Chapter 2: Dungeon Master's Tools

As the Dungeon Master, you oversee the game and weave together the story experienced by your players. You’re the one who keeps it all going, and this chapter is for you. It gives you new rules options, as well as some refined tools for creating and running adventures and campaigns. It is a supplement to the tools and advice offered in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

The chapter opens with optional rules meant to help you run certain parts of the game more smoothly. The chapter then goes into greater depth on several topics — encounter building, random encounters, traps, magic items, and downtime — which largely relate to how you create and stage your adventures.

The material in this chapter is meant to make your life easier. Ignore anything you find here that doesn’t help you, and don’t hesitate to customize the things that you do use. The game’s rules exist to serve you and the games you run. As always, make them your own.

Simultaneous Effects

Most effects in the game happen in succession, following an order set by the rules or the DM. In rare cases, effects can happen at the same time, especially at the start or end of a creature’s turn. If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen. For example, if two effects occur at the end of a player character’s turn, the player decides which of the two effects happens first.


Falling from a great height is a significant risk for adventurers and their foes. The rule given in the Player’s Handbook is simple: at the end of a fall, you take 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet you fell, to a maximum of 20d6. You also land prone, unless you somehow avoid taking damage from the fall. Here are two optional rules that expand on that simple rule.

Rate of Falling

The rule for falling assumes that a creature immediately drops the entire distance when it falls. But what if a creature is at a high altitude when it falls, perhaps on the back of a griffon or on board an airship? Realistically, a fall from such a height can take more than a few seconds, extending past the end of the turn when the fall occurred. If you’d like high-altitude falls to be properly time-consuming, use the following optional rule.

When you fall from a great height, you instantly descend up to 500 feet. If you’re still falling on your next turn, you descend up to 500 feet at the end of that turn. This process continues until the fall ends, either because you hit the ground or the fall is otherwise halted.

Flying Creatures and Falling

A flying creature in flight falls if it is knocked prone, if its speed is reduced to 0 feet, or if it otherwise loses the ability to move, unless it can hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as the fly spell.

If you’d like a flying creature to have a better chance of surviving a fall than a non-flying creature does, use this rule: subtract the creature’s current flying speed from the distance it fell before calculating falling damage. This rule is helpful to a flier that is knocked prone but is still conscious and has a current flying speed that is greater than 0 feet. The rule is designed to simulate the creature flapping its wings furiously or taking similar measures to slow the velocity of its fall.

If you use the rule for rate of falling in the previous section, a flying creature descends 500 feet on the turn when it falls, just as other creatures do. But if that creature starts any of its later turns still falling and is prone, it can halt the fall on its turn by spending half its flying speed to counter the prone condition (as if it were standing up in midair).


Just as in the real world, D&D characters spend many hours sleeping, most often as part of a long rest. Most monsters also need to sleep. While a creature sleeps, it is subjected to the unconscious condition. Here are a few rules that expand on that basic fact.

Waking Someone

A creature that is naturally sleeping, as opposed to being in a magically or chemically induced sleep, wakes up if it takes any damage or if someone else uses an action to shake or slap the creature awake. A sudden loud noise — such as yelling, thunder, or a ringing bell — also awakens someone that is sleeping naturally.

Whispers don’t disturb sleep, unless a sleeper’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score is 20 or higher and the whispers are within 10 feet of the sleeper. Speech at a normal volume awakens a sleeper if the environment is otherwise silent (no wind, birdsong, crickets, street sounds, or the like) and the sleeper has a passive Wisdom (Perception) score of 15 or higher.

Sleeping in Armor

Sleeping in light armor has no adverse effect on the wearer, but sleeping in medium or heavy armor makes it difficult to recover fully during a long rest.

When you finish a long rest during which you slept in medium or heavy armor, you regain only one quarter of your spent Hit Dice (minimum of one die). If you have any levels of exhaustion, the rest doesn’t reduce your exhaustion level.

Going without a Long Rest

A long rest is never mandatory, but going without sleep does have its consequences. If you want to account for the effects of sleep deprivation on characters and creatures, use these rules.

Whenever you end a 24-hour period without finishing a long rest, you must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion.

It becomes harder to fight off exhaustion if you stay awake for multiple days. After the first 24 hours, the DC increases by 5 for each consecutive 24-hour period without a long rest. The DC resets to 10 when you finish a long rest.

Adamantine Weapons

Adamantine is an ultrahard metal found in meteorites and extraordinary mineral veins. In addition to being used to craft adamantine armor, the metal is also used for weapons.

Melee weapons and ammunition made of or coated with adamantine are unusually effective when used to break objects. Whenever an adamantine weapon or piece of ammunition hits an object, the hit is a critical hit.

The adamantine version of a melee weapon or of ten pieces of ammunition costs 500 gp more than the normal version, whether the weapon or ammunition is made of the metal or coated with it.

Tying Knots

The rules are purposely open-ended concerning mundane tasks like tying knots, but sometimes knowing how well a knot was fashioned is important in a dramatic scene when someone is trying to untie a knot or slip out of one. Here’s an optional rule for determining the effectiveness of a knot.

The creature who ties the knot makes an Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) check when doing so. The total of the check becomes the DC for an attempt to untie the knot with an Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) check or to slip out of it with a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.

This rule intentionally links Sleight of Hand with Intelligence, rather than Dexterity. This is an example of how to apply the rule in the “Variant: Skills with Different Abilities” section in chapter 7 of the Player’s Handbook.

Tool Proficiencies

Tool proficiencies are a useful way to highlight a character’s background and talents. At the game table, though, the use of tools sometimes overlaps with the use of skills, and it can be unclear how to use them together in certain situations. This section offers various ways that tools can be used in the game.

Tools and Skills Together

Tools have more specific applications than skills. The History skill applies to any event in the past. A tool such as a forgery kit is used to make fake objects and little else. Thus, why would a character who has the opportunity to acquire one or the other want to gain a tool proficiency instead of proficiency in a skill?

To make tool proficiencies more attractive choices for the characters, you can use the methods outlined below.

Advantage. If the use of a tool and the use of a skill both apply to a check, and a character is proficient with the tool and the skill, consider allowing the character to make the check with advantage. This simple benefit can go a long way toward encouraging players to pick up tool proficiencies. In the tool descriptions that follow, this benefit is often expressed as additional insight (or something similar), which translates into an increased chance that the check will be a success.

Added Benefit. In addition, consider giving characters who have both a relevant skill and a relevant tool proficiency an added benefit on a successful check. This benefit might be in the form of more detailed information or could simulate the effect of a different sort of successful check. For example, a character proficient with mason’s tools makes a successful Wisdom (Perception) check to find a secret door in a stone wall. Not only does the character notice the door’s presence, but you decide that the tool proficiency entitles the character to an automatic success on an Intelligence (Investigation) check to determine how to open the door.

Tool Descriptions

The following sections go into detail about the tools presented in the Player’s Handbook, offering advice on how to use them in a campaign.

Components. The first paragraph in each description gives details on what a set of supplies or tools is made up of. A character who is proficient with a tool knows how to use all of its component parts.

