How Long Can You Hold Your Breath 5E? | D&D Swimming Mechanics

how long can you hold your breath 5E

The ability to hold your breath is weirdly unused in most 5E campaigns. Swimming in dungeons is a rarity, and most players completely forget that holding their breath is an option. A lot of dangerous inhalant-based attacks can be partially ignored (in the eyes of some DMs!) by holding your breath. And you know you want to hold that breath when you’re fighting Troglodytes!

How Long Can You Hold Your Breath 5E

According to the Player Handbook, a character can hold their breath for a number of minutes equal to 1 + their Constitution Modifier. If they have a negative Constitution Modifier, they can hold their breath for 30 seconds.

In times of stressful situations, most GMs have house rules for performing specific actions while holding your breath. These change a lot, but expect to not hold your breath for your full duration if you’re wrestling a Kraken underwater.

Any Way to Hold it Longer?

Holding your breath is not an open-and-shut case. Other than homebrew rules, there’s a myriad of ways to hold your breath longer. The Lizardfolk race from Volo’s has the ability Hold Breath, allowing them to hold their breath for 15 minutes, no matter what Constitution they have. The Tortle has the same effect. 

If your goal is to hold your breath underwater, 5E’s got some solutions for you! The Vedalken from Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica have a special variant of the ability, which allows them to breath water for a short time. That’s only useful for swimming, less useful for actually “holding your breath.” The spell Breathe Water allows you to do exactly that; breathe water until the spell runs out.

The item Necklace of Adaption is the closest magical item that allows you to hold your breath. Unfortunately, instead of holding your breath, you can just breathe in any environment. You gain resistances against harmful gasses and vapors, at least! And some of those gasses ignore the ability to hold your breath.

Finally, some class abilities allow you to just no longer need to breathe. The Undying Warlock can hold their breath indefinitely, for example. If you are an Undying Warlock, you can just walk around with your cheeks puffed out and nobody can stop you.

Wrapping Up Holding Your Breath

Holding your breath is a mechanic not often used by 5E’s modules or the player base. There’s not much reason to. With access to easy spells to breathe underwater, very few effects that holding your breath is good against, and very non-specific rules, most players don’t much care for it. Most DMs change how holding your breath works, especially in combat or underwater. Be sure to ask your DM if they plan on sticking to the normal rules or not, since this is not a popular ruleset online.

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