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One of the players in my group is playing a deaf PC. He gets by with respect to communication via lip-reading and sometimes with the magic items the group has that allow telepathy.

I want to create some encounters that will highlight this difference (since he has asked me to put him in situations where it matters) - both ones that are made more difficult by his character's deafness and ones that the deafness provides (unexpected) benefits in.

What sort of encounters could I run?

No restrictions on type of encounter (combat/exploration/social).

Answers should explain why the deafness is mechanically relevant in the situation if it's non-trivial ("Since he can't hear the damaging/debilitating noise, he is not damaged/debilitated" is obviously sufficiently trivial to not require further mechanical explanation).

For reference, here is the Deafness condition (that a permanently deaf PC always has applied to them):

Deafened A deafened creature can't hear and automatically fails any ability check that requires hearing.

Here are some things I have already looked at:

  • Monsters like Banshees that cause damage or bad effects to creatures that can hear them. The Banshee is a particularly good one since outside its Wail it's relatively low-powered, allowing for potential situations where everyone else has succumbed to the Wail and the deaf character can then save the day.
  • Large scale area effects: e.g. a magic horn that causes detriments to all that can hear it in a mile radius
  • Combined with magical darkness, the PC would not be able to detect by hearing or sight where enemies were - in this case I would rule that the usual "you always know where enemies are unless they Hide" would not be true for that character unless the enemies are very large (ground tremors), very close (air disturbance) or very pungent (smell).
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closed as too broad by Miniman, Theik, Purple Monkey, Sdjz, Szega Jun 19 '18 at 11:17

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This could be less of a 'do the work for me' question if you gave some insight into what you have already found. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jun 19 '18 at 10:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is way too broad. No answer is ever going to completely capture all the stuff that happens when you're deaf in D&D, and it's just going to end up being a bunch of list answers with no real way to tell which one is 'right'. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jun 19 '18 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possibly a duplicate rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/113836 \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jun 19 '18 at 18:35
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Benefits of Deafness

Lip Reading

The ability to lip-read would give the player the ability to spy on conversations that are out of earshot. Note, this is not a direct benefit of deafness, as not all deaf characters can lip read and you don't need to be deaf to learn to lip read. In fact, the ability to lip read is one of the benefits of the Observant feat

Monster Effects

A key benefit is that there are a number of monster effects which only take effect if the player character can't hear them, some examples are below (not a complete list):

Gibbering Mouther

Gibbering. The mouther babbles incoherently while it can see any creature and isn't incapacitated. Each creature that starts its turn within 20 feet of the mouther and can hear the gibbering must succeed on a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure, the creature can't take reactions until the start of its next turn and rolls a d8 to determine what it does during its turn. On a 1 to 4, the creature does nothing. On a 5 or 6, the creature takes no action or bonus action and uses all its movement to move in a randomly determined direction. On a 7 or 8, the creature makes a melee attack against a randomly determined creature within its reach or does nothing if it can't make such an attack.

Harpy

Luring Song. The harpy sings a magical melody. Every humanoid and giant within 300 feet of the harpy that can hear the song must succeed on a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw or be charmed until the song ends. The harpy must take a bonus action on its subsequent turns to continue singing. It can stop singing at any time. The song ends if the harpy is incapacitated.

While charmed by the harpy, a target is incapacitated and ignores the songs of other harpies. If the charmed target is more than 5 feet away from the harpy, the target must move on its turn toward the harpy by the most direct route, trying to get within 5 feet. It doesn't avoid opportunity attacks, but before moving into damaging terrain, such as lava or a pit, and whenever it takes damage from a source other than the harpy, the target can repeat the saving throw. A charmed target can also repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If the saving throw is successful, the effect ends on it.

A target that successfully saves is immune to this harpy's song for the next 24 hours.

Androsphinx

Roar (3/Day). The sphinx emits a magical roar. Each time it roars before finishing a long rest, the roar is louder and the effect is different, as detailed below. Each creature within 500 feet of the sphinx and able to hear the roar must make a saving throw.

First Roar. Each creature that fails a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw is frightened for 1 minute. A frightened creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Second Roar. Each creature that fails a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw is deafened and frightened for 1 minute. A frightened creature is paralyzed and can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Third Roar. Each creature makes a DC 18 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 44 (8d10) thunder damage and is knocked prone. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn't knocked prone.

