dnd legendary action in use on the ttrpg

Understanding How to Use Legendary Actions in D&D 5e

Have you ever wanted to add an extra level of danger and excitement to your Dungeons and Dragons 5e campaigns? Adding Legendary creatures and their associated Legendary Actions can do just that! Read on to learn how to incorporate Legendary Actions into your games and reap the rewards that come with them.

What are Legendary Actions in 5e?

Legendary Actions are a special type of action that can only be taken by certain types of creatures, such as dragons and liches. Legendary Action Points (LAPs) are required in order to take these actions, and they are recovered with each turn or any other trigger specified for the creature. These actions can range from attacking to casting spells and usually come with some type of additional effect.

When Should You Use a Legendary Action?

Legendary Actions are best used when players are dealing with a powerful creature that poses a significant challenge to them. They can give the DM the flexibility to adapt to their players’ strategies, while still keeping the game feeling balanced. They also allow Legendary creatures to fight longer without becoming overwhelmed and give them an edge over normal creatures.

Giving a monster the legendary actions might me especially important when it is a battle between a group of PC and just one foe. Action economy in 5e is arguable the biggest factor in balancing encounters, so allowing the monster to do stuff more than just once in the whole ladder of initiative is crucial.

On top of that, legendary action is a way to very loudly statement about what the PCs are dealing with. I can’t imagine a villain without some scary, memorable moves. It makes the encounter instantly more dynamic, more memorable and more FUN!

Tip#1: If you want to know more about creating a great villain, check this article. 

Using Different Types of Legendary Actions.

When designing Legendary Actions for your campaign, you should think about the kinds of actions that make sense for the creature and use a variety of different types. Common options include spellcasting, movement, or bonus action attacks. You may also choose to create unique Legendary Actions that fit the creature’s stats, history and theme.

Some examples of legendary actions include:

  • Making an attack: The creature can make a single tail attack against a creature within 5 feet of it.
  • Moving without provoking opportunity attacks: The creature can move up to its speed without provoking opportunity attacks from other creatures.
  • Casting a cantrip: The creature can cast a cantrip that does not require concentration.

Personally I like to design more compound, unique moves that enforce the feeling of the foe. Take a look at those two legendary actions from my multistage boss fight.

bazokal legendary action 2
bazokal legendary action

As you can see, both statblocks gives my boss a completely different arsenal to use. In order to prevent a long stalemate where my monster just stands still in one place I tend to give them movement based Legendary Action and something impactful on the map. Utilizing a very powerful action that in the same time impairs the monster in one way or the other might be additionally fun for players. It allows players to experience the epicness of your boss and take more strategic decisions on the battlefield.

If you are particularly interested in designing boss battles, stay tune . Soon I will have just a right guide for you.

Managing Cohorts and Followers.

Legendary creatures can use their Legendary Actions to command and manage cohorts or followers and use them in strategic combat. You can assign actions like flanking or aiding other creatures, trapping opponents, distracting targets, etc. that require the follower to make an attack roll with advantage or disadvantage depending on the situation. This can add an interesting dynamic and allow for some creative tactics from your legendary creature.

You can find some more tips on creating minions and diverse groups of less powerful monster in this article.

Balancing Encounters with Legendary Actions.

Working with Legendary Actions can be difficult as it’s easy to overpower encounters when your legendary creature has so much agency. To avoid this, you should assign a strict number of actions each turn and build the encounter around that. Consider the type of actions your creature has access to and use them wisely. For example, if they have teleportation abilities, make sure to use that strategically and not waste those powerful abilities unnecessarily. On top of that, some actions take two or three LPA. If something feels too OP, perhaps you could increase the amount of LPA for this particular action instead of cutting it out entirely.

On that note I would say, don’t be afraid to add legendary actions to your game. In Monster Manual, the lowest CR monster with legendary action is Unicorn. In Mythic Odysseys of Theros there is a Fleecemane Lion (CR3) with legendary action, which means you could use such monster on the very beginning of your campaign. I absolutely love it!

Legendary action is there to help you, DM, manage action economy but also add the epic spice to the mix. The group of PC are heroes from level 1 so don’t feel shy to let them feel that way. Throw a group of bandits with legendary leader against them and watch their faces when he rolls out of the combat on someone else’s turn.

What do you think the best Legendary Action is anyway?

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By day, I am working in business and marketing environment, by night (and weekends!) I DM several Dungeon & Dragons campaigns, create my own homebrew stuff and write stories.

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