters of levels 5 to 10 undertake. These adventurers venture into fearsome wilds and ancient ruins, where they confront savage giants, ferocious hydras, fearless golems, evil yuan-ti, scheming devils, bloodthirsty demons, crafty mind flayers, and drow assassins. They might have a chance of defeating a young dragon that has established a lair but not yet extended its reach far into the surrounding territory.

Levels 11-16: Masters of the Realm

By 11th level, characters are shining examples of courage and determination-true paragons in the world, set well apart from the masses. At this tier, adventurers are far more versatile than they were at lower levels, and they can usually find the right tool for a given challenge.

Dedicated spellcasters gain access to 6th-level spells at 11th level, including spells that completely change the way adventurers interact with the world. Their big, flashy spells are significant in combat-{@spell disintegrate}, {@spell blade barrier}, and {@spell heal}, for example-but behind-the-scenes spells such as {@spell word of recall}, {@spell find the path}, {@spell contingency}, {@spell teleport}, and {@spell true seeing} alter the way players approach their adventures. Each spell level after that point introduces new effects with an equally large impact. The adventurers find rare magic items (and very rare ones) that bestow similarly powerful abilities.

The fate of a nation or even the world depends on momentous quests that such characters undertake. Adventurers explore uncharted regions and delve into long-forgotten dungeons, where they confront terrible masterminds of the lower planes, cunning rakshasas and beholders, and hungry purple worms. They might encounter and even defeat a powerful adult dragon that has established a lair and a significant presence in the world.

At this tier, adventurers make their mark on the world in a variety of ways, from the consequences of their adventures to the manner in which they spend their hard-won treasure and exploit their well-deserved reputations. Characters of this level construct fortresses on land deeded them by local rulers. They found guilds, temples, or martial orders. They take on apprentices or students of their own. They broker peace between nations or lead them into war. And their formidable reputations attract the attention of very powerful foes.

Levels 17-20: Masters of the World

By 17th level, characters have super heroic capabilities, and their deeds and adventures are the stuff of legend. Ordinary people can hardly dream of such heights of power-or such terrible dangers.

Dedicated spellcasters at this tier wield earthshaking 9th-level spells such as {@spell wish}, {@spell gate}, {@spell storm of vengeance}, and {@spell astral projection}. Characters have several rare and very rare magic items at their disposal, and begin discovering legendary items such as a {@item vorpal sword} or a {@item staff of the magi}.

Adventures at these levels have far-reaching consequences, possibly determining the fate of millions in the Material Plane and even places beyond. Characters traverse otherworldly realms and explore demiplanes and other extraplanar locales, where they fight savage balor demons, titans, archdevils, lich archmages, and even avatars of the gods themselves. The dragons they encounter are wyrms of tremendous power, whose sleep troubles kingdoms and whose waking threatens existence itself.

Characters who reach 20th level have attained the pinnacle of mortal achievement. Their deeds are recorded in the annals of history and recounted by bards for centuries. Their ultimate destinies come to pass. A cleric might be taken up into the heavens to serve as a god's right hand. A warlock could become a patron to other warlocks. Perhaps a wizard unlocks the secret to immortality (or undeath) and spends eons exploring the farthest reaches of the multiverse. A druid might become one with the land, transforming into a nature spirit of a particular place or an aspect of the wild. Other characters could found clans or dynasties that revere the memory of their honored ancestors from generation to generation, create masterpieces of epic literature that are sung and retold for thousands of years, or establish guilds or orders that keep the adventurers' principles and dreams alive.

Reaching this point doesn't necessarily dictate the end of the campaign. These powerful characters might be called on to undertake grand adventures on the cosmic stage. And as a result of these adventures, their capabilities can continue to evolve. Characters gain no more levels at this point, but they can still advance in meaningful ways and continue performing epic deeds that resound throughout the multiverse. Chapter 7 details epic boons you can use as rewards for these characters to maintain a sense of progress.

Starting at Higher Level

Experienced players familiar with the capabilities of the character classes and impatient for more significant adventures might welcome the idea of starting a campaign with characters above 1st level. Creating a higher-level character uses the same character creation steps outlined in the Player's Handbook. Such a character has more hit points, class features, and spells, and probably starts with better equipment.

Starting equipment for characters above 1st level is entirely at your discretion, since you give out treasure at your own pace. That said, you can use the Starting Equipment table as a guide.

Starting Equipment

Starting Equipment
Character LevelLow Magic CampaignStandard CampaignHigh Magic Campaign
1st-4thNormal starting equipmentNormal starting equipmentNormal starting equipment
5th-10th500 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 25} gp, normal starting equipment500 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 25} gp, normal starting equipment500 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 25} gp, one uncommon magic item, normal starting equipment
11th-16th5,000 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 250} gp, one uncommon magic item, normal starting equipment5,000 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 250} gp, two uncommon magic items, normal starting equipment5,000 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 250} gp, three uncommon magic items, one rare item, normal starting equipment
17th-20th20,000 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 250} gp, two uncommon magic items, normal starting equipment20,000 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 250} gp, two uncommon magic items, one rare item, normal starting equipment20,000 gp plus {@dice 1d10 × 250} gp, three uncommon magic items, two rare items, one very rare item, normal starting equipment

Flavors of Fantasy

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy game, but that broad category encompasses a lot of variety. Many different flavors of fantasy exist in fiction and film. Do you want a horrific campaign inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith? Or do you envision a world of muscled barbarians and nimble thieves, along the lines of the classic sword-and-sorcery books by Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber? Your choice can have a impact on the flavor of your campaign.

Heroic Fantasy

Heroic fantasy is the baseline assumed by the D&D rules. The Player's Handbook describes this baseline: a multitude of humanoid races coexist with humans in fantastic worlds. Adventurers bring magical powers to bear against the monstrous threats they face. These characters typically come from ordinary backgrounds, but something impels them into an adventuring life. The adventurers are the "heroes" of the campaign, but they might not be truly heroic, instead pursuing this life for selfish reasons. Technology and society are based on medieval norms, though the culture isn't necessarily European. Campaigns often revolve around delving into ancient dungeons in search of treasure or in an effort to destroy monsters or villains.

This genre is also common in fantasy fiction. Most novels set in the Forgotten Realms are best described as heroic fantasy, following in the footsteps of many of the authors listed in appendix E of the Player's Handbook.

Sword and Sorcery

A grim, hulking fighter disembowels the high priest of the serpent god on his own altar. A laughing rogue spends ill-gotten gains on cheap wine in filthy taverns. Hardy adventurers venture into the unexplored jungle in search of the fabled City of Golden Masks.

A sword-and-sorcery campaign emulates some of the classic works of fantasy fiction, a tradition that goes back to the roots of the game. Here you'll find a dark, gritty world of evil sorcerers and decadent cities, where the protagonists are motivated more by greed and self-interest than by altruistic virtue. Fighter, rogue, and barbarian characters tend to be far more common than wizards, clerics, or paladins. In such a pulp fantasy setting, those who wield magic often symbolize the decadence and corruption of civilization, and wizards are the classic villains of these settings. Magic items are therefore rare and often dangerous.

Certain Dungeons & Dragons novels follow in the footsteps of classic sword-and-sorcery novels. The world of Athas (as featured in numerous Dark Sun novels and game products), with its heroic gladiators and tyrannical sorcerer-kings, belongs squarely in this genre.

Epic Fantasy

A devout paladin in gleaming plate armor braces her lance as she charges a dragon. Bidding farewell to his dear love, a noble wizard sets forth on a quest to close the gate to the Nine Hells that has opened in the remote wilderness. A close-knit band of loyal friends strives to overcome the forces of a tyrannical overlord.

An epic-fantasy campaign emphasizes the conflict between good and evil as a prominent element of the game, with the adventurers more or less squarely on the side of good. These characters are heroes in the best sense, driven by a higher purpose than selfish gain or ambition, and facing incredible dangers without blinking. Characters might struggle with moral quandaries, fighting the evil tendencies within themselves as well as the evil that threatens the world. And the stories of these campaigns often include an element of romance: tragic affairs between star-crossed lovers, passion that transcends even death, and chaste adoration between devout knights and the monarchs and nobles they serve.

The novels of the Dragonlance saga exemplify the tradition of epic fantasy in D&D.

Mythic Fantasy

While an angry god tries time and again to destroy him, a clever rogue makes the long journey home from war. Braving the terrifying guardians of the underworld, a noble warrior ventures into the darkness to retrieve the soul of her lost love. Calling on their divine parentage, a group of demigods undertake twelve labors to win the gods' blessings for other mortals.

A mythic-fantasy campaign draws on the themes and stories of ancient myth and legend, from Gilgamesh to Cu Chulainn. Adventurers attempt mighty feats of legend, aided or hindered by the gods or their agents—and they might have divine blood themselves. The monsters and villains they face probably have a similar origin. The minotaur in the dungeon isn't just another bull-headed humanoid, but {@i the} Minotaur-misbegotten offspring of a philandering god. Adventures might lead the heroes through a series of trials to the realms of the gods in search of a gift or favor.

Such a campaign can draw on the myths and legends of any culture, not just the familiar Greek tales.

Dark Fantasy

Vampires brood on the battlements of their accursed castles. Necromancers toil in dark dungeons to create horrid servants made of dead flesh. Devils corrupt the innocent, and werewolves prowl the night. All of these elements evoke horrific aspects of the fantasy genre.

If you want to put a horror spin on your campaign, you have plenty of material to work with. The Monster Manual is full of creatures that perfectly suit a storyline of supernatural horror. The most important element of such a campaign, though, isn't covered by the rules. A dark-fantasy setting requires an atmosphere of building dread, created through careful pacing and evocative description. Your players contribute too; they have to be willing to embrace the mood you're trying to evoke.

Whether you want to run a full-fledged dark-fantasy campaign or a single creepy adventure, you should discuss your plans with the players ahead of time to make sure they're on board. Horror can be intense and personal, and not everyone is comfortable with such a game.

Novels and game products set in Ravenloft, the Demiplane of Dread, explore dark-fantasy elements in a D&D context.


The corrupt vizier schemes with the baron's oldest daughter to assassinate the baron. A hobgoblin army sends doppelganger spies to infiltrate the city before the invasion. At the embassy ball, the spy in the royal court makes contact with his employer.

Political intrigue, espionage, sabotage, and similar cloak-and-dagger activities can provide the basis for an exciting D&D campaign. In this kind of game, the characters might care more about skill training and making contacts than about attack spells and magic weapons. Roleplaying and social interaction take on greater importance than combat, and the party might go for several sessions without seeing a monster.

Again, make sure your players know ahead of time that you want to run this kind of campaign. Otherwise, a player might create a defense-focused dwarf paladin, only to find he is out of place among half-elf diplomats and tiefling spies.

The Brimstone Angels novels by Erin M. Evans focus on intrigue in the Forgotten Realms setting, from the backstabbing politics of the Nine Hells to the contested succession of Cormyrean royalty.


Who stole three legendary magic weapons and hid them away in a remote dungeon, leaving a cryptic clue to their location? Who placed the duke into a magical slumber, and what can be done to awaken him? Who murdered the guildmaster, and how did the killer get into the guild's locked vault?

A mystery-themed campaign puts the characters in the role of investigators, perhaps traveling from town to town to crack tough cases the local authorities can't handle. Such a campaign emphasizes puzzles and problem-solving in addition to combat prowess.

A larger mystery might even set the stage for the whole campaign. Why did someone kill the characters' mentor, setting them on the path of adventure? Who really controls the Cult of the Red Hand? In this case, the characters might uncover clues to the greater mystery only once in a while; individual adventures might be at best tangentially related to that theme. A diet of nothing but puzzles can become frustrating, so be sure to mix up the kinds of encounters you present.

Novels in various D&D settings have explored the mystery genre with a fantasy twist. In particular, {@i Murder in Cormyr} (by Chet Williamson), {@i Murder in Halruaa} (by Richard S. Meyers), and {@i Spellstorm} (by Ed Greenwood) are mysteries set in the Forgotten Realms. {@i Murder in Tarsis} (by John Maddox Roberts) takes the same approach in the Dragonlance setting.


Rapier-wielding sailors fight off boarding sahuagin. Ghouls lurk in derelict ships, waiting to devour treasure hunters. Dashing rogues and charming paladins weave their way through palace intrigues and leap from balconies onto waiting horses below.

The swashbuckling adventures of pirates and musketeers suggest opportunities for a dynamic campaign. The characters typically spend more time in cities, royal courts, and seafaring vessels than in dungeon delves, making interaction skills important (though not to the extent of a pure intrigue campaign). Nevertheless, the heroes might end up in classic dungeon situations, such as searching storm sewers beneath the palace to find the evil duke's hidden chambers.

A good example of a swashbuckling rogue in the Forgotten Realms is Jack Ravenwild, who appears in novels by Richard Baker ({@i City of Ravens and Prince of Ravens}).


A hobgoblin army marches toward the city, leading elephants and giants to batter down the stronghold's walls and ramparts. Dragons wheel above a barbarian horde, scattering enemies as the raging warriors cut a swath through field and forest. Salamanders muster at an efreeti's command, poised to assault an astral fortress.

Warfare in a fantasy world is rife with opportunities for adventure. A war campaign isn't generally concerned with the specifics of troop movements, but instead focuses on the heroes whose actions turn the tide of battle. The characters carry out specific missions: capture a magical standard that empowers undead armies, gather reinforcements to break a siege, or cut through the enemy's flank to reach a demonic commander. In other situations, the party supports the larger army by holding a strategic location until reinforcements arrive, killing enemy scouts before they can report, or cutting off supply lines. Information gathering and diplomatic missions can supplement the more combat-oriented adventures.

The War of the Lance in the Dragonlance Chronicles novels and the War of the Spider Queen in the novel series of the same name are prominent examples of wars in D&D novels.


When a sensei disappears mysteriously, her young students must take her place and hunt down the oni terrorizing their village. Accomplished heroes, masters of their respective martial arts, return home to free their village from an evil hobgoblin warlord. The rakshasa master of a nearby monastery performs rituals to raise troubled ghosts from their rest.

A campaign that draws on elements of Asian martial-arts movies is a perfect match for D&D. Players can define the appearance of their characters and gear however they like for the campaign, and spells need only minor flavor changes so that they better reflect such a setting. For example, when the characters use spells or special abilities that teleport them short distances, they actually make high-flying acrobatic leaps. Ability checks to climb don't involve careful searching for holds but let characters bounce up walls or from tree to tree. Warriors stun their opponents by striking pressure points. Flavorful descriptions of actions in the game don't change the nuts and bolts of the rules, but they make all the difference in the feel of a campaign.

Similarly, a class doesn't need new rules to reflect a cultural influence; a new name can do the trick. A traditional Chinese wuxia hero might be a paladin who has a sword called the Oath of Vengeance, while a Japanese samurai might be a paladin with a particular Oath of Devotion (bushido) that includes fealty to a lord (daimyo) among its tenets. A ninja is a monk who pursues the Way of Shadow. Whether called a wu jen, a tsukai, or a swami, a wizard, sorcerer, or warlock character works just fine in a game inspired by medieval Asian cultures.

Wuxia Weapon Names

Wuxia Weapon Names
WeaponOther Names (Culture)
Battleaxefu (China), masakari (Japan)
Clubbian (China), tonfa (Japan)
Daggerbishou, tamo (China), kozuka, tanto (Japan)
Dartshuriken (Japan)
Flailnunchaku (Japan)
Glaiveguandao (China), bisento, naginata (Japan)
Greatclubtetsubo (Japan)
Greatswordchangdao (China), nodachi (Japan)
Halberdji (China), kamayari (Japan)
Handaxeono (Japan)
Javelinmau (China), uchi-ne (Japan)
Lanceumayari (Japan)
Longbowdaikyu (Japan)
Longswordjian (China), katana (Japan)
Macechui (China), kanabo (Japan)
Pikemao (China), nagaeyari (Japan)
Quarterstaffgun (China), bo (Japan)
Scimitarliuyedao (China), wakizashi (Japan)
Shortbowhankyu (Japan)
Shortswordshuangdao (China)
Sicklekama (Japan)
Spearqiang (China), yari (Japan)
Tridentcha (China), magariyari (Japan)
Warpickfang (China), kuwa (Japan)

Having players refer to a tetsubo or a katana rather than a greatclub or a longsword can enhance the flavor of a wuxia campaign. The Wuxia Weapon Names table lists alternative names for common weapons from the Player's Handbook and identifies their real-world cultural origins. An alternative name changes none of the weapon's properties as they are described in the Player's Handbook.

Crossing the Streams

The renowned paladin Murlynd, from the world of Oerth (as featured in Greyhawk novels and game products), dresses in the traditional garb of Earth's Old West and wears a pair of six-shooters strapped to his waist. The Mace of St. Cuthbert, a holy weapon belonging to Greyhawk's god of justice, found its way to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1985. Somewhere in the Barrier Peaks of Oerth, the wreckage of a spacefaring vessel is said to lie, with bizarre alien lifeforms and strange items of technology on board. And the famous wizard Elminster of the Forgotten Realms has been said to make occasional appearances in the kitchen of Canadian writer Ed Greenwood—where he is sometimes joined by wizards from the worlds of Oerth and Krynn (homeworld of the Dragonlance saga).

Deep in D&D's roots are elements of science fiction and science fantasy, and your campaign might draw on those sources as well. It's okay to send your characters hurtling through a magic mirror to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, put them aboard a ship traveling between the stars, or set your campaign in a far-future world where laser blasters and magic missiles exist side by side. The possibilities are limitless. Chapter 9, "Dungeon Master's Workshop" provides tools for exploring those possibilities.

Creating a Multiverse

When Adventurers reach higher levels their path extends to other dimensions of reality: the planes of existence that form the multiverse. The characters might be called on to rescue a friend from the horrific depths of the Abyss or to sail the shining waters of the River Oceanus. They can hoist a tankard with the friendly giants of Ysgard or face the chaos of Limbo to contact a wizened githzerai sage.

Planes of existence define the extremes of strange and often dangerous environments. The most bizarre locations present settings undreamed of in the natural world. Planar adventures offer unprecedented dangers and wonders. Adventurers walk on streets made of solid fire, or test their mettle on a battlefield where the fallen are resurrected with each dawn.

The Planes

The various planes of existence are realms of myth and mystery. They're not simply other worlds, but dimensions formed and governed by spiritual and elemental principles.

The Outer Planes are realms of spirituality and thought. They are the spheres where celestials, fiends, and deities exist. The plane of Elysium, for example, isn't merely a place where good creatures dwell, and not even simply the place where spirits of good creatures go when they die. It is the plane of goodness, a spiritual realm where evil can't flourish. It is as much a state of being and of mind as it is a physical location.

The Inner Planes exemplify the physical essence and elemental nature of air, earth, fire, and water. The Elemental Plane of Fire, for example, embodies the essence of fire. The plane's entire substance is suffused with the fundamental nature of fire: energy, passion, transformation, and destruction. Even objects of solid brass or basalt seem to dance with flame, in a visible and palpable manifestation of the vibrancy of fire's dominion.

In this context, the Material Plane is the nexus where all these philosophical and elemental forces collide in the jumbled existence of mortal life and matter. The worlds of D&D exist within the Material Plane, making it the starting point for most campaigns and adventures.

The rest of the multiverse is defined in relation to the Material Plane.

Planar Categories

The planes of the default D&D cosmology are grouped in the following categories:

{@b The Material Plane and Its Echoes.} The Feywild and the Shadowfell are reflections of the Material Plane.

{@b The Transitive Planes.} The Ethereal Plane and the Astral Plane are mostly featureless planes that serve primarily as pathways to travel from one plane to another.

{@b The Inner Planes.} The four Elemental Planes (Air, Earth, Fire, and Water), plus the Elemental Chaos that surrounds them, are the Inner Planes.

{@b The Outer Planes.} Sixteen Outer Planes correspond to the eight non-neutral alignments and shades of philosophical difference between them.

{@b The Positive and Negative Planes.} These two planes enfold the rest of the cosmology, providing the raw forces of life and death that underlie the rest of existence in the multiverse.

Putting the Planes Together

As described in the {@i Player's Handbook}, the assumed D&D cosmology includes more than two dozen planes. For your campaign, you decide what planes to include, inspired by the standard planes, drawn from Earth's myths, or created by your own imagination.

At minimum, most D&D campaigns require these elements:

Once you've decided on the planes you want to use in your campaign, putting them into a coherent cosmology is an optional step. Since the primary way of traveling from plane to plane, even using the Transitive Planes, is through magical portals that link planes together, the exact relationship of different planes to one another is largely a theoretical concern. No being in the multiverse can look down and see the planes in their arrangement the same way as we look at a diagram in a book. No mortal can verify whether Mount Celestia is sandwiched between Bytopia and Arcadia, but it's a convenient theoretical construct based on the philosophical shading among the three planes and the relative importance they give to law and good.

Sages have constructed a few such theoretical models to make sense of the jumble of planes, particularly the Outer Planes. The three most common are the Great Wheel, the World Tree, and the World Axis, but you can create or adapt whatever model works best for the planes you want to use in your game.

Inventing Your Own Planes

Each of the planes described in this chapter has at least one significant effect on travelers who venture there. When you design your own planes, it's a good idea to stick to that model. Create one simple trait that players notice, that doesn't create too much complication at the gaming table, and that's easy to remember. Try to reflect the philosophy and mood of the place, not merely its physical characteristics.

The Great Wheel

The default cosmological arrangement presented in the Player's Handbook visualizes the planes as a group of concentric wheels, with the Material Plane and its echoes at the center. The Inner Planes form a wheel around the Material Plane, enveloped in the Ethereal Plane. Then the Outer Planes form another wheel around and behind (or above or below) that one, arranged according to alignment, with the Outlands linking them all.

This arrangement makes sense of the way the River Styx flows among the Lower Planes, connecting Acheron, the Nine Hells, Gehenna, Hades, Carceri, the Abyss, and Pandemonium like beads on a string. But it's not the only possible explanation of the river's course.

The World Tree

A different arrangement of planes envisions them situated among the roots and branches of a great cosmic tree, literally or figuratively.

For example, the Norse cosmology centers on the World Tree Yggdrasil. The three roots of the World Tree touch the three realms: Asgard (an Outer Plane that includes Valhalla, Vanaheim, Alfheim, and other regions), Midgard (the Material Plane), and Niflheim (the underworld). The Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, is a unique transitive plane that connects Asgard and Midgard.

Similarly, one vision of the planes where the deities of the Forgotten Realms reside situates a number of celestial planes in the branches of a World Tree, while the fiendish planes are linked by a River of Blood. Neutral planes stand apart from them. Each of these planes is primarily the domain of one or more deities, though they are also the homes of celestial and fiendish creatures.

The World Axis

In this view of the cosmos, the Material Plane and its echoes stand between two opposing realms. The Astral Plane (or Astral Sea) floats above them, holding any number of divine domains (the Outer Planes). Below the Material Plane is the Elemental Chaos, a single, undifferentiated elemental plane where all the elements clash together. At the bottom of the Elemental Chaos is the Abyss, like a hole torn in the fabric of the cosmos.

Other Visions

As you build your own cosmology, consider the following alternatives.

The Omniverse

This simple cosmology covers the bare minimum: a Material Plane; the Transitive Planes; a single Elemental Chaos; an Overheaven, where good-aligned deities and celestials live; and the Underworld, where evil deities and fiends live.

Myriad Planes

In this cosmology, countless planes clump together like soap bubbles, intersecting with each other more or less at random.

The Orrery

All the Inner and Outer Planes orbit the Material Plane, exerting greater or lesser influence on the world as they come nearer and farther. The world of Eberron uses this cosmological model.

The Winding Road

In this cosmology, every plane is a stop along an infinite road. Each plane is adjacent to two others, but there's no necessary cohesion between adjacent planes; a traveler can walk from the slopes of Mount Celestia onto the slopes of Gehenna.

Mount Olympus

In the Greek cosmology, Mount Olympus stands at the center of the world (the Material Plane), with its peak so high that it's actually another plane of existence: Olympus, the home of the gods. All the Greek gods except Hades have their own domains within Olympus. In Hades, named for its ruler, mortal souls linger as insubstantial shades until they eventually fade into nothing. Tartarus, where the titans are imprisoned in endless darkness, lies below Hades. And far to the west of the known world in the Material Plane are the blessed Elysian Fields. The souls of great heroes reside there.

Solar Barge

The Egyptian cosmology is defined by the daily path of the sun-across the sky of the Material Plane, down to the fair Offering Fields in the west, where the souls of the righteous live in eternal reward, and then beneath the world through the nightmarish Twelve Hours of Night. The Solar Barge is a tiny Outer Plane in its own right, though it exists within the Astral Plane and the other Outer Planes in the different stages of its journey.

One World

In this model, there are no other planes of existence, but the Material Plane includes places like the bottomless Abyss, the shining Mount Celestia, the strange city of Mechanus, the fortress of Acheron, and so on. All the planes are locations in the world, reachable by ordinary means of travel-though extraordinary effort is required, for example, to sail across the sea to the blessed isles of Elysium.

The Otherworld

In this model, the Material Plane has a twin realm that fills the role of all the other planes. Much like the Feywild, it overlays the Material Plane and can be reached through thin places where the worlds are particularly close: through caves, by sailing far across the sea, or in fairy rings in remote forests. It has dark, evil regions (homes of fiends and evil gods), sacred isles (homes of celestials and the spirits of the blessed death), and realms of elemental fury. This otherworld is sometimes overseen by an eternal city, or by four cities that each represent a different aspect of reality. The Celtic cosmology has an otherworld, called Tir na nug, and the cosmologies of some religions inspired by Asian myth have a similar Spirit World.

Planar Travel

When adventurers travel to other planes of existence, they undertake a legendary journey that might force them to face supernatural guardians and undergo various ordeals. The nature of that journey and the trials along the way depend in part on the means of travel, and whether the adventurers find a magic portal or use a spell to carry them.

Planar Portals

"Portal" is a general term for a stationary interplanar connection that links a specific location on one plane to a specific location on another. Some portals function like doorways, appearing as a clear window or a fog-shrouded passage, and interplanar travel is as simple as stepping through the doorway. Other portals are locations-circles of standing stones, soaring towers, sailing ships, or even whole towns-that exist in multiple planes at once or flicker from one plane to another. Some are vortices, joining an Elemental Plane with a very similar location on the Material Plane, such as the heart of a volcano (leading to the Plane of Fire) or the depths of the ocean (to the Plane of Water).

Passing through a planar portal can be the simplest way to travel from the Material Plane to a desired location on another plane. Most of the time, though, a portal presents an adventure in itself.

First, the adventurers must find a portal that leads where they want to go. Most portals exist in distant locations, and a portal's location often has thematic similarities to the plane it leads to. For example, a portal to the heavenly mountain of Celestia might be located on a mountain peak.

Second, portals often have guardians charged with ensuring that undesirable people don't pass through. Depending on the portal's destination, "undesirable people" might include evil characters, good characters, cowards, thieves, anyone wearing a robe, or any mortal creature. A portal's guardian is typically a powerful magical creature, such as a genie, sphinx, titan, or native of the portal's destination plane.

Finally, most portals don't stand open all the time, but open only in particular situations or when a certain requirement is met. A portal can have any conceivable requirement, but the following are the most common:

Learning and meeting a portal's requirements can draw characters into further adventures as they chase down a key item, scour old libraries for command words, or consult sages to find the right time to visit the portal.


A number of spells allow direct or indirect access to other planes of existence. {@i Plane shift} and {@i gate} can directly transport adventurers to any other plane, with different degrees of precision. Etherealness allows adventurers to enter the Ethereal Plane. And the {@i astral projection} spell lets adventurers project themselves into the Astral Plane and from there travel to the Outer Planes.

Plane Shift

The plane shift spell has two important limitations. The first is the material component: a small, forked, metal rod (like a tuning fork) attuned to the desired planar destination. The spell requires the proper resonating frequency to home in on the correct location, and the fork must be made of the right material (sometimes a complex alloy) to focus the spell's magic properly. Crafting the fork is expensive (at least 250 gp), but even the act of researching the correct specifications can lead to adventure. After all, not many people voluntarily travel into the depths of Carceri, so very few know what kind of tuning fork is required to get there.

Second, the spell doesn't send the caster to a specific location unless he or she has specialized information. The sigil sequence of a teleportation circle located on another plane allows the caster to travel directly to that circle, but such knowledge is even harder to come by than the specifications of the required tuning fork. Otherwise, the spell transports the caster to a location in the general vicinity of the desired spot. Wherever the adventurers arrive, they'll most likely still need to undertake a journey to reach the object of a planar quest.


The gate spell opens a portal linked to a specific point on another plane of existence. The spell provides a shortcut to a planar destination, bypassing many of the guardians and trials that would normally fill such a journey. But this 9th-level spell is out of reach for all but the most powerful characters, and it does nothing to negate any obstacles that wait at the destination.

The {@spell gate} spell is powerful, but not infallible. A deity, demon lord, or other powerful entity can prevent such a portal from opening within its dominion.

Astral Plane

The Astral Plane is the realm of thought and dream, where visitors travel as disembodied souls to reach the Outer Planes. It is a great silvery sea, the same above and below, with swirling wisps of white and gray streaking among motes of light like distant stars. Most of the Astral Sea is a vast, empty expanse. Visitors occasionally stumble upon the petrified corpse of a dead god or other chunks of rock drifting forever in the silvery void. Much more commonplace are color pools—magical pools of colored light that flicker like radiant, spinning coins.

Creatures on the Astral Plane don't age or suffer from hunger or thirst. For this reason, humanoids that live on the Astral Plane (such as the githyanki) establish outposts on other planes, often the Material Plane, so their children can grow to maturity.

A traveler in the Astral Plane can move by simply thinking about moving, but distance has little meaning. In combat, though, a creature's walking speed (in feet) is equal to 3 × its Intelligence score. The smarter a creature is, the easier it can control its movement by act of will.

Astral Projection

Traveling through the Astral Plane by means of the {@spell astral projection} spell involves projecting one's consciousness there, usually in search of a gateway to an Outer Plane to visit. Since the Outer Planes are as much spiritual states of being as they are physical places, this allows a character to manifest in an Outer Plane as if he or she had physically traveled there, but as in a dream.

A character's death-either in the Astral Plane or on the destination plane-causes no actual harm. Only the severing of a character's silver cord while on the Astral Plane (or the death of his or her helpless physical body on the Material Plane) can result in the character's true death. Thus, high-level characters sometimes travel to the Outer Planes by way of astral projection rather than seek out a portal or use a more direct spell.

Only a few things can sever a traveler's silver cord, the most common being a psychic wind (described below). The legendary silver swords of the githyanki also have this ability. A character who travels bodily to the Astral Plane (by means of the plane shift spell or one of the rare portals that leads directly there) has no silver cord.

Color Pools

Gateways leading from the Astral Plane to other planes appear as two-dimensional pools of rippling colors, {@dice 1d6 × 10} feet in diameter. Traveling to another plane requires locating a color pool that leads to the desired plane. These gateways to other planes can be identified by color, as shown on the Astral Color Pools table. Finding the right color pool is a matter of chance: locating the correct one takes {@dice 1d4 × 10} hours of travel.

Astral Color Pools

Astral Color Pools
d20PlanePool Color
2LimboJet black
4The AbyssAmethyst
8The Nine HellsRuby
9AcheronFlame red
10MechanusDiamond blue
12Mount CelestiaGold
15The BeastlandsEmerald green
16ArboreaSapphire blue
17The OutlandsLeather brown
18Ethereal PlaneSpiraling white
19-20Material PlaneSilver

Psychic Wind

A psychic wind isn't a physical wind like that found on the Material Plane, but a storm of thought that batters travelers' minds rather than their bodies. A psychic wind is made up of lost memories, forgotten ideas, minor musings, and subconscious fears that went astray in the Astral Plane and conglomerated into this powerful force.

A psychic wind is first sensed as a rapid darkening of the silver-gray sky. After a few rounds, the area becomes as dark as a moonless night. As the sky darkens, the traveler feels buffeting and shaking, as if the plane itself was rebelling against the storm. As quickly as it comes, the psychic wind passes, and the sky returns to normal in a few rounds.

The psychic wind has two kinds of effects: a location effect and a mental effect. A group of travelers journeying together suffers the same location effect.

Each traveler affected by the wind must also make a DC 15 Intelligence saving throw. On a failed save, the traveler suffers the mental effect as well. Roll a {@dice d20} twice and consult the Psychic Wind Effects tables to determine the location and mental effects.

stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Psychic Wind [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Psychic Wind Effects [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d20 [1] => Location Effect ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1-8 [1] => Diverted, add {@dice 1d6} hours to travel time ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 9-12 [1] => Blown off course, add {@dice 3d10} hours to travel time ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 13-16 [1] => Lost, at the end of the travel time, characters arrive at a location other than the intended destination ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 17-20 [1] => Sent through color pool to a random plane. Roll on {@b Astral Color Pools} table ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d20 [1] => Mental Effect ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1-8 [1] => Stunned for 1 minute—you can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of your turns to end the effect on yourself ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 9-10 [1] => Short-term madness (see chapter 8) ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 11-12 [1] => {@dice 2d10} psychic damage ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 13-16 [1] => {@dice 4d10} psychic damage ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 17-18 [1] => Long-term madness (see chapter 8) ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 19-20 [1] => Unconscious for {@dice 1d10} minutes—the effect on you ends if you take damage or if another creature uses an action to shake you awake ) ) ) ) )

Astral Plane Encounters

Planar travelers and refugees from other planes wander the expanses of the Astral Plane. The most prominent denizens of the Astral Plane are the githyanki, an outcast race of reavers that sail sleek astral ships, slaughter astral travelers, and raid planes touched by the Astral. Their city, Tu'narath, floats through the Astral Plane on a chunk of rock that is actually the body of a dead god. Celestials, fiends, and mortal explorers often scour the Astral Plane for color pools leading to desired destinations. Characters who linger for too long in the Astral might have an encounter with one or more wandering angels, demons, devils, night hags, yugoloths, or other planar travelers.

Ethereal Plane

The Ethereal Plane is a misty, fog-bound dimension. Its "shores," called the Border Ethereal, overlap the Material Plane and the Inner Planes, so that every location on those planes has a corresponding location on the Ethereal Plane. Visibility in the Border Ethereal is limited to 60 feet. The plane's depths comprise a region of swirling mist and fog called the Deep Ethereal, where visibility is limited to 30 feet.

Characters can use the etherealness spell to enter the Border Ethereal. The plane shift spell allows transport to the Border Ethereal or the Deep Ethereal, but unless the intended destination is a specific location or a teleportation circle, the point of arrival could be anywhere on the plane.

Border Ethereal

From the Border Ethereal, a traveler can see into whatever plane it overlaps, but that plane appears muted and indistinct, its colors blurring into each other and its edges turning fuzzy. Ethereal denizens watch the plane as though peering through distorted and frosted glass, and can't see anything beyond 30 feet into the other plane. Conversely, the Ethereal Plane is usually invisible to those on the overlapped planes, except with the aid of magic.

Normally, creatures in the Border Ethereal can't attack creatures on the overlapped plane, and vice versa. A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible and utterly silent to someone on the overlapped plane, and solid objects on the overlapped plane don't hamper the movement of a creature in the Border Ethereal. The exceptions are certain magical effects (including anything made of magical force) and living beings. This makes the Ethereal Plane ideal for reconnaissance, spying on opponents, and moving around without being detected. The Ethereal Plane also disobeys the laws of gravity; a creature there can move up and down as easily as walking.

Deep Ethereal

To reach the Deep Ethereal, one needs a plane shift spell or arrive by means of a gate spell or magical portal.

Visitors to the Deep Ethereal are engulfed by roiling mist. Scattered throughout the plane are curtains of vaporous color, and passing through a curtain leads a traveler to a region of the Border Ethereal connected to a specific Inner Plane, the Material Plane, the Feywild, or the Shadowfell. The color of the curtain indicates the plane whose Border Ethereal the curtain conceals; see the Ethereal Curtains table.

Ethereal Curtains

Ethereal Curtains
d8PlaneColor of Curtain
1Material PlaneBright turquoise
2ShadowfellDusky gray
3FeywildOpalescent white
4Plane of AirPale blue
5Plane of EarthReddish-brown
6Plane of FireOrange
7Plane of WaterGreen
8Elemental ChaosSwirling mix of colors

Traveling through the Deep Ethereal to journey from one plane to another is unlike physical travel. Distance is meaningless, so although travelers feel as if they can move by a simple act of will, it's impossible to measure speed and hard to track the passage of time. A trip between planes through the Deep Ethereal takes {@dice 1d10 × 10} hours, regardless of the origin and destination. In combat, however, creatures are considered to move at their normal speeds.

Ether Cyclones

An ether cyclone is a serpentine column that spins through the plane. The cyclone appears abruptly, distorting and uprooting ethereal forms in its path and carrying the debris for leagues. Travelers with a passive Wisdom (Perception) score of 15 or more receive {@dice 1d4} rounds of warning: a deep hum in the ethereal matter.

Travelers who can't reach a curtain or portal leading elsewhere suffer the cyclone's effect. Roll a {@dice d20} and consult the Ether Cyclone table to determine the effect on all creatures in the vicinity.

Ether Cyclones

Ether Cyclones
1-12Extended journey
13-19Blown to the Border Ethereal of a random plane (roll on the Ethereal Curtains table)
20Hurled into the Astral Plane

The most common effect of an ether cyclone is to extend the duration of a journey. Each character in a group traveling together must make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. If at least half the group succeeds, travel is delayed by {@dice 1d10} hours. Otherwise, the journey's travel time is doubled. Less often, a group is blown into the Border Ethereal of a random plane. Rarely, the cyclone tears a hole in the fabric of the plane and hurls the party into the Astral Plane.

Ethereal Plane Encounters

Most encounters in the Border Ethereal are with creatures on the Material Plane whose senses or abilities extend into the Ethereal Plane (phase spiders, for example). Ghosts also move freely between the Ethereal and Material Planes.

In the Deep Ethereal, most encounters are with other travelers, particularly ones from the Inner Planes (such as elementals, genies, and salamanders), as well as the occasional celestial, fiend, or fey.


The Feywild, also called the Plane of Faerie, is a land of soft lights and wonder, a place of music and death. It is a realm of everlasting twilight, with glittering faerie lights bobbing in the gentle breeze and fat fireflies buzzing through groves and fields. The sky is alight with the faded colors of an ever-setting sun, which never truly sets (or rises for that matter); it remains stationary, dusky and low in the sky. Away from the settled areas ruled by the seelie fey that compose the Summer Court, the land is a tangle of sharp-toothed brambles and syrupy fens-perfect territory for the unseelie fey to hunt their prey.

The Feywild exists in parallel to the Material Plane, an alternate dimension that occupies the same cosmological space. The landscape of the Feywild mirrors the natural world but turns its features into spectacular forms. Where a volcano stands on the Material Plane, a mountain topped with skyscraper-sized crystals that glow with internal fire towers in the Feywild. A wide and muddy river on the Material Plane might be echoed as a clear and winding brook of great beauty. A marsh could be reflected as a vast black bog of sinister character. And moving to the Feywild from old ruins on the Material Plane might put a traveler at the door of an archfey's castle.

The Feywild is inhabited by sylvan creatures, such as elves, dryads, satyrs, pixies, and sprites, as well as centaurs and magical creatures such as blink dogs, faerie dragons, treants, and unicorns. The darker regions of the plane are home to such malevolent creatures as hags, blights, goblins, ogres, and giants.

Seelie and Unseelie Fey

Two queens hold court in the Feywild, and most fey owe allegiance to one or the other. Queen Titania and her Summer Court lead the seelie fey, and the Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the Gloaming Court, leads the unseelie fey.

Seelie and unseelie do not directly correlate with good and evil, though many mortals make that equation. Many seelie fey are good, and many unseelie are evil, but their opposition to each other stems from their queens' jealous rivalry, not abstract moral concerns. Ugly denizens of the Feywild, such as fomorians and hags, are almost never members of either court, and fey of independent spirit reject the courts entirely.

The courts have warred at times, but they also compete in more-or-less friendly contests and even ally with one another in small and secret ways.

Fey Crossings

Fey crossings are places of mystery and beauty on the Material Plane that have a near-perfect mirror in the Feywild, creating a portal where the two planes touch. A traveler passes through a fey crossing by entering a clearing, wading into a pool, stepping into a circle of mushrooms, or crawling under the trunk of a tree. To the traveler, it seems like he or she has simply walked into the Feywild with a step. To an observer, the traveler is there one moment and gone the next.

Like other portals between planes, most fey crossings open infrequently. A crossing might open only during a full moon, on the dawn of a particular day, or for someone carrying a certain type of item. A fey crossing can be closed permanently if the land on either side is dramatically altered-for example, if a castle is built over the clearing on the Material Plane.

Optional Rules: Feywild Magic

Tales speak of children kidnapped by fey creatures and spirited away to the Feywild, only to return to their parents years later without having aged a day, and with no memories of their captors or the realm they came from. Likewise, adventurers who return from an excursion to the Feywild are often alarmed to discover upon their return that time flows differently on the Plane of Faerie, and that the memories of their visit are hazy. You can use these optional rules to reflect the strange magic that suffuses the plane.

Memory Loss

A creature that leaves the Feywild must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. Fey creatures automatically succeed on the saving throw, as do any creatures, like elves, that have the Fey Ancestry trait. A creature that fails the saving throw remembers nothing from its time spent in the Feywild. On a successful save, the creature's memories remain intact but are a little hazy. Any spell that can end a curse can restore the creature's lost memories.

Time Warp

While time seems to pass normally in the Feywild, characters might spend a day there and realize, upon leaving the plane, that less or more time has elapsed everywhere else in the multiverse.

Whenever a creature or group of creatures leaves the Feywild after spending at least 1 day on that plane, you can choose a time change that works best for your campaign, if any, or roll on the Feywild Time Warp table. A wish spell can be used to remove the effect on up to ten creatures. Some powerful fey have the ability to grant such wishes and might do so if the beneficiaries agree to subject themselves to a {@spell geas} spell and complete a quest after the {@spell wish} spell is cast.

Feywild Time Warp

Feywild Time Warp
1-2Days become minutes
3-6Days become hours
7-13No change
14-17Days become weeks
18-19Days become months
20Days become years


The Shadowfell, also called the Plane of Shadow, is a dimension of black, gray, and white where most other color has been leached from everything. It is a place of darkness that hates the light, where the sky is a black vault with neither sun nor stars. The Shadowfell overlaps the Material Plane in much the same way as the Feywild. Aside from the colorless landscape, it appears similar to the Material Plane.

Landmarks from the Material Plane are recognizable on the Shadowfell, but they are twisted and warped—distorted reflections of what exists on the Material Plane. Where a mountain stands on the Material Plane, the corresponding feature on the Shadowfell is a jagged rock outcropping with a resemblance to a skull, a heap of rubble, or perhaps the crumbling ruin of a once-great castle. A forest on the Shadowfell is dark and twisted, its branches reaching out to snare travelers' cloaks, and its roots coiling and buckling to trip those who pass by.

Shadow dragons and undead creatures haunt this bleak plane, as do other creatures that thrive in the gloom, including cloakers and darkmantles.

Shadow Crossings

Similar to fey crossings, shadow crossings are locations where the veil between the Material Plane and the Shadowfell is so thin that creatures can walk from one plane to the other. A blot of shadow in the corner of a dusty crypt might be a shadow crossing, as might an open grave. Shadow crossings form in gloomy places where spirits or the stench of death lingers, such as battlefields, graveyards, and tombs. They manifest only in darkness, closing as soon as they feel light's kiss.

Domains of Dread

In remote corners of the Shadowfell, it is easy to reach horrific demiplanes ruled over by accursed beings of terrible evil. The best known of these is the valley of Barovia, overlooked by the towering spires of Castle Ravenloft and ruled by Count Strahd von Zarovich, the first vampire. Beings of the Shadowfell called the Dark Powers created these domains as prisons these "darklords," and through cruelty or carelessness trapped innocent mortals in these domains as well.

Optional Rule: Shadowfell Despair

A melancholic atmosphere pervades the Shadowfell. Extended forays to this plane can afflict characters with despair, as reflected in this optional rule.

When you deem it appropriate, though usually not more than once per day, you can require a character not native to the Shadowfell to make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure, the character is affected by despair. Roll a {@dice d6} to determine the effects, using the Shadowfell Despair table. You can substitute different despair effects of your own creation.

Shadowfell Despair

Shadowfell Despair
1-3{@bold Apathy.} The character has disadvantage on death saving throws and on Dexterity checks for initiative, and gains the following flaw: "I don't believe I can make a difference to anyone or anything."
4-5{@bold Dread.} The character has disadvantage on all saving throws and gains the following flaw: "I am convinced that this place is going to kill me."
6{@bold Madness.} The character has disadvantage on ability checks and saving throws that use Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, and gains the following flaw: "I can't tell what's real anymore."

If a character is already suffering a despair effect and fails the saving throw, the new despair effect replaces the old one. After finishing a long rest, a character can attempt to overcome the despair with a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. (The DC is higher because it's harder to shake off despair once it has taken hold.) On a successful save, the despair effect ends for that character.

A {@spell calm emotions} spell removes despair, as does any spell or other magical effect that removes a curse.


The city of Neverwinter in the world of the Forgotten Realms has a dark reflection on the Shadowfell: the city of Evernight. Evernight is a city of cracked stone edifices and homes of rotten wood. Its roads are made mostly of trampled grave dust, and its few cobbled streets are missing enough stones that they appear pockmarked. The sky is corpse gray, and the breeze blows cold and humid, bringing a chill to the skin.

The city's living residents include mad necromancers, corrupt purveyors of human flesh, worshipers of evil deities, and others who are able to make themselves useful and crazy enough to want to live here. But the living are a minority in Evernight, for the bulk of the population consists of the shambling dead. Zombies, wights, vampires, and other undead make the city their home, all under the watchful eyes of the ruling caste: intelligent, flesh-eating ghouls.

Rumors abound that this foul place mirrors one city on every world.

Inner Planes

The Inner Planes surround and enfold the Material Plane and its echoes, providing the raw elemental substance from which all worlds were made. The four Elemental Planes-Air, Earth, Fire, and Water-form a ring around the Material Plane, suspended within a churning realm known as the Elemental Chaos. These planes are all connected, and the border regions between them are sometimes described as distinct planes in their own right.

At their innermost edges, where they are closest to the Material Plane (in a conceptual if not a literal geographical sense), the four Elemental Planes resemble places in the Material Plane. The four elements mingle together as they do in the Material Plane, forming land, sea, and sky. But the dominant element exerts a strong influence on the environment, reflecting its fundamental qualities.

The inhabitants of this inner ring include aarakocra, azers, dragon turtles, gargoyles, genies, mephits, salamanders, and xorn. Some originated on the Material Plane, and all can travel to the Material Plane (if they have access to the magic required) and survive there.

As they extend farther from the Material Plane, the Elemental Planes become increasingly alien and hostile. Here, in the outermost regions, the elements exist in their purest form: great expanses of solid earth, blazing fire, crystal-clear water, and unsullied air. Any foreign substance is extremely rare; little air can be found in the outermost reaches of the Plane of Earth, and earth is all but impossible to find in the outermost reaches of the Plane of Fire. These areas are much less hospitable to travelers from the Material Plane than the border regions are. Such regions are little-known, so when discussing the Plane of Fire, for example, a speaker usually means the border region.

The outermost regions are largely the domains of elemental spirits barely recognizable as creatures. The creatures usually called elementals dwell here, including the Elemental Princes of Evil (primordial beings of pure elemental fury) and elemental spirits that spellcasters can bind into galeb duhrs, golems, invisible stalkers, magmin, and water weirds. These elemental creatures don't need food or other sustenance on their home planes, because they are sustained by the elemental energies that saturate those planes.

Elemental Chaos

At the farthest extents of the Elemental Planes, the pure elements dissolve and bleed together into an unending tumult of clashing energies and colliding substance called the Elemental Chaos. Elementals can be found here as well, but they usually don't stay long, preferring the comfort of their native planes. Reports indicate the existence of weird hybrid elementals native to the Elemental Chaos, but such creatures are seldom seen on other planes.

Plane of Air

The essential nature of air is movement, animation, and inspiration. Air is the breath of life, the winds of change, the fresh breeze that clears away the fog of ignorance and the stuffiness of old ideas.

The Plane of Air is an open expanse with constant winds of varying strength. Here and there, chunks of earth drift in the openness-the remnants of failed invasions by denizens of the Plane of Earth. These earth motes serve as homes for the creatures of elemental air, and many motes are covered with lush vegetation. Other creatures live on cloud banks infused with enough magic to become solid surfaces, strong enough to support towns and castles.

Drifting cloud banks can obscure visibility in any direction in the plane. Storms are frequent, mostly on par with a strong thunderstorm but occasionally more like fierce tornadoes or mighty hurricanes. The air is mild, except near the Plane of Water (where it is biting cold) and the Plane of Fire (where it is searing hot). Rain and snow fall only in the part of the plane nearest to the Plane of Water.

Most of the Plane of Air is a complex web of air streams, currents, and winds called the {@b Labyrinth Winds}. These range from stiff breezes to howling gales that can rip a creature apart. Even the most skilled flying creatures must navigate these currents carefully, flying with the winds, not against them.

Here and there among the Labyrinth Winds are hidden realms reachable only by following a particular sequence of flowing winds, and thus largely protected against attackers. One such realm is fabled {@b Aaqa}, a shining domain of silver spires and verdant gardens atop a fertile earth mote. The Wind Dukes of Aaqa are dedicated to law and good, and they maintain a vigilant watch against the depredations of elemental evil and the encroachment of the Elemental Chaos. They are served by aarakocra and a little-known race called the vaati.

The region of the Plane of Air nearest the Great Conflagration is called the {@b Sirocco Straits}. Hot, dry winds scour the earth motes in this area to dry and barren chunks of rock. Gargoyles and their allies from the Plane of Earth gather here to launch raids into the realm of Aaqa.

Between the Sea of Fire (on the Plane of Fire) and the Sirocco Straits is a towering firestorm called the {@b Great Conflagration}, sometimes called the Plane of Ash. Howling winds from the Plane of Air mix with the cinder storms and lava of the Plane of Fire to create an endless storm front-a wall of flames, smoke, and ash.

The thick ash obscures sight beyond a few dozen feet, and the battering winds make travel difficult. Here and there, ash clusters into floating realms where outlaws and fugitives take shelter.

At the other end of the plane, near the Frostfell (the plane of ice that borders the Plane of Water), is a region of frigid winds called the {@b Mistral Reach}. These gales drive snowstorms into the Frostfell and away from it, toward the heart of the plane. Earth motes in the reach are covered with snow and ice.

Plane of Earth

Earth symbolizes stability, rigidity, stern resolve, and tradition. The plane's position opposite the Plane of Air in the ring of the Elemental Planes reflects its opposition to almost everything air represents.

The Plane of Earth is a chain of mountains rising higher than any mountain range in the Material Plane. It has no sun of its own, and no air surrounds the peaks of its highest mountains. Most visitors to the plane arrive by way of caves and caverns that honeycomb the mountains.

The largest cavern beneath the mountains, called the Great Dismal Delve or the Sevenfold Mazework, is home to the capital city of the dao, the {@b City of Jewels}. The dao take great pride in their wealth and send teams of slaves across the plane in search of new veins of ore and gemstones to exploit. Thanks to their efforts, every building and significant object in the city is made from precious stones and metals, including the slender gemstone-inlaid spires that top most buildings. The city is protected by a powerful spell that alerts the entire dao population if a visitor steals even a single stone. Theft is punishable by death, with punishment extending to the thief's relatives.

The mountains nearest the Fountains of Creation (on the Plane of Fire) are called the {@b Furnaces}. Lava seeps through their caverns, and the air reeks of sulfur. The dao have great forges and smelting furnaces here to process their ores and shape their precious metals.

The border region between the planes of Water and Earth is a horrid swamp where twisted, gnarled trees and thick, stinging vines grow from the dense muck and slime. Here and there within the {@b Swamp of Oblivion} (also called the Plane of Ooze), stagnant lakes and pools play host to thickets of weeds and monstrous swarms of mosquitoes. The few settlements here consist of wooden structures suspended above the muck. Most are built on platforms between trees, but a few stand on stilts driven deep into the muck. No solid earth underlies the mud of the swamp, so houses built on poles eventually sink down into it.

It is said that any object cast into the Swamp of Oblivion can't be found again for at least a century. Now and then, a desperate soul casts an artifact of power into this place, removing it from the multiverse for a time. The promise of powerful magic lures adventurers to brave the monstrous insects and hags of the swamp in search of these treasures.

The region of the plane nearest the Swamp of Oblivion is called the {@b Mud Hills}. Landslides constantly wear away the slopes of the hills, sending cascades of earth and stone into the bottomless swamp. The Plane of Earth seems to constantly regenerate the land, pushing new hills up as the old ones erode to nothing.

Plane of Fire

Fire represents vibrancy, passion, and change. At its worst, it is cruel and wantonly destructive, as the efreet often are, but at its best, fire reflects the light of inspiration, the warmth of compassion, and the flame of desire.

A blazing sun hangs at the zenith of a golden sky above the Plane of Fire, waxing and waning on a 24-hour cycle. It ranges from white hot at noon to deep red at midnight, so the darkest hours of the plane display a deep red twilight. At noon, the light is nearly blinding. Most business in the City of Brass (see below) takes place during the darker hours.

The weather on the plane is marked by fierce winds and thick ash. Although the air is breathable, creatures not native to the plane must cover their mouths and eyes to avoid stinging cinders. The efreet use magic to keep the cinder storms away from the City of Brass, but elsewhere in the plane, the wind is always at least blustery and rises to hurricane force during the worst storms.

The heat in the Plane of Fire is comparable to a hot desert on the Material Plane, and poses a similar threat to travelers (see "Extreme Heat" in chapter 5, "Adventure Environments"). The deeper one goes into the plane, the rarer water becomes. Beyond a point, the plane holds no sources of water, so travelers must carry their own supplies or produce water by magic.

The Plane of Fire is dominated by the vast {@b Cinder Wastes}, a great expanse of black cinders and embers crossed by rivers of lava. Roving bands of salamanders battle each other, raid azer outposts, and avoid the efreet. Ancient ruins dot the desert-remnants of forgotten civilizations.

A great range of volcanic mountains called the {@b Fountains of Creation} is home to azers. These rocky peaks curl from the edge of the Plane of Earth around the Cinder Wastes toward the fiery heart of the plane. At the edge of the plane, the mountains are also called the Plane of Magma. Fire giants and red dragons make their homes here, as well as creatures from the neighboring planes.

Lava flows through the volcanoes toward the Plane of Air and pools into a great lava sea, called the {@b Sea of Fire}, sailed by efreet and azers in great brass ships. Islands of obsidian and basalt jut up from the sea, dotted with ancient ruins and the lairs of powerful red dragons. On the shore of the Sea of Fire stands the {@b City of Brass}.

The City of Brass

Perhaps the best-known location in the Inner Planes is the City of Brass, on the shores of the Sea of Fire. This is the fabled city of the efreet, and its ornate spires and metal walls reflect their grandiose and cruel nature.

True to the nature of the Plane of Fire, everything in the city seems alive with dancing flames, reflecting the vibrant energy of the place.

Adventurers frequently come here on quests for legendary magic. If it's possible to buy magic items at all, the City of Brass is the most likely place to find any item for sale, though the price might well be more than gold. The efreet are fond of trading in favors, especially when they have the upper hand in negotiations. Perhaps a magical disease or poison can be cured only with something that must be purchased in the bazaars of the city.

The heart of the city is the towering Charcoal Palace, where the tyrannical sultan of the efreet reigns supreme, surrounded by efreet nobles and a host of slaves, guardians, and sycophants.

Plane of Water

The nature of water is to flow, not like the gusting wind or the leaping flame, but smoothly and steadily. It is the rhythm of the tide, the nectar of life, the bitter tears of mourning, and the balm of sympathy and healing. Given time, it can erode all in its path.

A warm sun arcs across the sky of the Plane of Water, seeming to rise and set from within the water at the visible edge of the horizon. Several times a day, however, the sky clouds over and releases a deluge of rain, often accompanied by spectacular shows of lightning, before clearing up again. At night, a glittering array of stars and auroras bedecks the sky.

The Plane of Water is an endless sea, called the {@b Sea of Worlds}, dotted here and there with atolls and islands that rise up from enormous coral reefs that seem to stretch forever into the depths. The storms that move across the sea sometimes create temporary portals to the Material Plane and draw ships into the Plane of Water. Surviving vessels from countless worlds and navies ply these waters with little hope of ever returning home.

The weather on the plane is a lesson in extremes. If the sea isn't calm, it is battered by storms. On rare occasions, a tremor in the planar firmament sends a rogue wave sweeping across the plane, swamping entire islands and driving ships down to the reefs.

Life flourishes in the upper reaches of the Sea of Worlds, called the {@b Sea of Light} because of the sunlight filtering down into the water. Aquatic humanoids craft castles and fortresses in the coral reefs. The marids are the distant stewards of this region, content to allow the lesser folk to compete for territory. The nominal emperor of the marids dwells in the {@b Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls}, an opulent palace made of coral and studded with pearls.

The deeper extents of the plane, where no sunlight reaches, are called the {@b Darkened Depths}. Horrid creatures dwell here, and the absolute cold and crushing pressure mean a swift end to creatures accustomed to the surface or the Sea of Light. Krakens and other mighty leviathans claim this realm.

Any land that rises above the surface of the sea is hotly contested by the few air-breathers that live on the plane. Fleets of rafts and ships lashed together serve as solid ground where nothing else is available. Most natives of the plane never break the surface of the sea and thus ignore these habitations.

One of the few actual islands on the plane is the {@b Isle of Dread}. The island is connected to the Material Plane by means of a regular storm that sweeps over the island. Travelers who know the strange tides and currents of the plane can travel between worlds freely, but the storms also wreck ships from the Material Plane on the island's shore.

The region of the Plane of Water nearest the Swamp of Oblivion (on the Plane of Earth) is called the {@b Silt Flats}. The water is thick with soil and sludge, and turns into muddy ground before giving way to the great swamp between the planes.

At the other extreme of the plane is the {@b Sea of Ice}, bordering the Frostfell. The frigid water is choked with icebergs and sheet ice, inhabited by the cold-loving creatures that inhabit the Frostfell. Drifting icebergs can carry these creatures farther into the Plane of Water to threaten ships and islands in warmer seas.

The {@b Frostfell}, also called the Plane of Ice, forms the border between the planes of Air and Water and is a seemingly endless glacier swept by constant, raging blizzards. Frozen caverns twist through the Plane of Ice, home to yetis, remorhazes, white dragons, and other creatures of cold. The inhabitants of the plane engage in a never-ending battle to prove their strength and ensure their survival.

Its dangerous monsters and bitter cold make the Frostfell a dangerous place to travel. Most planar voyagers keep to the air, braving the powerful winds and driving snow to avoid setting foot on the great glacier.

Outer Planes

If the Inner Planes are the raw matter and energy that makes up the multiverse, the Outer Planes provide the direction, thought, and purpose for its construction. Accordingly, many sages refer to the Outer Planes as divine planes, spiritual planes, or godly planes, for the Outer Planes are best known as the homes of deities.

When discussing anything to do with deities, the language used must be highly metaphorical. Their actual homes aren't literally places at all, but exemplify the idea that the Outer Planes are realms of thought and spirit. As with the Elemental Planes, one can imagine the perceptible part of the Outer Planes as a border region, while extensive spiritual regions lie beyond ordinary sensory experience.

Even in perceptible regions, appearances can be deceptive. Initially, many of the Outer Planes appear hospitable and familiar to natives of the Material Plane. But the landscape can change at a whim of the powerful forces that dwell on these planes, which can remake them completely, effectively erasing and rebuilding existence to better fulfill their divine needs.

Distance is a virtually meaningless concept on the Outer Planes. The perceptible regions of the planes can seem quite small, but they can also stretch on to what seems like infinity. Adventurers could take a guided tour of the Nine Hells, from the first layer to the ninth, in a single day-if the powers of the Hells desire it. Or it could take weeks for travelers to make a grueling trek across a single layer.

The default Outer Planes are a group of sixteen planes that correspond to the eight alignments (excluding neutrality, which is represented by the Outlands, described in the section on "Other Planes") and the shades of distinction between them.

The Outer Planes

The Outer Planes
Outer PlaneAlignment
Mount Celestia, the Seven Heavens ofLG
Bytopia, the Twin Paradises ofNG, LG
Elysium, the Blessed Fields ofNG
The Beastlands, the Wilderness ofNG, CG
Arborea, the Olympian Glades ofCG
Ysgard, the Heroic Domains ofCN, CG
Limbo, the Ever-Changing Chaos ofCN
Pandemonium, the Windswept Depths ofCN, CE
The Abyss, the Infinite Layers ofCE
Carceri, the Tarterian Depths ofNE, CE
Hades, the Gray Waste ofNE
Gehenna, the Bleak Eternity ofNE, LE
The Nine Hells of BaatorLE
Acheron, the Infinite Battlefield ofLN, LE
Mechanus, the Clockwork Nirvana ofLN
Arcadia, the Peaceable Kingdoms ofLN, LG

The planes with an element of good in their nature are called the {@b Upper Planes}, while those with an element of evil are the {@b Lower Planes}. A plane's alignment is its essence, and a character whose alignment doesn't match the plane's alignment experiences a sense of dissonance there. When a good creature visits Elysium, for example, it feels in tune with the plane, but an evil creature feels out of tune and more than a little uncomfortable.

The Upper Planes are the home of celestial creatures, including angels, couatls, and pegasi. The Lower Planes are the home of fiends: demons, devils, yugoloths, and their ilk. The planes in between host their own unique denizens: the construct race of modrons inhabit Mechanus, and the aberrations called slaadi thrive in Limbo.

Layers of the Outer Planes

Most of the Outer Planes include a number of distinct environments or realms. These realms are often imagined and depicted as a stack of related parts of the same plane, so travelers refer to them as layers. For example, Mount Celestia resembles a seven-tiered layer cake, the Nine Hells has nine layers, and the Abyss has a seemingly endless number of layers.

Most portals from elsewhere reach the first layer of a multilayered plane. This layer is variously depicted as the top or bottom layer, depending on the plane. As the arrival point for most visitors, the first layer functions like a city gate for that plane.

Traveling the Outer Planes

Traveling between the Outer Planes isn't dissimilar from reaching the Outer Planes in the first place. Characters traveling by means of the {@spell astral projection} spell can go from one plane into the Astral Plane, and there search out a color pool leading to the desired destination. Characters can also use plane shift to reach a different plane more directly. Most often, though, characters use portals-either a portal that links the two planes directly or a portal leading to Sigil, City of Doors, which holds portals to all the planes.

Two planar features connect multiple Outer Planes together: the River Styx and the Infinite Staircase. Other planar crossings might exist in your campaign, such as a World Tree whose roots touch the Lower Planes and whose branches reach to the Upper Planes, or it might be possible to walk from one plane to another in your cosmology.

The River Styx

This river bubbles with grease, foul flotsam, and the putrid remains of battles along its banks. Any creature other than a fiend that tastes or touches the water is affected by a {@i feeblemind} spell. The DC of the Intelligence saving throw to resist the effect is 15.

The Styx churns through the top layers of Acheron, the Nine Hells, Gehenna, Hades, Carceri, the Abyss, and Pandemonium. Tributaries of the Styx snake onto lower layers of these planes. For example, a tendril of the Styx winds through every layer of the Nine Hells, allowing passage from one layer of that plane to the next.

Sinister ferries float on the waters of the Styx, crewed by pilots skilled in negotiating the unpredictable currents and eddies of the river. For a price, these pilots are willing to carry passengers from plane to plane. Some of them are fiends, while others are the souls of dead creatures from the Material Plane.

The Infinite Staircase

The Infinite Staircase is an extra dimensional spiral staircase that connects the planes. An entrance to the Infinite Staircase usually appears as a nondescript door. Beyond the portal lies a small landing with an equally nondescript stairway leading up and down. The Infinite Staircase changes appearance as it climbs and descends, going from simple stairs of wood or stone to a chaotic jumble of stairs hanging in radiant space, where no two steps share the same gravitational orientation. It is said that one can find one's heart's desire on the Infinite Staircase through diligent searching of each landing.

Doors to the Infinite Staircase are often tucked away in dusty, half-forgotten places that no one frequents or pays any attention to. On any given plane, there can be multiple doors to the Infinite Staircase, though entrances aren't common knowledge and are occasionally guarded by devas, sphinxes, yugoloths, and other powerful monsters.

Optional Rules

Each of the Outer Planes has peculiar characteristics that make traveling through it a unique experience. A plane's influence can affect visitors in various ways, such as causing them to take on personality traits or flaws that reflect the disposition of the plane, or even shift alignment to more closely match the native inhabitants of the plane. Each plane's description includes one or more optional rules that you can use to help make the adventurers' experiences on that plane memorable.

Optional Rule: Psychic Dissonance

Each of the Outer Planes emanates a psychic dissonance that affects visitors of an incompatible alignment-good creatures on the Lower Planes, evil ones on the Upper Planes-if they spend too much time on the plane. You can reflect this dissonance with this optional rule. At the end of a long rest spent on an incompatible plane, a visitor must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature gains one level of {@condition exhaustion}. Incompatibility between lawful and chaotic alignments doesn't have the same effect, so Mechanus and Limbo lack this quality.

Mount Celestia

The single sacred mountain of Mount Celestia rises from a shining Silver Sea to heights barely visible and utterly incomprehensible, with seven plateaus marking its seven heavenly layers. The plane is the model of justice and order, of celestial grace and endless mercy, where angels and champions of good guard against incursions of evil. It is one of the few places on the planes where travelers can let down their guard. Its inhabitants strive constantly to be as righteous as possible. Countless creatures aim to reach the highest and most sublime peak of the mountain, but only the purest souls can. Gazing toward that peak fills even the most jaded of travelers with awe.

