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Some creatures have a fly speed. Some creatures with a fly speed also have the ability to hover specified.

The PHB, in Chapter 9: Combat, Movement and Position, Flying Movement says:

Flying creatures enjoy many benefits of mobility, but they must also deal with the danger of falling. If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as by the fly spell.

The conditions in this paragraph that would result in the creature falling have to do with having movement involuntarily removed or restricted. That might suggest that if you don't have "hover" in your flying speed, you can't hover.

But there is a difference between being knocked unconscious, or frozen, or webbed, or otherwise rendered unable to move, and choosing to hover, by flapping your wings, or standing on your jets, or whatever.

So, can flying creatures choose to hover, even if they don't have hover in their flying speed?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There's even an old song about it: "Birds do it, bees do it, why can't we just not fall, and hove?" Or something like that. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack May 20 at 20:41
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Where in "If a flying creature has its speed reduced to 0, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover" does it say that the speed reduction has to be involuntary? In my eyes this is literally written: zero speed + no hover ability = fall. I'll have to read the answers a couple times to understand why it ain't so. \$\endgroup\$ – walen May 21 at 7:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since hover is a keyword which means a specific thing for monsters in D&D, maybe the question should be rephrased to "Do I need to spend movement in order to stay aloft (not fall)" \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Hansen May 21 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @walen You may be confused about the difference between movement and speed here - speed is a statistic on your character sheet, while movement is a distance you traverse during your turn. "Speed reduced to zero" specifically refers to when your speed statistic on your character sheet is reduced to zero. \$\endgroup\$ – Speedkat May 21 at 15:55
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A creature with a Flying Speed is not required to use their movement to stay aloft unless a feature specifically says so

It might be best to demonstrate this by showing an obvious counter-example.

Consider, for example, the Totem Warrior subclass of the Barbarian Class, who at level 14, is given the option of gaining a flight speed while raging:

Eagle. While raging, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed. This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.

Path of the Totem Warrior, Player's Handbook, pg. 50

So for this specific situation, the Barbarian would gain a flying speed—but also gain the stipulation that this speed cannot keep them aloft at the end of their turn.

Conversely, most creatures that have Flying speeds have no such restriction or stipulation: they simply specify a Flying speed of X', without this kind of text. That means that they would not fall if they stop moving, or if they cease to move during their turn, unless they were subjected to one of the conditions specified in your original post and lacked the Hover feature.

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You say in your question:

The conditions in this paragraph that would result in the creature falling have to do with having movement involuntarily removed or restricted. That might suggest that if you don't have "hover" in your flying speed, you can't hover.

This suggests that if you don't have "hover" in your flying speed, you will fall when your movement is involuntarily removed or restricted. It makes no suggestions on what will happen if you voluntarily don't move.

The conditions given (speed 0, prone, deprived of movement) are given without ambiguity, so can be considered a complete list of what would make a flying creature fall. As such, every creature with a fly speed can choose not to move on their turn and stay aloft (because doing so is not on the list of conditions that would cause a fall).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you support your para beginning with "Every creature with a fly speed"? \$\endgroup\$ – Jack May 20 at 23:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even though your quote is from OP, it may be good to include that so folks aren't trying to find a quote in a book (which I just did.) YOu may want to add the caveat that if you are flying via some sort of magic (like fly.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 21 at 14:02
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Flying creatures can remain aloft unless their rules says otherwise

The 2019 Sage Advice Compendium contains the following paragraph which directly addresses this situation:

Can a flying creature without the hover trait stay in one place while airborne, or does it need to move each round? A flyer that lacks the hover trait can stay aloft without moving each round.

From the Flying Movement section under Movement and Position (PHB, p. 191) we have (emphasis mine):

Flying creatures enjoy many benefits of mobility, but they must also deal with the danger of falling. If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as by the fly spell.

Possessing the 'hover' ability prevents a creature from falling when knocked prone or deprived of movement, but otherwise has no effect on where the creature may end its turn. By default creatures that possess a fly speed may end their turn in the air. However, doing so without the 'hover' ability exposes them to falling damage should an enemy somehow deprive them of movement.

Some creatures or abilities may limit your flying ability and require you to land at the end of your turn. See Do I have to land at the end of my turn? for evidence that this is not the general case. One example of a feature with this restriction is the level 14 Path of the Totem Warrior (Eagle) feature which says (emphasis mine):

While raging, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed. This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.

If the feature allowing you to fly does not possess text to a similar effect, you can end your turn in the air or remain stationary while aloft. Having the 'hover' ability merely negates the risk of falling.

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Yes. All it requires to stay in the air without falling is to have a nonzero flying speed.

If you choose not to move, you still have a nonzero movement speed. Flying speed is a character attribute that says how fast you can fly, not a measure of how fast the character currently is flying.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate your answer, but I'm concerned I haven't made myself clear in the question. The rules say, IF {things happen that restrict flying} THEN {the creature falls}. I want to know IF {nothing happens that restricts flying} THEN {can the creature CHOOSE to hover}. In other words, can a creature that has NOT been knocked prone, had its speed reduced to 0, or otherwise deprived of the ability to move, can CHOOSE to hover. I don't think your answer addresses that distinction. If my question isn't clear, let me know, and I'll work on it. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack May 20 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is confusing. The question asks if a flying creature can elect to fly at speed 0. You answer yes, then state that flying at speed 0 equals plummeting to the ground. Please clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – Davo May 20 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you choose not to move, you still have a nonzero movement speed. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Hansen May 21 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Flying speed is a character attribute that says how fast you can fly, not a measure of how fast the character currently is flying. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Hansen May 21 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Both your comments are improvements to your answer. You should edit them into the post itself. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin May 22 at 0:56

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