Boots of Elvenkind are one of the most iconic and sought-after magic items in Dungeons & Dragons, beloved by sneaky rogues and platemail-clad paladins alike.
Boots of Elvenkind, otherwise known as Elvish Boots or (at my table at least) Elf Creeper Sneakers, first cropped up in AD&D with the following, somewhat restrictive description:
“Boots of Elvenkind: These soft boots enable the wearer to move without sound of footfall in virtually any surroundings. Thus the wearer can walk across a patch of dry leaves or over a normally creaky wooden floor and make only a whisper of noise – say 95% chance of silence in the worst of conditions, 100% in the best.“
The boots were weakened considerably in 3.0e and 3.5e, merely granting a +5 competence bonus on Move Silently checks.
Features of the Boots of Elvenkind in 5e
In D&D 5e, Boots of Elvenkind have two overlapping effects. First, the wearer’s footsteps are rendered completely silent when walking across any surface. Second, the wearer gains advantage on any stealth checks made that rely on being quiet.
From a design perspective, it’s a more elegant approach than the specific conditions found in AD&D, or the cobbled-together bonuses in 3.5e.
Before we talk about getting advantage on stealth checks, it’s worth mentioning that this has a touch of that old school D&D game design that can make a refreshing change from the landscape of 5e – so often strewn with +1 magic swords and wands of fireball as it is.
Old school item design – as so wonderfully espoused in this post by Dungeon of Signs – tends towards being evocative, slightly weird, and offers applications beyond the purely mechanical.
While it’s true that these boots will probably be used 90% of the time as a way to gain advantage on stealth checks there are going to be situations where a clever application of your silent shoes is going to be more helpful than any flat mechanical bonus.
Off the top of my head…
Trick a superstitious peasant into believing you’re a ghost (use minor illusion to give yourself a ghostly pallor or make it appear as though you cast no shadow for extra effect).
Win the approval of a cantankerous noble who believes servants should be seen and not heard.
Trick an opponent to wear the boots and thereby lose a tap-dancing competition.
Granted, these are all pretty silly, but it’s a sign of good item design when something has even a few applications outside of its stated purpose.
Where to Get Boots of Elvenkind
Let’s take a look at the cost of a pair of Boots of Elvenkind, as well as where you’re likely to find them, and (as a DM) when the time is right to give a pair to your players.
In our Magic Item Pricing Guide, a pair of Boots of Elvenkind will set you back a cool 2,000 gold pieces. That’s 500 gold more than a full suit of plate mail. You could outfit yourself with two trained warhorses and a carriage or ten freaking elephants – assuming you can find a reputable elephant dealer- for that kind of money.
If you’re in a situation where you’ve found a decently outfitted magical item shop, 2,000 gold is the threshold where magical items start to get pretty interesting.
For the price of a new pair of elven kicks, you can negate pretty much any climbing challenge with an animated Rope of Climbing; or pick up a Handy Haversack, which lets you haul around 120 lbs of stuff as though it weighed roughly the same as a honeydew melon; you could even get a flying sword. So choose wisely.
It’s more likely (as with all magic items in modern D&D, it seems – something that seems to have seeped into the game’s design via video games like Diablo and The Witcher 3) that you’ll find a pair of Boots of Elvenkind on the feet of a deceased enemy than in your local Fantasy Costco.
However, if you’re a DM who likes it when their magic items make sense within the world, it can be tricky to put a pair of Boots of Elvenkind in the path of your players in a way that feels natural and justified.
To help you out with that, here are a few options…
On the feet of a notorious serial killer who targets elves.
Worn by an elite team of drow dragon hunters.
Bestowed in a rite of initiation into the highest order of the city’s thieves’ guild.
Lodged in the beak of a Shambling Mound.
Tied together and dangling around the neck of an ogre. Its feet are much too big to wear them, but the ogre thinks they’re pretty, and allowed their previous owner to live in exchange for giving up their boots. For a bit of added flavor, have your players come upon a barefoot elf nearby being torn apart by owlbears and screaming “If only I hadn’t stepped on that twig!”
Lastly, let’s talk about the right time to give one of your players a pair of Boots of Elvenkind, as well as which classes can benefit the most from this excellent and iconic footwear.
Conventional wisdom dictates that most players in your party should probably have at least one cool magic item by 5th level.
Try giving one of your players a chance to buy or find these boots somewhere between levels 3 and 5. They’ll continue to feel powerful all the way up to level 10 and maybe even beyond.
In terms of who these boots will fit the best, there are two main contenders: characters who are already very sneaky and want to push that stealthiness to near-superhuman levels, and players who for some reason have disadvantage on stealth rolls (heavy armor is the most common culprit here) and need to find a way to stop getting the whole party involved in fights they’re trying to avoid.
Rogues (because duh), Bards (who can also cast Invisibility for more-or-less impenetrable detection), Rangers (a mixture of good stealth and good thematic synergy), Paladins and Fighters (because they’ll probably also be wearing chainmail or plate and jangling like a one-orc-band, alerting anything big and dangerous within a 100 foot radius).
Bonus: Boots of ___kind
This idea comes courtesy of reddit user u/P3ANUT92 who asks “We all know the cloak, boots, and etc. of Elvenkind, but what about of Dwarvenkind? Or Halflingkind? Or even Goblinkind?”
It’s a great idea.
If the boots of Elvenkind naturally bestow the dexterity, grace, and stealth we’re taught to associate with elves in D&D, what would a similarly powerful, similarly priced item made by goblins, or dwarves, or even dragonborn look like?
All these items are wondrous, uncommon, and priced at 2,000 gp
Boots of Dwarvenkind
Wondrous Item, uncommon
While you wear these boots, your feet remain firmly rooted to the floor. When standing on stone, you are immune to the prone condition.
Greasy Sandals of Goblinkind
Wondrous Item, uncommon
While wearing these dirty leather sandals, you gain advantage on rolls to avoid being grappled by creatures size Medium or larger. You also gain advantage on checks made to escape being grappled.
Cloak of Dragonkind
Wondrous Item, uncommon
When worn, this glittering cloak allows you to amplify your voice to perfectly imitate that of an Ancient Dragon (of a color of your choice), becoming deeper and louder. Your shadow also becomes much larger, as though you were a dragon. You gain advantage on Intimidation checks against creatures size Large or smaller.