Optional Rule: Blessed Beneficence

In contrast to the dissonance experienced by evil creatures here, good creatures are literally blessed by the pervasive beneficence of the plane. Creatures of good alignment gain the benefit of the {@i bless} spell as long as they remain on the plane. In addition, finishing a long rest on the plane grants a good creature the benefit of a lesser restoration spell.


The two layers of the Twin Paradises of Bytopia are similar yet opposite: one is a tamed, pastoral landscape and the other an untamed wilderness, yet both reflect the plane's goodness and its acceptance of law and order when necessary. Bytopia is the heaven of productive work, the satisfaction of a job well done. The goodness flowing through the plane creates feelings of goodwill and happiness in creatures dwelling there.

Optional Rule: Pervasive Goodwill

At the end of each long rest taken on this plane, a visitor that is neither lawful good nor neutral good must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature's alignment changes to lawful good or neutral good (whichever is closer to the creature's current alignment). The change becomes permanent if the creature doesn't leave the plane within {@dice 1d4} days. Otherwise, the creature's alignment reverts to normal after one day spent on a plane other than Bytopia. Casting the {@i dispel evil and good} spell on the creature also restores its original alignment.


Elysium is home to creatures of unfettered kindness and compassion, and a welcome refuge for planar travelers seeking a safe haven. The plane's bucolic landscapes glimmer with life and beauty in their prime. Tranquility seeps into the bones and souls of those who enter the plane. It is the heaven of well-earned rest, a place where tears of joy glisten on many a cheek.

Optional Rule: Overwhelming Joy

Visitors spending any time on this plane risk becoming trapped by overwhelming sensations of contentment and happiness. At the end of each long rest taken on this plane, a visitor must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is unwilling to leave the plane before taking another long rest. After three failed saving throws, the creature never willingly leaves the plane and, if forcibly removed, does everything in its power to return to the plane. A {@i dispel evil and good} spell removes this effect from the creature.

The Beastlands

The Beastlands is a plane of nature unbound, of forests ranging from moss-hung mangroves to snow-laden pines, of thick jungles where the branches are woven so tight that no light penetrates, of vast plains where grains and wildflowers wave in the wind with vibrant life. The plane embodies nature's wildness and beauty, but it also speaks to the animal within all living things.

Optional Rule: Hunter's Paradise

Visitors to the Beastlands find their hunting and stalking capabilities improved, and characters have advantage on Wisdom (Animal Handling), Wisdom (Perception), and Wisdom (Survival) checks while there.

Optional Rule: Beast Transformation

Whenever a visitor slays a beast native to the plane, the slayer must succeed on a DC 10 Charisma saving throw or become transformed (as the {@i polymorph} spell) into the type of beast that was slain. In this form, the creature retains its intelligence and ability to speak. At the end of each long rest, the polymorphed creature can repeat the saving throw. On a successful saving throw, the creature returns to its true form. After three failed saving throws, the transformation can be undone only by a remove curse spell or similar magic.


Larger than life, Arborea is a place of violent moods and deep affections, of whim backed by steel, and of passions that blaze brightly until they burn out. Its good-natured inhabitants are dedicated to fighting evil, but their reckless emotions sometimes break free with devastating consequences. Rage is as common and as honored as joy in Arborea. There the mountains and forests are extravagantly massive and beautiful, and every glade and stream is inhabited by nature spirits that brook no infringement. Travelers must tread lightly.

Arborea is home to many elves and elven deities. Elves born on this plane have the celestial type and are wild at heart, ready to battle evil in a heartbeat. Otherwise, they look and behave like normal elves.

Optional Rule: Intense Yearning

Keep track of how many days a visitor spends on Arborea. When the visitor leaves, it must make a Charisma saving throw against a DC of 5, plus 1 for each day spent on the plane. On a failed save, the creature becomes afflicted with a yearning to return to Arborea. As long as the effect persists, the creature has disadvantage on ability checks. At the end of each long rest, the creature can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on a success. A {@i dispel evil and good} spell removes this effect from the creature.


Ysgard is a rugged realm of soaring mountains, deep fjords, and windswept battlefields, with summers that are long and hot, and winters that are wickedly cold and unforgiving. Its continents float above oceans of volcanic rock, below which are icy caverns so enormous as to hold entire kingdoms of giants, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and other beings. Heroes come to Ysgard to test their mettle not only against the plane itself, but also against giants, dragons, and other terrible creatures that thunder across Ysgard's vast terrain.

Optional Rule: Immortal Wrath

Ysgard is the home of slain heroes who wage eternal battle on fields of glory. Any creature, other than a construct or undead, that is killed by an attack or a spell while on Ysgard is restored to life at dawn the next day. The creature has all its hit points restored, and all conditions and afflictions it suffered before its death are removed.


Limbo is a plane of pure chaos, a roiling soup of impermanent matter and energy. Stone melts into water that freezes into metal, then turns into diamond that burns up into smoke that becomes snow, and on and on in an endless, unpredictable process of change. Fragments of more ordinary landscapes-bits of forest, meadow, ruined castles, and even burbling streams-drift through the disorder. The whole plane is a nightmarish riot.

Limbo has no gravity, so creatures visiting the plane float in place. A creature can move up to its walking speed in any direction by merely thinking of the desired direction of travel.

Limbo conforms to the will of the creatures inhabiting it. Very disciplined and powerful minds can create whole islands of their own invention within the plane, sometimes maintaining those places for years. A simpleminded creature such as a fish, though, might have less than a minute before the pocket of water surrounding it freezes, vanishes, or turns to glass. The slaadi live here and swim amid this chaos, creating nothing, whereas githzerai monks build entire monasteries with their minds.

Optional Rule: Power of the Mind

As an action, a creature on Limbo can make an Intelligence check to mentally move an object on the plane that it can see within 30 feet of it. The DC depends on the object's size: DC 5 for Tiny, DC 10 for Small, DC 15 for Medium, DC 20 for Large, and DC 25 for Huge or larger. On a successful check, the creature moves the object 5 feet plus 1 foot for every point by which it beat the DC.

A creature can also use an action to make an Intelligence check to alter a nonmagical object that isn't being worn or carried. The same rules for distance apply, and the DC is based on the object's size: DC 10 for Tiny, DC 15 for Small, DC 20 for Medium, and DC 25 for Large or larger. On a success, the creature changes the object into another nonliving form of the same size, such as turning a boulder into a ball of fire.

Finally, a creature can use an action to make an Intelligence check to stabilize a spherical area centered on the creature. The DC depends on the radius of the sphere. The base DC is 5 for a 10-foot-radius sphere; each additional 10 feet added to the radius increases the DC by 5. On a successful check, the creature prevents the area from being altered by the plane for 24 hours, or until the creature uses this ability again.


Pandemonium is a plane of madness, a great mass of rock riddled with tunnels carved by howling winds. It is cold, noisy, and dark, with no natural light. Wind quickly extinguishes nonmagical open flames such as torches and campfires. It also makes conversation possible only by yelling, and even then only to a maximum distance of 10 feet. Creatures have disadvantage on any ability check that relies on hearing. Most of the plane's inhabitants are creatures that were banished to the plane with no hope of escape, and many of them have been driven mad by the incessant winds or forced to take shelter in places where the winds die down until they sound like distant cries of torment.

Optional Rule: Mad Winds

A visitor must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw after each hour spent among the howling winds. On a failed save, the creature gains one level of {@condition exhaustion}. A creature that reaches six levels of {@condition exhaustion} while on this plane doesn't die. Instead, the creature gains a random form of indefinite madness, as described in chapter 8, "Running the Game." Finishing a long rest doesn't reduce a creature's {@condition exhaustion} level unless the creature can somehow escape the maddening winds.

The Abyss

The Abyss embodies all that is perverse, gruesome, and chaotic. Its virtually endless layers spiral downward into ever more appalling forms.

Each layer of the Abyss boasts its own horrific environment. Although no two layers are alike, they are all harsh and inhospitable. Each layer also reflects the entropic nature of the Abyss. In fact, much of what one sees or touches on the plane seems to be in a decaying, crumbling, or corroded state.

Optional Rule: Abyssal Corruption

A non-evil visitor that finishes a long rest in the Abyss must make a DC 10 Charisma saving throw. On a failure, the creature becomes corrupted. Refer to the Abyssal Corruption table to determine the effects of this corruption. You can substitute different corruption effects of your own creation.

After finishing a long rest, a corrupted creature can make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. On a successful save, the corruption effect ends. A dispel evil and good spell or any magic that removes a curse also ends the effect.

If a corrupted creature doesn't leave the plane within {@dice 1d4+2} days, its alignment changes to chaotic evil. Casting the {@spell dispel evil and good} spell on the creature restores its original alignment.

Abyssal Corruption

Abyssal Corruption
1-4{@bold Treachery.} The character gains the following flaw: "I can only achieve my goals by making sure that my companions don't achieve theirs."
5-7{@bold Bloodlust.} The character gains the following flaw: "I enjoy killing for its own sake, and once I start, it's hard to stop."
8-9{@bold Mad Ambition.} The character gains the following flaw: "I am destined to rule the Abyss, and my companions are tools to that end."
10{@bold Demonic Possession.} The character is possessed by a demonic entity until freed by {@spell dispel evil and good} or similar magic. Whenever the possessed character rolls a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, the demon takes control of the character and determines the character's behavior. At the end of each of the possessed character's turns, he or she can make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. On a success, the character regains control until he or she rolls another 1.

Important Layers

The layers of the Abyss are defined by the demon lords who rule them, as the following examples illustrate. More information about the demon lords can be found in the Monster Manual.

The Gaping Maw

Demogorgon's layer in the Abyss is a vast wilderness of savagery and madness known as the Gaping Maw, where even powerful demons go insane with fear. Reflecting Demogorgon's dual nature, the Gaping Maw consists of a massive primeval continent covered in dense jungle, surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of ocean and brine flats. The Prince of Demons rules his layer from two serpentine towers, which emerge from a turbid sea. Each tower is topped with an enormous fanged skull. The spires constitute the fortress of Abysm, where few creatures can venture without descending into madness.


If Orcus had his way, all planes would resemble his dead realm of Thanatos, and all creatures would become undead under his control. Under its black sky, Thanatos is a land of bleak mountains, barren moors, ruined cities, and forests of twisted black trees. Tombs, mausoleums, gravestones, and sarcophagi litter the landscape. Undead swarm across the plane, bursting from their tombs and graves to tear apart any creatures foolish enough to journey here. Orcus rules Thanatos from a vast palace known as Everlost, crafted of obsidian and bone. Set within a howling wasteland called Oblivion's End, the palace is surrounded by tombs and burial sites dug into the sheer slopes of narrow valleys, creating a tiered necropolis.

The Demonweb

Lolth's layer is an immense network of thick, magical webbing that forms passageways and cocoon-like chambers. Throughout the web, buildings, structures, ships, and other objects hang as if caught in a spider's snare. The nature of Lolth's web creates random portals throughout the plane, drawing such objects in from demiplanes and Material Plane worlds that figure into the schemes of the Spider Queen. Lolth's servants also build dungeons amid the webbing, trapping and hunting Lolth's hated enemies within crisscrossing corridors of web-mortared stone.

Far beneath these dungeons lie the bottomless Demonweb Pits where the Spider Queen dwells. There, Lolth is surrounded by her handmaidens-yochlol demons created to serve her and which outrank mightier demons while in the Spider Queen's realm.

The Endless Maze

Baphomet's layer of the Abyss is a never-ending dungeon, the center of which holds the Horned King's enormous ziggurat palace. A confusing jumble of crooked hallways and myriad chambers, the palace is surrounded by a mile-wide moat concealing a maddening series of submerged stairs and tunnels leading deeper into the fortress.

The Triple Realm

The Dark Prince Graz'zt rules over the realm of Azzagrat, which encompasses three layers of the Abyss. His seat of power is the fantastic Argent Palace in the city of Zelatar, whose bustling markets and pleasure palaces draw visitors from across the multiverse in search of obscure magical lore and perverse delights. By Graz'zt's command, the demons of Azzagrat present a veneer of civility and courtly comity. However, the so-called Triple Realm holds as much danger as any other part of the Abyss, and planar visitors can vanish without a trace in its maze like cities and in forests whose trees have serpents for branches.

Death Dells

Yeenoghu rules a layer of ravines known as Death Dells. Here, creatures must hunt to survive. Even the plants, which must bathe their roots in blood, snare the unwary. Yeenoghu's servants, helping to sate their master's hunger as he prowls his kingdom seeking prey, capture creatures from the Material Plane for release in the Gnoll Lord's realm.


The model for all other prisons in existence, Carceri is a plane of desolation and despair. Its six layers hold vast bogs, fetid jungles, windswept deserts, jagged mountains, frigid oceans, and black ice. All form a miserable home for the traitors and backstabbers that are trapped on this prison plane.

Optional Rule: Prison Plane

No one can leave Carceri easily. Magical efforts to leave the plane by any spell other than a wish simply fail. Portals and gates that open onto the plane become one-way only. Secret ways out of the plane exist, but they are hidden and well guarded by traps and deadly monsters.


The layers of Hades are called the Three Glooms-places without joy, hope, or passion. A gray land with an ashen sky, Hades is the destination of many souls that are unclaimed by the gods of the Upper Planes or the fiendish rulers of the Lower Planes. These souls become larvae and spend eternity in this place that lacks a sun, a moon, stars, or seasons. Leaching away color and emotion, this gloom is more than most visitors can stand. The "Shadowfell Despair" rule earlier in the chapter can be used to represent a visitor's despair.

Optional Rule: Vile Transformation

At the end of each long rest taken on the plane, a visitor must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature gains one level of {@condition exhaustion}, which can't be removed while the creature remains in Hades. If the creature reaches six levels of {@condition exhaustion}, it doesn't die. Instead, the creature permanently transforms into a larva, whereupon all levels of {@condition exhaustion} afflicting the creature are removed.

A larva is a miserable fiend that retains the facial features of its previous form but has the body of a fat worm. A larva has only a few faint memories of its previous life and the statistics in the larva stat block.

Hades is crawling with larvae. Night hags, liches, and rakshasas harvest them for use in vile rituals. Other fiends like to feed on them.


Gehenna is the plane of suspicion and greed. It is the birthplace of the yugoloths, which dwell here in great numbers. A volcanic mountain dominates each of the four layers of Gehenna, and lesser volcanic earthbergs drift in the air and smash into the greater mountains.

The rocky slopes of the plane make movement here difficult and dangerous. The ground inclines at least 45 degrees almost everywhere. In places, steep cliffs and deep canyons present more challenging obstacles. Hazards include volcanic fissures that vent noxious fumes or searing flames.

Gehenna has no room for mercy or compassion. The fiends living here are among the greediest and most selfish in all the multiverse.

Optional Rule: Cruel Hindrance

The plane's cruel nature makes it difficult for visitors to help one another. Whenever a visitor casts a spell with a beneficial effect, including a spell that restores hit points or removes a condition, the caster must first make a DC 10 Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, the spell fails, the spell slot is expended, and the action is wasted.

The Nine Hells

The Nine Hells of Baator inflame the imaginations of travelers, the greed of treasure seekers, and the battle fury of all moral creatures. It is the ultimate plane of law and evil and the epitome of premeditated cruelty. The devils of the Nine Hells are bound to obey the laws of their superiors, but they rebel within their individual castes. Most undertake any plot, no matter how foul, to advance themselves. At the very top of the hierarchy is Asmodeus, who has yet to be bested. If he were to be vanquished, the victor would rule the plane in turn. Such is the law of the Nine Hells.

Optional Rule: Pervasive Evil

Evil pervades the Nine Hells, and visitors to this plane feel its influence. At the end of each long rest taken on this plane, a visitor that isn't evil must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature's alignment changes to lawful evil. The change becomes permanent if the creature doesn't leave the plane within {@dice 1d4} days. Otherwise, the creature's alignment reverts to normal after one day spent on a plane other than the Nine Hells. Casting the dispel evil and good spell on the creature also restores its original alignment.

The Nine Layers

The Nine Hells has nine layers. The first eight are each ruled by archdevils that answer to Asmodeus, the Archduke of Nessus, the ninth layer. To reach the deepest layer of the Nine Hells, one must descend through all eight of the layers above it, in order. The most expeditious means of doing so is the River Styx, which plunges ever deeper as it flows from one layer to the next. Only the most courageous adventurers can withstand the torment and horror of that journey.


No planar portals connect directly to the lower layers of the Nine Hells, by Asmodeus's orders.

As such, the first layer of Avernus is the arrival point for visitors to the plane. Avernus is a rocky wasteland with rivers of blood and clouds of biting flies. Fiery comets occasionally fall from the darkened sky and leave fuming impact craters behind. Empty battlefields are littered with weapons and bones, showing where the legions of the Nine Hells met enemies on their native soil and prevailed.

The archduchess Zariel rules Avernus, supplanting her rival, Bel, who has fallen out of Asmodeus's favor and is forced to serve as Zariel's advisor. Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons, is a prisoner on this layer, ruling her own domain but confined to the Nine Hells by Asmodeus in accordance with some ancient contract (the terms of which are known only to Tiamat and the Lords of the Nine).

Zariel's seat of power is a soaring basalt citadel festooned with the partially incinerated corpses of guests who failed to earn the archduchess's favor. Zariel appears as an angel whose once-beautiful skin and wings have been ruined by fire. Her eyes burn with a furious white light that can cause creatures looking upon her to burst into flame.


Dis, the second layer of the Nine Hells, is a labyrinth of canyons wedged between sheer mountains rich with iron ore. Iron roads span and wend through the canyons, watched over by the garrisons of iron fortresses perched atop jagged pinnacles.

The second layer takes its name from its current lord, Dispater. A manipulator and deceiver, the archduke is devilishly handsome, bearing only small horns, a tail, and a cloven left hoof to distinguish him from a human. His crimson throne stands in the heart of the Iron City of Dis, a hideous metropolis that is the largest in the Nine Hells. Planar travelers come here to conspire with devils and to close deals with night hags, rakshasas, incubi, succubi, and other fiends. Dispater collects a piece of every deal through special provisions that are added to contracts signed on his layer of the Nine Hells.

Dispater is one of Asmodeus's most loyal and resourceful vassals, and few beings in the multiverse can outwit him. He is more obsessed than most devils with striking deals with mortals in exchange for their souls, and his emissaries work tirelessly to foster evil schemes in the Material Plane.


The third layer of the Nine Hells is a stench-ridden bog. Acidic rain spills from the layer's brown skies, thick layers of scum cover its putrid surface, and yawning pits lie in wait beneath the murk to engulf careless wanderers. Cyclopean cities of ornately carved stone rise up from the bog, including the great city of Minauros for which the layer is named.

The slimy walls of the city rise hundreds of feet into the air, protecting the flooded halls of Mammon. The Archduke of Minauros resembles a massive serpent with the upper torso and head of a hairless, horned humanoid. Mammon's greed is legendary, and he is one of the few archdevils who will trade favors for gold instead of souls. His lair is piled high with treasures left behind by those who tried-and failed-to best him in a deal.


Phlegethos, the fourth layer, is a fiery landscape whose seas of molten magma brew hurricanes of hot wind, choking smoke, and pyroclastic ash. Within the fire-filled caldera of Phlegethos's largest volcano rises Abriymoch, a fortress city cast of obsidian and dark glass. With rivers of molten lava pouring down its outer walls, the city resembles the sculpted center piece of a gigantic, hellish fountain.

Abriymoch is the seat of power for the two archdevils who rule Phlegethos in tandem: Archduke Belial and Archduchess Fierna, Belial's daughter. Belial is a handsome, powerfully built devil who exudes civility, even as his words carry an undercurrent of threat. His daughter is a statuesque devil whose beauty encases the blackest heart in the Nine Hells. The alliance of Belial and Fierna is unbreakable, for both are aware that their mutual survival hinges on it.


The fifth layer of the Nine Hells is a freezing realm of ice within which cold flames burn. A frozen sea surrounds the layer, and its gloomy sky crackles with lightning.

Archduke Levistus once betrayed Asmodeus and is now encased deep in the ice of Stygia as punishment. He rules this layer all the same, communicating telepathically with his followers and servants, both in the Nine Hells and on the Material Plane.

Stygia is also home to its previous ruler, the serpentine archdevil Geryon, who was dismissed by Asmodeus to allow the imprisoned Levistus to regain his rule. Geryon's fall from grace has spurred much debate within the infernal courts. No one is certain whether Asmodeus had some secret cause to dismiss the archdevil or whether he is testing Geryon's allegiance for some greater purpose.


Malbolge, the sixth layer, has outlasted many rulers, among them Malagard the Hag Countess and the archdevil Moloch. Malagard fell out of favor and was struck down by Asmodeus in a fit of pique, while her predecessor, Moloch, still lingers somewhere on the sixth layer as an imp, plotting to regain Asmodeus's favor. Malbolge is a seemingly endless slope, like the sides of an impossibly huge mountain. Parts of the layer break off from time to time, creating deadly and deafening avalanches of stone. The inhabitants of Malbolge live in crumbling fortresses and great caves carved into the mountainside.

Malbolge's current archduchess is Asmodeus's daughter, Glasya. She resembles a succubus with her small horns, leathery wings, and forked tail. She inherited her cruelty and love of dark schemes from her father. The citadel that serves as her domicile on the slopes of Malbolge is supported by cracked pillars and buttresses that are sturdy yet seem on the verge of collapse. Beneath the palace is a labyrinth lined with cells and torture chambers, where Glasya confines and torments those who displease her.


The seventh layer, Maladomini, is ruin-covered wasteland. Dead cities form a desolate urban landscape, and between them lie empty quarries, crumbling roads, slag heaps, the hollow shells of empty fortresses, and swarms of hungry flies.

The Archduke of Maladomini is Baalzebul, the Lord of Flies. A bloated fiend with the lower body of an enormous slug, Baalzebul's form was inflicted on him by Asmodeus as punishment for wavering loyalty. Baalzebul is a miserable and degenerate monstrosity who has long conspired to usurp Asmodeus, yet has failed at every turn. He carries a curse that causes any deal made with him to lead to calamity. Asmodeus occasionally shows Baalzebul favor for reasons no other archduke can fathom, though some suspect that the Archduke of Nessus still respects the worthiness of this fallen adversary.


Cania, the eighth layer of the Nine Hells, is an icy hellscape, whose ice storms can tear flesh from bone. Cities embedded in the ice provide shelter for guests and prisoners of Cania's ruler, the brilliant and conniving archdevil Mephistopheles.

Mephistopheles dwells in the ice citadel of Mephistar, where he plots to seize the Throne of Baator and conquer the planes. He is Asmodeus's greatest enemy and ally, and the Archduke of Nessus appears to trust Mephistopheles's counsel when it is offered.

Mephistopheles knows he can't depose Asmodeus until his adversary makes a grave miscalculation, and so both wait to see what circumstances might turn them against each other. Mephistopheles is also a godfather of sorts to Glasya, further complicating the relationship.

Mephistopheles is a tall, striking devil with impressive horns and a cool demeanor. He trades in souls, as do other archdevils, but he rarely gives his time to any creatures not worthy of his personal attention. His instincts are as razor sharp as Cania's frigid winds, and it is said that only Asmodeus has ever deceived or thwarted him.


The lowest layer of the Nine Hells, Nessus is a realm of dark pits whose walls are set with fortresses. There, pit fiend generals loyal to Asmodeus garrison their diabolical legions and plot the conquest of the multiverse. At the center of the layer stands a vast rift of unknown depth, out of which rises the great citadel-spire of Malsheem, home to Asmodeus and his infernal court.

Malsheem resembles a gigantic hollowed-out stalagmite. The citadel is also a prison for souls that Asmodeus has locked away for safekeeping. Convincing him to release even one of those souls comes at a steep price, and it is rumored that the Archduke of Nessus has claimed whole kingdoms in the past for such favors.

Asmodeus most often appears as a handsome, bearded humanoid with small horns protruding from his forehead, piercing red eyes, and flowing robes. He can also assume other forms and is seldom seen without his ruby-tipped scepter in hand. Asmodeus is the most cunning and well-mannered of archdevils. The ultimate evil he represents can be seen only when he wills it so, or if he forgets himself and flies into a rage.


Acheron has four layers, each made of enormous iron cubes floating in an airy void. Sometimes the cubes collide. Echoes of past collisions linger throughout the plane, mingling with the sounds of armies colliding. That's the nature of Acheron: strife and war, as the spirits of fallen soldiers join in endless battle against orcs devoted to Gruumsh, goblinoids loyal to Maglubiyet, and legions assembled by other warmongering gods.

Optional Rule: Bloodlust

Acheron rewards a creature for harming other creatures by imbuing that creature with the strength to keep fighting. While on Acheron, a creature gains temporary hit points equal to half its hit point maximum whenever it reduces a hostile creature to 0 hit points.


On Mechanus, law is reflected in a realm of clockwork gears, all interlocked and turning according to their measure. The cogs seem to be engaged in a calculation so vast that no deity can fathom its purpose. Mechanus embodies absolute order, and its influence can be felt on those who spend time here.

Modrons are the primary inhabitants of Mechanus. The plane is also home to the creator of the modrons: a godlike being called Primus.

Optional Rule: Law of Averages

While on Mechanus, creatures always use the average damage result for attacks and spells. For example, an attack that normally deals {@dice 1d10+5} damage always deals 10 damage on Mechanus.

Optional Rule: Imposing Order

At the end of each long rest taken on this plane, a visitor that isn't lawful neutral must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature's alignment changes to lawful neutral. The creature's alignment reverts to normal after one day spent on a plane other than Mechanus. Casting the dispel evil and good spell on the creature also restores its original alignment.


Arcadia thrives with orchards of perfectly lined trees, ruler-straight streams, orderly fields, perfect roads, and cities laid out in geometrically pleasing shapes. The mountains are unblemished by erosion. Everything on Arcadia works toward the common good and a flawless form of existence. Here, purity is eternal, and nothing intrudes on harmony.

Night and day are determined by an orb that floats above Arcadia's highest peak. Half of the orb radiates sunlight and brings about the day; the other half sheds moonlight and brings on the starry night. The orb rotates evenly without fail, spreading day and night across the entire plane.

The weather in Arcadia is governed by four allied demigods called the Storm Kings: the Cloud King, the Wind Queen, the Lightning King, and the Rain Queen. Each one lives in a castle surrounded by the type of weather that king or queen controls.

Hidden below Arcadia's beautiful mountains are numerous dwarven kingdoms that have withstood the passage of millennia. Dwarves born on this plane have the celestial type and are always brave and kindhearted, but otherwise they look and behave like normal dwarves.

Optional Rule: Planar Vitality

While on this plane, creatures can't be frightened or poisoned, and they are immune to disease and poison.

Other Planes

A variety of realms exist between or beyond the other planes.

The Outlands and Sigil

The Outlands is the plane between the Outer Planes. It is the plane of neutrality, incorporating a little of everything and keeping all aspects in a paradoxical balance-simultaneously concordant and in opposition. The plane has varied terrain, with prairies, mountains, and shallow rivers.

The Outlands is circular, like a great disk. In fact, those who envision the Outer Planes as a wheel point to the Outlands as proof, calling it a microcosm of the planes. That argument might be circular, since the arrangement of the Outlands inspired the idea of the Great Wheel in the first place.

Around the outside edge of the circle, evenly spaced, are the gate-towns: sixteen settlements, each built around a portal leading to one of the Outer Planes. Each town shares many of the characteristics of the plane where its gate leads. Planar emissaries often meet in these towns, so it isn't unusual to see strange pairings, such as a celestial and a fiend arguing in a tavern while sharing a fine bottle of wine.

Given the fact that you can ride a horse in the Outlands from a heaven to a hell, a planar-themed campaign can be set there without the need for planar travel. The Outlands is the closest the Outer Planes come to being like a world on the Material Plane.

Gate-Towns of the Outlands

Gate-Towns of the Outlands
TownGate Destination
ExcelsiorThe Seven Heavens of Mount Celestia
TradegateThe Twin Paradises of Bytopia
EcstasyThe Blessed Fields of Elysium
FaunelThe Wilderness of the Beastlands
SylvaniaThe Olympian Glades of Arborea
GloriumThe Heroic Domains of Ysgard
XaosThe Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo
BedlamThe Windswept Depths of Pandemonium
Plague-MortThe Infinite Layers of the Abyss
CurstThe Tarterian Depths of Carceri
HopelessThe Gray Waste of Hades
TorchThe Bleak Eternity of Gehenna
RibcageThe Nine Hells of Baator
RigusThe Infinite Battlefield of Acheron
AutomataThe Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus
FortitudeThe Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia

Sigil, City of Doors

At the center of the Outlands, like the axle of a great wheel, is the Spire-a needle-shaped mountain that rises high into the sky. Above this mountain's narrow peak floats the ring-shaped city of Sigil, its myriad structures built on the ring's inner rim. Creatures standing on one of Sigil's streets can see the city curve up over their heads and-most disconcerting of all-the far side of the city directly overhead. Called the City of Doors, this bustling planar metropolis holds countless portals to other planes and worlds.

Sigil is a trader's paradise. Goods, merchandise, and information come here from across the planes. The city sustains a brisk trade in information about the planes, particularly the command words or items required for the operation of particular portals. Portal keys of all kinds are bought and sold here.

The city is the domain of the inscrutable Lady of Pain, a being as old as gods and with purposes unknown to even the sages of her city. Is Sigil her prison? Is she the fallen creator of the multiverse? No one knows. Or if they do, they aren't telling.


Demiplanes are extra dimensional spaces that come into being by a variety of means and boast their own physical laws. Some are created by spells. Others exist naturally, as folds of reality pinched off from the rest of the multiverse. Theoretically, a plane shift spell can carry travelers to a demiplane, but the proper frequency required for the tuning fork would be extremely hard to acquire. The gate spell is more reliable, assuming the caster knows of the demiplane.

A demiplane can be as small as a single chamber or large enough to contain an entire realm. For example, a Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion spell creates a demiplane consisting of a foyer with multiple adjoining rooms, while the land of Barovia (in the Ravenloft setting) exists entirely within a demiplane under the sway of its vampire lord, Strahd von Zarovich. When a demiplane is connected to the Material Plane or some other plane, entering it can be as simple as stepping through a portal or passing through a wall of mist.

The Far Realm

The Far Realm is outside the known multiverse. In fact, it might be an entirely separate universe with its own physical and magical laws. Where stray energies from the Far Realm leak onto another plane, matter is warped into alien shapes that defy understandable geometry and biology. Aberrations such as mind flayers and beholders are either from this plane or shaped by its strange influence.

The entities that abide in the Far Realm itself are too alien for a normal mind to accept without strain. Titanic creatures swim through nothingness there, and unspeakable things whisper awful truths to those who dare listen. For mortals, knowledge of the Far Realm is a struggle of the mind to overcome the boundaries of matter, space, and sanity. Some warlocks embrace this struggle by forming pacts with entities there. Anyone who has seen the Far Realm mutters about eyes, tentacles, and horror.

The Far Realm has no well-known portals, or at least none that are still viable. Ancient elves once opened a vast portal to the Far Realm within a mountain called Firestorm Peak, but their civilization imploded in bloody terror and the portal's location-even its home world-is long forgotten. Lost portals might still exist, marked by an alien magic that mutates the area around them.

Known Worlds of the Material Plane

Worlds of the Material Plane are infinitely diverse. The most widely known worlds are the ones that have been published as official campaign settings for the D&D game over the years. If your campaign takes place on one of these worlds, that world belongs to you in your campaign. Your version of the world can diverge wildly from what's in print.

On {@b Toril} (the heroic-fantasy world of the Forgotten Realms setting), fantastic cities and kingdoms stand amid the remains of ancient empires and realms long forgotten. The world is vast, its dungeons rich with history. Beyond the central continent of Faerun, Toril includes the regions of Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur, and Maztica.

On {@b Oerth} (the sword-and-sorcery world of the Greyhawk setting), heroes such as Bigby and Mordenkainen are driven by greed or ambition. The hub of the region called the Flanaess is the Free City of Greyhawk, a city of scoundrels and archmagi, rife with adventure. An evil demigod, Iuz, rules a nightmarish realm in the north, threatening all civilization.

On {@b Krynn} (the epic-fantasy world of the Dragonlance setting), the return of the gods is overshadowed by the rise of the evil dragon queen Takhisis and her dragons and dragon armies, which plunge the continent of Ansalon into war.

On {@b Athas} (the sword-and-sorcery world of the Dark Sun setting), a drop of water can be worth more than a human life. The gods have abandoned this desert world, where powerful sorcerer-kings rule as tyrants, and metal is a scarce and precious commodity.

On {@b Eberron} (the heroic-fantasy world of the Eberron setting), a terrible war has ended, giving rise to a cold war fueled by political intrigue. On the continent of Khorvaire, magic is commonplace, dragonmarked houses rival kingdoms in power, and elemental vehicles make travel to the far corners of the world possible.

On {@b Aebrynis} (the heroic-fantasy world of the Birthright setting), scions born from divine bloodlines carve up the continent of Cerilia. Monarchs, prelates, guildmasters, and great wizards balance the demands of rulership against the threat of horrible abominations born from the blood of an evil god.

On {@b Mystara} (a heroic-fantasy world born out of the earliest editions of the D&D game), diverse cultures, savage monsters, and warring empires collide. The world is further shaped by the meddling of the Immortals-former adventurers raised to nearly divine status.

Creating Adventures

Creating adventures is one of the greatest rewards of being a Dungeon Master. It's a way to express yourself, designing fantastic locations and encounters with monsters, traps, puzzles, and conflicts. When you design an adventure, you call the shots. You do things exactly the way you want to.

Fundamentally, adventures are stories. An adventure shares many of the features of a novel, a movie, an issue of a comic, or an episode of a TV show. Comic series and serialized TV dramas are particularly good comparisons, because of the way individual adventures are limited in scope but blend together to create a larger narrative. If an adventure is a single issue or episode, a campaign is the series as a whole.

Whether you're creating your own adventures or using published adventures, you'll find advice in this chapter to help you create a fun and memorable experience for your players.

Creating an adventure involves blending scenes of exploration, social interaction, and combat into a unified whole that meets the needs of your players and your campaign. But it's more than that. The basic elements of good storytelling should guide you throughout this process, so your players experience the adventure as a story and not a disjointed series of encounters.

Elements of a Great Adventure

The best adventures have several things in common.

A Credible Threat

An adventure needs a threat worthy of the heroes' attention. The threat might be a single villain or monster, a villain with lackeys, an assortment of monsters, or an evil organization. Whatever their nature, the antagonists should have goals that the heroes can uncover and thwart.

Familiar Tropes with Clever Twists

It might seem stereotypical to build an adventure around dragons, orcs, and insane wizards in towers, but these are staples of fantasy storytelling. It might also seem trite to begin an adventure in a tavern, but that's an idea that remains true to D&D. Familiar story elements are fine, as long as you and the players occasionally put a spin on them. For example, the mysterious figure who presents adventurers with a quest on behalf of the king might be the king in disguise. The crazy wizard in the tower might be a projected illusion created by a band of greedy gnome thieves to guard their loot.

A Clear Focus on the Present

An adventure is about the here and now. A little bit of history might be needed to set the story in motion, and the adventurers might discover interesting lore of the past in the course of the adventure. In general, let the world's history be evident in the present situation. Instead of dealing with what happened in the past, an adventure should focus on describing the present situation, what the bad guys are up to, and how the adventurers become involved in the story.

Heroes Who Matter

An adventure should allow the adventurers' actions and decisions to matter. Though it might resemble a novel or a TV episode, an adventure needs to allow for more than one outcome. Otherwise, players can feel as if they've been railroaded-set onto a course that has only one destination, no matter how hard they try to change it. For example, if a major villain shows up before the end of the adventure, the adventure should allow for the possibility that the heroes might defeat that villain.

Something for All Player Types

As outlined in the book's introduction, players come to the gaming table with different expectations. An adventure needs to account for the different players and characters in your group, drawing them into the story as effectively as possible.

As a starting point, think about your adventure in terms of the three basic types of activity in the game: exploration, social interaction, and combat. If your adventure includes a balance of all three, it's likely to appeal to all types of players.

An adventure you create for your home campaign doesn't have to appeal to every abstract player type—only to the players sitting down at your own table. If you don't have any players who like fighting above all else, then don't feel you have to provide a maximum amount of combat to keep the adventure moving.


Look for opportunities to surprise and delight your players. For example, the exploration of a ruined castle on a hill might lead to the discovery of a dragon's tomb hidden underneath. A trek through the wilderness might lead to the discovery of a tower that appears only on nights of the full moon. Players remember such locations.

Too many surprises can be off-putting to players, but adding the occasional twist gets players to adjust their tactics and think creatively. For example, you could spruce up a goblin lair by including goblin sappers with kegs of oil strapped to their backs. An attack on a villain's estate might be complicated by the unexpected arrival of a special guest.

When preparing for possible combat encounters, think about odd pairings of monsters, such as a hobgoblin warlord and his pet manticore, or will-o'-wisps in league with a young black dragon. Have surprise reinforcements show up, or give the monsters unusual tactics. Throw in the occasional red herring, deception, and plot twist to keep players on their toes, but try not to go overboard. Sometimes a simple, straightforward encounter with an orc guard is just as fun for your players.

Useful Maps

A good adventure needs thoughtfully constructed maps. Wilderness areas sprinkled with interesting landmarks and other features are better than vast expanses of unchanging terrain. Dungeons that have branching corridors and similar decision points give players the opportunity to choose which direction their characters should go. Presenting the characters with options allows the players to make choices that keep the adventure unpredictable.

If drawing maps isn't your strong suit, the Internet is a great place to look for adventure maps that have been made freely available for use, as well as floor plans of real-world buildings and images that can inspire your mapmaking. You can also use software to help put your maps together.

Published Adventures

Published adventures are available for purchase if you have neither the time nor the inclination to write an adventure of your own, or if you want a change of pace.

A published adventure includes a pregenerated scenario with the maps, NPCs, monsters, and treasures you need to run it. An example of a published adventure appears in the D&D Starter Set.

You can make adjustments to a published adventure so that it better suits your campaign and appeals to your players. For example, you can replace the villain of an adventure with one the players have already encountered in your campaign, or add something to the background of the adventure so that it involves your players' characters in ways that the adventure's designer never could have imagined.

A published adventure can't account for every action the characters might take. The nice thing about published adventures is that they allow you to focus your game preparation time on highlighting plot developments in your campaign that the adventure can't address.

Published adventures also provide inspiration. You might not use an adventure as written, but it might spur ideas, or you can pull out one part of it and repurpose that part for your needs. For example, you might use a map of a temple but repopulate it with monsters of your choice, or you might use a chase sequence as a model for a pursuit scene in your campaign.

Adventure Structure

Like every story, a typical adventure has a beginning, a middle, and an end.


An adventure starts with a hook to get the players interested. A good adventure hook piques the interest of the players and provides a compelling reason for their characters to become involved in the adventure. Maybe the adventurers stumble onto something they're not meant to see, monsters attack them on the road, an assassin makes an attempt on their lives, or a dragon shows up at the city gates. Adventure hooks such as these can instantly draw players into your story.

The beginning of a good adventure should be exciting and focused. You want the players to go home looking forward to the next session, so give them a clear sense of where the story is headed, as well as something to look forward to.


The middle of an adventure is where the bulk of the story unfolds. With each new challenge, the adventurers make important choices that have a clear effect on the conclusion of the adventure.

Over the course of the adventure, the characters might discover secrets that reveal new goals or change their original goal. Their understanding of what's going on around them might change. Maybe rumors of treasure were a trick to lure them into a death trap. Perhaps the so-called spy in the queen's court is actually a scheme concocted by the monarch herself to seize even more power.

At the same time the adventurers are working to thwart their adversaries, those adversaries are trying to carry out their nefarious plans. Such enemies might also work to hide their deeds, mislead potential adversaries, or confront problems directly, perhaps by trying to kill meddlers.

Remember that the characters are the heroes of the story. Never let them become mere spectators, watching as events unfold around them that they can't influence.


The ending encompasses the climax-the scene or encounter in which the tension building throughout the adventure reaches its peak. A strong climax should have the players on edge, with the fate of the characters and much more hanging in the balance. The outcome, which hinges on the characters' actions and decisions, should never be a forgone conclusion.

An ending needn't tie everything up in a neat bow. Story threads can be left hanging, waiting to be resolved in a later adventure. A little bit of unfinished business is an easy way to transition from one adventure to the next.

Adventure Types

An adventure can be location-based or event-based, as discussed in the sections that follow.

Location Based Adventures

Adventures set in crumbling dungeons and remote wilderness locations are the cornerstone of countless campaigns. Many of the greatest D&D adventures of all time are location-based.

Creating a location-based adventure can be broken down into a number of steps. Each step provides tables from which you can select the basic elements of your adventure. Alternatively, roll on the tables and see how the random results inspire you. You can mix up the order of the steps.

1. Identify the Party's Goals

The Dungeon Goals table provides common goals that drive or lure adventurers into dungeons. The Wilderness Goals table provides similar inspiration for an adventure focused on outdoor exploration. The Other Goals table suggests location-based adventures that don't fit neatly into the first two categories.

Dungeon Goals

Dungeon Goals
1Stop the dungeon's monstrous inhabitants from raiding the surface world.
2Foil a villain's evil scheme.
3Destroy a magical threat inside the dungeon.
4Acquire treasure.
5Find a particular item for a specific purpose.
6Retrieve a stolen item hidden in the dungeon.
7Find information needed for a special purpose.
8Rescue a captive.
9Discover the fate of a previous adventuring party.
10Find an NPC who disappeared in the area.
11Slay a dragon or some other challenging monster.
12Discover the nature and origin of a strange location or phenomenon.
13Pursue fleeing foes taking refuge in the dungeon.
14Escape from captivity in the dungeon.
15Clear a ruin so it can be rebuilt and reoccupied.
16Discover why a villain is interested in the dungeon.
17Win a bet or complete a rite of passage by surviving in the dungeon for a certain amount of time.
18Parley with a villain in the dungeon.
19Hide from a threat outside the dungeon.
20Roll twice, ignoring results of 20

Wilderness Goals

Wilderness Goals
1Locate a dungeon or other site of interest (roll on the Dungeon Goals table to find out why).
2Assess the scope of a natural or unnatural disaster.
3Escort an NPC to a destination.
4Arrive at a destination without being seen by the villain's forces.
5Stop monsters from raiding caravans and farms.
6Establish trade with a distant town.
7Protect a caravan traveling to a distant town.
8Map a new land.
9Find a place to establish a colony.
10Find a natural resource.
11Hunt a specific monster.
12Return home from a distant place.
13Obtain information from a reclusive hermit.
14Find an object that was lost in the wilds.
15Discover the fate of a missing group of explorers.
16Pursue fleeing foes.
17Assess the size of an approaching army.
18Escape the reign of a tyrant.
19Protect a wilderness site from attackers.
20Roll twice, ignoring results of 20.

Other Goals

Other Goals
1Seize control of a fortified location such as a fortress, town, or ship.
2Defend a location from attackers.
3Retrieve an object from inside a secure location in a settlement.
4Retrieve an object from a caravan.
5Salvage an object or goods from a lost vessel or caravan.
6Break a prisoner out of a jail or prison camp.
7Escape from a jail or prison camp.
8Successfully travel through an obstacle course to gain recognition or reward.
9Infiltrate a fortified location.
10Find the source of strange occurrences in a haunted house or other location.
11Interfere with the operation of a business.
12Rescue a character, monster, or object from a natural or unnatural disaster.

2. Identify Important NPCs

Use the Adventure Villains, Adventure Allies, and Adventure Patrons tables to help you identify these NPCs. Chapter 4 can help you bring these NPCs to life.

Adventure Villains

Adventure Villains
1Beast or monstrosity with no particular agenda
2Aberration bent on corruption or domination
3Fiend bent on corruption or destruction
4Dragon bent on domination and plunder
5Giant bent on plunder
7Undead with any agenda
8Fey with a mysterious goal
9-10Humanoid cultist
11-12Humanoid conqueror
13Humanoid seeking revenge
14-15Humanoid schemer seeking to rule
16Humanoid criminal mastermind
17-18Humanoid raider or ravager
19Humanoid under a curse
20Misguided humanoid zealot

Adventure Allies

Adventure Allies
1Skilled adventurer
2Inexperienced adventurer
3Enthusiastic commoner
7Revenge seeker
8Raving lunatic adventurer
9Celestial ally
10Fey ally
11Disguised monster
12Villain posing as an ally

Adventure Patrons

Adventure Patrons
1-2Retired adventurer
3-4Local ruler
5-6Military officer
7-8Temple official
11-12Respected elder
13Deity or celestial
14Mysterious fey
15Old friend
16Former teacher
17Parent or other family member
18Desperate Commoner
19Embattled merchant
20Villain posing as a patron

3. Flesh Out the Location Details

Chapter 5 offers suggestions for creating and fleshing out an adventure location, including tables that can help you establish the important elements of a dungeon, wilderness area, or urban setting.

4. Find the Ideal Introduction

An adventure can begin with a social interaction encounter in which the adventurers find out what they must do and why. It can start with a surprise attack, or with the adventurers coming across information by accident. The best introductions arise naturally from the goals and setting of the adventure. Let the entries in the Adventure Introduction table inspire you.

Adventure Introduction

Adventure Introduction
1While traveling in the wilderness, the characters fall into a sinkhole that opens beneath their feet, dropping them into the adventure location.
2While traveling in the wilderness, the characters notice the entrance to the adventure location.
3While traveling on a road, the characters are attacked by monsters that flee into the nearby adventure location.
4The adventurers find a map on a dead body. In addition to the map setting up the adventure, the adventure's villain wants the map.
5A mysterious magic item or a cruel villain teleports the characters to the adventure location.
6A stranger approaches the characters in a tavern and urges them toward the adventure location.
7A town or village needs volunteers to go to the adventure location.
8An NPC the characters care about needs them to go to the adventure location.
9An NPC the characters must obey orders them to go to the adventure location.
10An NPC the characters respect asks them to go to the adventure location.
11One night, the characters all dream about entering the adventure location.
12A ghost appears and terrorizes a village. Research reveals that it can be put to rest only by entering the adventure location.

5. Consider the Ideal Climax

The climactic ending of an adventure fulfills the promise of all that came before. Although the climax must hinge on the successes and failures of the characters up to that moment, the Adventure Climax table can provide suggestions to help you shape the end of your adventure.

Adventure Climax

Adventure Climax
1The adventurers confront the main villain and a group of minions in a bloody battle to the finish.
2The adventurers chase the villain while dodging obstacles designed to thwart them, leading to a final confrontation in or outside the villain's refuge.
3The actions of the adventurers or the villain result in a cataclysmic event that the adventurers must escape.
4The adventurers race to the site where the villain is bringing a master plan to its conclusion, arriving just as that plan is about to be completed.
5The villain and two or three lieutenants perform separate rites in a large room. The adventurers must disrupt all the rites at the same time.
6An ally betrays the adventurers as they're about to achieve their goal. (Use this climax carefully, and don't overuse it.)
7A portal opens to another plane of existence. Creatures on the other side spill out, forcing the adventurers to close the portal and deal with the villain at the same time.
8Traps, hazards, or animated objects turn against the adventurers while the main villain attacks.
9The dungeon begins to collapse while the adventurers face the main villain, who attempts to escape in the chaos.
10A threat more powerful than the adventurers appears, destroys the main villain, and then turns its attention on the characters.
11The adventurers must choose whether to pursue the fleeing main villain or save an NPC they care about or a group of innocents.
12The adventurers must discover the main villain's secret weakness before they can hope to defeat that villain.

6. Plan Encounters

After you've created the location and the overall story of the adventure, it's time to plan out the encounters that make up that adventure. In a location-based adventure, most encounters are keyed to specific locations on a map. For each room or wilderness area on the adventure map, your key describes what's in that area: its physical features, as well as any encounter that plays out there. The adventure key turns a simple sketch of numbered areas on graph paper into encounters designed to entertain and intrigue your players.

See "Creating Encounters" later in this chapter for guidance on crafting individual encounters.

Event Based Adventures

In an event-based adventure, the focus is on what the characters and villains do and what happens as a result. The question of where those things happen is of secondary importance.

Building an event-based adventure is more work than building a location-based one, but the process can be simplified by following a number of straightforward steps. Several steps include tables from which you can choose adventure elements or roll randomly for inspiration. As with location-based adventures, you don't necessarily have to follow these steps in order.

1. Start with a Villain

Putting care into creating your villain will pay off later, since the villain plays such a pivotal role in advancing the story. Use the Adventure Villains table in the previous section to get started, and use the information in chapter 4 to help flesh out the villain.

For example, your villain might be an undead creature seeking to avenge a past imprisonment or injury. An interesting aspect of an undead villain is that this past injury might have occurred centuries ago, inspiring revenge against the descendants of those that harmed it. Imagine a vampire imprisoned by the members of a religious order of knights, and who now seeks revenge against the current members of that order.

2. Determine the Villain's Actions

Once you have a villain, it's time to determine what steps the villain takes to achieve its goals. Create a timeline showing what the villain does and when, assuming no interference from the adventurers.

Building on the previous example, you might decide that your vampire villain murders several knights. By slipping past locked doors in gaseous form, the vampire is able to make the deaths appear natural at first, but it soon becomes clear that a depraved killer is behind the murders.

If you need additional inspiration, consider a few different options for how the villain's actions unfold over the course of the adventure.

Event-Based Villain Actions

Event-Based Villain Actions
d6Type of Actions
1Big event
2Crime spree
3Growing corruption
4One and done
5Serial crimes
6Step by step

Big Event

The villain's plans come to fruition during a festival, an astrological event, a holy (or unholy) rite, a royal wedding, the birth of a child, or some similar fixed time. The villain's activities up to that point are geared toward preparation for this event.

Crime Spree

The villain commits acts that become bolder and more heinous over time. A killer might start out by targeting the destitute in the city slums before moving up to a massacre in the marketplace, increasing the horror and the body count each time.

Growing Corruption

As time passes, the villain's power and influence grow, affecting more victims across a larger area. This might take the form of armies conquering new territory, an evil cult recruiting new members, or a spreading plague. A pretender to the throne might attempt to secure the support of the kingdom's nobility in the days or weeks leading up to a coup, or a guild leader could corrupt the members of a town council or bribe officers of the watch.

One and Done

The villain commits a single crime and then tries to avoid the consequences. Instead of an ongoing plan to commit more crimes, the villain's goal is to lie low or flee the scene.

Serial Crimes

The villain commits crimes one after the other, but these acts are repetitive in nature, rather than escalating to greater heights of depravity. The trick to catching such a villain lies in determining the pattern underlying the crimes. Though serial killers are a common example of this type of villain, your villain could be a serial arsonist favoring a certain type of building, a magical sickness that affects spellcasters who cast a specific spell, a thief that targets a certain kind of merchant, or a doppelganger kidnapping and impersonating one noble after another.

Step by Step

In pursuit of its goal, the villain carries out a specific set of actions in a particular sequence. A wizard might steal the items needed to create a phylactery and become a lich, or a cultist might kidnap the priests of seven good-aligned gods as a sacrifice. Alternatively, the villain could be following a trail to find the object of its revenge, killing one victim after another while moving ever closer to the real target.

3. Determine the Party's Goals

You can use the Event-Based Goals table to set the party's goal. A goal can also suggest ways in which the adventurers become caught up in the villain's plans, and what exactly they must do to foil those plans.

Event-Based Goals

Event-Based Goals
1Bring the villain to justice.
2Clear the name of an innocent NPC.
3Protect or hide an NPC.
4Protect an object.
5Discover the nature and origin of a strange phenomenon that might be the villain's doing.
6Find a wanted fugitive.
7Overthrow a tyrant.
8Uncover a conspiracy to overthrow a ruler.
9Negotiate peace between enemy nations or feuding families.
10Secure aid from a ruler or council.
11Help a villain find redemption.
12Parley with a villain.
13Smuggle weapons to rebel forces.
14Stop a band of smugglers.
15Gather intelligence on an enemy force.
16Win a tournament.
17Determine the villain's identity.
18Locate a stolen item.
19Make sure a wedding goes off without a hitch.
20Roll twice, ignoring results of 20.

For example, you roll a 10 on the table, indicating that the party's goal is to secure aid from a ruler or council. You decide to connect that to the leadership of the order targeted by your vampire villain. Maybe the order's leaders have a chest of jewels stolen from the vampire centuries ago, and the characters can use the chest as bait to trap the villain.

4. Identify Important NPCs

Many event-based adventures require a well-detailed cast of NPCs. Some of these NPCs fall neatly into the categories of allies and patrons, but most are likely to be characters or creatures whose attitudes toward the adventurers remain undecided until the adventurers interact with them. (See chapter 4 for more information on creating NPCs.)

The elements of the adventure you've determined so far should provide a clear idea of what supporting characters you need to create, as well as how much detail you need to generate for each one. NPCs unlikely to become involved in combat don't need full combat statistics, for example, just as characters heavily involved in negotiation could have ideals, bonds, and flaws. If it's helpful, roll on the Adventure Allies or Adventure Patrons tables (in the "Location-Based Adventures" section, earlier in this chapter).

5. Anticipate the Villain's Reactions

As the adventurers pursue their goals and foil the villain's plans, how does the villain respond? Does it lash out in violence or send dire warnings? Does it look for simple solutions to its problems or create more complicated schemes to route around interference?

Look over the villain's actions that you outlined instep 2. For each event arising from those actions, think about how the adventurers are likely to react. If they can prevent an action or hamper its success, what effect does that have on the villain's overall plan? What can the villain do to compensate?

One way to track a villain's reactions is by using a flowchart. This might grow out of the timeline that describes the villain's plans, outlining how the villain gets back on track after the adventurers thwart its plans. Or the flowchart could be separate from the timeline, showing the various actions the adventurers might take and the villain's response to those actions.

6. Detail Key Locations

Since locations aren't the focus of the adventure, they can be simpler and smaller than a dungeon complex or an expanse of wilderness. They might be specific locations in a city, or even individual rooms in locations where combat is likely to break out or significant exploration is needed, such as a throne room, a guild headquarters, a vampire's crumbling manor, or a knights' chapter house.

7. Choose an Introduction and a Climax

The Adventure Introduction table in the "Location-Based Adventures" section offers fun possibilities for hooking the characters into the events of your adventure, including dreams, hauntings, and a simple plea for help. The Adventure Climax table in that same section includes adventure endings that work just as well for event-based adventures.

For example, the Adventure Introduction table helps you decide that an ally the adventurers care about needs their help. Perhaps the NPC is a knight who believes that a vampire is trying to kill him, or a friend or relative hoping to find the knight's murderer. This NPC brings the vampire's crimes to the characters' attention.

Looking over the Adventure Climax table, you might decide to have the adventurers bait the vampire with a chest of jewels stolen from its lair. As an added twist, you decide that the vampire's true goal is to retrieve a necklace among the jewels. The necklace is set with nine gems, and with these gems the vampire can open a gate to the Nine Hells. Should the vampire succeed, the adventurers will have a more pressing threat to deal with, as a powerful devil steps through the gate and honors some ancient pact it made with the vampire.

8. Plan Encounters

After you've created the overall story of the adventure, it's time to plan out the encounters on which the events of that adventure will hang. In an event-based adventure, encounters occur when the villain's agenda intersects the path of the characters. You can't always anticipate exactly when or where that will happen, but you can create a list of possible encounters that the adventurers might experience. This can take the form of general descriptions of the villain's forces, details of its lieutenants and minions, as well as encounters tied to the key locations of the adventure.

See "Creating Encounters" later in this chapter for guidance on crafting individual encounters.


A mystery is a form of event-based adventure that usually focuses on the adventurers' efforts to solve a crime, usually a robbery or murder. Unlike the writer of a mystery novel, a Dungeon Master can't always predict what the characters will do in a mystery adventure.

A villain whose actions are "crime spree," "one and done," or "serial crimes" might inspire you to craft a mystery adventure around that villain's crimes. Similarly, if the adventurers' goals include determining the villain's identity, that might be part of a mystery.

To build a mystery adventure, follow the steps for creating any event-based adventure. Then consider three additional elements for the adventure: the victim, the suspects, and the clues.


Think about the victim's relationship to the villain. Though you can create a strong scenario with no such relationship, part of what makes a mystery exciting is the discovery of the twisted connections between NPCs and how those connections led to the crime. A random killing might be just as mysterious, but it lacks that emotional connection.

Also look for a connection between the victim and one or more of the adventurers. One surefire way to draw adventurers into a mystery-including making them suspects-is to make the victim someone with whom the characters are acquainted.


Your cast of characters should include an assortment of other NPCs who didn't commit the crime, but who had the motive, the means, or the opportunity to do so. Suspects might be obvious or could come to light during the investigation. One technique often used in detective fiction is to create a closed circle of suspects-a finite number of individuals whose circumstances make them the only possible suspects.

One tip for keeping the players and the adventurers guessing as to the identity of the villain is to ensure that more than one suspect has a secret. When questioned by the adventurers, a suspect might appear nervous or attempt to lie, despite being innocent of the crime. A secret business deal, an illicit affair, a dark past, or an uncontrolled vice are flaws that make suspects more interesting than NPCs with nothing to hide.


Clues point to the identity of the villain. Some clues are verbal, including the statements of the suspects and witnesses that help the adventurers develop a picture of what happened. Other clues are physical, such as an unfinished message written in the victim's blood, a piece of jewelry left behind by the villain, or a weapon found hidden in a suspect's room.

A clue should connect a suspect to the crime, typically by shedding light on the suspect's motive, means, or opportunity. Some clues connect the wrong suspect to the crime, leading the adventurers in the wrong direction. Eventually, they must find other clues pointing in a different direction, or come across evidence that absolves the suspect.

It's better to populate your adventure with too many clues than too few. If the adventurers solve the mystery too quickly, you might feel some disappointment but the players will feel a sense of accomplishment. If the mystery is too hard, though, the players will become frustrated. Since you have to account for the possibility that the adventurers will overlook some clues, use redundant clues to ensure that the players have the knowledge needed to catch the villain.


Intrigue adventures are event-based adventures that revolve around power struggles. Intrigues are common in the courts of the nobility, but power struggles can play out just as easily in merchants' guilds, crime syndicates, and temple hierarchies.

Rather than dark events and villainous plots, an intrigue adventure typically revolves around the exchange of favors, the rise and fall of individuals in power and influence, and the honeyed words of diplomacy. A prince's efforts to be named heir to the throne, a courtier's ambition to sit at the queen's right hand, and a merchant's desire to open a trade route through enemy lands are the stuff of intrigue.

Like all adventures, an intrigue adventure works only if the players and their characters are invested in the outcome. If no one cares who the king's chamberlain is or who has logging rights in the elven woods, throwing the characters into an adventure centered on those issues will fall flat. However, if having the ear of the king's chamberlain means the characters can use royal soldiers to help them defend their own stronghold on the borderlands, players will be invested in the scenario.

Adventurers usually become embroiled in intrigue when they need a favor from a powerful creature and have to perform a favor in exchange, or when the plots of powerful NPCs get in the way of the characters achieving their goals. Some of the event-based goals discussed earlier in this section lend themselves to intrigue adventures. For example, if the adventurers must uncover a conspiracy, negotiate a peace treaty, or secure aid from a ruler or council, you might be looking at an intrigue adventure.

The process of creating an intrigue adventure is similar to creating any other event-based adventure, with two main differences: how villains are handled and how the characters can gain influence.


Some intrigue adventures are driven by the actions of a single villain, such as a noble plotting the assassination of a monarch. However, an intrigue adventure can have multiple villains or no villain at all.

No Villain

Some intrigue adventures revolve around the exchange of favors in the absence of a villain. For this type of adventure, skip steps 1 and 2 of the event-based adventure creation process (the villain and the villain's actions) and move straight to the adventurers' goals in step 3. Figure out why the adventurers become involved in the intrigue, then spend the bulk of your time creating the NPCs they interact with.

Many Villains

Some intrigue adventures feature a whole cast of villains, each with its own goals, motivations, and methods. The adventurers might be drawn into the struggle of a court full of nobles vying for the throne in the wake of the king's sudden death, or could find themselves negotiating the end to a deadly turf war among thieves' guilds. In this scenario, you'll spend a lot of time on steps 1 and 2, developing each of the major NPCs as a distinct villain with an agenda. In step 5, you'll need to develop each villain's reactions to the potential setbacks they face during the adventure.

However, you don't need to put equal effort into detailing the reactions of every villain, since many will likely echo each other or cancel each other out. Whenever the adventurers foil one villain's plans, it might let another villain's schemes move forward, advancing the adventure whether the foiled villain reacts or not.


Depending on the scenario, you might want to track the party's influence with different NPCs or factions, or even track influence separately for each character.

One way to handle influence is to treat it like inspiration. A character gains influence in a certain situation only if you grant it, and bringing influence into play requires spending it. Characters can gain influence by doing favors for NPCs, advancing the cause of an organization, or demonstrating their power and heroism, at your discretion. As with inspiration, a character can choose to spend influence to gain advantage on a roll relevant to that influence.

Another way to handle influence is to treat it like renown (see chapter 1), allowing characters to gain renown at court and within various key factions.

Framing Events

You can base an entire adventure on a framing event or use such an event to grab the players' interest. The Framing Events table presents several ideas, or you can use it to inspire your own framing event.

Framing Events

Framing Events
01-02Anniversary of a monarch's reign
03-04Anniversary of an important event
05-06Arena event
07-08Arrival of a caravan or ship
09-10Arrival of a circus
11-12Arrival of an important NPC
13-14Arrival of marching modrons
15-16Artistic performance
17-18Athletic event
19-20Birth of a child
21-22Birthday of an important NPC
23-24Civic festival
25-26Comet appearance
27-28Commemoration of a past tragedy
29-30Consecration of a new temple
33-34Council meeting
35-36Equinox or solstice
39-40Fertility festival
41-42Full moon
45-46Graduation of cadets or wizards
47-48Harvest festival
49-50Holy day
51-52Investiture of a knight or other noble
53-54Lunar eclipse
55-58Midsummer festival
59-60Midwinter festival
61-62Migration of monsters
63-64Monarch's ball
65-66New moon
66-68New year
69-70Pardoning of a prisoner
71-72Planar conjunction
73-74Planetary alignment
75-76Priestly investiture
77-78Procession of ghosts
79-80Remembrance for soldiers lost in war
81-82Royal address or proclamation
83-84Royal audience day
85-86Signing of a treaty
87-88Solar eclipse
95-96Violent uprising
97-98Wedding or wedding anniversary
99-100Concurrence of two events. (roll twice, ignoring results of 99 or 100.)


Sometimes an adventure isn't as straightforward as it might seem.

Moral Quandaries

If you want to give the characters a crisis that no amount of spellcasting or swordplay can resolve, add a moral quandary to the adventure. A moral quandary is a problem of conscience for which the adventurers must make a single choice-but never a simple one.

Moral Quandaries

Moral Quandaries
1-3Ally quandary
4-6Friend quandary
7-12Honor quandary
13-16Rescue quandary
17-20Respect quandary

Ally Quandary

The adventurers have a better chance of achieving their goal with the help of two individuals whose expertise is all but essential. However, these two NPCs hate each other and refuse to work together even if the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The adventurers must choose the NPC that is most likely to help them accomplish their goal.

Friend Quandary

An NPC that one or more of the characters cares about makes an impossible demand on the characters. A love interest might demand that a character turn away from a dangerous quest. A dear friend might plead with the characters to spare the villain's life, to prove that they are better than the villain. A weak NPC might beg for a chance to win favor from the characters by undertaking a dangerous but essential mission.

Honor Quandary

A character is forced to choose between victory and a personal oath or code of honor. A paladin who has sworn the Oath of Virtue might realize that the clearest path to success lies in deceit and subterfuge. A loyal cleric might be tempted to disobey the orders of his or her faith. If you present this quandary, be sure to provide an opportunity for a character to atone for violating his or her oath.

Rescue Quandary

The adventurers must choose between catching or hurting the villain and saving innocent lives. For example, the adventurers might learn that the villain is camped nearby, but they also learn that another part of the villain's forces is about to march into a village and burn it to the ground. The characters must choose between taking out the villain or protecting innocent villagers, some of whom might be friends or family members.

Respect Quandary

Two important allies give conflicting directions or advice to the adventurers. Perhaps the high priest counsels the characters to negotiate peace with militaristic elves in the nearby forest, while a veteran warrior urges them to prove their strength with a decisive first strike. The adventurers can't follow both courses, and whichever ally they choose, the other loses respect for them and might no longer aid them.


A twist can complicate a story and make it harder for the characters to complete their goals.


1The adventurers are racing against other creatures with the same or opposite goal.
2The adventurers become responsible for the safety of a noncombatant NPC.
3The adventurers are prohibited from killing the villain, but the villain has no compunctions about killing them.
4The adventurers have a time limit.
5The adventurers have received false or extraneous information.
6Completing an adventure goal fulfills a prophecy or prevents the fulfillment of a prophecy.
7The adventurers have two different goals, but they can complete only one.
8Completing the goal secretly helps the villain.
9The adventurers must cooperate with a known enemy to achieve the goal.
10The adventurers are under magical compulsion (such as a geas spell) to complete their goal.

Side Quests

You can also add one or more side quests to your adventure, taking the characters off the main story path defined by location or events. Side quests are peripheral to the characters' primary goal, but successfully completing a side quest might provide a benefit toward completing the primary goal.

Side Quests

Side Quests
d8Side Quest
1Find a specific item rumored to be in the area.
2Retrieve a stolen item in the villain's possession.
3Receive information from an NPC in the area.
4Rescue a captive.
5Discover the fate of a missing NPC.
6Slay a specific monster.
7Discover the nature and origin of a strange phenomenon in the area.
8Secure the aid of a character or creature in the area.

