Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Magical headgear comes in all shapes and sizes. Slip into the right arcane energy-infused lid, and you can dramatically increase your effectiveness as an adventurer. So, whether you’re looking to unlock magical powers both mystical and mundane or to just bump up your AC a little, welcome to our guide to magical headgear in Dungeons & Dragons.
We’re going to be going through some of our favorite magical head coverings, talking about how they work and how you can best make use of them when one of them turns up in the next pile of loot.
Also, because we like to give good, actionable advice here at the Black Citadel, we’ve broken up our list of of headgear into three tiers: starter helms for lower-level characters that present more social, utility, and downright weird options to players; mid-tier helms that provide interesting flavor hand in hand with some serious mechanical benefits; and the very best of the best, high-tier headgear that is powerful enough to center whole quests around and can define a character’s (or iconic villain’s) whole style.
Tier One: Starter Helms
These lower-tier magical helms and hats make for great starter magic items for GMs who are sick of hanging every budding adventurer another bloody +1 magic sword. They either provide interesting benefits outside of combat (which is great for lower-level play when the chances of running up against something you are not prepared to fight is significantly higher) or their uses are limited enough not to unbalance your game.
Hat of Vermin
Wondrous Item, common
While holding this hat, you can expend one of its three charges and speak a command word (which you choose) to summon your choice of a bat, frog, or rat that then appears inside the hat. The hat regains all expended charges each day at dawn.
The creature magically appears in the hat and then tries to get away from you as fast as possible. It is neither friendly nor hostile and acts like a normal example of its species for 1 hour (or until it drops to 0 hit points) when it disappears.
Honestly, even if I wasn’t Team Stampler until I die, this would still be one of my favorite magical items that doesn’t initially appear to be very good. However, if you want to conjure up a distraction in a crowded room, convince a guard the suspicious noise they just heard was “only the rats,” or even just prank the town hat thief, this hilarious magic item will always have a special place in my heart.
Helm of Comprehending Languages
Wondrous Item, uncommon
While wearing this helm, you can use an action to cast the comprehend languages spell from it at will.
Communication between different cultures and species is rarely a major issue in D&D with most characters able to speak at least two languages, one of which is almost always common. However, if your character finds themself seriously outside their home turf (on a different plane or in the depths of the underdark, for example), then having this helmet on you is a huge help.
Keep in mind, however, that the spell Comprehend Languages only lets you understand the literal meaning of words and writing in any language. You won’t necessarily be able to grasp the meaning behind complicated idioms and metaphors, decode cyphers and cryptic messages (like picking up thieves’ cant hidden in normal speech), or even communicate back. If you want to use these helmets as a universal translator, it can be helpful to try and get hold of these helmets as a pair.
Circlet of Blasting
Wondrous item, uncommon
While wearing this circlet, you can use an action to cast the Scorching Ray spell with it. When you make the spell’s attacks, you do so with an attack bonus of +5. The circlet can’t be used this way again until the next dawn.
This is exactly the sort of item I’d give to a lower-level spellcaster to amp up their magical abilities. This item is basically a free 2nd-level spell slot every day, which will never fail to bring a smile to an evocation wizard’s face. Alternately, because this item doesn’t require attunement, it’s a great way to give a cool, flavorful piece of spellcasting equipment to any martial characters in the party.
Wondrous item, common
This fearsome steel helm makes your eyes glow red and hides the rest of your face in shadow while you wear it.
Whether you need a spooky disguise or advantage on an intimidation check, it’s just the thing that every fighter or barbarian needs to complete their imposing look.
Hat of Wizardry
Wondrous item, common (requires attunement by a wizard)
This antiquated, cone-shaped hat is adorned with gold crescent moons and stars. While you are wearing it, you gain the following benefits:
- You can use the hat as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.
- You can try to cast a cantrip that you don’t know. The cantrip must be on the Wizard spell list, and you must make a DC 10 Intelligence (Arcana) check. If the check succeeds, you cast the spell. If the check fails, so does the spell, and the action used to cast the spell is wasted. In either case, you can’t use this property again until you finish a long rest.
Not that wizards need any more spells, but the chance to be able to actually cast a strange or hyper-situational cantrip once per session right when it’s needed most is really great and will definitely reduce the anxiety your wizard player feels that they’ve picked all the wrong spells from their gigantic list of available options.
