We're playing an AD&D 1e campaign and this came up over the weekend: are you immune to fear after your first successful save against it? In the end I capitulated to 3E precedents suggested by the players, but in hindsight I think I was wrong to do so.

I'm referring to fear as a spell-like effect, as generated by particularly terrifying creatures.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to make sure - is this spell the fear you talking about? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 25, 2014 at 12:15
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Yes you need to be more specific about where the fear is coming from. AD&D doesn't have a system of defined terms like later editions. Any ruling on fear effects has to be based on the text of what generating the fear. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Nov 25, 2014 at 19:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll amend the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neil B
    Nov 25, 2014 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


As Nagora mentioned in his answer, this is a grey area that will require DM interpretation. Here are a few possible approaches to this problem:

  1. A single save vs. fear that lasts the entire encounter
  2. A save vs. fear whenever the creature does specific actions
  3. A save vs. fear each round as long as the encounter lasts
  4. A save vs. fear once every set number of rounds

Now any of those options is defensible -- the first lessens the workload of running the encounter, the second seems to fit the RAW text best, while the last two make these creatures extra fearsome -- so you should feel free to do what works best for your group and campaign. Just be sure to inform your players ahead of time if you're making a change (i.e., before they commit to a strategy based on your previous ruling) and enforce your choice consistently going forward.

Addendum about dragon fear in the RAW: The best evidence from the core 1e books we have to adjudicate this comes from the MM on pages 29-30, which says the following about dragons:

"At adult age and older they radiate a powerful aura which causes a fear reaction, when a dragon flies overhead or charges, as follows ... [specific rules for different hit dice characters/creatures]"

This suggests that the fear reaction occurs each time the dragon does one of two things: charges the characters or flies over them. If running the rules as close to the RAW as possible matters to you, I would suggest the second method from the above list.


If it's the spell, then you must save each time the spell is cast on you, just like any other spell. Likewise, wands and spell-like powers. There's a grey area with some monsters, such as dragons, which cause fear simply by flying overhead or charging. Personally, in that and similar cases I would allow a single save to count for the whole of an encounter or battle.

To focus in on the edited question: if it's a spell-like ability then you save against it each time, just as you would a lightning bolt or other spell-like effect. The fear is actually a magical effect rather than being a simple morale failure or something similar which could perhaps be argued as wearing off.


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