Creating Encounters

Encounters are the individual scenes in the larger story of your adventure.

First and foremost, an encounter should be fun for the players. Second, it shouldn't be burden for you to run. Beyond that, a well-crafted encounter usually has a straightforward objective as well as some connection to the overarching story of your campaign, building on the encounters that precede it while foreshadowing encounters yet to come.

An encounter has one of three possible outcomes: the characters succeed, the characters partly succeed, or the characters fail. The encounter needs to account for all three possibilities, and the outcome needs to have consequences so that the players feel like their successes and failures matter.

Character Objectives

When players don't know what they're supposed to do in a given encounter, anticipation and excitement can quickly turn to boredom and frustration. A transparent objective alleviates the risk of players losing interest.

For example, if the overall story of your adventure involves a quest to deliver a priceless relic to a remote monastery, each encounter along the way is an opportunity to introduce a smaller objective that moves the quest forward. Encounters during the trip might see the adventurers accosted by enemies determined to steal the relic, or by monsters that are constantly threatening the monastery.

Some players create their own objectives, which is to be expected and encouraged. It is, after all, as much the players' campaign as yours. For example, a character might try to bribe enemies rather than fight them, or chase after a fleeing enemy to see where it goes.

Players who ignore objectives will have to deal with the consequences, which is another important facet of encounter design.

Sample Objectives

The following objectives can be used as foundations for encounters. Although these objectives focus on a single encounter during an adventure, using the same objective in multiple encounters allows you to combine those encounters into a larger obstacle or problem the adventurers must overcome.

Make Peace

The characters must convince two opposing groups (or their leaders) to end the conflict that embroils them. As a complication, the characters might have enemies on one or both of the opposing sides, or some other group or individual might be instigating the conflict to further its own ends.

Protect an NPC or Object

The characters must act as bodyguards or protect some object in their custody. As a complication, the NPC under the party's protection might be cursed, diseased, prone to panic attacks, too young or too old to fight, or apt to risk the lives of the adventurers through dubious decisions. The object the adventurers have sworn to protect might be sentient, cursed, or difficult to transport.

Retrieve an Object

The adventurers must gain possession of a specific object in the area of the encounter, preferably before combat finishes. As a complication, enemies might desire the object as much as the adventurers do, forcing both parties to fight for it.

Run a Gauntlet

The adventurers must pass through a dangerous area. This objective is similar to retrieving an object insofar as reaching the exit is a higher priority than killing opponents in the area. A time limit adds a complication, as does a decision point that might lead characters astray. Other complications include traps, hazards, and monsters.

Sneak In

The adventurers need to move through the encounter area without making their enemies aware of their presence. Complications might ensue if they are detected.

Stop a Ritual

The plots of evil cult leaders, malevolent warlocks, and powerful fiends often involve rituals that must be foiled. Characters engaged in stopping a ritual must typically fight their way through evil minions before attempting to disrupt the ritual's powerful magic. As a complication, the ritual might be close to completion when the characters arrive, imposing a time limit. Depending on the ritual, its completion might have immediate consequences as well.

Take Out a Single Target

The villain is surrounded by minions powerful enough to kill the adventurers. The characters can flee and hope to confront the villain another day, or they can try to fight their way through the minions to take out their target. As a complication, the minions might be innocent creatures under the villain's control. Killing the villain means breaking that control, but the adventurers must endure the minions' attacks until they do.

Creating a Combat Encounter

When creating a combat encounter, let your imagination run wild and build something your players will enjoy. Once you have the details figured out, use this section to adjust the difficulty of the encounter.

Combat Encounter Difficulty

There are four categories of encounter difficulty.


An easy encounter doesn't tax the characters' resources or put them in serious peril. They might lose a few hit points, but victory is pretty much guaranteed.


A medium encounter usually has one or two scary moments for the players, but the characters should emerge victorious with no casualties. One or more of them might need to use healing resources.


A hard encounter could go badly for the adventurers. Weaker characters might get taken out of the fight, and there's a slim chance that one or more characters might die.


A deadly encounter could be lethal for one or more player characters. Survival often requires good tactics and quick thinking, and the party risks defeat.

XP Thresholds by Character Level

XP Thresholds by Character Level
Character LevelEasyMediumHardDeadly
Challenge Rating

When putting together an encounter or adventure, especially at lower levels, exercise caution when using monsters whose challenge rating is higher than the party's average level. Such a creature might deal enough damage with a single action to take out adventurers of a lower level. For example, an ogre has a challenge rating of 2, but it can kill a 1st-level wizard with a single blow.

In addition, some monsters have features that might be difficult or impossible for lower-level characters to overcome. For example, a rakshasa has a challenge rating of 13 and is immune to spells of 6th level and lower. Spellcasters of 12th level or lower have no spells higher than 6th level, meaning that they won't be able to affect the rakshasa with their magic, putting the adventurers at a serious disadvantage. Such an encounter would be significantly tougher for the party than the monster's challenge rating might suggest.

Evaluating Encounter Difficulty

Use the following method to gauge the difficulty of any combat encounter.

1 Determine XP Thresholds

First, determine the experience point (XP) thresholds for each character in the party. The XP Thresholds by Character Level table below has four XP thresholds for each character level, one for each category of encounter difficulty. Use a character's level to determine his or her XP thresholds.

Repeat this process for every character in the party.

2 Determine the Party's XP Threshold

For each category of encounter difficulty, add up the characters' XP thresholds. This determines the party's XP threshold. You'll end up with four totals, one for each category of encounter difficulty.

For example, if your party includes three 3rd-level characters and one 2nd-level character, the party's totaled XP thresholds would be as follows:

Record the totals, because you can use them for every encounter in your adventure.

3 Total the Monsters' XP

Add up the XP for all of the monsters in the encounter. Every monster has an XP value in its stat block.

4 Modify Total XP for Multiple Monsters

If the encounter includes more than one monster, apply a multiplier to the monsters' total XP. The more monsters there are, the more attack rolls you're making against the characters in a given round, and the more dangerous the encounter becomes. To correctly gauge an encounter's difficulty, multiply the total XP of all the monsters in the encounter by the value given in the Encounter Multipliers table.

For example, if an encounter includes four monsters worth a total of 500 XP, you would multiply the total XP of the monsters by 2, for an adjusted value of 1,000 XP.

This adjusted value is not what the monsters are worth in terms of XP; the adjusted value's only purpose is to help you accurately assess the encounter's difficulty.

When making this calculation, don't count any monsters whose challenge rating is significantly below the average challenge rating of the other monsters in the group unless you think the weak monsters significantly contribute to the difficulty of the encounter.

Encounter Multipliers

Encounter Multipliers
Number of MonstersMultiplier
1x 1
2x 1.5
3-6x 2
7-10x 2.5
11-14x 3
15 or morex 4

5 Compare XP

Compare the monsters' adjusted XP value to the party's XP thresholds. The threshold that equals the adjusted XP value determines the encounter's difficulty. If there's no match, use the closest threshold that is lower than the adjusted XP value.

For example, an encounter with one bugbear and three hobgoblins has an adjusted XP value of 1,000, making it a hard encounter for a party of three 3rd-level characters and one 2nd-level character (which has a hard encounter threshold of 825 XP and a deadly encounter threshold of 1,400 XP).

Party Size

The preceding guidelines assume that you have a party consisting of three to five adventurers.

If the party contains fewer than three characters, apply the next highest multiplier on the Encounter Multipliers table. For example, apply a multiplier of 1.5 when the characters fight a single monster, and a multiplier of 5 for groups of fifteen or more monsters.

If the party contains six or more characters, use the next lowest multiplier on the table. Use a multiplier of 0.5 for a single monster.

Multipart Encounters

Sometimes an encounter features multiple enemies that the party doesn't face all at once. For example, monsters might come at the party in waves.

For such encounters, treat each discrete part or wave as a separate encounter for the purpose of determining its difficulty.

A party can't benefit from a short rest between parts of a multipart encounter, so they won't be able to spend Hit Dice to regain hit points or recover any abilities that require a short rest to regain. As a rule, if the adjusted XP value for the monsters in a multipart encounter is higher than one-third of the party's expected XP total for the adventuring day (see "The Adventuring Day," below), the encounter is going to be tougher than the sum of its parts.

Building Encounters on a Budget

You can build an encounter if you know its desired difficulty. The party's XP thresholds give you an XP budget that you can spend on monsters to build easy, medium, hard, and deadly encounters. Just remember that groups of monsters eat up more of that budget than their base XP values would indicate (see step 4).

For example, using the party from step 2, you can build a medium encounter by making sure that the adjusted XP value of the monsters is at least 550 XP (the party's threshold for a medium encounter) and no more than 825 XP (the party's threshold for a hard encounter). A single monster of challenge rating 3 (such as a manticore or owlbear) is worth 700 XP, so that's one possibility. If you want a pair of monsters, each one will count for 1.5 times its base XP value. A pair of dire wolves (worth 200 XP each) have an adjusted XP value of 600, making them a medium encounter for the party as well.

To assist with this approach, appendix B presents a list of all monsters in the Monster Manual organized by challenge rating.

The Adventuring Day

Assuming typical adventuring conditions and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day. If the adventure has more easy encounters, the adventurers can get through more. If it has more deadly encounters, they can handle fewer.

In the same way you figure out the difficulty of an encounter, you can use the XP values of monsters and other opponents in an adventure as a guideline for how far the party is likely to progress.

For each character in the party, use the Adventuring Day XP table to estimate how much XP that character is expected to earn in a day. Add together the values of all party members to get a total for the party's adventuring day. This provides a rough estimate of the adjusted XP value for encounters the party can handle before the characters will need to take a long rest.

Adventuring Day XP

Adventuring Day XP
LevelAdjusted XP per Day per Character

Short Rests

In general, over the course of a full adventuring day, the party will likely need to take two short rests, about one-third and two-thirds of the way through the day.

Modifying Encounter Difficulty

An encounter can be made easier or harder based on the choice of location and the situation. Increase the difficulty of the encounter by one step (from easy to medium, for example) if the characters have a drawback that their enemies don't. Reduce the difficulty by one step if the characters have a benefit that their enemies don't. Any additional benefit or drawback pushes the encounter one step in the appropriate direction. If the characters have both a benefit and a drawback, the two cancel each other out. Situational drawbacks include the following:

Situational benefits are similar to drawbacks except that they benefit the characters instead of the enemy.

Fun Combat Encounters

The following features can add more fun and suspense to a combat encounter:

Random Encounters

As characters explore a wilderness area or dungeon complex, they are bound to encounter the unexpected. Random encounters are a way to deliver the unexpected. They are usually presented in the form of a table. When a random encounter occurs, you roll a die and consult the table to determine what the party encounters.

Some players and DMs view random encounters in an adventure as time-wasters, yet well-designed random encounters can serve a variety of useful purposes:

Random encounters should never be tiresome to you or your players. You don't want the players to feel as if they aren't making progress because another random encounter brings their progress to a halt whenever they try to move forward. Likewise, you don't want to spend time distracted by random encounters that add nothing to the adventure narrative or that interfere with the overall pace you're trying to set.

Not every DM likes to use random encounters. You might find that they distract from your game or are otherwise causing more trouble than you want. If random encounters don't work for you, don't use them.

Triggering Random Encounters

Because you want random encounters to build on the intended narrative of a game session, not compete with it, you should choose the placement of those encounters carefully. Think about a random encounter under any of the following circumstances:

Checking for Random Encounters

You decide when a random encounter happens, or you roll. Consider checking for a random encounter once every hour, once every 4 to 8 hours, or once during the day and once during a long rest-whatever makes the most sense based on how active the area is.

If you roll, do so with a {@dice d20}. If the result is 18 or higher, a random encounter occurs. You then roll on an appropriate random encounter table to determine what the adventurers meet, re-rolling if the die result doesn't make sense given the circumstances.

Random encounter tables might be provided as part of the adventure you're running, or you can use the information in this chapter to build your own. Creating your own tables is the best way to reinforce the themes and flavor of your home campaign.

Not every run-in with another creature counts as a random encounter. Encounter tables don't usually include rabbits hopping through the undergrowth, harmless rats scurrying through dungeon halls, or average citizens walking through the streets of a city. Random encounter tables present obstacles and events that advance the plot, foreshadow important elements or themes of the adventure, and provide fun distractions.

Creating Random Encounter Tables

Creating your own random encounter tables is straightforward. Determine what sort of encounters might occur in a given dungeon area, figure out the likelihood of a particular encounter occurring, then arrange the results. An "encounter" in this case could be a single monster or NPC, a group of monsters or NPCs, a random event (such as an earth tremor or a parade), or a random discovery (such as a charred corpse or a message scrawled on a wall).

Assemble Your Encounters

Once you've established a location through which the adventurers are likely to pass, be it a wilderness area or dungeon complex, make a list of creatures that might be found wandering there. If you're not sure which creatures to include, appendix B has lists of monsters organized by terrain type.

For a sylvan woodland, you might create a table that includes centaurs, faerie dragons, pixies, sprites, dryads, satyrs, blink dogs, elks, owlbears, treants, giant owls, and a unicorn. If elves inhabit the forest, the table might also include elf druids and elf scouts. Perhaps gnolls are threatening the woods, so adding gnolls and hyenas to the table would be a fun surprise for players. Another fun surprise would be a wandering predator, such as a displacer beast that likes to hunt blink dogs.

The table could also use a few random encounters of a less monstrous nature, such as a grove of burned trees (the handiwork of the gnolls), an ivy-covered elven statue, and a plant with glowing berries that turn creatures invisible when ingested.

When choosing monsters for a random encounter table, try to imagine why the monsters would be encountered outside their lairs. What is each monster up to? Is it on patrol? Hunting for food? Searching for something? Also consider whether a creature is moving stealthily as it travels through the area.

As with planned encounters, random encounters are more interesting when they happen in memorable locations. Outdoors the adventurers might be crossing a forest clearing when they encounter a unicorn or be pushing through a dense section of forest when they come across a nest of spiders. Crossing a desert, characters might discover an oasis haunted by wights or a rocky outcropping on which a blue dragon perches.


A random encounter table can be created in a number of ways, ranging from simple (roll {@dice 1d6} for one of six possible encounters) to complicated (roll percentile dice, modify for time of day, and cross-index the modified number with the dungeon level). The sample encounter table presented here uses a range of 2 to 20 (nineteen entries total), generated using {@dice 1d12 + 1d8}. The probability curve ensures that encounters appearing in the middle of the table are more likely to occur than encounters placed at the beginning or end of the table. A roll of 2 or 20 is rare (about a {@chance 1} chance of either), while each of the rolls from 9 to 13 occurs a little over 8 percent of the time.

The Sylvan Forest Encounters table is an example of a random encounter table that implements the ideas mentioned above. Creature names in bold refer to stat blocks that appear in the {@i Monster Manual}.

Sylvan Forest Encounters

Sylvan Forest Encounters
d12 + d8Encounter
21 {@creature displacer beast}
31 {@creature gnoll pack lord} and {@dice 2d4} {@creature gnoll|MM|gnolls}
4{@dice 1d4} {@creature gnoll|MM|gnolls} and {@dice 2d4} {@creature hyena|MM|hyenas}
5A grove of burned trees. Characters searching the area and succeeding on a DC 10 Wisdom (Survival) check find {@creature gnoll} tracks. Following the tracks for {@dice 1d4} hours leads to an encounter with {@creature gnoll|MM|gnolls}, or the discovery of dead {@creature gnoll|MM|gnolls} with elven arrows sticking out of their flea-ridden corpses.
61 {@creature giant owl}
7An ivy-covered statue of an elven deity or hero.
81 {@creature dryad} (50%) or {@dice 1d4} {@creature satyr|MM|satyrs} (50%)
9{@dice 1d4} {@creature centaur|MM|centaurs}
10{@dice 2d4} {@creature scout|MM|scouts} (elves). One {@creature scout} carries a horn and can use its action to blow it. If the horn is blown within the forest, roll on this table again. If the result indicates a monster encounter, the indicated monster or monsters arrive in {@dice 1d4} minutes. New arrivals other than {@creature gnoll|MM|gnolls}, {@creature hyena|MM|hyenas}, {@creature owlbear|MM|owlbears}, and {@creature displacer beast|MM|displacer beasts} are friendly toward the {@creature scout|MM|scouts}.
11{@dice 2d4} {@creature pixie|MM|pixies} (50%) or {@dice 2d4} {@creature sprite|MM|sprites} (50%)
121 {@creature owlbear}
13{@dice 1d4} {@creature elk|MM|elks} (75%) or 1 {@creature giant elk} (25%)
14{@dice 1d4} {@creature blink dog|MM|blink dogs}
15A magical plant with {@dice 2d4} glowing berries. A creature that ingests a berry becomes {@condition invisible} for 1 hour, or until it attacks or casts a spell. Once picked, a berry loses its magic after 12 hours. Berries regrow at midnight, but if all its berries are picked, the plant becomes nonmagical and grows no more berries.
16An elven tune carried on a gentle breeze
17{@dice 1d4} {@creature Faerie Dragon (Orange)|mm|orange} (75%) or {@creature Faerie Dragon (Blue)|mm|blue} (25%) faerie dragons
181 {@creature druid} (elf). The {@creature druid} is initially indifferent toward the party but becomes friendly if the characters agree to rid the forest of its gnoll infestation.
191 {@creature treant}. The {@creature treant} is friendly if the party includes one or more elves or is accompanied by a visible fey creature. The {@creature treant} is hostile if the characters are carrying open flames. Otherwise, it is indifferent and doesn't announce its presence as the characters pass by.
201 {@creature unicorn}

Random Encounter Challenge

Random encounters need not be level-appropriate challenges for the adventurers, but it's considered bad form to slaughter a party using a random encounter, since most players consider this ending to be an unsatisfying one.

Not all random encounters with monsters need to be resolved through combat. A 1st-level party of adventurers could have a random encounter with a young dragon circling above a forest canopy in search of a quick meal, but the characters should have the option to hide or bargain for their lives if the dragon spots them. Similarly, the party might encounter a stone giant roaming the hills, but it might have no intention of harming anyone. In fact, it might shy away from the party because of its reclusive nature. The giant might attack only characters who annoy it.

Creating Nonplayer Characters

A nonplayer character is any character controlled by the Dungeon Master. NPCs can be enemies or allies, regular folk or named monsters. They include the local innkeeper, the old wizard who lives in the tower on the outskirts of town, the death knight out to destroy the kingdom, and the dragon counting gold in its cavernous lair.

This chapter shows you how to flesh out nonplayer characters for your game. For guidelines on generating monster-like stat blocks for an NPC, see chapter 9, "Dungeon Master's Workshop."

Designing NPCs

Nothing brings your adventures and campaigns to life better than a cast of well-developed NPCs. That said, NPCs in your game rarely need as much complexity as a well-crafted character in a novel or movie. Most NPCs are bit players in the campaign, whereas the adventurers are the stars.

Quick NPCs

An NPC doesn't need combat statistics unless it poses a threat. Moreover, most NPCs need only one or two qualities to make them memorable. For example, your players will have no trouble remembering the no-nonsense blacksmith with the tattoo of the black rose on his right shoulder or the badly dressed bard with the broken nose.

Detailed NPCs

For NPCs who play larger roles in your adventures, allow more time to flesh out their histories and personalities. As you'll see, ten sentences can sum up the main elements of a memorable NPC, one sentence for each of the following:

Although the material here focuses on humanoid NPCs, you can adjust details to create monstrous NPCs as well.

Occupation and History

In one sentence, describe the NPC's occupation and provide a brief historical note that hints at the character's past. For example, the NPC might have served in an army, been imprisoned for a crime, or adventured years ago.


In one sentence, describe the NPC's most distinctive physical features. Yuo can roll on the NPC Appearance table or choose a feature that suits the character.

NPC Appearance

NPC Appearance
1Distinctive jewelry: earrings, necklace, circlet, bracelets
3Flamboyant or outlandish clothes
4Formal, clean clothes
5Ragged, dirty clothes
6Pronounced scar
7Missing teeth
8Missing fingers
9Unusual eye color (or two different colors)
12Unusual skin color
14Braided beard or hair
15Unusual hair color
16Nervous eye twitch
17Distinctive nose
18Distinctive posture (crooked or rigid)
19Exceptionally beautiful
20Exceptionally ugly


You don't need to roll ability scores for the NPC, but note abilities that are above or below average-great strength or monumental stupidity, for example-and use them to inform the NPC's qualities.

NPC Abilities

NPC Abilities
d6High Ability
1Strength-powerful, brawny, strong as an ox
2Dexterity-lithe, agile, graceful
3Constitution-hardy, hale, healthy
4Intelligence-studious, learned, inquisitive
5Wisdom-perceptive, spiritual, insightful
6Charisma-persuasive, forceful, born leader

NPC Low Abilities

NPC Low Abilities
d6Low Ability
1Strength-feeble, scrawny
2Dexterity-clumsy, fumbling
3Constitution-sickly, pale
4Intelligence-dim-witted, slow
5Wisdom-oblivious, absentminded
6Charisma-dull, boring


In one sentence, describe something that your NPC can do that is special, if anything. Roll on the NPC Talents table or use it to spur your own ideas.

NPC Talents

NPC Talents
1Plays a musical instrument
2Speaks several languages fluently
3Unbelievably lucky
4Perfect memory
5Great with animals
6Great with children
7Great at solving puzzles
8Great at one game
9Great at impersonations
10Draws beautifully
11Paints beautifully
12Sings beautifully
13Drinks everyone under the table
14Expert carpenter
15Expert cook
16Expert dart thrower and rock skipper
17Expert juggler
18Skilled actor and master of disguise
19Skilled dancer
20Knows thieves' cant


In one sentence, describe one mannerism that will help players remember the NPC. Roll on the NPC Mannerisms and Quirks table or use it to generate your own ideas.

NPC Mannerisms

NPC Mannerisms
1Prone to singing, whistling, or humming quietly
2Speaks in rhyme or some other peculiar way
3Particularly low or high voice
4Slurs words, lisps, or stutters
5Enunciates overly clearly
6Speaks loudly
8Uses flowery speech or long words
9Frequently uses the wrong word
10Uses colorful oaths and exclamations
11Makes constant jokes or puns
12Prone to predictions of doom
15Stares into the distance
16Chews something
18Taps fingers
19Bites fingernails
20Twirls hair or tugs beard

Interactions with Others

In one sentence, describe how the NPC interacts with others, using the NPC Interaction Traits table if necessary. An NPC's behavior can change depending on who he or she is interacting with. For example, an innkeeper might be friendly toward guests and rude to her staff.

NPC Interaction Traits

NPC Interaction Traits
8Hot tempered

Useful Knowledge

In a sentence, describe one bit of knowledge the NPC possesses that might be of use to the player characters.

The NPC might know something as banal as the best inn in town or as important as a clue needed to solve a murder.


In a sentence, describe one ideal that the NPC holds dear and which governs his or her greater actions. Player characters who uncover an NPC's ideal can use what they've learned to influence the NPC in asocial interaction (as discussed in chapter 8, "Running the Game"). Ideals can connect to alignment, as shown on the NPC Ideals table. The alignment connections here are suggestions only; an evil character could have beauty as an ideal, for instance.

stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Ideals [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Good Ideals [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d6 [1] => Ideal ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1 [1] => Beauty ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 2 [1] => Charity ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 3 [1] => Greater good ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 4 [1] => Life ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 5 [1] => Respect ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 6 [1] => Self-sacrifice ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Evil Ideals [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d6 [1] => Ideal ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1 [1] => Domination ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 2 [1] => Greed ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 3 [1] => Might ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 4 [1] => Pain ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 5 [1] => Retribution ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 6 [1] => Slaughter ) ) ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Lawful Ideals [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d6 [1] => Ideal ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1 [1] => Community ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 2 [1] => Fairness ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 3 [1] => Honor ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 4 [1] => Logic ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 5 [1] => Responsibility ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 6 [1] => Tradition ) ) ) [3] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Chaotic Ideals [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d6 [1] => Ideal ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1 [1] => Change ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 2 [1] => Creativity ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 3 [1] => Freedom ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 4 [1] => Independence ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 5 [1] => No limits ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 6 [1] => Whimsy ) ) ) [4] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Neutral Ideals [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d6 [1] => Ideal ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1 [1] => Balance ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 2 [1] => Knowledge ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 3 [1] => Live and let live ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 4 [1] => Moderation ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 5 [1] => Neutrality ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 6 [1] => People ) ) ) [5] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Other Ideals [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d6 [1] => Ideal ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 1 [1] => Aspiration ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 2 [1] => Discovery ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 3 [1] => Glory ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 4 [1] => Nation ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 5 [1] => Redemption ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 6 [1] => Self-knowledge ) ) ) ) )


In a sentence, summarize the people, places, or things that are especially important to the NPC. The NPC Bonds table offers suggestions in broad categories.

The character backgrounds in the {@i Player's Handbook} explore bonds in more detail, and player characters who uncover an NPC's bond can use what they've learned to influence the NPC in a social interaction (as discussed in chapter 8).

NPC Bonds

NPC Bonds
1Dedicated to fulfilling a personal life goal
2Protective of close family members
3Protective of colleagues or compatriots
4Loyal to a benefactor, patron, or employer
5Captivated by a romantic interest
6Drawn to a special place
7Protective of a sentimental keepsake
8Protective of a valuable possession
9Out for revenge
10Roll twice, ignoring result of 10.

Flaw or Secret

In one sentence, describe the NPC's flaw-some element of the character's personality or history that could potentially undermine the character-or a secret that the NPC is trying to hide.

The NPC Flaws and Secrets table provides several ideas. The backgrounds in the {@i Player's Handbook} can be used to create more detailed flaws. Player characters who uncover an NPC'sflaw or secret can use what they've learned to influence the NPC in a social interaction (as discussed in chapter 8).

NPC Flaws and Secrets

NPC Flaws and Secrets
d12Flaw or Secret
1Forbidden love or susceptibility to romance
2Enjoys decadent pleasures
4Envies another creature's possessions or station
5Overpowering greed
6Prone to rage
7Has a powerful enemy
8Specific phobia
9Shameful or scandalous history
10Secret crime or misdeed
11Possession of forbidden lore
12Foolhardy bravery

Monsters as NPCs

Named monsters that play a significant role in an adventure deserve the same attention you would give to a humanoid NPC, with mannerisms as well as ideals, bonds, flaws, and secrets. If a beholder mastermind is behind the criminal activities in a city, don't rely solely on the entry in the Monster Manual to describe the creature's appearance and personality. Take the time to give it a bit of background, a distinctive quirk of appearance, and especially an ideal, a bond, and a flaw.

As an example, consider the Xanathar, a beholder that runs extensive criminal operations in the city of Waterdeep. The Xanathar's spherical body is covered in leathery flesh with a texture similar to cobblestones. Its eyestalks are jointed like the legs of an insect, and some of the stalks have magic rings on them. The Xanathar's speech is slow and deliberate, and it prefers to turn its central eye away from creatures it speaks to. Like all beholders, it sees other creatures as inferiors, though it understands the usefulness of its humanoid minions.

The Xanathar uses the sewers beneath Waterdeep to access virtually any location within or under the city.

The Xanathar's ideal is greed. It craves powerful magic items and surrounds itself with gold, platinum, and precious gems. Its bond is to its lair-an elaborate cavern complex carved out between the twisting sewers of Waterdeep, which it inherited from its predecessors and cherishes above all else. Its flaw is a weakness for exotic pleasures: finely prepared foods, scented oils, and rare spices and herbs.

Establishing this information allows you to play the Xanathar as more than an ordinary beholder. The complexities of the creature's characterization create more memorable interaction and interesting story possibilities.

NPC Statistics

When you give an NPC game statistics, you have three main options: giving the NPC only the few statistics it needs, give the NPC a monster stat block, or give the NPC a class and levels. The latter two options require a bit of explanation.

Using a Monster Stat Block

Appendix B of the Monster Manual contains statistics for many generic NPCs that you can customize as you see fit, and chapter 9 of this book offers guidelines on adjusting their statistics and creating a new stat block.

Using Classes and Levels

You can create an NPC just as you would a player character, using the rules in the {@i Player's Handbook}. You can even use a character sheet to keep track of the NPC's vital information.

Class Options

In addition to the class options in the Player's Handbook, two additional class options are available for evil player characters and NPCs: the Death domain for clerics and the oathbreaker for paladins.

Both options are detailed at the end of this chapter.


Most NPCs don't need an exhaustive list of equipment. An enemy meant to be faced in combat requires weapons and armor, plus any treasure the NPC carries (including magic items that might be used against the adventurers).

Challenge Rating

An NPC built for combat needs a challenge rating. Use the rules in chapter 9 to determine the NPC's challenge rating, just as you would for a monster you designed.

NPC Party Members

NPCs might join the adventuring party because they want a share of the loot and are willing to accept an equal share of the risk, or they might follow the adventurers because of a bond of loyalty, gratitude, or love. Such NPCs are controlled by you, or you can transfer control to the players. Even if a player controls an NPC, it's up to you to make sure the NPC is portrayed as a character in his or her own right, not just as a servant that the players can manipulate for their own benefit.

Any NPC that accompanies the adventurers acts as a party member and earns a full share of experience points. When determining the difficulty of a combat encounter (see chapter 3), make sure to include all NPC party members.

Low-Level Followers

Your campaign might allow player characters to take on lower-level NPCs as followers. For example, a paladin might have a 1st-level paladin as a squire, a wizard might accept a 2nd-level wizard as an apprentice, a cleric might choose (or be assigned) a 3rd-level cleric as an acolyte, and a bard might take on a 4th-level bard as an understudy.

One advantage of allowing lower-level characters to join the party is that players have backup characters if their main characters take time off, retire, or die. One disadvantage is that you and your players have more party members to account for.

Since lower-level NPC party members receive equal party shares of XP, they will gain levels more quickly than the adventurers (the benefit of studying under such experienced masters), and might eventually catch up to them. It also means the adventurers' advancement is slowed somewhat, as they must share their XP with an NPC shouldering only part of the adventuring burden.

Powerful monsters that are an appropriate challenge for higher-level characters can deal enough damage to instantly kill or incapacitate a low-level follower. The adventurers should expect to spend effort and resources protecting lower-level NPC party members and to provide healing when this protection fails.

Adventurer NPCs

If you don't have enough players to form a full party, you can use NPCs to fill out the ranks. These NPCs should be the same level as the lowest-level adventurer in the party and built (either by you or your players) using the character creation and advancement rules in the Player's Handbook. It's easiest on you if you let the players create and run these supporting characters.

Encourage players to roleplay supporting characters as true to the NPCs' personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws as possible, so that they don't come across as automatons. If you don't feel that an NPC is being portrayed well, you can take control of the NPC, give it to another player, or simply have the NPC leave the party.

NPC supporting characters are easier to play if you limit their class options. Good candidates for supporting characters include a cleric with the Life domain, a fighter with the Champion archetype, a rogue with the Thief archetype, and a wizard specializing in Evocation.

Optional Rule: Loyalty

Loyalty is an optional rule you can use to determine how far an NPC party member will go to protect or assist the other members of the party (even those he or she doesn't particularly like). An NPC party member who is abused or ignored is likely to abandon or betray the party, whereas an NPC who owes a life debt to the characters or shares their goals might fight to the death for them. Loyalty can be role played or represented by this rule.

Loyalty Score

An NPC's loyalty is measured on a numerical scale from 0 to 20. The NPC's maximum loyalty score is equal to the highest Charisma score among all adventurers in the party, and its starting loyalty score is half that number. If the highest Charisma score changes—perhaps a character dies or leaves the group—adjust the NPC's loyalty score accordingly.

Tracking Loyalty

Keep track of an NPC's loyalty score in secret so that the players won't know for sure whether an NPC party member is loyal or disloyal (even if the NPC is currently under a player's control).

An NPC's loyalty score increases by {@dice 1d4} if other party members help the NPC achieve a goal tied to its bond. Likewise, an NPC's loyalty score increases by {@dice 1d4} if the NPC is treated particularly well (for example, given a magic weapon as a gift) or rescued by another party member. An NPC's loyalty score can never be raised above its maximum.

When other party members act in a manner that runs counter to the NPC's alignment or bond, reduce the NPC's loyalty score by {@dice 1d4}. Reduce the NPC's loyalty score by {@dice 2d4} if the character is abused, misled, or endangered by other party members for purely selfish reasons.

An NPC whose loyalty score drops to 0 is no longer loyal to the party and might part ways with them. A loyalty score can never drop below 0.

An NPC with a loyalty score of 10 or higher risks life and limb to help fellow party members. If the NPC's loyalty score is between 1 and 10, its loyalty is tenuous. An NPC whose loyalty drops to 0 no longer acts in the party's best interests. The disloyal NPC either leaves the party (attacking characters who attempt to intervene) or works in secret to bring about the party's downfall.


Contacts are NPCs with close ties to one or more of the player characters. They don't go on adventures, but they can provide information, rumors, supplies, or professional advice, either for free or at a cost. Some of the backgrounds in the {@i Player's Handbook} suggest creating nonplayer characters contacts for beginning adventurers, and characters are likely to secure more helpful contacts over the course of their adventuring careers.

A name and a few choice details are all you need for casual contacts, but take the time to flesh out a recurring contact, especially one who might become an ally or enemy at some point. At the very least, give some thought to a contact's goals and how those goals are likely to come into play.


A patron is a contact who employs the adventurers, providing help or rewards as well as quests and adventure hooks. Most of the time, a patron has a vested interest in the adventurers' success and doesn't need to be persuaded to help them. A patron might be a retired adventurer who seeks younger heroes to deal with rising threats, or a mayor who knows that the town guard can't handle a dragon demanding tribute.

A sheriff becomes a patron by offering a bounty for kobold raiders terrorizing the local countryside, as does a noble who wants an abandoned estate cleared of monsters.


Adventurers can pay NPCs to provide services in a variety of circumstances. Information on hirelings appears in chapter 5, "Equipment," of the {@i Player's Handbook}.

Hireling NPCs rarely become important in an adventure, and most require little development. When adventurers hire a coach to carry them across town or need a letter delivered, the driver or messenger is a hireling, and the adventurers might never even converse with that NPC or learn his or her name. A ship captain carrying the adventurers across the sea is also a hireling, but such a character has the potential to turn into an ally, a patron, or even an enemy as the adventure unfolds.

When the adventurers hire an NPC for long-term work, add the cost of that NPC's services to the characters' lifestyle expenses. See the "Additional Expenses" section of chapter 6, "Between Adventures," for more information.


Extras are the characters and creatures in the background that the main characters rarely, if ever, interact with.

Extras might be elevated to more important roles by virtue of adventurers singling them out. For instance, a player might be hooked by a passing reference you make to a street urchin and try to strike up a conversation with the youngster. Suddenly, an extra on whom you placed no importance becomes a central figure in an improvised roleplaying scene.

Whenever extras are present, be prepared to come up with names and mannerisms on the fly. In a pinch, you can plunder the race-specific character names found in chapter 2, "Races," of the {@i Player's Handbook}.


By their actions, villains provide job security for heroes. Chapter 3 helps you determine suitable villains for your adventures, while this section helps you flesh out their evil schemes, methods, and weaknesses. Let the tables that follow inspire you.

Villain's Scheme

Villain's Scheme
{@dice d8}ObjectiveScheme
Immortality ({@dice d4|d4|Immortality})
1Acquire a legendary item to prolong life
2Ascend to godhood
3Become undead or obtain a younger body
4Steal a planar creature's essence
Influence ({@dice d4|d4|Influence})
1Seize a position of power or title
2Win a contest or tournament
3Win favor with a powerful individual
4Place a pawn in a position of power
Magic ({@dice d6|d6|Magic})
1Obtain an ancient artifact
2Build a construct or magical device
3Carry out a deity's wishes
4Offer sacrifices to a deity
5Contact a lost deity or power
6Open a gate to another world
Mayhem ({@dice d6|d6|Mayhem})
1Fulfill an apocalyptic prophecy
2Enact the vengeful will of a god or patron
3Spread a vile contagion
4Overthrow a government
5Trigger a natural disaster
6Utterly destroy a bloodline or clan
Passion ({@dice d4})
1Prolong the life of a loved one
2Prove worthy of another person's love
3Raise or restore a dead loved one
4Destroy rivals for another person's affection
Power ({@dice d4|d4|Power})
1Conquer a region or incite a rebellion
2Seize control of an army
3Become the power behind the throne
4Gain the favor of a ruler
Revenge ({@dice d4})
1Avenge a past humiliation or insult
2Avenge a past imprisonment or injury
3Avenge the death of a loved one
4Retrieve stolen property and punish the thief
Wealth ({@dice d4|d4|Wealth})
1Control natural resources or trade
2Marry into wealth
3Plunder ancient ruins
4Steal land, goods, or money

Villain's Methods

Villain's Methods
1Agricultural devastation
2Assault or beatings
3Bounty hunting or assassination
4Captivity or coercion
5Confidence scams
9Impersonation or disguise
10Lying or perjury
11Magical mayhem
17Theft or Property Crime

Villain's Secret Weakness

Finding and exploiting a villain's weakness can be very gratifying for players, although a smart villain tries to conceal its weakness. A lich, for example, has a phylactery-a magical receptacle for its soul-that it keeps well hidden. Only by destroying the phylactery can the characters ensure the lich's destruction.

Villain's Weakness

Villain's Weakness
1A hidden object holds the villain's soul.
2The villain's power is broken if the death of its true love is avenged.
3The villain is weakened in the presence of a particular artifact.
4A special weapon deals extra damage when used against the villain.
5The villain is destroyed if it speaks its true name.
6An ancient prophecy or riddle reveals how the villain can be overthrown.
7The villain falls when an ancient enemy forgives its past actions.
8The villain loses its power if a mystic bargain it struck long ago is completed.

Villainous Class Options

You can use the rules in the {@i Player's Handbook} to create NPCs with classes and levels, the same way you create player characters. The class options below let you create two specific villainous archetypes: the evil high priest and the evil knight or anti paladin.

The Death Domain is an additional domain choice for evil clerics, and the Oathbreaker offers an alternative path for paladins who fall from grace. A player can choose one of these options with your approval.

Cleric: Death Domain

The Death domain is concerned with the forces that cause death, as well as the negative energy that gives rise to undead creatures. Deities such as Chemosh, Myrkul, and Wee Jas are patrons of necromancers, death knights, liches, mummy lords, and vampires. Gods of the Death domain also embody murder (Anubis, Bhaal, and Pyremius), pain (Iuz or Loviatar), disease or poison (Incabulos, Talona, or Morgion), and the underworld (Hades and Hel).

See the {@class Cleric|phb|Death Domain classes page entry|Death Domain|dmg} for more information.

Paladin: Oathbreaker

An Oathbreaker is a paladin who breaks his or her sacred oaths to pursue some dark ambition or serve an evil power. Whatever light burned in the paladin's heart has been extinguished. Only darkness remains.

A paladin must be evil and at least 3rd level to become an Oathbreaker. The paladin replaces the features specific to his or her Sacred Oath with Oathbreaker features.

See the {@class Paladin|phb|Oathbreaker classes page entry|Oathbreaker|dmg} for more information.

Adventure Environments

Many D&D adventures revolve around a dungeon setting. Dungeons in D&D include great halls and tombs, subterranean monster lairs, labyrinths riddled with death traps, natural caverns extending for miles beneath the surface of the world, and ruined castles.

Not every adventure takes place in a dungeon. A wilderness trek across the Desert of Desolation or a harrowing journey into the jungles of the Isle of Dread can be an exciting adventure in its own right. In the great outdoors, dragons wheel across the sky in search of prey, tribes of hobgoblins pour forth from their grim fortresses to wage war against their neighbors, ogres plunder farmsteads for food, and monstrous spiders drop from the web-shrouded canopies of trees.

Within a dungeon, adventurers are constrained by walls and doors around them, but in the wilderness, adventurers can travel in almost any direction they please. Therein lies the key difference between dungeon and wilderness: it's much easier to predict where the adventuring party might go in the dungeon because the options are limited-less so in the wilderness.

Villages, towns, and cities are cradles of civilization in a dangerous world, but they too offer opportunities for adventure. Encounters with monsters might seem unlikely within a city's walls, but urban settings have their own villains and perils. Evil, after all, takes many forms, and urban settings aren't always the safe havens they seem to be.

This chapter provides an overview of these three environments plus a few unusual environments, taking you through the process of creating an adventure location, with plenty of random tables to inspire you.


Some dungeons are old strongholds abandoned by the folk who built them. Others are natural caves or weird lairs carved out by foul monsters. They attract evil cults, monster tribes, and reclusive creatures. Dungeons are also home to ancient treasures: coins, gems, magic items, and other valuables hidden away in the darkness, often guarded by traps or jealously kept by the monsters that have collected them.

Building a Dungeon

When you set out to create a dungeon, think about its distinctive qualities. For example, a dungeon that serves as a hobgoblin stronghold has a different quality from an ancient temple inhabited by yuan-ti. This section lays out a process for creating a dungeon and bringing it to life.

Dungeon Location

You can use the Dungeon Location table to determine the locale of your dungeon. You can roll on the table or choose an entry that inspires you.

Dungeon Location

Dungeon Location
01-04A building in a city
05-08Catacombs or sewers beneath a city
09-12Beneath a farmhouse
13-16Beneath a graveyard
17-22Beneath a ruined castle
23-26Beneath a ruined city
27-30Beneath a temple
31-34In a chasm
35-38In a cliff face
39-42In a desert
43-46In a forest
47-50In a glacier
51-54In a gorge
55-58In a jungle
59-62In a mountain pass
63-66In a swamp
67-70Beneath or on top of a mesa
71-74In sea caves
75-78In several connected mesas
79-82On a mountain peak
83-86On a promontory
87-90On an island
96-100Roll on the Exotic Location Table

Exotic Location

Exotic Location
1Among the branches of a tree
2Around a geyser
3Behind a waterfall
4Buried in an avalanche
5Buried in a sandstorm
6Buried in volcanic ash
7Castle or structure sunken in a swamp
8Castle or structure at the bottom of a sinkhole
9Floating on the sea
10In a meteorite
11On a demiplane or in a pocket dimension
12In an area devastated by a magical catastrophe
13On a cloud
14In the Feywild
15In the Shadowfell
16On an island in an underground sea
17In a volcano
18On the back of a Gargantuan living creature
19Sealed inside a magical dome of force
20Inside a Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion

Dungeon Creator

A dungeon reflects its creators. A lost temple of the yuan-ti, choked by overgrown jungle plants, might feature ramps instead of stairs. Caverns carved by a beholder's disintegration eye ray have walls that are unnaturally smooth, and the beholder's lair might include vertical shafts connecting different levels. Amphibious monsters such as kuo-toa and aboleths use water to protect the innermost reaches of their lairs from air-breathing intruders.

Details bring a dungeon setting's personality to life. Great bearded faces might be carved on the doors of a dwarven stronghold and might be defaced by the gnolls who live there now. Spiderweb decorations, torture chambers, and slave pens might be common features in a vault built by drow, telling something about that location and its occupants.

The Dungeon Creator table includes creatures that typically build dungeons. You can choose a creator from the table or roll randomly, or choose some other dungeon builder appropriate for your campaign.

Dungeon Creator

Dungeon Creator
2-4Cult or religious group. (Roll on the Cults and Religious Groups table to determine specifics)
9Elves (including drow)
12-15Humans. (Roll on the NPC Alignment and NPC Class tables to determine specifics)
18Mind flayers
20No creator (natural caverns)

Cults and Religions

Cults and Religions
d20Cult or Religious Group
1Demon-worshiping cult
2Devil-worshiping cult
3-4Elemental Air cult
5-6Elemental Earth cult
7-8Elemental Fire cult
9-10Elemental Water cult
11-15Worshipers of an evil deity
16-17Worshipers of a good deity
18-20Worshipers of a neutral deity

NPC Alignment

NPC Alignment
1-2Lawful good
3-4Neutral good
5-6Chaotic good
7-9Lawful neutral
12Chaotic neutral
13-15Lawful evil
16-18Neutral evil
19-20Chaotic evil

NPC Class

NPC Class

Dungeon Purpose

Except in the case of a natural cavern, a dungeon is crafted and inhabited for a specific purpose that influences its design and features. You can choose a purpose from the Dungeon Purpose table, roll one at random, or use your own ideas.

Dungeon Purpose

Dungeon Purpose
1Death trap
10Planar gate
15-17Temple or shrine
20Treasure vault

Death Trap

This dungeon is built to eliminate any creature that dares to enter it. A death trap might guard the treasure of an insane wizard, or it might be designed to lure adventurers to their demise for some nefarious purpose, such as to feed souls to a lich's phylactery.


A lair is a place where monsters live. Typical lairs include ruins and caves.


A maze is intended to deceive or confuse those who enter it. Some mazes are elaborate obstacles that protect treasure, while others are gauntlets for prisoners banished there to be hunted and devoured by the monsters within.


An abandoned mine can quickly become infested with monsters, while miners who delve too deep can break through into the Underdark.

Planar Gate

Dungeons built around planar portals are often transformed by the planar energy seeping out through those portals.


A stronghold dungeon provides a secure base of operations for villains and monsters. It is usually ruled by a powerful individual, such as a wizard, vampire, or dragon, and it is larger and more complex than a simple lair.

Temple or Shrine

This dungeon is consecrated to a deity or other planar entity. The entity's worshipers control the dungeon and conduct their rites there.


Tombs are magnets for treasure hunters, as well as monsters that hunger for the bones of the dead.

Treasure Vault

Built to protect powerful magic items and great material wealth, treasure vault dungeons are heavily guarded by monsters and traps.


In most cases, the original architects of a dungeon are long gone, and the question of what happened to them can help shape the dungeon's current state.

The Dungeon History table notes key events that can transform a site from its original purpose into a dungeon for adventurers to explore. Particularly old dungeons can have a history that consists of multiple events, each of which transformed the site in some way.

Dungeon History

Dungeon History
d20Key Event
1-3Abandoned by creators
4Abandoned due to plague
5-8Conquered by invaders
9-10Creators destroyed by attacking raiders
11Creators destroyed by discovery made within the site
12Creators destroyed by internal conflict
13Creators destroyed by magical catastrophe
14-15Creators destroyed by natural disaster
16Location cursed by the gods and shunned
17-18Original creator still in control
19Overrun by planar creatures
20Site of a great miracle

Dungeon Inhabitants

After a dungeon's creators depart, anyone or anything might move in. Intelligent monsters, mindless dungeon scavengers, predators and prey alike can be drawn to dungeons.

The monsters in a dungeon are more than a collection of random creatures that happen to live near one another. Fungi, vermin, scavengers, and predators can coexist in a complex ecology, alongside intelligent creatures who share living space through elaborate combinations of domination, negotiation, and bloodshed.

Characters might be able to sneak into a dungeon, ally with one faction, or play factions against each other to reduce the threat of the more powerful monsters. For example, in a dungeon inhabited by mind flayers and their goblinoid thralls, the adventurers might try to incite the goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears to revolt against their illithid masters.

Dungeon Factions

A dungeon is sometimes dominated by a single group of intelligent humanoids, whether a tribe of orcs that have taken over a cavern complex or a gang of trolls inhabiting an aboveground ruin. Other times, particularly in larger dungeons, multiple groups of creatures share space and compete for resources.

For example, orcs that dwell in the mines of a ruined dwarf citadel might skirmish constantly against the hobgoblins that hold the citadel's upper tiers. Mind flayers that have established a colony in the lowest levels of the mines could manipulate and dominate key hobgoblins in an attempt to wipe out the orcs. And all the while, a hidden cell of drow scouts watches and plots to slay the mind flayers, then enslave whatever creatures are left.

It's easy to think of a dungeon as a collection of encounters, with the adventurers kicking down door after door and killing whatever lies beyond. But the ebb and flow of power between groups in a dungeon provides plenty of opportunities for more subtle interaction. Dungeon denizens are used to striking unlikely alliances, and adventurers are a wild card that canny monsters seek to exploit.

Intelligent creatures in a dungeon have goals, whether as simple as short-term survival or as ambitious as claiming the entire dungeon as the first step in founding an empire. Such creatures might approach adventurers with an offer of alliance, hoping to prevent the characters from laying waste to their lair and to secure aid against their enemies. Bring the NPC leaders of such groups to life as described in chapter 4, fleshing out their personalities, goals, and ideals. Then use those elements to shape a response to the arrival of adventurers in their territory.

Dungeon Ecology

An inhabited dungeon has its own ecosystem. The creatures that live there need to eat, drink, breathe, and sleep, just as creatures in the wilderness do. Predators need to be able to seek prey, and intelligent creatures search for lairs offering the best combination of air, food, water, and security. Keep these factors in mind when designing a dungeon you want the players to believe in. If a dungeon doesn't have some internal logic to it, adventurers will find it difficult to make reasonable decisions within that environment.

For example, characters who find a pool of fresh water in a dungeon might make the logical assumption that many of the creatures inhabiting the dungeon come to that spot to drink. The adventurers might set an ambush at the pool. Likewise, locked doors-or even doors that require hands to open-can restrict the movement of some creatures. If all the doors in a dungeon are closed, the players might wonder how the carrion crawlers or stirges they repeatedly encounter manage to survive.

Encounter Difficulty

You might be inclined to increase the encounter difficulty as the adventurers descend deeper into the dungeon, as a way to keep the dungeon challenging as the characters gain levels or to ratchet up the tension. However, this approach can turn the dungeon into a grind. A better approach is to include encounters of varying difficulty throughout. The contrast between easy and hard encounters, as well as simple and complex encounters, encourages characters to vary their tactics and keeps the encounters from seeming too similar.

Mapping a Dungeon

Every dungeon needs a map showing its layout. The dungeon's location, creator, purpose, history, and inhabitants should give you a starting point for designing your dungeon map. If you need further inspiration, you can find maps that have been made freely available for use on the Internet, or even use a map of a real-world location. Alternatively, you can borrow a map from a published adventure or randomly generate a dungeon complex using the tables presented in appendix A.

A dungeon can range in size from a few chambers in a ruined temple to a huge complex of rooms and passages extending hundreds of feet in all directions.

The adventurers' goal often lies as far from the dungeon entrance as possible, forcing characters to delve deeper underground or push farther into the heart of the complex.

A dungeon is most easily mapped on graph paper, with each square on the paper representing an area of 10 feet by 10 feet. (If you play with miniatures on a grid, you might prefer a scale where each square represents 5 feet, or you can subdivide your 10-foot grid into a 5-foot grid when you draw your maps for combat.) When you draw your map, keep the following points in mind:

If you need help creating a dungeon map from scratch, see appendix A.

Dungeon Features

The atmosphere and physical characteristics of dungeons vary as widely as their origins. An old crypt might have stone walls and loose wooden doors, an odor of decay, and no light other than what adventurers bring with them. A volcanic lair might have smooth stone walls hollowed out by past eruptions, doors of magically reinforced brass, a smell of sulfur, and light provided by jets of flame in every hall and room.


Some dungeons have walls of masonry. Others have walls of solid rock, hewn with tools to give them a rough, chiseled look, or worn smooth by the passage of water or lava. An aboveground dungeon might be made of wood or composite materials.

Walls are sometimes adorned with murals, frescoes, bas-reliefs, and lighting fixtures such as sconces or torch brackets. A few even have secret doors built into them.


Dungeon doorways might be set within plain arches and lintels. They might be festooned with carvings of gargoyles or leering faces or engraved with sigils that reveal clues as to what lies beyond.

Stuck Doors

Dungeon doors often become stuck when not used frequently. Opening a stuck door requires a successful Strength check. Chapter 8, "Running the Game," provides guidelines for setting the DC.

Locked Doors

Characters who don't have the key to a locked door can pick the lock with a successful Dexterity check (doing so requires {@item thieves' tools|phb} and proficiency in their use). They can also force the door with a successful Strength check, smash the door to pieces by dealing enough damage to it, or use a knock spell or similar magic. Chapter 8 provides guidelines for setting the DCs and assigning statistics to doors and other objects.

Barred Doors

A barred door is similar to a locked door, except that there's no lock to pick, and the door can be opened normally from the barred side by using an action to lift the bar from its braces.

Secret Doors

A secret door is crafted to blend into the wall that surrounds it. Sometimes faint cracks in the wall or scuff marks on the floor betray the secret door's presence.

Detecting a Secret Door

Use the characters' passive Wisdom (Perception) scores to determine whether anyone in the party notices a secret door without actively searching for it. Characters can also find a secret door by actively searching the location where the door is hidden and succeeding on a Wisdom (Perception) check. To set an appropriate DC for the check, see chapter 8.

Opening a Secret Door

Once a secret door is detected, a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check might be required to determine how to open it if the opening mechanism isn't obvious. Set the DC according to the difficulty guidelines in chapter 8.

If adventurers can't determine how to open a secret door, breaking it down is always an option. Treat it as a locked door made of the same material as the surrounding wall, and use the guidelines in chapter 8 to determine appropriate DCs or statistics.

Concealed Doors

A concealed door is a normal door that is hidden from view. A secret door is carefully crafted to blend into its surrounding surface, whereas a concealed door is most often hidden by mundane means. It might be covered by a tapestry, covered with plaster, or (in the case of a concealed trapdoor) hidden under a rug. Normally, no ability check is required to find a concealed door. A character need only look in the right place or take the right steps to reveal the door. However, you can use the characters' passive Wisdom (Perception) scores to determine whether any of them notices tracks or signs of a tapestry or rug having been recently disturbed.


A portcullis is a set of vertical bars made of wood or iron, reinforced with one or more horizontal bands. It blocks a passage or archway until it is raised up into the ceiling by a winch and chain. The main benefit of a portcullis is that it blocks a passage while still allowing guards to watch the area beyond and make ranged attacks or cast spells through it.

Winching a portcullis up or down requires an action. If a character can't reach the winch (usually because it is on the other side of the portcullis), lifting the portcullis or bending its bars far enough apart to pass through them requires a successful Strength check. The DC of the check depends on the size and weight of the portcullis or the thickness of its bars. To determine an appropriate DC, see chapter 8.

Darkness and Light

Darkness is the default condition inside an underground complex or in the interior of aboveground ruins, but an inhabited dungeon might have light sources.

In subterranean settlements, even races that have darkvision use fire for warmth, cooking, and defense. But many creatures have no need of warmth or light. Adventurers must bring their own sources of light into dusty tombs where only undead stand guard, abandoned ruins teeming with predatory monsters and oozes, and natural caverns where sightless creatures hunt.

The light of a torch or lantern helps a character see over a short distance, but other creatures can see that light source from far away. Bright light in an environment of total darkness can be visible for miles, though a clear line of sight over such a distance is rare underground. Even so, adventurers using light sources in a dungeon often attract monsters, just as dungeon features that shed light (from phosphorescent fungi to the glow of magical portals) can draw adventurers' attention.

Air Quality

Subterranean tunnels and aboveground ruins are often enclosed spaces with little airflow. Though it's rare for a dungeon to be sealed so tightly that adventurers have trouble breathing, the atmosphere is often stifling and oppressive. What's more, odors linger in a dungeon and can be magnified by the stillness of the atmosphere.


A dungeon's enclosed geography helps channel sound. The groaning creak of an opening door can echo down hundreds of feet of passageway. Louder noises such as the clanging hammers of a forge or the din of battle can reverberate through an entire dungeon. Many creatures that live underground use such sounds as a way of locating prey, or go on alert at any sound of an adventuring party's intrusion.

Dungeon Hazards

The hazards described here are but a few examples of the environmental dangers found underground and in other dark places. Dungeon hazards are functionally similar to traps, which are described at the end of this chapter.

Detecting a Hazard

No ability check is required to spot a hazard unless it is hidden. A hazard that resembles something benign, such as a patch of slime or mold, can be correctly identified with a successful Intelligence (Nature) check. Use the guidelines in chapter 8 to set an appropriate DC for any check made to spot or recognize a hazard.

Hazard Severity

To determine a hazard's deadliness relative to the characters, think of the hazard as a trap and compare the damage it deals with the party's level using the Damage Severity by Level table later in the chapter (the table also appears in chapter 8).

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Between the dungeons and settlements of your campaign world lie meadows, forests, deserts, mountain ranges, oceans, and other tracts of wilderness waiting to be traversed. Bringing wilderness areas to life can be a fun part of your game, both for you and your players.

The following two approaches work particularly well.

Travel-Montage Approach

Sometimes the destination is more important than the journey. If the purpose of a wilderness trek is to get the characters to where the real adventure happens, gloss over the wilderness trek without checking for encounters along the way. Just as movies use travel montages to convey long and arduous journeys in a matter of seconds, you can use a few sentences of descriptive text to paint a picture of a wilderness trek in your players' minds before moving on.

Describe the journey as vividly as you like, but keep the forward momentum. "You walk for several miles and encounter nothing of interest" is okay, but far less evocative and memorable than, "A light rain dampens the rolling plains as you travel north. Around midday, you break for lunch under a lonely tree. There, the rogue finds a small rock that looks like a grinning face, but otherwise you encounter nothing out of the ordinary." The trick is to focus on a few details that reinforce the desired mood rather than describe everything down to the last blade of grass.

Call attention to unusual terrain features: a waterfall, a rocky outcropping that offers a breathtaking view over the tops of the surrounding trees, an area where the forest has burned or been cut down, and so on. Also describe notable smells and sounds, such as the roar of a faraway monster, the stench of burned wood, or the sweet aroma of flowers in an elven forest.

In addition to evocative language, visual aids can help set the scene for the characters' travels. Image searches on the Internet can lead you to breathtaking landscapes (in fact, that's a good phrase to search for) both real and fantastical. As striking as real-world scenery can be, wilderness travel can be used to remind the players that their characters are in a fantasy world. Once in a while, spice up your descriptions with some truly magical element. A forest might be home to tiny dragonets instead of birds, or its trees might be festooned with giant webs or have eerie, green-glowing sap. Use these elements sparingly; landscapes that are too alien can break your players' sense of immersion in the world. A single fantastic element within an otherwise realistic and memorable landscape is enough.

Use the landscape to set the mood and tone for your adventure. In one forest, close-set trees shroud all light and seem to watch the adventurers as they pass.

In another, sunlight streams through the leaves above and flower-laden vines twine up every trunk. Signs of corruption-rotting wood, foul-smelling water, and rocks covered with slimy brown moss-can be a signal that the adventurers are drawing close to the site of evil power that is their destination or can provide clues to the nature of the threats to be found there.

Specific wilderness locations might have their own special features. For example, the Spirit Forest and the Spider haunt Woods might feature different kinds of trees, different kinds of flora and fauna, different weather, and different random encounter tables.

Finally, a wilderness trek can be enhanced by calling attention to the weather. "You spend the next three days crossing the swamp" sounds less harrowing than, "You spend the next three days trudging through knee-deep mud-the first two days and nights in the pouring rain, and then another day under the beating sun, with swarms of hungry insects feasting on your blood."

Hour-by-Hour Approach

Sometimes the journey deserves as much time and attention as the destination. If wilderness travel features prominently in your adventure and isn't something you want to gloss over, you will need more than a descriptive overview to bring a long and harrowing journey to life; you'll need to know the party's marching order and have encounters at the ready.

Let your players determine the party's marching order (see the {@i Player's Handbook} for more information). Characters in the front rank are likely to be the first to notice landmarks and terrain features, as well as the ones responsible for navigating. Characters in the back rank are usually responsible for making sure that the party isn't being followed. Encourage characters in the middle ranks to do something other than blindly trudge along behind the front-rank characters. The {@i Player's Handbook} suggests activities such as mapmaking and foraging for food.

Wilderness journeys typically feature a combination of planned encounters (encounters that you prepare ahead of time) and random encounters (encounters determined by rolling on a table). A planned encounter might need a map of the location where the encounter is set to occur, such as a ruin, a bridge spanning a gorge, or some other memorable location. Random encounters tend to be less location-specific. The fewer planned encounters you have, the more you'll need to rely on random encounters to keep the journey interesting. See chapter 3 for guidelines on creating your own random encounter tables and when to check for random encounters.

A good way to keep wilderness encounters from becoming stale is to make sure they don't all start and end the same way. In other words, if the wilderness is your stage and your adventure is the play or movie, think of each wilderness encounter as its own scene, and try to stage each one in a slightly different way to keep your players' interest. If one encounter comes at the adventurers from the front, the next one might come at them from above or behind. If an encounter features stealthy monsters, a character tending to the party's pack animals might get the first indication that monsters are near when a pony whickers nervously. If an encounter features loud monsters, the party might have the option to hide or set an ambush. One group of monsters might attack the party on sight, and another might allow safe passage for food.

Reward characters for searching while they travel by providing things for them to find. Broken statues, tracks, abandoned campsites, and other finds can add flavor to your world, foreshadow future encounters or events, or provide hooks for further adventures. A wilderness journey might take multiple sessions to play out. That said, if the wilderness journey includes long periods with no encounters, use the travel-montage approach to bridge gaps between encounters.

Mapping a Wilderness

In contrast to a dungeon, an outdoor setting presents seemingly limitless options. The adventurers can move in any direction over a trackless desert or an open grassland, so how do you as the DM deal with all the possible locations and events that might make up a wilderness campaign? What if you design an encounter in a desert oasis, but the characters miss the oasis because they wander off course? How do you avoid creating a boring play session of uninterrupted slogging across a rocky wasteland?

One solution is to think of an outdoor setting in the same way you think about a dungeon. Even the most wide-open terrain presents clear pathways. Roads seldom run straight because they follow the contours of the land, finding the most level or otherwise easiest routes across uneven ground. Valleys and ridges channel travel in certain directions. Mountain ranges present forbidding barriers traversed only by remote passes. Even the most trackless desert reveals favored routes, where explorers and caravan drivers have discovered areas of wind-blasted rock that are easier to traverse than shifting sand.

If the party veers off track, you might be able to relocate one or more of your planned encounters elsewhere on the map to ensure that the time spent preparing those encounters doesn't go to waste.

Chapter 1 discusses the basics of creating a wilderness map at three different scales to help you design your world and the starting area of your campaign. Especially when you get down to province scale (1 hex = 1 mile), think about paths of travel-roads, passes, ridges and valleys, and so on-that can guide character movement across your map.

Movement on the Map

Narrate wilderness travel at a level of detail appropriate to the map you're using. If you're tracking hour-by-hour movement on a province-scale map (1 hex = 1 mile), you can describe each hamlet the adventurers pass. At this scale, you can assume that the characters find a noteworthy location when they enter its hex unless the site is specifically hidden. The characters might not walk directly up to the front door of a ruined castle when they enter a hex, but they can find old paths, outlying ruins, and other signs of its presence in the area.

If you're tracking a journey of several days on a kingdom-scale map (1 hex = 6 miles), don't bother with details too small to appear on your map. It's enough for the players to know that on the third day of their journey, they cross a river and the land starts rising before them, and that they reach the mountain pass two days later.

Wilderness Features

No wilderness map is complete without a few settlements, strongholds, ruins, and other sites worthy of discovery. A dozen such locations scattered over an area roughly 50 miles across is a good start.

Monster Lairs

A wilderness area approximately 50 miles across can support roughly a half-dozen monster lairs, but probably no more than one apex predator such as a dragon.

If you expect the characters to explore a monster's lair, you'll need to find or create an appropriate map for the lair and stock the lair as you would a dungeon.


In places where civilization rules or once ruled, adventurers might find monuments built to honor great leaders, gods, and cultures. Use the Monuments table for inspiration, or randomly roll to determine what monument the adventurers stumble upon.


1Sealed burial mound or pyramid
2Plundered burial mound or pyramid
3Faces carved into a mountainside or cliff
4Giant statues carved out of a mountainside or cliff
5-6Intact obelisk etched with a warning, historical lore, dedication, or religious iconography
7-8Ruined or toppled obelisk
9-10Intact statue of a person or deity
11-13Ruined or toppled statue of a person or deity
14Great stone wall, intact, with tower fortifications spaced at one-mile intervals
15Great stone wall in ruins
16Great stone arch
18Intact circle of standing stones
19Ruined or toppled circle of standing stones
20Totem pole


Crumbling towers, ancient temples, and razed cities are perfect sites for adventures. Additionally, noting the existence of an old, crumbling wall that runs alongside a road, a sagging stone windmill on a hilltop, or a jumble of standing stones can add texture to your wilderness.


Settlements exist in places where food, water, farmland, and building materials are abundant. A civilized province roughly 50 miles across might have one city, a few rural towns, and a scattering of villages and trading posts. An uncivilized area might have a single trading post that stands at the edge of a wild frontier, but no larger settlements.

In addition to settlements, a province might contain ruined villages and towns that are either abandoned or serve as lairs for marauding bandits and monsters.


Strongholds provide the local population with protection in times of trouble. The number of strongholds in an area depends on the dominant society, the population, the strategic importance or vulnerability of the region, and the wealth of the land.

Weird Locales

Weird locales make the fantastic and the supernatural an intrinsic part of your wilderness adventures.

Weird Locales

Weird Locales
1-2Dead magic zone (similar to an antimagic field)
3Wild magic zone (roll on the Wild Magic Surge table in the Player's Handbook whenever a spell is cast within the zone)
4Boulder carved with talking faces
5Crystal cave that mystically answers questions
6Ancient tree containing a trapped spirit
8Battlefield where lingering fog occasionally assumes humanoid forms
10Permanent portal to another plane of existence
11Wishing well
12Giant crystal shard protruding from the ground
13Wrecked ship, which might be nowhere near water
15Haunted hill or barrow mound
16River ferry guided by a skeletal captain
17Field of petrified soldiers or other creatures
18Forest of petrified or awakened trees
19Canyon containing a dragons' graveyard
20Floating earth mote with a tower on it

Wilderness Survival

Adventuring in the wilderness presents a host of perils beyond the threats of monstrous predators and savage raiders.


You can pick weather to fit your campaign or roll on the Weather table to determine the weather for a given day, adjusting for the terrain and season as appropriate.