Skills. Every tool potentially provides advantage on a check when used in conjunction with certain skills, provided a character is proficient with the tool and the skill. As DM, you can allow a character to make a check using the indicated skill with advantage. Paragraphs that begin with skill names discuss these possibilities. In each of these paragraphs, the benefits apply only to someone who has proficiency with the tool, not someone who simply owns it.

With respect to skills, the system is mildly abstract in terms of what a tool proficiency represents; essentially, it assumes that a character who has proficiency with a tool also has learned about facets of the trade or profession that are not necessarily associated with the use of the tool.

In addition, you can consider giving a character extra information or an added benefit on a skill check. The text provides some examples and ideas when this opportunity is relevant.

Special Use. Proficiency with a tool usually brings with it a particular benefit in the form of a special use, as described in this paragraph.

Sample DCs. A table at the end of each section lists activities that a tool can be used to perform, and suggested DCs for the necessary ability checks.

Alchemist’s Supplies

Alchemist’s supplies enable a character to produce useful concoctions, such as acid or alchemist’s fire.

Components. Alchemist’s supplies include two glass beakers, a metal frame to hold a beaker in place over an open flame, a glass stirring rod, a small mortar and pestle, and a pouch of common alchemical ingredients, including salt, powdered iron, and purified water.

Arcana. Proficiency with alchemist’s supplies allows you to unlock more information on Arcana checks involving potions and similar materials.

Investigation. When you inspect an area for clues, proficiency with alchemist’s supplies grants additional insight into any chemicals or other substances that might have been used in the area.

Alchemical Crafting. You can use this tool proficiency to create alchemical items. A character can spend money to collect raw materials, which weigh 1 pound for every 50 gp spent. The DM can allow a character to make a check using the indicated skill with advantage. As part of a long rest, you can use alchemist’s supplies to make one dose of acid, alchemist’s fire, antitoxin, oil, perfume, or soap. Subtract half the value of the created item from the total gp worth of raw materials you are carrying.

Alchemist’s Supplies

Create a puff of thick smoke10
Identify a poison10
Identify a substance15
Start a fire15
Neutralize acid20

Brewer’s Supplies

Brewing is the art of producing beer. Not only does beer serve as an alcoholic beverage, but the process of brewing purifies water. Crafting beer takes weeks of fermentation, but only a few hours of work.

Components. Brewer’s supplies include a large glass jug, a quantity of hops, a siphon, and several feet of tubing.

History. Proficiency with brewer’s supplies gives you additional insight on Intelligence (History) checks concerning events that involve alcohol as a significant element.

Medicine. This tool proficiency grants additional insight when you treat anyone suffering from alcohol poisoning or when you can use alcohol to dull pain.

Persuasion. A stiff drink can help soften the hardest heart. Your proficiency with brewer’s supplies can help you ply someone with drink, giving them just enough alcohol to mellow their mood.

Potable Water. Your knowledge of brewing enables you to purify water that would otherwise be undrinkable. As part of a long rest, you can purify up to 6 gallons of water, or 1 gallon as part of a short rest.

Brewer’s Supplies

Detect poison or impurities in a drink10
Identify alcohol15
Ignore effects of alcohol20

Calligrapher’s Supplies

Calligraphy treats writing as a delicate, beautiful art. Calligraphers produce text that is pleasing to the eye, using a style that is difficult to forge. Their supplies also give them some ability to examine scripts and determine if they are legitimate, since a calligrapher’s training involves long hours of studying writing and attempting to replicate its style and design.

Components. Calligrapher’s supplies include ink, a dozen sheets of parchment, and three quills.

Arcana. Although calligraphy is of little help in deciphering the content of magical writings, proficiency with these supplies can aid in identifying who wrote a script of a magical nature.

History. This tool proficiency can augment the benefit of successful checks made to analyze or investigate ancient writings, scrolls, or other texts, including runes etched in stone or messages in frescoes or other displays.

Decipher Treasure Map. This tool proficiency grants you expertise in examining maps. You can make an Intelligence check to determine a map’s age, whether a map includes any hidden messages, or similar facts.

Calligrapher’s Supplies

Identify writer of nonmagical script10
Determine writer’s state of mind15
Spot forged text15
Forge a signature20

Carpenter’s Tools

Skill at carpentry enables a character to construct wooden structures. A carpenter can build a house, a shack, a wooden cabinet, or similar items.

Components. Carpenter’s tools include a saw, a hammer, nails, a hatchet, a square, a ruler, an adze, a plane, and a chisel.

History. This tool proficiency aids you in identifying the use and the origin of wooden buildings and other large wooden objects.

Investigation. You gain additional insight when inspecting areas within wooden structures, because you know tricks of construction that can conceal areas from discovery.

Perception. You can spot irregularities in wooden walls or floors, making it easier to find trap doors and secret passages.

Stealth. You can quickly assess the weak spots in a wooden floor, making it easier to avoid the places that creak and groan when they’re stepped on.

Fortify. With 1 minute of work and raw materials, you can make a door or window harder to force open. Increase the DC needed to open it by 5.

Temporary Shelter. As part of a long rest, you can construct a lean-to or a similar shelter to keep your group dry and in the shade for the duration of the rest. Because it was fashioned quickly from whatever wood was available, the shelter collapses 1d3 days after being assembled.

Carpenter’s Tools

Build a simple wooden structure10
Design a complex wooden structure15
Find a weak point in a wooden wall15
Pry apart a door20

Cartographer’s Tools

Using cartographer’s tools, you can create accurate maps to make travel easier for yourself and those who come after you. These maps can range from large-scale depictions of mountain ranges to diagrams that show the layout of a dungeon level.

Components. Cartographer’s tools consist of a quill, ink, parchment, a pair of compasses, calipers, and a ruler.

Arcana, History, Religion. You can use your knowledge of maps and locations to unearth more detailed information when you use these skills. For instance, you might spot hidden messages in a map, identify when the map was made to determine if geographical features have changed since then, and so forth.

Nature. Your familiarity with physical geography makes it easier for you to answer questions or solve issues relating to the terrain around you.

Survival. Your understanding of geography makes it easier to find paths to civilization, to predict areas where villages or towns might be found, and to avoid becoming lost. You have studied so many maps that common patterns, such as how trade routes evolve and where settlements arise in relation to geographic locations, are familiar to you.

Craft a Map. While traveling, you can draw a map as you go in addition to engaging in other activity.

Cartographer’s Tools

Determine a map’s age and origin10
Estimate direction and distance to a landmark15
Discern that a map is fake15
Fill in a missing part of a map20

Cobbler’s Tools

Although the cobbler’s trade might seem too humble for an adventurer, a good pair of boots will see a character across rugged wilderness and through deadly dungeons.

Components. Cobbler’s tools consist of a hammer, an awl, a knife, a shoe stand, a cutter, spare leather, and thread.

Arcana, History. Your knowledge of shoes aids you in identifying the magical properties of enchanted boots or the history of such items.

Investigation. Footwear holds a surprising number of secrets. You can learn where someone has recently visited by examining the wear and the dirt that has accumulated on their shoes. Your experience in repairing shoes makes it easier for you to identify where damage might come from.

