Legendary Actions 5e – A Quick Guide

by Guides, Player Guides

Our highest value at Let’s Roll Dungeons and Dragons is helping you make your next adventure the best one yet. If you can, always support your local game shop! In case that isn’t a good option, we regularly partner with companies that we believe can help. Some of the links in this post may be from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

With so many awesome spells and skills in D&D 5th edition, have you ever wondered if they happen on a grander scale? Have you ever wanted to role-play your favorite over-the-top anime scene? Legendary Actions may be the answer to your questions! Check out our Quick Guide to Legendary Actions 5e to gain that extra inspiration! 

What are Legendary Actions? 

Adding a Legendary Monster with Legendary Actions can make encounters fun and exciting. Legendary Actions are additional actions that a monster gets to use throughout a round of combat to increase the difficulty of the encounter. A monster that gets Legendary Actions uses them (3 per round) at the end of another creature’s turn. It works like this: 

The party stumbles into the nest of Grimfang the Dreadspark, who is an adult blue dragon. After rolling for initiative Ronny Rogue takes the stealth action to try and sneak around Grimfang. As soon as Ronny Rogue’s turn is over, Grimfang (who will act last in the round because his initiative roll was low) can take one of his Legendary Actions to roll a perception check and discover if there are any hidden enemies around him. After Ronny Rogue’s turn Patrick Paladin decides to attack and misses Grimfang with a longsword attack, Grimfang can take the Wing Attack Legendary Action which uses up the 3 Legendary Actions he gets on this round of combat. After beating his wings, every creature within 10 feet must succeed a Dexterity saving throw or take a lot of damage and be knocked prone, after which Grimfang can take off and move half of its flying speed through the air. All of this happens before Grimfang even gets his full turn in the round! 

How do Legendary Actions Work? 

A legendary creature can take a certain number of special actions (called Legendary Actions) outside its turn. Only one Legendary Action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. A creature regains its spent Legendary Actions at the start of its turn. It can forgo using them, and it can’t use them while incapacitated or otherwise unable to take any actions. If surprised, it can’t use them until after its first turn in combat. 

Action Cost 

Typically, a Legendary Creature in 5e gets 3 per round of combat. Remember that 1 round is through initiative order until everyone has had a turn to act (even if they can’t act).  

Common Actions  

Common Actions for creatures and monsters are the same as the player characters. They will move, attack, and disengage as the Dungeon Master sees fit and usually use whatever special attacks they get. Sometimes certain types of enemies will use special attacks that allow them to attack multiple times or cast a spell when they normally would not be able to. 

Lair Actions  

If a legendary creature has Lair Actions, it can use them to harness the ambient magic in its lair. On initiative count 20, it can use one of its Lair Action options. It can’t do so while incapacitated or otherwise unable to take any actions. If surprised, it can’t use one until after its first turn in combat. 

Some of these Lair Actions could be special attacks or difficult terrain appears. They are always magical in nature. 

Legendary Actions  

A monster that gets Legendary Actions gets to use them (usually 3 per round) at the end of another creature’s turn. Some of these effects can be extra attacks out of turn or the ability to cast certain spells or even to roll skill checks to perceive something happening that the party is trying to accomplish. 

Regional Effects  

As noted in this section, the mere presence of a Legendary Creature can have strange and wondrous effects on its environment. Regional effects end abruptly or dissipate over time when the Legendary Creature dies. 

Examples 


Lich 

A Lich is a former mage who has used necromancy to store its soul inside of a phylactery.  Typically, most Liches are powerful and can only truly be defeated by destroying their phylactery. Their Legendary Actions can include:  
 
Legendary resistance (3 times/day). If the Lich fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead. 
 
Cantrip. The Lich at the end of another creature’s turn can cast a cantrip it knows. 

Paralyzing touch (costs 2 Legendary Actions). The Lich uses its paralyzing touch common action.  

Frightening gaze (costs 2 Legendary Actions). The Lich will fix its sight on one creature it can see within 10 feet of it and then the target must succeed on a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw against this magic or become frightened for 1 minute. The frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to the Lich’s gaze for the next 24 hours. 