1-14normal for the season
15-17{@dice 1d4 × 10} degrees Fahrenheit colder than normal
18-20{@dice 1d4 × 10} degrees Fahrenheit hotter than normal


1-12no wind
13-17light wind
18-20strong wind


1-12no precipitation
13-17light rain or light snowfall
18-20heavy rain or heavy snowfall

Extreme Cold

Whenever the temperature is at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, a creature exposed to the cold must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of each hour or gain one level of {@condition exhaustion}. Creatures with resistance or immunity to cold damage automatically succeed on the saving throw, as do creatures wearing cold weather gear (thick coats, gloves, and the like) and creatures naturally adapted to cold climates.

Extreme Heat

When the temperature is at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a creature exposed to the heat and without access to drinkable water must succeed on a Constitution saving throw at the end of each hour or gain one level of {@condition exhaustion}. The DC is 5 for the first hour and increases by 1 for each additional hour.

Creatures wearing medium or heavy armor, or who are clad in heavy clothing, have disadvantage on the saving throw. Creatures with resistance or immunity to fire damage automatically succeed on the saving throw, as do creatures naturally adapted to hot climates.

Strong Wind

A strong wind imposes disadvantage on ranged weapon attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing. A strong wind also extinguishes open flames, disperses fog, and makes flying by nonmagical means nearly impossible. A flying creature in a strong wind must land at the end of its turn or fall.

A strong wind in a desert can create a sandstorm that imposes disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Heavy Precipitation

Everything within an area of heavy rain or heavy snowfall is lightly obscured, and creatures in the area have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight. Heavy rain also extinguishes open flames and imposes disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing.

High Altitude

Traveling at altitudes of 10,000 feet or higher above sea level is taxing for a creature that needs to breathe, because of the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. Each hour such a creature spends traveling at high altitude counts as 2 hours for the purpose of determining how long that creature can travel.

Breathing creatures can become acclimated to a high altitude by spending 30 days or more at this elevation. Breathing creatures can't become acclimated to elevations above 20,000 feet unless they are native to such environments.

Wilderness Hazards

This section describes a few examples of hazards that adventurers might encounter in the wilderness.

Some hazards, such as slippery ice and razorvine, require no ability check to spot. Others, such as defiled ground, are undetectable by normal senses.

The other hazards presented here can be identified with a successful Intelligence (Nature) check. Use the guidelines in chapter 8 to set an appropriate DC for any check made to spot or recognize a hazard.

Desecrated Ground

Some cemeteries and catacombs are imbued with the unseen traces of ancient evil. An area of desecrated ground can be any size, and a {@spell detect evil and good} spell cast within range reveals its presence.

Undead standing on desecrated ground have advantage on all saving throws.

A vial of {@item holy water (flask)|phb|holy water} purifies a 10-foot-square area of desecrated ground when sprinkled on it, and a {@spell hallow} spell purifies desecrated ground within its area.

Frigid Water

A creature can be immersed in frigid water for a number of minutes equal to its Constitution score before suffering any ill effects. Each additional minute spent in frigid water requires the creature to succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or gain one level of {@condition exhaustion}. Creatures with resistance or immunity to cold damage automatically succeed on the saving throw, as do creatures that are naturally adapted to living in ice-cold water.


A quicksand pit covers the ground in roughly a 10-foot square area and is usually 10 feet deep. When a creature enters the area, it sinks {@dice 1d4+1} feet into the quicksand and becomes restrained. At the start of each of the creature's turns, it sinks another {@dice 1d4} feet. As long as the creature isn't completely submerged in quicksand, it can escape by using its action and succeeding on a Strength check. The DC is 10 plus the number of feet the creature has sunk into the quicksand. A creature that is completely submerged in quicksand can't breathe (see the {@book suffocation|phb|8|suffocating} rules in the {@i Player's Handbook}).

A creature can pull another creature within its reach out of a quicksand pit by using its action and succeeding on a Strength check. The DC is 5 plus the number of feet the target creature has sunk into the quicksand.


Razorvine is a plant that grows in wild tangles and hedges. It also clings to the sides of buildings and other surfaces as ivy does. A 10-foot-high, 10-foot-wide, 5-foot-thick wall or hedge of razorvine has AC 11, 25 hit points, and immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and psychic damage.

When a creature comes into direct contact with razorvine for the first time on a turn, the creature must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or take 5 ({@dice 1d10}) slashing damage from the razorvine's bladelike thorns.

Slippery Ice

Slippery ice is difficult terrain. When a creature moves onto slippery ice for the first time on a turn, it must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or fall {@condition prone}.

Thin Ice

Thin ice has a weight tolerance of {@dice 3d10 × 10} pounds per 10-foot-square area. Whenever the total weight on an area of thin ice exceeds its tolerance, the ice in that area breaks. All creatures on broken ice fall through.


Characters can gather food and water as the party travels at a normal or slow pace. A foraging character makes a Wisdom (Survival) check whenever you call for it, with the DC determined by the abundance of food and water in the region.

Foraging DCs

Foraging DCs
Food and Water AvailabilityDC
Abundant food and water sources10
Limited food and water sources15
Very little, if any, food and water sources20

If multiple characters forage, each character makes a separate check. A foraging character finds nothing on a failed check. On a successful check, roll {@dice 1d6} + the character's Wisdom modifier to determine how much food (in pounds) the character finds, then repeat the roll for water (in gallons).

Food and Water

The food and water requirements noted in the Player's Handbook are for characters. Horses and other creatures require different quantities of food and water per day based on their size. Water needs are doubled if the weather is hot.

Food and Water Needs

Food and Water Needs
Creature SizeFood per DayWater per Day
Tiny1/4 pound1/4 gallon
Small1 pound1 gallon
Medium1 pound1 gallon
Large4 pounds4 gallons
Huge16 pounds16 gallons
Gargantuan64 pounds64 gallons

Becoming Lost

Unless they are following a path, or something like it, adventurers traveling in the wilderness run the risk of becoming lost. The party's navigator makes a Wisdom (Survival) check when you decide it's appropriate, against a DC determined by the prevailing terrain, as shown on the Wilderness Navigation table. If the party is moving at a slow pace, the navigator gains a +5 bonus to the check, and a fast pace imposes a -5 penalty. If the party has an accurate map of the region or can see the sun or stars, the navigator has advantage on the check.

If the Wisdom (Survival) check succeeds, the party travels in the desired direction without becoming lost. If the check fails, the party inadvertently travels in the wrong direction and becomes lost. The party's navigator can repeat the check after the party spends {@dice 1d6} hours trying to get back on course.

Wilderness Navigation

Wilderness Navigation
Forest, jungle, swamp, mountains, or open sea with overcast skies and no land in sight15
Arctic, desert, hills, or open sea with clear skies and no land in sight10
Grassland, meadow, farmland5


A village, town, or city makes an excellent backdrop for an adventure. The adventurers might be called on to track down a criminal who's gone into hiding, solve a murder, take out a gang of wererats or doppelgangers, or protect a settlement under siege.

When creating a settlement for your campaign, focus on the locations that are most relevant to the adventure. Don't worry about naming every street and identifying the inhabitants of every building; that way lies madness.

Random Settlements

The following tables allow you to quickly create a settlement. They assume that you've already determined its size and its basic form of government.

Race Relations

Race Relations
11-14Tension or rivalry
15-16Racial majority are conquerors
17Racial minority are rulers
18Racial minority are refugees
19Racial majority oppresses minority
20Racial minority oppresses majority

Ruler's Status

Ruler's Status
1-5Respected, fair, and just
6-8Feared tyrant
9Weakling manipulated by others
10Illegitimate ruler, simmering civil war
11Ruled or controlled by a powerful monster
12Mysterious, anonymous cabal
13Contested leadership, open fighting
14Cabal seized power openly
15Doltish lout
16On deathbed, claimants compete for power
17-18Iron-willed but respected
19-20Religious leader

Notable Traits

Notable Traits
1Canals in place of streets
2Massive statue or monument
3Grand temple
4Large fortress
5Verdant parks and orchards
6River divides town
7Major trade center
8Headquarters of a powerful family or guild
9Population mostly wealthy
10Destitute, rundown
11Awful smell (tanneries, open sewers)
12Center of trade for one specific good
13Site of many battles
14Site of a mythic or magical event
15Important library or archive
16Worship of all gods banned
17Sinister reputation
18Notable library or academy
19Site of important tomb or graveyard
20Built atop ancient ruins

Known For Its...

Known For Its...
1Delicious cuisine
2Rude people
3Greedy merchants
4Artists and writers
5Great hero/savior
7Hordes of beggars
8Tough warriors
9Dark magic
16High fashion
17Political intrigue
18Powerful guilds
19Strong drink

Current Calamity

Current Calamity
1Suspected vampire infestation
2New cult seeks converts
3Important figure died (murder suspected)
4War between rival thieves' guilds
6Plague or famine (sparks riots)
7Corrupt officials
9Marauding monsters
10Powerful wizard has moved into town
11Economic depression (trade disrupted)
13Undead stirring in cemeteries
14Prophecy of doom
15Brink of war
16Internal strife (leads to anarchy)
17Besieged by enemies
18Scandal threatens powerful families
19Dungeon discovered (adventurers flock to town)
20Religious sects struggle for power

Random Buildings

Pulse-pounding chases and harrowing escapes within the confines of a town or city can sometimes force characters to dash into buildings. When you need to flesh out a building quickly, roll on the Building Type table. Then roll on the table corresponding to that building to add further detail.

If a roll makes no sense considering where the characters are (such as a lavish mansion in a rundown part of town), you can always roll again or simply choose another result. However, such unexpected results can prompt creativity and memorable locations that help make your urban encounters distinct.

Building Type

Building Type
1-10Residence (roll once on Residence table)
11-12Religious (roll once on Religious Building table)
13-15Tavern (roll once on the Tavern table and twice on the Tavern Name Generator Table)
16-17Warehouse (roll once on the Warehouse table)
18-20Shop (roll once on the Shop table)


1-2Abandoned squat
3-8Middle-class home
9-10Upper-class home
11-15Crowded tenement
18Hidden slavers' den
19Front for a secret cult
20Lavish, guarded mansion

Religious Building

Religious Building
1-10Temple to a good or neutral deity
11-12Temple to a false deity (run by charlatan priests)
13Home of ascetics
14-15Abandoned shrine
16-17Library dedicated to religious study
18-20Hidden shrine to a fiend or an evil deity


1-5Quiet, low-key bar
6-9Raucous dive
10Thieves' guild hangout
11Gathering place for a secret society
12-13Upper-class dining club
14-15Gambling den
16-17Caters to specific race or guild
18Members-only club

Tavern Name Generator

Tavern Name Generator
d20First PartSecond Part
1The SilverEel
2The GoldenDolphin
3The StaggeringDwarf
4The LaughingPegasus
5The PrancingPony
6The GildedRose
7The RunningStag
8The HowlingWolf
9The SlaughteredLamb
10The LeeringDemon
11The DrunkenGoat
12The LeapingSpirit
13The RoaringHorde
14The FrowningJester
15The LonelyMountain
16The WanderingEagle
17The MysteriousSatyr
18The BarkingDog
19The BlackSpider
20The GleamingStar


1-4Empty or abandoned
5-6Heavily guarded, expensive goods
7-10Cheap goods
11-14Bulk goods
15Live animals
18-19Goods from a distant land
20Secret smuggler's den


4Dried meats

Mapping a Settlement

When you draw a map for a settlement in your game, don't worry about the placement of every building, and concentrate instead on the major features.

For a village, sketch out the roads, including trade routes leading beyond the village and roads that connect outlying farms to the village center. Note the location of the village center. If the adventurers visit specific places in the village, mark those spots on your map.

For towns and cities, note major roads and waterways as well as surrounding terrain. Outline the walls and mark the locations of features you know will be important: the lord's keep, significant temples, and the like. For cities, add internal walls and think about the personality of each ward. Give the wards names reflecting their personalities, which also identify the kinds of trades that dominate the neighborhood (Tannery Square, Temple Row), a geographical characteristic (Hilltop, Riverside), or a dominant site (the Lords' Quarter).

Urban Encounters

Although they hold the promise of safety, cities and towns can be just as dangerous as the darkest dungeon. Evil hides in plain sight or in dark corners. Sewers, shadowy alleys, slums, smoke-filled taverns, dilapidated tenements, and crowded marketplaces can quickly turn into battlegrounds. On top of that, adventurers must learn to behave themselves, lest they attract unwanted attention from local authorities.

That said, characters who don't go looking for trouble can take advantage of all the benefits that a settlement has to offer.

Law and Order

Whether a settlement has a police force depends on its size and nature. A lawful, orderly city might have a city watch to maintain order and a trained militia to defend its walls, and a frontier town might rely on adventurers or its citizenry to apprehend criminals and fend off attackers.


In most settlements, trials are overseen by magistrates or local lords. Some trials are argued, with the conflicting parties or their advocates presenting precedent and evidence until the judge makes a decision, with or without the aid of spells or interrogation. Others are decided with a trial by ordeal or trial by combat. If the evidence against the accused is overwhelming, a magistrate or local lord can forgo a trial and skip right to the sentencing.


A settlement might have a jail to hold accused criminals awaiting trial, but few settlements have prisons to incarcerate convicted criminals. A person found guilty of a crime is usually fined, condemned to forced labor for a period of several months or years, exiled, or executed, depending on the magnitude of the crime.

Random Urban Encounters

The Random Urban Encounters table is useful for city—and town—based adventures. Check for a random encounter at least once per day, and once at night if the characters are out and about. Reroll the result if it doesn't make sense given the time of day.

Random Urban Encounters

Random Urban Encounters
d12 + d8Encounter
2Animals on the loose
12Found trinket
13Guard harassment
17Runaway cart
18Shady transaction

Animals on the Loose

The characters see one or more unexpected animals loose in the street. This challenge could be anything from a pack of baboons to an escaped circus bear, tiger, or elephant.


A herald, town crier, mad person, or other individual makes an announcement on a street corner for all to hear. The announcement might foreshadow some upcoming event (such as a public execution), communicate important information to the general masses (such as a new royal decree), or convey a dire omen or warning.


A brawl erupts near the adventurers. It could be a tavern brawl; a battle between rival factions, families, or gangs in the city; or a struggle between city guards and criminals. The characters could be witnesses, hit by stray arrow fire, or mistaken for members of one group and attacked by the other.


The characters witness {@dice 1d4 + 2} bullies harassing an out-of-towner (use the commoner statistics in the Monster Manual for all of them). A bully flees as soon as he or she takes any amount of damage.


One or more characters are approached by a local who takes a friendly interest in the party's activities. As a twist, the would-be companion might be a spy sent to gather information on the adventurers.


The adventurers are drawn into an impromptu contest-anything from an intellectual test to a drinking competition-or witness a duel.


The adventurers find a humanoid corpse.


The characters are drafted by a member of the city or town watch, who needs their help to deal with an immediate problem. As a twist, the member of the watch might be a disguised criminal trying to lure the party into an ambush (use the thug statistics in the Monster Manual for the criminal and his or her cohorts).


A tipsy drunk staggers toward a random party member, mistaking him or her for someone else.


A fire breaks out, and the characters have a chance to help put out the flames before it spreads.

Found Trinket

The characters find a random trinket.

You can determine the trinket by rolling on the Trinket stable in the {@i Player's Handbook}.

Guard Harassment

The adventurers are cornered by {@dice 1d4 + 1} guards eager to throw their weight around. If threatened, the guards call out for help and might attract the attention of other guards or citizens nearby.


A thief (use the spy statistics in the Monster Manual) tries to steal from a random character.

Characters whose passive Wisdom (Perception) scores are equal to or greater than the thief's Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check total catch the theft in progress.


The adventurers encounter a group of citizens either parading in celebration or forming a funeral procession.


The adventurers see a group of citizens peacefully protesting a new law or decree. A handful of guards maintain order.

Runaway Cart

A team of horses pulling a wagon races through the city streets. The adventurers must avoid the horses. If they stop the wagon, the owner (who is running behind the cart) is grateful.

Shady Transaction

The characters witness a shady transaction between two cloaked figures.


The characters witness a form of public entertainment, such as a talented bard's impersonation of a royal personage, a street circus, a puppet show, a flashy magic act, a royal visit, or a public execution.


A street urchin gloms onto the adventurers and follows them around until frightened off.

Unusual Environments

Traveling through the wilderness doesn't always mean an overland trek. Adventurers might ply the open sea in a caravel or an elemental-powered galleon, soar through the air on hippogriffs or a carpet of flying, or ride giant sea horses to coral palaces deep beneath the sea.


See chapter 9 of the Player's Handbook for rules on underwater combat.

Random Undersea Encounters

You can check for random undersea encounters as often as you would check for them on land (see chapter 3). The Random Undersea Encounters table presents several intriguing options. You can either roll on the table for a random result or choose whichever one works best.

Random Undersea Encounters

Random Undersea Encounters
d12 + d8Encounter
2Sunken ship covered in barnacles ({@chance 25} chance that the ship contains treasure—roll randomly on the treasure tables in chapter 7)
3Sunken ship with {@creature reef shark|MM|reef sharks} (shallow waters) or {@creature hunter shark|MM|hunter sharks} (deep waters) circling around it ({@chance 50} chance that the ship contains treasure—roll randomly on the treasure tables in chapter 7)
4Bed of giant oysters (each oyster has a {@chance 1} chance of having a giant 5,000 gp pearl inside)
5Underwater steam vent ({@chance 25} chance that the vent is a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire)
6Sunken ruin (uninhabited)
7Sunken ruin (inhabited or haunted)
8Sunken statue or monolith
9Friendly and curious {@creature giant sea horse}
10Patrol of friendly {@creature merfolk}
11Patrol of hostile {@creature merrow} (coastal waters) or {@creature sahuagin} (deep waters)
12Enormous kelp bed (roll again on the table to determine what's hidden in the kelp bed)
13Undersea cave (empty)
14Undersea cave ({@creature sea hag} lair)
15Undersea cave ({@creature merfolk} lair)
16Undersea cave ({@creature giant octopus} lair)
17Undersea cave ({@creature dragon turtle} lair)
18Bronze dragon searching for treasure
19{@creature Storm giant} walking on the ocean floor
20Sunken treasure chest ({@chance 25} chance that it contains something of value—roll treasure randomly using the tables in chapter 7)


Unless aided by magic, a character can't swim for a full 8 hours per day. After each hour of swimming, a character must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or gain one level of {@condition exhaustion}.

A creature that has a swimming speed—including a character with a ring of swimming or similar magic—can swim all day without penalty and uses the normal forced march rules in the {@i Player's Handbook}.

Swimming through deep water is similar to traveling at high altitudes, because of the water's pressure and cold temperature. For a creature without a swimming speed, each hour spent swimming at a depth greater than 100 feet counts as 2 hours for the purpose of determining {@condition exhaustion}. Swimming for an hour at a depth greater than 200 feet counts as 4 hours.

Underwater Visibility

Visibility underwater depends on water clarity and the available light. Unless the characters have light sources, use the Underwater Encounter Distance table to determine the distance at which characters underwater become aware of a possible encounter.

Underwater Encounter Distance

Underwater Encounter Distance
Creature SizeEncounter Distance
Clear water, bright light60 ft.
Clear water, dim light30 ft.
Murky water or no light10 ft.

The Sea

Characters can row a boat for 8 hours per day, or can row longer at the risk of {@condition exhaustion} (as per the rules for a forced march in chapter 8 of the Player's Handbook). A fully crewed sailing vessel can sail all day, assuming its sailors work in shifts.


Seagoing vessels stay close to shore when they can, because navigation is easier when landmarks are visible. As long as a ship is within sight of land, there is no chance of the vessel becoming lost. Otherwise, a ship's navigator must rely on dead reckoning (tracking the direction and distance of the ship's travel) or the sun and the stars.

Use the Wilderness Navigation table below to determine whether a ship veers off course.


A shipwreck is a plot device that can be used sparingly to great effect, particularly if you want the characters to be washed ashore on some monster-infested island or (in the case of an airship) dropped in the middle of some exotic land. There aren't rules for determining when a shipwreck happens; it happens when you want or need it to happen.

Even the strongest seafaring ship can founder in a storm, run aground on rocks or reefs, sink during a pirate attack, or be dragged underwater by a sea monster. A storm or hungry dragon can lay waste to an airship just as easily. A shipwreck has the potential to change the direction of a campaign. It isn't, however, a particularly good way to kill off characters or end a campaign.

If you and your campaign conspire to wreck a ship on which the characters are traveling, it is assumed that the characters survive with the equipment they were wearing or carrying still in their possession. The fate of any NPCs and cargo aboard the wrecked ship is entirely up to you.

Random Encounters at Sea

You can check for random encounters at sea as often as you would check for them on land (see chapter 3 for more information). The Random Encounters at Sea table presents a number of options and ideas

Random Encounters at Sea

Random Encounters at Sea
d12 + d8Encounter
2Ghost ship
3Friendly and curious bronze dragon
4Whirlpool ({@chance 25} chance that the whirlpool is a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water)
5{@creature Merfolk} traders
6Passing warship (friendly or hostile)
7-8Pirate ship (hostile)
9-10Passing merchant ship (galley or sailing ship)
11-12{@creature Killer whale} sighting
13-14Floating debris
15Longship crewed by hostile {@creature berserker|MM|berserkers}
16Hostile {@creature griffon|MM|griffons} or {@creature harpy|MM|harpies}
17Iceberg (easily avoided if seen from a distance)
18{@creature Sahuagin} boarding party
19NPC in the water (clinging to floating debris)
20Sea monster (such as a {@creature dragon turtle} or {@creature kraken})

Weather at Sea

Use the Weather table earlier in this chapter when checking for weather at sea.

If weather conditions indicate both a strong wind and heavy rain, they combine to create a storm with high waves. A crew caught in a storm loses sight of all landmarks (unless there's a lighthouse or other bright feature), and ability checks made to navigate during the storm have disadvantage.

In a dead calm (no wind), ships can't move under sail and must be rowed. A ship sailing against a strong wind moves at half speed.


A relatively calm sea offers great visibility. From a crow's nest, a lookout can spot another ship or a coastline up to 10 miles away, assuming clear skies. Overcast skies reduce that distance by half. Rain and fog reduce visibility just as they do on land.

Owning a Ship

At some point in your campaign, the adventurers might gain custody of a ship. They might purchase or capture one or receive one to carry out a mission. It's up to you whether a ship is available for purchase, and you have the power to deprive the adventurers of a ship at any time should it become a nuisance (see the "Shipwrecks" sidebar).


A ship needs a crew of skilled hirelings to function. As per the Player's Handbook, one skilled hireling costs at least 2 gp per day. The minimum number of skilled hirelings needed to crew a ship depends on the type of vessel, as shown in the Airborne and Waterborne Vehicles table.

You can track the loyalty of individual crew members or the crew as a whole using the optional loyalty rules in chapter 4. If at least half the crew becomes disloyal during a voyage, the crew turns hostile and stages a mutiny. If the ship is berthed, disloyal crew members leave the ship and never return.


The table indicates the number of Small and Medium passengers the ship can accommodate.

Accommodations consist of shared hammocks in tight quarters. A ship outfitted with private accommodations can carry one-fifth as many passengers.

A passenger is usually expected to pay 5 sp per day for a hammock, but prices can vary from ship to ship. A small private cabin usually costs 2 gp per day.


The table indicates the maximum tonnage each kind of ship can carry.

Damage Threshold

A ship has immunity to all damage unless it takes an amount of damage equal to or greater than its damage threshold, in which case it takes damage as normal. Any damage that fails to meet or exceed the damage threshold is considered superficial and doesn't reduce the ship's hit points.

Ship Repair

Repairs to a damaged ship can be made while the vessel is berthed. Repairing 1 hit point of damage requires 1 day and costs 20 gp for materials and labor.

Airborne and Waterborne Vehicles

Airborne and Waterborne Vehicles
ShipCostSpeedCrewPassengersCargo (tons)ACHPDamage Threshold
Airship20,000 gp8 mph1020113300-
Galley30,000 gp4 mph80-1501550020
Keelboat3,000 gp1 mph161/21510010
Longship10,000 gp3 mph40150101530015
Rowboat50 gp1 1/2 mph13-1150-
Sailing ship10,000 gp2 mph20201001530015
Warship25,000 gp2 1/2 mph60602001550020

The Sky

Flying characters can move from one place to another in a relatively straight line, ignoring terrain and monsters that can't fly or that lack ranged attacks.

Flying by spell or magic item works the same as travel on foot, as described in the {@i Player's Handbook}. A creature that serves as a flying mount must rest 1 hour for every 3 hours it flies, and it can't fly for more than 9 hours per day. Thus, characters mounted on griffons (which have a flying speed of 80 feet) can travel at 8 miles per hour, covering 72 miles over 9 hours with two 1-hour-long rests over the course of the day. Mounts that don't tire (such as a flying construct) aren't subject to this limitation.

As adventurers travel through the air, check for random encounters as you normally would. Ignore any result that indicates a non-flying monster, unless the characters are flying close enough to the ground to be targeted by non-flying creatures making ranged attacks.

Characters have normal chances to spot creatures on the ground and can decide whether to engage them.


Traps can be found almost anywhere. One wrong step in an ancient tomb might trigger a series of scything blades, which cleave through armor and bone. The seemingly innocuous vines that hang over a cave entrance might grasp and choke anyone who pushes through them. A net hidden among the trees might drop on travelers who pass underneath. In the D&D game, unwary adventurers can fall to their deaths, be burned alive, or fall under a fusillade of poisoned darts.

A trap can be either mechanical or magical in nature. {@b Mechanical traps} include pits, arrow traps, falling blocks, water-filled rooms, whirling blades, and anything else that depends on a mechanism to operate. {@b Magic traps} are either magical device traps or spell traps. Magical device traps initiate spell effects when activated. Spell traps are spells such as glyph of warding and symbol that function as traps.

Traps in Play

When adventurers come across a trap, you need to know how the trap is triggered and what it does, as well as the possibility for the characters to detect the trap and to disable or avoid it.

Triggering a Trap

Most traps are triggered when a creature goes somewhere or touches something that the trap's creator wanted to protect. Common triggers include stepping on a pressure plate or a false section of floor, pulling a trip wire, turning a doorknob, and using the wrong key in a lock. Magic traps are often set to go off when a creature enters an area or touches an object. Some magic traps (such as the glyph of warding spell) have more complicated trigger conditions, including a password that prevents the trap from activating.

Detecting and Disabling a Trap

Usually, some element of a trap is visible to careful inspection. Characters might notice an uneven flagstone that conceals a pressure plate, spot the gleam of light off a trip wire, notice small holes in the walls from which jets of flame will erupt, or otherwise detect something that points to a trap's presence.

A trap's description specifies the checks and DCs needed to detect it, disable it, or both. A character actively looking for a trap can attempt a Wisdom (Perception) check against the trap's DC. You can also compare the DC to detect the trap with each character's passive Wisdom (Perception) score to determine whether anyone in the party notices the trap in passing. If the adventurers detect a trap before triggering it, they might be able to disarm it, either permanently or long enough to move past it. You might call for an Intelligence (Investigation) check for a character to deduce what needs to be done, followed by a Dexterity check using {@item thieves' tools|phb} to perform the necessary sabotage.

Any character can attempt an Intelligence (Arcana) check to detect or disarm a magic trap, in addition to any other checks noted in the trap's description. The DCs are the same regardless of the check used. In addition, dispel magic has a chance of disabling most magic traps. A magic trap's description provides the DC for the ability check made when you use dispel magic.

In most cases, a trap's description is clear enough that you can adjudicate whether a character's actions locate or foil the trap. As with many situations, you shouldn't allow die rolling to override clever play and good planning. Use your common sense, drawing on the trap's description to determine what happens. No trap's design can anticipate every possible action that the characters might attempt.

You should allow a character to discover a trap without making an ability check if an action would clearly reveal the trap's presence. For example, if a character lifts a rug that conceals a pressure plate, the character has found the trigger and no check is required.

Foiling traps can be a little more complicated. Consider a trapped treasure chest. If the chest is opened without first pulling on the two handles set in its sides, a mechanism inside fires a hail of poison needles toward anyone in front of it. After inspecting the chest and making a few checks, the characters are still unsure if it's trapped. Rather than simply open the chest, they prop a shield in front of it and push the chest open at a distance with an iron rod. In this case, the trap still triggers, but the hail of needles fires harmlessly into the shield.

Traps are often designed with mechanisms that allow them to be disarmed or bypassed. Intelligent monsters that place traps in or around their lairs need ways to get past those traps without harming themselves. Such traps might have hidden levers that disable their triggers, or a secret door might conceal a passage that goes around the trap.

Trap Effects

The effects of traps can range from inconvenient to deadly, making use of elements such as arrows, spikes, blades, poison, toxic gas, blasts of fire, and deep pits. The deadliest traps combine multiple elements to kill, injure, contain, or drive off any creature unfortunate enough to trigger them. A trap's description specifies what happens when it is triggered.

The attack bonus of a trap, the save DC to resist its effects, and the damage it deals can vary depending on the trap's severity. Use the Trap Save DCs and Attack Bonuses table and the Damage Severity by Level table for suggestions based on three levels of trap severity.

A trap intended to be a {@b setback} is unlikely to kill or seriously harm characters of the indicated levels, whereas a {@b dangerous} trap is likely to seriously injure (and potentially kill) characters of the indicated levels. A {@i deadly} trap is likely to kill characters of the indicated levels.

Trap Save DCs and Attack Bonuses

Trap Save DCs and Attack Bonuses
Trap DangerSave DCAttack Bonus
Setback10-11+3 to +5
Dangerous12-15+6 to +8
Deadly16-20+9 to +12

Damage Severity by Level

Damage Severity by Level
Character LevelSetbackDangerousDeadly
1st-4th{@dice 1d10}{@dice 2d10}{@dice 4d10}
5th-10th{@dice 2d10}{@dice 4d10}{@dice 10d10}
11th-16th{@dice 4d10}{@dice 10d10}{@dice 18d10}
17th-20th{@dice 10d10}{@dice 18d10}{@dice 24d10}

Complex Traps

Complex traps work like standard traps, except once activated they execute a series of actions each round. A complex trap turns the process of dealing with a trap into something more like a combat encounter.

When a complex trap activates, it rolls initiative. The trap's description includes an initiative bonus. On its turn, the trap activates again, often taking an action. It might make successive attacks against intruders, create an effect that changes over time, or otherwise produce a dynamic challenge. Otherwise, the complex trap can be detected and disabled or bypassed in the usual ways.

For example, a trap that causes a room to slowly flood works best as a complex trap. On the trap's turn, the water level rises. After several rounds, the room is completely flooded.

Sample Traps

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Between Adventures

A campaign is much more than a series of adventures. It also includes the moments between them-the various distractions and side pursuits that engage the characters when they're not exploring the wilderness, plundering dungeons, and gallivanting around the multiverse on some epic quest.

The natural pace of a campaign offers lulls between adventures, time for the characters to spend their treasure and pursue their goals. This downtime gives the characters an opportunity to sink their roots a little deeper into the world, building a personal investment in what happens to the people and places around them, which can, in turn, draw them into further adventures.

Chapter 5, "Equipment," of the {@i Player's Handbook} details the expenses that a character incurs for basic necessities, depending on the lifestyle the character chooses, from poverty to luxury. Chapter 8, "Adventuring," of that book describes some of the downtime activities they can pursue between adventures. This chapter fills in the gaps, describing the expenses of owning property and hiring NPCs, and a variety of additional downtime activities characters can pursue. The beginning of the chapter also offers suggestions for linking adventures together and keeping track of events in your campaign.

Linking Adventures

A campaign in the style of an episodic television show rarely needs story links between its adventures. Each adventure features its own villains, and once the characters complete the adventure, there are typically no loose plot threads. The next adventure presents an altogether different challenge having nothing to do with the adventure that preceded it. As the characters gain experience points, they become more powerful, as do the threats they must overcome. This kind of campaign is easy to run, since it requires little effort beyond finding or creating adventures appropriate for the party's level.

A campaign with a narrative lets the players feel as though their actions have far-reaching consequences. They're not just racking up experience points. A few simple modifications can help you overlay overarching elements to create a serialized campaign in which early adventures help set up later ones.

Using an Overarching Story

This section presents a couple of examples of overarching stories which have, over the years, fueled many classic D&D campaigns.

The adventurers' goal in the first example is to amass the power they need to defeat a powerful enemy that threatens the world. Their goal in the second example is to defend something they care about by destroying whatever threatens it.

The two examples are, in effect, the same story (variations of the battle between good and evil) told in different ways.

Example 1: The Quest of Many Parts

You can tie adventures together using an overarching goal that can be fulfilled only by first completing a series of related quests. For example, you could create a villain who can't be defeated until the characters explore nine dungeons in which the Nine Dread Princes reside, with each of these dungeons stocked with enough monsters and hazards to advance the adventurers two or three levels. The adventurers spend their whole careers fighting the Nine Dread Princes before finally pursuing an epic quest to destroy the princes' monstrous progenitor. As long as every dungeon is unique and interesting, your players will appreciate the tight focus of the campaign.

In a similar type of quest campaign, the adventurers might need to collect fragments of an artifact that are scattered in ruins across the multiverse, before reassembling the artifact and using it to defeat a cosmic threat.

Example 2: Agents of X

You can also build a campaign around the idea that the adventurers are agents of something larger than themselves-a kingdom or secret organization, for example. Wherever their allegiance lies, the adventurers are motivated by loyalty and the goal of protecting whatever it is they serve.

The characters' overarching mission might be to explore and map an uncharted region, forging alliances where they can and overcoming threats they encounter along the way. Their goal might be to find the ancient capital of a fallen empire, which lies beyond the realm of a known enemy and forces them to navigate hostile territory. The characters could be pilgrims in search of a holy site or members of a secret order dedicated to defending the last bastions of civilization in an ever-declining world. Or they might be spies and assassins, striving to weaken an enemy country by targeting its evil leaders and plundering its treasures.

Planting Adventure Seeds

You can make a campaign feel like one story with many chapters by planting the seeds of the next adventure before the current one is finished. This technique can naturally moves the characters along to their next goal.

If you've planted a seed well, the characters have something else to do when they finish an adventure. Perhaps a character drinks from a magic fountain in a dungeon and receives a mystifying vision that leads to the next quest. The party might find a cryptic or relic that, once its meaning or purpose is determined, points to a new destination. Perhaps an NPC warns the characters of impending danger or implores them for help.

The trick is to not distract the characters from the adventure at hand. Designing an effective hook for a future adventure requires finesse. The lure should be compelling, but not so irresistible that the players stop caring about what their characters are doing right now.

To keep players from straying, save your best ideas for the very end of your adventures, or insert them during periods of downtime.

Here are a few examples of ways in which an adventure seed can be revealed:


Foreshadowing is an exercise in subtlety, involving the delicate planting of seeds for future adventures. Not all foreshadowing bears fruit, particularly if the clues are too subtle or if events conspire to take your campaign in a new direction. The goal of foreshadowing is to hint at upcoming events and new threats in your campaign without making it obvious to players that you're telling them what the future holds. Here are a few examples:

Campaign Tracking

Consistent details bring your campaign to life, and continuity helps players imagine that their characters are living in a real world. If the adventurers frequent a particular tavern, the staff, layout of the building, and decor shouldn't change much from one visit to the next. That said, changes can occur as a result of the characters' actions or of actions they learn about. When the adventurers kill a monster, it stays dead, unless someone raises it. When they remove treasure from a room, it doesn't reappear the next time they enter—assuming it hasn't been stolen from them! If they leave a door open, it should stay open until someone closes it. No one's memory is infallible, so it pays to keep records. Jot notes directly on an adventure map to keep track of open doors, disarmed traps, and the like. Events beyond the scope of a single adventure are best recorded in a notebook dedicated to your campaign.

Whether it's a physical book or an electronic file, such a record is a great way to keep your notes organized.

Your notebook might include any of the following elements.

Campaign Planner

Write down the main story arc of your campaign, and keep track of things that you hope appear in future adventures. Update it as the campaign develops, adding ideas as they come to you.

Character Notes

Write down the characters' backgrounds and goals, since these notes can help you design adventure content that provides opportunities for character development.

Keep a running tally of the adventurers' classes and levels, as well as any quests and downtime activities they're engaged in.

If the characters have a ship or stronghold, record its name and whereabouts, as well as any hirelings in the characters' employ.

Player Handouts

Keep a copy of all handouts you make for your players so that you don't have to remember their contents later.

Adventure Log

Think of this log as an episode guide for your campaign. Summarize each game session or adventure to help you keep track of the unfolding campaign story. You can give your players access to this log as well, or to an edited version stripped of your notes and secrets. (The players might also keep their own record of adventures, which you can refer to if your own log is incomplete.)

NPC Notes

Record statistics and roleplaying notes for any NPC the characters interact with more than once. For example, your notes might differentiate important people in a town by their different voices, as well as their names, the places where they live and work, the names of their family members and associates, and maybe even a secret that each one of them has.

Campaign Calendar

Your world feels more real to your players when the characters notice the passage of time. Note details such as the change of seasons and major holidays, and keep track of any important events that affect the larger story.


Keep notes whenever you create or significantly alter a monster, magic item, or trap. Keep any maps, random dungeons, or encounters you create. This information ensures you won't repeat your work, and you'll be able to draw on this material later.

Recurring Expenses

Besides the expenses associated with maintaining a particular lifestyle, adventurers might have additional drains on their adventuring income. Player characters who come into possession of property, own businesses, and employ hirelings must cover the expenses that accompany these ventures.

Maintenance Costs

Maintenance Costs
PropertyTotal Cost per DaySkilled HirelingsUntrained Hirelings
Abbey20 gp525
Farm5 sp12
Guildhall, town or city5 gp53
Inn, rural roadside10 gp510
Inn, town or city5 gp15
Keep or small castle100 gp5050
Lodge, hunting5 sp1-
Noble estate10 gp315
Outpost or fort50 gp2040
Palace or large castle400 gp200100
Shop2 gp1-
Temple, large25 gp1010
Temple, small1 gp2-
Tower, fortified25 gp10-
Trading post10 gp42

It's not unusual for adventurers-especially after 10th level-to gain possession of a castle, a tavern, or another piece of property. They might buy it with their hard-won loot, take it by force, obtain it in a lucky draw from a {@i deck of many things}, or acquire it by other means.

The Maintenance Costs table shows the per-day upkeep cost for any such property. (The cost of a normal residence isn't included here because it falls under lifestyle expenses, as discussed in the {@i Player's Handbook}.) Maintenance expenses need to be paid every 30 days. Given that adventurers spend much of their time adventuring, staff includes a steward who can make payments in the party's absence.

Total Cost per Day

The cost includes everything it takes to maintain the property and keep things running smoothly, including the salaries of hirelings. If the property earns money that can offset maintenance costs(by charging fees, collecting tithes or donations, or selling goods), that is taken into account in the table.

Skilled and Untrained Hirelings

The {@i Player's Handbook} explains the difference between a skilled hireling and an untrained one.


An adventurer-owned business can earn enough money to cover its own maintenance costs. However, the owner needs to periodically ensure that everything is running smoothly by tending to the business between adventures. See the information on running a business in the "Downtime Activities" section of this chapter.


Castles and keeps employ soldiers (use the veteran and guard statistics in the Monster Manual) to defend them. Roadside inns, outposts and forts, palaces, and temples rely on less-experienced defenders (use the guard statistics in the Monster Manual). These armed warriors make up the bulk of a property's skilled hirelings.

Downtime Activities

The campaign benefits when characters have time between adventures to engage in other activities. Allowing days, weeks, or months to pass between adventures stretches the campaign over a longer period of time and helps to manage the characters' level progression, preventing them from gaining too much power too quickly.

Allowing characters to pursue side interests between adventures also encourages players to become more invested in the campaign world. When a character owns a tavern in a village or spends time carousing with the locals, that character's player is more likely to respond to threats to the village and its inhabitants.

As your campaign progresses, your players' characters will not only become more powerful but also more influential and invested in the world. They might be inclined to undertake projects that require more time between adventures, such as building and maintaining a stronghold. As the party gains levels, you can add more downtime between adventures to give characters the time they need to pursue such interests. Whereas days or weeks might pass between low-level adventures, the amount of downtime between higher-level adventures might be measured in months or years.

More Downtime Activities

Chapter 8, "Adventuring," of the {@i Player's Handbook} describes a few downtime activities to fill the void between adventures. Depending on the style of your campaign and the particular backgrounds and interests of the adventurers, you can make some or all of the following additional activities available as options.

Building a Stronghold

A character can spend time between adventures building a stronghold. Before work can begin, the character must acquire a plot of land. If the estate lies within a kingdom or similar domain, the character will need a royal charter (a legal document granting permission to oversee the estate in the name of the crown), a land grant (a legal document bequeathing custody of the land to the character for as long as he or she remains loyal to the crown), or a deed (a legal document that serves as proof of ownership). Land can also be acquired by inheritance or other means.

Royal charters and land grants are usually given by the crown as a reward for faithful service, although they can also be bought. Deeds can be bought or inherited. A small estate might sell for as little as 100 gp or as much as 1,000 gp. A large estate might cost 5,000 gp or more, if it can be bought at all.

Once the estate is secured, a character needs access to building materials and laborers. The Building a Stronghold table shows the cost of building the stronghold (including materials and labor) and the amount of time it takes, provided that the character is using downtime to oversee construction. Work can continue while the character is away, but each day the character is away adds 3 days to the construction time.

Building a Stronghold

Building a Stronghold
StrongholdConstruction CostConstruction Time
Abbey50,000 gp400 days
Guildhall, town or city5,000 gp60 days
Keep or small castle50,000 gp400 days
Noble estate with manor25,000 gp150 days
Outpost or fort15,000 gp100 days
Palace or large castle500,000 gp1,200 days
Temple50,000 gp400 days
Tower, fortified15,000 gp100 days
Trading post5,000 gp60 days


Characters can spend their downtime engaged in a variety of hedonistic activities such as attending parties, binge drinking, gambling, or anything else that helps them cope with the perils they face on their adventures.

A carousing character spends money as though maintaining a wealthy lifestyle (see chapter 5, "Equipment," of the {@i Player's Handbook}). At the end of the period spent carousing, the player rolls percentile dice and adds the character's level, then compares the total to the Carousing table to determine what happens to the character, or you choose.


d100 + LevelResult
01-10You are jailed for {@dice 1d4} days at the end of the downtime period on charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. You can pay a fine of 10 gp to avoid jail time, or you can try to resist arrest.
11-20You regain consciousness in a strange place with no memory of how you got there, and you have been robbed of {@dice 3d6 × 5} gp.
21-30You make an enemy. This person, business, or organization is now hostile to you. The DM determines the offended party. You decide how you offended them.
31-40You are caught up in a whirlwind romance. You determine the identity of the love interest, subject to your DM's approval. If the romance ends badly, you might gain a new flaw. If it ends well or is ongoing, your new love interest might represent a new bond. Roll on the Whirlwind Romance table)
41-80You earn modest winnings from gambling and recuperate your lifestyle expenses for the time spent carousing.
81-90You earn modest winnings from gambling. You recuperate your lifestyle expenses for the time spent carousing and gain {@dice 1d20 × 4} gp.
91-100You make a small fortune gambling. You recuperate your lifestyle expenses for the time spent carousing and gain {@dice 4d6 × 10} gp. Your carousing becomes the stuff of local legend.

Crafting a Magic Item

Magic items are the DM's purview, so you decide how they fall into the party's possession. As an option, you can allow player characters to craft magic items.

The creation of a magic item is a lengthy, expensive task. To start, a character must have a formula that describes the construction of the item. The character must also be a spellcaster with spell slots and must be able to cast any spells that the item can produce.

Moreover, the character must meet a level minimum determined by the item's rarity, as shown in the Crafting Magic Items table. For example, a 3rd-level character could create a wand of magic missiles (an uncommon item), as long as the character has spell slots and can cast magic missile. That same character could make a +1 weapon (another uncommon item), no particular spell required.

You can decide that certain items also require special materials or locations to be created. For example, a character might need {@item alchemist's supplies|phb} to brew a particular potion, or the formula for a flame tongue might require that the weapon be forged with lava.

Crafting Magic Items

Crafting Magic Items
Item RarityCreation CostMinimum Level
Common100 gp3rd
Uncommon500 gp3rd
Rare5,000 gp6th
Very rare50,000 gp11th
Legendary500,000 gp17th

An item has a creation cost specified in the Crafting Magic Items table (half that cost for a consumable, such as a potion or scroll). A character engaged in the crafting of a magic item makes progress in 25 gp increments, spending that amount for each day of work until the total cost is paid. The character is assumed to work for 8 hours each of those days. Thus, creating an uncommon magic item takes 20 days and 500 gp. You are free to adjust the costs to better suit your campaign.

If a spell will be produced by the item being created, the creator must expend one spell slot of the spell's level for each day of the creation process. The spell's material components must also be at hand throughout the process. If the spell normally consumes those components, they are consumed by the creation process.

If the item will be able to produce the spell only once, as with a spell scroll, the components are consumed only once by the process. Otherwise, the components are consumed once each day of the item's creation.

Multiple characters can combine their efforts to create a magic item if each of them meets the level prerequisite. Each character can contribute spells, spell slots, and components, as long as everyone participates during the entire crafting process. Each character can contribute 25 gp worth of effort for each day spent helping to craft the item.

Normally, a character who undertakes this activity creates a magic item described in chapter 7, "Treasure." At your discretion, you can allow players to design their own magic items, using the guidelines in chapter 9, "Dungeon Master's Workshop."

While crafting a magic item, a character can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay the 1 gp per day, or a comfortable lifestyle at half the normal cost (see chapter 5, "Equipment," of the Player's Handbook).

Gaining Renown

A character can spend downtime improving his or her renown within a particular organization (see "Renown" in chapter 1). Between adventures, a character undertakes minor tasks for the organization and socializes with its members. After pursuing these activities for a combined number of days equal to his or her current renown multiplied by 10, the character's renown increases by 1.

Performing Sacred Rites

A pious character can spend time between adventures performing sacred rites in a temple affiliated with a god he or she reveres. Between rites, the character spends time in meditation and prayer.

A character who is a priest in the temple can lead these rites, which might include weddings, funerals, and ordinations. A layperson can offer sacrifices in a temple or assist a priest with a rite.

A character who spends at least 10 days performing sacred rites gains inspiration (described in chapter 4 of the Player's Handbook) at the start of each day for the next {@dice 2d6} days.

Running a Business

Adventurers can end up owning businesses that have nothing to do with delving into dungeons or saving the world. A character might inherit a smithy, or the party might be given a parcel of farmland or a tavern as a reward. If they hold on to the business, they might feel obliged to spend time between adventures maintaining the venture and making sure it runs smoothly.

A character rolls percentile dice and adds the number of days spent on this downtime activity (maximum 30), then compares the total to the Running a Business table to determine what happens.

If the character is required to pay a cost as a result of rolling on this table but fails to do so, the business begins to fail. For each unpaid debt incurred in this manner, the character takes a -10 penalty to subsequent rolls made on this table.

Running a Business

Running a Business
d100 + DaysResult
01-20You must pay one and a half times the business's maintenance cost for each of the days.
21-30You must pay the business's full maintenance cost for each of the days.
31-40You must pay half the business's maintenance cost for each of the days. Profits cover the other half.
41-60The business covers its own maintenance cost for each of the days.
61-80The business covers its own maintenance cost for each of the days. It earns a profit of {@dice 1d6 × 5} gp.
81-90The business covers its own maintenance cost for each of the days. It earns a profit of {@dice 2d8 × 5} gp.
91-100The business covers its own maintenance cost for each of the days. It earns a profit of {@dice 3d10 × 5} gp.

Selling Magic Items

Few people can afford to buy a magic item, and fewer still know how to find one. Adventurers are exceptional in this regard due to the nature of their profession.

A character who comes into possession of a common, uncommon, rare, or very rare magic item that he or she wants to sell can spend downtime searching for a buyer. This downtime activity can be performed only in a city or another location where one can find wealthy individuals interested in buying magic items. Legendary magic items and priceless artifacts can't be sold during downtime. Finding someone to buy such an item can be the substance of an adventure or quest.

For each salable item, the character makes a DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check to find buyers. Another character can use his or her downtime to assist with the search, granting advantage on the checks. On a failed check, no buyer for the item is found after a search that lasts 10 days. On a successful check, a buyer for the item is found after a number of days based on the item's rarity, as shown in the Salable Magic Item table.

A character can attempt to find buyers for multiple magic items at once. Although this requires multiple Intelligence (Investigation) checks, the searches are occurring simultaneously, and the results of multiple failures or successes aren't added together. For example, if the character finds a buyer for a common magic item in 2 days and a buyer for an uncommon item in 5 days, but fails to find a buyer for a rare item up for grabs, the entire search takes 10 days.

For each item a character wishes to sell, the player rolls percentile dice and consults the Selling a Magic Item table, applying a modifier based on the item's rarity, as shown in the Salable Magic Items table. The character also makes a Charisma (Persuasion) check and adds that check's total to the roll. The subsequent total determines what a buyer offers to pay for the item.

You determine a buyer's identity. Buyers sometimes procure rare and very rare items through proxies to ensure that their identities remain unknown. If the buyer is shady, it's up to you whether the sale creates legal complications for the party later.

Salable Magic Items

Salable Magic Items
RarityBase PriceDays to Find Buyerd100 Roll Modifier*
Common100 gp{@dice 1d4}+10
Uncommon500 gp{@dice 1d6}+0
Rare5,000 gp{@dice 1d8}-10
Very rare50,000 gp{@dice 1d10}-20

Selling a Magic Item

Selling a Magic Item
d100 + ModYou Find...
20 or lowerA buyer offering a tenth of the base price
21-40A buyer offering a quarter of the base price, and a shady buyer offering half the base price
41-80A buyer offering half the base price, and a shady buyer offering the full base price
81-90A buyer offering the full base price
91 or higherA shady buyer offering one and a half times the base price, no questions asked

Sowing Rumors

Swaying public opinion can be an effective way to bring down a villain or elevate a friend. Spreading rumors is an efficient, if underhanded, way to accomplish that goal. Well-placed rumors can increase the subject's standing in a community or embroil someone in scandal. A rumor needs to be simple, concrete, and hard to disprove. An effective rumor also has to be believable, playing off what people want to believe about the person in question.

Sowing a rumor about an individual or organization requires a number of days depending on the size of the community, as shown in the Sowing Rumors table. In a town or city, the time spent must be continuous. If the character spreads a rumor for ten days, disappears on an adventure for another few days and then returns, the rumor fades away without the benefit of constant repetition.

Sowing Rumors

Sowing Rumors
Settlement SizeTime Required
Village{@dice 2d6} days
Town{@dice 4d6} days
City{@dice 6d6} days

The character must spend 1 gp per day to cover the cost of drinks, social appearances, and the like. At the end of the time spent sowing the rumor, the character must make a DC 15 Charisma (Deception or Persuasion) check. If the check succeeds, the community's prevailing attitude toward the subject shifts one step toward friendly or hostile, as the character wishes. If the check fails, the rumor gains no traction, and further attempts to propagate it fail.

Shifting a community's general attitude toward a person or organization doesn't affect everyone in the community. Individuals might hold to their own opinions, particularly if they have personal experience in dealing with the subject of the rumors.

Training to Gain Levels

As a variant rule, you can require characters to spend downtime training or studying before they gain the benefits of a new level. If you choose this option, once a character has earned enough experience points to attain a new level, he or she must train for a number of days before gaining any class features associated with the new level.

The training time required depends on the level to be gained, as shown on the Training to Gain Levels table.

The training cost is for the total training time.

Training to Gain Levels

Training to Gain Levels
Level AttainedTraining TimeTraining Cost
2nd-4th10 days20 gp
5th-10th20 days40 gp
11th-16th30 days60 gp
17th-20th40 days80 gp

Creating Downtime Activities

Your players might be interested in pursuing downtime activities that aren't covered in this chapter or in the Player's Handbook. If you invent new downtime activities, remember the following:


Adventurers strive for many things, including glory, knowledge, and justice.

Many adventurers also seek something more tangible: fortune. Strands of golden chains, stacks of platinum coins, bejeweled crowns, enameled scepters, bolts of silk cloth, and powerful magic items all wait to be seized or unearthed by intrepid, treasure-seeking adventurers.

This chapter details magic items and the placement of treasure in an adventure, as well as special rewards that can be granted instead of or in addition to magic items and mundane treasure.

Types of Treasure

Treasure comes in many forms.


The most basic type of treasure is money, including copper pieces (cp), silver pieces (sp), electrum pieces (ep), gold pieces (gp), and platinum pieces (pp). Fifty coins of any type weigh 1 pound.


Gemstones are small, lightweight, and easily secured compared to their same value in coins.

See the "Gemstones" section for types of stones, gems, and jewels that can be found as treasure.

Art Objects

Idols cast of solid gold, necklaces studded with precious stones, paintings of ancient kings, bejeweled dishes-art objects include all these and more. See the "Art Objects" section for types of decorative and valuable artworks that can be found as treasure.

Magic Items

Types of magic items include armor, potions, scrolls, rings, rods, staffs, wands, weapons, and wondrous items. Magic items also have rarities: common, uncommon, rare, very rare, and legendary.

Intelligent monsters often use magic items in their possession, while others might hide them away to ensure they don't get lost or stolen. For example, if a hobgoblin tribe has a +1 longsword and an alchemy jug in its treasure hoard, the tribe's warlord might wield the sword, while the jug is kept somewhere safe.

Random Treasure

The following pages contain tables that you can use to randomly generate treasures carried by monsters, stashed in their lairs, or otherwise hidden away. The placement of treasure is left to your discretion. The key is to make sure the players feel rewarded for playing, and that their characters are rewarded for overcoming dangerous challenges.

{@note See the {@5etools Loot Generator|lootgen.html} page for an automated version of the tables below.}

Treasure Tables

Treasure can be randomly allocated based on a monster's challenge rating. There are tables for challenge rating 0-4, challenge rating 5-10, challenge rating 11-16, and challenge rating 17 and higher. Use these tables to randomly determine how much money an individual monster carries (the D&D equivalent of pocket change) or the amount of wealth found in a larger treasure hoard.

Using the Individual Treasure Tables

An Individual Treasure table helps you randomly determine how much treasure one creature carries on its person. If a monster has no interest in amassing treasure, you can use this table to determine the incidental treasure left behind by the monster's victims.

Use the Individual Treasure table that corresponds to the monster's challenge rating. Roll a {@dice d100}, and read the result across to determine how many coins of each type the monster carries. The table also includes the average result in parentheses, should you wish to forgo another roll and save time. To determine the total amount of individual treasure for a group of similar creatures, you can save time by rolling once and multiplying the result by the number of creatures in the group.

If it doesn't make sense for a monster to carry a large pile of coins, you can convert the coins into gemstones or art objects of equal value.

Individual Treasure: Challenge 0—4

Individual Treasure: Challenge 0—4
01-30{@dice 5d6} (17)
31-60{@dice 4d6} (14)
61-70{@dice 3d6} (10)
71-95{@dice 3d6} (10)
96-00{@dice 1d6} (3)

Individual Treasure: Challenge 5—10

Individual Treasure: Challenge 5—10
01-30{@dice 4d6 × 100} (1,400)
31-60{@dice 6d6 × 10} (210){@dice 2d6 × 10} (70)
61-70{@dice 3d6 × 10} (105){@dice 2d6 × 10} (70)
71-95{@dice 4d6 × 10} (140)
96-00{@dice 2d6 × 10} (70){@dice 3d6} (10)

Individual Treasure: Challenge 11—16

Individual Treasure: Challenge 11—16
01-20{@dice 4d6 × 100} (1,400){@dice 1d6 × 100} (350)
21-35{@dice 1d6 × 100} (350){@dice 1d6 × 100} (350)
36-75{@dice 2d6 × 100} (700){@dice 1d6 × 10} (35)
76-00{@dice 2d6 × 100} (700){@dice 2d6 × 10} (70)

Individual Treasure: Challenge 17+

Individual Treasure: Challenge 17+
01-15{@dice 2d6 × 1,000} (7,000){@dice 8d6 × 100} (2,800)
16-55{@dice 1d6 × 1,000} (3,500){@dice 1d6 × 100} (350)
56-00{@dice 1d6 × 1,000} (3,500){@dice 2d6 × 100} (700)

Using the Treasure Hoard Tables

A Treasure Hoard table helps you randomly determine the contents of a large cache of treasure, the accumulated wealth of a large group of creatures (such as an orc tribe or a hobgoblin army), the belongings of a single powerful creature that likes to hoard treasure (such as a dragon), or the reward bestowed upon a party after completing a quest for a benefactor. You can also split up a treasure hoard so that the adventurers don't find or receive it all at once.

When determining the contents of a hoard belonging to one monster, use the table that corresponds to that monster's challenge rating. When rolling to determine a treasure hoard belonging to a large group of monsters, use the challenge rating of the monster that leads the group. If the hoard belongs to no one, use the challenge rating of the monster that presides over the dungeon or lair you are stocking. If the hoard is a gift from a benefactor, use the challenge rating equal to the party's average level.

Every treasure hoard contains a random number of coins, as shown at the top of each table. Roll a {@dice d100} and consult the table to determine how many gemstones or art objects the hoard contains, if any. Use the same roll to determine whether the hoard contains magic items.

As with the individual treasure tables, average values are given in parentheses. You can use an average value instead of rolling dice to save time.

If a treasure hoard seems too small, you can roll multiple times on the table. Use this approach for monsters that are particularly fond of amassing treasure. Legendary creatures that accumulate treasure are wealthier than normal. Always roll at least twice on the appropriate table and add the results together.

You can hand out as much or as little treasure as you want. Over the course of a typical campaign, a party finds treasure hoards amounting to seven rolls on the Challenge 0-4 table, eighteen rolls on the Challenge 5-10 table, twelve rolls on the Challenge 11-16 table, and eight rolls on the Challenge 17+ table.

stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 0—4 [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 0—4 [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => [1] => CP [2] => SP [3] => EP [4] => GP [5] => PP ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-2 text-align-center [2] => col-2 text-align-center [3] => col-2 text-align-center [4] => col-2 text-align-center [5] => col-2 text-align-center ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => {@b Coins} [1] => {@dice 6d6 × 100} (2,100) [2] => {@dice 3d6 × 100} (1,050) [3] => — [4] => {@dice 2d6 × 10} (70) [5] => — ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d100 [1] => Gems or Art Objects [2] => Magic Items ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-3 [2] => col-9 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 01-06 [1] => — [2] => — ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 07-16 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 10 gp gems [2] => — ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 17-26 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => — ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 27-36 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 50 gp gems [2] => — ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 37-44 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 10 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table A. ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 45-52 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table A. ) [6] => Array ( [0] => 53-60 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table A. ) [7] => Array ( [0] => 61-65 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 10 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [8] => Array ( [0] => 66-70 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [9] => Array ( [0] => 71-75 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [10] => Array ( [0] => 76-78 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 10 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [11] => Array ( [0] => 79-80 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [12] => Array ( [0] => 81-85 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [13] => Array ( [0] => 86-92 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table F. ) [14] => Array ( [0] => 93-97 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table F. ) [15] => Array ( [0] => 98-99 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table G. ) [16] => Array ( [0] => 00 [1] => {@dice 2d6} (7) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table G. ) ) ) ) ) stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 5—10 [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 5—10 [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => [1] => CP [2] => SP [3] => EP [4] => GP [5] => PP ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-2 text-align-center [2] => col-2 text-align-center [3] => col-2 text-align-center [4] => col-2 text-align-center [5] => col-2 text-align-center ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => {@b Coins} [1] => {@dice 2d6 × 100} (700) [2] => {@dice 2d6 × 1,000} (7,000) [3] => — [4] => {@dice 6d6 × 100} (2,100) [5] => {@dice 3d6 × 10} (105) ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d100 [1] => Gems or Art Objects [2] => Magic Items ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-3 [2] => col-9 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 01-04 [1] => — [2] => — ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 05-10 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => — ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 11-16 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 50 gp gems [2] => — ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 17-22 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => — ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 23-28 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => — ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 29-32 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table A. ) [6] => Array ( [0] => 33-36 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table A. ) [7] => Array ( [0] => 37-40 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table A. ) [8] => Array ( [0] => 41-44 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table A. ) [9] => Array ( [0] => 45-49 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects. [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [10] => Array ( [0] => 50-54 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [11] => Array ( [0] => 55-59 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [12] => Array ( [0] => 60-63 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [13] => Array ( [0] => 64-66 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [14] => Array ( [0] => 67-69 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [15] => Array ( [0] => 70-72 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [16] => Array ( [0] => 73-74 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [17] => Array ( [0] => 75-76 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table D. ) [18] => Array ( [0] => 77-78 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table D. ) [19] => Array ( [0] => 79 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table D. ) [20] => Array ( [0] => 80 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table D. ) [21] => Array ( [0] => 81-84 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 25 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table F. ) [22] => Array ( [0] => 85-88 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 50 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table F. ) [23] => Array ( [0] => 89-91 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table F. ) [24] => Array ( [0] => 92-94 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table F. ) [25] => Array ( [0] => 95-96 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [26] => Array ( [0] => 97-98 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [27] => Array ( [0] => 99 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 100 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table H. ) [28] => Array ( [0] => 00 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table H. ) ) ) ) ) stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 11—16 [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 11—16 [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => [1] => CP [2] => SP [3] => EP [4] => GP [5] => PP ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-2 text-align-center [2] => col-2 text-align-center [3] => col-2 text-align-center [4] => col-2 text-align-center [5] => col-2 text-align-center ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => {@b Coins} [1] => — [2] => — [3] => — [4] => {@dice 4d6 × 1,000} (14,000) [5] => {@dice 5d6 × 100} (1,750) ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d100 [1] => Gems or Art Objects [2] => Magic Items ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-3 [2] => col-9 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 01-03 [1] => — [2] => — ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 04-06 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => — ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 07-09 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => — ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 10-12 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => — ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 13-15 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => — ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 16-19 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table A and {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [6] => Array ( [0] => 20-23 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table A and {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [7] => Array ( [0] => 24-26 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table A and {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [8] => Array ( [0] => 27-29 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table A and {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table B. ) [9] => Array ( [0] => 30-35 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [10] => Array ( [0] => 36-40 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [11] => Array ( [0] => 41-45 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table C.. ) [12] => Array ( [0] => 46-50 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [13] => Array ( [0] => 51-54 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [14] => Array ( [0] => 55-58 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [15] => Array ( [0] => 59-62 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [16] => Array ( [0] => 63-66 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [17] => Array ( [0] => 67-68 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table E. ) [18] => Array ( [0] => 69-70 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table E. ) [19] => Array ( [0] => 71-72 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table E. ) [20] => Array ( [0] => 73-74 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table E. ) [21] => Array ( [0] => 75-76 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table F and {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [22] => Array ( [0] => 77-78 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table F and {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [23] => Array ( [0] => 79-80 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table F and {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [24] => Array ( [0] => 81-82 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table F and {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [25] => Array ( [0] => 83-85 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [26] => Array ( [0] => 86-88 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [27] => Array ( [0] => 89-90 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [28] => Array ( [0] => 91-92 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [29] => Array ( [0] => 93-94 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 250 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table I. ) [30] => Array ( [0] => 95-96 [1] => {@dice 2d4} (5) 750 gp art objects [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table I. ) [31] => Array ( [0] => 97-98 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 500 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table I. ) [32] => Array ( [0] => 99-00 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll once on Magic Item Table I. ) ) ) ) ) stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 17+ [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Treasure Hoard: Challenge 17+ [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => [1] => CP [2] => SP [3] => EP [4] => GP [5] => PP ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-2 text-align-center [2] => col-2 text-align-center [3] => col-2 text-align-center [4] => col-2 text-align-center [5] => col-2 text-align-center ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => {@b Coins} [1] => — [2] => — [3] => — [4] => {@dice 12d6 × 1,000} (42,000) [5] => {@dice 8d6 × 1,000} (28,000) ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => d100 [1] => Gems or Art Objects [2] => Magic Items ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-3 [2] => col-9 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 01-02 [1] => — [2] => — ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 03-05 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d8} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 06-08 [1] => {@dice 1d10} (5) 2,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d8} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [3] => Array ( [0] => 09-11 [1] => {@dice 1d4} (2) 7,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d8} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [4] => Array ( [0] => 12-14 [1] => {@dice 1d8} (4) 5,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d8} times on Magic Item Table C. ) [5] => Array ( [0] => 15-22 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [6] => Array ( [0] => 23-30 [1] => {@dice 1d10} (5) 2,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [7] => Array ( [0] => 31-38 [1] => {@dice 1d4} (2) 7,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [8] => Array ( [0] => 39-46 [1] => {@dice 1d8} (4) 5,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table D. ) [9] => Array ( [0] => 47-52 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table E. ) [10] => Array ( [0] => 53-58 [1] => {@dice 1d10} (5) 2,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table E. ) [11] => Array ( [0] => 59-63 [1] => {@dice 1d4} (2) 7,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table E. ) [12] => Array ( [0] => 64-68 [1] => {@dice 1d8} (4) 5,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d6} times on Magic Item Table E. ) [13] => Array ( [0] => 69 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [14] => Array ( [0] => 70 [1] => {@dice 1d10} (5) 2,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [15] => Array ( [0] => 71 [1] => {@dice 1d4} (2) 7,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [16] => Array ( [0] => 72 [1] => {@dice 1d8} (4) 5,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table G. ) [17] => Array ( [0] => 73-74 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [18] => Array ( [0] => 75-76 [1] => {@dice 1d10} (5) 2,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [19] => Array ( [0] => 77-78 [1] => {@dice 1d4} (2) 7,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [20] => Array ( [0] => 79-80 [1] => {@dice 1d8} (4) 5,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table H. ) [21] => Array ( [0] => 81-85 [1] => {@dice 3d6} (10) 1,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table I. ) [22] => Array ( [0] => 86-90 [1] => {@dice 1d10} (5) 2,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table I. ) [23] => Array ( [0] => 91-95 [1] => {@dice 1d4} (2) 7,500 gp art objects [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table I. ) [24] => Array ( [0] => 96-00 [1] => {@dice 1d8} (4) 5,000 gp gems [2] => Roll {@dice 1d4} times on Magic Item Table I. ) ) ) ) )


If a treasure hoard includes gemstones, you can use the following tables to randomly determine the kind of gemstones found, based on their value. You can roll once and assume all the gems are the same, or roll multiple times to create mixed collections of gemstones.

