I was running my players through Wave Echo Cave in LMoP today and they happened upon a very large group of Stirge. They have low AC and even lower HP, so I didn't think this would pose much of a problem. When the Stirge surprised half of my players, however, and began hitting them with Blood Drain , I became concerned.

Blood Drain: ..the stirge attaches to the target. While attached, the stirge doesn't attack. Instead, at the start of each of the stirge's turns, the target loses hit points due to blood loss. ...A creature, including the target, can use its action to detach the stirge.

I am wondering, if the description of this attack makes a point of saying a creature can use an action to remove the Stirge, as opposed to just using your action to attack a Stirge attached to your friend like any player would normally attempt, is this saying you can't attack the Stirge when it is attached to a creature and must, instead, use your action to remove it?

Keep in mind that all Player Characters are Medium, and at the smallest of them Small, sized creatures. A stirge is a Tiny creature, that has attached itself to a (in most cases) much larger creature to draw blood. I can't imagine the Paladin being able to swing on it with his Greatsword to desired effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do not answer in comments. Answer in answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 9, 2016 at 13:14

5 Answers 5


YES, the creature can attack the stirge (nasty little creatures).

The system is written to do what the ability or effect says just as written (Rules As Written) and it does not state that you cannot attack in the description of the stirge's Blood Drain ability. There is also no general rule covering attacking the stirge using this ability.

However there is the general rule regarding situational advantage and disadvantage that could come into play should you, the DM, decide they it is warranted:

Advantage and disadvantage DMG p.239

Advantage and disadvantage are among the most useful tools in your DM's toolbox. They reflect temporary circumstances that might affect the chances of a character succeeding or failing at a task.

Consider imposing disadvantage when:

• Circumstances hinder success in some way.

• Some aspect of the environment makes success less likely (assuming that aspect doesn't already impose a penalty to the roll being made).

Given this, as a DM I myself would impose disadvantage for this situation, possibly unless the attacking character uses a finesse weapon and dex based attack. A character in this situation may be able to gain advantage on the attack to cancel the disadvantage. Not only is this an appropriate situational modifier, in my opinion, but perhaps more importantly it adds a bit of flavour and drama to the proceedings.

There is a closely related question: "Does a character have a penalty attacking an attached Stirge?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree. The player is disadvantaged by trying not to hit their ally, however the stirge is disadvantaged by being stuck to someone. It's hard to dodge while latched onto someone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim B
    Dec 9, 2016 at 11:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ As I DM, I would not do this normally, but probably impose disadvantage to attacks on an attached stirge using outsized or otherwise inappropriate weapons, e.g. when using a greatsword or a heavy crossbow, or a thrown boulder. . . . at some point the situation would seem weird enough for DM ruling to step in. NB originally I had "lance on horseback" in that list, but actually I could imagine that working quite well, they can be pretty accurate . . . \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2016 at 12:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tim B: Fair point. However if the creature with the stirge attached wants to stop moving to make it the case that the stirge becomes a near stationary target then they had better hope no other stirges are attacking at the same time as they may well get advantage. And I am sure there could be more. As stated it, is a DM judgement as to the precise situational modifiers to apply and without going into all the myriad of cases it comes down to answering the question simply. It is perfectly acceptable to decide there is at least one adv and one disadv to cancel out. Your call. \$\endgroup\$
    – Protonflux
    Dec 9, 2016 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely, no arguments there. Was just pointing out that it ran both ways :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim B
    Dec 9, 2016 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Protonflux I think this answer could be better perfected by explaining WHY the option to forgo an attack to remove the stirge unharmed is given. Either risk rolling against it's AC and risk auto damage, or pull it off and let IT risk rolling against AC. All of these answers have been very hard to choose between but I really like your inclusion of the DM purview of using Advantage / Disadvantage to add more to the encounter. How a group of 10 Stirges nearly wiped my party of 4 level 4's is beyond me..... \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Dec 9, 2016 at 20:22

You're reading too much into this. If it was meant to say that a stirge can't be attacked while it's attached to a creature and/or that a creature must use an action to remove it then it would say so, explicitly. That would be a pretty big mechanic for the designers to not mention or simply just imply.

As also stated in an answer to a related question, once the stirge is attached to a target it's going to deal damage on its turn, no roll for attack or saving throw, no chance of missing. The PCs, on the other hand, do still have a chance of missing (and not dealing damage) if they attack it.

The line:

A creature, including the target, can use its action to detach the stirge

is there to give a creature an alternate and guaranteed way of stopping the stirge from dealing damage without having to worry about the possibility of missing. Yes they sacrifice an action to do so but once detached, the stirge once again has to make an attack roll and has a chance of missing and not dealing damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suppose I am reading in to what's there. I do not often fall into the pitfall of 'real life simulation' , but in this instance it is hard to detach my brain from "It's a Tiny insect like creature attached to a Medium creature 2 sizes larger than it but sure....that Greataxe is ONLY going to damage the Stirge and not the Goliath it's attached to." I understand why the option is there to remove it now though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Dec 9, 2016 at 6:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 I just noticed that there is no roll required to detach it, just an Action. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Dec 9, 2016 at 6:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ The thing is, the stirge is attached, that also makes it hard for it to dodge. Trying not to hit your friend is why there is still a miss chance, because it's hard to hit the stirge and not your ally. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim B
    Dec 9, 2016 at 11:18

There's a difference between attacking it and removing it

Nothing in the statement says that the stirge cannot be attacked, by the creature it's stuck to or otherwise.

Instead, a character with a stirge on it has a choice: attack the stirge or pull it off. If they pull it off, they don't deal damage, but no longer take the blood loss damage. If they attack it, they may kill it, but if the stirge survives, then it will still deal guaranteed damage on its turn.


My group fought stirges last night. They didn't think to just pull the creatures off. So they just attacked the attached stirges.

My ruling was that characters could attack the attached stirges. If they wanted to be careful not to harm the "host" PC the attack was at disadvantage. If they did not care about harming the host PC it was a normal attack roll and whatever damage they did to the stirge was also applied to the host PC. (I figured the stirges were soft and squishy enough that the attack would just go right through them.

The host PC could make an attack to a stirge attached to themselves without penalty and no damage to themselves.

It worked. No complaints about my ruling.

PS. It was a cool battle. Stirges are fun!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this, but I would actually shift it a bit: I would say if they want to be careful, they can attack normal, and if they don't care about hurting the host they could attack with advantage. That would make more sense to me, since the target can't dodge (so your attack should be advantaged), but you can give up that advantage by being more careful. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Jan 28, 2021 at 12:51

The best thing you can do is prise the stirge off with an action. But players might not know that, so if they do attack it and you want this to risk hurting the character a stirge is attached to, you could use either or both parts of this house rule:

When you attack a creature smaller than you that is attached to another creature and:

  • your attack roll misses your target but is high enough to hit the other creature, apply the damage to the other creature instead;

  • you reduce the target to 0 hit points, the remaining damage applies to the other creature.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The second option really doesn't make much sense with dex-based attackers (daggers and rapiers), who specialise in doing high damage through skillful attacks rather than force. \$\endgroup\$
    – Samthere
    Dec 9, 2016 at 10:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's true. Maybe for a Dex based attack, the attacker chooses how much of their Dex modifier applies to the total damage. Another option is to allow players to specify that their characters pull their punches, kind of opposite to the Sharpshooter feat: to reduce the damage of your attack by 4, your attack roll takes a -2 penalty. I'm sure there are many other possible rulings. And of course there's always non-lethal damage, and using a smaller weapon wielded by a weaker character. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2016 at 8:24

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