Maintain Shoes. As part of a long rest, you can repair your companions’ shoes. For the next 24 hours, up to six creatures of your choice who wear shoes you worked on can travel up to 10 hours a day without making saving throws to avoid exhaustion.

Craft Hidden Compartment. With 8 hours of work, you can add a hidden compartment to a pair of shoes. The compartment can hold an object up to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide and deep. You make an Intelligence check using your tool proficiency to determine the Intelligence (Investigation) check DC needed to find the compartment.

Cobbler’s Tools

Determine a shoe’s age and origin10
Find a hidden compartment in a boot heel15

Cook’s Utensils

Adventuring is a hard life. With a cook along on the journey, your meals will be much better than the typical mix of hardtack and dried fruit.

Components. Cook’s utensils include a metal pot, knives, forks, a stirring spoon, and a ladle.

History. Your knowledge of cooking techniques allows you to assess the social patterns involved in a culture’s eating habits.

Medicine. When administering treatment, you can transform medicine that is bitter or sour into a pleasing concoction.

Survival. When foraging for food, you can make do with ingredients you scavenge that others would be unable to transform into nourishing meals.

Prepare Meals. As part of a short rest, you can prepare a tasty meal that helps your companions regain their strength. You and up to five creatures of your choice regain 1 extra hit point per Hit Die spent during a short rest, provided you have access to your cook’s utensils and sufficient food.

Cook’s Utensils

Create a typical meal10
Duplicate a meal10
Spot poison or impurities in food15
Create a gourmet meal15

Disguise Kit

The perfect tool for anyone who wants to engage in trickery, a disguise kit enables its owner to adopt a false identity.

Components. A disguise kit includes cosmetics, hair dye, small props, and a few pieces of clothing.

Deception. In certain cases, a disguise can improve your ability to weave convincing lies.

Intimidation. The right disguise can make you look more fearsome, whether you want to scare someone away by posing as a plague victim or intimidate a gang of thugs by taking the appearance of a bully.

Performance. A cunning disguise can enhance an audience’s enjoyment of a performance, provided the disguise is properly designed to evoke the desired reaction.

Persuasion. Folk tend to trust a person in uniform. If you disguise yourself as an authority figure, your efforts to persuade others are often more effective.

Create Disguise. As part of a long rest, you can create a disguise. It takes you 1 minute to don such a disguise once you have created it. You can carry only one such disguise on you at a time without drawing undue attention, unless you have a bag of holding or a similar method to keep them hidden. Each disguise weighs 1 pound.

At other times, it takes 10 minutes to craft a disguise that involves moderate changes to your appearance, and 30 minutes for one that requires more extensive changes.

Disguise Kit

Cover injuries or distinguishing marks10
Spot a disguise being used by someone else15
Copy a humanoid’s appearance20

Forgery Kit

A forgery kit is designed to duplicate documents and to make it easier to copy a person’s seal or signature.

Components. A forgery kit includes several different types of ink, a variety of parchments and papers, several quills, seals and sealing wax, gold and silver leaf, and small tools to sculpt melted wax to mimic a seal.

Arcana. A forgery kit can be used in conjunction with the Arcana skill to determine if a magic item is real or fake.

Deception. A well-crafted forgery, such as papers proclaiming you to be a noble or a writ that grants you safe passage, can lend credence to a lie.

History. A forgery kit combined with your knowledge of history improves your ability to create fake historical documents or to tell if an old document is authentic.

Investigation. When you examine objects, proficiency with a forgery kit is useful for determining how an object was made and whether it is genuine.

Other Tools. Knowledge of other tools makes your forgeries that much more believable. For example, you could combine proficiency with a forgery kit and proficiency with cartographer’s tools to make a fake map.

Quick Fake. As part of a short rest, you can produce a forged document no more than one page in length. As part of a long rest, you can produce a document that is up to four pages long. Your Intelligence check using a forgery kit determines the DC for someone else’s Intelligence (Investigation) check to spot the fake.

Forgery Kit

Mimic handwriting15
Duplicate a wax seal20

Gaming Set

Proficiency with a gaming set applies to one type of game, such as Three-Dragon Ante or games of chance that use dice.

Components. A gaming set has all the pieces needed to play a specific game or type of game, such as a complete deck of cards or a board and tokens.

History. Your mastery of a game includes knowledge of its history, as well as of important events it was connected to or prominent historical figures involved with it.

Insight. Playing games with someone is a good way to gain understanding of their personality, granting you a better ability to discern their lies from their truths and read their mood.

Sleight of Hand. Sleight of Hand is a useful skill for cheating at a game, as it allows you to swap pieces, palm cards, or alter a die roll. Alternatively, engrossing a target in a game by manipulating the components with dexterous movements is a great distraction for a pickpocketing attempt.

Gaming Set

Catch a player cheating15
Gain insight into an opponent’s personality15

Glassblower’s Tools

Someone who is proficient with glassblower’s tools has not only the ability to shape glass, but also specialized knowledge of the methods used to produce glass objects.

Components. The tools include a blowpipe, a small marver, blocks, and tweezers. You need a source of heat to work glass.

Arcana, History. Your knowledge of glassmaking techniques aids you when you examine glass objects, such as potion bottles or glass items found in a treasure hoard. For instance, you can study how a glass potion bottle has been changed by its contents to help determine a potion’s effects. (A potion might leave behind a residue, deform the glass, or stain it.)

Investigation. When you study an area, your knowledge can aid you if the clues include broken glass or glass objects.

Identify Weakness. With 1 minute of study, you can identify the weak points in a glass object. Any damage dealt to the object by striking a weak spot is doubled.

Glassblower’s Tools

Identify source of glass10
Determine what a glass object once held20

Herbalism Kit

Proficiency with an herbalism kit allows you to identify plants and safely collect their useful elements.

Components. An herbalism kit includes pouches to store herbs, clippers and leather gloves for collecting plants, a mortar and pestle, and several glass jars.

Arcana. Your knowledge of the nature and uses of herbs can add insight to your magical studies that deal with plants and your attempts to identify potions.

Investigation. When you inspect an area overgrown with plants, your proficiency can help you pick out details and clues that others might miss.

Medicine. Your mastery of herbalism improves your ability to treat illnesses and wounds by augmenting your methods of care with medicinal plants.

Nature and Survival. When you travel in the wild, your skill in herbalism makes it easier to identify plants and spot sources of food that others might overlook.

Identify Plants. You can identify most plants with a quick inspection of their appearance and smell.

Herbalism Kit

Find plants15
Identify poison20

Jeweler’s Tools

Training with jeweler’s tools includes the basic techniques needed to beautify gems. It also gives you expertise in identifying precious stones.

Components. Jeweler’s tools consist of a small saw and hammer, files, pliers, and tweezers.

Arcana. Proficiency with jeweler’s tools grants you knowledge about the reputed mystical uses of gems. This insight proves handy when you make Arcana checks related to gems or gem-encrusted items.

Investigation. When you inspect jeweled objects, your proficiency with jeweler’s tools aids you in picking out clues they might hold.