10 gp Gemstones

10 gp Gemstones
d12Stone Description
1Azurite (opaque mottled deep blue)
2Banded agate (translucent striped brown, blue, white, or red)
3Blue quartz (transparent pale blue)
4Eye agate (translucent circles of gray, white, brown, blue, or green)
5Hematite (opaque gray-black)
6Lapis lazuli (opaque light and dark blue with yellow flecks)
7Malachite (opaque striated light and dark green)
8Moss agate (translucent pink or yellow-white with mossy gray or green markings)
9Obsidian (opaque black)
10Rhodochrosite (opaque light pink)
11Tiger eye (translucent brown with golden center)
12Turquoise (opaque light blue-green)

50 gp Gemstones

50 gp Gemstones
d12Stone Description
1Bloodstone (opaque dark gray with red flecks)
2Carnelian (opaque orange to red-brown)
3Chalcedony (opaque white)
4Chrysoprase (translucent green)
5Citrine (transparent pale yellow-brown)
6Jasper (opaque blue, black, or brown)
7Moonstone (translucent white with pale blue glow)
8Onyx (opaque bands of black and white, or pure black or white)
9Quartz (transparent white, smoky gray, or yellow)
10Sardonyx (opaque bands of red and white)
11Star rose quartz (translucent rosy stone with white star-shaped center)
12Zircon (transparent pale blue-green)

100 gp Gemstones

100 gp Gemstones
d10Stone Description
1Amber (transparent watery gold to rich gold)
2Amethyst (transparent deep purple)
3Chrysoberyl (transparent yellow-green to pale green)
4Coral (opaque crimson)
5Garnet (transparent red, brown-green, or violet)
6jade (translucent light green, deep green, or white)
7jet (opaque deep black)
8Pearl (opaque lustrous white, yellow, or pink)
9Spinel (transparent red, red-brown, or deep green)
10Tourmaline (transparent pale green, blue, brown, or red)

500 gp Gemstones

500 gp Gemstones
d6Stone Description
1Alexandrite (transparent dark green)
2Aquamarine (transparent pale blue-green)
3Black pearl (opaque pure black)
4Blue spinel (transparent deep blue)
5Peridot (transparent rich olive green)
6Topaz (transparent golden yellow)

1,000 gp Gemstones

1,000 gp Gemstones
d8Stone Description
1Black opal (translucent dark green with black mottling and golden flecks)
2Blue sapphire (transparent blue-white to medium blue)
3Emerald (transparent deep bright green)
4Fire opal (translucent fiery red)
5Opal (translucent pale blue with green and golden mottling)
6Star ruby (translucent ruby with white star-shaped center)
7Star sapphire (translucent blue sapphire with white star-shaped center)
8Yellow sapphire (transparent fiery yellow or yellow-green)

5,000 gp Gemstones

5,000 gp Gemstones
d4Stone Description
1Black sapphire (translucent lustrous black with glowing highlights)
2Diamond (transparent blue-white, canary, pink, brown, or blue)
3Jacinth (transparent fiery orange)
4Ruby (transparent clear red to deep crimson)

Art Objects

If a treasure hoard includes art objects, you can use the following tables to randomly determine what art objects are found, based on their value. Roll on a table as many times as there are art objects in the treasure hoard. There can be more than one of a given art object.

25 gp Art Objects

25 gp Art Objects
d12Stone Description
1Silver ewer
2Carved bone statuette
3Small gold bracelet
4Cloth-of-gold vestments
5Black velvet mask stitched with silver thread
6Copper chalice with silver filigree
7Pair of engraved bone dice
8Small mirror set in a painted wooden frame
9Embroidered silk handkerchief
10Gold locket with a painted portrait inside

250 gp Art Objects

250 gp Art Objects
d12Stone Description
1Gold ring set with bloodstones
2Carved ivory statuette
3Large gold bracelet
4Silver necklace with a gemstone pendant
5Bronze crown
6Silk robe with gold embroidery
7Large well-made tapestry
8Bra ss mug with jade inlay
9Box of turquoise animal figurines
10Gold bird cage with electrum filigree

750 gp Art Objects

750 gp Art Objects
d12Stone Description
1Silver chalice set with moonstones
2Silver-plated steel longsword with jet set in hilt
3Carved harp of exotic wood with ivory inlay and zircon gems
4Small gold idol
5Gold dragon comb set with red garnets as eyes
6Bottle stopper cork embossed with gold leaf and set with amethysts
7Ceremonial electrum dagger with a black pearl in the pommel
8Silver and gold brooch
9Obsidian statuette with gold fittings and inlay
10Painted gold war mask

2,500 gp Art Objects

2,500 gp Art Objects
d12Stone Description
1Fine gold chain set with a fire opal
2Old masterpiece painting
3Embroidered silk and velvet mantle set with numerous moonstones
4Platinum bracelet set with a sapphire
5Embroidered glove set with jewel chips
6jeweled anklet
7Gold music box
8Gold circlet set with four aquamarines
9Eye patch with a mock eye set in blue sapphire and moonstone
10A necklace string of small pink pearls

7,500 gp Art Objects

7,500 gp Art Objects
d12Stone Description
1Jeweled gold crown
2Jeweled platinum ring
3Small gold statuette set with rubies
4Gold cup set with emeralds
5Gold jewelry box with platinum filigree
6Painted gold child's sarcophagus
7jade game board with solid gold playing pieces
8Bejeweled ivory drinking horn with gold filigree

Magic Items

Magic items are gleaned from the hoards of conquered monsters or discovered in long-lost vaults. Such items grant capabilities a character could rarely have otherwise, or they complement their owner's capabilities in wondrous ways.


Each magic item has a rarity: common, uncommon, rare, very rare, or legendary. Common magic items, such as a potion of healing, are the most plentiful. Some legendary items, such as the apparatus of Kwalish, are unique. The game assumes that the secrets of creating the most powerful items arose centuries ago and were then gradually lost as a result of wars, cataclysms, and mishaps. Even uncommon items can't be easily created. Thus, many magic items are well-preserved antiquities.

Rarity provides a rough measure of an item's power relative to other magic items. Each rarity corresponds to character level, as shown in the Magic Item Rarity table. A character doesn't typically find a rare magic item, for example, until around 5th level. That said, rarity shouldn't get in the way of your campaign's story. If you want a {@i ring of invisibility} to fall into the hands of a 1st-level character, so be it. No doubt a great story will arise from that event.

If your campaign allows for trade in magic items, rarity can also help you set prices for them. As the DM, you determine the value of an individual magic item based on its rarity. Suggested values are provided in the Magic Item Rarity table. The value of a consumable item, such as a potion or scroll, is typically half the value of a permanent item of the same rarity.

Magic Item Rarity

Magic Item Rarity
RarityCharacter LevelValue
Common1st or higher50-100 gp
Uncommon1st or higher101-500 gp
Rare5th or higher501-5,000 gp
Very rare11th or higher5,001-50,000 gp
Legendary17th or higher50,001+ gp

Buying and Selling

Unless you decide your campaign works otherwise, most magic items are so rare that they aren't available for purchase. Common items, such as a potion of healing, can be procured from an alchemist, herbalist, or spellcaster. Doing so is rarely as simple as walking into a shop and selecting an item from a shelf. The seller might ask for a service, rather than coin.

In a large city with an academy of magic or a major temple, buying and selling magic items might be possible, at your discretion. If your world includes a large number of adventurers engaged in retrieving ancient magic items, trade in these items might be more common. Even so, it's likely to remain similar to the market for fine art in the real world, with invitation-only auctions and a tendency to attract thieves.

Selling magic items is difficult in most D&D worlds primarily because of the challenge of finding a buyer. Plenty of people might like to have a magic sword, but few of them can afford it. Those who can afford such an item usually have more practical things to spend on. See chapter 6, "Between Adventures," for one way to handle selling magic items.

In your campaign, magic items might be prevalent enough that adventurers can buy and sell them with some effort. Magic items might be for sale in bazaars or auction houses in fantastical locations, such as the City of Brass, the planar metropolis of Sigil, or even in more ordinary cities. Sale of magic items might be highly regulated, accompanied by a thriving black market. Artificers might craft items for use by military forces or adventurers, as they do in the world of Eberron. You might also allow characters to craft their own magic items, as discussed in chapters 6.

Identifying a Magic Item

Some magic items are indistinguishable from their nonmagical counterparts, whereas other magic items display their magical nature conspicuously. Whatever a magic item's appearance, handling the item is enough to give a character a sense that something is extraordinary about it. Discovering a magic item's properties isn't automatic, however.

The {@spell identify} spell is the fastest way to reveal an item's properties. Alternatively, a character can focus on one magic item during a short rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item's properties, as well as how to use them. Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.

Sometimes a magic item carries a clue to its properties. The command word to activate a ring might be etched in tiny letters inside it, or a feathered design might suggest that it's a {@i ring of feather falling}.

Wearing or experimenting with an item can also offer hints about its properties. For example, if a character puts on a {@i ring of jumping}, you could say, "Your steps feel strangely springy." Perhaps the character then jumps up and down to see what happens. You then say the character jumps unexpectedly high.

Variant: More Difficult Identification

If you prefer magic items to have a greater mystique, consider removing the ability to identify the properties of a magic item during a short rest, and require the identify spell, experimentation, or both to reveal what a magic item does.


Some magic items require a creature to form a bond with them before their magical properties can be used. This bond is called attunement, and certain items have a prerequisite for it. If the prerequisite is to be a spellcaster, a creature qualifies if it can cast at least one spell using its traits or features, not using a magic item or the like. (If the class is a spellcasting class, a creature qualifies if that creature has spell slots and uses that class's spell list.)

Without becoming attuned to an item that requires attunement, a creature gains only its nonmagical benefits, unless its description states otherwise. For example, a magic shield that requires attunement provides the benefits of a normal shield to a creature not attuned to it, but none of its magical properties.

Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a short rest focused on only that item while being in physical contact with it (this can't be the same short rest used to learn the item's properties). This focus can take the form of weapon practice (for a weapon), meditation (for a wondrous item), or some other appropriate activity. If the short rest is interrupted, the attunement attempt fails. Otherwise, at the end of the short rest, the creature gains an intuitive understanding of how to activate any magical properties of the item, including any necessary command words.

An item can be attuned to only one creature at a time, and a creature can be attuned to no more than three magic items at a time. Any attempt to attune to a fourth item fails; the creature must end its attunement to an item first. Additionally, a creature can't attune to more than one copy of an item. For example, a creature can't attune to more than one ring of protection at a time.

A creature's attunement to an item ends if the creature no longer satisfies the prerequisites for attunement, if the item has been more than 100 feet away for at least 24 hours, if the creature dies, or if another creature attunes to the item. A creature can also voluntarily end attunement by spending another short rest focused on the item, unless the item is cursed.

Cursed Items

Some magic items bear curses that bedevil their users, sometimes long after a user has stopped using an item. A magic item's description specifies whether the item is cursed. Most methods of identifying items, including the identify spell, fail to reveal such a curse, although lore might hint at it. A curse should be a surprise to the item's user when the curse's effects are revealed.

Attunement to a cursed item can't be ended voluntarily unless the curse is broken first, such as with the {@spell remove curse} spell.

Magic Item Categories

Each magic item belongs to a category: armor, potions, rings, rods, scrolls, staffs, wands, weapons, or wondrous items.


Unless an armor's description says otherwise, armor must be worn for its magic to function.

Some suits of magic armor specify the type of armor they are, such as chain mail or plate. If a magic armor doesn't specify its armor type, you may choose the type or determine it randomly.


Different kinds of magical liquids are grouped in the category of potions: brews made from enchanted herbs, water from magical fountains or sacred springs, and oils that are applied to a creature or object. Most potions consist of one ounce of liquid.

Potions are consumable magic items. Drinking a potion or administering a potion to another character requires an action. Applying an oil might take longer, as specified in its description. Once used, a potion takes effect immediately, and it is used up.

Variant: Mixing Potions

A character might drink one potion while still under the effects of another, or pour several potions into a single container. The strange ingredients used in creating potions can result in unpredictable interactions.

When a character mixes two potions together, you can roll on the Potion Miscibility table. If more than two are combined, roll again for each subsequent potion, combining the results. Unless the effects are immediately obvious, reveal them only when they become evident.


Magic rings offer an amazing array of powers to those lucky enough to find them. Unless a ring's description says otherwise, a ring must be worn on a finger, or a similar digit, for the ring's magic to function.


A scepter or just a heavy cylinder, a magic rod is typically made of metal, wood, or bone. It's about 2 or 3 feet long, 1 inch thick, and 2 to 5 pounds.


Most scrolls are spells stored in written form, while a few bear unique incantations that produce potent wards. Whatever its contents, a scroll is a roll of paper, sometimes attached to wooden rods, and typically kept safe in a tube of ivory, jade, leather, metal, or wood.

A scroll is a consumable magic item. Whatever the nature of the magic contained in a scroll, unleashing that magic requires the user to read the scroll. When its magic has been invoked, the scroll can't be used again. Its words fade, or it crumbles into dust.

Any creature that can understand a written language can read the arcane script on a scroll and attempt to activate it.

Spell Scrolls

A spell scroll bears the words of a single spell, written in a mystical cipher. If the spell is on your class's spell list you can use an action to read the scroll and cast its spell without having to provide any of the spell's components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible.

If the spell is on your class's spell list but of a higher level than you can normally cast, you must make an ability check using your spellcasting ability to determine whether you cast it successfully. The DC equals 10 + the spell's level. On a failed check, the spell disappears from the scroll with no other effect.

Once the spell is cast, the words on the scroll fade, and the scroll itself crumbles to dust. The level of the spell on the scroll determines the spell's saving throw DC and attack bonus, as well as the scroll's rarity, as shown in the Spell Scroll table.

A wizard spell on a spell scroll can be copied just as spells in spellbooks can be copied. When a spell is copied from a spell scroll, the copier must succeed on an Intelligence (Arcana) check with a DC equal to 10 + the spell's level. If the check succeeds, the spell is successfully copied. Whether the check succeeds or fails, the spell scroll is destroyed.

Spell Scroll

Spell Scroll
Spell LevelRaritySave DCAttack Bonus
6thVery rare17+9
7thVery rare18+10
8thVery rare18+10
Variant: Scroll Mishaps

A creature who tries and fails to cast a spell from a spell scroll must make a DC 10 Intelligence saving throw. If the saving throw fails, roll on the Scroll Mishap table.


A magic staff is about 5 or 6 feet long. Staffs vary widely in appearance: some are of nearly equal diameter throughout and smooth, others are gnarled and twisted, some are made of wood, and others are composed of polished metal or crystal. Depending on the material, a staff weighs between 2 and 7 pounds.

Unless a staff's description says otherwise, a staff can be used as a quarterstaff.


A magic wand is about 15 inches long and crafted of metal, bone, or wood. It is tipped with metal, crystal, stone, or some other material.

Variant: Wands That Don't Recharge

A typical wand has expendable charges. If you'd like wands to be a limited resource, you can make some of them incapable of regaining charges. Consider increasing the base number of charges in such a wand, to a maximum of 25 charges. These charges are never regained once they're expended.


Whether crafted for some fell purpose or forged to serve the highest ideals of chivalry, magic weapons are coveted by many adventurers.

Some magic weapons specify the type of weapon they are in their descriptions, such as a longsword or longbow. If a magic weapon doesn't specify its weapon type, you may choose the type or determine it randomly. If a magic weapon has the ammunition property, ammunition fired from it is considered magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.

Wondrous Items

Wondrous items include worn items such as boots, belts, capes, gloves, and various pieces of jewelry and decoration, such as amulets, brooches, and circlets. Bags, carpets, crystal balls, figurines, horns, musical instruments, and other objects also fall into this catchall category.

Wearing and Wielding Items

Using a magic item's properties might mean wearing or wielding it. A magic item meant to be worn must be donned in the intended fashion: boots go on the feet, gloves on the hands, hats and helmets on the head, and rings on the finger. Magic armor must be donned, a shield strapped to the arm, a cloak fastened about the shoulders. A weapon must be held in hand.

In most cases, a magic item that's meant to be worn can fit a creature regardless of size or build. Many magic garments are made to be easily adjustable, or they magically adjust themselves to the wearer.

Rare exceptions exist. If the story suggests a good reason for an item to fit only creatures of a certain size or shape, you can rule that it doesn't adjust. For example, armor made by the drow might fit elves only. Dwarves might make items usable only by dwarf-sized and dwarf-shaped characters.

When a non-humanoid tries to wear an item, use your discretion as to whether the item functions as intended. A ring placed on a tentacle might work, but a yuan-ti with a snakelike tail instead of legs has no way to wear magic boots.

Multiple Items of the Same Kind

Use common sense to determine whether more than one of a given kind of magic item can be worn. A character can't normally wear more than one pair of footwear, one pair of gloves or gauntlets, one pair of bracers, one suit of armor, one item of headwear, and one cloak. You can make exceptions; a character might be able to wear a circlet under a helmet, for example, or be able to layer two cloaks.

Paired Items

Items that come in pairs-such as boots, bracers, gauntlets, and gloves-impart their benefits only if both items of the pair are worn. For example, a character wearing a boot of striding and springing on one foot and a boot of elven kind on the other foot gains no benefit from either item.

Activating an Item

Activating some magic items requires a user to do something in particular, such as holding the item and uttering a command word, reading the item if it is a scroll, or drinking it if it is a potion. The description of each item category or individual item details how an item is activated. Certain items use one or more of the following rules related to their activation.

If an item requires an action to activate, that action isn't a function of the {@action Use an Object} action, so a feature such as the rogue's Fast Hands can't be used to activate the item.

Command Word

A command word is a word or phrase that must be spoken audibly for the item to operate. A magic item that requires the user to speak a command word can't be activated in the area of any effect that prevents sound, such as the area created by the silence spell.


Some items are used up when they are activated. A potion or elixir must be swallowed, or an oil applied to the body. The writing vanishes from a scroll when it is read. Once used, a consumable item loses its magic and no longer functions.

Magic Item Formulas

A magic item formula explains how to make a particular magic item. Such a formula can be an excellent reward if you allow player characters to craft magic items, as explained in Chapter 6, "Between Adventures."

You can award a formula in place of a magic item. Usually written in a book or on a scroll, a formula is one step rarer than the item it allows a character to create. For example, the formula for a common magic item is uncommon. No formulas exist for legendary items.

If the creation of magic items is commonplace in your campaign, a formula can have a rarity that matches the rarity of the item it allows a character to create. Formulas for common and uncommon items might even be for sale, each with a cost double that of its magic item.


Some magic items allow the user to cast a spell from the item, often by expending charges from it. The spell is cast at the lowest possible spell and caster level, doesn't expend any of the user's spell slots, and requires no components unless the item's description says otherwise. The spell uses its normal casting time, range, and duration, and the user of the item must concentrate if the spell requires concentration. Certain items make exceptions to these rules, changing the casting time, duration, or other parts of a spell.

Many items, such as potions, bypass the casting of the spell and confer the spell's effects. Such an item still uses the spell's duration unless the item's description says otherwise.


Some magic items have charges that you expend to activate its properties. The number of charges an item has remaining is revealed when an identify spell is cast on the item, or when a creature attunes to the item. Additionally, when an item regains charges, the creature attuned to that item learns how many charges it regained.

Magic Item Resilience

Most magic items are objects of extraordinary artisanship, assembled from the finest materials with meticulous attention to detail. Thanks to this combination of careful crafting and magical reinforcement, a magic item is at least as durable as a regular item of its kind. Most magic items, other than potions and scrolls, have resistance to all damage. Artifacts are practically indestructible, requiring extreme measures to destroy.

Special Features

You can add distinctiveness to a magic item by thinking about its backstory, in much the same way you would for a location. Who made the item? Is anything unusual about its construction? Why was it made, and how was it originally used? What minor magical quirks set it apart from other items of its kind? Considering these questions is useful for turning a generic magic item, such as a {@i +1 longsword} or a suit of {@i +1 chain mail}, into a more remarkable discovery.

The tables that follow can help you come up with answers. Roll on as many of these tables as you like. Some of the table entries make more sense for certain items than for others. Some magic items are made only by certain kinds of creatures, for instance; a {@item cloak of elvenkind} is made by elves, rather than dwarves. If you roll something that doesn't make sense, roll again, choose a more appropriate entry, or use the rolled detail as inspiration to make up your own.

Who Created It or Was Intended to Use It?

Who Created It or Was Intended to Use It?
d20Creator or Intended User
1Aberration. The item was created by aberrations in ancient times, possibly for the use of favored humanoid thralls. When seen from the corner of the eye, the item seems to be moving.
2-4Human. The item was created during the heyday of a fallen human kingdom, or it is tied to a human of legend. It might hold writing in a forgotten tongue or symbols whose significance is lost to the ages.
5Celestial. The weapon is half the normal weight and inscribed with feathered wings, suns, and other symbols of good. Fiends find the item's presence repulsive.
6Dragon. This item is made from scales and talons shed by a dragon. Perhaps it incorporates precious metals and gems from the dragon's hoard. It grows slightly warm when within 120 feet of a dragon.
7Drow. The item is half the normal weight. It is black and inscribed with spiders and webs in honor of Lolth. It might function poorly, or disintegrate, if exposed to sunlight for 1 minute or more.
8-9Dwarf. The item is durable and has Dwarven runes worked into its design. It might be associated with a clan that would like to see it returned to their ancestral halls.
10Elemental Air. The item is half the normal weight and feels hollow. If it's made of fabric, it is diaphanous.
11Elemental Earth. This item might be crafted from stone. Any cloth or leather elements are studded with finely polished rock.
12Elemental Fire. This item is warm to the touch, and any metal parts are crafted from black iron. Sigils of flames cover its surface. Shades of red and orange are the prominent colors.
13Elemental Water. Lustrous fish scales replace leather or cloth on this item, and metal portions are instead crafted from seashells and worked coral as hard as any metal.
14-15Elf. The item is half the normal weight. It is adorned with symbols of nature: leaves, vines, stars, and the like.
16Fey. The item is exquisitely crafted from the finest materials and glows with a pale radiance in moonlight, shedding dim light in a 5-foot radius Any metal in the item is silver or mithral, rather than iron or steel.
17Fiend. The item is made of black iron or horn inscribed with runes, and any cloth or leather components are crafted from the hide of fiends. It is warm to the touch and features leering faces or vile runes engraved on its surface. Celestials find the item 's presence repulsive.
18Giant. The item is larger than normal and was crafted by giants for use by their smaller allies.
19Gnome. The item is crafted to appear ordinary and it might look worn. It could also incorporate gears and mechanical components, even if these aren't essential to the item's function.
20Undead. The item incorporates imagery of death such as bones and skulls, and it might be crafted from parts of corpses. It feels cold to the touch

What Is a Detail from Its History?

What Is a Detail from Its History?
1Arcane. This item was created for an ancient order of spellcasters and bears the order's symbol.
2Bane. This item was created by the foes of a particular culture or kind of creature. If the culture or creatures are still around, they might recognize the item and single out the bearer as an enemy.
3Heroic. A great hero once wielded this item. Anyone who's familiar with the item's history expects great deeds from the new owner.
4Ornament. The item was created to honor a special occasion. Inset gemstones, gold or platinum inlays, and gold or silver filigree adorn its surface.
5Prophecy. The item features in a prophecy: its bearer is destined to play a key role in future events. Someone else who wants to play that role might try to steal the item, or someone who wants to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled might try to kill the item 's bearer.
6Religious. This item was used in religious ceremonies dedicated to a particular deity. It has holy symbols worked into it. The god's followers might try to persuade its owner to donate it to a temple, steal the item for themselves, or celebrate its use by a cleric or paladin of the same deity.
7Sinister. This item is linked to a deed of great evil such as a massacre or an assassination. It might have a name or be closely associated with a villain who used it. Anyone familiar with the item's history is likely to treat it and its owner with suspicion.
8Symbol of Power. This item was once used as part of royal regalia or as a badge of high office. Its former owner or that person's descendants might desire it, or someone might mistakenly assume its new owner is the item's legitimate inheritor.

What Minor Property Does It Have

What Minor Property Does It Have
d20Minor Property
1Beacon. The bearer can use a bonus action to cause the item to shed bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet, or to extinguish the light.
2Compass. The wielder can use an action to learn which way is north.
3Conscientious. When the bearer of this item contemplates or undertakes a malevolent act, the item enhances pangs of conscience.
4Delver. While underground, the bearer of this item always knows the item's depth below the surface and the direction to the nearest staircase, ramp, or other path leading upward.
5Gleaming. This item never gets dirty.
6Guardian. The item whispers warnings to its bearer, granting a +2 bonus to initiative if the bearer isn't incapacitated.
7Harmonious. Attuning to this item takes only 1 minute.
8Hidden Message. A message is hidden somewhere on the item. It might be visible only at a certain time of the year, under the light of one phase of the moon, or in a specific location.
9Key. The item is used to unlock a container, chamber, vault, or other entryway.
10Language. The bearer can speak and understand a language of the DM's choice while the item is on the bearer 's person.
11Sentinel. Choose a kind of creature that is an enemy of the item's creator. This item glows faintly when such creatures are within 120 feet of it.
12Song Craft. Whenever this item is struck or is used to strike a foe, its bearer hears a fragment of an ancient song.
13Strange Material. The item was created from a material that is bizarre given its purpose. Its durability is unaffected.
14Temperate. The bearer suffers no harm in temperatures as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit or as warm as 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
15Unbreakable. The item can't be broken. Special means must be used to destroy it.
16War Leader. The bearer can use an action to cause his or her voice to carry clearly for up to 300 feet until the end of the bearer's next turn.
17Waterborne. This item floats on water and other liquids. Its bearer has advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks to swim.
18Wicked. When the bearer is presented with an opportunity to act in a selfish or malevolent way, the item heightens the bearer's urge to do so.
19Illusion. The item is imbued with illusion magic, allowing its bearer to alter the item's appearance in minor ways. Such alterations don't change how the item is worn, carried, or wielded, and they have no effect on its other magical properties. For example, the wearer could make a red robe appear blue, or make a gold ring look like it's made of ivory. The item reverts to its true appearance when no one is carrying or wearing it.
20Roll twice, rerolling any additional 20s.

What Quirk Does It Have

What Quirk Does It Have
1Blissful. While in possession of the item, the bearer feels fortunate and optimistic about what the future holds. Butterflies and other harmless creatures might frolic in the item's presence.
2Confident. The item helps its bearer feel self-assured.
3Covetous. The item 's bearer becomes obsessed with material wealth.
4Frail. The item crumbles, frays, chips, or cracks slightly when wielded, worn, or activated. This quirk has no effect on its properties, but if the item has seen much use, it looks decrepit.
5Hungry. This item's magical properties function only if fresh blood from a humanoid has been applied to it within the past 24 hours. It needs only a drop to activate.
6Loud. The item makes a loud noise-such as a clang, a shout, or a resonating gong-when used.
7Metamorphic. The item periodically and randomly alters its appearance in slight ways. The bearer has no control over these minor alterations, which have no effect on the item's use.
8Muttering. The item grumbles and mutters. A creature who listens carefully to the item might learn something useful.
9Painful. The bearer experiences a harmless flash of pain when using the item.
10Possessive. The item demands attunement when first wielded or worn, and it doesn't allow its bearer to attune to other items. (Other items already attuned to the bearer remain so until their attunement ends.)
11Repulsive. The bearer feels a sense of distaste when in contact with the item, and continues to sense discomfort while bearing it.
12Slothful. The bearer of this item feels slothful and lethargic. While attuned to the item, the bearer requires 10 hours to finish a long rest.

Random Magic Items

When you use a Treasure Hoard table to randomly determine the contents of a treasure hoard and your roll indicates the presence of one or more magic items, you can determine the specific magic items by rolling on the appropriate table(s) here.

{@note See the {@5etools Loot Generator|lootgen.html} page for an automated version of the tables below.}

Magic Item Table A

Magic Item Table A
d100Magic Item
01-50{@item Potion of Healing}
51-60{@item Spell Scroll (Cantrip)}
61-70{@item Potion of Climbing}
71-90{@item Spell Scroll (1st Level)}
91-94{@item Spell Scroll (2nd Level)}
95-98{@item Potion of Greater Healing}
99{@item Bag of Holding}
00{@item Driftglobe}

Magic Item Table B

Magic Item Table B
d100Magic Item
01-15{@item Potion of Greater Healing}
16-22{@item Potion of Fire Breath}
23-29{@item Potion of Resistance}
30-34{@item Ammunition +1|dmg}
35-39{@item Potion of Animal Friendship}
40-44{@item Potion of Hill Giant Strength}
45-49{@item Potion of Growth}
50-54{@item Potion of Water Breathing}
55-59{@item Spell Scroll (2nd Level)}
60-64{@item Spell Scroll (3rd Level)}
65-67{@item Bag of Holding}
68-70{@item Keoghtom's Ointment}
71-73{@item Oil of Slipperiness}
74-75{@item Dust of Disappearance}
76-77{@item Dust of Dryness}
78-79{@item Dust of Sneezing and Choking}
80-81{@item Elemental Gem, Red Corundum|dmg|Elemental Gem}
82-83{@item Philter of Love}
84{@item Alchemy Jug}
85{@item Cap of Water Breathing}
86{@item Cloak of the Manta Ray}
87{@item Driftglobe}
88{@item Goggles of Night}
89{@item Helm of Comprehending Languages}
90{@item Immovable Rod}
91{@item Lantern of Revealing}
92{@item Mariner's Armor}
93{@item Mithral Armor}
94{@item Potion of Poison}
95{@item Ring of Swimming}
96{@item Robe of Useful Items}
97{@item Rope of Climbing}
98{@item Saddle of the Cavalier}
99{@item Wand of Magic Detection}
00{@item Wand of Secrets}

Magic Item Table C

Magic Item Table C
d100Magic Item
01-15{@item Potion of Superior Healing}
16-22{@item Spell Scroll (4th Level)}
23-27{@item Ammunition +2|dmg}
28-32{@item Potion of Clairvoyance}
33-37{@item Potion of Diminution}
38-42{@item Potion of Gaseous Form}
43-47{@item Potion of Frost Giant Strength}
48-52{@item Potion of Stone Giant Strength}
53-57{@item Potion of Heroism}
58-62{@item Potion of Invulnerability}
63-67{@item Potion of Mind Reading}
68-72{@item Spell Scroll (5th Level)}
73-75{@item Elixir of Health}
76-78{@item Oil of Etherealness}
79-81{@item Potion of Fire Giant Strength}
82-84{@item Quaal's Feather Token, Anchor|dmg|Quaal's Feather Token}
85-87{@item Scroll of Protection from Aberrations|dmg|Scroll of Protection}
88-89{@item Bag of Beans}
90-91{@item Bead of Force}
92{@item Chime of Opening}
93{@item Decanter of Endless Water}
94{@item Eyes of Minute Seeing}
95{@item Folding Boat}
96{@item Heward's Handy Haversack}
97{@item Horseshoes of Speed}
98{@item Necklace of Fireballs}
99{@item Periapt of Health}
00{@item Sending Stones}

Magic Item Table D

Magic Item Table D
d100Magic Item
01-20{@item Potion of Supreme Healing}
21-30{@item Potion of Invisibility}
31-40{@item Potion of Speed}
41-50{@item Spell Scroll (6th level)}
51-57{@item Spell Scroll (7th level)}
58-62{@item Ammunition +3|dmg}
63-67{@item Oil of Sharpness}
68-72{@item Potion of Flying}
73-77{@item Potion of Cloud Giant Strength}
78-82{@item Potion of Longevity}
83-87{@item Potion of Vitality}
88-92{@item Spell Scroll (8th level)}
93-95{@item Horseshoes of a Zephyr}
96-98{@item Nolzur's Marvelous Pigments}
99{@item Bag of Devouring}
00{@item Portable Hole}

Magic Item Table E

Magic Item Table E
d100Magic Item
01-30{@item Spell Scroll (8th level)}
31-55{@item Potion of Storm Giant Strength}
56-70{@item Potion of Supreme Healing}
71-86{@item Spell Scroll (9th level)}
86-93{@item Universal Solvent}
94-98{@item Arrow of Slaying}
99-100{@item Sovereign Glue}

Magic Item Table F

Magic Item Table F
d100Magic Item
01-15{@item Weapon +1|dmg}
16-18{@item Shield +1|dmg}
19-21{@item Sentinel Shield}
22-23{@item Amulet of Proof Against Detection and Location}
24-25{@item Boots of Elvenkind}
26-27{@item Boots of Striding and Springing}
28-29{@item Bracers of Archery}
30-31{@item Brooch of Shielding}
32-33{@item Broom of Flying}
34-35{@item Cloak of Elvenkind}
36-37{@item Cloak of Protection}
38-39{@item Gauntlets of Ogre Power}
40-41{@item Hat of Disguise}
42-43{@item Javelin of Lightning}
44-45{@item Pearl of Power}
46-47{@item Rod of the Pact Keeper, +1|dmg}
48-49{@item Slippers of Spider Climbing}
50-51{@item Staff of the Adder}
52-53{@item Staff of the Python}
54-55{@item Sword of Vengeance}
56-57{@item Trident of Fish Command}
58-59{@item Wand of Magic Missiles}
60-61{@item Wand of the War Mage, +1|dmg}
62-63{@item Wand of Web}
64-65{@item Weapon of Warning}
66{@item Adamantine Chain Mail}
67{@item Adamantine Chain Shirt}
68{@item Adamantine Scale Mail}
69{@item Bag of Tricks, Gray|dmg}
70{@item Bag of Tricks, Rust|dmg}
71{@item Bag of Tricks, Tan|dmg}
72{@item Boots of the Winterlands}
73{@item Circlet of Blasting}
74{@item Deck of Illusions}
75{@item Eversmoking Bottle}
76{@item Eyes of Charming}
77{@item Eyes of the Eagle}
78{@item Figurine of Wondrous Power, Silver Raven|dmg}
79{@item Gem of Brightness}
80{@item Gloves of Missile Snaring}
81{@item Gloves of Swimming and Climbing}
82{@item Gloves of Thievery}
83{@item Headband of Intellect}
84{@item Helm of Telepathy}
85{@item Instrument of the Bards, Doss Lute|dmg}
86{@item Instrument of the Bards, Fochlucan Bandore|dmg}
87{@item Instrument of the Bards, Mac-Fuirmidh Cittern|dmg}
88{@item Medallion of Thoughts}
89{@item Necklace of Adaptation}
90{@item Periapt of Wound Closure}
91{@item Pipes of Haunting}
92{@item Pipes of the Sewers}
93{@item Ring of Jumping}
94{@item Ring of Mind Shielding}
95{@item Ring of Warmth}
96{@item Ring of Water Walking}
97{@item Quiver of Ehlonna}
98{@item Stone of Good Luck}
99{@item Wind Fan}
00{@item Winged Boots}

Magic Item Table G

Magic Item Table G
d100Magic Item
01-11{@item Weapon +2|dmg}
15{@item Adamantine Breastplate}
16{@item Adamantine Splint Armor}
17{@item Amulet of Health}
18{@item Armor of Vulnerability (Bludgeoning)|dmg|Armor of Vulnerability}
19{@item Arrow-catching Shield|dmg}
20{@item Belt of Dwarvenkind}
21{@item Belt of Hill Giant Strength}
22{@item Berserker Axe}
23{@item Boots of Levitation}
24{@item Boots of Speed}
25{@item Bowl of Commanding Water Elementals}
26{@item Bracers of Defense}
27{@item Brazier of Commanding Fire Elementals}
28{@item Cape of the Mountebank}
29{@item Censer of Controlling Air Elementals}
30{@item Chain Mail +1|dmg}
31Chain Mail of Resistance
32{@item Chain Shirt +1|dmg}
33Chain Shirt of Resistance
34{@item Cloak of Displacement}
35{@item Cloak of the Bat}
36{@item Cube of Force}
37{@item Daern's Instant Fortress}
38{@item Dagger of Venom}
39{@item Dimensional Shackles}
40{@item Dragon Slayer}
41{@item Elven Chain}
42{@item Flame Tongue}
43{@item Gem of Seeing}
44{@item Giant Slayer}
45{@item Glamoured Studded Leather}
46{@item Helm of Teleportation}
47{@item Horn of Blasting}
48Horn of Valhalla ({@item Horn of Valhalla, Silver|dmg|silver} or {@item Horn of Valhalla, Brass|dmg|brass})
49{@item Instrument of the Bards, Canaith Mandolin|dmg}
50{@item Instrument of the Bards, Cli Lyre|dmg}
51{@item Ioun Stone, Awareness|dmg}
52{@item Ioun Stone, Protection|dmg}
53{@item Ioun Stone, Reserve|dmg}
54{@item Ioun Stone, Sustenance|dmg}
55{@item Iron Bands of Bilarro}
56{@item Leather Armor +1|dmg}
57Leather Armor of Resistance
58{@item Mace of Disruption}
59{@item Mace of Smiting}
60{@item Mace of Terror}
61{@item Mantle of Spell Resistance}
62{@item Necklace of Prayer Beads}
63{@item Periapt of Proof Against Poison}
64{@item Ring of Animal Influence}
65{@item Ring of Evasion}
66{@item Ring of Feather Falling}
67{@item Ring of Free Action}
68{@item Ring of Protection}
69{@item Ring of Resistance}
70{@item Ring of Spell Storing}
71{@item Ring of the Ram}
72{@item Ring of X-ray Vision|dmg}
73{@item Robe of Eyes}
74{@item Rod of Rulership}
75{@item Rod of the Pact Keeper, +2|dmg}
76{@item Rope of Entanglement}
77{@item Scale Mail +1|dmg}
78Scale Mail of Resistance
79{@item Shield +2|dmg}
80{@item Shield of Missile Attraction}
81{@item Staff of Charming}
82{@item Staff of Healing}
83{@item Staff of Swarming Insects}
84{@item Staff of the Woodlands}
85{@item Staff of Withering}
86{@item Stone of Controlling Earth Elementals}
87{@item Sun Blade}
88{@item Sword of Life Stealing}
89{@item Sword of Wounding}
90{@item Tentacle Rod}
91{@item Vicious Weapon}
92{@item Wand of Binding}
93{@item Wand of Enemy Detection}
94{@item Wand of Fear}
95{@item Wand of Fireballs}
96{@item Wand of Lightning Bolts}
97{@item Wand of Paralysis}
98{@item Wand of the War Mage, +2|dmg}
99{@item Wand of Wonder}
00{@item Wings of Flying}

Magic Item Table H

Magic Item Table H
d100Magic Item
01-10{@item Weapon +3|dmg}
11-12{@item Amulet of the Planes}
13-14{@item Carpet of Flying}
15-16{@item Crystal Ball}
17-18{@item Ring of Regeneration}
19-20{@item Ring of Shooting Stars}
21-22{@item Ring of Telekinesis}
23-24{@item Robe of Scintillating Colors}
25-26{@item Robe of Stars}
27-28{@item Rod of absorption}
29-30{@item Rod of Alertness}
31-32{@item Rod of Security}
33-34{@item Rod of the Pact Keeper, +3|dmg}
35-36{@item Scimitar of Speed}
37-38{@item Shield +3|dmg}
39-40{@item Staff of Fire}
41-42{@item Staff of Frost}
43-44{@item Staff of Power}
45-46{@item Staff of Striking}
47-48{@item Staff of Thunder and Lightning}
49-50{@item Sword of Sharpness}
51-52{@item Wand of Polymorph}
53-54{@item Wand of the War Mage, +3|dmg}
55{@item Adamantine Half Plate Armor}
56{@item Adamantine Plate Armor}
57{@item Animated Shield}
58{@item Belt of Fire Giant Strength}
59Belt of {@item Belt of Frost Giant Strength|dmg|frost} or {@item Belt of Stone Giant Strength|dmg|stone} giant strength
60{@item Breastplate +1|dmg}
61Breastplate of Resistance
62{@item Candle of Invocation}
63{@item Chain Mail +2|dmg}
64{@item Chain Shirt +2|dmg}
65{@item Cloak of Arachnida}
66{@item Dancing Sword}
67{@item Demon Armor}
68Dragon Scale Mail
69{@item Dwarven Plate}
70{@item Dwarven Thrower}
71{@item Efreeti Bottle}
72{@item Figurine of Wondrous Power, Obsidian Steed|dmg}
73{@item Frost Brand}
74{@item Helm of Brilliance}
75{@item Horn of Valhalla, Bronze|dmg}
76{@item Instrument of the Bards, Anstruth Harp|dmg}
77{@item Ioun Stone, Absorption|dmg},
78{@item Ioun Stone, Agility|dmg},
79{@item Ioun Stone, Fortitude|dmg},
80{@item Ioun Stone, Insight|dmg}
81{@item Ioun Stone, Intellect|dmg}
82{@item Ioun Stone, Leadership|dmg}
83{@item Ioun Stone, Strength|dmg}
84{@item Leather Armor +2|dmg}
85{@item Manual of Bodily Health}
86{@item Manual of Gainful Exercise}
87{@item Manual of Clay Golems|dmg|Manual of Golems}
88{@item Manual of Quickness of Action}
89{@item Mirror of Life Trapping}
90{@item Nine Lives Stealer}
91{@item Oathbow}
92{@item Scale Mail +2|dmg}
93{@item Spellguard Shield}
94{@item Splint Armor +1|dmg}
95Splint Armor of Resistance
96{@item Studded Leather Armor +1|dmg}
97Studded Leather Armor of Resistance
98{@item Tome of Clear Thought}
99{@item Tome of Leadership and Influence}
00{@item Tome of Understanding}

Magic Item Table I

Magic Item Table I
d100Magic Item
01-05{@item Defender}
06-10{@item Hammer of Thunderbolts}
11-15{@item Luck Blade}
16-20{@item Sword of Answering}
21-23{@item Holy Avenger}
24-26{@item Ring of Djinni Summoning}
27-29{@item Ring of Invisibility}
30-32{@item Ring of Spell Turning}
33-35{@item Rod of Lordly Might}
36-38{@item Staff of the Magi}
39-41{@item Vorpal sword}
42-43{@item Belt of Cloud Giant Strength}
44-45{@item Breastplate +2|dmg}
46-47{@item Chain Mail +3|dmg}
48-49{@item Chain Shirt +3|dmg}
50-51{@item Cloak of Invisibility}
52-53Crystal Ball (legendary version)
54-55{@item Half Plate Armor +1|dmg}
56-57{@item Iron Flask}
58-59{@item Leather Armor +3|dmg}
60-61{@item Plate Armor +1|dmg}
62-63{@item Robe of the Archmagi}
64-65{@item Rod of Resurrection}
66-67{@item Scale Mail +1|dmg}
68-69{@item Scarab of Protection}
70-71{@item Splint Armor +2|dmg}
72-73{@item Studded Leather Armor +2|dmg}
74-75{@item Well of Many Worlds}
77{@item Apparatus of Kwalish}
78{@item Armor of Invulnerability}
79{@item Belt of Storm Giant Strength}
80{@item Cubic Gate}
81{@item Deck of Many Things}
82{@item Efreeti Chain}
83Half Plate Armor of Resistance
84{@item Horn of Valhalla, Iron|dmg}
85{@item Instrument of the Bards, Ollamh Harp|dmg}
86{@item Ioun Stone, Greater Absorption|dmg}
87{@item Ioun Stone, Mastery|dmg}
88{@item Ioun Stone, Regeneration|dmg}
89{@item Plate armor of etherealness}
90Plate Armor of Resistance
91{@item Ring of Air Elemental Command}
92{@item Ring of Earth Elemental Command}
93{@item Ring of Fire Elemental Command}
94{@item Ring of Three Wishes}
95{@item Ring of Water Elemental Command}
96{@item Sphere of Annihilation}
97{@item Talisman of Pure Good}
98{@item Talisman of the Sphere}
99{@item Talisman of Ultimate Evil}
00{@item Tome of the Stilled Tongue}

Magic Items A-Z

stdClass Object ( [type] => inline [entries] => Array ( [0] => Magic items are presented in alphabetical order. A magic item's description gives the item's name, its category, its rarity, and its magical properties. The full list of items is available on the [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => link [href] => stdClass Object ( [type] => internal [path] => items.html ) [text] => items ) [2] => page. ) )

Sentient Magic Items

Some magic items possess sentience and personality. Such an item might be possessed, haunted by the spirit of a previous owner, or self-aware thanks to the magic used to create it. In any case, the item behaves like a character, complete with personality quirks, ideals, bonds, and sometimes flaws. A sentient item might be a cherished ally to its wielder or a continual thorn in the side.

Most sentient items are weapons. Other kinds of items can manifest sentience, but consumable items such as potions and scrolls are never sentient.

Sentient magic items function as NPCs under the DM's control. Any activated property of the item is under the item's control, not its wielder's. As long as the wielder maintains a good relationship with the item, the wielder can access those properties normally. If the relationship is strained, the item can suppress its activated properties or even turn them against the wielder.

Creating Sentient Magic Items

When you decide to make a magic item sentient, you create the item's persona in the same way you would create an NPC, with a few exceptions described here.


A sentient magic item has Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You can choose the item's abilities or determine them randomly. To determine them randomly, roll {@dice 4d6} for each one, dropping the lowest roll and totaling the rest.


A sentient item has some ability to communicate, either by sharing its emotions, broadcasting its thoughts telepathically, or speaking aloud. You can choose how it communicates or roll on the following table.

Sentient Magic Item Communication

Sentient Magic Item Communication
01-60The item communicates by transmitting emotion to the creature carrying or wielding it.
61-90The item can speak, read, and understand one or more languages.
91-100The item can speak, read, and understand one or more languages. In addition, the item can communicate telepathically with any character that carries or wields it.


With sentience comes awareness. A sentient item can perceive its surroundings out to a limited range. You can choose its senses or roll on the following table.

Sentient Magic Item Senses

Sentient Magic Item Senses
1Hearing and normal vision out to 30 feet.
2Hearing and normal vision out to 60 feet
3Hearing and normal vision out to 120 feet.
4Hearing and darkvision out to 120 feet.


A sentient magic item has an alignment. Its creator or nature might suggest an alignment. If not, you can pick an alignment or roll on the following table.

Sentient Magic Item Alignment

Sentient Magic Item Alignment
01-15Lawful good
16-35Neutral good
36-50Chaotic good
51-63Lawful neutral
74-85Chaotic neutral
86-89Lawful evil
90-96Neutral evil
97-100Chaotic evil


Use the information on creating NPCs in chapter 4 to develop a sentient item's mannerisms, personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. You can also draw on the "Special Features" section earlier in this chapter.

If you determine these characteristics randomly, ignore or adapt any result that doesn't make sense for an inanimate object. You can reroll until you get a result you like.

Special Purpose

You can give a sentient item an objective it pursues, perhaps to the exclusion of all else. As long as the wielder's use of the item aligns with that special purpose, the item remains cooperative. Deviating from this course might cause conflict between the wielder and the item, and could even cause the item to prevent the use of its activated properties. You can pick a special purpose or roll on the following table.

Sentient Special Purpose

Sentient Special Purpose
1Aligned: The item seeks to defeat or destroy those of a diametrically opposed alignment. (Such an item is never neutral.)
2Bane: The item seeks to defeat or destroy creatures of a particular kind, such as fiends, shapechangers, trolls, or wizards.
3Protector: The item seeks to defend a particular race or kind of creature, such as elves or druids.
4Crusader: The item seeks to defeat, weaken, or destroy the servants of a particular deity.
5Templar: The item seeks to defend the servants and interests of a particular deity.
6Destroyer: The item craves destruction and goads its user to fight arbitrarily.
7Glory Seeker: The item seeks renown as the greatest magic item in the world, by establishing its user as a famous or notorious figure.
8Lore Seeker: The item craves knowledge or is determined to solve a mystery, learn a secret, or unravel a cryptic prophecy.
9Destiny Seeker: The item is convinced that it and its wielder have key roles to play in future events.
10Creator Seeker: The item seeks its creator and wants to understand why it was created.


A sentient item has a will of its own, shaped by its personality and alignment. If its wielder acts in a manner opposed to the item's alignment or purpose, conflict can arise. When such a conflict occurs, the item makes a Charisma check contested by the wielder's Charisma check. If the item wins the contest, it makes one or more of the following demands:

If its wielder refuses to comply with the item's wishes, the item can do any or all of the following:

If a sentient item attempts to take control of its wielder, the wielder must make a Charisma saving throw, with a DC equal to 12 + the item's Charisma modifier. On a failed save, the wielder is charmed by the item for {@dice 1d12} hours. While charmed, the wielder must try to follow the item's commands. If the wielder takes damage, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on a success. Whether the attempt to control its user succeeds or fails, the item can't use this power again until the next dawn.

Sample Sentient Items

The sentient weapons described here have storied histories.


An artifact is a unique magic item of tremendous power, with its own origin and history. An artifact might have been created by gods or mortals of awesome power. It could have been created in the midst of a crisis that threatened a kingdom, a world, or the entire multiverse, and carry the weight of that pivotal moment in history.

Some artifacts appear when they are needed most. For others, the reverse is true; when discovered, the world trembles at the ramifications of the find. In either case, introducing an artifact into a campaign requires forethought. The artifact could be an item that opposing sides are hoping to claim, or it might be something the adventurers need to overcome their greatest challenge.

Characters don't typically find artifacts in the normal course of adventuring. In fact, artifacts only appear when you want them to, for they are as much plot devices as magic items. Tracking down and recovering an artifact is often the main goal of an adventure. Characters must chase down rumors, undergo significant trials, and venture into dangerous, half-forgotten places to find the artifact they seek. Alternatively, a major villain might already have the artifact. Obtaining and destroying the artifact could be the only way to ensure that its power can't be used for evil.

Artifact Properties

Each artifact has its own magical properties, as other magic items do, and the properties are often exceptionally powerful. An artifact might have other properties that are either beneficial or detrimental. You can choose such properties from the tables in this section or determine them randomly. You can also invent new beneficial and detrimental properties. These properties typically change each time an artifact appears in the world.

An artifact can have as many as four minor beneficial properties and two major beneficial properties. It can have as many as four minor detrimental properties and two major detrimental properties.

Minor Beneficial Properties

Minor Beneficial Properties
01-20While attuned to the artifact, you gain proficiency in one skill of the DM's choice.
21-30While attuned to the artifact, you are immune to disease.
31-40While attuned to the artifact, you can't be {@condition charmed} or {@condition frightened}.
41-50While attuned to the artifact, you have resistance against one damage type of the DM's choice.
51-60While attuned to the artifact, you can use an action to cast one {@filter cantrip|spells|level=0} (chosen by the DM) from it.
61-70While attuned to the artifact, you can use an action to cast one {@filter 1st-level|spells|level=1} spell (chosen by the DM) from it. After you cast the spell, roll a {@dice d6}. On a roll of 1-5, you can't cast it again until the next dawn.
71-80As 61-70 above, except the spell is {@filter 2nd level|spells|level=2}.
81-90As 61-70 above, except the spell is {@filter 3rd level|spells|level=3}.
91-00While attuned to the artifact, you gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class.

Major Beneficial Properties

Major Beneficial Properties
01-20While attuned to the artifact, one of your ability scores (DM's choice) increases by 2, to a maximum of 24.
21-30While attuned to the artifact, you regain {@dice 1d6} hit points at the start of your turn if you have at least 1 hit point.
31-40When you hit with a weapon attack while attuned to the artifact, the target takes an extra {@dice 1d6} damage of the weapon's type.
41-50While attuned to the artifact, your walking speed increases by 10 feet.
51-60While attuned to the artifact, you can use an action to cast one {@filter 4th-level|spells|level=4} spell (chosen by the DM) from it. After you cast the spell, roll a {@dice d6}. On a roll of 1-5, you can't cast it again until the next dawn.
61-70As 51-60 above, except the spell is {@filter 5th level|spells|level=5}.
71-80As 51-60 above, except the spell is {@filter 6th level|spells|level=6}.
81-90As 51-60 above, except the spell is {@filter 7th level|spells|level=7}.
91-00While attuned to the artifact, you can't be {@condition blinded}, {@condition deafened}, {@condition petrified}, or {@condition stunned}.

Minor Detrimental Properties

Minor Detrimental Properties
01-05While attuned to the artifact, you have disadvantage on saving throws against spells.
06-10The first time you touch a gem or piece of jewelry while attuned to this artifact, the value of the gem or jewelry is reduced by half.
11-15While attuned to the artifact, you are {@condition blinded} when you are more than 10 feet away from it.
16-20While attuned to the artifact, you have disadvantage on saving throws against poison.
21-30While attuned to the artifact, you emit a sour stench noticeable from up to 10 feet away.
31-35While attuned to the artifact, all holy water within 10 feet of you is destroyed.
36-40While attuned to the artifact, you are physically ill and have disadvantage on any ability check or saving throw that uses Strength or Constitution.
41-45While attuned to the artifact, your weight increases by {@dice 1d4 × 10} pounds.
46-50While attuned to the artifact, your appearance changes as the DM decides.
51-55While attuned to the artifact, you are {@condition deafened} when you are more than 10 feet away from it.
56-60While attuned to the artifact, your weight drops by {@dice 1d4 × 5} pounds.
61-65While attuned to the artifact, you can't smell.
66-70While attuned to the artifact, nonmagical flames are extinguished within 30 feet of you.
71-80While you are attuned to the artifact, other creatures can't take short or long rests while within 300 feet of you.
81-85While attuned to the artifact, you deal {@dice 1d6} necrotic damage to any plant you touch that isn't a creature.
86-90While you are attuned to the artifact, animals within 30 feet of you are hostile toward you.
91-95While attuned to the artifact, you must eat and drink six times the normal amount each day.
96-00While you are attuned to the artifact, your flaw is amplified in a way determined by the DM.

Major Detrimental Properties

Major Detrimental Properties
01-05While you are attuned to the artifact, your body rots over the course of four days, after which the rotting stops. You lose your hair by the end of day 1, finger tips and toe tips by the end of day 2, lips and nose by the end of day 3, and ears by the end of day 4. A {@spell regenerate} spell restores lost body parts
06-10While you are attuned to the artifact, you determine your alignment daily at dawn by rolling a {@dice d6} twice. On the first roll, a 1-2 indicates lawful, 3-4 neutral, and 5-6 chaotic. On the second roll, a 1-2 indicates good, 3-4 neutral, and 5-6 evil.
11-15When you first attune to the artifact, it gives you a quest determined by the DM. You must complete this quest as if affected by the {@spell geas} spell. Once you complete the quest, you are no longer affected by this property.
16-20The artifact houses a bodiless life force that is hostile toward you. Each time you use an action to use one of the artifact's properties, there is a {@chance 50} chance that the life force tries to leave the artifact and enter your body. If you fail a DC 20 Charisma saving throw, it succeeds, and you become an NPC under the DM's control until the intruding life force is banished using magic such as the {@spell dispel evil and good} spell.
21-25Creatures with a challenge rating of 0, as well as plants that aren't creatures, drop to 0 hit points when within 10 feet of the artifact.
26-30The artifact imprisons a {@creature death slaad} (see the Monster Manual). Each time you use one of the artifact's properties as an action, the slaad has a {@chance 10} chance of escaping, whereupon it appears within 15 feet of you and attacks you.
31-35While you are attuned to the artifact, creatures of a particular type other than humanoid (as chosen by the DM) are always hostile toward you.
36-40The artifact dilutes magic potions within 10 feet of it, rendering them nonmagical.
41-45The artifact erases magic scrolls within 10 feet of it, rendering them nonmagical.
46-50Before using one of the artifact's properties as an action, you must use a bonus action to draw blood, either from yourself or from a willing or incapacitated creature within your reach, using a piercing or slashing melee weapon. The subject takes {@dice 1d4} damage of the appropriate type.
51-60When you become attuned to the artifact, you gain a form of {@book long-term madness|dmg|8|madness effects} (see chapter 8, "Running the Game").
61-65You take {@dice 4d10} psychic damage when you become attuned to the artifact.
66-70You take {@dice 8d10} psychic damage when you become attuned to the artifact.
71-75Before you can become attuned to the artifact, you must kill a creature of your alignment.
76-80When you become attuned to the artifact, one of your ability scores is reduced by 2 at random. A {@spell greater restoration} spell restores the ability to normal.
81-85Each time you become attuned to the artifact, you age {@dice 3d10} years. You must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or die from the shock. If you die, you are instantly transformed into a {@creature wight} (see the Monster Manual) under the DM's control that is sworn to protect the artifact.
86-90While attuned to the artifact, you lose the ability to speak.
91-95While attuned to the artifact, you have vulnerability to all damage.
96-00When you become attuned to the artifact, there is a {@chance 10} chance that you attract the attention of a god that sends an avatar to wrest the artifact from you. The avatar has the same alignment as its creator and the statistics of an {@creature empyrean} (see the Monster Manual). Once it obtains the artifact, the avatar vanishes.

Destroying Artifacts

An artifact must be destroyed in some special way. Otherwise, it is impervious to damage. Each artifact has a weakness by which its creation can be undone. Learning this weakness might require extensive research or the successful completion of a quest. The DM decides how a particular artifact can be destroyed. Some suggestions are provided here:

Sample Artifacts

The artifacts presented here have appeared in one or more of D&D worlds. Use them as guides when creating your own artifacts, or modify them as you see fit.

Other Rewards

As much as adventurers desire treasure, they often appreciate other forms of reward. This section presents a variety of ways that gods, monarchs, and other beings of power might recognize the characters' accomplishments, including supernatural gifts that give characters new capabilities; titles, lands, and other marks of prestige; and boons that are available only to adventurers who have reached 20th level.

Supernatural Gifts

A supernatural gift is a special reward granted by a being or force of great magical power. Such supernatural gifts come in two forms: blessings and charms. A blessing is usually bestowed by a god or a godlike being. A charm is typically the work of a powerful spirit, a location of ancient magic, or a creature that has legendary actions. Unlike a magic item, a supernatural gift isn't an object and doesn't require attunement. It gives a character an extraordinary ability, which can be used one or more times.


A character might receive a blessing from a deity for doing something truly momentous-an accomplishment that catches the attention of both gods and mortals.

Killing rampaging gnolls rarely warrants such a blessing, but slaying the high priest of Tiamat as he attempts to summon the Dragon Queen might.

A blessing is an appropriate reward for one of the following accomplishments:

An adventurer might also receive a blessing in advance of a perilous quest. For example, a paladin could receive one before setting out on a quest to slay a terrifying lich that is responsible for a magical plague sweeping the land.

A character should receive only a blessing that is useful to him or her, and some blessings come with expectations on the part of the benefactor. A god typically gives a blessing for a particular purpose, such as recovering a holy person's remains or toppling a tyrannical empire. The god might revoke a blessing if a character fails to pursue that purpose or acts counter to it.

A character retains the benefits of a blessing forever or until it is taken away by the god who granted it. Unlike a magic item, such a blessing can't be suppressed by an antimagic field or similar effect.

Most adventurers go their entire lives without receiving even one of these blessings. There is no limit on the number of blessings a character can receive, but it should be rare for a character to have more than one at a time. Moreover, a character can't benefit from multiple instances of a blessing at the same time. For example, a character can't benefit from two instances of the Blessing of Health at once.

Example blessings are provided below. The text of a blessing addresses its user. If you decide to create more blessings, consider this: a typical blessing mimics the properties of a wondrous item.


A charm is a minor supernatural gift, which can be received in a large variety of ways. For example, a wizard who finds an eldritch secret in a dead archmage's spellbook might be infused with the magic of a charm, as might a character who solves a sphinx's riddle or drinks from a magic fountain. Legendary creatures, such as ancient gold dragons and unicorns, sometimes grace their allies with charms, and some explorers find themselves bearing the magic of a charm after discovering a long-lost location that is drenched in primeval magic.

Some charms can be used only once, and others can be used a specific number of times before vanishing. If a charm lets you cast a spell, you are able to do so without spending a spell slot or providing any components (verbal, somatic, or material). In any case, a charm can't be used in the area created by an antimagic field or a similar effect, and a charm's effects are susceptible to dispel magic and the like. But the charm itself can't be removed from a creature by anything short of divine intervention or the wish spell.

Example charms are provided below. The text of a charm addresses its user. A typical charm mimics the effects of a potion or a spell, so it is easy to create more charms of your own, if you like.

Marks of Prestige

Sometimes the most memorable reward for adventurers is the prestige that they acquire throughout a realm. Their adventures often earn them fame and power, allies and enemies, and titles that they can pass on to their descendants. Some lords and ladies began as commoners who ventured into the dangerous places of the world and made names for themselves through their brave deeds.

This section details the most common marks of prestige that adventures might acquire during a campaign. These marks are usually gained along with treasure, but sometimes they stand on their own.

Letters of Recommendation

When gold is in short supply, the adventurers' benefactor might provide them with a letter of recommendation instead of monetary payment. Such a letter is usually enclosed in a handsome folio, case, or scroll tube for safe transport, and it usually bears the signature and seal of whoever wrote it.

A letter of recommendation from a person of impeccable reputation can grant adventurers access to NPCs that they would otherwise have trouble meeting on their own, such as a duke, viceroy, or queen. Moreover, carrying such a recommendation on one's person can help clear up "misunderstandings" with local authorities who might not otherwise take the adventurers at their word.

A letter of recommendation is worth only as much as the person who wrote it and offers no benefit in places where its writer holds no sway.


Although they are often fashioned from gold and other precious materials, medals have an even greater symbolic value to those who award and receive them.

Medals are typically awarded by powerful political figures for acts of heroism, and wearing a medal is usually enough to earn the respect of those who understand its significance.

Different acts of heroism can warrant different kinds of medals. The King of Breland (in the Eberron campaign setting) might award a Royal Badge of Valor (shaped like a shield and made of ruby and electrum) to adventurers for defending Brelish citizens, while the Golden Bear of Breland (a medal made of gold and shaped in a likeness of a bear's head, with gems for eyes) might be reserved for adventurers who prove their allegiance to the Brelish Crown by uncovering and defeating a plot to end the Treaty of Thronehold and reignite the Last War.

A medal doesn't offer a specific in-game benefit to one who wears it, but it can affect dealings with NPCs. For example, a character who proudly displays the Golden Bear of Breland will be regarded as a hero of the people within the kingdom of Breland. Outside Breland, the medal carries far less weight, except among allies of Breland's king.

Parcels of Land

A parcel of land is just that, and usually comes with a royal letter affirming that the land has been granted as a reward for some service. Such land usually remains the property of the local ruler or ruling body, but is leased to a character with the understanding that it can be taken away, especially if his or her loyalty is ever called into question.

A parcel of land, if sufficiently large, might have one or more farms or villages on it already, in which case the recipient is pronounced lord or lady of the land and is expected to collect taxes, along with any other duties.

A character who receives a parcel of land is free to build on it and is expected to safeguard it. He or she may yield the land as part of an inheritance, but can't sell or trade it without permission from the local ruler or ruling body.

Parcels of land make fine rewards for adventurers who are looking for a place to settle or who have family or some kind of personal investment in the region where the land is located.

Special Favors

A reward might come in the form of a favor that the characters can call on at some future date. Special favors work best when the individual granting them is trustworthy. A lawful good or lawful neutral NPC will do whatever can be done to fulfill an obligation when the time comes, short of breaking laws. A lawful evil NPC does the same, but only because a deal is a deal.

A neutral good or neutral NPC might pay off favors to protect his or her reputation. A chaotic good NPC is more concerned about doing right by the adventurers, honoring any obligations without worrying too much about personal risk or adherence to the law.

Special Rights

A politically powerful person can reward characters by giving them special rights, which are usually articulated in some sort of official document. For example, characters might be granted special rights to carry weapons in public places, kill enemies of the crown, or negotiate on a duke's behalf. They might earn the right to demand free room and board from any establishment within a particular community, or have the right to draft local militia to assist them as needed. Special rights last only as long as the legal document dictates, and such rights can be revoked if the adventurers abuse them.


A stronghold is a reward usually given to seasoned adventurers who demonstrate unwavering fealty to a powerful political figure or ruling body, such as a king, a knighthood, or a council of wizards. A stronghold can be anything from a fortified tower in the heart of a city to a provincial keep on the borderlands. While the stronghold is for the characters to govern as they see fit, the land on which it sits remains the property of the crown or local ruler. Should the characters prove disloyal or unworthy of the gift, they can be asked or forced to relinquish custody of the stronghold.

As an additional reward, the individual bequeathing the stronghold might offer to pay its maintenance costs for a period of one or more months, after which the characters inherit that responsibility. See chapter 6 for more information on stronghold maintenance.


A politically powerful figure has the ability to dispense titles. A title often comes with a parcel of land (see above). For example, a character might be awarded the title Earl of Stormriver or Countess of Dun Fjord, along with a parcel of land that includes a settlement or region of the same name.

A character can hold more than one title, and in a feudal society, those titles can be passed down to (or distributed among) one's children. While a character holds a title, he or she is expected to act in a manner befitting that title. By decree, titles can be stripped away if the local ruler or ruling body has reason to question the character's loyalty or competence.


A character might be offered special training in lieu of a financial reward. This kind of training isn't widely available and thus is highly desirable. It presumes the existence of a skilled trainer-perhaps a retired adventurer or champion who is willing to serve as a mentor. The trainer might be a reclusive wizard or haughty sorcerer who owes the queen a favor, the knight-commander of the King's Guard, the leader of a powerful druid circle, a quirky monk who lives in a remote mountaintop pagoda, a barbarian chieftain, a warlock living among nomads as a fortune-teller, or an absentminded bard whose plays and poetry are known throughout the land.