Disrupt Life (costs 3 Actions). Each non-undead creature within 20 feet of the Lich must attempt to make a DC 18 Constitution saving throw against this magical attack, and must take 21 (6d6) necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 


Tiamat 

In D&D settings, Tiamat is the five-headed queen of the evil chromatic dragons. She has one head for each customary color of chromatic dragon (black, blue, green, red, white), and each head has the powers of a member of the respective race of dragonkind. Being this epic of a creature also leads to 6 powerful Legendary Actions, one for each head and a bite attack. 

Bite (costs 1 Legendary Action). Tiamat chooses a head and then bites it. It is a Melee Weapon Attack: +19 to hit, reach 20 feet, one target. On a hit it causes 32 (4d10 + 10) slashing damage plus 14 (4d6) acid damage (black dragon head), lightning damage (blue dragon head), poison damage (green dragon head), fire damage (red dragon head), or cold damage (white dragon head). 

Tiamat can also choose to attack with a Dragon Breath Weapon from one of her 5 heads. These Legendary Actions cost 2 actions each and after a type is used it cannot be used in a successive round. 

Black Dragon Head: Acid Breath (costs 2 Actions). Tiamat breathes acid in a 120-foot line that is 10 feet wide. Each creature in that line must make a DC 27 Dexterity saving throw, taking 67 (15d8) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 

Blue Dragon Head: Lightning Breath (costs 2 Actions). Tiamat breathes lightning in a 120-foot line that is 10 feet wide. Each creature in that line must make a DC 27 Dexterity saving throw, taking 88 (16d10) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 

Green Dragon Head: Poison Breath (costs 2 Actions). Tiamat breathes poisonous gas in a 90-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 27 Constitution saving throw, taking 77 (22d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 

Red Dragon Head: Fire Breath (costs 2 Actions). Tiamat breathes fire in a 90-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 27 Dexterity saving throw, taking 91 (26d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 

White Dragon Head: Cold Breath (costs 2 Actions). Tiamat breathes an icy blast in a 90-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 27 Dexterity saving throw, taking 72 (16d8) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 

 
Tarrasque 

The Tarrasque (tarask) is a colossal reptilian beast. This massive monster is primal and savage; it has no alignment or any real intelligence. The Tarrasque is feared by many as a “destroyer of the world” due to its destructive tendencies. It lives only to eat and kill and is virtually unstoppable. If there is any good thing about the Tarrasque, it’s that there is only one in the world. 

It gets 3 Legendary actions and they are:  
 
Attack. The Tarrasque makes one claw or tail attack. 

Move. The Tarrasque can move up to half its base movement speed. 

Chomp (costs 2). The Tarrasque makes one bite attack or uses its Swallow ability. 

 

Homebrew Your Own Legendary Monsters and Actions 

The key to creating your own monsters and actions is to choose appropriate stats and damage tables. Also, it is crucial to know when to throw a Legendary Creature at your party. As the DM you have all the power to adapt and change how your game is played. Is there a monster you like, but it’s too strong? You have the freedom to lessen its power and make it more fun for your party.  

Don’t be afraid to challenge your players to use the rules and resources available to them to beat something difficult. Below are some different types of monsters and some different Legendary Actions to help get you started. Additionally, there are plenty of homebrew resources on the internet. A quick search will help you generate some ideas. Once again, as the DM, you plan and react to the actions of your players.  

List of Legendary Actions 5e 

Here are some of the generic Legendary Actions available to DMs. 