Identify Gems. You can identify gems and determine their value at a glance.

Jeweler’s Tools

Modify a gem’s appearance15
Determine a gem’s history20

Land and Water Vehicles

Proficiency with land vehicles covers a wide range of options, from chariots and howdahs to wagons and carts. Proficiency with water vehicles covers anything that navigates waterways. Proficiency with vehicles grants the knowledge needed to handle vehicles of that type, along with knowledge of how to repair and maintain them.

In addition, a character proficient with water vehicles is knowledgeable about anything a professional sailor would be familiar with, such as information about the sea and islands, tying knots, and assessing weather and sea conditions.

Arcana. When you study a magic vehicle, this tool proficiency aids you in uncovering lore or determining how the vehicle operates.

Investigation, Perception. When you inspect a vehicle for clues or hidden information, your proficiency aids you in noticing things that others might miss.

Vehicle Handling. When piloting a vehicle, you can apply your proficiency bonus to the vehicle’s AC and saving throws.


Navigate rough terrain or waters10
Assess a vehicle’s condition15
Take a tight corner at high speed20

Leatherworker’s Tools

Knowledge of leatherworking extends to lore concerning animal hides and their properties. It also confers knowledge of leather armor and similar goods.

Components. Leatherworker’s tools include a knife, a small mallet, an edger, a hole punch, thread, and leather scraps.

Arcana. Your expertise in working with leather grants you added insight when you inspect magic items crafted from leather, such as boots and some cloaks.

Investigation. You gain added insight when studying leather items or clues related to them, as you draw on your knowledge of leather to pick out details that others would overlook.

Identify Hides. When looking at a hide or a leather item, you can determine the source of the leather and any special techniques used to treat it. For example, you can spot the difference between leather crafted using dwarven methods and leather crafted using half­ling methods.

Leatherworker’s Tools

Modify a leather item’s appearance10
Determine a leather item’s history20

Mason’s Tools

Mason’s tools allow you to craft stone structures, including walls and buildings crafted from brick.

Components. Mason’s tools consist of a trowel, a hammer, a chisel, brushes, and a square.

History. Your expertise aids you in identifying a stone building’s date of construction and purpose, along with insight into who might have built it.

Investigation. You gain additional insight when inspecting areas within stone structures.

Perception. You can spot irregularities in stone walls or floors, making it easier to find trap doors and secret passages.

Demolition. Your knowledge of masonry allows you to spot weak points in brick walls. You deal double damage to such structures with your weapon attacks.

Mason’s Tools

Chisel a small hole in a stone wall10
Find a weak point in a stone wall15

Musical Instruments

Proficiency with a musical instrument indicates you are familiar with the techniques used to play it. You also have knowledge of some songs commonly performed with that instrument.

History. Your expertise aids you in recalling lore related to your instrument.

Performance. Your ability to put on a good show is improved when you incorporate an instrument into your act.

Compose a Tune. As part of a long rest, you can compose a new tune and lyrics for your instrument. You might use this ability to impress a noble or spread scandalous rumors with a catchy tune.

Musical Instrument

Identify a tune10
Improvise a tune20

Painter’s Supplies

Proficiency with painter’s supplies represents your ability to paint and draw. You also acquire an understanding of art history, which can aid you in examining works of art.

Components. Painter’s supplies include an easel, canvas, paints, brushes, charcoal sticks, and a palette.

Arcana, History, Religion. Your expertise aids you in uncovering lore of any sort that is attached to a work of art, such as the magical properties of a painting or the origins of a strange mural found in a dungeon.

Investigation, Perception. When you inspect a painting or a similar work of visual art, your knowledge of the practices behind creating it can grant you additional insight.

Painting and Drawing. As part of a short or long rest, you can produce a simple work of art. Although your work might lack precision, you can capture an image or a scene, or make a quick copy of a piece of art you saw.

Painter’s Supplies

Paint an accurate portrait10
Create a painting with a hidden message20

Poisoner’s Kit

A poisoner’s kit is a favored resource for thieves, assassins, and others who engage in skulduggery. It allows you to apply poisons and create them from various materials. Your knowledge of poisons also helps you treat them.

Components. A poisoner’s kit includes glass vials, a mortar and pestle, chemicals, and a glass stirring rod.

History. Your training with poisons can help you when you try to recall facts about infamous poisonings.

Investigation, Perception. Your knowledge of poisons has taught you to handle those substances carefully, giving you an edge when you inspect poisoned objects or try to extract clues from events that involve poison.

Medicine. When you treat the victim of a poison, your knowledge grants you added insight into how to provide the best care to your patient.

Nature, Survival. Working with poisons enables you to acquire lore about which plants and animals are poisonous.

Handle Poison. Your proficiency allows you to handle and apply a poison without risk of exposing yourself to its effects.

Poisoner’s Tools

Spot a poisoned object10
Determine the effects of a poison20

Potter’s Tools

Potter’s tools are used to create a variety of ceramic objects, most typically pots and similar vessels.

Components. Potter’s tools include potter’s needles, ribs, scrapers, a knife, and calipers.

History. Your expertise aids you in identifying ceramic objects, including when they were created and their likely place or culture of origin.

Investigation, Perception. You gain additional insight when inspecting ceramics, uncovering clues others would overlook by spotting minor irregularities.

Reconstruction. By examining pottery shards, you can determine an object’s original, intact form and its likely purpose.

Potter’s Tools

Determine what a vessel once held10
Create a serviceable pot15
Find a weak point in a ceramic object20

Smith’s Tools

Smith’s tools allow you to work metal, heating it to alter its shape, repair damage, or work raw ingots into useful items.

Components. Smith’s tools include hammers, tongs, charcoal, rags, and a whetstone.

Arcana and History. Your expertise lends you additional insight when examining metal objects, such as weapons.

Investigation. You can spot clues and make deductions that others might overlook when an investigation involves armor, weapons, or other metalwork.

Repair. With access to your tools and an open flame hot enough to make metal pliable, you can restore 10 hit points to a damaged metal object for each hour of work.

Smith’s Tools

Sharpen a dull blade10
Repair a suit of armor15
Sunder a nonmagical metal object15

Thieves’ Tools

Perhaps the most common tools used by adventurers, thieves’ tools are designed for picking locks and foiling traps. Proficiency with the tools also grants you a general knowledge of traps and locks.

Components. Thieves’ tools include a small file, a set of lock picks, a small mirror mounted on a metal handle, a set of narrow-bladed scissors, and a pair of pliers.

History. Your knowledge of traps grants you insight when answering questions about locations that are renowned for their traps.

Investigation and Perception. You gain additional insight when looking for traps, because you have learned a variety of common signs that betray their presence.

Set a Trap. Just as you can disable traps, you can also set them. As part of a short rest, you can create a trap using items you have on hand. The total of your check becomes the DC for someone else’s attempt to discover or disable the trap. The trap deals damage appropriate to the materials used in crafting it (such as poison or a weapon) or damage equal to half the total of your check, whichever the DM deems appropriate.

