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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Take to the Skies of 5E D&D as a Flying Character with This New Feat
aarakocra 5E D&D flying character

Take to the Skies of 5E D&D as a Flying Character with This New Feat

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Flying characters aren’t nearly as good as you think in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. I know, I know — coming out the gate with a polarizing statement like ths immediately raises eyebrows. However even Nerdarchists Dave and Ted agree with this much as evidenced by a recent video on flying characters in 5E D&D. While I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m an expert on the matter I do play a flying character in our Those Bastards! campaign, as Prudence the feral tiefling. As such I feel I can offer some key insights into playing and running 5E D&D games with flying characters.

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5E D&D characters flying free or free falling?

One of the most obvious dangers facing flying characters in 5E D&D comes from that height itself. If a flying character’s wings are injured then they’re probably going to have to make a saving throw to maintain their momentum.

This is one of those moments when the Endurance skill I introduced in a previous post would really come in handy. After all it makes a lot more sense to me that a flying barbarian is a lot more likely to grit through a wing injury than, say, a winged wizard. This also would help balance the D&D combat playing field a bit since a spell slinging flying character is sure to be more powerful with their firebolts than a swooping melee combatant.

For even more swooping fun keep reading for a fun new 5E D&D feat idea for flying characters!

Honestly, climbing high into the air can be a solid advantage for many characters and I would even argue bow wielders shouldn’t even suffer a penalty despite the strength it takes to draw one to shoot. I would attribute this to their base proficiency with the bow itself. As for the aforementioned spellcasters, I wouldn’t hinder them inherently either.

Of course we could talk about being utterly exposed as mentioned by the Nerdarchists, but I feel like they made their point on this front in the video. Just the same, falling damage is nasty.

Falling damage is pretty serious business, clocking in at a whopping 1d6 per 10 feet. That’s easily enough to threaten a 1st level character with instant death if they’ve used their full movement — even just once — to soar. There are also certain spells to effectively deal with flying character even at pretty low levels (looking at you earthbind).

However, there are tons of other ways to deal with flying characters in 5E D&D and among my favorites are weather and wind currents. While downdrafts are definitely a fascinating concept (and no, you can’t prove I delved into a weather channel rabbit hole), there are so many other types of air currents that can impose hazards to fliers, even without knocking them directly out of the air.

5E D&D weather woes

Have you ever been walking along during a blustery day? Chances are you weren’t too worried about being swept away and carried off. For those of you who have known the struggle of carrying an open umbrella through windy conditions you probably had significantly more trouble walking with it than without. Now picture you don’t have your footing on solid ground!

Those wings move air currents — it’s how the flight itself works. As such they also render the flying character subject to their capricious whims.

Forced movement is one of my favorite penalties to impose on flying characters and for added flavor I like to roll a d8 marked with the 8 cardinal and ordinal directions to determine at the start of a combat the direction the wind’s blowing at that moment. Even a slight breeze risks knocking a flying character 5 or 10 feet.

Another fun hazard is rain. When you go outside sometimes an icy rain cuts right through your clothes. Now picture this icy rain from several feet higher up. It might even deal cold damage. Don’t even get me started on hail, thunder, lightning and tornadoes!

On the other side of things cover from trees isn’t only good for hiding. It also shields vision for effective attacks in your 5E D&D combat, especially at range. When you’re soaring over the treetops, though, the sweltering sun might not only give you a nasty burn but it could also impair your vision, hindering ranged attacks.

Is it foggy on the ground? This might offer your targets some cover from your attacks.

A character might be immune to area effects and spells on the ground like earth tremor but remember — fireballs and thunderclaps affect a radius that also travels skyward. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: Find even more ways to use weather and natural hazards to spice up 5E D&D in this post!]

Swooping is good with this new 5E D&D feat

With all of these hazards for ranged attacks, melee sounds a lot more viable for a flying character. This goes doubly so when they take this new feat I’ve concocted! [NERDITOR’S NOTE: In official 5E D&D material the aarakocra is the most common character option providing a flying speed. There’s also the variant feral tiefling as well as the fairy and owlfolk from recent Unearthed Arcana documents. Naturally we came up with some content ourselves for fans of flying characters. Encountering the Vargarians might provide an opportunity for a 5E D&D character to gain a pair of Vargarian Wings — if they survive the experience! Vargarian Collective is over at Nerdarchy the Store ready for Dungeon Masters and players alike to drop right into their games. As always when you sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter one of the benefits you’ll receive is $9.99 in store credit — more than enough to add Vargarian Collective to your collection with leftover for something else!]

Swoop Training

Prerequisite: A flying speed

You can skillfully swoop down on your foes, attacking from above in combat. When you take this feat, you gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You don’t provoke opportunity attacks when you fly into or out of an enemy’s reach.
  • You can use your action to make a Swoop attack, moving up to half of your flying speed and making a single melee attack against a creature.

Is flight right?

What do you think about flying characters in 5E D&D? Have you played a flying character? Share your stories in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook!

*Featured image — Many people across Wildemount consider the winged aarakocra to be a myth, so infrequently do they descend from their lofty aeries to deal with wingless folk. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

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Steven Partridge

Steven Partridge is a published fantasy author and staff writer for Nerdarchy. He also shows up Tuesdays at 8:00pm (EST) to play with the Nerdarchy Crew, over on the Nerdarchy Live YouTube channel. Steven enjoys all things fantasy, and storytelling is his passion. Whether through novels, TTRPGs, or otherwise, he loves telling compelling tales within various speculative fiction genres. When he's not writing or working on videos for his YouTube channel, Steven can be found lap swimming or playing TTRPGs with his friends. He works in the mental health field and enjoys sharing conversations about diversity, especially as it relates to his own place within the Queer community.

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