Have you ever wondered about suffocating or drowning in a fantasy setting? It may not be a pleasant thought, but understanding the rules for suffocating and drowning in Dungeons & Dragons 5e can be vital.

You’re about to learn the mechanics of surviving underwater, from constitution modifications to death saving throws. Don’t worry – we’re also going to discuss races that can breathe underwater and useful spells.

So, get ready to plunge into the deep knowledge that is your best defense in this sea of possibilities.

In a hurry? Here’s a quick & short answer that will help you out:

In D&D 5e, a creature can hold its breath for minutes equal to 1 + its Constitution modifier (minimum 30 seconds). Once out of breath, it survives for rounds equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum 1 round). After that, the creature drops to 0 hit points and starts dying. It can’t be stabilized or healed until it can breathe again. Some races have special abilities that extend breath-holding or eliminate the need to breathe.

Basics of Drowning and Suffocating in DnD 5e

You might be curious about how the mechanics of drowning and suffocating operate in DnD 5e, so let’s begin with the essentials.

In this role-playing game, your character can hold their breath for a duration calculated as 1 minute plus the value of your Constitution modifier (with a minimum limit of 30 seconds). Once the allotted time is up, you exhaust your breath and start suffocating.

The situation becomes more critical if you’re submerged underwater or located in an environment devoid of air; in these circumstances, your character’s hit points decrease to zero after a number of rounds that is equal to your Constitution modifier (with a minimum of one round). Your character is unable to regain hit points or stabilize until they can breathe once more.

It’s crucial to note that any intense activity, such as engaging in combat or casting spells, reduces the initial breath-holding duration by one minute for every round.

It’s imperative to grasp these guidelines thoroughly – they could prove vital in preserving your character’s existence!

The Role of Constitution Modifier in Drowning

Understanding the role of the constitution modifier in scenarios such as drowning or suffocating is vital. In DnD 5e, a character’s constitution modifier directly influences their survival ability when faced with these situations.

A character can hold their breath for a duration of minutes that is equal to 1 + their Constitution modifier, with the minimum amount being 30 seconds.

When a character runs out of breath, they can endure a number of rounds that is equivalent to their Constitution modifier. If they don’t manage to breathe by the start of the next turn, their hit points drop to 0 and they enter a dying state.

It is clear that possessing a high constitution stat is helpful for survival when faced with air deprivation. Keep this information in mind when planning gameplay strategies and making character choices!

How Death Saving Throws Work When Drowning

It’s perfectly natural to question how death saving throws function when a character’s health points fall to 0 due to oxygen deprivation. Here’s the rundown:

  1. As soon as your turn begins each round, you’ll need to start making death saving throws until you’re either stable or have met your end.
  2. Toss a d20: 10 or higher signifies success; anything less is a failure.
  3. Achieve three successes, and you’re unconscious but stable; three failures, however, will bring about your end.
  4. If you roll a natural 20, you’ll recover 1 hit point and regain consciousness.

Races and Classes That Can Breathe Underwater

Let’s examine races and classes gifted with the ability to breathe underwater, an attribute that can be beneficial in a variety of scenarios. When designing a character for your upcoming campaign, keep these options in mind.

TritonCan breathe air and water
Water GenasiCan breathe air and water
Sea ElvesCan breathe air and water
Druid (Level 4)Wild Shape into an animal capable of aquatic respiration

Tritons, who originate from the sea, naturally possess this gift. So do Water Genasis, who are beings of both elemental earth and water. Then, there are Sea Elves, who are as comfortable in the ocean as their terrestrial relatives. Any Druid reaching Level 4 can use Wild Shape to change into an animal equipped for breathing underwater.

Spells and Items to Prevent Drowning

Certain spells and items in Dungeons & Dragons 5e can help prevent drowning. They offer unique ways to either enable you to breathe underwater or remain afloat.

  1. Water Breathing Spell: This magical ability gives up to ten willing creatures the capacity to breathe underwater for a full day.
  2. Potion of Water Breathing: Drinking this potion allows the user to breathe underwater for an hour, providing the same benefits as the spell.
  3. Ring of Swimming: Although this ring doesn’t provide the ability to breathe underwater, it significantly enhances your swimming speed, helping you evade potential hazards.
  4. Cloak of the Manta Ray: This cloak not only gives you the ability to breathe underwater, but also allows you to swim at an impressive speed.

How Dungeon Masters Can Modify Drowning Rules

You’ve now comprehended the spells and items that can serve as a lifesaver against drowning. Being ready for these undersea risks in D&D 5e is crucial.

However, let’s adjust our focus. As a Dungeon Master, you hold the freedom to alter rules as you deem appropriate. You might be interested in adjusting the default rules on drowning to inject more tension or authenticity in your gameplay.

Is your target a hardcore survivalist campaign where oxygen turns into an even more precious resource? Or perhaps your campaign is marine-themed and calls for unique mechanics?

Regardless of your motive, gaining the skill to adjust the rules about drowning can infuse depth and thrill to your gaming sessions.

Let’s proceed to this creative task of rule-adjusting next!

The Mechanics of Underwater Combat

When engaging in underwater combat, it is crucial to understand the transformation of fighting mechanics when your characters are submerged. The tactics you normally employ may not be as effective in this changed setting.

Keep these four important points in mind:

  1. Melee Attacks: If your weapon of choice is not a dagger, javelin, short sword, spear or trident, you’ll find your attacks roll at a disadvantage.
  2. Ranged Attacks: The guidelines become complex here. If the weapon is not a crossbow, net or something you can throw like a javelin (including spears), your ranged attack capabilities will be restricted.
  3. Spellcasting: Certain spells might necessitate verbal components, which could prove challenging to execute underwater.
  4. Movement and Vision: Underwater currents can alter movement speed, and murky waters can restrict visibility.

Keep these modifications in mind the next time you’re involved in a battle under the sea!


Comprehending the mechanics of drowning and suffocating in DnD 5e can indeed save lives. Do not underestimate the strength of knowledge, particularly when you find yourself in perilous aquatic environments.

Be it employing your Constitution modifier or casting an effective spell, every aspect is significant. As the saying goes, ‘to be forewarned is to be forearmed.’

Always be ready for underwater battles and allow your wisdom to lead you to triumph.