Detect The creature makes a Wisdom (Perception) check. 
Tail Swipe The creature makes one tail attack. 
Claw Attack The creature makes one claw attack. 
Tentacle Attack or Fling The creature makes one Tentacle Attack or uses its Fling: One large or smaller object held or grappled by the creature is thrown up to 60 feet in a random direction and knocked prone. If a thrown target strikes a solid surface, the target takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it was thrown. If the target is thrown at another creature, that creature must succeed on a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw or take the same damage and be knocked prone. 
Cantrip The creature casts a cantrip that it knows. 
Attack The creature makes one attack or uses one of its other actions. 
Blinding Dust Blinding dust and sand swirls magically around the creature. Each target within 5 feet of the creature must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of the target’s next turn. 
Move The creature moves up to half its speed (does not provoke opportunity attacks for a Vampire). 
Hooves The creature makes one attack with its hooves. 
Unarmed Strike The creature makes one unarmed strike. 
Teleport (costs 1 or 2 actions depending on the creature) The creature magically teleports, along with any equipment it is wearing or carrying, up to 120 feet to an unoccupied space it can see. 
Wing Attack (costs 2 actions) The creature beats its wings. Each creature within 10 feet of the dragon must succeed on a DC 19 Dexterity saving throw or take 13 (2d6 + 6) bludgeoning damage and be knocked prone. The dragon can then fly up to half its flying speed. 
Lightning Storm (costs 2 Actions) The creature uses Lightning Storm: the creature magically creates three bolts of lightning, each of which can strike a target the creature can see within 120 feet of it. A target must make a DC 23 Dexterity saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 
Paralyzing Touch (costs 2 Actions) The creature uses its Paralyzing Touch: Melee Spell Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 feet, one creature. Hit: 10 (3d6) cold damage. The target must succeed on a DC 18 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. 
Frightening Gaze (costs 2 Actions) The creature fixes its gaze on one creature it can see within 10 feet of it. The target must succeed on a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw against this magic or become frightened for 1 minute. The frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to the creature’s gaze for the next 24 hours. 
Blasphemous Word (costs 2 Actions) The creature utters a blasphemous word. Each non-undead target within 10 feet of the creature that can hear the magical utterance must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be stunned until the end of the creature’s next turn. 
Whirlwind of Sand (costs 2 Actions) The creature magically transforms into a whirlwind of sand, moves up to 60 feet, and reverts to its normal form. While in whirlwind form, the creature is immune to all damage, and it can’t be grappled, petrified, knocked prone, restrained, or stunned. Equipment worn or carried by the creature remains in its possession. 
Searing Burst (costs 2 Actions) The creature emits magical, divine energy. Each target of its choice in a 10-foot radius must make a DC 23 Dexterity saving throw, taking 14 (4d6) fire damage plus 14 (4d6) radiant damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 
Chomp (costs 2 Actions) The creature makes one bite attack or uses its Swallow: The creature makes one bite attack against a large or smaller target that it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target takes the bite’s damage, the target is swallowed, and the grapple ends. While swallowed, the target is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the creature, and it takes 56 (16d6) acid damage at the start of each of the creature’s turns. If the creature takes 60 damage or more on a single turn from a target inside it, the creature must succeed on a DC 20 Constitution saving throw at the end of that turn or regurgitate all swallowed targets, which fall prone in a space within 10 feet of the creature. If the creature dies, a swallowed target is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse by using 30 feet of movement, exiting prone. 
Shimmering Shield (costs 2 Actions) The creature creates a shimmering, magical field around itself or another target it can see within 60 feet of it. The target gains a +2 bonus to AC until the end of the creature’s next turn. 

5e Legendary Resistance 

Legendary Creatures 

There are tons of Legendary Creatures you can use to have the perfect encounter. Some of the top ones include:  

  1. The Kraken 

Release the Kraken! This monster of the deep is to be feared. Especially because you can have it magically appear in almost any decent-sized body of water. Why? Because you are the DM, that’s why! With nearly 500 HP and an AC of 18, this creature is not to be faced by the faint of heart. It can dominate the weather and can charm other aquatic animals like a hellish corrupt Aquaman. Did we mention the potential for electrocution by summoning elementals?  

  1. The Atropal 

The unholy abomination of a dead infant evil god. With a low AC and high health reserve the Atropal literally teeters between life and death. Casting Life Drain and Ray of Frost, this enemy is sure to have a few surprises in store for the party. 

  1. The Mind Flayer 

D&D and Stranger Things collide in this fan favorite villain. These enslaving tentacled creatures will have your party facing mind control and brain extraction. An encounter with one of these is sure to be a hit! 

  1. The Dracolich 

Dragons and Liches go hand in hand! When a dragon seeks immortality through necromancy it becomes a Dracolich. With horrible undead actions and a Necrotic Breath weapon, this one is entirely a game changer.  

  1. A Beholder 

The one-stop, Swiss army knife legendary villain is the Beholder – the thing that beholds all things and can deal out a lot of damage really fast. Each eye has a unique ability and can even flat-out vaporize characters if they fail a Dexterity saving throw. 