Tier Two: Mid-Level Headgear
Once your players have leveled up a few times, been in a few scrapes, and gotten to know their characters a little better, they should be in a place where you can think about giving them something much more impactful.
It’s a great time to pick a magic item that either complements their character’s existing skillset or makes up for a rather glaring hole in their abilities. Either way, this item to should feel like a genuinely helpful addition to a character’s arsenal, especially as they start to face increasingly serious threats between levels 6-13.
Helm of the Gods
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)
While wearing this helm, you know whether there is a celestial or fiend within 30 feet of you as well as where the creature is located, provided the creature isn’t behind total cover.
Whenever you finish a long rest while wearing the helm, you can pray to one of the gods listed on the Helm of the Gods table and store the listed spell in the helm, replacing any spell that is already stored there. The save DC for the spell is 13.
The helm has 3 charges. To cast a spell from the helm, you must expend 1 charge, and the helm regains 1d3 charges daily at dawn.
Obviously, this spell is pretty firmly tied to the cosmology of the Theros setting. However, I think, with a little work, it’s very easily adaptable for your own world as a GM and will hopefully even convince your players to engage with your lore (if you’re playing a homebrew campaign). This can be especially cool if praying to each god requires a different sort of prayer — something that could be especially fun to roleplay if the god themself prefers somewhat distasteful observances.
Mechanically, you’re getting between 1 and 3 uses of a 1st- or 2nd-level spell every day, which for a spellcaster with limited slots like the warlock or a 1/2 or 1/3 caster like an artificer or eldritch knight fighter can be an amazing boon. There’s a good array of spells in the item as written, although a GM looking to swap out the gods could also conceivably swap out the spells as well.
The fiend and celestial detection are probably not going to be mega useful, although they could be good for detecting shapeshifters like Imps and Quasits, like a toned-down version of Detect Evil and Good.
Wondrous item, very rare (requires attunement)
While you wear this helm, you gain a +1 bonus to AC and remain aware of your surroundings even while you’re asleep, and you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
As a bonus action, you can cast the See Invisibility spell from the helm. Once this property of the helm is used, it can’t be used again until the next dawn.
I make no secret of how much of a fan I am of the Alert Feat, and this helm gets you a lot of the way toward the same result: politely explaining to your DM that, no, you won’t be getting ambushed ever again, thank you very much.
Helm of Teleportation
Wondrous Item, rare (requires attunement)
This helm has 3 charges. While wearing it, you can use an action and expend 1 charge to cast the teleport spell from it. The helm regains 1d3 expended charges daily at dawn.
When D&D campaigns start to hit higher levels, slogging through the wilderness on foot or in a car just doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard anymore. You’re going to be out there responding to extraplanar threats, fighting giant (usually flying) monsters, and crossing the known world in search of powerful items. Therefore, if you don’t have a dedicated spellcaster who’s able to take the Teleport spell in your party, you can find your group’s mobility severely compromised.
A couple of uses of the Teleport spell every day do a lot of good work to cut down on travel time, and if it ever goes wrong, the results can make for excellent side quests and other DM shenanigans.
Helm of Telepathy
Wondrous Item, uncommon (requires attunement)
While wearing this helm, you can use an action to cast the Detect Thoughts spell (save DC 13) from it. As long as you maintain concentration on the spell, you can use a bonus action to send a telepathic message to a creature you are focused on. It can reply — using a bonus action to do so — while your focus on it continues.
While focusing on a creature with detect thoughts, you can use an action to cast the Suggestion spell (save DC 13) from the helm on that creature. Once used, the suggestion property can’t be used again until the next dawn.
Being able to read minds and once per day influence the thoughts of another are absolutely fantastic ways to information-gather and manipulate social situations. This is the kind of item that gives you an at-will power that can more or less change the whole core way your character plays but also not in a way that makes the rest of your party feel inadequate. Great stuff all around.
Hat of Disguise
Wondrous Item, uncommon (requires attunement)
While wearing this hat, you can use an action to cast the Disguise Self spell from it at will. The spell ends if the hat is removed.
