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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > D&D Ideas — Invisibility

D&D Ideas — Invisibility

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Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is invisibility, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of invisibility in Three Eyes Are Better an imp uses it’s power to turn invisible to manipulate a budding warlock and cause no end of strife for adventurers. A devious imp uses lures heroes into a destructive trap — battling a magic wielding cyclops — along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.

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Delving Dave’s Dungeon

From Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter invisibility is a standard trope in fantasy games but that’s not all. The Invisible Man crosses into horror and science fiction. The Invisible Woman is an iconic Marvel Comics character. I believe it’s fair to say invisibility is power that captures the imagination of the masses.

What is it about this one particular power that captures attention or I guess doesn’t if it’s working right? Who hasn’t wanted to go unnoticed from time to time? We’ve all had embarrassing moments in life where we’ve wanted to just disappear. The flipside of this is the feeling of being unseen. This creates a perfect dichotomy for the power of invisibility.

There are a few iconic monsters in the Dungeons & Dragons game that are naturally invisible. The invisible stalker is the most famous of them all. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than facing off against an unseen attacker. This ties directly into a primal fear of the unknown. (Also the reason why adventurers carry sacks of flour on them.)

One of the scary things about naturally invisible monsters in D&D is many of them are of a low challenge.

  • Pixie — Challenge ¼
  • Sprite — Challenge ¼
  • Skulk — Challenge ½
  • Imp — Challenge 1
  • Will-O’-Wisp — Challenge 2
  • Invisible Stalker — Challenge 6

Challenge 6 is the highest on this list. There are many more monsters and NPCs able to turn invisible in the D&D multiverse. I just grabbed a few with invisibility as part of their nature.

Instead of using these monsters as adversaries or foes to be fought consider using them as foils instead. Invisible critters are great for pulling off pranks and setting up mini mysteries especially if the party is going through a spooky forest or maybe staying with a farmer and their family when strange occurrences begin to take place.

Pixie and Sprite Pranks

  1. Boot laces tied together
  2. Pouches switched
  3. Blades glued into their scabbards require DC 12 Strength check to free as an action
  4. Rations spiked with sprite sleep poison. The target must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 minute. If its saving throw result is 5 or lower, the poisoned target falls unconscious for the same duration, or until it takes damage or another creature takes an action to shake it awake.
  5. All arrows replaced by sticks
  6. Hair braided together of anyone who is sleeping close together
  7. Skunk in sleeping bag or bed. The skunk has a walking speed of 20 feet, AC 10, 1 hit point, and no effective attacks. It rolls initiative and, on its turn, uses its action to spray musk at a random creature within 5 feet of it. The target must make a DC 9 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target retches and can’t take actions 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. A creature that doesn’t need to breathe or is immune to poison automatically succeeds on the saving throw. Once the skunk has sprayed its musk, it can’t do so again until it finishes a short or long rest.
  8. A small bag is dropped into a 5-foot-square space near someone on watch. A swarm of insects (wasps) with 11 hit points emerges from the bag and rolls initiative. At the end of each of the swarm’s turns, there’s a 50 percent chance that the swarm disperses.
  9. A scorpion is placed in someone’s pouch. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 piercing damage, and the target must make a DC 9 Constitution saving throw, taking 4 (1d8) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
  10. Cast a spell from the pixie spell list

From Ted’s Head

I did not see what you did there. Was it because you were invisible? Invisibility has changed so much over the years and editions of Dungeons & Dragons. In fifth edition invisibility just gives you advantage for being invisible while other creatures have disadvantage when it comes to the invisible creature.

Invisibility is so much more than this. The invisibility spell is super powerful in so many ways depending on how you try to use it in your 5E D&D games. Invisibility works for all manner of subterfuge so long as the recipient of the spell does not cast a spell or make an attack roll. The trick is to do things allowing the creature to remain invisible while still able interact with things going on around them. Some might say putting a trip wire or setting up a bear trap might be crazy and obvious but if you have cover and the observer is distracted, say with a conversation or combat, it might not be so hard to pull off. Taking a look at all the things a character can do outside of the realm of casting a spell or making an attack roll reveals a lot.

In a lot of cases being invisible tends to elicit the reaction, “Oh its just invisible.” But when you look at the reactions in pop culture of movies and TV shows we get everything from shock to downright terror. Frodo caused a bit of shock disappearing from sight around his companions meanwhile there is a horror movie literally called the Invisible Man. If we take a look at what they are able to accomplish in these shows and others we learn nice options and jumping off points for what we might want to do either as a player or Dungeon Master with the concept of invisibility. 

Remember when you bump up a tier and you are talking about greater invisibility you remove all the issues with attacks and spells so you get to have all the fun without fear of the spell ending because you attacked.

From the Nerditor’s desk

During the live chat when Nerdarchist Ted and I discussed invisibility in the context of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons one of the ideas we talked about briefly stuck in my mind. What if invisibility were a curse?

In H.G. Wells classic science fiction novel The Invisible Man the titular character descends into madness and becomes violently unhinged. Unable to reverse the process and forever to remain unseen by the world he develops a plan to bring about a reign of terror on the nation. In this story the main character’s invisibility drives them to evil and became an iconic part of literature and culture.

Squaring off against a creature with complete invisibility could certainly make for fantastic 5E D&D stories. Such a creature could conceivably engage adventurers anywhere and cause trouble. Learning of this invisible antagonist’s very existence could make for some intriguing scenarios and imagine the group’s paranoia when they know this creature is on their trail.

But what about taking a different approach? The original Invisible Man and later stories inspired by this legacy cast the character in a villainous role, detached from humanity and free to move about and act in the world unseen. Turning this dynamic around perhaps for this creature invisibility is truly a curse and instead of becoming evil this time the invisible creature seeks help.

Incorporating this idea as a B plot to an ongoing campaign could be incredibly dramatic. Adventurers encounter lots of NPCs during their quests and any number of them might become a target for nefarious forces opposed to the heroes. What if one of these adversaries seeks to harm the party by afflicting one of their friends in such a manner? To really ramp up the tension in addition to invisibility this individual is also cursed with silence.

For a slow burn the next time the party comes calling they first learn their friend hasn’t been seen in a while. Seems innocuous enough. Later the party hears from others who knew the NPC about strange things happening. Items go missing, objects move of their own accord and the like hint at something going on. As the creature cursed with invisibility grows more desperate to interact with the world they glom onto the party and begin following them.

How would the characters in your 5E D&D campaign deal with such a scenario? It could be tricky — players often tend to assume some sort of monster is responsible and take action to dispatch such things. Since the goal here is creating dramatic and sympathetic circumstances it’s important to tread carefully. A bag of flour and some weapon attacks at disadvantage later and they might be devastated to discover they just smoked a friend who only wanted their help. On the other hand this could be their true foe’s goal in the first place.

The steps involved in this B plot can take place over time and if the players are hooked create some very memorable experiences. Investigating the missing friend, examining places where strange events took place, figuring out a way to interact with the invisible and silent person, discovering the nature of the curse, learning who afflicted them and then doing something to reverse the affliction can take heroes far and wide.

If I’m honest even though I was the one who pitched this topic for discussion I’m surprised how much it intrigues me. In some contexts invisibility is as much an extraordinary power as a terrible burden and exploring these ideas in 5E D&D can really evoke some complex and impactful stories.

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