Though personally, I thought it would be awesome to play a Lythari elf (see the "Rare Elf Subraces" sidebar on SCAG, p. 106) Way of Shadow monk who relies on her smell to scout ahead, I realized that this isn't the only time that a player character might be faced with "Keen Hearing and Smell", as they might:

  • Be a druid who wildshapes into a canine
  • Be a werewolf
  • Use beast sense with their wolf familiar
  • Use a Mask of the Wolf
  • Etc.

In either case, the wolf's trait states:

Keen Hearing and Smell. The wolf has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

However, I'm not quite sure how that works or what range that would work for. Doing a bit of research, I discovered that a wolf, in best conditions, can smell prey up to 1.75 miles away (i.e. 9240 feet), and can rely on their second-best sense, the sense of hearing, as far as 6 miles away in the forest or 10 miles in the open.

Having a dog, I also noticed that their sense of smell seems to work something like blindsight in-game, with the exception that they can follow a scent's trail as if following a ball of yarn that was unraveling.

Wanting more concrete ideas from in-game examples, I discovered the spells Locate Animals or Plants, which has a range of 5 miles, as well as Locate Creature and Locate Object that both have a 1000-foot radius and have this trail sense as well.

Then again, it most likely is the case that I'm reading way to deep into the rules and/or missing a clearer ruling on this found somewhere in a book I haven't read, so I thought I'd ask the community:

How does the mechanic of Keen Hearing and Smell work, and can I use it to hunt/scout like the wolf I am supposed to track?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Another similar "long-range detection" mechanic is the ranger's Primeval Awareness. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a note about 2 of your examples... "Use beast sense with their wolf familiar" - wolves aren't an option for the find familiar, though there are other options that have enhanced hearing and/or smell. "Use a Mask of the Wolf" - There is no official magic item by this name; the closest I can find is the mask of the beast (from the Tomb of Annihilation adventure), which just lets you cast the animal friendship spell from it. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 5:11

1 Answer 1


It works when the DM calls for a check or makes a passive check for you.

The only relevant range is when you request to do an action and the DM calls for you to make a Wisdom(perception) check. Otherwise, there is no clear guideline because environmental or other issues may impact your ability to use it, and those are also up to the DM.

The Lythari

This rare subrace also doesn't seem to be a playable race for PCs. They aren't listed in the playable races and there is no stat block for them. Closest is just being a drow, but that's not quite the same thing as that rare subrace.

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    \$\begingroup\$ you can add "it's +5 to passive checks" to your first part, since that is explicitly spelled out in Chapter 7. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree about the stat block, though because of SotC blurb states "The Ly'Tel'Quessir have the ability to polymorph into wolves.Unlike werewolves, lythari don't have a hybrid form and aren't afflicted by a curse." I have seen the stat block on many sites go with "non-evil werewolf wood elf" as a statblock. However, the same could be said with a wildshape or changeling. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @victorb the available PC races are listed in total on dndbeyond and lythari are not one of them \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I am a little confused. While Lythari are not on the DnD Beyond site directly, there are in the SotC book, which is listed in the site. Then there are the Grugash or Wild Elves that are mentionned in the Wood Elf stat, but have their own stat block in an UA along with Avariel, Sea Elf, and Shadar-kai. So puting all that together, wouldn't a Lythari not be a Aereni Wood Elf? \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @victorb the Aereni wood elf is an official option, but it does not have the abilities described in SCAG of the Lythari. There is no Lythari option as described. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 19:39

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