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Is there any way to block a Dragonborn's breath, to make the escape from

Velkynvelve

in Out of the Abyss moderately hard for a player who chooses to be a Dragonborn? If they can use their breath easily then they could (for example) burn the door down, or freeze the manacles until they're brittle and then snap them off.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please don't answer in comments. Answer in answers. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 7 '16 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you the DM or a player in this case? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 7 '16 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Neither,this is hypothetical. \$\endgroup\$ – blade Dec 7 '16 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @blade We ask that questions on RPG.SE seek to solve a real problem. When you ask a hypothetical question it makes it difficult to know if an answer will solve the problem, being that it can't be tested against a real problem. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Dec 7 '16 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suggest that your question might be better phrased as "can dragonborn breath do X" (X = freeze manacles, set door on fire, something else) rather than posing it as allowing or disallowing a player to do something with a racial ability. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 7 '16 at 20:06
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The Dragonborn's breath weapon has a built in limitation:

After you use your breath weapon, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.

Unless the dragonborn is taking a short rest after every combat and you, the DM, are allowing this short rest to go uninterrupted, the Dragonborn only gets to use this a few times a day.

I would expect that the Drow are not permitting the escapees much time for resting during and shortly after their escape.

If you're concerned about the dragonborn using his power to break free, well, the breath weapon only affects creatures:

When you use your breath weapon, each creature in the area of the exhalation must make a saving throw, the type of which is determined by your draconic ancestry...A creature takes 2d6 damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one.

Furthermore, if the dragonborn is planning to escape with the rest of the group, why would he use his breath weapon to break free of the door or his manacles when he could potentially use it to the group's benefit once fighting breaks between the captives and the guards? Seems like the more strategic use would be in the fighting during the escape, not to break out of the pen itself.

In any case, as far I see it, there's no real concern here -- the characters are expected to escape, after all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Dec 7 '16 at 17:54
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Just getting out from one set of restraints doesn't help your dragonborn player all that much.

  • Are there any other guards or enemies nearby who can subdue the dragonborn if he does anything funny?
  • What about the restraints binding the rest of the party? As LegendaryDude said, it's a once a rest power, meaning that if the dragonborn frees his hands, the rest of the party might be at disadvantage to attack the guards (or might not even be able to attack at all).
  • Even after you've escape confinement, an unlucky Stealth role or a perceptive drow might notice the characters sneaking off, alerting the rest of the compound and provoking a rather one-sided fight.

Escaping by using the breath weapon to burn down a door/shatter manacles/ect, even if it can be done without notice (unlikely, given the nature of the Underdark) requires careful planning and strategy. Even if you allow it to affect items (debatable), this only removes 1 hurdle in a multi-step problem of how to escape. It's like having a single key in a Zelda dungeon; yeah, it'll help you, but you've still got at least 2 or 3 to collect before you're done.

Is it powerful? Well, yeah. But no more so than Action Surge. Or Eldtrich Blast. Or Monk. (And actually, quite a bit weaker than that). It is certainly not the instant win button you make it out to be.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the whole answer, and especially the last sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 7 '16 at 20:08
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There are a couple ways you could achieve this effect.

  • Firstly, you could say that before the group was captured, the character used their breath weapon, and has not had a real rest since then, and as a result the breath weapon is unavailable.

  • You could say that, based on rules as written, since the breath weapon only specifies creatures it only has a meaningful effect on living creatures. So the breath weapon probably wont help.

  • You could say that because their captors realized that the character is a dragonborn, they muzzled him.

However, I strongly recommend that you do not implement these, or any other option to limit this feature. The job of the DM, as described in the PHB pg. 5 is:

The DM determines the results of the adventurers' actions and narrates what they experience.

Your job isn't to decide for the players what options they should or should not take to overcome a problem, your job is simply to provide them with a problem and let them solve it. One of the biggest causes of PC frustration is a DM taking away their agency in the name of pacing or story. And as all of the other answers have suggested, this is just one step in a difficult journey.

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