A character who agrees to training as a reward must spend downtime with the trainer (see chapter 6 for more information on downtime activities). In exchange, the character is guaranteed to receive a special benefit. Possible training benefits include the following:

Epic Boons

An epic boon is a special power available only to 20th level characters. Characters at that level gain such boons only if you want them to and only when you feel it's appropriate. Epic boons are best awarded after the characters complete a major quest, or accomplish something else particularly notable. A character might gain an epic boon after destroying an evil artifact, defeating an ancient dragon, or halting an incursion from the Outer Planes.

Epic boons can also be used as a form of advancement, a way to provide greater power to characters who have no more levels to gain. With this approach, consider awarding one epic boon to each character for every 30,000 XP he or she earns above 355,000 XP.

You determine which epic boon a character gains. Ideally, the boon you pick is something the character would put to use in future adventures. You can allow a player to select a boon for his or her character, subject to your approval.

Whatever boon a character ends up with, consider its place in your story and world. Many of the boons are extraordinary and represent the gradual transformation of a character into something resembling a demigod. The acquisition of a boon might visibly transform a character. For example, the eyes of a character with the Boon of Truesight might glow when he or she feels strong emotion, and a character who has the Boon of High Magic might have faint motes of light glimmering around his or her head. Also, decide how the boon first appears. Does the boon appear spontaneously and mysteriously? Or does a being of cosmic power manifest to bestow it? The bestowal of a boon can itself be an exciting scene in an adventure.

The text of a boon addresses its user. Unless a boon says otherwise, a character can't gain it more than once.

See the {@filter Other Rewards|rewards|type=boon} page for a list of available boons.

Alternatives to Epic Boons

You might decide to grant one of the following rewards to a 20th-level character, instead of awarding an epic boon. These two options can be awarded to a character more than once.

Ability Score Improvement

The character can increase one ability score by 2 or increase two ability scores by 1 each. The ability score can now be increased above 20, up to a maximum of 30.

New Feat

The character gains a new feat chosen by the player, but subject to your approval.

Running the Game

Rules enable you and your players to have fun at the table. The rules serve you, not vice versa. There are the rules of the game, and there are table rules for how the game is played. For instance, players need to know what happens when one of them misses a session. They need to know whether to bring miniatures, any special rules you've decided to use, and how to treat a cocked die (a die that lands so that its face can't be clearly read). These topics and more are covered in this chapter.

Table Rules

Ideally, players come to the gaming table with the same goal: to have a fun time together. This section gives recommendations for table rules you can establish to help meet that goal. Here are some fundamentals:

Table Talk

Set expectations about how players talk at the table:

Dice Rolling

Establish expectations about rolling dice. Rolling in full view of everyone is a good starting point. If you see a player rolling and scooping the dice up before anyone else can see, encourage that player to be less secretive.

When a die falls on the floor, do you count it or reroll it? When it lands cocked against a book, do you pull the book away and see where it lands, or reroll it?

What about you, the DM? Do you make your rolls in the open or hide them behind a DM screen? Consider the following:

Rolling Attacks and Damage

Players are accustomed to rolling an attack roll first and then a damage roll. If players make attack rolls and damage rolls at the same time, the action moves a little faster around the table.

Rules Discussions

You might need to set a policy on rules discussions at the table. Some groups don't mind putting the game on hold while they hash out different interpretations of a rule. Others prefer to let the DM make a call and continue with the action. If you gloss over a rules issue in play, make a note of it (a good task to delegate to a player) and return to the issue later.

Metagame Thinking

Metagame thinking means thinking about the game as a game. It's like when a character in a movie knows it's a movie and acts accordingly. For example, a player might say, "The DM wouldn't throw such a powerful monster at us!" or you might hear, "The read-aloud text spent a lot of time describing that door-let's search it again!" Discourage metagame thinking by giving players a gentle reminder: "What do your characters think?" You can curb metagame thinking by setting up situations that will be difficult for the characters and that might require negotiation or retreat to survive.

Missing Players

How should you deal with the characters of missing players? Consider these options:

Small Groups

Most of the time, each player runs one character. The game plays best that way, without overwhelming anyone. But if your group is small, players can control more than one character. Or you can fill out the group with NPC followers, using the guidelines in chapter 4, "Creating Nonplayer Characters." You can also make the characters more resilient by using the healing surge option in chapter 9, "Dungeon Master's Workshop." Don't force a reluctant player to take on multiple characters, and don't show favoritism by allowing only one player to do so. If one character is the mentor of the other, the player can focus on roleplaying just one character. Otherwise, players can end up awkwardly talking to themselves in character, or avoiding roleplaying altogether.

Multiple characters can be a good idea in a game that features nonstop peril and a high rate of character death. If your group agrees to the premise, have each player keep one or two additional characters on hand, ready to jump in whenever the current character dies. Each time the main character gains a level, the backup characters do as well.

New Players

When a new player joins the group, allow the new player to create a character of a level equal to the lowest-level member of the party. The only exception to this guideline is when the new player is completely unfamiliar with the D&D game. In that case, have that player start with a 1st-level character. If the rest of the party is significantly higher in level, consider taking a short break from the campaign and having everyone play a 1st-level character for a few sessions while the new player learns the ropes.

Integrating a new character into the group can be difficult if the party is in the middle of an adventure. The following approaches can help make it easier:

The Role of Dice

Dice are neutral arbiters. They can determine the outcome of an action without assigning any motivation to the DM and without playing favorites. The extent to which you use them is entirely up to you.

Rolling with It

Some DMs rely on die rolls for almost everything. When a character attempts a task, the DM calls for a check and picks a DC. As a DM using this style, you can't rely on the characters succeeding or failing on any one check to move the action in a specific direction. You must be ready to improvise and react to a changing situation.

Relying on dice also gives the players the sense that anything is possible. Sure, it might seem unlikely that the party's halfling can leap on the ogre's back, pull a sack over its head, and then dive to safety, but with a lucky enough roll it just might work.

A drawback of this approach is that roleplaying can diminish if players feel that their die rolls, rather than their decisions and characterizations, always determine success.

Ignoring the Dice

One approach is to use dice as rarely as possible. Some DMs use them only during combat, and determine success or failure as they like in other situations.

With this approach, the DM decides whether an action or a plan succeeds or fails based on how well the players make their case, how thorough or creative they are, or other factors. For example, the players might describe how they search for a secret door, detailing how they tap on a wall or twist a torch sconce to find its trigger. That could be enough to convince the DM that they find the secret door without having to make an ability check to do so.

This approach rewards creativity by encouraging players to look to the situation you've described for an answer, rather than looking to their character sheet or their character's special abilities. A downside is that no DM is completely neutral. A DM might come to favor certain players or approaches, or even work against good ideas if they send the game in a direction he or she doesn't like. This approach can also slow the game if the DM focuses on one "correct" action that the characters must describe to overcome an obstacle.

The Middle Path

Many DMs find that using a combination of the two approaches works best. By balancing the use of dice against deciding on success, you can encourage your players to strike a balance between relying on their bonuses and abilities and paying attention to the game and immersing themselves in its world.

Remember that dice don't run your game-you do. Dice are like rules. They're tools to help keep the action moving. At any time, you can decide that a player's action is automatically successful. You can also grant the player advantage on any ability check, reducing the chance of a bad die roll foiling the character's plans. By the same token, a bad plan or unfortunate circumstances can transform the easiest task into an impossibility, or at least impose disadvantage.

Using Ability Scores

When a player wants to do something, it's often appropriate to let the attempt succeed without a roll or a reference to the character's ability scores. For example, a character doesn't normally need to make a Dexterity check to walk across an empty room or a Charisma check to order a mug of ale. Only call for a roll if there is a meaningful consequence for failure. When deciding whether to use a roll, ask yourself two questions:

If the answer to both of these questions is no, some kind of roll is appropriate. The following sections provide guidance on determining whether to call for an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw; how to assign DCs; when to use advantage and disadvantage; and other related topics.

Ability Checks

An ability check is a test to see whether a character succeeds at a task that he or she has decided to attempt. The Player's Handbook includes examples of what each ability score is used for. The Ability Checks table summarizes that material for easy reference.

Multiple Ability Checks

Sometimes a character fails an ability check and wants to try again. In some cases, a character is free to do so; the only real cost is the time it takes. With enough attempts and enough time, a character should eventually succeed at the task. To speed things up, assume that a character spending ten times the normal amount of time needed to complete a task automatically succeeds at that task. However, no amount of repeating the check allows a character to turn an impossible task into a successful one.

In other cases, failing an ability check makes it impossible to make the same check to do the same thing again. For example, a rogue might try to trick a town guard into thinking the adventurers are undercover agents of the king. If the rogue loses a contest of Charisma (Deception) against the guard's Wisdom (Insight), the same lie told again won't work. The characters can come up with a different way to get past the guard or try the check again against another guard at a different gate. But you might decide that the initial failure makes those checks more difficult to pull off.

Ability Checks

Ability Checks
AbilityUsed for...Example Uses
StrengthPhysical force and athleticismSmash down a door, move a boulder, use a spike to wedge a door shut
DexterityAgility, reflexes, and balanceSneak past a guard, walk along a narrow ledge, wriggle free from chains
ConstitutionStamina and healthEndure a marathon, grasp hot metal without flinching, win a drinking contest
IntelligenceMemory and reasonRecall a bit of lore, recognize a clue's significance, decode an encrypted message
WisdomPerceptiveness and willpowerSpot a hidden creature, sense that someone is lying
CharismaSocial influence and confidencePersuade a creature to do something, cow a crowd, lie to someone convincingly


A contest is a kind of ability check that matches two creatures against each other. Use a contest if a character attempts something that either directly foils or is directly opposed by another creature's efforts. In a contest, the ability checks are compared to each other, rather than to a target number.

When you call for a contest, you pick the ability that each side must use, deciding whether both sides use the same ability or whether different abilities should counter each other. For example, when a creature tries to hide, it engages in a contest of Dexterity against Wisdom. But if two creatures arm wrestle, or if one creature is holding a door closed against another's attempt to push it open, both use Strength.

Intelligence Check vs. Wisdom Check

If you have trouble deciding whether to call for an Intelligence or a Wisdom check to determine whether a character notices something, think of it in terms of what a very high or low score in those two abilities might mean.

A character with a high Wisdom but low Intelligence is aware of the surroundings but is bad at interpreting what things mean. The character might spot that one section of a wall is clean and dusty compared to the others, but he or she wouldn't necessarily make the deduction that a secret door is there.

In contrast, a character with high Intelligence and low Wisdom is probably oblivious but clever. The character might not spot the clean section of wall but, if asked about it, could immediately deduce why it's clean.

Wisdom checks allow characters to perceive what is around them (the wall is clean here), while Intelligence checks answer why things are that way (there's probably a secret door).

Attack Rolls

Call for an attack roll when a character tries to hit a creature or an object with an attack, especially when the attack could be foiled by the target's armor or shield or by another object providing cover. You can also use attack rolls to resolve noncombat activities such as archery contests or a game of darts.

Saving Throws

A saving throw is an instant response to a harmful effect and is almost never done by choice. A save makes the most sense when something bad happens to a character and the character has a chance to avoid that effect. An ability check is something a character actively attempts to accomplish, whereas a saving throw is a split-second response to the activity of someone or something else.

Most of the time, a saving throw comes into play when an effect-such as a spell, monster ability, or trap-calls for it, telling you what kind of saving throw is involved and providing a DC for it.

Other times, a situation arises that clearly calls for a saving throw, especially when a character is subjected to a harmful effect that can't be hedged out by armor or a shield. It's up to you to decide which ability score is involved. The Saving Throws table offers suggestions.

Saving Throws

Saving Throws
AbilityUsed For...
StrengthOpposing a force that would physically move or bind you
DexterityDodging out of harm's way
ConstitutionEnduring a disease, poison, or other hazard that saps vitality
IntelligenceDisbelieving certain illusions and resisting mental assaults that can be refuted with logic, sharp memory, or both
WisdomResisting effects that charm, frighten, or otherwise assault your willpower
CharismaWithstanding effects, such as possession, that would subsume your personality or hurl you to another plane of existence

Difficulty Class

It's your job to establish the Difficulty Class for an ability check or a saving throw when a rule or an adventure doesn't give you one. Sometimes you'll even want to change such established DCs. When you do so, think of how difficult a task is and then pick the associated DC from the Typical DCs table.

Typical DCs

Typical DCs
Very easy5
Very hard25
Nearly impossible30

The numbers associated with these categories of difficulty are meant to be easy to keep in your head, so that you don't have to refer to this book every time you decide on a DC. Here are some tips for using DC categories at the gaming table.

If you've decided that an ability check is called for, then most likely the task at hand isn't a very easy one. Most people can accomplish a DC 5 task with little chance of failure. Unless circumstances are unusual, let characters succeed at such a task without making a check.

Then ask yourself, "Is this task's difficulty easy, moderate, or hard?" If the only DCs you ever use are 10, 15, and 20, your game will run just fine. Keep in mind that a character with a 10 in the associated ability and no proficiency will succeed at an easy task around 50 percent of the time. A moderate task requires a higher score or proficiency for success, whereas a hard task typically requires both. A big dose of luck with the {@dice d20} also doesn't hurt.

If you find yourself thinking, "This task is especially hard," you can use a higher DC, but do so with caution and consider the level of the characters. A DC 25 task is very hard for low-level characters to accomplish, but it becomes more reasonable after 10th level or so. A DC 30 check is nearly impossible for most low-level characters. A 20th-level character with proficiency and a relevant ability score of 20 still needs a 19 or 20 on the die roll to succeed at a task of this difficulty.

Variant: Automatic Success

Sometimes the randomness of a {@dice d20} roll leads to ludicrous results. Let's say a door requires a DC 15 Strength check to batter down. A fighter with Strength 20 might helplessly flail against the door due to bad die rolls. Meanwhile, the rogue with a 10 Strength rolls a natural 20 on her first check and knocks the door from its hinges.

If such results bother you, allow automatic success on checks for characters with high ability scores. Under this optional rule, a character automatically succeeds on any ability check with a DC less than or equal to the relevant ability score minus 5. So in the above example, the fighter would automatically kick in the door. This rule doesn't apply to contests, saving throws, or attack rolls.

The downside of this approach is its predictability. Once a character's ability score reaches 20, checks of DC 15 and lower using that ability become automatic successes. Smart players will then always try to match the character with the highest ability score against any given check. If you want some risk of failure, you need to set higher DCs. Doing this, though, can merely aggravate the problem you're trying to solve: higher DCs require higher die rolls, and thus rely even more on luck.

You can modify this rule to account for proficiencies using an additional option. If a character can apply a proficiency bonus to the check, he or she automatically succeeds if its DC is less than or equal to the relevant ability score. If you don't mind predictability, and you can resist the temptation to increase DCs, you might find that this variant speeds up play and focuses attention on truly difficult, tense situations.


When you ask a player to make an ability check, consider whether a skill or tool proficiency might apply to the check. The player might also ask you if a particular proficiency applies.

One way to think about this is to consider whether a character could become better at a particular task through training and practice. If the answer is no, it's fine to say that no proficiency applies. But if the answer is yes, then find an appropriate skill or tool proficiency to reflect that training and practice.


As described in the Player's Handbook, a skill proficiency represents a character's focus on one aspect of an ability. Among all the things a character's Dexterity score describes, the character might be particularly skilled at sneaking around, reflected in proficiency in the Stealth skill. When that skill is used for an ability check, it is usually used with Dexterity.

Under certain circumstances, you can decide a character's proficiency in a skill can be applied to a different ability check. For example, you might decide that a character forced to swim from an island to the mainland must succeed on a Constitution check (as opposed to a Strength check) because of the distance involved. The character is proficient in the Athletics skill, which covers swimming, so you allow the character's proficiency bonus to apply to this ability check. In effect, you're asking for a Constitution (Athletics) check, instead of a Strength (Athletics) check.

Often, players ask whether they can apply a skill proficiency to an ability check. If a player can provide a good justification for why a character's training and aptitude in a skill should apply to the check, go ahead and allow it, rewarding the player's creative thinking.


Having proficiency with a tool allows you to apply your proficiency bonus to an ability check you make using that tool. For example, a character proficient with {@item carpenter's tools|phb} can apply his or her proficiency bonus to a Dexterity check to craft a wooden flute, an Intelligence check to craft a wooden secret door, or a Strength check to build a working trebuchet. However, the proficiency bonus wouldn't apply to an ability check made to identify unsafe wooden construction or to discern the origin of a crafted item, since neither check requires tool use.

Saving Throws and Attack Rolls

Characters are either proficient with a saving throw or attack, or they aren't. The bonus always applies if a character is proficient. Otherwise, it doesn't.

Advantage and Disadvantage

Advantage and disadvantage are among the most useful tools in your DM's toolbox. They reflect temporary circumstances that might affect the chances of a character succeeding or failing at a task. Advantage is also a great way to reward a player who shows exceptional creativity in play.

Characters often gain advantage or disadvantage through the use of special abilities, actions, spells, or other features of their classes or backgrounds. In other cases, you decide whether a circumstance influences a roll in one direction or another, and you grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.

Consider granting {@b advantage} when...

Consider imposing {@b disadvantage} when ?

Because advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out, there's no need to keep track of how many circumstances weigh on both sides.

For example, imagine a wizard is running down a dungeon corridor to escape from a beholder. Around the corner ahead, two ogres lie in wait. Does the wizard hear the ogres readying their ambush? You look at the wizard's passive Wisdom (Perception) score and consider all the factors weighing on it.

The wizard is running, not paying attention to what's ahead of him. This imposes disadvantage on the wizard's ability check. However, the ogres are readying a portcullis trap and making a lot of noise with a winch, which could grant the wizard advantage on the check. As a result, the character has neither advantage nor disadvantage on the Wisdom check, and you don't need to consider any additional factors. Past encounters with an ogre ambush, the fact that the wizard's ears are still ringing from the thunderwave spell he cast at the beholder, the overall noise level of the dungeon-none of that matters any more. They all cancel out.


Awarding inspiration is an effective way to encourage roleplaying and risk-taking. As explained in the Player's Handbook, having inspiration gives a character an obvious benefit: being able to gain advantage on one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. Remember that a character can have no more than one inspiration at a time.

Awarding Inspiration

Think of inspiration as a spice that you can use to enhance your campaign. Some DMs forgo using inspiration, while others embrace it as a key part of the game. If you take away anything from this section, remember this golden rule: inspiration should make the game more enjoyable for everyone. Award inspiration when players take actions that make the game more exciting, amusing, or memorable.

As a rule of thumb, aim to award inspiration to each character about once per session of play. Over time, you might want to award inspiration more or less often, at a rate that works best for your table. You might use the same rate for your entire DMing career, or you might change it with each campaign.

Offering inspiration as a reward encourages certain types of behavior in your players. Think of your style as a DM and your group's preferences. What helps make the game more fun for your group? What type of actions fit in with your campaign's style or genre? Your answers to those questions help determine when you award inspiration.


Using inspiration to reward roleplaying is a good place to start for most groups. Reward a player with inspiration when that player causes his or her character to do something that is consistent with the character's personality trait, flaw, or bond. The character's action should be notable in some way. It might drive the story forward, push the adventurers into danger, or make everyone at the table laugh. In essence, you reward the player for roleplaying in a way that makes the game more enjoyable for everyone else.

Take into account each player's roleplaying style, and try not to favor one style over another. For example, Allison might be comfortable speaking in an accent and adopting her character's mannerisms, but Paul feels self-conscious when trying to act and prefers to describe his character's attitude and actions. Neither style is better than the other. Inspiration encourages players to take part and make a good effort, and awarding it fairly makes the game better for everyone.


You can use inspiration to encourage player characters to take risks. A fighter might not normally hurl himself over a balcony to land in the midst of a pack of hungry ghouls, but you can reward the character's daring maneuver with inspiration. Such a reward tells the players that you want them to embrace swashbuckling action.

This approach is great for campaigns that emphasize action-packed heroics. For such campaigns, consider allowing inspiration to be spent after a {@dice d20} roll, rather than before. This approach turns inspiration into a cushion against failure-and a guarantee that it comes into play only when a player is faced directly by failure. Such an assurance makes risky tactics less daunting.

A Reward for Victory

Some DMs prefer to play an impartial role in their campaigns. Inspiration normally requires a DM's judgment to award, which might run against your style if you like a campaign where you let dice determine most outcomes. If that's your style, consider using inspiration as a reward when the characters achieve an important goal or victory, representing a surge of confidence and energy.

Under this model, give everyone in the party inspiration if the characters manage to defeat a powerful foe, execute a cunning plan to achieve a goal, or otherwise overcome a daunting obstacle in the campaign.

Genre Emulation

Inspiration is a handy tool for reinforcing the conventions of a particular genre. Under this approach, think of the motifs of a genre as personality traits, flaws, and bonds that can apply to any of the adventurers. For example, in a campaign inspired by film noir, characters could have an additional flaw:

"I can't resist helping a person I find alluring despite warnings that he or she is nothing but trouble." If the characters agree to help a suspicious but seductive noble and thereby become entangled in a web of intrigue and betrayal, reward them with inspiration.

Similarly, characters in a horror story typically can't help but spend a night in a haunted house to learn its secrets. They probably also go off alone when they shouldn't. If the party splits up, consider giving each character inspiration.

A sensible person would avoid the noble's intrigues and the haunted house, but in film noir or horror, we're not dealing with sensible people; we're dealing with protagonists in a particular type of story. For this approach to work, create a list of your genre's main conventions and share it with your players. Before the campaign begins, talk about the list to make sure your group is on board for embracing those conventions.

Players and Inspiration

Remember that a player with inspiration can award it to another player. Some groups even like to treat inspiration as a group resource, deciding collectively when to spend it on a roll. It's best to let players award their inspiration as they see fit, but feel free to talk to them about following certain guidelines, particularly if you're trying to reinforce conventions of a certain genre.

When Do You Award Inspiration?

Consider the timing of your inspiration rewards. Some DMs like to award inspiration in response to an action. Other DMs like to encourage specific actions by offering inspiration while a player is considering options. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses.

Waiting until after an action preserves the flow of play, but it also means players don't know whether their decisions will earn them inspiration. It also means the player can't spend the inspiration on the act that earned it, unless you allow a player to retroactively spend it or are quick enough to award it before any rolls. This approach works best for groups that want to focus on immersion and player agency, where the DM steps back and gives the players more freedom to do what they want.

Telling a player that an action will earn inspiration provides clarity, but it can make it feel like you are manipulating the players or making choices for them. Offering inspiration before an action works great with groups that are comfortable with an emphasis on genre emulation and group storytelling, where character freedom isn't as important as weaving a compelling tale together.

Start with awarding inspiration after an action, especially for your first campaign or when playing with a new group. That approach is the least disruptive to the flow of play and avoids making the players feel as if you are being manipulative.

Tracking Inspiration

A player typically notes on a character sheet whether he or she has inspiration, or you can use poker chips or some other token Alternatively, you can hand out special {@dice d20}s to represent inspiration. When a player spends inspiration, he or she rolls the die and then hands it back to you. If the player instead gives the inspiration to someone else, the {@dice d20} can go to that other person.

Ignoring Inspiration

Inspiration might not work for your campaign. Some DMs feel it adds a layer of metagame thinking, and others feel that heroism, roleplaying, and other parts of the game are their own rewards that don't need incentives like inspiration.

If you choose to ignore inspiration, you're telling the players that your campaign is one where you let the dice fall where they may. It's a good option for gritty campaigns or ones where the DM focuses on playing an impartial role as a rules arbiter.

Variant: Only Players Award Inspiration

As a DM, you have a lot to track during the game. Sometimes you can lose track of inspiration and forget to award it. As a variant rule, you can allow the players to handle awarding inspiration entirely. During every session, each player can award inspiration to another player. A player follows whatever guidelines the group has agreed on for awarding inspiration.

This approach makes your life easier and also gives players the chance to recognize each other for good play. You still need to make sure that inspiration is being awarded fairly.

This approach works best with groups that are focused on the story. It falls flat if the players merely manipulate it to gain advantage in key situations, without earning inspiration by way of good roleplaying or whatever other criteria the group has established.

In this variant, you can allow each player to award inspiration more than once per session. If you do so, the first time that a player awards inspiration in a session is free. Whenever that player awards it later in the same session, you gain inspiration that you can spend to give advantage to any foe of the player characters. There's no limit to the number of inspirations you can gain in this way, and unspent inspiration carries over from one session to the next.

Resolution and Consequences

You determine the consequences of attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. In most cases, doing so is straightforward. When an attack hits, it deals damage.

When a creature fails a saving throw, the creature suffers a harmful effect. When an ability check equals or exceeds the DC, the check succeeds.

As a DM, you have a variety of flourishes and approaches you can take when adjudicating success and failure to make things a little less black-and-white.

Success at a Cost

Failure can be tough, but the agony is compounded when a character fails by the barest margin. When a character fails a roll by only 1 or 2, you can allow the character to succeed at the cost of a complication or hindrance. Such complications can run along any of the following lines:

When you introduce costs such as these, try to make them obstacles and setbacks that change the nature of the adventuring situation. In exchange for success, players must consider new ways of facing the challenge.

You can also use this technique when a character succeeds on a roll by hitting the DC exactly, complicating marginal success in interesting ways.

Degrees of Failure

Sometimes a failed ability check has different consequences depending on the degree of failure. For example, a character who fails to disarm a trapped chest might accidentally spring the trap if the check fails by 5 or more, whereas a lesser failure means that the trap wasn't triggered during the botched disarm attempt.

Consider adding similar distinctions to other checks. Perhaps a failed Charisma (Persuasion) check means a queen won't help, whereas a failure of 5 or more means she throws you in the dungeon for your impudence.

Critical Success or Failure

Rolling a 20 or a 1 on an ability check or a saving throw doesn't normally have any special effect. However, you can choose to take such an exceptional roll into account when adjudicating the outcome. It's up to you to determine how this manifests in the game. An easy approach is to increase the impact of the success or failure. For example, rolling a 1 on a failed attempt to pick a lock might break the {@item thieves' tools|phb} being used, and rolling a 20 on a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check might reveal an extra clue.


This section provides guidance for running exploration, especially travel, tracking, and visibility.

Using a Map

Whatever environment the adventurers are exploring, you can use a map to follow their progress as you relate the details of their travels. In a dungeon, tracking movement on a map lets you describe the branching passages, doors, chambers, and other features the adventurers encounter as they go, and gives the players the opportunity to choose their own path. Similarly, a wilderness map can show roads, rivers, terrain, and other features that might guide the characters on their travels-or lead them astray.

The Map Travel Pace table helps you track travel on maps of different scales. The table shows how much distance on a map the adventurers can cover on foot in minutes, hours, or days. The table uses the travel paces-slow, normal, and fast-described in the Player's Handbook. Characters moving at a normal pace can walk about 24 miles in a day.

Map Travel Pace

Map Travel Pace
Map ScaleSlow PaceNormal PaceFast Pace
Dungeon (1 sq. = 10 ft.)20 sq./min.30 sq./min.40 sq./min.
City (1 sq. = 100 ft.)2 sq./min.3 sq./min.4 sq./min.
Province (1 hex = 1 mi.)2 hexes/hr., 18 hexes/day3 hexes/hr., 24 hexes/day4 hexes/hr., 30 hexes/day
Kingdom (1 hex = 6 mi.)1 hex/3 hr., 3 hexes/day1 hex/2 hr., 4 hexes/day1 hex/1 1/2 hr., 5 hexes/day

Special Travel Pace

The rules on travel pace in the Player's Handbook assume that a group of travelers adopts a pace that, over time, is unaffected by the individual members' walking speeds. The difference between walking speeds can be significant during combat, but during an overland journey, the difference vanishes as travelers pause to catch their breath, the faster ones wait for the slower ones, and one traveler's quickness is matched by another traveler's endurance.

A character bestride a phantom steed, soaring through the air on a carpet of flying, or riding a sailboat or a steam-powered gnomish contraption doesn't travel at a normal rate, since the magic, engine, or wind doesn't tire the way a creature does and the air doesn't contain the types of obstructions found on land. When a creature is traveling with a flying speed or with a speed granted by magic, an engine, or a natural force (such as wind or a water current), translate that speed into travel rates using the following rules:

For example, a character under the effect of a wind walk spell gains a flying speed of 300 feet. In 1 minute, the character can move 3,000 feet at a normal pace, 4,000 feet at a fast pace, or 2,000 feet at a slow pace.

The character can also cover 20, 30, or 40 miles in an hour. The spell lasts for 8 hours, allowing the character to travel 160, 240, or 320 miles in a day.

Similarly, a phantom steed spell creates a magical mount with a speed of 100 feet that doesn't tire like a real horse. A character on a phantom steed can cover 1,000 feet in 1 minute at a normal pace, 1,333 feet at a fast pace, or 666 feet at a slow pace. In 1 hour, the character can travel 7, 10, or 13 miles.

Visibility Outdoors

When traveling outdoors, characters can see about 2 miles in any direction on a clear day, or until the point where trees, hills, or other obstructions block their view. Rain normally cuts maximum visibility down to 1 mile, and fog can cut it down to between 100 and 300 feet. On a clear day, the characters can see 40 miles if they are atop a mountain or a tall hill, or are otherwise able to look down on the area around them from a height.

Noticing Other Creatures

While exploring, characters might encounter other creatures. An important question in such a situation is who notices whom.

Indoors, whether the sides can see one another usually depends on the configuration of rooms and passageways. Vision might also be limited by light sources. Outdoor visibility can be hampered by terrain, weather, and time of day. Creatures can be more likely to hear one another before they see anything.

If neither side is being stealthy, creatures automatically notice each other once they are within sight or hearing range of one another. Otherwise, compare the Dexterity (Stealth) check results of the creatures in the group that is hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the other group, as explained in the {@i Player's Handbook}.


Adventurers sometimes choose their path by following the tracks of other creatures-or other creatures might track the adventurers! To track, one or more creatures must succeed on a Wisdom (Survival) check. You might require trackers to make a new check in any of the following circumstances:

The DC for the check depends on how well the ground shows signs of a creature's passage. No roll is necessary in situations where the tracks are obvious. For example, no check is needed to track an army advancing along a muddy road. Spotting tracks on a bare stone floor is more challenging, unless the creature being tracked leaves a distinct trail. Additionally, the passage of time often makes tracks harder to follow. In a situation where there is no trail to follow, you can rule that tracking is impossible. The Tracking DCs table offers guidelines for setting the DC or, if you prefer, you can choose a DC based on your assessment of the difficulty. You can also grant advantage on the check if there's more than one set of tracks to follow, or disadvantage if the trail being followed passes through a well-trafficked area.

On a failed check, the character loses the trail but can attempt to find it again by making a careful search of the area. It takes 10 minutes to find a trail in a confined area such as a dungeon, or 1 hour outdoors.

Tracking DCs

Tracking DCs
Ground SurfaceDC
Soft surface such as snow10
Dirt or grass15
Bare stone20
Each day since the creature passed+5
Creature left a trail such as blood-5

Social Interaction

During a social interaction, the adventurers usually have a goal. They want to extract information, secure aid, win someone's trust, escape punishment, avoid combat, negotiate a treaty, or achieve whatever other objective led to the interaction in the first place. The creatures they interact with also have agendas.

Some DMs prefer to run a social interaction as a free-form roleplaying exercise, where dice rarely come into play. Other DMs prefer to resolve the outcome of an interaction by having characters make Charisma checks. Either approach works, and most games fall somewhere in between, balancing player skill(roleplaying and persuading) with character skill (reflected by ability checks).

Resolving Interactions

The {@i Player's Handbook} provides guidelines for balancing roleplaying and ability checks in a social interaction (see chapter 8, "Adventuring," in that book). This section adds to that material by providing a structured way to resolve a social interaction. Much of this structure will be invisible to your players in play and isn't meant to be a substitute for roleplaying.

1. Starting Attitude

Choose the starting attitude of a creature the adventurers are interacting with: friendly, indifferent, or hostile.

A {@b friendly} creature wants to help the adventurers and wishes for them to succeed. For tasks or actions that require no particular risk, effort, or cost, friendly creatures usually help without question. If an element of personal risk is involved, a successful Charisma check might be required to convince a friendly creature to take that risk.

An {@b indifferent} creature might help or hinder the party, depending on what the creature sees as most beneficial. A creature's indifference doesn't necessarily make it standoffish or disinterested. Indifferent creatures might be polite and genial, surly and irritable, or anything in between. A successful Charisma check is necessary when the adventurers try to persuade an indifferent creature to do something.

A {@b hostile} creature opposes the adventurers and their goals but doesn't necessarily attack them on sight. For example, a condescending noble might wish to see a group of upstart adventurers fail so as to keep them from becoming rivals for the king's attention, thwarting them with slander and scheming rather than direct threats and violence. The adventurers need to succeed on one or more challenging Charisma checks to convince a hostile creature to do anything on their behalf. That said, a hostile creature might be so ill-disposed toward the party that no Charisma check can improve its attitude, in which case any attempt to sway it through diplomacy fails automatically.

2. Conversation

Play out the conversation. Let the adventurers make their points, trying to frame their statements in terms that are meaningful to the creature they are interacting with.

Changing Attitude

The attitude of a creature might change over the course of a conversation. If the adventurers say or do the right things during an interaction (perhaps by touching on a creature's ideal, bond, or flaw), they can make a hostile creature temporarily indifferent, or make an indifferent creature temporarily friendly. Likewise, a gaffe, insult, or harmful deed might make a friendly creature temporarily indifferent or turn an indifferent creature hostile.

Whether the adventurers can shift a creature's attitude is up to you. You decide whether the adventurers have successfully couched their statements in terms that matter to the creature. Typically, a creature's attitude can't shift more than one step during a single interaction, whether temporarily or permanently.

Determining Characteristics

The adventurers don't necessarily enter into a social interaction with a full understanding of a creature's ideal, bond, or flaw. If they want to shift a creature's attitude by playing on these characteristics, they first need to determine what the creature cares about. They can guess, but doing so runs the risk of shifting the creature's attitude in the wrong direction if they guess badly.

After interacting with a creature long enough to get a sense of its personality traits and characteristics through conversation, an adventurer can attempt a Wisdom (Insight) check to uncover one of the creature's characteristics. You set the DC. A check that fails by 10 or more might misidentify a characteristic, so you should provide a false characteristic or invert one of the creature's existing characteristics. For example, if an old sage's flaw is that he is prejudiced against the uneducated, an adventurer who badly fails the check might be told that the sage enjoys personally seeing to the education of the downtrodden.

Given time, adventurers can also learn about a creature's characteristics from other sources, including its friends and allies, personal letters, and publicly told stories. Acquiring such information might be the basis of an entirely different set of social interactions.

3. Charisma Check

When the adventurers get to the point of their request, demand, or suggestion-or if you decide the conversation has run its course-call for a Charisma check. Any character who has actively participated in the conversation can make the check. Depending on how the adventurers handled the conversation, the Persuasion, Deception, or Intimidation skill might apply to the check. The creature's current attitude determines the DC required to achieve a specific reaction, as shown in the Conversation Reaction table.

stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Conversation Reaction [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Conversation Reaction [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => DC [1] => Friendly Creature's Reaction ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 0 [1] => The creature does as asked without taking risks or making sacrifices. ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 10 [1] => The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked. ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 20 [1] => The creature accepts a significant risk or sacrifice to do as asked. ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => DC [1] => Indifferent Creature's Reaction ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 0 [1] => The creature offers no help but does no harm. ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 10 [1] => The creature does as asked as long as no risks or sacrifices are involved. ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 20 [1] => The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked. ) ) ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => DC [1] => Hostile Creature's Reaction ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-2 text-align-center [1] => col-10 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => 0 [1] => The creature opposes the adventurers' actions and might take risks to do so. ) [1] => Array ( [0] => 10 [1] => The creature offers no help but does no harm. ) [2] => Array ( [0] => 20 [1] => The creature does as asked as long as no risks or sacrifices are involved. ) ) ) ) )

Aiding the Check

Other characters who make substantial contributions to the conversation can help the character making the check. If a helping character says or does something that would influence the interaction in a positive way, the character making the Charisma check can do so with advantage. If the other character inadvertently says something counter productive or offensive, the character making the Charisma check has disadvantage on that check.

Multiple Checks

Certain situations might call for more than one check, particularly if the adventurers come into the interaction with multiple goals.

4. Repeat?

Once a Charisma check has been made, further attempts to influence the target of the interaction might be fruitless or run the risk of upsetting or angering the subject creature, potentially shifting its attitude toward hostility. Use your best judgment. For example, if the party's rogue says something that pushes a noble's attitude toward the party from indifferent to hostile, another character might be able to diffuse the noble's hostility with clever roleplaying and a successful Charisma (Persuasion) check.


For some DMs, roleplaying comes naturally. If it doesn't come naturally for you, don't worry. The main thing is for you to have fun portraying your NPCs and monsters and to amuse your players in the process. You don't need to be a practiced thespian or comedian to create drama or humor. The key is to pay attention to the story elements and characterizations that make your players laugh or feel emotionally engaged and to incorporate those things into your roleplaying.

Being the NPC

Imagine how a character or monster you bring to life would react to the adventurers. Consider what it cares about. Does it have any ideals, flaws, or bonds? By working such things into your portrayal, you not only make the character or monster more believable, but you also enhance the sense that the adventurers are in a living world.

Strive for responses and actions that introduce twists into the game. For example, an old woman whose family was killed at the hands of an evil wizard might regard the party's wizard with grave suspicion.

However you roleplay a character or monster, the classic advice for writers holds true: show, don't tell. For example, rather than describe an NPC as shallow and self-centered, have the individual act the way you would expect a shallow, self-centered person to behave. The NPC might have off-the-cuff answers for everything, an over-willingness to share personal anecdotes, and a desperate need to make himself or herself the subject of every conversation.

Using Your Voice

Most of what you say during a session will be at a consistent level. For dramatic effect, be ready to shout out a battle cry or speak in a conspiratorial whisper.

Also, characters and monsters with distinctive voices are memorable. If you're not a natural mimic or actor, borrowing distinctive speech patterns from real life, the movies, or television is a good place to start. Practice different voices and impersonations of famous people, then use those voices to bring your NPCs to life.

Experiment with different speech patterns. For instance, a barmaid and a city magistrate probably use their words differently. Similarly, peasants could speak in earthy dialects, while rich folk talk in haughty drawls.

Let a pirate NPC say, "Arrrr, maties!" in your best Long John Silver voice. Let intelligent monsters unfamiliar with Common stumble along with awkward grammar.

Let drunkards and monsters mutter with slurred speech, while lizardfolk hiss their threats. In any interaction with multiple NPCs, make sure the adventurers remain the focus. Have the NPCs talk to them, not so much to each other. If possible, let one NPC do most of the talking, but if multiple NPCs need to talk, give them distinct voices so the players know who's who.

Using Your Face and Arms

Use your facial expressions to help show a character's emotions. Scowl, smile, grin, snarl, pout, cross your eyes-do whatever it takes to make the character or monster memorable to the players. When you combine facial expressions with an unusual voice, a character truly comes to life.

Though you don't need to stand up out of your chair, you can use your arms to bring even more life to an NPC. A noble could chop the air with one hand while speaking in a deadpan monotone, while an archmage might express her displeasure by silently rolling her eyes and massaging her temples with her fingers.

Engaging the Players

Some players enjoy roleplaying and interaction more than others. Whatever your players' tastes, your lively portrayal of NPCs and monsters can inspire players to make just as much investment in portraying their characters. This makes social interactions an opportunity for everyone to become more immersed in the game, creating a story whose protagonists have depth.

To make sure everyone has something to do during a roleplaying-heavy game session, consider one or more of the following approaches.

Appeal to Player Preferences

There are in-game activities that players enjoy more than others, as discussed in this book's introduction. Players who like acting thrive in interaction situations, and it's fine to let those players take the spotlight. They often inspire other players by their example, but make sure those other players have an opportunity to join in the fun.

Players who like exploring and storytelling are usually amenable to roleplaying, as long as it moves the campaign forward and reveals more about the world. Players who like problem-solving often enjoy figuring out the right thing to say to shift an NPC's attitude. Players who are instigators like provoking reactions from NPCs, so they're often easily engaged-though not always productively.

Players who like to optimize their characters and slay monsters also like to argue, and having conflict within an interaction can help those players embrace roleplaying. Still, creating combat connections to an extended interaction (such as a corrupt vizier sending assassins to kill the adventurers) is often the best way to keep action-focused players engaged.

Target Specific Characters

Create situations where characters who might not otherwise be engaged with a social interaction have to do at least some of the talking. Perhaps the NPC in question is a family member or a contact of a particular adventurer and talks only to that character. An NPC of a certain race or class might listen only to characters he or she feels a kinship with. Creating a sense of importance can be a great way to get specific players engaged, but don't shut out players who are already roleplaying.

If a couple of players are dominating the conversation, take a moment now and then to involve the others. You can do this in character if you like: "And what about your hulking friend? Speak, barbarian! What will you pledge in exchange for my favor?" Or just ask the player what his or her character is doing while the conversation is going on. The first approach is better for players who are already comfortable speaking in their characters' voices. The second approach works better for players who need encouragement to engage in a roleplaying scenario.


When characters need to saw through ropes, shatter a window, or smash a vampire's coffin, the only hard and fast rule is this: given enough time and the right tools, characters can destroy any destructible object. Use common sense when determining a character's success at damaging an object. Can a fighter cut through a section of a stone wall with a sword? No, the sword is likely to break before the wall does.

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

Statistics for Objects

When time is a factor, you can assign an Armor Class and hit points to a destructible object. You can also give it immunities, resistances, and vulnerabilities to specific types of damage.

Armor Class

An object's Armor Class is a measure of how difficult it is to deal damage to the object when striking it (because the object has no chance of dodging out of the way). The Object Armor Class table provides suggested AC values for various substances.

Object Armor Class

Object Armor Class
Cloth, paper, rope11
Crystal, glass, ice13
Wood, bone15
Iron, steel19

Hit Points

An object's hit points measure how much damage it can take before losing its structural integrity. Resilient objects have more hit points than fragile ones. Large objects also tend to have more hit points than small ones, unless breaking a small part of the object is just as effective as breaking the whole thing. The Object Hit Points table provides suggested hit points for fragile and resilient objects that are Large or smaller.

Object Hit Points

Object Hit Points
Tiny (bottle, lock)2 ({@dice 1d4})5 ({@dice 2d4})
Small (chest, lute)3 ({@dice 1d6})10 ({@dice 3d6})
Medium (barrel, chandelier)4 ({@dice 1d8})18 ({@dice 4d8})
Large (cart, 10-ft.-by-10-ft. window)5 ({@dice 1d10})27 ({@dice 5d10})

Huge and Gargantuan Objects

Normal weapons are of little use against many Huge and Gargantuan objects, such as a colossal statue, towering column of stone, or massive boulder. That said, one torch can burn a Huge tapestry, and an earthquake spell can reduce a colossus to rubble. You can track a Huge or Gargantuan object's hit points if you like, or you can simply decide how long the object can withstand whatever weapon or force is acting against it. If you track hit points for the object, divide it into Large or smaller sections, and track each section's hit points separately. Destroying one of those sections could ruin the entire object. For example, a Gargantuan statue of a human might topple over when one of its Large legs is reduced to 0 hit points.

Objects and Damage Types

Objects are immune to poison and psychic damage. You might decide that some damage types are more effective against a particular object or substance than others. For example, bludgeoning damage works well for smashing things but not for cutting through rope or leather. Paper or cloth objects might be vulnerable to fire and lightning damage. A pick can chip away stone but can't effectively cut down a tree. As always, use your best judgment.

Damage Threshold

Big objects such as castle walls often have extra resilience represented by a damage threshold. An object with a damage threshold has immunity to all damage unless it takes an amount of damage from a single attack or effect equal to or greater than its damage threshold, in which case it takes damage as normal. Any damage that fails to meet or exceed the object's damage threshold is considered superficial and doesn't reduce the object's hit points.


This section builds on the combat rules in the Player's Handbook and offers tips for keeping the game running smoothly when a fight breaks out.

Tracking Initiative

You can use several different methods for keeping track of who goes when in combat.

Hidden List

Many DMs keep track of initiative on a list the players can't see: usually a piece of paper behind a DM screen or a spreadsheet on a tablet computer. This method allows you to keep track of combatants who haven't been revealed yet, and you can use the initiative list as a place to record the current hit points of monsters, as well as other useful notes.

A downside of this approach is that you have to remind the players round after round when their turns come up.

Visible List

You can use a whiteboard to track initiative. As the players tell you their initiative numbers, write them on the whiteboard in order from highest to lowest, leaving space between each name. Either write the monsters' initiatives on the list at the same time or add them to the list on each monster's first turn.

As a further improvement, use magnets that you can attach to a metal-based whiteboard with characters' and monsters' names written on them, or write those names on cards held in place by magnets.

A visible list lets everyone see the order of play. Players know when their turns are coming up, and they can start planning their actions in advance. A visible list also removes any uncertainty about when the monsters will act in the fight.

A variation on the visible list is to give one player responsibility for keeping track of initiative, either on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper the other players can see. This method reduces the number of things you need to keep track of yourself.

Index Cards

In this approach, each character gets an index card, as does each group of identical monsters. When the players tell you their initiative numbers, write the numbers on their characters' index cards. Do the same when you roll the monsters' initiative. Then arrange the cards in order from highest to lowest. Starting at the top, you move down through the stack. When you call out the name of the character whose turn it is, also mention who's next, prompting that player to start thinking ahead. After each character or group of monsters acts, the top card is moved to the bottom of the stack.

At first, players don't know the order of play when you use combat cards, and they don't know where the monsters fall into the order until the monsters act.

Tracking Monster Hit Points

During a combat encounter, you need to track how much damage each monster takes. Most DMs track damage in secret so that their players don't know how many hit points a monster has remaining. Whether you choose to be secretive or not is up to you. What's important is that every monster's hit points be tracked individually.

Tracking damage for one or two monsters isn't onerous, but it helps to have a system for larger groups of monsters. If you aren't using miniatures or other visual aids, the easiest way to keep track of your monsters is to assign them unique features.

Descriptions such as "the ogre with the nasty scar" and "the ogre with the horned helm" help you and your players track which monster is which. For example, imagine that you're running an encounter with three ogres, each of which has 59 hit points. Once initiative is rolled, jot down each ogre's hit points and add notes (and even a name, if you like) to differentiate each one:

If you use miniatures to represent monsters, one easy way to differentiate them is to give each one a unique miniature. If you use identical miniatures to represent multiple monsters, you can tag the miniatures with small stickers of different colors or stickers with different letters or numbers on them.

For example, in a combat encounter with three ogres, you could use three identical ogre miniatures tagged with stickers marked A, B, and C, respectively. To track the ogres' hit points, you can sort them by letter, then subtract damage from their hit points as they take it.

Your records might look something like this after a few rounds of combat:

Players often ask how hurt a monster looks. Don't ever feel as though you need to reveal exact hit points, but if a monster is below half its hit point maximum, it's fair to say that it has visible wounds and appears beaten down.

You can describe a monster taken to half its hit points as bloodied, giving the players a sense of progress in a fight against a tough opponent, and helping them judge when to use their most powerful spells and abilities.

Using and Tracking Conditions

Various rules and features in the game are clear about when they apply a condition to a creature. You can also apply conditions on the fly. They're meant to be intuitive for you to do so. For example, if a character is in a state, such as sleep, that lacks consciousness, you can say the character is unconscious. Or did a character just stumble onto the ground? He or she is now prone.

Keeping track of conditions can become tricky. For monsters, it's often easiest to track conditions on combat cards or wherever you track initiative. Players should remember any conditions affecting their characters. Because players have incentive to forget or overlook hampering conditions, character conditions can also be marked on combat cards or a whiteboard.

You might also try keeping a supply of index cards on hand, marked with conditions and their effects. Then hand the cards to players as the conditions come up. Having a bright pink index card on top of a character sheet can help even the most absentminded player remember the effects of being charmed or frightened.

Monsters and Critical Hits

A monster follows the same rule for critical hits as a player character. That said, if you use a monster's average damage, rather than rolling, you might wonder how to handle a critical hit. When the monster scores a critical hit, roll all the damage dice associated with the hit and add them to the average damage. For example, if a goblin normally deals 5 ({@dice 1d6 + 2}) slashing damage on a hit and scores a critical hit, it deals {@dice 1d6 + 5} slashing damage.

Improvising Damage

A monster or effect typically specifies the amount of damage it deals. In some cases, though, you need to determine damage on the fly. The Improvising Damage table gives you suggestions for when you do so.

Improvising Damage

Improvising Damage
{@dice 1d10}Burned by coals, hit by a falling bookcase, pricked by a poison needle
{@dice 2d10}Being struck by lightning, stumbling into a fire pit
{@dice 4d10}Hit by falling rubble in a collapsing tunnel, stumbling into a vat of acid
{@dice 10d10}Crushed by compacting walls, hit by whirling steel blades, wading through a lava stream
{@dice 18d10}Being submerged in lava, being hit by a crashing flying fortress
{@dice 24d10}Tumbling into a vortex of fire on the Elemental Plane of Fire, being crushed in the jaws of a godlike creature or a moon-sized monster

The Damage Severity and Level table is a guide to how deadly these damage numbers are for characters of various levels. Cross-reference a character's level with the damage being dealt to gauge the severity of the damage.

Damage Severity and Level

Damage Severity and Level
Character LevelSetbackDangerousDeadly
1st-4th{@dice 1d10}{@dice 2d10}{@dice 4d10}
5th-10th{@dice 2d10}{@dice 4d10}{@dice 10d10}
11th-16th{@dice 4d10}{@dice 10d10}{@dice 18d10}
17th-20th{@dice 10d10}{@dice 18d10}{@dice 24d10}

Damage sufficient to cause a {@b setback} rarely poses a risk of death to characters of the level shown, but a severely weakened character might be laid low by this damage.

In contrast, {@b dangerous} damage values pose a significant threat to weaker characters and could potentially kill a character of the level shown if that character is missing many hit points.

As the name suggests, {@b deadly} damage is enough to drop a character of the level shown to 0 hit points. This level of damage can kill even powerful characters outright if they are already wounded.

Adjudicating Areas of Effect

Many spells and other game features create areas of effect, such as the cone and the sphere. If you're not using miniatures or another visual aid, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who's in an area of effect and who isn't. The easiest way to address such uncertainty is to go with your gut and make a call.

If you would like more guidance, consider using the Targets in Areas of Effect table. To use the table, imagine which combatants are near one another, and let the table guide you in determining the number of those combatants that are caught in an area of effect.

Add or subtract targets based on how bunched up the potential targets are. Consider rolling {@dice 1d3} to determine the amount to add or subtract.

Targets in Areas of Effect

Targets in Areas of Effect
AreaNumber of Targets
ConeSize ÷ 10 (round up)
Cube or squareSize ÷ 5 (round up)
CylinderRadius ÷ 5 (round up)
LineLength ÷ 30 (round up)
Sphere or circleRadius ÷ 5 (round up)

For example, if a wizard directs burning hands (a 15-foot cone) at a nearby group of orcs, you could use the table and say that two orcs are targeted (15 ÷ 10 = 1.5, rounded up to 2). Similarly, a sorcerer could launch a lightning bolt (100-foot line) at some ogres and hobgoblins, and you could use the table to say four of the monsters are targeted (100 ÷ 30 = 3.33, rounded up to 4).

This approach aims at simplicity instead of spatial precision. If you prefer more tactical nuance, consider using miniatures.

Handling Mobs

Keeping combat moving along at a brisk pace can be difficult when there are dozens of monsters involved in a battle. When handling a crowded battlefield, you can speed up play by forgoing attack rolls in favor of approximating the average number of hits a large group of monsters can inflict on a target.

Instead of rolling an attack roll, determine the minimum {@dice d20} roll a creature needs in order to hit a target by subtracting its attack bonus from the target's AC. You'll need to refer to the result throughout the battle, so it's best to write it down.

Look up the minimum {@dice d20} roll needed on the Mob Attacks table. The table shows you how many creatures that need that die roll or higher must attack a target in order for one of them to hit. If that many creatures attack the target, their combined efforts result in one of them hitting the target.

For example, eight orcs surround a fighter. The orcs' attack bonus is +5, and the fighter's AC is 19. The orcs need a 14 or higher to hit the fighter. According to the table, for every three orcs that attack the fighter, one of them hits. There are enough orcs for two groups of three. The remaining two orcs fail to hit the fighter.

If the attacking creatures deal different amounts of damage, assume that the creature that deals the most damage is the one that hits. If the creature that hits has multiple attacks with the same attack bonus, assume that it hits once with each of those attacks. If a creature's attacks have different attack bonuses, resolve each attack separately.

This attack resolution system ignores critical hits in favor of reducing the number of die rolls. As the number of combatants dwindles, switch back to using individual die rolls to avoid situations where one side can't possibly hit the other.

Mob Attacks

Mob Attacks
d20 Roll NeededAttackers Needed for One to Hit

Using Miniatures

In combat, players can often rely on your descriptions to visualize where their characters are in relation to their surroundings and their enemies. Some complex battles, however, are easier to run with visual aids, the most common of which are miniatures and a grid. If you like to construct model terrain, build three-dimensional dungeons, or draw maps on large vinyl mats, you should also consider using miniatures.

The {@i Player's Handbook} offers simple rules for depicting combat using miniature figures on a grid. This section expands on that material.

Tactical Maps

You can draw tactical maps with colored markers on a wet-erase vinyl mat with 1-inch squares, on a large sheet of paper, or on a similar flat surface. Preprinted poster-sized maps, maps assembled from cardboard tiles, and terrain made of sculpted plaster or resin are also fun.

The most common unit for tactical maps is the 5-foot square, and maps with grids are readily available and easy to create. However, you don't have to use a grid at all. You can track distances with a tape measure, string, craft sticks, or pipe cleaners cut to specific lengths. Another option is a play surface covered by 1-inch hexagons (often called hexes), which combines the easy counting of a grid with the more flexible movement of using no grid. Dungeon corridors with straight walls and right angles don't map easily onto hexes, though.

Creature Size on Squares and Hexes

A creature's size determines how much space it occupies on squares or hexes, as shown in the Creature Size and Space table. If the miniature you use for a monster takes up an amount of space different from what's on the table, that's fine, but treat the monster as its official size for all other rules. For example, you might use a miniature that has a Large base to represent a Huge giant. The giant takes up less space on the battlefield than its size suggests, but it is still Huge for the purposes of rules like grappling.

Creature Size and Space

Creature Size and Space
SizeSpace: SquaresSpace: Hexes
Tiny4 per square4 per hex
Small1 square1 hex
Medium1 square1 hex
Large4 squares (2 by 2)3 hexes
Huge9 squares (3 by 3)7 hexes
Gargantuan16 squares (4 by 4) or more12 hexes or more

Areas of Effect

The area of effect of a spell, monster ability, or other feature must be translated onto squares or hexes to determine which potential targets are in the area and which aren't.

Choose an intersection of squares or hexes as the point of origin of an area of effect, then follow its rules as normal. If an area of effect is circular and covers at least half a square, it affects that square.

Line of Sight

To determine whether there is line of sight between two spaces, pick a corner of one space and trace an imaginary line from that corner to any part of another space. If at least one such line doesn't pass through or touch an object or effect that blocks vision-such as a stone wall, a thick curtain, or a dense cloud of fog-then there is line of sight.

This degree of precision is rarely necessary. You can determine line of sight as you do when playing without miniatures: make a call, and keep the game moving.


To determine whether a target has cover against an attack or other effect on a grid, choose a corner of the square the attacker occupies or the point of origin of an area of effect. Then trace imaginary lines from that corner to every corner of any one square the target occupies. If one or two of those lines are blocked by an obstacle (including another creature), the target has half cover. If three or four of those lines are blocked but the attack can still physically reach the target (such as when the target is behind an arrow slit), the target has three-quarters cover.

On hexes, use the same procedure as a grid, drawing lines between the corners of the hexagons. The target has half cover if up to three lines are blocked by an obstacle, and three-quarters cover if four or more lines are blocked but the attack can still physically reach the target.

Optional Rule: Flanking

If you regularly use miniatures, flanking gives combatants a simple way to gain advantage on attack rolls against a common enemy.

A creature can't flank an enemy that it can't see. A creature also can't flank while it is incapacitated. A Large or larger creature is flanking as long as at least one square or hex of its space qualifies for flanking.

Flanking on Squares

When a creature and at least one of its allies are adjacent to an enemy and on opposite sides or corners of the enemy's space, they flank that enemy, and each of them has advantage on melee attack rolls against that enemy.

When in doubt about whether two creatures flank an enemy on a grid, trace an imaginary line between the centers of the creatures' spaces. If the line passes through opposite sides or corners of the enemy's space, the enemy is flanked.


Flanking on Hexes

When a creature and at least one of its allies are adjacent to an enemy and on opposite sides of the enemy's space, they flank that enemy, and each of them has advantage on attack rolls against that enemy. On hexes, count around the enemy from one creature to its ally. Against a Medium or smaller creature, the allies flank if there are 2 hexes between them. Against a Large creature, the allies flank if there are 4 hexes between them. Against a Huge creature, they must have 5 hexes between them. Against a Gargantuan creature, they must have at least 6 hexes between them.


Optional Rule: Diagonals

The {@i Player's Handbook} presents a simple method for counting movement and measuring range on a grid: count every square as 5 feet, even if you're moving diagonally. Though this is fast in play, it breaks the laws of geometry and is inaccurate over long distances. This optional rule provides more realism, but it requires more effort during combat.

When measuring range or moving diagonally on a grid, the first diagonal square counts as 5 feet, but the second diagonal square counts as 10 feet. This pattern of 5 feet and then 10 feet continues whenever you're counting diagonally, even if you move horizontally or vertically between different bits of diagonal movement.

For example, a character might move one square diagonally (5 feet), then three squares straight (15 feet), and then another square diagonally (10 feet) for a total movement of 30 feet.

Optional Rule: Facing

If you want the precision of knowing which way a creature is facing, consider using this optional rule. Whenever a creature ends its move, it can change its facing. Each creature has a front arc (the direction it faces), left and right side arcs, and a rear arc. A creature can also change its facing as a reaction when any other creature moves.

A creature can normally target only creatures in its front or side arcs. It can't see into its rear arc. This means an attacker in the creature's rear arc makes attack rolls against it with advantage.

Shields apply their bonus to AC only against attacks from the front arc or the same side arc as the shield. For example, a fighter with a shield on the left arm can use it only against attacks from the front and left arcs.

Feel free to determine that not all creatures have every type of arc. For example, an amorphous ochre jelly could treat all of its arcs as front ones, while a hydra might have three front arcs and one rear one. On squares, you pick one side of a creature's space as the direction it is facing. Draw a diagonal line outward from each corner of this side to determine the squares in its front arc. The opposite side of the space determines its rear arc in the same way. The remaining spaces to either side of the creature form its side arcs.

On hexes, determining the front, rear, and side arcs requires more judgment. Pick one side of the creature's space and create a wedge shape expanding out from there for the front arc, and another on the opposite side of the creature for the rear arc. The remaining spaces to either side of the creature are its side arcs.

A square or hex might be in more than one arc, depending on how you draw the lines from a creature's space. If more than half of a square or hex lies in one arc, it is in that arc. If it is split exactly down the middle, use this rule: if half of it lies in the front arc, it's in that arc. If half of it is in a side arc and the rear arc, it's in the side arc.

Adjudicating Reaction Timing

Typical combatants rely on the opportunity attack and the Ready action for most of their reactions in a fight. Various spells and features give a creature more reaction options, and sometimes the timing of a reaction can be difficult to adjudicate. Use this rule of thumb: follow whatever timing is specified in the reaction's description. For example, the opportunity attack and the shield spell are clear about the fact that they can interrupt their triggers. If a reaction has no timing specified, or the timing is unclear, the reaction occurs after its trigger finishes, as in the Ready action.

Combining Game Effects

Different game features can affect a target at the same time. But when two or more game features have the same name, only the effects of one of them-the most potent one-apply while the durations of the effects overlap. For example, if a target is ignited by a fire elemental's {@i Fire Form} trait, the ongoing fire damage doesn't increase if the burning target is subjected to that trait again. Game features include spells, class features, feats, racial traits, monster abilities, and magic items. See the related rule in the 'Combining Magical Effects' section of chapter 10 in the {@i Player's Handbook}.


Strict application of the movement rules can turn a potentially exciting chase into a dull, predictable affair.

Faster creatures always catch up to slower ones, while creatures with the same speed never close the distance between each other. This set of rules can make chases more exciting by introducing random elements.

Beginning a Chase

A chase requires a quarry and at least one pursuer. Any participants not already in initiative order must roll initiative. As in combat, each participant in the chase can take one action and move on its turn. The chase ends when one side drops out or the quarry escapes.

When a chase begins, determine the starting distance between the quarry and the pursuers. Track the distance between them, and designate the pursuer closest to the quarry as the lead. The lead pursuer might change from round to round.

Running the Chase

Participants in the chase are strongly motivated to use the Dash action every round. Pursuers who stop to cast spells and make attacks run the risk of losing their quarry, and a quarry that does so is likely to be caught.


During the chase, a participant can freely use the Dash action a number of times equal to 3 + its Constitution modifier. Each additional Dash action it takes during the chase requires the creature to succeed on a DC 10 Constitution check at the end of its turn or gain one level of {@condition exhaustion}.

A participant drops out of the chase if its {@condition exhaustion} reaches level 5, since its speed becomes 0. A creature can remove the levels of {@condition exhaustion} it gained during the chase by finishing a short or long rest.

Spells and Attacks

A chase participant can make attacks and cast spells against other creatures within range. Apply the normal rules for cover, terrain, and so on to the attacks and spells.

Chase participants can't normally make opportunity attacks against each other, since they are all assumed to be moving in the same direction at the same time.

However, participants can still be the targets of opportunity attacks from creatures not participating in the chase. For example, adventurers who chase a thief past a gang of thugs in an alley might provoke opportunity attacks from the thugs.

Ending a Chase

A chase ends when one side or the other stops, when the quarry escapes, or when the pursuers are close enough to their quarry to catch it.

If neither side gives up the chase, the quarry makes a Dexterity (Stealth) check at the end of each round, after every participant in the chase has taken its turn. The result is compared to the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the pursuers. If the quarry consists of multiple creatures, they all make the check.

If the quarry is never out of the lead pursuer's sight, the check fails automatically. Otherwise, if the result of the quarry's check is greater than the highest passive score, that quarry escapes. If not, the chase continues for another round.

The quarry gains advantage or disadvantage on its check based on prevailing circumstances, as shown in the Escape Factors table. If one or more factors give the quarry both advantage and disadvantage on its check, the quarry has neither, as usual.

Escape Factors

Escape Factors
FactorCheck Has...
Quarry has many things to hide behindAdvantage
Quarry is in a very crowded or noisy areaAdvantage
Quarry has few things to hide behindDisadvantage
Quarry is in an uncrowded or quiet areaDisadvantage
The lead pursuer is a ranger or has proficiency in SurvivalDisadvantage

Other factors might help or hinder the quarry's ability to escape, at your discretion. For example, a quarry with a faerie fire spell cast on it might have disadvantage on checks made to escape because it's much easier to spot.

Escape doesn't necessarily mean the quarry has outpaced its pursuers. For example, in an urban setting, escape might mean the quarry ducked into a crowd or slipped around a corner, leaving no clue as to where it went.

Chase Complications

As with any good chase scene, complications can arise to make a chase more pulse-pounding. The Urban Chase Complications table and the Wilderness Chase Complications table provide several examples. Complications occur randomly. Each participant in the chase rolls a {@dice d20} at the end of its turn. Consult the appropriate table to determine whether a complication occurs. If it does, it affects the next chase participant in the initiative order, not the participant who rolled the die. The participant who rolled the die or the participant affected by the complication can spend inspiration to negate the complication.

Characters can create their own complications to shake off pursuers (for example, casting the web spell in a narrow alleyway). Adjudicate these as you see fit.

Urban Chase Complications

Urban Chase Complications
1A large obstacle such as a horse or cart blocks your way. Make a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to get past the obstacle. On a failed check, the obstacle counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain.
2A crowd blocks your way. Make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (your choice) to make your way through the crowd unimpeded. On a failed check, the crowd counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain.
3A large stained-glass window or similar barrier blocks your path. Make a DC 10 Strength saving throw to smash through the barrier and keep going. On a failed save, you bounce off the barrier and fall prone.
4A maze of barrels, crates, or similar obstacles stands in your way. Make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Intelligence check (your choice) to navigate the maze. On a failed check, the maze counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain.
5The ground beneath your feet is slippery with rain, spilled oil, or some other liquid. Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, you fall prone.
6You come upon a pack of dogs fighting over food. Make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to get through the pack unimpeded. On a failed check, you are bitten and take {@dice 1d4} piercing damage, and the dogs count as 5 feet of difficult terrain.
7You run into a brawl in progress. Make a DC 15 Strength (Athletics), Dexterity (Acrobatics), or Charisma (Intimidation) check (your choice) to get past the brawlers unimpeded. On a failed check, you take {@dice 2d4} bludgeoning damage, and the brawlers count as 10 feet of difficult terrain.
8A beggar blocks your way. Make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics), Dexterity (Acrobatics), or Charisma (Intimidation) check (your choice) to slip past the beggar. You succeed automatically if you toss the beggar a coin. On a failed check, the beggar counts as 5 feet of difficult terrain.
9An overzealous guard (see the Monster Manual (or game statistics) mistakes you for someone else. If you move 20 feet or more on your turn, the guard makes an opportunity attack against you with a spear (+3 to hit; {@dice 1d6 + 1} piercing damage on a hit).
10You are forced to make a sharp turn to avoid colliding with something impassable. Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw to navigate the turn. On a failed save, you collide with something hard and take {@dice 1d4} bludgeoning damage.
11 -20No complication.

