Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Elementals are awesome, right? Big, intimidating creatures made of pure energy or a single type of matter. The animated fundamental building blocks of all material existence. Awesome!
Their little cousins, though… not so much. They are mischievous, heartless, annoying little things that go way too far and don’t understand good boundaries.
They aren’t even proper elementals! They can’t decide what they want to be.
Earth? Air? How about dust?
Fire? Water? Nah, they’ll be steam.
Earth? Fire? Magma.
See where I’m going with this?
There are five types of mephits in the published Dungeons and Dragons 5e material, and this post is a general overview of them all.
We will talk about their similarities, their differences, where you are likely to find them, and what to do in the unfortunate event you do find them. Then for DMs, we will talk about new and interesting ways to use mephitis, and then we’ll wrap it up with story ideas you can use to feature mephitis in your next adventure or campaign.
What Is a Mephit in DnD 5e?
A mephit is a Small elemental that is a combination of two elements. They are described as Neutral Evil tricksters.
Instead of posting five different stat blocks, I would like to instead talk about what each mephit has in common and then give you a nifty table to chart the differences.
See? I do love you.
If you want more detailed information, here is the description on D&D Beyond.
What Do All Mephit Stat Blocks Have in Common?
Each Mephit is a Small Elemental with a CR of ¼.
Each Mephit has a Breath Attack and a Death Burst, and most of them have the False Appearance ability and Innate Spellcasting.
Here is a quick breakdown of the numbers behind those abilities.
- The Breath Attack of all mephits is a 15-foot cone that has a DC 10 or 11 Dexterity save. The effect of the Breath Attack depends on the type of mephit. See the chart below for the particular effect. If the Breath Attack deals damage, you may save for half.
- The Death Burst effect takes place when the mephit dies. It affects a 5-foot radius around the mephit and has the same saving throw as the Breath Attack. If the Death Burst deals damage, you may save for half.
- The False Appearance ability allows the mephit to be indistinguishable from a pile of the material from which it is made provided it does not move.
- The Innate Spellcasting of the mephits varies depending on the type of mephit. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma, and when called for, the save DC is 10.
How Do the Stat Blocks of Mephits Differ?
Below is a chart that details the AC, HP, and various special abilities of each mephit.
Some mephits deal damage with their special abilities, and some impose conditions. There is no discernible and obvious pattern I can detect.
What Is the Takeaway From the Stat Blocks?
In short, the similarities and differences of the mephits are minor.
With mephits, what we have are small and stealthy combatants that can lead you astray and cause a bit of mayhem before disappearing into the background.
The Origins of Mephits
Mephits have one of the most imaginative and mythological creation stories despite such annoying little servitors.
In some of the original Dungeons and Dragons lore, the creator-god Ao made the multiverse in one great explosion. Out of this, the planes and the planets were formed. In the planes of elemental chaos, a group of entities emerged called The Primordials.
The Primordials were gigantic omnimental beings that brought chaos and creation with their every whim. They destroyed planets and created stars from the resulting explosions. Eventually, Ao created the first gods in order to protect the planets so that life could develop.
In the inevitable conflict between the Primordials and the gods, the Primordials had to learn to do something they had never done before: they had to communicate.
They had no language, and so their emotional states would manifest in a myriad of little elemental creations: the mephits. Each type of mephit represented the emotional state of its Primordial creator and communicated its will accordingly.
Millions of mephits were created this way, and it is possible they are still being created in their various elemental planes. Without going into too much more detail, the gods pushed the Primordials back to the elemental planes, and an unknown number of mephits have been scattered in the material plane since.
A Player’s Guide to Mephits
Where Might You Find a Mephit?
Mephits are going to be in one of three places.
1. They could be in any extreme environment on the material plane. Deserts would be great places to find dust mephits. Tundras and mountain tops would be great for ice mephits, volcanoes for magma and smoke mephits, and jungles for mud and steam mephits. Whenever the environment itself is acting as an antagonist and survival is one of your basic priorities, you could absolutely expect to find a host of mephits.
2. Mephits can be found on any elemental plane, the shadowfell, or the feywild. As creatures that exist in the boundaries of multiple elements and as expressions of pure emotional will, they will populate the boundaries between elements and in realms of passion and despair.
3. They can also be found in the service of a powerful individual. As minor servitors created to act as messengers, they are natural servitors. They know they will never be very powerful, and their personality means they will very rarely ever work together to overcome their weakness with numbers.
Their personality means they can be easily bullied or bribed, and they will make good thugs and minions for anyone who shares their personality or elemental affinity.
What Tactics Do Mephits Use?
Mephits are pranksters. This means they will generally try to ambush and remain hidden. Expect them to attack while you aren’t looking and then remain still in order to use their false appearance.
This means you should be careful when you are in the wilderness surrounded by extreme environments such as volcanoes, glaciers, geysers, deep deserts, and swamps. You will walk right by one or more of them and unwittingly set yourself up to be swarmed by Breath Attacks.
The one benefit of their tactics is that they have low ACs and prefer to fight in melee. This means you will be able to attack and do damage to them, but they are prepared for that, so you’ll have to watch out for their Death Burst when they die.
Since many mephits are actually summoned, this means they will gladly throw themselves into the fray knowing that their death simply means being sent back to their home.
How To Counter Mephit Tactics
The first thing you will need to do is find the mephits. Once you do that, do not look away. It’s bad enough that you may have disadvantage on your attack if they are using their false appearance. If you have to continually make perception checks because you are looking around, that just makes it more difficult.
