How Long can you Hold Your Breath in DnD 5e?


Lots of people forget that you can hold your breath in DnD 5e. And for good reason, I mean; how often do you have to hold your breath in real life?
Exactly, not very often I’m sure. The same can be applied to your Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Unless your Dungeon Master specifically designed an underwater section for you to explore – you don’t really have to hold your breath.

Still, it’s a mechanic we have to explore, as the rules surrounding it are quite obscure – and weird in some cases.
So that’s why, in today’s guide; we will be talking about how long you can hold your breath – and any other relevant information that we deem necessary.
Without further ado, let’s get right into today’s guide.

So, how Long can you Hold Your Breath in DnD 5e?

Well, according to the Player’s Handbook, the specific time for which you can hold your breath is based on your constitution modifier. To be precise, PCs can hold their breath equal to +1 of their Constitution modifier. If they have a negative modifier, then the amount of time is approximately half a minute.

Here are some specific numbers, to have as a reference.

Constitution ModifierSeconds of BreathRounds until 0 hit points
-4 to -1366

Now to comment on the information in this table.

As you can see, the discrepancies are obvious from the get-go. Characters with no or negative modifiers will die almost instantly – white characters with a modifier that’s more than that have a fighting chance.
On paper, this difference doesn’t seem that major – but in practice, it’s quite different.

What’s worse, there’s no rule that covers “breath sharing.”
I put it in quotations to emphasize it. In a lot of Holywood movies, it’s a cliche to see two characters sharing their breath by sharing a kiss, but what if you had to do the same thing?

Then it comes down to the DM. What he allows – is what goes. Lots of Dungeon Masters even come up with their own homebrews that cover the grey areas of underwater encounters, so; get creative.

Ways in Which you can Increase Your Breath Hold Time

It doesn’t have to be so dull though, there are ways in which you can increase your breath after all.

For starters, the obvious one – increase your Constitution modifier. It really is the simplest and most direct method in which you can increase the amount of time you can hold your breath. But other than that, there’s also…

Racial abilities. More specifically, features. The Lizardfolk and Tortles have the ability Hold Breath which allows them to hold their breath for 15 min. The Vedalken also have an ability that allows them to breath underwater – the same goes for sea elves.

Ok, let’s say you’re a human right. In that case, you’re kinda boned. In the sense that, other than your constitution modifier – you can only increase it with magical items.
The most notable item that comes to mind is the Necklace of Adaptation which not only allows you to breathe underwater but also most poisonous fumes. Be careful though, some fumes may ignore this.

The final aspect I want to mention is undeath. Coincidentally, if you don’t care much about your lungs – you won’t care very much about holding your breath. I’ve yet to see a skeleton complain about smog.
Not just skeletons though, an undying warlock cares for breathing as much as he does for human rights.

Summary and Finishing Comments

That basically covers the breathing mechanic in DnD 5e. But let’s summarize.

Put plainly, you can hold your breath equal to +1 of their Constitution modifier. The higher Constitution you have – the more you can hold your breath. Just consult the table above for reference.

And here’s how you can increase that amount. Firstly, the obvious. Increase your Constitution. Other than that, be the right race for the job. Certain races get benefits in water, others make it their home – take the sea elves for example.

If that option is out of the question. Get the right magical items – or alternatively, become undead.

And that basically covers breathing in DnD 5e. Go out there and have some fun.

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