Thieves’ Tools

Pick a lockVaries
Disable a trapVaries

Tinker’s Tools

tinker's toolsA set of tinker’s tools is designed to enable you to repair many mundane objects. Though you can’t manufacture much with tinker’s tools, you can mend torn clothes, sharpen a worn sword, and patch a tattered suit of chain mail.

Components. Tinker’s tools include a variety of hand tools, thread, needles, a whetstone, scraps of cloth and leather, and a small pot of glue.

History. You can determine the age and origin of objects, even if you have only a few pieces remaining from the original.

Investigation. When you inspect a damaged object, you gain knowledge of how it was damaged and how long ago.

Repair. You can restore 10 hit points to a damaged object for each hour of work. For any object, you need access to the raw materials required to repair it. For metal objects, you need access to an open flame hot enough to make the metal pliable.

Tinker’s Tools

Temporarily repair a disabled device10
Repair an item in half the time15
Improvise a temporary item using scraps20

Weaver’s Tools

Weaver’s tools allow you to create cloth and tailor it into articles of clothing.

Components. Weaver’s tools include thread, needles, and scraps of cloth. You know how to work a loom, but such equipment is too large to transport.

Arcana, History. Your expertise lends you additional insight when examining cloth objects, including cloaks and robes.

Investigation. Using your knowledge of the process of creating cloth objects, you can spot clues and make deductions that others would overlook when you examine tapestries, upholstery, clothing, and other woven items.

Repair. As part of a short rest, you can repair a single damaged cloth object.

Craft Clothing. Assuming you have access to sufficient cloth and thread, you can create an outfit for a creature as part of a long rest.

Weaver’s Tools

Repurpose cloth10
Mend a hole in a piece of cloth10
Tailor an outfit15

Woodcarver’s Tools

Woodcarver’s tools allow you to craft intricate objects from wood, such as wooden tokens or arrows.

Components. Woodcarver’s tools consist of a knife, a gouge, and a small saw.

Arcana, History. Your expertise lends you additional insight when you examine wooden objects, such as figurines or arrows.

Nature. Your knowledge of wooden objects gives you some added insight when you examine trees.

Repair. As part of a short rest, you can repair a single damaged wooden object.

Craft Arrows. As part of a short rest, you can craft up to five arrows. As part of a long rest, you can craft up to twenty. You must have enough wood on hand to produce them.

Woodcarver’s Tools

Craft a small wooden figurine10
Carve an intricate pattern in wood15


This section expands on the spellcasting rules presented in the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide, providing clarifications and new options.

Perceiving a Caster at Work

Many spells create obvious effects: explosions of fire, walls of ice, teleportation, and the like. Other spells, such as charm person, display no visible, audible, or otherwise perceptible sign of their effects, and could easily go unnoticed by someone unaffected by them. As noted in the Player’s Handbook, you normally don’t know that a spell has been cast unless the spell produces a noticeable effect.

But what about the act of casting a spell? Is it possible for someone to perceive that a spell is being cast in their presence? To be perceptible, the casting of a spell must involve a verbal, somatic, or material component. The form of a material component doesn’t matter for the purposes of perception, whether it’s an object specified in the spell’s description, a component pouch, or a spellcasting focus.

If the need for a spell’s components has been removed by a special ability, such as the sorcerer’s Subtle Spell feature or the Innate Spellcasting trait possessed by many creatures, the casting of the spell is imperceptible. If an imperceptible casting produces a perceptible effect, it’s normally impossible to determine who cast the spell in the absence of other evidence.

Identifying a Spell

Sometimes a character wants to identify a spell that someone else is casting or that was already cast. To do so, a character can use their reaction to identify a spell as it’s being cast, or they can use an action on their turn to identify a spell by its effect after it is cast.

If the character perceived the casting, the spell’s effect, or both, the character can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check with the reaction or action. The DC equals 15 + the spell’s level. If the spell is cast as a class spell and the character is a member of that class, the check is made with advantage. For example, if the spellcaster casts a spell as a cleric, another cleric has advantage on the check to identify the spell. Some spells aren’t associated with any class when they’re cast, such as when a monster uses its Innate Spellcasting trait.

This Intelligence (Arcana) check represents the fact that identifying a spell requires a quick mind and familiarity with the theory and practice of casting. This is true even for a character whose spellcasting ability is Wisdom or Charisma. Being able to cast spells doesn’t by itself make you adept at deducing exactly what others are doing when they cast their spells.

Invalid Spell Targets

A spell specifies what a caster can target with it: any type of creature, a creature of a certain type (humanoid or beast, for instance), an object, an area, the caster, or something else. But what happens if a spell targets something that isn’t a valid target? For example, someone might cast charm person on a creature believed to be a humanoid, not knowing that the target is in fact a vampire. If this issue comes up, handle it using the following rule.

If you cast a spell on someone or something that can’t be affected by the spell, nothing happens to that target, but if you used a spell slot to cast the spell, the slot is still expended. If the spell normally has no effect on a target that succeeds on a saving throw, the invalid target appears to have succeeded on its saving throw, even though it didn’t attempt one (giving no hint that the creature is in fact an invalid target). Otherwise, you perceive that the spell did nothing to the target.

Areas of Effect on a Grid

The Dungeon Master’s Guide includes the following short rule for using areas of effect on a grid.

Choose an intersection of squares as the point of origin of an area of effect, then follow the rules for that kind of area as normal (see the “Areas of Effect” section in chapter 10 of the Player’s Handbook). If an area of effect is circular and covers at least half a square, it affects that square.

That rule works, but it can require a fair amount of on-the-spot adjudication. This section offers two alternatives for determining the exact location of an area: the template method and the token method. Both of these methods assume you’re using a grid and miniatures of some sort. Because these methods can yield different results for the number of squares in a given area, it’s not recommended that they be combined at the table — choose whichever method you and your players find easier or more intuitive.

Template Method

The template method uses two-dimensional shapes that represent different areas of effect. The aim of the method is to accurately portray the length and width of each area on the grid and to leave little doubt about which creatures are affected by it. You’ll need to make these templates or find premade ones.

Making a Template. Making a template is simple. Get a piece of paper or card stock, and cut it in the shape of the area of effect you’re using. Every 5 feet of the area equals 1 inch of the template’s size. For example, the 20-foot-radius sphere of the fireball spell, which has a 40-foot diameter, would translate into a circular template with an 8-inch diameter.

Using a Template. To use an area-of-effect template, apply it to the grid. If the terrain is flat, you can lay it on the surface; otherwise, hold the template above the surface and take note of which squares it covers or partially covers. If any part of a square is under the template, that square is included in the area of effect. If a creature’s miniature is in an affected square, that creature is in the area. Being adjacent to the edge of the template isn’t enough for a square to be included in the area of effect; the square must be entirely or partly covered by the template.

You can also use this method without a grid. If you do so, a creature is included in an area of effect if any part of the miniature’s base is overlapped by the template.

When you place a template, follow all the rules in the Player’s Handbook for placing the associated area of effect. If an area of effect, such as a cone or a line, originates from a spellcaster, the template should extend out from the caster and be positioned however the caster likes within the bounds of the rules.

Diagrams 2.1 and 2.2 show the template method in action.

Token Method

The token method is meant to make areas of effect tactile and fun. To use this method, grab some dice or other tokens, which you’re going to use to represent your areas of effect.

Rather than faithfully representing the shapes of the different areas of effect, this method gives you a way to create square-edged versions of them on a grid easily, as described in the following subsections.

Using Tokens. Every 5-foot square of an area of effect becomes a die or other token that you place on the grid. Each token goes inside a square, not at an intersection of lines. If an area’s token is in a square, that square is included in the area of effect. It’s that simple.

Diagrams 2.3 through 2.6 show this method in action, using dice as the tokens.

Circles. This method depicts everything using squares, and a circular area of effect becomes square in it, whether the area is a sphere, cylinder, or radius. For instance, the 10-foot radius of flame strike, which has a diameter of 20 feet, is expressed as a square that is 20 feet on a side, as shown in diagram 2.3. Diagram 2.4 shows that area with total cover inside it.

Cones. A cone is represented by rows of tokens on the grid, extending from the cone’s point of origin. In the rows, the squares are adjoining side by side or corner to corner, as shown in diagram 2.5. To determine the number of rows a cone contains, divide its length by 5. For example, a 30-foot cone contains six rows.

Here’s how to create the rows. Starting with a square adjacent to the cone’s point of origin, place one token. The square can be orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to the point of origin. In every row beyond that one, place as many tokens as you placed in the previous row, plus one more token. Place this row’s tokens so that their squares each share a side with a square in the previous row. If the cone is orthogonally adjacent to the point of origin, you’ll have one more token to place in the row; place it on one end or the other of the row you just created (you don’t have to pick the side chosen in diagram 2.5). Keep placing tokens in this way until you’ve created all of the cone’s rows.

Lines. A line can extend from its source orthogonally or diagonally, as shown in diagram 2.6.

Encounter Building

This section introduces new guidelines on building combat encounters for an adventure. They are an alternative to the rules in “Creating Encounters” in chapter 3 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This approach uses the same math that underlies the rules presented in that book, but it makes a few adjustments to the way that math is presented to produce a more flexible system.

This encounter-building system assumes that, as DM, you want to have a clear understanding of the threat posed by a group of monsters. It will be useful to you if you want to emphasize combat in your adventure, if you want to ensure that a foe isn’t too deadly for a group of characters, and if you want to understand the relationship between a character’s level and a monster’s challenge rating.

Building an encounter using these guidelines follows a series of steps.

Step 1: Assess the Characters

To build an encounter using this system, first take stock of the player characters. This system uses the characters’ levels to determine the numbers and challenge ratings of creatures you can pit them against without making a fight too hard or too easy. Even though character level is important, you should also take note of each character’s hit point maximum and saving throw modifiers, as well as how much damage the mightiest characters can deal with a single attack. Character level and challenge rating are good for defining the difficulty of an encounter, but they don’t tell the whole story. You’ll make use of these additional character statistics when you select monsters for an encounter in step 4.

Step 2: Choose Encounter Size

Determine whether you want to create a battle that pits one creature against the characters, or if you want to use multiple monsters. If the fight is against a single opponent, your best candidate for that foe is one of the game’s legendary creatures, which are designed to fill this need. If the battle involves multiple monsters, decide roughly how many creatures you want to use before continuing with step 3.

Step 3: Determine Numbers and Challenge Ratings

The process for building fights that feature only one legendary monster is simple. The Solo Monster Challenge Rating table shows you which challenge rating (CR) to use for a legendary creature opposing a party of four to six characters, creating a satisfying but difficult battle. For example, for a party of five 9th-level characters, a CR 12 legendary creature makes an optimal encounter.

For a more perilous battle, match up the characters with a legendary creature whose challenge rating is 1 or 2 higher than optimal. For an easy fight, use a legendary creature whose challenge rating is 3 or more lower than the challenge rating for an optimal encounter.

Solo Monster Challenge Rating

Character Level—- Party Size —-
6 Charactrs5 Characters4 Characters

If your encounter features multiple monsters, balancing it takes a little more work. Refer to the Multiple Monsters tables, which are broken up by level ranges, providing information for how to balance encounters for characters of 1st–5th level, 6th–10th level, 11th–15th level, and 16th–20th level.

First, you need to note the challenge rating for each creature the party will face. Then, to create your encounter, find the level of each character on the appropriate table. Each table shows what a single character of a given level is equivalent to in terms of challenge rating — a value represented by a ratio that compares numbers of characters to a single monster ranked by challenge rating. The first number in each expression is the number of characters of the given level. The second number tells how many monsters of the listed challenge rating those characters are equivalent to.

For example, reading the row for 1st-level characters from the 1st–5th Level table, we see that one 1st-level character is the equivalent of two CR 1/8 monsters or one CR 1/4 monster. The ratio reverses for higher challenge ratings, where a single monster is more powerful than a single 1st-level character. One CR 1/2 creature is equivalent to three 1st-level characters, while one CR 1 opponent is equivalent to five.

Let’s say you have a party of four 3rd-level characters. Using the table, you can see that one CR 2 foe is a good match for the entire party, but that the characters will likely have a hard time handling a CR 3 creature.

Using the same guidelines, you can mix and match challenge ratings to put together a group of creatures to oppose four 3rd-level characters. For example, you could select one CR 1 creature. That’s worth two 3rd-level characters, leaving you with two characters’ worth of monsters to allocate. You could then add two CR 1/4 monsters to account for one other character and one CR 1/2 monster to account for the final character. In total, your encounter has one CR 1, one CR 1/2, and two CR 1/4 creatures.

For groups in which the characters are of different levels, you have two options. You can group all characters of the same level together, match them with monsters, and then combine all the creatures into one encounter. Alternatively, you can determine the group’s average level and treat each character as being of that level for the purpose of selecting appropriate monsters.

The above guidelines are designed to create a fight that will challenge a party while still being winnable. If you want to create an easier encounter that will challenge characters but not threaten to defeat them, you can treat the party as if it were roughly one-third smaller than it is. For example, to make an easy encounter for a party of five characters, put them up against monsters that would be a tough fight for three characters. Likewise, you can treat the party as up to half again larger to build a battle that is potentially deadly, though still not likely to be an automatic defeat. A party of four characters facing an encounter designed for six characters would fall into this category.

Weak Monsters and High-Level Characters

To save space on the tables and keep them simple, some of the lower challenge ratings are missing from the higher-level tables. For low challenge ratings not appearing on the table, assume a 1:12 ratio, indicating that twelve creatures of those challenge ratings are equivalent to one character of a specific level.

Managing a lot of minions is hard.
You end up getting mad and eating half of them. It’s easier if you can keep an eye on each one.
So stick with ten, eleven tops.

Step 4: Select Monsters

After using the tables from the previous step to determine the challenge ratings of the monsters in your encounter, you’re ready to pick individual monsters. This process is more of an art than a science.

In addition to assessing monsters by challenge rating, it’s important to look at how certain monsters might stack up against your group. Hit points, attacks, and saving throws are all useful indicators. Compare the damage a monster can deal to the hit point maximum of each character. Be wary of any monster that is capable of dropping a character with a single attack, unless you are designing the fight to be especially deadly.

In the same way, compare the monsters’ hit points to the damage output of the party’s strongest characters, again looking for targets that can be killed with one blow. Having a significant number of foes drop in the first rounds of combat can make an encounter too easy.

Likewise, look at whether a monster’s deadliest abilities call for saving throws that most of the party members are weak with, and compare the characters’ offensive abilities to the monsters’ saving throws.

If the only creatures you can choose from at the desired challenge rating aren’t a good match for the characters’ statistics, don’t be afraid to go back to step 3. By altering your challenge rating targets and adjusting the number of creatures in the encounter, you can come up with different options for building the encounter.

Multiple Monsters: 1st–5th Level

Character Level——- Challenge Rating ——-

Multiple Monsters: 6th–10th Level

Character Level——- Challenge Rating ——-

Multiple Monsters: 11th–15th Level

Character Level——- Challenge Rating ——-

Multiple Monsters: 16th–20th Level

Character Level——- Challenge Rating ——-

Step 5: Add Flavor

The events that unfold during an encounter have to do with a lot more than swinging weapons and casting spells. The most interesting confrontations also take into account the personality or behavior of the monsters, perhaps determining whether they can be communicated with or whether they’re all acting in concert. Other possible factors include the nature of the physical environment, such as whether it includes obstacles or other features that might come into play, and the ever-present possibility of something unexpected taking place.

If you already have ideas for how to flesh out your encounter in these ways, go right ahead and finish your creation. Otherwise, take a look at the following sections for some basic advice on adding flavor elements to the simple mechanics of the fight.

Monster Personality

To address the question of a monster’s personality, you can use the tables in chapter 4 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, use the Monster Personality table below, or simply jot down a few notes based on a creature’s Monster Manual description. During the battle, you can use these ideas to inform how you portray the monsters and their actions. To keep things simple, you can assign the same personality traits to an entire group of monsters. For example, one bandit gang might be an unruly mob of braggarts, while the members of another gang are always on edge and ready to flee at the first sign of danger.

1Cowardly; looking to surrender
2Greedy; wants treasure
3Braggart; makes a show of bravery but runs from danger
4Fanatic; ready to die fighting
5Rabble; poorly trained and easily rattled
6Brave; stands its ground
7Joker; taunts its enemies
8Bully; refuses to believe it can lose

Monster Relationships

Do rivalries, hatreds, or attachments exist among the monsters in an encounter? If so, you can use such relationships to inform the monsters’ behavior during combat. The death of a much-revered leader might throw its followers into a frenzy. On the other hand, a monster might decide to flee if its spouse is killed, or a mistreated toady might be eager to surrender and betray its master in return for its life.

1Has a rival; wants one random ally to suffer
2Is abused by others; hangs back, betrays at first opportunity
3Is worshiped; allies will die for it
4Is outcast by group; its allies ignore it
5Is outcast by choice; cares only for itself
6Is seen as a bully; its allies want to see it defeated

Terrain and Traps

A few elements that make a battlefield something other than a large area of flat ground can go a long way toward spicing up an encounter. Consider setting your encounter in an area that would provide challenges even if a fight were not taking place there. What potential perils or other features might draw the characters’ attention, either before or during the fight? Why are monsters lurking in this area to begin with — does it offer good hiding places, for instance?

To add details to an encounter area at random, look to the tables in appendix A of the Dungeon Master’s Guide to determine room and area features, potential hazards, obstacles, traps, and more.

Random Events

Consider what might happen in an encounter area if the characters were to never enter it. Do the guards serve in shifts? What other characters or monsters might visit? Do creatures gather there to eat or gossip? Are there any natural phenomena — such as strong winds, earth tremors, or rain squalls — that sometimes take place in the area? Random events can add a fun element of the unexpected to an encounter. Just when you think a fight’s outcome is evident, an unforeseen event can make things more compelling.

A number of the tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide can suggest random events. The tables used for encounter location, weird locales, and wilderness weather in chapter 5 of that book are a good starting point for outdoor encounters. The tables in appendix A can be useful for indoor and outdoor encounters — especially the tables for obstacles, traps, and tricks. Finally, consult the random encounter tables in the next section of this book for inspiration.

Quick Matchups

The guidelines above assume that you are concerned about balance in your combat encounters and have enough time to prepare them. If you don’t have much time, or if you want simpler but less precise guidelines, the Quick Matchups table below offers an alternative.

This table gives you a way to match a character of a certain level with a number of monsters. The table lists the challenge ratings to use for including one, two, and four monsters per character for each level. For instance, looking at the 3rd-level entry on the table, you can see that a CR 1/2 monster is equivalent to one 3rd-level character, as are two CR 1/4 monsters and four CR 1/8 ones.

Character Level1 Monster2 Monsters4 Monsters

Random Encounters

A World of Possibilities

Chapter 3 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide provides guidance on using random encounters in your game. This section builds on that guidance, offering a host of random encounter tables for you to use when you determine that a random encounter is going to take place.

Using the monster lists in appendix B of that book as a basis, we’ve built a set of tables for each environment category: arctic, coastal, desert, forest, grassland, hill, mountain, swamp, Underdark, underwater, and urban. Within each category, separate tables are provided for each of the four tiers of play: levels 1–4, 5–10, 11–16, and 17–20.

Even though you can use these tables “out of the box,” the advice in the Dungeon Master’s Guide still holds true: tailoring such tables to your game can reinforce the themes and flavor of your campaign. We encourage you to customize this material to make it your own.

In the tables, a name in bold refers to a stat block in the Monster Manual.

Flight, or Fight, or … ?

Each of the results on these tables represents a certain kind of challenge or potential challenge.

If you let the dice have their way and the result is a large number of monsters, the generated encounter might be too difficult or dangerous for the characters in their present circumstances. They might want to flee to avoid contact, or not to approach any closer after perceiving the monsters from a distance.

Of course, you also have the freedom to adjust the numbers, but it’s important to remember that not every encounter involving a monster needs to result in combat. An encounter might indeed be the prelude to a battle, a parley, or some other interaction. What happens next depends on what the characters try, or what you decide is bound to occur.

The tables also include entries for what the Dungeon Master’s Guide calls “encounters of a less monstrous nature.” Many of these results cry out to be customized or detailed, which offers you an opportunity to connect them to the story of your campaign. And in so doing, you’ve taken a step toward making your own personalized encounter table. Now, keep going!

Random Encounter Tables

View Random Encounter Tables by Terrain

Traps Revisited

The rules for traps in the Dungeon Master’s Guide provide the basic information you need to manage traps at the game table. The material here takes a different, more elaborate approach — describing traps in terms of their game mechanics and offering guidance on creating traps of your own using these new rules.

Rather than characterize traps as mechanical or magical, these rules separate traps into two other categories: simple and complex.