If possible, cast faerie fire or use a type of detect spell in order to locate them more easily. Once you have found the mephits, use ranged attacks as much as possible. If they can’t fight in melee, the mephits will probably run away.
But if they do have a hapless melee combatant to swarm, cast resistance on that person because as soon as the Rogue gets that first sneak attack and one of the mephits explodes, the rest of the mephits may fail their Dexterity saving throws and blow up as well!
Poor, poor Monk. How many Dexterity saving throws can you make in a single turn?
If you do happen to find a group of mephits acting as followers for a more powerful creature, they will almost certainly disband if their master is destroyed or captured.
They will be unlikely to want to rescue a fallen leader.
A DM’s Guide to Mephits
Mephits are more than just fun little appetizers to get you warmed up for a big bad. With a bit of thought and preparation, you can take these fun little monsters and make a memorable encounter your players will talk about for years.
Organizations of Mephits
As mentioned above, mephits do tend to congregate.
The simplest thing that most players will expect is to come across a swarm of mephits that may engage in combat fleetingly before running away. Such a swarm of mephits would be most likely trying to get the players lost because the mephits do not want the players to happen across a certain location, treasure, or creature. Or the mephits could just be getting the players lost because it’s fun. Who knows?
If you want wild mephits to mean something, then give them a reason to engage the players.
Perhaps the mephits are stealing the players’ belongings while they sleep, or maybe the mephits have found a home in an old ruin, and they want to get the players turned around or lead them into a trap.
I repeat, use the mephits to lead players into traps! As natural minions, however, consider what types of powerful creatures could use mephits as minions.
If they have congregated around a powerful beast or monstrosity, use the mephits to lead the players directly into the lair of an owlbear, a dragon, or a larger elemental.
If the mephits have congregated around a person, make that person someone who makes use of strong elemental magic. A Genasi, a Dragonborn, any Eladrin or Shadar-kai, Aasimar, or Tiefling would fit the bill. Powerful Druids and certain Arcane Casters could also attract mephits, provided they are evil and petty enough to appeal to the petty and disastrously misfortunate mephits.
Mephits will congregate around powerful creatures without needing to be summoned, and they will begin to take on the personality of their leader. This could lead to some very fun ways to play a mephit NPC.
Imagine mephits that start to mimic an erudite elven Warlock of the Archfey with a penchant for ice magic. They may start to wear cast-off scraps of cloth as clothing, adorn themselves with junk and parade it as fine jewelry, or even begin speaking in rhyme to mimic their master’s love for poetry.
You could make some truly horrible poetry, and your players would love it!
If your players have fun with your portrayal of the mephits, you are welcome to take these story seeds to grow a campaign or a series simply bursting with mephits.
We Are, All of Us, Dust and Smoke
The Raven Queen commands her people, the Shadar-kai, to go out into the material plane and bring her back trinkets, tokens, and memories in order to help her preserve her continually fading personality (see the Raven Queen in Mordenkaiden’s Tome of Foes).
Among her people is a Shadar-kai named Pherion. Highly skilled and imaginative, Pherion has specialized in creating situations and turning them into the tragic stories The Raven Queen loves so much.
Pherion is known for using his illusion and enchantment magic to sow seeds of miscommunication and distrust among lovers, family members, and friends in order to create emotional situations of near misses and tragic endings where, if only one person had made a decision one second earlier, disaster and despair could have been avoided.
In his pursuit, smoke and dust mephits have noticed his artwork and have become Pherion’s ever-present audience and allies.
Use Pherion to sow distrust among your party. He is a Warlock capable of casting disguise self, so allow him to infiltrate the party and make promises that can not be kept. He can cast detect thoughts also, so allow him to have knowledge of the character’s back stories and make appearances as a past friend or foe to disrupt a PC’s adventure.
The smoke and dust mephits are fond of using their breath weapons to blind and distract the PCs from hiding, making them unable to see when a fellow party member needs help or to lead the PCs down wrong paths and make them too late to help.
The mephits who follow Pherion think of themselves as tortured artists and tragedians, and they will be the key to letting the players know what is going on.
Whenever Pherion is around, smoke from the campfire can start acting strangely and moving against the wind. People and animals start sneezing uncontrollably from dust, or especially think layers of it are floating around. Newly made spiderwebs suddenly become cobwebs, and they get choked with dust, or a player thinks they see a face peeking out of the smoke from an NPC’s pipe.
Pherion, like everyone else, has little control over the mephits, and in their eagerness to be involved, they reveal that something odd is happening.
The Worst Informant
Mephits are ageless. This means they have the potential to have eons worth of memories. Next time your PCs have to plane shift, find a lost temple, or get the name of a lost wizard, make them have to hunt down or attract a very specific mephit and get the information out of it.
To get you started, you can have a mephit named Brittle. Brittle is very old for a mephit, and he is very proud of the fact.
Brittle will only come if the PCs go to a certain location and perform their greatest feats of magic similar to Brittle’s elemental types (your choice). The PCs can buy magic items to use for this as well.
If they call Brittle’s name and make compliments about how he is the best messenger and ageless sage, (Persuasion DC 15-20), they can have a chance to talk to Brittle and ask questions. Brittle will never give them the full answer to their questions but will give them hints if they agree to take him on the adventure.
Brittle will not be an ally, but he will defend himself. He will only dispense information if he is given gifts or compliments and/or has his life saved.
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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].