Last session our party (totem barbarian, mutant (homebrew) druid, starry druid, soulknife rogue, fathomless warlock, conjuration wizard, all 14th level) just got completely pwned by a couple of baddies. The fight lasted 5 rounds, they mopped the field with us, and we barely escaped by bugging out through a portal. We got away though and I have to count that as a win.

Aside from being generally just bad-to-the-bone, both of the baddies were scary as heck. I mean we were literally frightened of them. One baddie was a big ol dragon with Frightening Presence and the other was a paladin (or paladin-esque) with something like the conquest pally's Conquering Presence.

The relevant aspect of the dragon to the question is its Frightening Presence. It was some truly big and bad dragon of gargantuan size, with both cold and lightning, but this question is about dealing with the fear.

Yeah, the fear. Our barb I think in 5 rounds never got in a hit. He's our go-to melee scrapper and he never got over his fear of the pally. He'd move toward the dragon and the dragon would just fly off. The rest of us were also less than effective at times due to being frightened.

The fear allowed a save each turn, although the barb failed every time.

At the risk of fighting the last battle, we're trying to figure out how to better operate in similar circumstances.

We don't have a bard, cleric, or paladin so we don't have access to bless, calm emotions, heroism or similar spells on those lists or benefits from those classes. We're going to see what we can do with enhance ability and heroes feast. We're also looking at what we can do for the barb for ranged attacks.

We have plenty of magic items, but none to deal with this. Low-level magic items are relatively common, although rarely the one you want at the time you're looking, and at soul-crushingly exorbitant prices, and we've reached out to our contacts without much success, although we'll keep looking. We have enough money that plenty of relatively low-level magic items are within our grasp, if they can be found.

I always consider running away to be a strategically valid option, although in this case there was no terrain exit and we were lucky that we had any high-level teleportation-type magic left. I generally try to keep teleport available for just such a case, but we'd already used it that day.

We'd like to reach our objective by going around these two if we can, and we're trying to find out more about them, and we're tooling up to hit back harder if we have to, but, it's the fear, man, it's the fear. As someone once said, "fear is the mind-killer..."

The real problem is that the cause of the fear were area effects that we were getting subjected to from multiple sources. We couldn't suddenly eat a heroes' feast and enhance ability only works on one PC at a time, even had it been available. And then once you're frightened, attacks and ability checks are at disadvantage, which really puts a damper on things.

In this particular case, our barb couldn't close on the pally, and many of our attacks and abilities were weakened by being frightened.

In similar circumstances, being controlled through fear tactics, what have you successfully used to deal with being frightened, either negating it, or somehow managing to operate successfully in spite of it?

An example of negation would be enhance ability, although that one isn't great because it doesn't end the fear, it just enhances saves.

An example of operating successfully would be using magic missile, since it doesn't use an attack roll or an ability check and hence isn't adversely affected by the frightened condition.

related: "What are all the ways that a PC can become immune to the frightened condition?"

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you give us some more info about that battle? What type of dragon was it? What level is the party at? I'm wondering if there's more here to the question. Also, do you have a lot of o magic items in the game? Are they easily purchasable? How much money does the party generally have? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 27, 2022 at 21:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm really trying to focus on just the fear-factor, although I'm wondering if at this point I'm asking an unanswerable question. It seems like there must be others who have come up with strategies to deal with fear that I'm not seeing, but maybe it's not stackable. I'll put in a para on the dragon. The party is 14th, I thought I said that, if I didn't, I'll edit it in. We have a moderate amount of magic items, some are for sale, we have enough money that if something useful were for sale we could consider buying it. I'll add a sentence about money. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 27, 2022 at 21:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 27, 2022 at 21:57

2 Answers 2


Heroes' Feast

If your druid has access to heroes feast, they can save up their level six slot and you can have a nice dinner every evening:

The feast takes 1 hour to consume (...) Up to twelve creatures can partake of the feast.

A creature that partakes (...) is cured of all diseases and poison, becomes immune to poison and being frightened, and makes all Wisdom saving throws with advantage. Its hit point maximum also increases by 2d10, and it gains the same number of hit points. These benefits last for 24 hours.

We had a druid in our last campaign. They used heroes' feast on the evening before infiltrating and having a boss battle in in the refurbished temple of Elemental Evil against high level clerics, a beholder, a ghost, and a bunch of other nasties. Not being frightened and advantage on wisdom saves helped the fighter stand the ground against rays of the beholder, and against the ghost's horrifying visage. After this battle, essentially the group had heroes' feast every day of dangerous adventuring. They were also around level 14.

Immune to poison, wisdom save advantage and extra hit and max for all by itself might have been good enough already.

Since it runs 24 hours, it will keep you covered around the clock.

The only downside is the material component, which costs 1,000 gp each time. If that works will depend on how much treasure your DM hands out. Based on the treasure per level guidelines, you should be able to easily afford this as a party on level 14° - another good use for all that useless gold, in addition to copying spells...

If funds are an issue, it still may be worthwhile to cast it strategically before major assault operations. It runs long enough you can do so on the evening prior, so it does not even cost you a spell slot on the day.

