In Dungeons & Dragons, there are some creatures that go beyond the basic power level of mortals. These creatures – once known as Mythical – are now called Legendary. Legendary creatures are worthy of myth, and thus battling them shant be easy. In order to ensure that these creatures are a difficult fight, even by their lonesome, Wizards implemented Legendary actions. If you’re a new DM – or a player who’s worried about an upcoming dangerous fight – Legendary actions can be confusing and strange. Hopefully, our Legendary Actions 5E Guide can answer your most pressing questions.
Legendary Actions 5E
While Legendary monsters could theoretically be anything, there are a few specific creatures that always have some. These can go from older dragons to eldritch monstrosities to liches, with a ton in between. Theoretically, DMs can give these boons to any creatures that have reached “legendary” status. If you’re past level 10 and hear a lot about a specific creature, they might have legendary actions.
What Are Legendary Actions?
A Legendary action is an option that legendary creatures have to act outside of their normal actions. They may perform a legendary action at the end of another creature’s turn.
These do not cost reactions, but typically have a limit to the number of times per round they can perform them. Usually, this is limited to 3 legendary actions per round; the DM can change this as needed, but 3’s the standard. These charges refresh at the end of their actual turn. Each creature has their own specific legendary actions, though some creatures share legendary action types.
Some legendary actions say they cost multiple “actions.” That means the creature uses a few actions out of their 3 in order to do something stronger. For example, the Terrasque can use one legendary action to move, or claw or tail attack. If it wants to use two actions, it can use it’s much stronger Bite or Swallow actions.
These are specifically designed to make Legendary creatures feel more threatening, even by themselves. Without legendary actions, these creatures would just go through their turn and then stop, letting the PCs beat on them for a while. Keep these solidly in mind if you’re fighting something that’s a real verifiable threat.
What are Common Legendary Actions?
Most legendary actions are specialized from creature to creature. In most cases, at least one legendary action is dedicated to a basic attack. For example, a Lich can use a cantrip as a single legendary action – or it’s paralyzing touch action, using 2 legendary action charges.
However, some legendary actions are specifically designed to be legendary actions. The Lich can spend all 3 Legendary Actions to use the Disrupt Life ability. They cannot take that action on their turn; only after another creature’s turn. You can’t always rely on your standard knowledge of a creature if you want to succeed against a legendary version.
If you fail the knowledge check, then it can probably use it’s basic attacks; maybe some of it’s cooler attacks if it spends more actions.
Can a PC Use These?
No, PCs cannot get legendary actions. In fact, with erratas for the effects of spells like True Polymorph, Wizards specifically stopped PCs from getting legendary actions from almost any way.
This doesn’t stop a DM from changing this rule, and perhaps allowing spells like Wish to get you a Legendary action at a cost. This is highly unlikely; Legendary actions are designed as a boss fight mechanic.
Besides, you do have legendary actions; your party. That might sound a little cheesy, but legendary actions are designed to emulate a team while a character is alone. Coordinate with allies, and you can negate a lot of different types of legendary actions; whether getting out-of-range of bites or preparing to counter spells.
Some magic items might give you effects that are similar to legendary actions. However, no matter how mythical you become, you’ll never get any for yourself.
See Also: Best Familiars for 5E
Is There Anything that Comes with Legendary Actions?
The most common additional ability that comes with Legendary status is Legendary Resistance. Most commonly 3/day, these free actions allow a creature to succeed at a save they failed at. This doesn’t cost a reaction or anything… and the creature chooses to use it. This means that it’s hard to whittle down Legendary Resistance uses with just damaging spells, unless the creature fears for it’s life.
Once again, coordination with your party is key. Almost all legendary creatures have this effect, so if you can force the creature to spend these charges on not-too-strong spells or effects, and then lock them down with strong wizard spells, you’ll be better off.
Concluding Legendary Actions
Unfortunately, Legendary actions are something to fear instead of strive for. They’re interesting, but they’re for the enemies more than yourself. You’ll likely only battle creatures with legendary actions as bosses or singular enemies, so don’t worry too much about them. When they happen, be sure to play around them the best you can to lower the out-of-turn effectiveness of your enemies.