Learn how the invisible condition works, how you can take advantage of it and protect yourself from others using it
The invisible condition is an unusual one in D&D 5e as it’s typically a condition you do want affecting you unlike other conditions like incapacitated or paralyzed. In fact, it can be an extremely helpful condition to make use of. Of course, on the flip side, it’s one that your enemies might well take advantage of too, much to your own detriment.
Fortunately, our guide is here to explain how the invisible condition works, how you can use it to your advantage and what you can do if one of your enemies is invisible.
The Player’s Handbook explains the rules for the invisible condition, explaining that it causes the following effects:
Player’s Handbook, p290
- An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured. The creature’s location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves.
- Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have advantage.
How does the invisible condition work?
Invisible is a hugely complicated condition in D&D 5e, and partly, this seems, because the rules keep referring back to situations that are different from being invisible. Unfortunately, this means that examples like being in total darkness or hidden by dense foliage don’t always apply neatly to examples of being invisible, however, we’ll attempt to unpick the rules as written as best we can and offer advice for DMs attempting to rule on certain scenarios.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. If you are invisible, you have advantage on attack rolls and when someone attempts to attack you, they have disadvantage. It’s important to note that this includes instances where an enemy has identified your location, perhaps because you’ve attacked them, they heard you make a noise, but even when using certain spells that allow you to identify the location of an invisible creature like see invisibility. This will allow you to identify where the creature is, but they still benefit from advantage on attack rolls and you still have disadvantage to attack them (presumably they simply appear blurred or faded or something similar).
In order to restore the balance of combat against an invisible creature, you will need a spell that specifically negates the effects of the invisible condition like faerie fire, or you’ll need to eradicate the invisibility altogether.
To understand the other elements of invisible, we’ll need to jump around the rulebook a bit. The other rules relating to invisible are regarding identifying their location. First off, an invisible creature is impossible to see without the use of magic, however, there are ways you can sense an invisible creature’s presence. They might make a noise, create a footprint in mud, or give off a powerful odour like perfume (or an unwashed body). Identifying their location would still require a perception check vs their stealth.
Because the rules state an invisible creature is heavily obscured, and lightly obscured creatures impose disadvantage on perception checks, we can assume that this is the minimum requirement for identifying the location of an invisible creature. Unfortunately, rules on heavily obscured don’t specifically state any disadvantage on perception checks but I would rule that this would be the minimum we’d reasonably impose.
All of this relates to some important rules in the Player’s Handbook around unseen attackers and targets which say:
Combatants often try to escape their foes’ notice by hiding, casting the invisibility spell, or lurking in darkness.
When you attack a target that you can’t see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you’re guessing the target’s location or you’re targeting a creature you can hear but not see. If the target isn’t in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the DM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target’s location correctly. When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.
lf you are hidden–both unseen and unheard–when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.Player’s Handbook, p194-195
While invisible incurs disadvantage on attack rolls against the creature, the attacker still needs to identify the correct location of the creature. Sometimes this might be inferred by the environment, but often it won’t and even if you know there’s an invisible creature in your midst, you will still need to identify its location somehow. This could be through a perception check, or when the creature attacks you or makes a noise. If you incorrectly guess where the invisible creature is, you will always miss, even if your attack roll (at disadvantage) would have ordinarily hit the target.
How do you become invisible?
There are a few ways to become invisible in D&D 5e including from spells, racial abilities, class features and magic items. There are also a bunch of monsters that can turn themselves invisible (terrifying, I know)!
Spells that make you invisible
While there is the obvious invisibility spell, there are also a bunch of other spells that make you invisible too, many with varying effects. We’ve summarised them all below for you:
|Spell||Level||Casting Time||Range||Saving Throw||Duration||Classes||Description|
|Invisibility||2nd||1 action||Touch||None||1 hour||Artificer, Bard, Sorceror, Warlock, Wizard||Makes a target invisible. The spell ends when the target makes an attack or casts a spell.|
|Greater Invisibility||4th||1 action||Touch||None||1 minute||Bard, Sorceror, Wizard||Makes a target invisible. This spell doesn’t end when the target makes an attack or casts a spell.|
Magic items that make you invisible
You may not always be able tog et your hands on a magic item, but if your DM is generous or if you have a decent stack of gold, there are a couple of magic items that can be found that make you invisible. These include:
- Cloak of invisibility
- Ring of invisibility
Abilities that make you invisible
There are some class and racial abilities that can make you invisible to a greater or lesser extent. These include:
- Warlock – One with Shadows: Turn invisible when in dim light or darkness and not moving or taking actions.
- Gloomstalker Ranger – Umbral Sight: Invisibile to any creature that relies on darkvision when in darkness.
- Way of Shadow Monk – Cloak of Shadows: Invisible when in dim light or darkness until you make an attack, cast a spell or move into bright light.
- Firbolg – Hidden Step: Provides invisibility for a turn
- Gnome – Fade Away (racial feat): Use your reaction when attacked to turn invisible for a turn.
- Duergar – Innate Spellcasting: Can cast the invisible spell.
Creatures that can become invisible
There are a lot of creatures that can turn invisible giving DMs loads of options for invisible enemies. SImplest of all is to simply give the invisible spell to a spellcaster (it’s only level 2 so can be used for a lot of creatures even those with a low challenge rating). Some of these creatures include:
- Faerie Dragon
- Gloom Weaver
- Green Hag
- Invisible Stalker
- Air Elemental
How do you prevent handle invisible enemies?
Facing an invisible enemy can be a big problem. Identifying where they are can be a challenge, but then actually hitting them is also a challenge once you’ve worked out where they are (plus they get advantage on attack rolls against you. Fortunately, there’s a bunch of things you can do to deal with an invisible enemy:
- Spells that counter invisiblity – First thing to do is counter invisible with some kind of magic. If your enemy is making themselves invisible with a spell, you can use counterspell to prevent them. If they have become invisible, there are a few spells that will help you see them like faerie fire, dispel magic (if it’s invisiblity from a spell) and see invisiblity.
- Area of effect spells – To avoid the disadvantage of making an attack roll, and if you’re not sure about the exact location of a target, you can use an area of effect spell instead.
- Other spell uses – There may be other spells you can use to help control the situation a bit. Dissonant whispers for instance might cause the enemy to scream in pain. One of the many wall spells could be used to funnel your enemy into a certain location and Leomund’s tiny hut could be used to wait for your enemy to have their invisiblity run out.
- Grappling and shoving – Invisible doesn’t incur a disadvantage on strength and dexterity checks like those involved in the grapple and shove actions. If you know roughly where the invisible creature is, you can attempt to grapple them to keep them in place and then shove them on the floor to negate the disadvantage of attempting to hit an invisible creature.
- Use mundane items – A lot of things can be used to give some hint of where an invisible creature is or attempt to manage them a little. Flour can be thrown on an invisible creature or rain can pour on them to give a clue as to their location. You could spread oil on the floor and ignite it to funnel an enemy (or not ignite it and see where they tread. Ball bearings can help in a similar way. You can probably think of a bunch of other creative ways to identify the location of an invisible creature.
All condition guides
Conditions are powerful tools or problematic obstacles in D&D 5e. You can learn more about all the conditions of D&D 5e in our guides below: