Sage Advice : Monsters

Is natural armor considered light armor?

No. Natural armor doesn’t fit into the categories of light, medium, and heavy armor, and when you have it, it isn’t considered to be an armor you’re wearing.

Does natural armor cap a creature’s Dexterity bonus?

Natural armor doesn’t limit a creature’s Dexterity bonus.

A monster is immune to damage from nonmagical bludgeoning weapons. Does it still take damage from falling?

Yes, that monster is still going to feel the hurt of a fall, because a fall is not a weapon.

What actions can monsters use to make opportunity attacks? Are Multiattack and breath weapon actions allowed?

A monster follows the normal opportunity attack rules (PH, 195), which specify that an attack of opportunity is one melee attack. That means a monster must choose a single melee attack to make, either an attack in its stat block or a generic attack, like an unarmed strike. Multiattack doesn’t qualify, not only because it’s more than one attack, but also because the rule on Multiattack (MM, 11) states that this action can’t be used for opportunity attacks. An action, such as a breath weapon, that doesn’t include an attack roll is also not eligible.

The bite attacks of ghouls and ghasts don’t appear to have proficiency bonus added in. Intentional or mistake?

Intentional; it’s a ghoul/ghast thing. They’re exceptionally bad at biting, compared to their claw attacks. Monsters sometimes have stat quirks like that.

The Monster Manual says gnolls speak Gnoll, but the Player’s Handbook doesn’t mention that language. What is correct?

The Player’s Handbook language tables don’t list every language in the D&D multiverse. The Monster Manual mentions other languages, including Gnoll, Modron, Sahuagin, and Slaad.

Does a monster with at-will spellcasting ability mean it can cast a spell as an action or as a bonus action?

If a monster has the ability to cast a spell at will, that spell is cast using its normal casting time.

If a monster makes a melee attack that uses its Dexterity modifier, is it considered to have used a finesse weapon?

A weapon doesn’t have the finesse property unless its description says so, and using Dexterity for an attack doesn’t confer the finesse property. If a weapon does have that property, you can use Strength or Dexterity with it.

The Monster Manual notes that a Mezzoloth exhales toxic fumes that can choke and kill whole groups of creatures. However, its cloudkill is listed under Innate Spellcasting. Because of that, would a paladin’s Aura of Warding resist it?

Yes, because cloudkill is a spell, Aura of Warding would be able to grant you and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you resistance to it.

Is the breath weapon of a dragon magical?

If you cast antimagic field, don armor of invulnerability, or use another feature of the game that protects against magical or nonmagical effects, you might ask yourself, "Will this protect me against a dragon’s breath?" The breath weapon of a typical dragon isn’t considered magical, so antimagic field won’t help you but armor of invulnerability will. You might be thinking, "Dragons seem pretty magical to me." And yes, they are extraordinary! Their description even says they’re magical. But our game makes a distinction between two types of magic:

  • the background magic that is part of the D&D multiverse’s physics and the physiology of many D&D creatures
  • the concentrated magical energy that is contained in a magic item or channeled to create a spell or other focused magical effect

In D&D, the first type of magic is part of nature. It is no more dispellable than the wind. A monster like a dragon exists because of that magic-enhanced nature. The second type of magic is what the rules are concerned about. When a rule refers to something being magical, it’s referring to that second type. Determining whether a game feature is magical is straightforward. Ask yourself these questions about the feature:

  • Is it a magic item?
  • Is it a spell? Or does it let you create the effects of a spell that’s mentioned in its description? 
  • Is it a spell attack?
  • Is it fueled by the use of spell slots?
  • Does its description say it’s magical?

If your answer to any of those questions is yes, the feature is magical.

Let’s look at a white dragon’s Cold Breath and ask ourselves those questions. First, Cold Breath isn’t a magic item. Second, its description mentions no spell. Third, it’s not a spell attack. Fourth, the word "magical" appears nowhere in its description. Our conclusion: Cold Breath is not considered a magical game effect, even though we know that dragons are amazing, supernatural beings.

Does the movement from a dragon’s Wing Attack legendary action draw attacks of opportunity if it moves out of reach?

Yes. Wing Attack does not protect the dragon from opportunity attacks.

Does a creature with Magic Resistance have advantage on saving throws against Channel Divinity abilities, such as Turn the Faithless?

Channel Divinity creates magical effects (as stated in both the cleric and the paladin). Magic Resistance applies.

Do air, fire, and water elementals suffer any penalties for fighting or using skills while they are squeezing into a space that’s 5 feet wide or less?

An air/fire/water elemental ignores the movement part of the squeezing rule (PH, 192) in a 1+ inch space, as a result of its special trait, Air Form, Fire Form, or Water Form.

Can an earth elemental grapple with a creature and then pull it underground and leave it there to die?

No. An earth elemental’s Earth Glide is meant to apply to itself only. The elemental doesn’t take other creatures with it when it moves in this way.

Does the lich’s Disrupt Life ability affect animated objects and other constructs?

The ability targets creatures that aren’t undead, so yes, it does affect constructs (as well as all other kinds of creatures).

If a shadow rolls a critical hit, does it reduce the target’s Strength by 2d4, as well dealing the extra necrotic damage?

No. A critical hit lets you roll damage dice twice. An effect that deals damage is one that reduces the target’s hit points. The shadow’s Strength reduction isn’t damage, because it has no effect on the target’s hit points.

[NEW] Since game features of the same name don’t stack, does that mean a target can’t be affected by a shadow’s Strength Drain more than once between rests?

The intended function of Strength Drain is that it stacks with itself, as signaled by the fact that you die if your Strength is reduced to 0 by it.

Is a vampire affected by hold person or calm emotions?

Many spells affect not just any creatures, but only certain types, as specified in the spell. Hold person and calm emotions work only on humanoids, and a vampire is not a humanoid.

Is there a limit to the number of creatures a vampire can charm at once?

No, there is no limit on the number of creatures a vampire can have charmed at once. A vampire can target a different humanoid each time it uses its Charm action, potentially causing an entire group of enemies to become charmed if their saving throws aren’t successful.

How does a monster’s Leadership ability work?

A creature turns on Leadership as an action. Until the benefit ends, the creature can grant a die whenever a visible ally in range makes an attack roll or a saving throw.

[NEW] Does a gauth’s Devour Magic eye ray end a creature’s attunement to an attuned magic item the ray affects?


[NEW] Can a creature that burrows grapple a target and drag them into the ground by burrowing?

No. A burrowing creature can drag another creature with them only if they have the ability to leave a tunnel. For example, a purple worm has the Tunneler trait, so it can drag a grappled creature into a tunnel it creates when burrowing. Conversely, an earth elemental can’t drag a creature into the ground with it.

[NEW] Can a hydra use Reactive Heads to make multiple opportunity attacks against one creature at the same time when it provokes?

Yes. For that reason, we recommend taking the Disengage action when you’re going to move away from a hydra.


Written by Jeremy Crawford (Sage Advice Compendium v2.5)