Banshee

Wail (1/Day). The banshee releases a mournful wail, provided that she isn’t in sunlight. This wail has no effect on constructs and undead. All other creatures within 30 feet of her that can hear her must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, a creature drops to 0 hit points. On a success, a creature takes 10 (3d6) psychic damage.

Spell Effects

There are a number of spell effects which require the player to be able to hear for them to have effect. Some examples are below (again, this is not a comprehensive list). Note that this seems to be more common for Bard spells.

Vicious Mockery

Choose a target within range that you can see. If it can hear you, it must succeed on a Wisdom save or take 1d4 psychic damage and have disadvantage on the next attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn.

This spell's damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 5th, 11th, and 17th level.

Dissonant Whispers

The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it takes 3d6 psychic damage and must immediately use its reaction to move as far as its speed allows away from you. The creature doesn't move into obviously dangerous ground. On a successful save, the target takes half as much damage and doesn't have to move. A deafened creature automatically succeeds.

At Higher Levels: The damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.

Enthrall

You cause visible creatures of your choice that can hear you to make a Wisdom saving throw. Any creature that can't be charmed is immune to this spell. If you or your companions are fighting the target, it has advantage. On a failed save, the target has disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks made to perceive any creature other than you until the spell ends or until the target can no longer hear you. The spell ends if you are incapacitated or can no longer speak.

Disadvantages of Deafness

Being Ambushed

If the character is travelling in the wild they would be automatically fail any perception check to detect the sound of monsters such as the howling of a pack of wolves, the sound of footsteps behind the party, the rustling of an Owlbear in the bushes. If this character is on guard duty, there is a far greater chance they will be successfully ambushed by monsters.

Other types of Communication

While the deaf character is able to lip read in normal conversation, there are other situations where they would struggle:

  • In the middle of combat (not hearing a warning shout from an ally)
  • Trying to eavesdrop on a conversation where you can't see speakers
  • If the speaker has their mouth covered (could be a fun bandit encounter where they are wearing masks and the player can't hear them!)

When vision is impaired

If the players vision is impaired, they will be at a serious disadvantage versus the others players who could rely on their hearing. Example situations would be:

  • If the players are in the area of a Darkness spell
  • In a fight against a creature with the ability to turn invisible (e.g. Invisible Stalker)
  • In an area with dim or dark light (the torches have run out in a dungeon)

Beneficial Player Effects

There are a number of beneficial player effects which require hearing. This is especially common in Bard abilities.

Bard - Bardic Inspiration

You can use a bonus action on your turn to choose one creature other than yourself within 60 feet of you who can hear you. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6.

Bard - Song of Rest

Beginning at 2nd level, if you or any friendly creatures who can hear you make a performance regain hit points by spending hit dice at the end of the short rest, each of those creatures regains an extra 1d6 hit points.

Bard - Countercharm

At 6th level, as an action, you can start a performance that lasts until the end of your next turn. During that time, you and any friendly creatures within 30 feet of you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened or charmed. A creature must be able to hear you to gain this benefit. The performance ends early if you are incapacitated or silenced or if you voluntarily end it (no action required).

Fighter - Commander's Strike

Commander's Strike: When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can forgo one of your attacks and use a bonus action to direct one of your companions to strike. When you do so, choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you and expend one superiority die. That creature can immediately use its reaction to make one weapon attack, adding the superiority die to the attack's damage roll.

These are just a few thoughts from me and I'm sure I have missed many other benefits or disadvantages of the Deaf character. Hope that this helps!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Consider adding in a few spells to the Advantages list. For example, geas says "if the creature can understand you", and command says "no effect ... if it doesn't understand your language". It may take a generous DM to rule that deafness qualifies here, but the OP seems willing to interpret things loosely here. Conversely, this might also work against the player whose friend tries to use "stirring words or music" in Bardic Inspiration. Pro tip: my real life deaf friend listens to music by touching speakers, or turning up the bass until she can feel it. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon Jun 19 '18 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great point, I will add some in. \$\endgroup\$ – shadydave Jun 19 '18 at 12:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ The ability to lip-read isn't a benefit of deafness. It is a benefit of being able to read lips. Deafness itself doesn't give you that ability, and you doesn't have to be deaf to lean it. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jun 19 '18 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is true, however the OP included that they're character can lip read in his description. I will add detail saying that this isn't directly linked to the deafness. \$\endgroup\$ – shadydave Jun 20 '18 at 11:17

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