Quite possibly the ultimate tool in the hands of socially skilled, sneaky characters like rogues and bards, this item lets you redesign your look whenever you need to, which is going to increase your ability to impersonate important NPCs, gain entry to (not to mention get out of) guarded areas, and be appropriately dressed for any occasion. Just be careful about walking through antimagic fields… or through low doorways, I guess.
Tier Three: The Best of the Best
Finally, we have magical helms and crowns that can really claim to be high-tier magic items. These are the kinds of wondrous items that you can expect to see in the hands of a high-level player (levels 15-20) and could be genuinely game-altering in the hands of an experienced and clever player.
Helm of Brilliance
Wondrous Item, very rare (requires attunement)
This dazzling helm is set with 1d10 diamonds, 2d10 rubies, 3d10 fire opals, and 4d10 opals. Any gem pried from the helm crumbles to dust. When all the gems are removed or destroyed, the helm loses its magic.
You gain the following benefits while wearing it:
- You can use an action to cast one of the following spells (save DC 18), using one of the helm’s gems of the specified type as a component: Daylight (opal), Fireball (fire opal), Prismatic Spray (diamond), or Wall of Fire (ruby). The gem is destroyed when the spell is cast and disappears from the helm.
- As long as it has at least one diamond, the helm emits dim light in a 30-foot radius when at least one undead is within that area. Any undead that starts its turn in that area takes 1d6 radiant damage.
- As long as the helm has at least one ruby, you have resistance to fire damage.
- As long as the helm has at least one fire opal, you can use an action and speak a command word to cause one weapon you are holding to burst into flames. The flames emit bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. The flames are harmless to you and the weapon. When you hit with an attack using the blazing weapon, the target takes an extra 1d6 fire damage. The flames last until you use a bonus action to speak the command word again or until you drop or stow the weapon.
If you take fire damage as the result of failing a saving throw against a spell, roll a d20. On a 1, the helm emits a beam of light from each of its remaining gems. Each creature within 60 feet of the helm other than you must succeed on a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw or be struck by a beam, taking radiant damage equal to the number of gems in the helm. The helm and its gems are then destroyed.
What a fun item. A mixture of defensive capabilities, offensive spells, and a cool flaming sword — not to mention the consequences if the helm’s self-destruct is ever triggered. I like to imagine undead smoldering and catching fire in its presence before finally being struck down by the wielder’s flaming weapon.
Because of the mixture of defensive/weapon attack-related abilities and spells, I might even argue that this could be one of the best available magic items for “gish” characters — character classes that balance martial and spellcasting expertise, like the Arcane Trickster rogue, the Badedancer wizard, and the Hexblade warlock.
Helm of Devil Command
Wondrous item, very rare (requires attunement by a creature that can speak Infernal)
This bulky, eyeless helmet is made for a pit fiend but magically resizes to fit the heads of anyone who attunes to it. While wearing the helm, you can see out of it perfectly despite the lack of eye holes.
The helmet lets you know the exact location and type of all devils within 1,000 feet of you. You can telepathically communicate with a devil within range, or you can broadcast your thoughts to all devils within range. The devils receiving your broadcasted thoughts have no special means of replying to them.
The helm has 3 charges. As an action, you can expend 1 charge to cast Dominate Monster (save DC 21), which affects devils only. (The spell fails and the charge is wasted if you target any creature that’s not a devil.) If a devil can see you when you cast this spell on it, the devil knows you tried to charm it. The helm regains all its charges 24 hours after its last charge is expended.
If you are not a devil, using the helm’s Dominate Monster property in the Nine Hells has a 20 percent chance of attracting a narzugon (see page 238), which arrives on the back of a nightmare mount in 1d4 hours. The narzugon tries to recover the helm, killing you if necessary to obtain it. If it gets the helm, the narzugon tries to deliver it to its infernal master.
I love a magic item with a catch, and being hunted down mercilessly by a demonic paladin on a flaming horse who wants to get his boss’ hat back is a pretty great one. I just like to imagine that if you roll this result multiple times, several narzugon arrive and fight over who gets to kill you and claim the helm, allowing you to sneak out the back door amid the confusion.
Fine print aside, this is a great item depending on the campaign you’re playing, especially if there’s someone in your party who can summon devils for you to dominate — which is an outstandingly good spell, although it tends to fall apart quite quickly when the target takes any damage.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.