° You should make many times that per day: on tier 3 the party would earn an average of 2 treasure hoards per level, each worth about 36,000 gp. Based on the encounters per day and xp per encounter guidance, you'd level every 2 days of game time, so your expected party income would be one hoard per day, or 36,000 gp (not counting petty cash from individual monsters). Even if it goes a good bit slower, you should be able to afford this. Of course, your groups' mileage may vary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The highest scoring answer at the treasure per level question you link doesn’t really support the point you’re making, and the accepted answer is pretty dubious, so I don’t think you’re getting as much out of referring to it as you are hoping. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 27, 2022 at 21:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov: yes, treasure is really up to the DM. Our own group, also at level 13, would not be able to afford it daily. I updated the answer to clarify it also has value when used strategically in advance. I do think the treasure per book calculations supports it pretty well, but no point to argue about it here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 27, 2022 at 22:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ This squares with my experience. Once my bard got heroes feast, we used it with some frequency and the party invested in those components as a priority. It was useful all the way up to level 20 as the enemies got more and more powerful. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 1:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ While some idiosyncratic games may have deviate from the norm and not give players much gold, RAW you are going to be swimming in gold by level 14 according to any sane reading of the rules. This is a known issue, this isn't some super rare niche thing to experience. Pulling rule negative one/two doesn't help anyone. My experience matches too, players are going to have a lot of gold and Hero's Feat is a legitimate way to spend it. \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 8:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ We blow through gold like nobody's business. We all have side projects, there are often minor magic items for sale, and we're scrupulous about component costs. Those 1000 a pop spells add up. Still HF is a good suggestion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 10:24

In my experience there are a few classic ways to deal with dragon fear:

  1. Wait it out. Frightful Presence lasts for 1 minute max and makes you immune for the next 24 hours. Once you are frightened simply run and/or hide then re-engage. If all you do is long rest then go back and fight them, you will still be immune to Frightful Presence making the fight a lot simpler. For this reason dragons will usually hold off on using this feature until it looks like they are going down, it's a feature that turns fights around.
  2. Break line of sight. There are numerous spells you can use to break line of sight, you can also do mundane things like dip around corners. This is a good time to cast buffs so you can make that check faster, you can also use other buffs or items during this time. Another thing you can do is;
  3. Do things that don't require attacks/ability checks. For spell casters this is super easy, they have tons of spells which require an enemy to make a check. This means they can operate without fear affecting them at all.

You can also try focus the Paladin. Dragons are notorious for their hit and run tactics, but a paladin can't keep up and will be a lot easier to focus down. If you can separate the two then the fight becomes a lot easier. Conquering Presence is a once-per-rest ability and only encompasses 30 feet. Try to bait it out with only 1 person in range, then try to cure them as quickly as possible or just accept that their damage dealing will be compromised and try to take down the paladin before the dragon can complicate things.

Keep in mind that although the dragon's DC19 is scary, on average with +0 Wisdom Saving it only lasts about 5-6 turns. Ironically it's nowhere near as scary as it looks.

Wisdom Save Average turns Turn 0 Turn 1 Turn 2 Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7 Turn 8 Turn 9
+0 5.6 10% 19% 27% 34% 41% 47% 52% 57% 61% 65%
+1 3.3 15% 28% 39% 48% 56% 62% 68% 73% 77% 80%
+2 2.1 20% 36% 49% 59% 67% 74% 79% 83% 87% 89%
+3 1.4 25% 44% 58% 68% 76% 82% 87% 90% 92% 94%
+4 0.9 30% 51% 66% 76% 83% 88% 92% 94% 96% 97%
+5 0.6 35% 58% 73% 82% 88% 92% 95% 97% 98% 99%

If it was only an adult dragon then the DC is only 16, making it far more likely you'll succeed - after 1 turn most of your party will be unaffected:

Wisdom Save Average turns Turn 0 Turn 1 Turn 2 Turn 3 Turn 4 Turn 5 Turn 6 Turn 7 Turn 8 Turn 9
+0 1.4 25% 44% 58% 68% 76% 82% 87% 90% 92% 94%
+1 0.9 30% 51% 66% 76% 83% 88% 92% 94% 96% 97%
+2 0.6 35% 58% 73% 82% 88% 92% 95% 97% 98% 99%
+3 0.4 40% 64% 78% 87% 92% 95% 97% 98% 99% 99%
+4 0.2 45% 70% 83% 91% 95% 97% 98% 99% 100% 100%
+5 0.0 50% 75% 88% 94% 97% 98% 99% 100% 100% 100%
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer! Can you add something that suggests that this answer is based on personal experience? I'm trying to make sure my question and its answers stay on "good subjective" by "sharing experiences over opinions". \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 10:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Oh yeah, thanks, removed note about guidance. About the dragon: OP's post said they fought the dragon and paladin for 5 rounds already and escaped - all without a plan. Scroll up and read the OP! I assumed it was an ancient dragon, but it could even be adult making it even easier to counter. \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 5:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Guidance does not work on saves, but Resistance would. Druids have both options. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 7:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin True, with 2 druids there is a lot of potential for casting. \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 7:39

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