Last Updated on November 6, 2023
Medium Monstrosity, Unaligned
- Size: Medium
- Creature Type: Monstrosity
- Alignment: Unaligned
- Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 52 (8d8 + 16)
- Speed: 20 ft.
- STR 16 (+3), DEX 8 (-1), CON 15 (+2), INT 2 (-4), WIS 8 (-1), CHA 7 (-2)
- Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 9
- Languages —
- Challenge: 3 (700 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
Petrifying Gaze. If a creature starts its turn within 30 feet of the basilisk and the two of them can see each other, the basilisk can force the creature to make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw if the basilisk isn’t incapacitated. On a failed save, the creature magically begins to turn to stone and is restrained.
It must repeat the saving throw at the end of its next turn. On a success, the effect ends. On a failure, the creature is petrified until freed by the greater restoration spell or other magic.
A creature that isn’t surprised can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of its turn. If it does so, it can’t see the basilisk until the start of its next turn, when it can avert its eyes again.
If it looks at the basilisk in the meantime, it must immediately make the save. If the basilisk sees its reflection within 30 feet of it in bright light, it mistakes itself for a rival and targets itself with its gaze.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) poison damage.
A Basilisk is a medium-sized, CR 3 monstrosity with a unique petrifying gaze attack.
Player’s Guide to Basilisks
What follows is a player’s guide to basilisks in Dungeons and Dragons 5e. We will start with a breakdown of each portion of the stat block, followed by the basilisk’s preferred tactics and how to counter them.
Basilisk’s Stat Breakdown
Look at all of these vulnerable stats… You know, for a creature that is known for killing with a saving throw, it is itself a bearer of several low saving throws.
I want to point out its Passive Perception of 9. That’s pretty low, so you stand a fair chance of getting the drop on the basilisk or even avoiding it entirely. Ultimately this is a good thing.
You don’t want this monster to see you.
The Petrifying Gaze ability is what makes the Basilisk a frightening opponent for low level adventurers. At lower levels, a DC 12 Constitution save is a bit risky for most characters.
Petrify is a Constitution save. Barbarians and Fighters do have proficiency in Constitution saves, so they stand less of a chance of being turned to stone.
Averting your eyes is probably smart, but makes you effectively blinded. There are ways around this issue, however. Scroll down to see how to fight this monster effectively.
It is also worth noting that its Bite attack will effectively do 4d6 damage. That should make any lower level player wince.
The Basilisk’s Tactics
Expect this creature to pretend to be asleep in a small room waiting to catch prey with its petrifying gaze.
I imagine a wild basilisk as a supremely lazy predator. It has to wait until you are close to it for its petrifying gaze to work. This means that it will probably sit in an alcove or around a corner and wait for someone to stumble upon it and make eye contact.
Once that happens, it can move up toward its prey and eat chunks off of the petrified creature at its whim.
It might not even want to fight. If the party rounds a corner and the scout is turned to stone, the basilisk already has a meal ready. Why fight for any more?
If the PCs try to take their friends’ statue back with them, then the basilisk might fight to protect its meal, but once it has one victim, it can simply stand back and wait for anyone else to get close.
At that point, the PCs will have to decide to leave their companion or risk being turned to stone themselves. The basilisk will let them leave if that is what they want to do.
A trained basilisk, on the other hand, will probably attack when commanded. The trainer will obviously use the basilisk’s strengths to its advantage, though. They won’t send it to chase you down.
How To Fight a Basilisk in DnD 5e
A fight with one of these is often much easier to avoid than to win. With a passive perception of 9, you can usually sneak right past it. No harm, no foul, no stoned teammates.
Should you find yourself in the open against a basilisk, you can stay out of range and nitpick it to death with ranged attacks.
However, should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of fighting a basilisk in a closed corridor, you need to remember that it can only look at one person at a time.
At that point, it’s a numbers game. How much damage can you do before it turns everyone to stone?
If the fighter or the barbarian can keep its attention by drawing aggro or by making intimidation checks, they stand a chance of passing that saving throw.
Other ways to distract the basilisk are with dancing lights, minor illusion, mirror image, or any higher-level illusion spell.
If you can direct the basilisk’s gaze in a certain direction, then you can control who, if anyone, needs to make the save. From there, any damage type will work as it has no resistances or immunities.
If you can pull it off, one of the funniest things to do against the basilisk is to make it petrify itself! Illusion spells won’t work for that, though.
You will need to pull out a decent-sized mirror or point to reflective ice or glass to make that happen.
A DM’s Guide to Basilisks
Basilisks have a reputation in DnD as party killers for Tier-1 (low-level) adventurers. It’s a well-earned reputation, to be fair.
However, there are ways to make the basilisk less of a groan-worthy encounter and more like a logical end to an adventure.
Alternatively, you could populate an adventure with loads of basilisks, and depending on how you run it, the PCs could still survive and not once have to clench up in fear.
The best part? You can make it feel like it was their own cleverness that got them through.
I’ll explain below:
A Basilisk’s Environment
If you put the basilisk where it will be the most dangerous, such as in the narrow confines of a tunnel, the PCs will have to spend all of their time and energy balancing who draws the basilisk’s gaze attack.
This is a great thing to do for a boss fight: completely occupy the PCs’ entire focus as they juggle teamwork and self-sacrifice.
But what if you could turn the petrifying gaze into a trap that the PCs can manipulate?
Consider putting the basilisk in a room of other basilisks. Perhaps in a stable-like situation, as horses are housed. Make a corridor lined with basilisks in their own stable.
If each basilisk is in its own stable because they are being trained or sold somehow and the PCs are greatly outnumbered by the basilisks, then the best way for them to get through the corridor is to open the doors and let all of the basilisks out of their cages!
We can see in the stat block that the basilisk will turn its gaze on a rival. Therefore, fill the room with rivals, and let the PCs set them on each other.
They will be laughing for weeks! And you can make it seem like it was their idea too. As a good DM should.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].