  1. A Death Knight 

When a Paladin falls to the “Dark Side” and then dies, it could one day resurrect as a Knight of Death. Undead and upset are just the tip of the iceberg with these baddies. With an almost untouchable AC of 20 and a lot of magical resistance, your party is sure to be stumped trying to fight one of these. Their 20d6 fireball spell is also a DM favorite for a quick party wipe too. 

  1. A Purple Worm 

As a DM don’t you hate it when the party doesn’t show up on time or they’ve just been complaining about how easy everything is? Well, show them the Purple Worm. With an AC of 18 and a high HP stack, the Purple Worm will have your party running for cover, except the worm can sense their movement and see them with tremorsense and blindsight. It can also get through just about any obstacle with its tunneling ability. Unleash your inner Dune fantasy with the Purple Worm. 

  1.  All the Dragons 

Dragons make for the perfect enemy, and they are easy to roleplay for the DM. Easily enough their Legendary Actions can include using their breath weapon, using their tail or bite attacks, or even using their guile to fool the party. 
 

Lair Actions 5e 

Here are some typical Lair Actions that DMs can use. 

Difficult Terrain Make an area within the lair difficult terrain until the top of the next round. 
Obscure Sight Make an area within the lair obscured until the top of the next round. 
Snaring Objects appear that ensnare creatures within the lair (or on hostile action). Dex save to avoid, Str (Ath) / Dex (Acro) to break free. 
Knockdown The lair shakes or does something that knocks characters prone if they fail a Dex save. 
Light Changing Magical darkness or light that can block normal and dark vision, etc.  
Heal Dampening Stop a target, or targets, from healing for the round. 
Spell Dampening Make spell effects act as if targets have advantage on saves, or resistance to the damage type. 
Effect on Enter/Exit Perform a single action, ability, or spell effect on entrance or exit of the lair. 
Free Action, Ability, or Spell Effect A single attack, action, ability, or spell effect on a target creature. This could be a charm, sleep, damage, or environmental effect (fire, acid, cold, etc.) 

5e Legendary Actions for PC 

Sometimes as a DM you might just want to run a powerful OP campaign in which your Player Characters are so good and powerful that they blow away the competition or you just get bored with having them fight goblins and wolves. Consider giving characters Legendary Actions. These actions function the same as Monster Legendary Actions and should be determined from the characters’ own abilities or backstories.  

Have a Pyromancer Dragonborn Wizard – give him a legendary Red Dragon Breath weapon to use! Have a pretty epic katana fighter? Give them the ability to take multiple attacks when it’s not their turn! The ideas are endless and are only limited by you, the DM, balancing and imagining what your campaign could become! 

Werewolf Legendary Actions 5e 

Werewolves are wonderful and powerful creatures! Additionally, the fact that anyone you know could turn into one makes playing D&D fun! At any moment that random NPC could turn out to be a werewolf! Ahh!  

As the DM, understanding how to use a werewolf’s Legendary Actions will help your game function smoothly. Their Legendary Actions are:  
 
Slash. The werewolf makes one attack with its claws or longsword. 

Transform. The werewolf can use its shape-changer ability. This ability allows it to polymorph between its humanoid hybrid state, wolf state, or its true form.  

Pack Maneuver. The alpha werewolf, or an ally within 30 feet that can see it and hear it, moves up to half its speed without provoking opportunity attacks.  

Wrapping Things Up 

Legendary Creatures can add a whole lot of spice and doom to any campaign. Be sure to pick a few that we have outlined here or create your own inspired by anything. Have a favorite movie monster? Create it for D&D. Have a cool idea for an ability? Give it to the next random NPC whom your party casually assumes wouldn’t be a powerful secret ninja.  

As the DM you are in control of how to use the creatures and their abilities, and in the end, it is all about crafting an experience in concert with your players! Adding the terror of creating a new character after spending months and hours writing a cool backstory only adds to the uniqueness of playing D&D. 

Rob Benson

Rob Benson

Co-Founder

Rob has been invested in the gaming world since the first Nintendo Entertainment System came out. After being introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in middle school, he decided to grow his passion and a lifelong love for tabletops. His favorite part of D&D is watching players come alive as they learn how to play the game!

You Might Also Like

D&D Jokes

D&D Jokes

A table, a group of friends around it, and a good joke or two is all you need to have an enjoyable evening of D&D. We truly believe that people with a good sense of humor have a better sense of life! Just as...