View Traps Revisited

Downtime Revisited

It’s possible for the characters to start a campaign at 1st level, dive into an epic story, and reach 10th level and beyond in a short amount of game time. Although that pace works fine for many campaigns, some DMs prefer a campaign story with pauses built into it — times when adventurers are not going on adventures. The downtime rules given in this section can be used as alternatives to the approach in the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide, or you can use the material here to inspire the creation of your own options.

By engaging the characters in downtime activities that take weeks or even months to complete, you can give your campaign a longer time line — one in which events in the world play out over years. Wars begin and end, tyrants come and go, and royal lines rise and fall over the course of the story that you and the characters tell.

Downtime rules also provide ways for characters to spend — or be relieved of — the monetary treasure they amass on their adventures.

The system presented here consists of two elements. First, it introduces the concept of rivals. Second, it details a number of downtime activities that characters can undertake.

View Downtime Revisited

Awarding Magic Items

Magic items are prized by D&D adventurers of all sorts and are often the main reward in an adventure. The rules for magic items are presented, along with the Treasure Hoard tables, in chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This section expands on those rules by offering you an alternative way of determining which magic items end up in the characters’ possession and by adding a collection of common magic items to the game. The section ends with tables that group magic items according to rarity.

The system in the Dungeon Master’s Guide is designed so that you can generate all treasure randomly, and the tables also govern the number of magic items the characters receive. In short, the tables do the work. But a DM who’s designing or modifying an adventure might prefer to choose the magic items that come into play. If you’re in that situation, you can use the rules in this section to personalize your treasure hoards while staying within the game’s limits for how many items the characters should ultimately accumulate.

Distribution by Rarity

This alternative method of treasure determination focuses on choosing magic items based on their rarity, rather than by rolling on the tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This method uses two tables: Magic Items Awarded by Tier and Magic Items Awarded by Rarity.

By Tier. The Magic Items Awarded by Tier table shows the number of magic items a D&D party typically gains during a campaign, culminating in the group’s having accumulated one hundred magic items by 20th level. The table shows how many of those items are meant to be handed out during each of the four tiers of play. The emphasis on characters receiving more items during the second tier (levels 5–10) than in other tiers is by design. The second tier is where much of the play occurs in a typical D&D campaign, and the items gained in that tier prepare the characters for higher-level adventures.

By Rarity. The Magic Items Awarded by Rarity table takes the numbers from the Magic Items Awarded by Tier table and breaks them down to show the number of items of each rarity the characters are expected to have when they reach the end of a tier.

Minor and Major Items. Both tables in this section make a distinction between minor magic items and major magic items. This distinction exists in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, yet those terms aren’t used there. In that book, the minor items are those listed on Magic Item Tables A through E, and the major items are on Magic Item Tables F through I. As you can see from the Treasure Hoard tables in that book, major magic items are meant to be handed out much less frequently than minor items, even at higher levels of play.

Magic Items Awarded by Tier

Character LevelMinor ItemsMajor ItemsAll Items

Choosing Items Level by Level

You decide when to place an item in an adventure that you’re creating or modifying, usually because you think the story calls for a magic item, the characters need one, or the players would be especially pleased to get one.

When you want to select an item as treasure for an encounter, the Magic Items Awarded by Rarity table serves as your item budget. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Jot down a copy of the table in your notes, so that you can make adjustments to the numbers as you select items to be placed in an adventure.
  2. Refer to the line in the Level/CR column that corresponds to one of the following values (your choice): the level of the player characters, the challenge rating of the magic item’s owner, or the challenge rating of the group of creatures guarding the item. The entries in that row of the table indicate the total number of items that would be appropriate for the characters to receive by the end of the tier represented by that row.
  3. Choose a magic item of any rarity for which the entry in this row is not 0.
  4. When the characters obtain an item, modify your notes to indicate which part of your budget this expenditure came from by subtracting 1 from the appropriate entry on the table.

In the future, if you choose an item of a rarity that’s not available in the current tier but is still available in a lower tier, deduct the item from the lower tier. If all lower tiers also have no items available of a given rarity, deduct the item from a higher tier.

Magic Items Awarded by Rarity

Level/CR– – – – – – – Minor Magic Items – – – – – – –– – – – – – – Major Magic Items – – – – – – –
CommonUncommonRareVery RareLegendaryUncommonRareVery RareLegendary

Choosing Items Piecemeal

If you prefer a more free-form method of choosing magic items, simply select each magic item you want to give out; then, when the characters acquire one, deduct it from the Magic Items Awarded by Rarity table in your notes. Whenever you do so, start with the lowest tier, and deduct the item from the first number you come across in the appropriate rarity column for the item, whether its minor or major. If that tier doesn’t have a number greater than 0 for that rarity, go up a tier until you find one that does, and deduct the magic item from that number. Following this process, you will zero out each row of the table in order, going from the lowest levels to the highest.

Overstocking an Adventure

The magic item tables in this section are based on the number of items the characters are expected to receive, not the number of items that are available in an adventure. When creating or modifying an adventure, assume that the characters won’t find all the items you place in it, unless most of the loot is in easy-to-find locations. Here’s a good rule of thumb: an adventure can include a number of items that’s 25 percent higher than the numbers in the tables (round up). For example, an adventure designed to take characters from 1st to 4th level might include fourteen items rather than eleven, in the expectation that three of those items won’t be found.


The Dungeon Master’s Guide assumes a certain amount of treasure will be found over the course of a campaign. Over twenty levels of typical play, the game expects forty-five rolls on the Treasure Hoard tables, distributed as follows:

  • Seven rolls on the Challenge 0–4 table
  • Eighteen rolls on the Challenge 5–10 table
  • Twelve rolls on the Challenge 11–16 table
  • Eight rolls on the Challenge 17+ table

Because many of the table results call for more than one magic item, those forty-five rolls will result in the characters obtaining roughly one hundred items. The optional system described here yields the same number of items, distributed properly throughout the spectrum of rarity, while enabling you to control exactly which items the characters have a chance of acquiring.

Common Magic Items

The Dungeon Master’s Guide includes many magic items of every rarity. The one exception are common items; that book includes few of them. This section introduces more of them to the game. These items seldom increase a character’s power, but they are likely to amuse players and provide fun roleplaying opportunities.


The “Special Features” section in chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is useful if you want to design other common magic items. For example, the What Minor Property Does It Have? table might inspire you to create a magic item that allows a character to speak and understand the Goblin language (based on the table’s Language property), a magic item that glows in the presence of fiends (based on the Sentinel property), or a magic item that projects its user’s voice over a great distance (based on the War Leader property).

View Common Magic Items

Magic Item Tables

The tables in this section classify the magic items from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the new items presented here into minor items and major items, then separate the items in each group according to rarity. Each table entry includes the item’s type and an indication of whether the item requires attunement. Artifacts aren’t included here; they are beyond even major items in power and importance.


Some magic items can be used a limited number of times but are recharged by the arrival of dawn. What if you’re on a plane of existence that lacks anything resembling dawn? The DM should choose a time every 24 hours when such magic items recharge on that plane of existence.

Even on a world that experiences dawn each day, the DM is free to choose a different time — perhaps noon, sunset, or midnight — when certain magic items recharge.

View Magic Item Tables