Wilderness Chase Complications

Wilderness Chase Complications
1Your path takes you through a rough patch of brush. Make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (your choice) to get past the brush. On a failed check, the brush counts as 5 feet of difficult terrain.
2Uneven ground threatens to slow your progress. Make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to navigate the area. On a failed check, the ground counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain.
3You run through a swarm of insects (see the Monster Manual for game statistics, with the DM choosing whichever kind of insects makes the most sense). The swarm makes an opportunity attack against you (+3 to hit; {@dice 4d4} piercing damage on a hit).
4A stream, ravine, or rock bed blocks your path. Make difficult terrain.
5Make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, you are blinded by blowing sand, dirt, ash, snow, or pollen until the end of your turn. While blinded in this way, your speed is halved.
6A sudden drop catches you by surprise. Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw to navigate the impediment. On a failed save, you fall {@dice 1d4 × 5} feet, taking {@dice 1d6} bludgeoning damage per 10 feet fallen as normal, and land prone.
7You blunder into a hunter's snare. Make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid it. On a failed save, you are caught in a net and restrained. See chapter 5 "Equipment," ofthe Player's Handbook for rules on escaping a net.
8You are caught in a stampede of spooked animals. Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, you are knocked about and take {@dice 1d4} bludgeoning damage and {@dice 1d4} piercing damage.
9Your path takes you near a patch of razorvine. Make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or use 10 feet of movement (your choice) to avoid the razorvine. On a failed save, you take {@dice 1d10} slashing damage.
10A creature indigenous to the area chases after you. The DM chooses a creature appropriate for the terrain.
11-20No complication.

Designing Your Own Chase Tables

The tables presented here don't work for all possible environments. A chase through the sewers of Baldur's Gate or through the spiderweb-filled alleys of Menzoberranzan might inspire you to create your own table.

Splitting Up

Creatures being chased can split up into smaller groups. This tactic forces pursuers to either divide their forces or allow some of the quarry to escape. If a pursuit splits into several smaller chases, resolve each chase separately. Run a round of one chase, then a round of the next, and so on, tracking the distances for each separate group.

Mapping the Chase

If you have the opportunity to plan out a chase, take the time to draw a rough map that shows the route. Insert obstacles at specific points, especially ones that require the characters to make ability checks or saving throws to avoid slowing or stopping, or use a random table of complications similar to the ones in this section. Otherwise, improvise as you play.

Complications can be barriers to progress or opportunities for mayhem. Characters being chased through a forest by bugbears might spot a wasp nest and slow down long enough to attack the nest or throw rocks at it, thus creating an obstacle for their pursuers.

A map of a chase can be linear or have many branches, depending on the nature of the chase. For example, a mine cart chase might have few (if any) branches, while a sewer chase might have several.

Role Reversal

During a chase, it's possible for the pursuers to become the quarry. For example, characters chasing a thief through a marketplace might draw unwanted attention from other members of the thieves' guild. As they pursue the fleeing thief, they must also evade the thieves pursuing them. Roll initiative for the new arrivals, and run both chases simultaneously. In another scenario, the fleeing thief might run into the waiting arms of his accomplices. The outnumbered characters might decide to flee with the thieves in pursuit.

Siege Equipment

Siege weapons are designed to assail castles and other walled fortifications. They see much use in campaigns that feature war. Most siege weapons don't move around a battlefield on their own; they require creatures to move them, as well as to load, aim, and fire them.


A plague ravages the kingdom, setting the adventurers on a quest to find a cure. An adventurer emerges from an ancient tomb, unopened for centuries, and soon finds herself suffering from a wasting illness. A warlock offends some dark power and contracts a strange affliction that spreads whenever he casts spells.

A simple outbreak might amount to little more than a small drain on party resources, curable by a casting of lesser restoration. A more complicated outbreak can form the basis of one or more adventures as characters search for a cure, stop the spread of the disease, and deal with the consequences.

A disease that does more than infect a few party members is primarily a plot device. The rules help describe the effects of the disease and how it can be cured, but the specifics of how a disease works aren't bound by a common set of rules. Diseases can affect any creature, and a given illness might or might not pass from one race or kind of creature to another. A plague might affect only constructs or undead, or sweep through a halfling neighborhood but leave other races untouched. What matters is the story you want to tell.

Sample Diseases

The diseases here illustrate the variety of ways disease can work in the game. Feel free to alter the saving throw DCs, incubation times, symptoms, and other characteristics of these diseases to suit your campaign.


Given their insidious and deadly nature, poisons are illegal in most societies but are a favorite tool among assassins, drow, and other evil creatures.

Poisons come in the following four types.


Contact poison can be smeared on an object and remains potent until it is touched or washed off. A creature that touches contact poison with exposed skin suffers its effects.


A creature must swallow an entire dose of ingested poison to suffer its effects. You might decide that a partial dose has a reduced effect, such as allowing advantage on the saving throw or dealing only half damage on a failed save. The dose can be delivered in food or a liquid.


These poisons are powders or gases that take effect when inhaled. Blowing the powder or releasing the gas subjects creatures in a 5-foot cube to its effect. The resulting cloud dissipates immediately afterward. Holding one's breath is ineffective against inhaled poisons, as they affect nasal membranes, tear ducts, and other parts of the body.


Injury poison can be applied to weapons, ammunition, trap components, and other objects that deal piercing or slashing damage and remains potent until delivered through a wound or washed off. A creature that takes piercing or slashing damage from an object coated with the poison is exposed to its effects.


ItemTypePrice per Dose
{@item Assassin's blood (ingested)|DMG|Assassin's blood}Ingested150 gp
{@item Burnt othur fumes (inhaled)|DMG|Burnt othur fumes}Inhaled500 gp
{@item Carrion crawler mucus (contact)|DMG|Carrion crawler mucus}Contact200 gp
{@item Drow poison (injury)|DMG|Drow poison}Injury200 gp
{@item Essence of ether (inhaled)|DMG|Essence of ether}Inhaled300 gp
{@item Malice (inhaled)|DMG|Malice}Inhaled250 gp
{@item Midnight tears (ingested)|DMG|Midnight tears}Ingested1,500 gp
{@item Oil of taggit (contact)|DMG|Oil of taggit}Contact400 gp
{@item Pale tincture (ingested)|DMG|Pale tincture}Ingested250 gp
{@item Purple worm poison (injury)|DMG|Purple worm poison}Injury2,000 gp
{@item Serpent venom (injury)|DMG|Serpent venom}Injury200 gp
{@item Torpor (ingested)|DMG|Torpor}Ingested600 gp
{@item Truth serum (ingested)|DMG|Truth serum}Ingested150 gp
{@item Wyvern poison (injury)|DMG|Wyvern poison}Injury1,200 gp

Sample Poisons

Each type of poison has its own debilitating effects.

Purchasing Poison

In some settings, strict laws prohibit the possession and use of poison, but a black-market dealer or unscrupulous apothecary might keep a hidden stash. Characters with criminal contacts might be able to acquire poison relatively easily. Other characters might have to make extensive inquiries and pay bribes before they track down the poison they seek.

The Poisons table gives suggested prices for single doses of various poisons.

Crafting and Harvesting Poison

During downtime between adventures, a character can use the crafting rules in the Player's Handbook to create basic poison if the character has proficiency with a {@item poisoner's kit|phb}. At your discretion, the character can craft other kinds of poison. Not all poison ingredients are available for purchase, and tracking down certain ingredients might form the basis of an entire adventure.

A character can instead attempt to harvest poison from a poisonous creature, such as a snake, wyvern, or carrion crawler. The creature must be incapacitated or dead, and the harvesting requires {@dice 1d6} minutes followed by a DC 20 Intelligence (Nature) check. (Proficiency with the {@item poisoner's kit|phb} applies to this check if the character doesn't have proficiency in Nature.) On a successful check, the character harvests enough poison for a single dose. On a failed check, the character is unable to extract any poison. If the character fails the check by 5 or more, the character is subjected to the creature's poison.


In a typical campaign, characters aren't driven mad by the horrors they face and the carnage they inflict day after day, but sometimes the stress of being an adventurer can be too much to bear. If your campaign has a strong horror theme, you might want to use madness as a way to reinforce that theme, emphasizing the extraordinarily horrific nature of the threats the adventurers face.

Going Mad

Various magical effects can inflict madness on an otherwise stable mind. Certain spells, such as contact other plane and symbol, can cause insanity, and you can use the madness rules here instead of the spell effects in the Player's Handbook. Diseases, poisons, and planar effects such as psychic wind or the howling winds of Pandemonium can all inflict madness. Some artifacts can also break the psyche of a character who uses or becomes attuned to them.

Resisting a madness-inducing effect usually requires a Wisdom or Charisma saving throw. If your game includes the Sanity score (see chapter 9, "Dungeon Master's Workshop"), a creature makes a Sanity saving throw instead.

Madness Effects

Madness can be short-term, long-term, or indefinite. Most relatively mundane effects impose short-term madness, which lasts for just a few minutes. More horrific effects or cumulative effects can result in long-term or indefinite madness.

A character afflicted with {@b short-term madness} is subjected to an effect from the Short-Term Madness table for {@dice 1d10} minutes.

A character afflicted with {@b long-term madness} is subjected to an effect from the Long-Term Madness table for {@dice 1d10 × 10} hours.

A character afflicted with {@b indefinite madness} gains a new character flaw from the Indefinite Madness table that lasts until cured.

Short-Term Madness

Short-Term Madness
d100Effects (lasts 1d10 minutes)
01-20The character retreats into his or her mind and becomes {@condition paralyzed}. The effect ends if the character takes any damage.
21-31The character becomes {@condition incapacitated} and spends the duration screaming, laughing, or weeping.
31-40The character becomes {@condition frightened} and must use his or her action and movement each round to flee from the source of the fear.
41-50The character begins babbling and is incapable of normal speech or spellcasting.
51-60The character must use his or her action each round to attack the nearest creature.
61-70The character experiences vivid hallucinations and has disadvantage on ability checks.
71-75The character does whatever anyone tells him or her to do that isn't obviously self-destructive.
76-80The character experiences an overpowering urge to eat something strange such as dirt, slime, or offal.
81-90The character is {@condition stunned}.
91-100The character falls {@condition unconscious}.

Long-Term Madness

Long-Term Madness
d100Effects (lasts 1d10 × 10 hours)
01-10The character feels compelled to repeat a specific activity over and over, such as washing hands, touching things, praying, or counting coins.
11-20The character experiences vivid hallucinations and has disadvantage on ability checks.
21-30The character suffers extreme paranoia. The character has disadvantage on Wisdom and Charisma checks
31-40The character regards something (usually the source of madness) with intense revulsion, as if affected by the antipathy effect of the {@spell antipathy/sympathy} spell.
41-45The character experiences a powerful delusion. Choose a potion. The character imagines that he or she is under its effects.
46-55The 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.
56-65The character is {@condition blinded} (25%) or {@condition deafened} (75%).
66-75The character experiences uncontrollable tremors or tics, which impose disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws that involve Strength or Dexterity.
76-85The 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.
86-90Whenever 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 {@spell confusion} spell. The confusion effect lasts for 1 minute.
91-95The character loses the ability to speak.
96-100The character falls {@condition unconscious}. No amount of jostling or damage can wake the character.

Indefinite Madness

Indefinite Madness
d100Flaw (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."

Curing Madness

A {@spell calm emotions} spell can suppress the effects of madness, while a {@spell lesser restoration} spell can rid a character of a short-term or long-term madness. Depending on the source of the madness, {@spell remove curse} or {@spell dispel evil and good|phb|dispel evil} might also prove effective. A {@spell greater restoration} spell or more powerful magic is required to rid a character of indefinite madness.

Experience Points

Experience points (XP) fuel level advancement for player characters and are most often the reward for completing combat encounters.

Each monster has an XP value based on its challenge rating. When adventurers defeat one or more monsters-typically by killing, routing, or capturing them-they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly among themselves. If the party received substantial assistance from one or more NPCs, count those NPCs as party members when dividing up the XP. (Because the NPCs made the fight easier, individual characters receive fewer XP.)

Chapter 3, "Creating Adventures," provides guidelines for designing combat encounters using experience points.

Absent Characters

Typically, adventurers earn experience only for encounters they participate in. If a player is absent for a session, the player's character misses out on the experience points.

Over time, you might end up with a level gap between the characters of players who never miss a session and characters belonging to players who are more sporadic in their attendance. Nothing is wrong with that. A gap of two or three levels between different characters in the same party isn't going to ruin the game for anyone.

Some DMs treat XP as a reward for participating in the game, and keeping up with the rest of the party is good incentive for players to attend as many sessions as possible.

As an alternative, give absent characters the same XP that the other characters earned each session, keeping the group at the same level. Few players will intentionally miss out on the fun of gaming just because they know they'll receive XP for it even if they don't show up.

Noncombat Challenges

You decide whether to award experience to characters for overcoming challenges outside combat. If the adventurers complete a tense negotiation with a baron, forge a trade agreement with a clan of surly dwarves, or successfully navigate the Chasm of Doom, you might decide that they deserve an XP reward.

As a starting point, use the rules for building combat encounters in chapter 3 to gauge the difficulty of the challenge. Then award the characters XP as if it had been a combat encounter of the same difficulty, but only if the encounter involved a meaningful risk of failure.


You can also award XP when characters complete significant milestones. When preparing your adventure, designate certain events or challenges as milestones, as with the following examples:

When awarding XP, treat a major milestone as a hard encounter and a minor milestone as an easy encounter.

If you want to reward your players for their progress through an adventure with something more than XPand treasure, give them additional small rewards at milestone points. Here are some examples:

Level Advancement without XP

You can do away with experience points entirely and control the rate of character advancement. Advance characters based on how many sessions they play, or when they accomplish significant story goals in the campaign. In either case, you tell the players when their characters gain a level.

This method of level advancement can be particularly helpful if your campaign doesn't include much combat, or includes so much combat that tracking XP becomes tiresome.

Session-Based Advancement

A good rate of session-based advancement is to have characters reach 2nd level after the first session of play, 3rd level after another session, and 4th level after two more sessions. Then spend two or three sessions for each subsequent level. This rate mirrors the standard rate of advancement, assuming sessions are about four hours long.

Story-Based Advancement

When you let the story of the campaign drive advancement, you award levels when adventurers accomplish significant goals in the campaign.

Dungeon Master's Workshop

As the Dungeon Master, you aren't limited by the rules in the Player's Handbook, the guidelines in this book, or the selection of monsters in the Monster Manual. You can let your imagination run wild. This chapter contains optional rules that you can use to customize your campaign, as well as guidelines on creating your own material, such as monsters and magic items.

The options in this chapter relate to many different parts of the game. Some of them are variants of rules, and others are entirely new rules. Each option represents a different genre, style of play, or both. Consider trying no more than one or two of the options at a time so that you can clearly assess their effects on your campaign before adding other options.

Before you add a new rule to your campaign, ask yourself two questions:

If you're confident that the answer to both questions is yes, then you have nothing to lose by giving it a try. Urge your players to provide feedback. If the rule or game element isn't functioning as intended or isn't adding much to your game, you can refine it or ditch it. No matter what a rule's source, a rule serves you, not the other way around.

Beware of adding anything to your game that allows a character to concentrate on more than one effect at a time, use more than one reaction or bonus action per round, or attune to more than three magic items at a time. Rules and game elements that override the rules for concentration, reactions, bonus actions, and magic item attunement can seriously unbalance or overcomplicate your game.

Ability Options

The optional rules in this section pertain to using ability scores.

Proficiency Dice

This optional rule replaces a character's proficiency bonus with a proficiency die, adding more randomness to the game and making proficiency a less reliable indicator of mastery. Instead of adding a proficiency bonus to an ability check, an attack roll, or saving throw, the character's player rolls a die. The Proficiency Die table shows which die or dice to roll, as determined by the character's level.

Whenever a feature, such as the rogue's Expertise, lets a character double his or her proficiency bonus, the player rolls the character's proficiency die twice instead of once.

This option is intended for player characters and nonplayer characters who have levels, as opposed to monsters who don't.

Proficiency Dice

Proficiency Dice
LevelProficiency BonusProficiency Die
1st-4th+2{@dice 1d4}
5th-8th+3{@dice 1d6}
9th-12th+4{@dice 1d8}
13th-16th+5{@dice 1d10}
17th-20th+6{@dice 1d12}

Skill Variants

A skill dictates the circumstances under which a character can add his or her proficiency bonus to an ability check. Skills define those circumstances by referring to different aspects of the six ability scores. For example, Acrobatics and Stealth are two different aspects of Dexterity, and a character can specialize in either or both.

You can dispense with skills and use one of the following variants. Choose whichever one best suits your campaign.

Ability Check Proficiency

With this variant rule, characters don't have skill proficiencies. Instead, each character has proficiency in two abilities: one tied to the character's class and one tied to the character's background. The Ability Proficiencies by Class table suggests a proficiency for each class, and you choose which ability is tied to a given background. Starting at 1st level, a character adds his or her proficiency bonus to any ability check tied to one or the other of these two abilities.

Ability Check Proficiency by Class

Ability Check Proficiency by Class
ClassAbility Check
{@class Barbarian}Strength, Dexterity, or Wisdom
{@class Bard}Any one
{@class Cleric}Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma
{@class Druid}Intelligence or Wisdom
{@class Fighter}Strength, Dexterity, or Wisdom
{@class Monk}Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence
{@class Paladin}Strength, Wisdom, or Charisma
{@class Ranger}Strength, Dexterity, or Wisdom
{@class Rogue}Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma
{@class Sorcerer}Intelligence or Charisma
{@class Warlock}Intelligence or Charisma
{@class Wizard}Intelligence or Wisdom

The Expertise feature works differently than normal under this rule. At 1st level, instead of choosing two skill proficiencies, a character with the Expertise class feature chooses one of the abilities in which he or she has proficiency. Selecting an ability counts as two of the character's Expertise choices. If the character would gain an additional skill proficiency, that character instead selects another ability check in which to gain proficiency.

This option removes skills from the game and doesn't allow for much distinction among characters. For example, a character can't choose to emphasize persuasion or intimidation; he or she is equally adept at both.

Background Proficiency

With this variant rule, characters don't have skill or tool proficiencies. Anything that would grant the character a skill or tool proficiency provides no benefit. Instead, a character can add his or her proficiency bonus to any ability check to which the character's prior training and experience (reflected in the character's background) reasonably applies. The DM is the ultimate judge of whether the character's background applies.

For example, the player of a character with the noble background could reasonably argue that the proficiency bonus should apply to a Charisma check the character makes to secure an audience with the king. The player should be encouraged to explain in specific terms how the character's background applies. Not simply "I'm a noble," but "I spent three years before starting my adventuring career serving as my family's ambassador to the court, and this sort of thing is second nature to me now."

This simple system relies heavily on players developing their characters' histories. Don't let it result in endless debates about whether a character's proficiency bonus applies in a given situation. Unless a player's attempt to explain the relevance of the character's background makes everyone else at the table roll their eyes at its absurdity, go ahead and reward the player for making the effort.

If a character has the Expertise feature, instead of choosing skills and tools to gain the benefit of that feature, the player defines aspects of his or her background to which the benefit applies. Continuing the noble example, the player might decide to apply Expertise to "situations where courtly manners and etiquette are paramount" and "figuring out the secret plots that court members hatch against one another."

Personality Trait Proficiency

With this variant rule, characters don't have skill proficiencies. Instead, a character can add his or her proficiency bonus to any ability check directly related to the character's positive personality traits. For example, a character with a positive personality trait of "I never have a plan, but I'm great at making things up as I go along" might apply the bonus when engaging in some off-the-cuff deception to get out of a tight spot. A player should come up with at least four positive personality traits when creating a character.

When a character's negative personality trait directly impacts an ability check, the character has disadvantage on the check. For example, a hermit whose negative trait is "I often get lost in my own thoughts and contemplation, oblivious to my surroundings" might have disadvantage on an ability check made to notice creatures sneaking up.

If a character has the Expertise feature, the player can apply its benefit to personality traits related to ability checks, instead of to skills or tools. If a character would gain a new skill or tool proficiency, the character instead gains a new positive personality trait.

This system relies heavily on players developing their characters' personalities. Make sure that different characters' traits—positive and negative—come into play with about the same frequency. Don't let a player get away with a positive trait that always seems to apply and a negative trait that never does.

At your discretion, you can also tie a character's ideals, bonds, and flaws to this system.

Hero Points

Hero points work well in epic fantasy and mythic campaigns in which the characters are meant to be more like superheroes than the average adventurer is.

With this option, a character starts with 5 hero point at 1st level. Each time the character gains a level, he or she loses any unspent hero points and gains a new total equal to 5 + half the character's level.

A player can spend a hero point whenever he or she makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw The player can spend the hero point after the roll is made but before any of its results are applied. Spending the hero point allows the player to roll a {@dice d6} and add it to the {@dice d20}, possibly turning a failure into a success. A player can spend only 1 hero point per roll.

In addition, whenever a character fails a death saving throw, the player can spend one hero point to turn the failure into a success.

New Ability Scores: Honor and Sanity

If you're running a campaign shaped by a strict code of honor or the constant risk of insanity, consider adding one or both these new ability scores: Honor and Sanity.

These abilities function like the standard six abilities, with exceptions specified in each ability below.

Here's how to incorporate these optional abilities at character creation:

If you ever need to make a check or saving throw for Honor or Sanity for a monster that lacks the score, you can use Charisma for Honor and Wisdom for Sanity.

Honor Score

If your campaign involves cultures where a rigid code of honor is part of daily life, consider using the Honor score as a means of measuring a character's devotion to that code. This ability fits well in a setting inspired by Asian cultures, such as Kara-Tur in the Forgotten Realms. The Honor ability is also useful in any campaign that revolves around orders of knights.

Honor measures not only a character's devotion to a code but also the character's understanding of it. The Honor score can also reflect how others perceive a character's honor. A character with a high Honor usually has a reputation that others know about, especially those who have high Honor scores themselves.

Unlike other abilities, Honor can't be raised with normal ability score increases. Instead, you can award increases to Honor—or impose reductions—based on a character's actions. At the end of an adventure, if you think a character 's actions in the adventure reflected well or poorly on his or her understanding of the code, you can increase or decrease the character's Honor by 1. As with other ability scores, a character's Honor can't exceed 20 or fall below 1.

Honor Checks

Honor checks can be used in social situations, much as Charisma would, when a character's understanding of a code of conduct is the most defining factor in the way a social interaction will play out. You might also call for an Honor check when a character is in one of the following situations:

Honor Saving Throws

An Honor saving throw comes into play when you want to determine whether a character might inadvertently do something dishonorable. You might call for an Honor saving throw in the following situations:

Sanity Score

Consider using the Sanity score if your campaign revolves around entities of an utterly alien and unspeakable nature, such as Great Cthulhu, whose powers and minions can shatter a character's mind.

A character with a high Sanity is level-headed even in the face of insane circumstances, while a character with low Sanity is unsteady, breaking easily when confronted by eldritch horrors that are beyond normal reason.

Sanity Checks

You might ask characters to make a Sanity check in place of an Intelligence check to recall lore about the alien creatures of madness featured in your campaign, to decipher the writings of raving lunatics, or to learn spells from tomes of forbidden lore. You might also call for a Sanity check when a character tries one of the following activities:

Sanity Saving Throws

You might call for a Sanity saving throw when a character runs the risk of succumbing to madness, such as in the following situations:

A failed Sanity save might result in short-term, long-term, or indefinite madness, as described in chapter 8, "Running the Game." Any time a character suffers from long-term or indefinite madness, the character's Sanity is reduced by 1. A greater restoration spell can restore Sanity lost in this way, and a character can increase his or her Sanity through level advancement.

Adventuring Options

This section provides options for changing how rests work, as well as for adding unusual things to your campaign, such as modern weapons.

Fear and Horror

The rules for fear and horror can help you sustain an atmosphere of dread in a dark fantasy campaign.


When adventurers confront threats they have no hope of overcoming, you can call for them to make a Wisdom saving throw. Set the DC according to the circumstances. A character who fails the save becomes {@condition frightened} for 1 minute. The character can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of his or her turns, ending the effect on the character on a successful save.


Horror involves more than simple fright. It entails revulsion and anguish. Often it arises when adventurer see something completely contrary to the common understanding of what can and should occur in the world, or upon the realization of a dreadful truth.

In such a situation, you can call on characters to make a Charisma saving throw to resist the horror. Set the DC based on the magnitude of the horrific circumstances. On a failed save, a character gains a short-term or long-term form of madness that you choose or determine randomly, as detailed in chapter 8, "Running the Game."


These optional rules make it easier or harder for adventurers to recover from injury, either increasing or reducing the amount of time your players can spend adventuring before rest is required.

Healer's Kit Dependency

A character can't spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short rest until someone expends one use of a healer's kit to bandage and treat the character's wounds.

Healing Surges

This optional rule allows characters to heal up in the thick of combat and works well for parties that feature few or no characters with healing magic, or for campaigns in which magical healing is rare.

As an action, a character can use a healing surge and spend up to half his or her Hit Dice. For each Hit Die spent in this way, the player rolls the die and adds the character's Constitution modifier. The character regains hit points equal to the total. The player can decide to spend an additional Hit Die after each roll.

A character who uses a healing surge can't do so again until he or she finishes a short or long rest. Under this optional rule, a character regains all spent Hit Dice at the end of a long rest. With a short rest, a character regains Hit Dice equal to his or her level divided by four (minimum of one dice).

For a more superheroic feel, you can let a character use a healing surge as a bonus action, rather than as an action.

Slow Natural Healing

Characters don't regain hit points at the end of a long rest. Instead, a character can spend Hit Dice to heal at the end of a long rest, just as with a short rest.

This optional rule prolongs the amount of time that characters need to recover from their wounds without the benefits of magical healing and works well for grittier, more realistic campaigns.

Rest Variants

The rules for short and long rests presented in chapter 8 of the Player's Handbook work well for a heroic-style campaign. Characters can go toe-to-toe with deadly foes, take damage to within an inch of their lives, yet still be ready to fight again the next day. If this approach doesn't fit your campaign, consider the following variants.

Epic Heroism

This variant uses a short rest of 5 minutes and a long rest of 1 hour. This change makes combat more routine, since characters can easily recover from every battle. You might want to make combat encounters more difficult to compensate.

Spellcasters using this system can afford to burn through spell slots quickly, especially at higher levels. Consider allowing spellcasters to restore expended spell slots equal to only half their maximum spell slots (rounded down) at the end of a long rest, and to limit spell slots restored to 5th level or lower. Only a full 8-hour rest will allow a spellcaster to restore all spell slots and to regain spell slots of 6th level or higher.

Gritty Realism

This variant uses a short rest of 8 hours and a long rest of 7 days. This puts the brakes on the campaign, requiring the players to carefully judge the benefits and drawbacks of combat. Characters can't afford to engage in too many battles in a row, and all adventuring requires careful planning.

This approach encourages the characters to spend time out of the dungeon. It's a good option for campaigns that emphasize intrigue, politics, and interactions among other PCs, and in which combat is rare or something to be avoided rather than rushed into.


If you want to model the swashbuckling style of The Three Musketeers and similar tales, you can introduce gunpowder weapon to your campaign that are associated with the Renaissance. Similarly, in a campaign where a spaceship has crashed or elements of modern-day Earth are present, futuristic or modern firearms might appear. The Firearms table provides examples of firearms from all three of those periods. The modern and futuristic items are priceless.


It's up to you to decide whether a character has proficiency with a firearm. Characters in most D&D worlds wouldn't have such proficiency. During their downtime, characters can use the training rules in the Player's Handbook to acquire proficiency, assuming that they have enough ammunition to keep the weapons working while mastering their use.


Firearms use special ammunition, and some of them have the burst fire or reload property.


The ammunition of a firearm is destroyed upon use. Renaissance and modern firearms use bullets. Futuristic firearms are powered by a special type of ammunition called energy cells. An energy cell contains enough power for all the shots its firearm can make.

Burst Fire

A weapon that has the burst fire property can make a normal single-target attack, or it can spray a 10-foot-cube area within normal range with shots. Each creature in the area must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take the weapon's normal damage. This action uses ten pieces of ammunition.


A limited number of shots can be made with a weapon that has the reload property. A character must then reload it using an action or a bonus action (the character's choice).


A campaign might include explosives from the Renaissance or the modern world (the latter are priceless), as presented in the Explosives table.


As an action, a character can light this bomb and throw it at a point up to 60 feet away. Each creature within 5 feet of that point must succeed on a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or take {@dice 3d6} fire damage.


Gunpowder is chiefly used to propel a bullet out of the barrel of a pistol or rifle, or it is formed into a bomb. Gunpowder is sold in small wooden kegs and in water-resistant powder horns.

Setting fire to a container full of gunpowder can cause it to explode, dealing fire damage to creatures within 10 feet of it ({@dice 3d6} for a powder horn, {@dice 7d6} for a keg). A successful DC 12 Dexterity saving throw halves the damage. Setting fire to an ounce of gunpowder causes it to flare for 1 round, shedding bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet.


As an action, a creature can light a stick of dynamite and throw it at a point up to 60 feet away. Each creature within 5 feet of that point must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking {@dice 3d6} bludgeoning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

A character can bind sticks of dynamite together so they explode at the same time. Each additional stick increases the damage by {@dice 1d6} (to a maximum of {@dice 10d6}) and the burst radius by 5 feet (to a maximum of 20 feet).

Dynamite can be rigged with a longer fuse to explode after a set amount of time, usually 1 to 6 rounds. Roll initiative for the dynamite. After the set number of rounds goes by, the dynamite explodes on that initiative.


As an action, a character can throw a grenade at a point up to 60 feet away. With a grenade launcher, the character can propel the grenade up to 120 feet away.

Each creature within 20 feet of an exploding fragmentation grenade must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking {@dice 5d6} piercing damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

One round after a smoke grenade lands, it emits a cloud of smoke that creates a heavily obscured area in a 20-foot radius. A moderate wind (at least 10 miles per hour) disperses the smoke in 4 rounds; a strong wind (20 or more miles per hour) disperses it in 1 round.

Alien Technology

When adventurers find a piece of technology that isn't from their world or time period, the players might understand what the object is, but the characters rarely will. To simulate a character's ignorance about the technology, have the character make a series of Intelligence checks to figure it out.

To determine how the technology works, a character must succeed on a number of Intelligence checks based on the complexity of the item: two successes for a simple item (such as a cigarette lighter, calculator, or revolver) and four successes for a complex item (such as a computer, chainsaw, or hovercraft). Then consult the Figuring Out Alien Technology table. Consider making the item break if a character fails four or more times before taking a long rest.

A character who has seen an item used or has operated a similar item has advantage on Intelligence checks made to figure out its use.

Figuring Out Alien Technology

Figuring Out Alien Technology
Int. Check TotalResult
9 or lowerOne failure; one charge or use is wasted, if applicable; character has disadvantage on next check
10-14One failure
15-19One success
20 or higherOne success; character has advantage on next check
stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Firearms [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Firearms [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => Renaissance Item [1] => Cost [2] => Damage [3] => Weight [4] => Properties ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-3 [1] => col-1 [2] => col-2 [3] => col-1 [4] => col-5 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => {@i Martial Ranged Weapons} [1] => [2] => [3] => [4] => ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Pistol [1] => 250 gp [2] => {@dice 1d10} piercing [3] => 3 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 30/90), loading ) ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Musket [1] => 500 gp [2] => {@dice 1d12} piercing [3] => 10 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 40/120), loading, two-handed ) ) [3] => Array ( [0] => {@i Ammunition} [1] => [2] => [3] => [4] => ) [4] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Bullets (10) [1] => 3 gp [2] => — [3] => 2 lb. [4] => — ) ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => Modern Item [1] => Cost [2] => Damage [3] => Weight [4] => Properties ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-3 [1] => col-1 [2] => col-2 [3] => col-1 [4] => col-5 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => {@i Martial Ranged Weapons} [1] => [2] => [3] => [4] => ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Pistol, automatic [1] => — [2] => {@dice 2d6} piercing [3] => 3 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 50/150), reload (15 shots) ) ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Revolver [1] => — [2] => {@dice 2d8} piercing [3] => 3 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 40/120), reload (6 shots) ) ) [3] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Rifle, hunting [1] => — [2] => {@dice 2d10} piercing [3] => 8 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 80/240), reload (5 shots), two-handed ) ) [4] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Rifle, automatic [1] => — [2] => {@dice 2d8} piercing [3] => 8 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 80/240), burst fire, reload (30 shots), two-handed ) ) [5] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Shotgun [1] => — [2] => {@dice 2d8} piercing [3] => 7 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 30/90), reload (2 shots), two-handed ) ) [6] => Array ( [0] => {@i Ammunition} [1] => [2] => [3] => [4] => ) [7] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Bullets (10) [1] => — [2] => — [3] => 1 lb. [4] => — ) ) ) ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => Futuristic Item [1] => Cost [2] => Damage [3] => Weight [4] => Properties ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-3 [1] => col-1 [2] => col-2 [3] => col-1 [4] => col-5 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => {@i Martial Ranged Weapons} [1] => [2] => [3] => [4] => ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Laser pistol [1] => — [2] => {@dice 3d6} radiant [3] => 2 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 40/120), reload (50 shots) ) ) [2] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Antimatter rifle [1] => — [2] => {@dice 6d8} necrotic [3] => 10 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 120/360), reload (2 shots), two-handed ) ) [3] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Laser rifle [1] => — [2] => {@dice 3d8} radiant [3] => 7 lb. [4] => Ammunition (range 100/300), reload (30 shots), two-handed ) ) [4] => Array ( [0] => {@i Ammunition} [1] => [2] => [3] => [4] => ) [5] => stdClass Object ( [type] => row [style] => row-indent-first [row] => Array ( [0] => Energy cell [1] => — [2] => — [3] => 5 oz. [4] => — ) ) ) ) ) )

Plot Points

Plot points allow players to change the course of the campaign, introduce plot complications, alter the world, and even assume the role of the DM. If your first reaction to reading this optional rule is to worry that your players might abuse it, it's probably not for you.

Using Plot Points

Each player starts with 1 plot point. During a session, a player can spend that point for one effect. The effect depends on your group's approach to this optional rule. Three options are presented below.

A player can spend no more than 1 plot point per session. You can increase this limit if you like, especially if you want the players to drive more of the story. Once every player at the table has spent a plot point, they each gain 1 plot point.

Option 1: What a Twist!

A player who spends a plot point gets to add some element to the setting or situation that the group (including you) must accept as true. For example, a player can spend a plot point and state that his or her character has found a secret door, an NPC appears, or a monster turns out to be a long-lost ally polymorphed into a horrid beast.

A player who wants to spend a plot point in this way should take a minute to discuss his or her idea with everyone else at the table and get feedback before settling on a plot development.

Option 2: The Plot Thickens

Whenever a player spends a plot point, the player to his or her right must add a complication to the scene. For example, if the player who spends the plot point decides that her character has found a secret door, the player to the right might state that opening the door triggers a magical trap that teleports the party to another part of the dungeon.

Option 3: The Gods Must Be Crazy

With this approach, there is no permanent DM. Everyone makes a character, and one person starts as the DM and runs the game as normal. That person's character becomes an NPC who can tag along with the group or remain on the sidelines, as the group wishes.

At any time, a player can spend a plot point to become the DM. That player's character becomes an NPC, and play continues. It's probably not a good idea to swap roles in the middle of combat, but it can happen if your group allows time for the new DM to settle into his or her role and pick up where the previous DM left off.

Using plot points in this way can make for an exciting campaign as each new DM steers the game in unexpected directions. This approach is also a great way for would-be DMs to try running a game in small, controlled doses.

In a campaign that uses plot points this way, everyone should come to the table with a bit of material prepared or specific encounters in mind. A player who isn't prepared or who doesn't feel like DMing can choose to not spend a plot point that session.

For this approach to work, it's a good idea to establish some shared assumptions about the campaign so that DMs aren't duplicating efforts or trampling on each other's plans.

Combat Options

The options in this section provide alternative ways to handle combat. The main risk of adding some of these rules is slowing down play.

Initiative Variants

This section offers different ways to handle initiative.

Initiative Score

With this optional rule, creatures don't roll initiative at the start of combat. Instead, each creature has an initiative score, which is a passive Dexterity check: 10 + Dexterity modifier.

By cutting down on die rolls, math done on the fly, and the process of asking for and recording totals, you can speed your game up considerably—at the cost of an initiative order that is often predictable.

Side Initiative

Recording initiative for each PC and monster, arranging everyone in the correct order, and remembering where you are in the list can bog the game down. If you want quicker combats, at the risk of those combats becoming unbalanced, try using the side initiative rule.

Under this variant, the players roll a {@dice d20} for their initiative as a group, or side. You also roll a {@dice d20}. Neither roll receives any modifiers. Whoever rolls highest wins initiative. In case of a tie, keep rerolling until the tie is broken.

When it's a side's turn, the members of that side can act in any order they choose. Once everyone on the side has taken a turn, the other side goes. A round ends when both sides have completed their turns.

If more than two sides take part in a battle, each side rolls for initiative. Sides act from the highest roll to lowest. Combat continues in the initiative order until the battle is complete.

This variant encourages teamwork and makes your life as a DM easier, since you can more easily coordinate monsters. On the downside, the side that wins initiative can gang up on enemies and take them out before they have a chance to act.

Speed Factor

Some DMs find the regular progression of initiative too predictable and prone to abuse. Players can use their knowledge of the initiative order to influence their decisions. For example, a badly wounded fighter might charge a troll because he knows that the cleric goes before the monster and can heal him.

Speed factor is an option for initiative that introduces more uncertainty into combat, at the cost of speed of play. Under this variant, the participants in a battle roll initiative each round. Before rolling, each character or monster must choose an action.

Initiative Modifiers

Modifiers might apply to a creature's initiative depending on its size and the action it takes. For example, a creature that fights with a light weapon or casts a simple spell is more likely to act before a creature armed with a heavy or slow weapon. See the Speed Factor Initiative Modifiers table for details. If an action has no modifier listed, the action has no effect on initiative. If more than one modifier applies such as wielding a two-handed, heavy melee weapon, apply them all to the initiative roll.

stdClass Object ( [type] => tableGroup [name] => Speed Factor Initiative Modifiers [tables] => Array ( [0] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [caption] => Speed Factor Initiative Modifiers [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => Factor [1] => Initiative Modifier ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-6 [1] => col-6 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => Spellcasting [1] => Subtract the spell's level ) [1] => Array ( [0] => Melee, heavy weapon [1] => -2 ) [2] => Array ( [0] => Melee, light or finesse weapon [1] => +2 ) [3] => Array ( [0] => Melee, two-handed weapon [1] => -2 ) [4] => Array ( [0] => Ranged, loading weapon [1] => -5 ) ) ) [1] => stdClass Object ( [type] => table [colLabels] => Array ( [0] => Creature Size [1] => Initiative Modifier ) [colStyles] => Array ( [0] => col-6 [1] => col-6 ) [rows] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => Tiny [1] => +5 ) [1] => Array ( [0] => Small [1] => +2 ) [2] => Array ( [0] => Medium [1] => +0 ) [3] => Array ( [0] => Large [1] => -2 ) [4] => Array ( [0] => Huge [1] => -5 ) [5] => Array ( [0] => Gargantuan [1] => -8 ) ) ) ) )

Don't apply the same modifier more than once on a creature's turn. For example, a rogue fighting with two daggers gains the +2 bonus for using a light or finesse weapon only once. In the case of spellcasting, apply only the modifier from the highest-level spell.

Apply any modifiers for bonus actions to that creature's turn, remembering never to apply the same modifier twice. For instance, a paladin casts a 2nd-level spell as a bonus action and then attacks with a shortsword. The paladin takes a -2 penalty for the spell and gains a +2 bonus for using a light weapon, for a total modifier of +0.

The table is only a starting point. You can refer to it when adjudicating any actions a character takes that you think should be faster or slower. Quick, easy actions should grant a bonus, while slow, difficult ones should incur a penalty. As a rule of thumb, apply a bonus or penalty of 2 or 5 for an action.

For example, a fighter wants to turn a winch to raise a portcullis. This is a complex, difficult action. You could rule that it incurs a -5 initiative penalty.

Rolling Initiative

After deciding on an action, everyone rolls initiative and applies modifiers, keeping the result secret. You then announce an initiative number, starting with 30 and working down (it helps to call out ranges of numbers at the start). Break any ties by having the combatant with the highest Dexterity act first. Otherwise, roll to determine who goes first.


On its turn, a creature moves as normal but must take the action it selected or take no action at all.

Once everyone has acted, the process repeats. Everyone in the battle selects an action, rolls initiative, and takes turns in order.

Action Options

This section provides new action options for combat. They can be added as a group or individually to your game.

Climb onto a Bigger Creature

If one creature wants to jump onto another creature, it can do so by grappling. A small or Medium creature has little chance of making a successful grapple against a Huge or Gargantuan creature, however, unless magic has granted the grappler supernatural might.

As an alternative, a suitably large opponent can be treated as terrain for the purpose of jumping onto its back or clinging to a limb. After making any ability checks necessary to get into position and onto the larger creature, the smaller creature uses its action to make a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by the target's Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If it wins the contest, the smaller creature successfully moves into the target creature's space, the smaller creature moves with the target and has advantage on attack rolls against it.

The smaller creature can move around within the larger creature's space, treating the space as difficult terrain. The larger creature's ability to attack the smaller creature depends on the smaller creature's location, and is left to your discretion. The larger creature can dislodge the smaller creature as an action—knocking it off, scraping it against a wall, or grabbing and throwing it—by making a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the smaller creature's Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. The smaller creature chooses which ability to use.


A creature can use a weapon attack to knock a weapon or another item from a target's grasp. The attacker makes an attack roll contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) check or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If the attacker wins the contest, the attack causes no damage or other ill effect, but the defender drops the item.

The attacker has disadvantage on its attack roll if the target is holding the item with two or more hands. The target has advantage on its ability check if it is larger than the attacking creature, or disadvantage if it is smaller.


This option makes it easier for melee combatants to harry each other with opportunity attacks.

When a creature makes a melee attack, it can also mark its target. Until the end of the attacker's next turn, any opportunity attack it makes against the marked target has advantage. The opportunity attack doesn't expend the attacker's reaction, but the attacker can't make the attack if anything, such as the {@condition incapacitated} condition or the shocking grasp spell, is preventing it from taking reactions. The attacker is limited to one opportunity attack per turn.


When a creature tries to move through a hostile creature's space, the mover can try to force its way through by overrunning the hostile creature. As an action or a bonus action, the mover makes a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the hostile creature's Strength (Athletics) check. The creature attempting the overrun has advantage on this check if it is larger than the hostile creature, or disadvantage if it is smaller. If the mover wins the contest, it can move through the hostile creature's space once this turn.

Shove Aside

With this option, a creature uses the special shove attack from the Player's Handbook to force a target to the side, rather than away. The attacker has disadvantage on its Strength (Athletics) check when it does so. If that check is successful, the attacker moves the target 5 feet to a different space within its reach.


A creature can try to tumble through a hostile creature's space, ducking and weaving past the opponent. As an action or a bonus action, the tumbler makes a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by the hostile creature's Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If the tumbler wins the contest, it can move through the hostile creature's space once this turn.

Hitting Cover

When a ranged attack misses a target that has cover, you can use this optional rule to determine whether the cover was struck by the attack.

First, determine whether the attack roll would have hit the protected target without the cover. If the attack roll falls within a range low enough to miss the target but high enough to strike the target if there had been no cover, the object used for cover is struck. If a creature is providing cover for the missed creature and the attack roll exceeds the AC of the covering creature, the covering creature is hit.

Cleaving Through Creatures

If your player characters regularly fight hordes of lower-level monsters, consider using this optional rule to help speed up such fights.

When a melee attack reduces an undamaged creature to 0 hit points, any excess damage from that attack might carry over to another creature nearby. The attacker targets another creature within reach and, if the original attack roll can hit it, applies any remaining damage to it. If that creature was undamaged and is likewise reduced to 0 hit points, repeat this process, carrying over the remaining damage until there are no valid targets, or until the damage carried over fails to reduce an undamaged creature to 0 hit points.


Damage normally leaves no lingering effects. This option introduces the potential for long-term injuries.

It's up to you to decide when to check for a lingering injury. A creature might sustain a lingering injury under the following circumstances:

To determine the nature of the injury, roll on the Lingering Injuries table. This table assumes a typical humanoid physiology, but you can adapt the results for creatures with different body types.

Lingering Injuries

Lingering Injuries
1{@bold Lose an Eye.} You have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight and on ranged attack rolls. Magic such as the {@spell regenerate} spell can restore the lost eye. If you have no eyes left after sustaining this injury, you're {@condition blinded}.
2{@bold Lose an Arm or a Hand.} You can no longer hold anything with two hands, and you can hold only a single object at a time. Magic such as the {@spell regenerate} spell can restore the lost appendage.
3{@bold Lose a Foot or Leg.} Your speed on foot is halved, and you must use a cane or crutch to move unless you have a peg leg or other prosthesis. You fall {@condition prone} after using the Dash action. You have disadvantage on Dexterity checks made to balance. Magic such as the {@spell regenerate} spell can restore the lost appendage.
4{@bold Limp.} Your speed on foot is reduced by 5 feet. You must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw after using the Dash action. If you fail the save, you fall {@condition prone}. Magical healing removes the limp.
5-7{@bold Internal Injury.} Whenever you attempt an action in combat, you must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, you lose your action and can't use reactions until the start of your next turn. The injury heals if you receive magical healing or if you spend ten days doing nothing but resting.
8-10{@bold Broken Ribs.} This has the same effect as Internal Injury above, except that the save DC is 10.
11-13{@bold Horrible Scar.} You are disfigured to the extent that the wound can't be easily concealed. You have disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks and advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks. Magical healing of 6th level or higher, such as {@spell heal} and {@spell regenerate}, removes the scar.
14-16{@bold Festering Wound.} Your hit point maximum is reduced by 1 every 24 hours the wound persists. If your hit point maximum drops to 0, you die. The wound heals if you receive magical healing. Alternatively, someone can tend to the wound and make a DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) check once every 24 hours. After ten successes, the wound heals.
17-20{@bold Minor Scar.} The scar doesn't have any adverse effect. Magical healing of 6th level or higher, such as {@spell heal} and {@spell regenerate}, removes the scar.

Instead of using the effect described in the table, you can put the responsibility of representing a character's lingering injury in the hands of the player. Roll on the Lingering Injuries table as usual, but instead of suffering the effect described for that result, that character gains a new flaw with the same name. It's up to the player to express the lingering injury during play, just like any other flaw, with the potential to gain inspiration when the injury affects the character in a meaningful way.

Massive Damage

This optional rule makes it easier for a creature to be felled by massive damage.

When a creature takes damage from a single source equal to or greater than half its hit point maximum, it must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or suffer a random effect determined by a roll on the System Shock table. For example, a creature that has a hit point maximum of 30 must make that Constitution save if it takes 15 damage or more from a single source.

System Shock

System Shock
1The creature drops to 0 hit points.
2-3The creature drops to 0 hit points but is stable.
4-5The creature is {@condition stunned} until the end of its next turn.
6-7The creature can't take reactions and has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the end of its next turn.
8-10The creature can't take reactions until the end of its next turn.


Some combatants might run away when a fight turns against them. You can use this optional rule to help determine when monsters and NPCs flee.

A creature might flee under any of the following circumstances:

A group of creatures might flee under any of the following circumstances:

To determine whether a creature or group of creatures flees, make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw for the creature or the group's leader. If the opposition is overwhelming, the saving throw is made with disadvantage, or you can decide that the save fails automatically. If a group's leader can't make the saving throw for whatever reason, have the creature in the group with the next highest Charisma score make the saving throw instead.

On a failed save, the affected creature or group flees by the most expeditious route. If escape is impossible, the creature or group surrenders. If a creature or group that surrenders is attacked by its conquerors, the battle might resume, and it's unlikely that further attempts to flee or surrender will be made.

A failed saving throw isn't always to the adventurers' benefit. For example, an ogre that flees from combat might put the rest of the dungeon on alert or run off with treasure that the characters had hoped to plunder.

Creating a Monster

The {@i Monster Manual} contains hundreds of ready-to-play monsters, but it doesn't include every monster that you can imagine. Part of the D&D experience is the simple joy of creating new monsters and customizing existing ones, if for no other reason than to surprise and delight your players with something they've never faced before.

The first step in the process is coming up with the concept for your monster. What makes it unique? Where does it live? What role do you want it to serve in your adventure, your campaign, or your world? What does it look like? Does it have any weird abilities? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start figuring out how to represent your monster in the game.

Modifying a Monster

Once you have an idea for a monster, you'll need statistics to represent it. The first question you should ask yourself is: Can I use statistics that already exist?

A stat block in the Monster Manual might make a good starting point for your monster. Imagine, for example, that you want to create an intelligent arboreal predator that hunts elves. There is no such monster in the Monster Manual, but the quaggoth is a savage humanoid predator with a climbing speed. You could borrow the quaggoth stat block for your new monster, changing nothing but the creature's name. You can also make minor tweaks, such as replacing the quaggoth's language, Undercommon, with one that's more appropriate, such as Elvish or Sylvan.

Need a fiery phoenix? Take the giant eagle or roc, give it immunity to fire, and allow it to deal fire damage with its attacks. Need a flying monkey? Consider a baboon with wings and a flying speed. Almost any monster you can imagine can be built using one that already exists.

Adapting a stat block is far less time-consuming than creating one from scratch, and there are changes you can make to an existing monster that have no effect on its challenge rating, such as swapping languages, changing its alignment, or adding special senses. However, once you change the creature's offensive or defensive ability, such as its hit points or damage, its challenge rating might need to change, as shown later.

Switching Weapons

If a monster wields a manufactured weapon, you can replace that weapon with a different one. For example, you could replace a hobgoblin's longsword with a halberd. Don't forget to change the damage and the attack's reach where appropriate. Also be aware of the consequences of switching from a one-handed weapon to a two-handed weapon, or vice versa. For example, a hobgoblin wielding a halberd (a two-handed weapon) loses the benefit of its shield, so its AC decreases by 2.

Adding a Special Trait

Another simple way to customize a monster is to add a special trait. You can add a special trait of your own devising or pick up a special trait from one of the many creatures in the Monster Manual. For example, you can create a goblin-spider hybrid by giving the normal goblin the Spider Climb special trait, turn an ordinary troll into a two-headed troll by giving it the Two Heads special trait, or turn an owlbear into a flying owlbear by giving it wings and a giant owl's flying speed.

Creating Quick Monster Stats

If all you need are simple stats for a monster of a particular challenge rating, follow the steps here. If you want to create something more akin to the monster stat blocks in the Monster Manual, skip ahead to the "Creating a Monster Stat Block" section.

Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating

Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating
CRProf.BonusArmor ClassHit PointsAttack BonusDamage/RoundSave DC
0+2≤ 131-6≤ +30-1≤ 13

Step 1. Expected Challenge Rating

Pick the expected challenge rating (CR) for your monster. Knowing the monster's expected challenge rating will help you figure out the monster's proficiency bonus and other important combat statistics. Don't worry about getting the challenge rating exactly right; you can make adjustments in later steps.

A single monster with a challenge rating equal to the adventurers' level is, by itself, a fair challenge for a group of four characters. If the monster is meant to be fought in pairs or groups, its expected challenge rating should be lower than the party's level.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your monster must have a challenge rating equal to the level of the characters to be a worthy challenge. Keep in mind that monsters with a lower challenge rating can be a threat to higher-level characters when encountered in groups.

Step 2. Basic Statistics

Use the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table to determine the monster's Armor Class, hit points, attack bonus, and damage output per round based on the challenge rating you chose in step 1.

Step 3. Adjust Statistics

Raise or lower the monster's Armor Class, hit points, attack bonus, damage output per round, and save DC as you see fit, based on whatever concept you have in mind for the monster. For example, if you need a well-armored monster, increase its Armor Class.

Once you've made the desired adjustments, record the monster's statistics. If there are any other statistics you think the monster needs (such as ability scores), follow the appropriate steps under "Creating a Monster Stat Block."

Step 4. Final Challenge Rating

Calculate the monster's final challenge rating, accounting for the adjustments you made in step 3.

Defensive Challenge Rating

Read down the Hit Points column of the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table until you find your monster's hit points. Then look across and note the challenge rating suggested for a monster with those hit points.

Now look at the Armor Class suggested for a monster of that challenge rating. If your monster's AC is at least two points higher or lower than that number, adjust the challenge rating suggested by its hit points up or down by 1 for every 2 points of difference.

Offensive Challenge Rating

Read down the Damage/Round column of the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table until you find your monster's damage output per round. Then look across and note the challenge rating suggested for a monster that deals that much damage.

Now look at the attack bonus suggested for a monster of that challenge rating. If your monster's attack bonus is at least two points higher or lower than that number, adjust the challenge rating suggested by its damage output up or down by 1 for every 2 points of difference.

If the monster relies more on effects with saving throws than on attacks, use the monster's save DC instead of its attack bonus.

If your monster uses different attack bonuses or save DCs, use the ones that will come up the most often.

Average Challenge Rating

The monster's final challenge rating is the average of its defensive and offensive challenge ratings. Round the average up or down to the nearest challenge rating to determine your monster's final challenge rating. For example, if the creature's defensive challenge rating is 2 and its offensive rating is 3, its final rating is 3.

With the final challenge rating, you can determine the monster's proficiency bonus using the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table. Use the Experience Points by Challenge Rating table to determine how much XP the monster is worth. A monster of challenge rating 0 is worth 0 XP if it poses no threat. Otherwise, it is worth 10 XP.

Creating a monster isn't just a number-crunching exercise. The guidelines in this chapter can help you create monsters, but the only way to know whether a monster is fun is to playtest it. After seeing your monster in action, you might want to adjust the challenge rating up or down based on your experiences.

Experience Points by Challenge Rating

Experience Points by Challenge Rating
00 or 10

Creating a Monster Stat Block

If you want a full monster stat block, use the following method to create your new monster.

The introduction to the Monster Manual explains all the components of a monster's stat block. Familiarize yourself with that material before you begin. In the course of creating your monster, if you find yourself unable to make a decision, let the examples in the Monster Manual guide you.

Once you have a monster concept in mind, follow the steps below.

Step 1. Name

A monster's name should be given as much consideration as any other aspect of the monster, if not more.

Your monster might be based on a real-world creature or a monster from myth, in which case its name might be obvious. If you need to invent a name, keep in mind that the best names either reflect the monster's appearance or nature (such as the mimic and the owlbear) or have a nice ring to them (such as the chuul and the thri-kreen).

Step 2. Size

Make your monster whatever size you want: Tiny, Small, Medium, Large, Huge, or Gargantuan.

A monster's size determines which die is used to calculate its hit points in step 8. Size also determines how much space the monster occupies, as discussed in the Player's Handbook.

Step 3. Type

A monster's type provides insight into its origins and nature. The Monster Manual describes each monster type. Choose the type that best fits your concept for the monster.

Step 4. Alignment

If your monster has no concept of morals, it is unaligned. Otherwise, it has an alignment appropriate to its nature and moral outlook, as discussed in the Player's Handbook.

Step 5. Ability Scores and Modifiers

Monsters, like player characters, have the six ability scores. A monster can't have a score lower than 1 or higher than 30 in any ability.

A monster's score in any ability determines its ability modifier, as shown in the Ability Scores and Modifiers table in the Player's Handbook.

If you can't decide what a monster's ability scores should be, look for comparable monsters in the Monster Manual and mimic their ability scores. For example, if your monster is roughly as smart as a human commoner, give it an Intelligence of 10 (+0 modifier). If it's as strong as an ogre, give it a Strength of 19 (+4 modifier).

Step 6. Expected Challenge Rating

Choose a challenge rating for your monster. See step 1 under "Creating Quick Monster Stats" for more information. You will use the proficiency bonus in later steps, so jot it down now or remember it.

Step 7. Armor Class

A monster's Armor Class has a direct bearing on its challenge rating, and vice versa. You can determine your monster's Armor Class in one of two ways.

Use the Table

You can choose an appropriate AC based on the monster's expected challenge rating, as shown in the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table. The table provides the baseline AC for a monster of a specific challenge rating. Feel free to adjust the AC as you see fit. For example, the baseline AC for a challenge rating 1 monster is 13, but if your monster is well armored, raise its AC accordingly. Don't worry if the monster's AC isn't matching up with the expected challenge rating for the monster. Other factors can affect a monster's challenge rating, as shown in later steps.

Determine an Appropriate AC

Alternatively, you can determine an appropriate AC based on the type of armor the monster wears, its natural armor, or some other Armor Class booster (such as the mage armor spell). Again, don't worry if the monster's AC isn't matching up with the expected challenge rating for the monster.

If your monster wears manufactured armor, its Armor Class is based on the type of armor worn (see the Player's Handbook for armor types). If the monster carries a shield, apply the shield bonus to its AC as normal.

A monster that doesn't wear armor might have natural armor, in which case it has an AC equal to 10 + its Dexterity modifier + its natural armor bonus. A monster with a thick hide generally has a natural armor bonus of +1 to +3. The bonus can be higher if the creature is exceptionally well armored. A gorgon, for example, is covered in steely plates and has a natural armor bonus of +9.

Step 8. Hit Points

A monster's hit points have a direct bearing on its challenge rating, and vice versa. You can determine your monster's hit points in one of two ways.

Use the Table

You can start with the monster's expected challenge rating and use the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table to determine an appropriate number of hit points. The table presents a range of hit points for each challenge rating.

Assign Hit Dice

Alternatively, you can assign a number of Hit Dice to a monster, then calculate its average hit points. Don't worry if the hit points aren't matching up with the expected challenge rating for the monster. Other factors can affect a monster's challenge rating, as shown in later steps, and you can always adjust a monster's Hit Dice and hit points later on.

A monster can have as many Hit Dice as you want, but the size of the die used to calculate its hit points depends on the monster's size, as shown in the Hit Dice by Size table. For example, a Medium monster uses {@dice d8}s for hit points, so a Medium monster with 5 Hit Dice and a Constitution of 13 (+1 modifier) has {@dice 5d8 + 5} hit points.

A monster typically has average hit points based on its Hit Dice. For example, a creature with {@dice 5d8 + 5} hit points has an average of 27 hit points (5 × 4.5 + 5).

Hit Dice by Size

Hit Dice by Size
Monster SizeHit DieAverage HP per Die
Tiny{@dice d4}
Small{@dice d6}
Medium{@dice d8}
Large{@dice d10}
Huge{@dice d12}
Gargantuan{@dice d20}10½

Step 9. Damage Vulnerabilities, Resistances, and Immunities

Decide whether your monster has vulnerability, resistance, or immunity to one or more types of damage (see the Player's Handbook for descriptions of the various damage types). Assign a vulnerability, resistance, or immunity to a monster only when it's intuitive. For example, it makes sense for a monster made of molten lava to have immunity to fire damage.

Giving a monster resistances and immunities to three or more damage types (especially bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage) is like giving it extra hit points. However, adventurers have more resources at higher levels to counteract such defenses, making resistances and immunities less relevant at higher levels.

Effective Hit Points

If a monster has resistance or immunity to several damage types especially bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons and not all the characters in the party possess the means to counteract that resistance or immunity, you need to take these defenses into account when comparing your monster's hit points to its expected challenge rating. Using the Effective Hit Points Based on Resistances and Immunities table, apply the appropriate multiplier to the monster's hit points to determine its effective hit points for the purpose of gauging its final challenge rating. (The monster's actual hit points shouldn't change.)

For example, a monster with an expected challenge rating of 6, 150 hit points, and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons effectively has 225 hit points (using the 1.5 multiplier for resistances) for the purpose of gauging its final challenge rating.

Monsters don't normally have vulnerability to more than one or two types of damage. Vulnerabilities don't significantly affect a monster's challenge rating, unless a monster has vulnerabilities to multiple damage types that are prevalent, especially bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing. For such a strange monster, reduce its effective hit points by half. Or even better, eliminate the vulnerabilities and give the brittle monster fewer hit points.

Effective Hit Points Based on Resistances and Immunities

Effective Hit Points Based on Resistances and Immunities
Expected Challenge RatingHP Multiplier for ResistancesHP Multiplier for Immunities
1-4× 2× 2
5-10× 1.5× 2
11-16× 1.25× 1.5
17 or more× 1× 1.25

Step 10. Attack Bonuses

A monster's attack bonuses have a direct bearing on its challenge rating, and vice versa. You can determine a monster's attack bonuses in one of two ways.

Use the Table

You can start with the monster's expected challenge rating and use the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table to determine an appropriate attack bonus for all the monster's attacks, regardless of its ability scores.

The table provides the baseline attack bonus for each challenge rating. Feel free to adjust the attack bonus as you see fit to match whatever concept you have in mind. For example, the baseline attack bonus for a challenge rating 1 monster is +3, but if your monster needs more accuracy, raise its bonus accordingly. Don't worry if the monster's attack bonus isn't matching up with the expected challenge rating for the monster. Other factors can affect a monster's challenge rating, as shown in later steps.

Calculate Attack Bonuses

Alternatively, you can calculate a monster's attack bonuses the same way players calculate the attack bonuses of a character.

When a monster has an action that requires an attack roll, its attack bonus is equal to its proficiency bonus + its Strength or Dexterity modifier. A monster usually applies its Strength modifier to melee attacks and its Dexterity modifier to ranged attacks, although smaller monsters sometimes use Dexterity for both.

Again, don't worry if the attack bonuses aren't matching up with the expected challenge rating for the monster. You can always adjust a monster's attack bonuses later.

Step 11. Damage

A monster's damage output the amount of damage it deals every round has a direct bearing on its challenge rating, and vice versa. You can determine a monster's damage output in one of two ways.

Use the Table

You can start with the monster's expected challenge rating and use the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table to determine how much damage the monster should deal every round. The table presents a range at each challenge rating. It doesn't matter how this damage is apportioned or distributed; for example, a monster might deal the damage every round with a single attack, or the damage could be split among multiple attacks against one or more foes.

Choose the type of damage based on how you imagine the damage being delivered. For example, if the monster is attacking with razor-sharp claws, the damage it deals is probably slashing damage. If its claws are poisonous, some portion of the damage might be poison damage instead of slashing damage.

If you want the damage output to vary slightly from round to round, you can translate the damage range into a single die expression (for a monster with one attack) or multiple die expressions (for a monster with multiple attacks). For example, a challenge rating 2 monster deals 15-20 damage per round. If you imagine the creature having a Strength of 18 (+4 modifier), you could give it one melee attack that deals {@dice 3d8 + 4} (average 17.5) damage, split the damage output into two separate attacks that deal {@dice 1d10 + 4} (average 9) damage each, or use any other combination where the average damage output falls within the desired range.

Base the Damage on the Weapon

Alternatively, you can use a die expression to represent the damage that a monster deals with each of its attacks based on whatever weapon it is using.

Don't worry if the damage output isn't matching up with the expected challenge rating for the monster. Other factors can affect a monster's challenge rating, as will be discussed in later steps, and you can always adjust a monster's damage output later on.

Some monsters use natural weapons, such as claws or tail spikes. Others wield manufactured weapons.

If a monster has natural weapons, you decide how much damage it deals with those attacks, as well as the type of damage. See the Monster Manual for examples.

If a monster wields a manufactured weapon, it deals damage appropriate to the weapon. For example, a greataxe in the hands of a Medium monster deals {@dice 1d12} slashing damage plus the monster's Strength modifier, as is normal for that weapon.

Big monsters typically wield oversized weapons that deal extra dice of damage on a hit. Double the weapon dice if the creature is Large, triple the weapon dice if it's Huge, and quadruple the weapon dice if it's Gargantuan. For example, a Huge giant wielding an appropriately sized greataxe deals {@dice 3d12} slashing damage (plus its Strength bonus), instead of the normal {@dice 1d12}.

A creature has disadvantage on attack rolls with a weapon that is sized for a larger attacker. You can rule that a weapon sized for an attacker two or more sizes larger is too big for the creature to use at all.

Overall Damage Output

To determine a monster's overall damage output, take the average damage it deals with each of its attacks in a round and add them together. If a monster has different attack options, use the monster's most effective attacks to determine its damage output. For example, a fire giant can make two greatsword attacks or one rock attack in a round. The greatsword attacks deal more damage, so that attack routine determines the fire giant's damage output.

If a monster's damage output varies from round to round, calculate its damage output each round for the first three rounds of combat, and take the average. For example, a young white dragon has a multiattack routine (one bite attack and two claw attacks) that deals an average of 37 damage each round, as well as a breath weapon that deals 45 damage, or 90 if it hits two targets (and it probably will). In the first three rounds of combat, the dragon will probably get to use its breath weapon once and its multiattack routine twice, so its average damage output for the first three rounds would be (90 + 37 + 37) ÷ 3, or 54 damage (rounded down).

When calculating a monster's damage output, also account for special off-turn damage-dealing features, such as auras, reactions, legendary actions, or lair actions. For example, a balor's Fire Aura deals 10 fire damage to any creature that hits the balor with a melee attack. The aura also deals 10 fire damage to all creatures within 5 feet of the balor at the start of each of the balor's turns. If you assume that one character in the party is within 5 feet of the balor at all times, hitting it with a melee weapon every round, then the balor's damage output per round increases by 20.

Attack Riders

Many monsters have attacks that do more than deal damage. Some effects that can be added to an attack to give it a flavorful twist include:

Step 12. Save DCs

A monster might have an attack or some other trait that requires a target to make a saving throw. The save DCs to resist such effects have a direct bearing on the monster's challenge rating, and vice versa. You can determine save DCs in one of two ways.

