Deafened is a temporary condition that players can be subjected to that limits their ability to interact with the environment or defend themselves.
Look here for several other ways we discuss how to frustrate – I mean challenge – your players without simply attacking their HP.
What Is the Deafened Condition in DnD 5e?
From the Basic Rules
Deafened: A deafened creature can’t hear and automatically fails any ability check that requires hearing.
That seems simple enough, but like many things in DnD, the rules simply give us a foundation, and it is up to us as creative players and DMs to extrapolate how those rules apply.
If you wanted rules for literally every situation, you’d be playing Pathfinder.
So let’s stick with some common questions we hear from travelers to the Black Citadel and then go from there.
What Does the Deafened Condition Entail?
Deafened means you have no hearing. This means you won’t be able to hear the warning sounds of footsteps behind you, rocks tumbling from above, or the bard telling bad puns.
The RAW says you will fail “any check that requires hearing.” Nowhere does it say attacks have advantage or disadvantage.
However, considering you are Deafened, you may be experiencing a penalty to Perception, which means a baddie may more easily hide from you.
Your spellcasting isn’t limited either. Verbal, Somatic, and Material components remain the same, and even if you are deaf, you still know how to form the words required.
In general, consider it akin to having giant headphones on. You might not be able to hear yourself, but you can still talk loudly enough to scare the neighbors if you aren’t careful.
Skills Most Often Affected by Deafened
If you can’t hear, you can’t perceive many things. This is obvious. In general, giving the player disadvantage on Perception checks is a good rule here since most dangers are not invisible.
There could be an argument for Insight being affected if you are trying to listen for the signs of someone lying, but there are often visual cues for that: a bead of sweat, a shaking knee, a wild expression in the eye… or they could simply be having a low-blood-sugar moment.
Depending on your Insight check, you may or may not be able to tell the difference!
If you can’t hear your slippers scuffing the carpet, it doesn’t mean the baddies can’t. Your DM may rightfully impose a penalty.
Again, you would have to rely on many non-verbal cues to know how to counter a target’s argument. But not always! Be aware and focused on what tactics you are taking.
These would only be affected by Deafened if the check is happening in the context of a verbal communication.
For example, you may be talking to a hobgoblin about the price of tea in the Underdark and how that price is affected by the local arcane economy of spellcasters as well as what is fashionable to serve in the temples at the moment.
In this case, if you can’t hear your conversation partner, you can’t engage in verbal discussion. However, if you are reading or recalling information, there is no need to penalize here.
Leave these alone, generally speaking.
How Do I Recover From Being Deafened?
This depends on whether the source of your deafness is a spell, a monster, or an environmental effect.
- Spell Effects generally require a CON save. For the most part, you are only Deafened for 1 minute, but you may re-attempt the save at the end of every turn. Check the Spell description for details.
- Monsters that Deafen you also require a CON save in most situations. And, like Spells, you are usually only Deafened for 1 minute, and you may re-attempt your save at the end of your turns. Check the monster description for details.
- Environmental Effects can range from explosions to floating in an airless vacuum. In general, sound must travel through air or liquid, so remember: In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.
If you are deafened because of an explosion or a sudden popping sound in your ears or you have a gnarly sinus infection, it is best for the DM to have a CON save associated with the effect that lasts for a few rounds, and you should be able to repeat the save at the end of your turn.
Deafened should not kill you. It is a low-level condition that is meant to be a huge inconvenience. Now, it can totally be a lead up to something else that kills you! So, keep your eyes peeled.
How Can I Help a Deafened Party Member?
Whatever you do, don’t just speak slowly and loudly to them. It won’t work.
You can, however, use the Aid Another action in any of the skill situations mentioned above.
Being a lookout or using basic tactical hand signals can help someone avoid embarrassment and injury.
Consider looking up and printing a basic guide for tactical hand signals used on any military/police training website. If your DM allows it, you could all take one of your languages in this system.
Not only would Deafened be less of an issue, but it could definitely come in handy for stealth movement or communication in a loud combat situation.
There are very few ways to help someone pass a CON save, but if you throw yourself over a buddy’s head to absorb the shockwave of an Environmental Effect that may cause Deafness, you might be able to give them a bonus to their save, DM-willing.
Another way to help a friend with their saving throws is the resistance cantrip.
In addition, many healing spells heal Deafness, such as lesser restoration, mass heal, and heal.
How Can I Cause Deafness?
Listen to heavy metal with earbuds at max volume, go to too many concerts in your youth, or dig a little too deep with a Q-tip (ouch!).
But if you want to cause Deafness in a baddie and you don’t have a Q-tip handy (do you even hygiene on an adventure, bro?), there are two spells that can do the trick.
Spells – Blindness/Deafness and Warding Wind are the simplest spells you can use. Both require a CON save.
Our Gift to You
I went and spoke to the artificers working down in the bowels of the Black Citadel, and they have a couple of magic items that you can use in your game tonight.
Hailing from 3rd edition, this alchemical rock explodes upon impact. Everyone within 10 feet of the square where this lands must make a DC 12 CON save or be Deafened for three rounds.
They may repeat the save at the end of their turn, and once passed, it doesn’t need to be repeated unless exposed to the blast of another Thunderstone.
Emergency Ear Cleaning Oil
Use an action to swab this oil into your ear holes for an instant relief from Deafness. If you pre-apply this oil, you automatically pass your next save vs. Deafness within 8 hours.
Uncommon – very rare, depending on potency
Ingesting this poison will cause the target to hear audio hallucinations, giving them disadvantage on Perception, Insight, and all CHA skill and ability checks for 1 hour.
A successful CON save vs. DC 14-20 (depending on potency) upon consumption negates this effect. They may re-attempt the saving throw every 15 minutes.