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My L3 LMoP group are planning on picking up some holy water to help with zombies as they’ve heard to tales of undead (old owl well, and thunder tree), but I think they’re going to be very disappointed to find its 25Gp, but is single use, costs an action, affects a single target, and only does the same damage as a greatsword swing.

Essentially, it seems to be only as good as a single decent fighter attack, but uses an action and costs 25Gp. Given that an average L3 PC might expect to do say ~D6 +3 damage with a typical attack, this means they’re getting about 3 extra damage, once, for 25Gp, which seems absurd. Plus it only works on certain foes.

Am I missing something?!

I’d like to make this work for them, so I’m considering some changes to the rules for Holy Water:

  1. Reduce the cost - maybe as low as 5Gp, given that they have a paladin who is visiting a temple to make his oath (this allows me to keep the price higher on other occasions if they did find a way to abuse it)
  2. Make it more effective - maybe an AoE effect?

Will this break the game, or be something they can heavily abuse later?

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Rather reduce the cost

There are not many uses for money in 5e. In every game I played, the party had more money then uses for very soon. This means that reducing the cost will get them holy water a bit sooner, but the point where it is available in large quantities already comes sooner rather than later.

Improving the effect on the other hand is somewhat risky. You would quickly get to where it is better than most other things people can do. It would also "steal" abilities that you usually get from your class or from magic items. Discussing this in detail is beyond the scope of this answer, but it could easily get out of hand. Now, currently the party can not afford large quantities, that's your question after all. But later, more money will be available and they will be able to afford a lot of holy water even at 25 go.

In summary, reducing the cost seems like a minor risk while improving the effect would take a detailed analysis. If you want your players to have something better, you should give them consumable magic items that are available in limited quantities. If you want to go with improved holy water you should design the rules and ask a separate question about your idea.

Ceremony spell

As was pointed out in the comments, the ceremony spell consumes 25 gp of silver but produces a single flask as one option. This might not be relevant, but if any of your party members have access to the spell (they could, it's 1st level) you should consider your changed price there, e.g. by having it produce an appropriate, larger amount of holy water.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is value to Holy Water as well - not all creatures have access to radiant damage and therefore can't just do damage that will guarantee it stays down. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 4 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Use the drug dealer model. The first hit is free. \$\endgroup\$ – candied_orange Jan 5 at 5:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you have mentioned that the amount of money at a parties disposal goes up, but you ignore the fact that the value of an action also goes up. Where a fighter can currently only do one attack, they can do more later. And holy water would replace all those actions. \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Jan 5 at 9:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks – I've gone with this for now as it's the safest solution. With a good persuasion roll they've picked up some holy water for free after the oath ceremony. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan W Jan 11 at 17:40
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I think you need to make it more effective; somehow

You have correctly identified that holy water is essentially useless, so making a useless item cheaper just means you party can have more useless items. There are all sorts of consumable items that are similar, most poisons, alchemists fire and acid off the top of my head - all of which could benefit from a similar style buff to whatever you give holy water.

We can't really suggest homebrew here, and I have never played with any house rules to recommend from experience, but if you want these items to be useful you have to make them useful. Nobody uses things just because they are cheap, they use them because they are useful.

One thing to consider if you do buff it, you could simply limit supply to balance whatever effectiveness you decide on. It could outright kill a lich, but if it takes a literal god to create it and there is only one dose in existence that is pretty balanced (and likely an epic quest reward).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't those other consummables have similar costs and damage? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 4 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I think so, all I really remember without looking at the specifics is that they are (close to) useless, and nowhere near worth the cost. Not many potions / consumables are well priced, and this is the start of a slippery slope that characters get to enjoy all the way to level 20. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jan 4 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm super confused. Are you saying to emulate those consummables when you change or that holy water isn't the only consummable that seems suboptimal? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 4 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry misread your comment in my last reply; no they are not to be emulated! They can all have different buffs, but I think they are all in need of a buff - whatever that might entail \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jan 4 at 22:21
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Your question also contains the part "Am I missing something?!"

Yes you are missing some nice effects that RAW Holy water has. Not super significant but worth noting. These points are specific to LMoP, there might be more in general. I try to keep spoilers to a minimum.

As BBeast answered in the comments to your question, the radiant damage of holdy water can counter the undead fortitude trade of zombies.

There is an enemy later on in the mine that requires holy water. Although I did allow my party to finish him off another way. If you can somehow make your party keep the holy water until then that would be great. Maybe some hints by some NPCs in the temple where they buy the water or something similar. You can even make the hint also relate to the zombies, something like "required to keep some enemies down"

Although the module does not give an option to fight it and doesn't even include the stats, there is an enemy that is resistant to a lot of things, including nonmagical weapons. Not resistant to holy water though. Specifically (spoilers):

Banshee Agathe, my players started to mess up her home when she didn't answer and you might have her fight them if they do that.

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If you want players to use something, it has to not be obviously worse than their other options.

Your options are;

  1. It's more likely to hit than their regular attacks (this is what pathfinder/3.5 did, basically).

  2. It does more damage than their regular attacks.

  3. It affects a type of foe (such as an incorporeal enemy) that their regular attacks don't affect.

  4. It is the only way to defeat some kind of enemy or situation (defeats puzzle monsters, is a macguffin to defeat the lich permanently or w/e).

If the thing doesn't fit those criteria, it can still get used. Mostly due to roleplaying reasons. But in general if you want Holy Water to be a thing people use against The Undead then it should be better at hurting the undead than like, a big rock. Otherwise it doesn't fit the lore and/or players will ignore it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Under point 4, you could mention a zombie's Undead Fortitude trait. Holy Water isn't the only way to deal with it, but it is a good solution if other sources of radiant damage aren't handy. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Jan 5 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ 5. It can do partial damage on a miss (splash damage) like acid arrow \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Jan 6 at 17:42
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If you like making things more complicated (and some of us do), have the damage of holy water scale with the level of the cleric who made it.

If the local priest is third level, his vials do 3d6. But the next time the party goes through a big city, they learn the Reverend Mother is 8th level, so they stop by and make a donation.

When it comes time to take on the Lich Lord of Doom -- well, you've always wanted to visit the Vatican...

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Holy Water is weight effective for Magic Circle

I recently came across this conundrum in my game, it's not a super general topic, but still worth mentioning that it might be important for rebalancing holy water, as the powdered silver required for holy water weights 5 times as much as the holy water does.

The spell Magic Circle (PHB 256) has the following material component:

holy water or powdered silver and iron worth at least 100 gp, which the spell consumes

A 100 gp of powdered silver weighs about 20 pounds which is quite a bit to carry for a typical low strength wizard and that is only for one casting of the spell. Meanwhile the same amount in holy water only weights 4 pounds, which makes it a more weight efficient way of transporting


This all assumes that powdered silver weighs as much as the same value of pure silver, which according to PHB 157 is 5 gp for 1 lb. One could argue that powdered silver should be worth more at the same weight, as labour was used to powder it, but that is hard to calculate.

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