Use the Table

You can start with the monster's expected challenge rating and use the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table to determine an appropriate save DC for any effect that requires a target to make a saving throw.

Calculate the DCs

Alternatively, you can calculate a monster's save DCs as follows: 8 + the monster's proficiency bonus + the monster's relevant ability modifier. You choose the ability that best applies.

For example, if the effect is a poison, the relevant ability is probably the monster's Constitution. If the effect is similar to that of a spell, the relevant ability might be the monster's Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.

Don't worry if the save DCs aren't matching up with the expected challenge rating for the monster. Other factors can affect a monster's challenge rating, as shown in later steps, and you can always adjust the save DCs later on.

Step 13. Special Traits, Actions, and Reactions

Some special traits (such as Magic Resistance), special actions (such as Superior Invisibility), and special reactions (such as Parry) can improve a monster's combat effectiveness and potentially increase its challenge rating.

The Monster Features table lists various features that you can plunder from the {@i Monster Manual}. The table notes which features increase a monster's effective Armor Class, hit points, attack bonus, or damage output for the purpose of determining its challenge rating. (The features don't actually change the monster's statistics.) Features that have no effect on a monster's challenge rating are noted with a dash (—).

When assigning special traits, actions, or reactions to a monster, keep in mind that not all monsters need them. The more you add, the more complex (and harder to run) the monster becomes.

Innate Spellcasting and Spellcasting

The impact that the Innate Spellcasting and Spellcasting special traits have on a monster's challenge rating depends on the spells that the monster can cast. Spells that deal more damage than the monster's normal attack routine and spells that increase the monster's AC or hit points need to be accounted for when determining the monster's final challenge rating. See the "Special Traits" section in the introduction of the Monster Manual for more information on these two special traits.

Step 14. Speed

Every monster has a walking speed. (Immobile monsters have a walking speed of 0 feet.) In addition to its walking speed, a monster might have one or more other speeds, including a burrowing, climbing, flying, or swimming speed.

Flying Monster

Increase the monster's effective Armor Class by 2 (not its actual AC) if it can fly and deal damage at range and if its expected challenge rating is 10 or lower (higher-level characters have a greater ability to deal with flying creatures).

Step 15. Saving Throw Bonuses

If you want a monster to be unusually resistant to certain kinds of effects, you can give it a bonus to saving throws tied to a particular ability.

A saving throw bonus is best used to counteract a low ability score. For example, an undead monster with a low Wisdom score might need a Wisdom saving throw bonus to account for the fact that it's more difficult to charm, frighten, or turn than its Wisdom would indicate.

A saving throw bonus is equal to the monster's proficiency bonus + the monster's relevant ability modifier.

A monster with three or more saving throw bonuses has a significant defensive advantage, so its effective AC (not its actual AC) should be raised when determining its challenge rating. If it has three or four bonuses, increase its effective AC by 2. If it has five or more bonuses, increase its effective AC by 4.

Step 16. Final Challenge Rating

At this point, you have all the statistical information you need to calculate the monster's final challenge rating. This step is identical to step 4 under "Creating Quick Monster Stats." Calculate the monster's defensive challenge rating and its offensive challenge rating, then take the average to get its final challenge rating.

Step 17. Skill Bonuses

If you want a monster to be proficient in a skill, you can give it a bonus equal to its proficiency bonus on ability checks related to that skill. For example, a monster with sharp senses might have a bonus on Wisdom (Perception) checks, while a duplicitous monster might have a bonus on Charisma (Deception) checks.

You can double the proficiency bonus to account for heightened mastery. For example, a doppelganger is so good at deceiving others that its bonus on Charisma (Deception) checks is equal to double its proficiency bonus + its Charisma modifier.

Skill bonuses have no bearing on a monster's challenge rating.

Step 18. Condition Immunities

A monster can be immune to one or more debilitating conditions, and these immunities have no bearing on its challenge rating. For descriptions of the various conditions, see appendix A of the Player's Handbook.

As with damage immunities, condition immunities should be intuitive and logical. For example, it makes sense that a stone golem can't be poisoned, since it's a construct without a nervous system or internal organs.

Step 19. Senses

A monster might have one or more of the following special senses, which are described in the Monster Manual: blindsight, darkvision, tremorsense, and truesight. Whether the monster has special senses or not has no bearing on its challenge rating.

Passive Perception Score

All monsters have a passive Wisdom (Perception) score, which is most often used to determine whether a monster detects approaching or hidden enemies. A monster's passive Wisdom (Perception) score is 10 + its Wisdom modifier. If the monster has proficiency in the Perception skill, its score is 10 + its Wisdom (Perception) bonus.

Step 20. Languages

Whether a monster can speak a language has no bearing on its challenge rating.

A monster can master as many spoken languages as you want, although few monsters know more than one or two, and many monsters (beasts in particular) have no spoken language whatsoever. A monster that lacks the ability to speak might still understand a language.


Whether or not a monster has telepathy has no bearing on its challenge rating. For more information on telepathy, see the Monster Manual.

Monster Features

Monster Features
NameExample MonsterEffect on Challenge Rating
AggressiveOrcIncrease the monster's effective per-round damage output by 2.
AmbusherDoppelgangerIncrease the monster's effective attack bonus by 1.
AmorphousBlack pudding
Angelic WeaponsDevaIncrease the monster's effective per-round damage by the amount noted in the trait.
Antimagic SusceptibilityFlying sword
AvoidanceDemilichIncrease the monster's effective AC by 1.
Blind SensesGrimlock
Blood FrenzySahuaginIncrease the monster's effective attack bonus by 4.
Breath WeaponAncient black dragonFor the purpose of determining effective damage output, assume the breath weapon hits two targets, and that each target fails its saving throw.
BruteBugbearIncrease the monster's effective per-round damage by the amount noted in the trait.
Chameleon SkinTroglodyte
Change ShapeAncient brass dragon
ChargeCentaurIncrease the monster's damage on one attack by the amount noted in the trait.
ConstrictConstrictor snakeIncrease the monster's effective AC by 1.
Damage AbsorptionFlesh golem
Damage TransferCloakerDouble the monster's effective hit points. Add one-third of the monster's hit points to its per-round damage.
Death BurstMagminIncrease the monster's effective damage output for 1 round by the amount noted in the trait, and assume it affects two creatures.
Devil SightBarbed devil
DiveAarakocraIncrease the monster's effective damage on one attack by the amount noted in the trait.
EcholocationHook horror
Elemental BodyAzerIncrease the monster's effective per-round damage by the amount noted in the trait.
EnlargeDuergarIncrease the monster's effective per-round damage by the amount noted in the trait.
EtherealnessNight hag
False AppearanceGargoyle
Fey AncestryDrow
Fiendish BlessingCambionApply the monster's Charisma modifier to its actual AC.
Frightful PresenceAncient black dragonIncrease the monster's effective hit points by 25% if the monster is meant to face characters of 10th level or lower.
Hold BreathLizardfolk
Horrifying VisageBansheeSee Frightful Presence.
Illusory AppearanceGreen hag
Immutable FormIron golem
Incorporeal MovementGhost
Innate SpellcastingDjinniSee step 13 under "Creating a Monster Stat Block."
Keen SensesHell hound
Labyrinthine RecallMinotaur
LeadershipHobgoblin captain
Legendary ResistanceAncient black dragonEach per-day use of this trait increases the monster's effective hit points based on the expected challenge rating: 1-4, 10 hp: 5-10, 20 hp: 11 or higher, 30 hp.
Life DrainWight
Light SensitivityShadow demon
Magic ResistanceBalorIncrease the monster's effective AC by 2.
Magic WeaponsBalor
Martial AdvantageHobgoblinIncrease the effective damage of one attack per round by the amount gained from this trait.
Nimble EscapeGoblinIncrease the monster's effective AC and effective attack bonus by 4 (assuming the monster hides every round).
Otherworldly PerceptionKuo-toa
Pack TacticsKoboldIncrease the monster's effective attack bonus by 1.
ParryHobgoblin warlordIncrease the monster's effective AC by 1.
PossessionGhostDouble the monster's effective hit points.
PounceTigerIncrease the monster's effective damage for 1 round by the amount it deals with the bonus action gained from this trait.
Psychic DefenseGithzerai monkApply the monster's Wisdom modifier to its actual AC if the monster isn't wearing armor or wielding a shield.
RampageGnollIncrease the monster's effective per-round damage by 2.
Read ThoughtsDoppelganger
Redirect AttackGoblin boss
RegenerationTrollIncrease the monster's effective hit points by 3 × the number of hit points the monster regenerates each round.
RelentlessWereboarIncrease the monster's effective hit points based on the expected challenge rating: 1-4, 7 hp: 5-10, 14 hp: 11-16, 21 hp: 17 or higher, 28 hp.
Shadow StealthShadow demonIncrease the monster's effective AC by 4.
Siege MonsterEarth elemental
SpellcastingLichSee step 13 under "Creating a Monster Stat Block."
Spider ClimbEttercap
Standing LeapBullywug
SteadfastBearded devil
StenchTroglodyteIncrease the monster's effective AC by 1.
Sunlight SensitivityKobold
Superior InvisibilityFaerie dragonIncrease the monster's effective AC by 2.
Surprise AttackBugbearIncrease the monster's effective damage for 1 round by the amount noted in the trait.
SwallowBehirAssume the monster swallows one creature and deals 2 rounds of acid damage to it.
Terrain CamouflageBullywug
TunnelerUmber hulk
Turn ImmunityRevenant
Turn ResistanceLich
Two HeadsEttin
Undead FortitudeZombieIncrease the monster's effective hit points based on the expected challenge rating: 1-4, 7 hp: 5-10, 14 hp: 11-16, 21 hp: 17 or higher, 28 hp.
WebGiant spiderIncrease the monster's effective AC by 1.
Web SenseGiant spider
Web WalkerGiant spider
Wounded FuryQuaggothIncrease the monster's damage for 1 round by the amount noted in the trait.

NPC Stat Blocks

Appendix B of the Monster Manual contains stat blocks for common NPC archetypes such as bandits and guards, as well as tips for customizing them. Those tips include adding racial traits from the Player's Handbook, equipping NPCs with magic items, and swapping armor, weapons, and spells.

If you want to take an NPC stat block and adapt it for a specific monster race, apply the ability modifiers and add the features listed in the NPC Features table. If the NPC's AC, hit points, attack bonus, or damage changes, recalculate its challenge rating.

Creating NPCs from Scratch

If you need completely new statistics for an NPC, you have two options:

If you decide to build an NPC the same way you build a player character, you can skip choosing a background and instead pick two skill proficiencies for the NPC.

The NPC Features table summarizes the ability modifiers and features of various nonhuman races, as well as various creatures from the Monster Manual with a challenge rating lower than 1. Apply these modifiers and add these features to the NPC's stat block, then determine the NPC's challenge rating just as you would for a monster. Features that can affect a monster's challenge rating are listed in the Monster Features table. The NPC's proficiency bonus is determined by its level, just like a character, rather than by its challenge rating.

If the monster you want to use isn't listed on the table, use the process described below under "Monsters with Classes."

NPC Features

NPC Features
RaceAbility ModifiersFeatures
Aarakocra+2 Dex, +2 WisDive Attack: talon attack action, speed 20 ft., fly 50 ft., speaks Auran
Bullywug-2 Int, -2 ChaAmphibious, Speak with Frogs and Toads, Swamp Camouflage, Standing Leap: speed 20 ft., swim 40 ft.: speaks Bullywug
Dragonborn*+2 Str, +1 ChaBreath Weapon (use challenge rating instead of level to determine damage), Damage Resistance, Draconic Ancestry, speaks Common and Draconic
Drow*+2 Dex, +1 ChaFey Ancestry, Innate Spellcasting feature of the drow, Sunlight Sensitivity, darkvision 120 ft., speaks Elvish and Undercommon
Dwarf*+2 Str or Wis, +2 ConDwarven Resilience, Stonecunning, speed 25 ft., darkvision 60 ft., speaks Common and Dwarvish
Elf*+2 Dex, +1 Int or WisFey Ancestry, Trance, darkvision 60 ft., proficiency in the Perception skill, speaks Common and Elvish
Gnoll+2 Str, -2 IntRampage, darkvision 60 ft.
Gnome*+2 Int, +2 Dex or ConGnome Cunning, Small size: speed 25 ft., darkvision 60 ft., speaks Common and Gnomish
Gnome, deep+1 Str, +2 DexGnome Cunning, Innate Spellcasting, Stone Camouflage, Small size, speed 20 ft., darkvision 120 ft., speaks Gnomish, Terran, and Undercommon
Goblin-2 Str, +2 DexNimble Escape, Small size, darkvision 60 ft., speaks Common and Goblin
Grimlock+2 Str, -2 ChaBlind Senses, Keen Hearing and Smell, Stone Camouflage, can't be blinded, blindsight 30 ft., or 10 ft. while deafened (blind beyond this radius), speaks Undercommon
Half-elf*+1 Dex, +1 Int, +2 ChaFey Ancestry, darkvision 60 ft., proficiency in two skills, speaks Common and Elvish
Half-orc*+2 Str, +1 ConRelentless Endurance, darkvision 60 ft., proficiency in the Intimidation skill, speaks Common and Orc
Halfling*+2 Dex, +1 Con or ChaBrave, Halfling Nimbleness, Lucky, Small size, speed 25 ft., speaks Common and Halfling
HobgoblinNoneMartial Advantage, darkvision 60 ft., speaks Common and Goblin
Kenku+2 DexAmbusher, Mimicry, understands Auran and Common but speaks only through the use of its Mimicry trait
Kobold-4 Str, +2 DexPack Tactics, Sunlight Sensitivity, Small size, darkvision 60 ft., speaks Common and Draconic
Kuo-toaNoneAmphibious, Otherworldly Perception, Slippery, Sunlight Sensitivity, speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft., darkvision 120 ft., speaks Undercommon
Lizardfolk+2 Str, -2 IntHold Breath (15 min.), +3 natural armor bonus to AC, speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft., speaks Draconic
MerfolkNoneAmphibious, speed 10 ft., swim 40 ft., speaks Aquan and Common
Orc+2 Str, -2 IntAggressive, darkvision 60 ft., speaks Common and Orc
Skeleton+2 Dex, -4 Int, -4 ChaVulnerable to bludgeoning damage, immune to poison damage and {@condition exhaustion}, can't be poisoned, darkvision 60 ft., can't speak but understands the languages it knew in life
Tiefling*+1 Int, +2 ChaInfernal Legacy (use challenge rating instead of level to determine spells), resistance to fire damage, darkvision 60 ft., speaks Common and Infernal
Troglodyte+2 Str, +2 Con, -4 Int, -4 ChaChameleon Skin, Stench, Sunlight Sensitivity, +1 natural armor bonus to AC, darkvision 60 ft., speaks Troglodyte
Zombie+1 Str, +2 Con, -6 Int, -4 Wis, -4 ChaUndead Fortitude, immune to poison damage, can't be poisoned, darkvision 60 ft., can't speak but understands the languages it knew in life

Monsters with Classes

You can use the rules in chapter 3 of the Player's Handbook to give class levels to a monster. For example, you can turn an ordinary werewolf into a werewolf with four levels of the barbarian class (such a monster would be expressed as "Werewolf, 4th-level barbarian").

Start with the monster's stat block. The monster gains all the class features for every class level you add, with the following exceptions:

Once you finish adding class levels to a monster, feel free to tweak its ability scores as you see fit (for example, raising the monster's Intelligence score so that the monster is a more effective wizard), and make whatever other adjustments are needed. You'll need to recalculate its challenge rating as though you had designed the monster from scratch.

Depending on the monster and the number of class levels you add to it, its challenge rating might change very little or increase dramatically. For example, a werewolf that gains four barbarian levels is a much greater threat than it was before. In contrast, the hit points, spells, and other class features that an ancient red dragon gains from five levels of wizard don't increase its challenge rating.

Creating a Spell

When creating a new spell, use existing spells as guidelines. Here are some things to consider:

Spell Damage

For any spell that deals damage, use the Spell Damage table to determine approximately how much damage is appropriate given the spell's level. The table assumes the spell deals half damage on a successful saving throw or a missed attack. If your spell doesn't deal damage on a successful save, you can increase the damage by 25 percent.

You can use different damage dice than the ones in the table, provided that the average result is about the same. Doing so can add a little variety to the spell. For example, you could change a cantrip's damage from {@dice 1d10} (average 5.5) to {@dice 2d4} (average 5), reducing the maximum damage and making an average result more likely.

Spell Damage

Spell Damage
Spell LevelOne TargetMultiple Targets
Cantrip{@dice 1d10}{@dice 1d6}
1st{@dice 2d10}{@dice 2d6}
2nd{@dice 3d10}{@dice 4d6}
3rd{@dice 5d10}{@dice 6d6}
4th{@dice 6d10}{@dice 7d6}
5th{@dice 8d10}{@dice 8d6}
6th{@dice 10d10}{@dice 11d6}
7th{@dice 11d10}{@dice 12d6}
8th{@dice 12d10}{@dice 13d6}
9th{@dice 15d10}{@dice 14d6}

Healing Spells

You can also use the Spell Damage table to determine how many hit points a healing spell restores. A cantrip shouldn't offer healing.

Creating a Magic Item

Creating a Magic Item

The magic items in chapter 7, "Treasure," are but a few of the magic treasures that characters can discover during their adventures. If your players are seasoned veterans and you want to surprise them, you can either modify an existing item or come up with something new.

Modifying an Item

The easiest way to invent a new item is to tweak an existing one. If a paladin uses a flail as her main weapon, you could change a holy avenger so that it's a flail instead of a sword. You can turn a ring of the ram into a wand, or a cloak of protection into a circlet of protection, all without altering the item's properties.

Other substitutions are equally easy. An item that deals damage of one type can easily deal damage of another type. A flame tongue sword could deal lightning damage instead of fire, for example. One capability can replace another, so a potion of climbing can easily become a potion of stealth.

You can also modify an item by fusing it with properties from another item. For example, you could combine the effects of a {@i helm of comprehending languages} with those of a {@i helm of telepathy} into a single helmet. This makes the item more powerful (and probably increases its rarity), but it won't break your game.

Finally, remember the tools that are provided for modifying items in chapter 7, "Treasure." Giving an item an interesting minor property, a quirk, or sentience can alter its flavor significantly.

Creating a New Item

If modifying an item doesn't quite do the trick, you can create one from scratch. A magic item should either let a character do something he or she couldn't do before, or improve the character's ability to do something he or she can do already. For example, the ring of jumping lets its wearer jump greater distances, thus augmenting what a character can already do. A ring of the ram, however, gives a character the ability to deal force damage.

The simpler your approach, the easier it is for a character to use the item in play. Giving the item charges is fine, especially if it has several different abilities, but simply deciding that an item is always active or can be used a fixed number of times per day is easier to manage.

Power Level

If you make an item that lets a character kill whatever he or she hits with it, that item will likely unbalance your game. On the other hand, an item whose benefit rarely comes into play isn't much of a reward and probably not worth doling out as one.

Use the Magic Item Power by Rarity table as a guide to help you determine how powerful an item should be, based on its rarity.

Magic Item Power by Rarity

Magic Item Power by Rarity
RarityMax Spell LevelMax Bonus
Very rare8th+3

Maximum Spell Level

This column of the table indicates the highest-level spell effect the item should confer, in the form of a once-per-day or similarly limited property. For example, a common item might confer the benefit of a 1st-level spell once per day (or just once, if it's consumable). A rare, very rare, or legendary item might allow its possessor to cast a lower-level spell more frequently.

Maximum Bonus

If an item delivers a static bonus to AC, attack rolls, saving throws, or ability checks, this column suggests an appropriate bonus based on the item's rarity.


Decide whether the item requires a character to be attuned to it to use its properties. Use these rules of thumb to help you decide:

Creating New Character Options

If the options for player characters in the Player's Handbook don't meet all the needs of your campaign, consult the following sections for advice on creating new race, class, and background options.

Creating a Race or Subrace

This section teaches you how to modify existing races, as well as create new ones. The most important step in customizing or designing races for your campaign is to start with the story behind the race or subrace you wish to create. Having a firm idea of a race's story in your campaign will help you make decisions during the creation process. Ask yourself several questions:

Compare the race you have in mind with the other race options available to players, to make sure that the new race doesn't pale in comparison to the existing options (which would result in the race being unpopular) or completely overshadow them (so that players don't feel as if the other options are inferior).

When the time comes to design the game elements of the race, such as its traits, take a look at the game's existing races and let them inspire you.

Cosmetic Alterations

A simple way to modify an existing race is to change its appearance. Changes to a race's appearance need not affect its game elements. For example, you could transform halflings into anthropomorphic mice without changing their racial traits at all.

Cultural Alterations

In your world, elves might be desert nomads instead of forest dwellers, halflings might live in cloud cities, and dwarves might be sailors instead of miners. When you change the culture of a race, you can also make minor alterations to the race's proficiencies and traits to reflect that culture.

For example, imagine that the dwarves of your world are seafarers and inventors of gunpowder. You could add the pistol and musket to the list of weapons that dwarves are proficient with, and give them proficiency with waterborne vehicles instead of artisan's tools. These two small changes tell a different story than the default assumptions about dwarves in the Player's Handbook, without changing the power level of the race.

Creating a New Subrace

Creating a new subrace is more involved than making some minor tweaks to existing racial features, but it does have the advantage of increasing the diversity of options for a particular race, rather than replacing some options with other ones.

The following example walks through the creation of an elf subrace: the eladrin. This subrace has history in the D&D multiverse, so you already have some stories to draw on when building its traits.

Example Subrace: Eladrin

Creatures of magic with strong ties to nature, eladrin live in the twilight realm of the Feywild. Their cities sometimes cross over to the Material Plane, appearing briefly in mountain valleys or deep forest glades before fading back into the Feywild.

The elf subraces in the Player's Handbook include an ability score increase, a weapon training feature, and two or three additional traits. Given the story of the eladrin and their magical nature, an increase to an eladrin character's Intelligence is appropriate. There's no need to alter the basic weapon training shared by high elves and wood elves.

An ability that sets the eladrin apart from other elves is their ability to step through the boundary between the planes, disappearing for a moment before reappearing somewhere else. In the game, this is reflected in a limited use of the misty step spell. Since misty step is a 2nd-level spell, this ability is potent enough that the subrace doesn't need additional traits. This leaves us with the following {@race Elf (Eladrin)|DMG|features for the eladrin subrace}.

Creating a New Race

When creating a race from scratch, begin with the story and proceed from there. Compare your creation to the other races of your world, and borrow freely from the traits of other races. As an example, consider the aasimar, a race similar to the tiefling but with a celestial heritage.

Example Race: Aasimar

Whereas tieflings have fiendish blood in their veins, aasimar are the descendants of celestial beings. These folk generally appear as glorious humans with lustrous hair, flawless skin, and piercing eyes. Aasimar often attempt to pass as humans in order to right wrongs and defend goodness on the Material Plane without drawing undue attention to their celestial heritage. They strive to fit into society, although they usually rise to the top, becoming revered leaders and honorable heroes.

You might decide to use the aasimar as a counterpoint to the tiefling race. The two races could even be at odds, reflecting some greater conflict between the forces of good and evil in your campaign.

Here are our basic goals for the aasimar:

Given that aasimar and tieflings are like two sides of the same coin, the tiefling makes a good starting point for coming up with the new race's traits. Since we want aasimar to be effective paladins and clerics, it makes sense to improve their Wisdom and Charisma instead of Intelligence and Charisma.

Like tieflings, aasimar have darkvision. Instead of resistance to fire damage, we give them resistance to radiant damage to reflect their celestial nature. However, radiant damage isn't as common as fire damage, so we give them resistance to necrotic damage as well, making them good at facing undead.

The tiefling's Infernal Legacy trait is a good model for a similar trait to reflect a magical, celestial heritage, replacing the tiefling's spells with spells of similar levels that more closely match the aasimar's celestial ancestry. However, the aasimar's expanded resistance might require limiting this trait to basic utility spells.

Filling in the remaining details, we end up with the following {@race Aasimar|DMG|racial traits for the aasimar}.

Modifying a Class

The classes in the Player's Handbook capture a wide range of character archetypes, but your campaign world might have need of something more. The following section discusses ways to modify existing classes to better serve your game's needs.

Changing Proficiencies

Changing a class's proficiencies is a safe and simple way to modify a class to better reflect your world. Swapping out one skill or tool proficiency for another doesn't make a character any stronger or weaker, but doing so can change the flavor of a class in subtle ways.

For example, a prominent guild of rogues in your world might worship a patron deity, performing secret missions in that deity's name. To reflect this cultural detail, you could add Religion to the list of skills that a rogue character can choose as a proficiency. You could even mandate that skill as one of the choices for rogues who belong to this guild.

You can also change armor and weapon proficiencies to reflect certain aspects of your world. For example, you could decide that the clerics of a particular deity belong to an order that forbids the accumulation of material goods, other than magic items useful for their divine mission. Such clerics carry a staff, but they are forbidden from wearing armor or using weapons other than that staff. To reflect this, you could remove the armor and weapon proficiencies for clerics of this faith, making them proficient with the quarterstaff and nothing else. You could give them a benefit to make up for the loss of proficiencies something like the monk's Unarmored Defense class feature, but presented as a divine blessing.

Changing Spell Lists

Modifying a class's spell list usually has little effect on a character's power but can change the flavor of a class significantly. In your world, paladins might not swear their oaths to ideals, but instead swear fealty to powerful sorcerers. To capture this story concept, you could build a new paladin spell list with spells meant to protect their masters, drawn from the sorcerer or wizard lists. Suddenly, the paladin feels like a different class.

Be cautious when changing the warlock spell list. Since warlocks regain their spell slots after a short rest, they have the potential to use certain spells more times in a day than other classes do.

Restricting Class Access

Without changing the way a class functions, you can root it more firmly in the world by associating the class with a particular race or culture.

For example, you might decide that bards, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards represent the magical traditions of four different races or cultures. The bardic colleges might be closed to everyone except elves, dragonborn might be the only creatures capable of becoming sorcerers, and all warlocks in your world might be human. You could break that down still further: bards of the College of Lore could be high elves, and bards of the College of War could be wood elves. Gnomes discovered the school of illusion, so all wizards who specialize in that school are gnomes. Different human cultures produce warlocks with different pacts, and so on. Similarly, different cleric domains might reflect entirely separate religions associated with different races or cultures.

You decide how flexible you want to be in allowing a player character to break these restrictions. Can a half-elf live among the elves and study their bardic traditions? Can a dwarf stumble into a warlock pact despite having no connection to a culture that normally produces warlocks? As always, it's better to say yes and use the player's desire as an opportunity to develop the character's story and that of your world, rather than shutting down possibilities.

Substituting Class Features

If one or more features of a given class don't exactly fit the theme or tone of your campaign, you can pull them out of the class and replace them with new ones. In doing so, you should strive to make sure that the new options are just as appealing as the ones you are removing, and that the substitute class features contribute to the class's effectiveness at social interaction, exploration, or combat just as well as those being replaced.

Ultimately, a class exists to help a player express a particular character concept, and any class feature you replace is also removing an aspect of that character. Substituting a class feature should be done only to fit a specific need for your campaign, or to appeal to a player trying to create a specific kind of character (perhaps one modeled after a character from a novel, TV series, comic book, or movie).

The first step is to figure out what class feature or group of class features you're going to replace. Then you need to evaluate what each feature provides to the class, so that the features you are adding don't make the class over- or underpowered. Ask yourself the following questions about a feature you're replacing:

Armed with answers to these questions, you can start designing new features that replace the ones you are removing. It's fine if the new class features drift closer to exploration, social interaction, or combat than the ones you are replacing, but be wary of going too far. For example, if you replace an exploration-focused feature with something purely combat focused, you've just made that class more powerful in combat, and it could overshadow the other classes in a way that you didn't intend.

There's no formula that can tell you how to design new class features. The best place to start is by looking at other class features, or at spells, feats, or any other rules for inspiration. You're almost certainly going to have some missteps, as features that seem good on the surface fall apart in play. That's all right. Everything you design will need to be playtested. When introducing new class features, be sure the players using them are comfortable with the fact that you might need to go back and make some changes after seeing them in play.

Creating New Class Options

Each class has at least one major choice point. Clerics choose a divine domain, fighters choose a martial archetype, wizards choose an arcane tradition, and so forth. Creating a new option doesn't require you to remove anything from the class, but any new option you add should be compared to existing options to make sure it's no more or less powerful, yet remains distinctive in flavor. Like anything in class design, be prepared to playtest your ideas and make changes if things aren't playing out the way you want them to.

Once you have the concept for the class option in mind, it's time to design the specifics. If you're not sure where to begin, look at the existing options and see what class features they provide. It's perfectly acceptable for two class options to have similar features, and it's also fine to look at other classes for examples of mechanics you can draw on for inspiration. As you design each class feature, ask the following questions:

Variant: Spell Points

One way to modify how a class feels is to change how it uses its spells. With this variant system, a character who has the Spellcasting feature uses spell points instead spell slots to fuel spells. Spell points give a caster more flexibility, at the cost of greater complexity.

In this variant, each spell has a point cost based on its level. The Spell Point Cost table summarizes the cost in spell points of slots from 1st to 9th level. Cantrips don't require slots and therefore don't require spell points.

Instead of gaining a number of spell slots to cast your spells from the Spellcasting feature, you gain a pool of spell points instead. You expend a number of spell points to create a spell slot of a given level, and then use that slot to cast a spell. You can't reduce your spell points total to less than 0, and you regain all spent spell points when you finish a long rest.

Spells of 6th level and higher are particularly taxing to cast. You can use spell points to create one slot of each level of 6th or higher. You can't create another slot of the same level until you finish a long rest.

The number of spell points you have to spend is based on your level as a spellcaster, as shown in the Spell Points by Level table. Your level also determines the maximum-level spell slot you can create. Even though you might have enough points to create a slot above this maximum, you can't do so.

The Spell Points by Level table applies to {@class bard}s, {@class cleric}s, {@class druid}s, {@class sorcerer}s, and {@class wizard}s. For a {@class paladin} or {@class ranger}, halve the character's level in that class and then consult the table. For a {@class fighter|phb|fighter (Eldritch Knight)|Eldritch Knight} or {@class rogue|phb|rogue (Arcane Trickster)|Arcane Trickster}, divide the character's level in that class by three.

This system can be applied to monsters that cast spells using spell slots, but it isn't recommended that you do so. Tracking spell point expenditures for a monster can be a hassle.

Spell Point Cost

Spell Point Cost
Spell LevelPoint Cost

Spell Points by Level

Spell Points by Level
Class LevelSpell PointsMax Spell Level

Creating a Background

A well-crafted background can help a player create a character that feels like an exciting addition to your campaign. It helps define the character's place in the world, rather than what a character is in terms of game mechanics.

Instead of focusing on a generic character background, such as merchant or wanderer, think about the factions, organizations, and cultures of your campaign and how they might be leveraged to create flavorful backgrounds for player characters. For example, you could create an acolyte of Candlekeep background that is functionally similar to a sage background, but which ties a character more closely to a place and organization in your world.

A character with the acolyte of Candlekeep background probably has friends among the Avowed the monks who maintain the great library at Candlekeep. The character can enter the library and consult its lore freely, while others must donate a rare or valuable tome of knowledge before they are allowed entry. Candlekeep's enemies are the character's enemies, and its allies, the character's friends. Acolytes of Candlekeep are generally regarded as learned sages and protectors of knowledge. It's possible to envision many interesting interactions as NPCs discover the character's background and approach the character in search of assistance.

To create your own background, follow these steps.

Step 1. Root It in Your World

To ground a new background in your campaign's setting, determine what element of your campaign the background is tied to: a faction, an organization, a trade, a person, an event, or a location.

Step 2. Suggest Personal Characteristics

Create tables of suggested characteristics' personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws' that fit the background, or plunder entries from the tables presented in the {@i Player's Handbook}. Even if your players don't use the tables, this step helps you paint a picture of the background's place in your world. The tables need not be extensive; two or three entries per table are enough.

Step 3. Assign Proficiencies or Languages

Choose two skill proficiencies and two tool proficiencies for the background. You can replace tool proficiencies with languages on a one-for-one basis.

Step 4. Include Starting Equipment

Make sure your background offers a package of starting equipment. In addition to a small amount of money that a character can use to buy adventuring gear, the starting equipment should include items that a character would have acquired prior to becoming an adventurer, as well as one or two items unique to the background.

For example, starting equipment for a character with the acolyte of Candlekeep background might include a set of traveler's clothes, a scholar's robe, five candles, a tinderbox, an empty scroll case engraved with the symbol of Candlekeep, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp. The scroll case might be a gift given to an acolyte of Candlekeep who embarks on a life of adventure. At your discretion, it might also contain a useful map.

Step 5. Settle on a Background Feature

Choose an existing background feature or create a new one, as you prefer. If you choose an existing feature, add or tweak a few details to make it unique.

For example, the acolyte of Candlekeep background might have the Researcher feature of the sage (as presented in the Player's Handbook), with the additional benefit that the character is allowed to enter Candlekeep without paying the normal cost.

A background feature should avoid strict game benefits, such as a bonus to an ability check or an attack roll. Instead, the feature should open up new options for roleplaying, exploring, and otherwise interacting with the world.

For example, the sage's Researcher feature is designed to send the character on adventures. It doesn't provide information or an automatic success for a check. Instead, if a character with the sage background fails to recall information, he or she instead knows where to learn it. This might be a pointer to another sage or to a library long lost within an ancient tomb.

The best background features give characters a reason to strike out on quests, to make contact with NPCs, and to develop bonds to the setting you've devised.

Appendix A: Random Dungeons

This appendix helps you quickly generate a dungeon. The tables work in an iterative manner. First, roll a starting area, then roll to determine the passages and doors found in that area. One you have initial passages and doors, determine the location and nature of subsequent passages, doors, chambers, stairs, and so on-each of them generated by rolls on different tables.

Following these instructions can lead to sprawling complexes that more than fill a single sheet of graph paper. If you want to constrain the dungeon, establish limits ahead of time on how far it can grow. The most obvious limit to a dungeon's size is the graph paper it's drawn on. If a feature would exceed the boundaries of the page, curtail it. A corridor might turn or come to a dead end at the map's edge, or you can make a chamber smaller to fit the available space.

Alternatively, you can decide that passages leading off the edge of the map are additional dungeon entrances. Stairs, shafts, and other features that would normally lead to levels you don't plan to map can serve a similar purpose.

Starting Area

The Starting Area table produces a chamber or a set of corridors at the entrance to your dungeon. When rolling for a random starting area, pick one of the doors or passages leading into the starting area as the entrance to the dungeon as a whole.

Once you've selected the entrance, roll on the appropriate table for each passage or door leading away from the starting area. Passages each extend 10 feet beyond the starting area. After that point, check on the Passage table for each passage to determine what lies beyond. Use the Beyond a Door table to determine what lies behind doors and secret doors.

Starting Area

Starting Area
1Square, 20 × 20 ft.; passage on each wall
2Square, 20 × 20 ft.; door on two walls, passage in third wall
3Square, 40 × 40 ft.; doors on three walls
4Rectangle, 80 × 20 ft., with row of pillars down the middle; two passages leading from each long wall, doors on each short wall
5Rectangle, 20 × 40 ft.; passage on each wall
6Circle, 40 ft. diameter; one passage at each cardinal direction
7Circle, 40 ft. diameter; one passage in each cardinal direction; well in middle of room (might lead down to lower level)
8Square, 20 × 20 ft.; door on two walls, passage on third wall, secret door on fourth wall
9Passage, 10 ft. wide; T intersection
10Passage, 10 ft. wide; four-way intersection


When generating passages and corridors, roll on the Passage table multiple times, extending the length and branches of any open passage on the map until you arrive at a door or chamber.

Whenever you create a new passage, roll to determine its width. If the passage branches from another passage, roll a {@dice d12} on the Passage Width table. If it comes from a chamber, roll a {@dice d20} on that table, but the width of the passage must be at least 5 feet smaller than the longest dimension of the chamber.


1-2Continue straight 30 ft., no doors or side passages
3Continue straight 20 ft., door to the right, then an additional 10 ft. ahead
4Continue straight 20 ft., door to the left, then an additional 10 ft. ahead
5Continue straight 20 ft.; passage ends in a door
6-7Continue straight 20 ft., side passage to the right, then an additional 10 ft. ahead
8-9Continue straight 20 ft., side passage to the left, then an additional 10 ft. ahead
10Continue straight 20 ft., comes to a dead end; {@chance 10} chance of a secret door
11-12Continue straight 20 ft., then the passage turns left and continues 10 ft.
13-14Continue straight 20 ft., then the passage turns right and continues 10 ft.
15-19Chamber (roll on the Chamber table)
20Stairs* (roll on the Stairs table)

Passage Width

Passage Width
{@dice d12}/{@dice d20}Width
5 ft.
10 ft.
20 ft.
30 ft.
40 ft., with row of pillars down the middle
40 ft., with double row of pillars
40 ft. wide, 20 ft. high
40 ft. wide, 20 ft. high, gallery 10 ft. above floor allows access to level above


Whenever a table roll indicates a door, roll on the Door Type table to determine its nature, then roll on the Beyond a Door table to see what lies on the other side of it. If a door is barred, you decide which side of the door the bar is on. Unlocked doors can also be stuck, at your discretion. See chapter 5, "Adventure Environments," for information on doors and portcullises.

Door Type

Door Type
d20Door Type
11-12Wooden, barred or locked
14Stone, barred or locked
16Iron, barred or locked
18Portcullis, locked in place
19Secret door
20Secret door, barred or locked

Beyond a Door

Beyond a Door
1-2Passage extending 10 ft., then T intersection extending 10 ft. to the right and left
3-8Passage 20 ft. straight ahead
9-18Chamber (roll on the Chamber table)
19Stairs (roll on the Stairs table)
20False door with trap


Whenever a roll on a table indicates a chamber, use the Chamber table to define its dimensions. Then roll on the Chamber Exits table to determine the number of exits. For each exit, roll on the Exit Location and Exit Type tables to determine the nature and placement of the exit.

Use the tables in the "Stocking a Dungeon" section to determine the contents of a chamber.


1-2Square, 20 × 20 ft.¹
3-4Square, 30 × 30 ft.¹
5-6Square, 40 × 40 ft.¹
7-9Rectangle, 20 × 30 ft.¹
10-12Rectangle, 30 × 40 ft.¹
13-14Rectangle, 40 × 50 ft.²
15Rectangle, 50 × 80 ft.²
16Circle, 30 ft. diameter¹
17Circle, 50 ft. diameter²
18Octagon, 40 × 40 ft.²
19Octagon, 60 × 60 ft.²
20Trapezoid, roughly 40 × 60 ft.²

Chamber Exits

Chamber Exits
d20Normal ChamberLarge Chamber

Exit Location

Exit Location
1-7Wall opposite entrance
8-12Wall left of entrance
13-17Wall right of entrance
18-20Same wall as entrance

Exit Type

Exit Type
1-10Door (roll on the Door Type table)
11-20Corridor, 10 ft. long


Stairs can include any means of going up and down, including ramps, chimneys, open shafts, elevators, and ladders. If your dungeon has more than one level, the amount of space between levels is up to you. A distance of 30 feet works fine for most dungeons.


1-4Down one level to a chamber
5-8Down one level to a passage 20 ft. long
9Down two levels to a chamber
10Down two levels to a passage 20 ft. long
11Down three levels to a chamber
12Down three levels to a passage 20 ft. long
13Up one level to a chamber
14Up one level to a passage 20 ft. long
15Up to a dead end
16Down to a dead end
17Chimney up one level to a passage 20 ft. long
18Chimney up two levels to a passage 20 ft. long
19Shaft (with or without elevator) down one level to a chamber
20Shaft (with or without elevator) up one level to a chamber and down one level to a chamber

Connecting Areas

When your map is done, consider adding doors between chambers and passages that are next to each other but otherwise not connected. Such doors create more paths through the dungeon and expand players' options.

If your dungeon consists of more than one level, be sure that any stairs, pits, and other vertical passages line up between levels. If you're using graph paper, lay a new page on top of your existing map, mark the locations of stairs and other features shared by the two levels, and begin mapping the new level.

Stocking a Dungeon

Creating a map for your dungeon is only half the fun. Once you have the layout, you need to decide what challenges and rewards are to be found in the dungeon's passages and chambers. Any reasonably large space should be stocked with interesting sights, sounds, objects, and creatures.

You don't need to have every last detail of your dungeon plotted out. You can get by with nothing more than a list of monsters, a list of treasures, and a list of one or two key elements for each dungeon area.

Chamber Purpose

A room's purpose can help determine its furnishings and other contents.

For each chamber on your dungeon map, establish its purpose or use the tables below to generate ideas. Each type of dungeon described in the "Dungeon Purpose" section of chapter 5, "Adventure Environments," has its own table featuring chambers geared to the dungeon's purpose. For example, if you're building a tomb, use the Dungeon: Tomb table to help you determine the purpose of each chamber. These dungeon-specific tables are followed by the General Dungeon Chambers table, which you can use if your dungeon isn't an exact fit for one of the standard types of dungeon or if you want to mix things up.

Relying on random rolls to stock an entire dungeon can lead to incongruous results. A tiny room might end up being identified as a temple, while the huge chamber next door serves as storage. It can be fun to try to make sense of such strange design ideas, but make changes as you see fit. You can set aside a few key rooms and create specific contents for them.

Dungeon: Death Trap

Dungeon: Death Trap
1Antechamber or waiting room for spectators
2-8Guardroom fortified against intruders
9-11Vault for holding important treasures, accessible only by locked or secret door ({@chance 75} chance of being trapped)
12-14Room containing a puzzle that must be solved to bypass a trap or monster
15-19Trap designed to kill or capture creatures
20Observation room, allowing guards or spectators to observe creatures moving through the dungeon

Dungeon: Lair

Dungeon: Lair
1Armory stocked with weapons and armor
2Audience chamber, used to receive guests
3Banquet room for important celebrations
4Barracks where the lair's defenders are quartered
5Bedroom, for use by leaders
6Chapel where the lair's inhabitants worship
7Cistern or well for drinking water
8-9Guardroom for the defense of the lair
10Kennel for pets or guard beasts
11Kitchen for food storage and preparation
12Pen or prison where captives are held
13-14Storage, mostly nonperishable goods
15Throne room where the lair's leaders hold court
16Torture chamber
17Training and exercise room
18Trophy room or museum
19Latrine or bath
20Workshop for the construction of weapons, armor, tools, and other goods

Dungeon: Maze

Dungeon: Maze
1Conjuring room, used to summon creatures that guard the maze
2-5Guard room for sentinels that patrol the maze
6-10Lair for guard beasts that patrol the maze
11Pen or prison accessible only by secret door, used to hold captives condemned to the maze
12Shrine dedicated to a god or other entity
13-14Storage for food, as well as tools used by the maze's guardians to keep the complex in working order
15-18Trap to confound or kill those sent into the maze
19Well that provides drinking water
20Workshop where doors, torch sconces, and other furnishings are repaired and maintained

Dungeon: Mine

Dungeon: Mine
1-2Barracks for miners
3Bedroom for a supervisor or manager
4Chapel dedicated to a patron deity of miners, earth, or protection
5Cistern providing drinking water for miners
8Kitchen used to feed workers
9Laboratory used to conduct tests on strange minerals extracted from the mine
10-15Lode where metal ore is mined ({@chance 75} chance of being depleted)
16Office used by the mine supervisor
17Smithy for repairing damaged tools
18-19Storage for tools and other equipment
20Strong room or vault used to store ore for transport to the surface

Dungeon: Planar Gate

Dungeon: Planar Gate
01-03Decorated foyer or antechamber
04-08Armory used by the portal's guardians
09-10Audience chamber for receiving visitors
11-19Barracks used by the portal's guards
20-23Bedroom for use by the high-ranking members of the order that guards the portal
24-30Chapel dedicated to a deity or deities related to the portal and its defenders
31-35Cistern providing fresh water
36-38Classroom for use of initiates learning about the portal's secrets
39Conjuring room for summoning creatures used to investigate or defend the portal
40-41Crypt where the remains of those that died guarding the portal are kept
42-47Dining room
48-50Divination room used to investigate the portal and events tied to it
51-55Dormitory for visitors and guards
56-57Entry room or vestibule
58-59Gallery for displaying trophies and objects related to the portal and those that guard it
60-67Guardroom to protect or watch over the portal
73-77Laboratory for conducting experiments relating to the portal and creatures that emerge from it
78-80Library holding books about the portal's history
81-85Pen or prison for holding captives or creatures that emerge from the portal
86-87Planar junction, where the gate to another plane once stood ({@chance 25} chance of being active)
91Strong room or vault, for guarding valuable treasures connected to the portal or funds used to pay the planar gate's guardians
94Torture chamber, for questioning creatures that pass through the portal or that attempt to clandestinely use it
95-98Latrine or bath
99-00Workshop for constructing tools and gear needed to study the portal

Dungeon: Stronghold

Dungeon: Stronghold
01-02Antechamber where visitors seeking access to the stronghold wait
03-05Armory holding high-quality gear, including light siege weapons such as ballistas
06Audience chamber used by the master of the stronghold to receive visitors
07Aviary or zoo for keeping exotic creatures
08-11Banquet room for hosting celebrations and guests
12-15Barracks used by elite guards
16Bath outfitted with a marble floor and other luxurious accoutrements
17Bedroom for use by the stronghold's master or important guests
18Chapel dedicated to a deity associated with the stronghold's master
19-21Cistern providing drinking water
22-25Dining room for intimate gatherings or informal meals
26Dressing room featuring a number of wardrobes
27-29Gallery for the display of expensive works of art and trophies
30-32Game room used to entertain visitors
51Kennel where monsters or trained animals that protect the stronghold are kept
52-57Kitchen designed to prepare exotic foods for large numbers of guests
58-61Library with an extensive collection of rare books
62Lounge used to entertain guests
63-70Pantry, including cellar for wine or spirits
71-74Sitting room for family and intimate guests
79-86Storage for mundane goods and supplies
87Strong room or vault for protecting important treasures ({@chance 75} chance of being hidden behind a secret door)
88-92Study, including a writing desk
93Throne room, elaborately decorated
94-96Waiting room where lesser guests are held before receiving an audience
97-98Latrine or bath
99-00Crypt belonging to the stronghold's master or someone else of importance

Dungeon: Temple or Shrine

Dungeon: Temple or Shrine
01-03Armory filled with weapons and armor, battle banners, and pennants
04-05Audience chamber where priests of the temple receive commoners and low-ranking visitors
06-07Banquet room used for celebrations and holy days
08-10Barracks for the temple's military arm or its hired guards
11-14Cells where the faithful can sit in quiet contemplation
15-24Central temple built to accommodate rituals
25-28Chapel dedicated to a lesser deity associated with the temple's major deity
29-31Classroom used to train initiates and priests
32-34Conjuring room, specially sanctified and used to summon extraplanar creatures
35-40Crypt for a high priest or similar figure, hidden and heavily guarded by creatures and traps
41-42Dining room (large) for the temple's servants and lesser priests
43Dining room (small) for the temple's high priests
44-46Divination room, inscribed with runes and stocked with soothsaying implements
47-50Dormitory for lesser priests or students
57Kennel for animals or monsters associated with the temple's deity
58-60Kitchen (might bear a disturbing resemblance to a torture chamber in an evil temple)
61-65Library, well stocked with religious treatises
66-68Prison for captured enemies (in good or neutral temples) or those designated as sacrifices (in evil temples)
69-73Robing room containing ceremonial outfits and items
74Stable for riding horses and mounts belonging to the temple, or for visiting messengers and caravans
75-79Storage holding mundane supplies
80Strong room or vault holding important relics and ceremonial items, heavily trapped
81-82Torture chamber, used in inquisitions (in good or neutral temples with a lawful bent) or for the sheer joy of causing pain (evil temples)
83-89Trophy room where art celebrating key figures and events from mythology is displayed
90Latrine or bath
91-94Well for drinking water, defendable in the case of attack or siege
95-00Workshop for repairing or creating weapons, religious items, and tools

Dungeon: Tomb

Dungeon: Tomb
1Antechamber for those that have come to pay respect to the dead or prepare themselves for burial rituals
2-3Chapel dedicated to deities that watch over the dead and protect their resting places
4-8Crypt for less important burials
9Divination room, used in rituals to contact the dead for guidance
10False crypt (trapped) to kill or capture thieves
11Gallery to display the deeds of the deceased through trophies, statues, paintings and so forth
12Grand crypt for a noble, high priest, or other important individual
13-14Guardroom, usually guarded by undead, constructs, or other creatures that don't need to eat or sleep
15Robing room for priests to prepare for burial rituals
16-17Storage, stocked with tools for maintaining the tomb and preparing the dead for burial
18Tomb where the wealthiest and most important folk are interred, protected by secret doors and traps
19-20Workshop for embalming the dead

Dungeon: Treasure Vault

Dungeon: Treasure Vault
1Antechamber for visiting dignitaries
2Armory containing mundane and magic gear used by the treasure vault's guards
3-4Barracks for guards
5Cistern providing fresh water
6-9Guardroom to defend against intruders
10Kennel for trained beasts used to guard the treasure vault
11Kitchen for feeding guards
12Watch room that allows guards to observe those who approach the dungeon
13Prison for hold ing captured intruders
14-15Strong room or vault, for guarding the treasure hidden in the dungeon, accessible only by locked or secret door
16Torture chamber for extracting information from captured intruders
17-20Trap or other trick designed to kill or capture creatures that enter the dungeon

General Dungeon Chambers

General Dungeon Chambers
04Audience chamber
06-07Banquet room
11Bath or latrine
23-24Conjuring room
30-31Dining room
32-33Divination room
35Dressing room
36Entry room or vestibule
39-40Game room
46-47Hall, great
60Meditation chamber
65-66Pen or prison
67-68Reception room
71Robing room
75-76Sitting room
80-81Storage room
82-83Strong room or vault
89-90Throne room
91Torture chamber
92-93Training or exercise room
94-95Trophy room or museum
96Waiting room
97Nursery or schoolroom

Current Chamber State

If a dungeon has a tumultuous history, you can roll to determine the current condition of any particular area. Otherwise, if the room is still used for its intended purpose, it remains intact.

Current Chamber State

Current Chamber State
1-3Rubble, ceiling partially collapsed
4-5Holes, floor partially collapsed
6-7Ashes, contents mostly burned
8-9Used as a campsite
10-11Pool of water; chamber's original contents are water damaged
12-16Furniture wrecked but still present
17-18Converted to some other use (roll on the General Dungeon Chambers table)
19Stripped bare
20Pristine and in original state

Chamber Contents

Once you have a sense of the purpose of the various dungeon chambers, you can think about the contents of those areas. The Dungeon Chamber Contents table allows you to randomly roll contents for a chamber, or you can choose contents for specific areas. If you choose contents, be sure to include an interesting, colorful assortment of things. In addition to the contents shown on this table, refer to "Dungeon Dressing" later in this appendix for additional items and elements to fill rooms.

In the Dungeon Chamber Contents table, a "dominant inhabitant" is a creature that controls an area. Pets and allied creatures are subservient to the dominant inhabitant. "Random creatures" are scavengers or nuisances, usually lone monsters or small groups passing through the area. They include such creatures as carrion crawlers, dire rats, gelatinous cubes, and rust monsters. See chapter 3, "Creating Adventures," for more information on random encounters.

Dungeon Chamber Contents

Dungeon Chamber Contents
01-08Monster (dominant inhabitant)
09-15Monster (dominant inhabitant) with treasure
16-27Monster (pet or allied creature)
28-33Monster (pet or allied creature) guarding treasure
34-42Monster (random creature)
43-50Monster (random creature) with treasure
51-58Dungeon hazard (see "Random Dungeon Hazards") with incidental t reasure
59-63Obstacle (see "Random Obstacles")
64-73Trap (see " Random Traps")
74-76Trap (see " Random Traps") protecting treasure
77-80Trick (see "Random Tricks")
81-88Empty room
89-94Empty room with dungeon hazard (see "Random Dungeon Hazards")
95-00Empty room with treasure

Monsters and Motivations

See chapter 3, "Creating Adventures," for guidance on creating encounters with monsters. To foster variety and suspense, be sure to include encounters of varying difficulty.

A powerful creature encountered early in the dungeon sets an exciting tone and forces the adventurers to rely on their wits. For example, an ancient red dragon might slumber on the first level of a dungeon, a pall of smoke and the sound of its heavy breathing filling the chambers near its lair. Clever characters will do their utmost to avoid the dragon, even as the party's brave thief makes off with a few coins from its hoard.

Not all monsters are automatically hostile. When placing monsters in your dungeon, consider their relationships to nearby creatures and their attitudes toward adventurers. Characters might be able to appease a hungry beast by offering it food, and smarter creatures have complex motivations. The Monster Motivation table lets you use a monster's goals to define its presence in the dungeon.

For large groups of monsters encountered across multiple chambers, motivation could apply to the entire group, or each subgroup could have conflicting goals.

Monster Motivation

Monster Motivation
1-2Find a sanctuary
3-5Conquer the dungeon
6-8Seek an item in the dungeon
9-11Slay a rival
12-13Hide from enemies
14-15Recover from a battle
16-17Avoid danger
18-20Seek wealth

Random Dungeon Hazards

Hazards are rarely found in inhabited areas, because monsters either clear them away or avoid them. Shriekers and violet fungi are described in the {@i Monster Manual}. The other hazards on the table are described in chapter 5, "Adventure Environments."

Dungeon Hazards

Dungeon Hazards
1-3{@hazard Brown mold}
4-8{@hazard Green slime}
9-10{@creature Shrieker}
11-15{@hazard webs|dmg|Spiderwebs}
16-17{@creature Violet fungus}
18-20{@hazard Yellow mold}

Random Obstacles

Obstacles block progress through the dungeon. In some cases, what adventurers consider an obstacle is an easy path for the dungeon's inhabitants. For example, a flooded chamber is a barrier to many characters but easily navigated by water-breathing creatures.

Obstacles can affect more than one room. A chasm might run through several passages and chambers, or send cracks through the stonework in a wider area around it. An area of battering winds that emanates from a magic altar could stir the air less dangerously for hundreds of feet in all directions.


1Antilife aura with a radius of {@dice 1d10 × 10} ft.; while in the aura, living creatures can't regain hit points
2Battering winds reduce speed by half, impose disadvantage on ranged attack rolls
3{@spell Blade barrier} blocks passage
9-12Chasm {@dice 1d4 × 10} ft. wide and {@dice 2d6 × 10} ft. deep, possibly connected to other levels of the dungeon
13-14Flooding leaves {@dice 2d10} ft. of water in the area; create nearby upward-sloping passages, raised floors, or rising sta irs to contain the water
15Lava flows through the area ({@chance 50} chance of a stone bridge crossing it)
16Overgrown mushrooms block progress and must be hacked down ({@chance 25} chance of a mold or fungus dungeon hazard hidden among them)
17Poisonous gas (deals {@dice 1d6} poison damage per minute of exposure)
18Reverse gravity effect causes creatures to fall toward the ceiling
19{@spell Wall of fire} blocks passage
20{@spell Wall of force} blocks passage

Random Traps

If you need a trap quickly or want to drop random traps into a dungeon, use the sample traps presented in chapter 5, "Adventure Environments" or the tables below. If you use the tables, start with the Trap Effects and Trap Trigger tables to decide the type of trap, then use the Trap Damage Severity tables to decide how deadly it should be. For more information on trap damage severity, see chapter 5.

Trap Trigger

Trap Trigger
1stepped on (floor, stairs)
2moved through (doorway, hallway)
3touched (doorknob, statue)
4opened (door, treasure chest)
5looked at (mural, arcane symbol)
6moved (cart, stone block)

Trap Damage Severity

Trap Damage Severity
d6Damage Severity

Trap Effects

Trap Effects
1-4{@spell Magic missile|phb|Magic missiles} shoot from a statue or object
5-7Collapsing staircase creates a ramp that deposits characters into a pit at its lower end
8-10Ceiling block falls, or entire ceiling collapses
11-12Ceiling lowers slowly in locked room
13-14Chute opens in floor
15-16Clanging noise attracts nearby monsters
17-19Touching an object triggers a {@spell disintegrate} spell
20-23Door or other object is coated with contact poison
24-27Fire shoots out from wall, floor, or object
28-30Touching an object triggers a {@spell flesh to stone} spell
31-33Floor collapses or is an illusion
34-36Vent releases gas: blinding, acidic, obscuring, paralyzing, poisonous, or sleep-inducing
37-39Floor tiles are electrified
40-43{@spell Glyph of warding}
44-46Huge wheeled statue rolls down corridor
47-49{@spell Lightning bolt} shoots from wall or object
50-52Locked room floods with water or acid
53-56Darts shoot out of an opened chest
57-59A {@creature flying sword|mm|weapon}, {@creature animated armor|mm|suit of armor}, or {@creature rug of smothering|mm|rug} animates and attacks when touched (see "Animated Objects" in the Monster Manual)
60-62Pendulum, either bladed or weighted as a maul, swings across the room or hall
63-67Hidden pit opens beneath characters ({@chance 25} chance that a {@creature black pudding} or {@creature gelatinous cube} fills the bottom of the pit)
68-70Hidden pit floods with acid or fire
71-73Locking pit floods with water
74-77Scything blade emerges from wall or object
78-81Spears (possibly poisoned) spring out
82-84Brittle stairs collapse over spikes
85-88{@spell Thunderwave} knocks characters into a pit or spikes
89-91Steel or stone jaws restrain a character
92-94Stone block smashes across hallway
95-97{@spell Symbol}
98-100Walls slide together

Random Tricks

Tricks are quirkier and less deadly than traps. Some are effects left behind by the dungeon's creators, while others might be manifestations of the strange magical energy suffusing the dungeon.

The following tables allow you to generate random tricks. Roll first to determine an object that the trick is placed on, then roll to determine the nature of the trick. Some tricks are permanent effects that can't be dispelled; others are temporary or can be neutralized with a dispel magic spell. You decide which is which.

Trick Objects

Trick Objects
2Brain preserved in a jar
3Burning fire
4Cracked gem
5Door energy
8Glass sculpture
9Mushroom field
11Plant or tree
12Pool of water
13Runes engraved on wall or floor
15Sphere of magical
17Stone obelisk
18Suit of armor
19Tapestry or rug
20Target dummy


d100Trick Effect
1-3Ages the first person to touch the object
4-6The touched object animates, or it animates other objects nearby
7-10Asks three skill-testing questions (if all three are answered correctly, a reward appears)
11-13Bestows resistance or vulnerability
14-16Changes a character's alignment, personality, size, appearance, or sex when touched
17-19Changes one substance to another, such as gold to lead or metal to brittle crystal
20-22Creates a force field
23-26Creates an illusion
27-29Suppresses magic items for a time
30-32Enlarges or reduces characters
33-35{@spell Magic mouth} speaks a riddle
36-38{@spell Confusion} (targets all creatures within 10 ft.)
39-41Gives directions (true or false)
42-44Grants a wish
45-47Flies about to avoid being touched
48-50Casts {@spell geas} on the characters
51-53Increases, reduces, negates, or reverses gravity
54-56Induces greed
57-59Contains an imprisoned creature
60-62Locks or unlocks exits
63-65Offers a game of chance, with the promise of a reward or valuable information
66-68Helps or harms certain types of creatures
69-71Casts {@spell polymorph} on the characters (lasts 1 hour)
72-75Presents a puzzle or riddle
76-78Prevents movement
79-81Releases coins, false coins, gems, false gems, a magic item, or a map
82-84Releases, summons, or turns into a monster
85-87Casts {@spell suggestion} on the characters
88-90Wails loudly when touched
91-93Talks (normal speech, nonsense, poetry and rhymes, singing, spellcasting, or screaming)
94-97Teleports characters to another place
98-00Swaps two or more characters' minds

Random treasures

Use the tables and guidelines in chapter 7, "Treasure" to determine the treasure in each area of your dungeon.

Empty Rooms

An empty room can be a godsend for characters who need a safe place to take a short rest. Characters can also barricade themselves there and take a long rest.

Sometimes such a room isn't as empty as it appears. If the characters search a room carefully, you can reward them with a secret compartment containing a journal belonging to a previous inhabitant, a map leading to another dungeon, or some other discovery.

Dungeon Dressing

The tables in this section provide miscellaneous items and points of interest that can be placed in your dungeon. Dungeon dressing can help establish the atmosphere of a dungeon, give clues about its creators and history, provide the basis for tricks and traps, or encourage exploration.

To generate dungeon dressing at random, roll once on each of the following tables: Noises, Air, and Odors. Roll as often as you like on the other tables in this section, or choose appropriate furnishings for the area.


1-5Bang or slam
20-23Footsteps ahead
24-26Footsteps approaching
27-29Footsteps behind
30-31Footsteps receding
32-33Footsteps to the side
34-35Giggling (faint)
45Horn or trumpet sounding
69-72Scratching or scrabbling


1-60Clear and damp
61-70Clear and drafty
71-80Clear but cold
81-83Foggy or misty and cold
84-85Clear, with mist covering floor
86-90Clear and warm
91-93Hazy and humid
94-96Smoky or steamy
97-98Clear, with smoke covering ceiling
99-00Clear and windy


6-39Dank or moldy
71-75Rotting vegetation
76-77Salty and wet

General Features

General Features
1Arrow, broken
7Bottle, broken
8Chain, corroded (5 ft. long)
9Club, splintered
20Coin, copper
21-22Cracks, ceiling
23-24Cracks, floor
25-26Cracks, wall
27Dagger hilt
28-29Damp ceiling
30-33Dampness, wall
34Dried blood
35-41Dripping blood
50Flask, cracked
51Food scraps
52Fungi (common)
56Hair or fur
57Hammer head, cracked
58Helmet, badly dented
59Iron bar, bent and rusted
60Javelin head, blunt
61Leather boot
62-64Leaves and twigs
65-68Mold (common)
69Pick handle
70Pole, broken
71Pottery shards
74Rope, rotten
75-76Rubble and dirt
77Sack, torn
78-80Slime (harmless)
81Spike, rusted
84Stones, small
86Sword blade, broken
87Teeth or fangs, scattered
88Torch stub
89Wall scratchings
90-91Water, large puddle
92-93Water, small puddle
94-95Water, trickle
96Wax blob (candle stub)
97Wax drippings
98-00Wood pieces, rotting

General Furnishings and Appointments

General Furnishings and Appointments
4Arras or curtain
6Barrel (40 gallons)
11Box (large)
12Brazier and charcoal
14Buffet cabinet
16Butt (huge cask, 125 gallons)
19Carpet (large)
20Cask (40 gallons)
23-24Chair, plain
25Chair, padded
26Chair, padded, or divan
27Chest, large
28Chest, medium
29Chest of drawers
30Closet (wardrobe)
40-42Fireplace and wood
43Fireplace with mantle
44Firkin (small cask, 10 gallons)
50Hogshead (large cask, 65 gallons)
51Idol (large)
52Keg (small barrel, 20 gallons)
66Pipe (large cask, 105 gallons)
68-70Rug (small or medium)
81Staff, normal
84Stool, high
85Stool, normal
86Table, large
87Table, long
88Table, low
89Table, round
90Table, small
91Table, trestle
96Tun (huge cask, 250 gallons)
98Wall basin and font
99Wood billets

Religious Articles and Furnishings

Religious Articles and Furnishings
18-19Cloth, altar
20-23Columns or pillars
24Curtain or tapestry
30-35Holy or unholy symbol
36-37Holy or unholy writings
44-48Incense burner
49Kneeling bench
56-58Offertory container
59Paintings or frescoes
62Pipes, musical
63Prayer rug
77Side chairs
98-99Votive light

Mage Furnishings

Mage Furnishings
4-5Balance and weights
33Crystal ball
37-40Flask or jar
52Lamp or lantern
53Lens (concave or convex)
54Magic circle
55Mortar and pestle
61Pipe, smoking
69Rod, mixing or stirring
77Spoon, measuring
80Stuffed animal
81Tank (container)
84Tube (container)
85-86Tube (piping)
91Water clock

Utensils and Personal Items

Utensils and Personal Items
15Candle snuffer
17Cane or walking stick
19Casket (small)
22Cologne or perfume
28Ear spoon
30Flagon, mug, or tankard
31-32Flask or jar
37Horn, drinking
39Jug or pitcher
43Knucklebones or dice
45-46Lamp or lantern
50Oil, cooking
51Oil, fuel
52Oil, scented
56Pipe, musical
57Pipe, smoking
58Plate, platter, or saucer
62Powder puff
66Salve or unguent
70Sifter or strainer
76-77Statuette or figurine
80-82Tinderbox (with flint and steel)
85Trivet or tripod

Container Contents

Container Contents
7-9Bodily organs
47-54Liquid, thin
55-59Liquid, viscous
60-61Lumps, unidentifiable
85-86Semiliquid suspension
87-88Skin or hide
89-90Spheres (metal, stone, or wood)

Books, Scrolls, and Tomes

Books, Scrolls, and Tomes
1-2Account records
3-4Alchemist's notebook
12-14Book of heraldry
15Book of myths
16Book of pressed flowers
30-32Doodles or sketches
33Forged document
34Grammar workbook
35-36Heretical text
37-41Historical text
42-43Last will and testament
44-45Legal code
54Lunatic's ravings
55Magic tricks (not a spellbook)
56Magic scroll
57-59Map or atlas
61-62Navigational chart or star chart
68-69Prayer book
70Property deed
71-74Recipe book or cookbook
75Record of a criminal trial
76Royal proclamation
77-78Sheet music
80Text on armor making
81-82Text on astrology
83-84Text on brewing
85-86Text on exotic flora or fauna
87-88Text on herbalism
89-90Text on local flora
91-92Text on mathematics
93Text on masonry
94Text on medicine
95Theological text
96Tome of (forbidden lore)
97-99Travelogue for an exotic land
00Travelogue of the planes