Whether the hero or the villain, you get to play as whatever you want and wear fancy shiny hats as well in the world’s greatest roleplaying game: Dungeons and Dragons.
Over the past few years, however, people have come to appreciate the game, and by its fifth edition coming out in 2014, the game has once again become a cultural phenomenon and a bastion of nerd and geek culture.
With Wizards of the Coast taking the helm of this beloved game, new worlds, settings, and characters have existed like never before.
This year marks the seventh year of positive growth for the game and it is foreseen to capture more players and fans than ever before. Gone are the times of panic when young nerds had to hide behind rows of spiky d4s to ensure they could play in peace. Today is a golden age for Dungeons and Dragons.
I have been playing and DMing games for over seven years now. With all the memorable and fun things the game has given me, it only seems right that I pass down some sage advice for new adventurers as well.
Welcome to a Dread Helm 5e Guide.
Common Magic Fashion Statement
The Dread Helm is more than the go-to fashion item when you want to roleplay a death knight or, quite possibly, a fantasy Darth Vader. The Dread Helm is one out of a long list of common magic items that were first introduced fully in the fifth edition by Wizards of the Coast in XGTE.
To the uninitiated, that’s Xanathar’s Guide to Everything for you, a supplementary book that came out in 2018 with new subclasses, feats, and magic items such as the Dread Helm.
Everyday magic items shouldn’t be too hard to find, so don’t feel bad asking your DM if they can spare you a nice magic helmet. Make sure you buy them a pizza or something in the next session.
A common magic item is unlikely to raise a character’s skill or optimize them completely. Instead, they are better used for impromptu roleplaying opportunities or flavor.
This is due to their properties being somewhat muted but very interesting. You won’t even find a +1 weapon amongst them, but you will find items that wouldn’t look out of place in a high magic setting.
In fact, that is where these items shine. In high magic settings such as the world of Eberron, you can expect magic to abound freely. Ordinary people are likely to have magic and magical items in turn. The only limit to these items is your creativity, so you best put your thinking caps on.
My favorite item is the cloak of billowing because of how ridiculous it can get to billow in the worst moments. Luckily, Dread Helms is all flavor and seriousness. I once equipped this on a hexblade shadow sorcerer of mine who ended up becoming a lich king, so a helm that supposedly inspires dread was very useful in the game.
Consider using the Dread Helm as more of an iconic way to make your character known instead. A Dread Helm, a common magic item, is supposed to inspire fear and awe in your enemies, so you ought to have the acting skills to keep up with it.
If you don’t, a hilarious way to roleplay it would be to act the complete opposite of what someone who would normally wear the Dread Helm would act like. As long as you keep everyone on your toes with this fearsome helm, then you can make the most out of it.
Dread Helm 5e Guide
Now that you know more or less the basics of everyday magic items and what they do, we can go on to what makes the Dread Helm unique. Down below, you’ll find out its properties, whose heads they’ve famously covered, and how to use your creativity with it in the best way.
A Dread Helm has one main thing it does. When you wear it, your eyes glow a baleful red. Epic if you are about to break your enemies and dash their spirits. But when you’re taking a nice photo with the adventuring party? Not so much.
When you wear the Dread Helm, there are several things that you ought to take note of. The first is that the helmet by itself has no inherent armor class bonus. You still have to get a set of armor to raise your armor class. Preferably it should be dark and ominous to match the helm, but pick whatever floats your boat.
Secondly, the Dread Helm makes your eyes glow red, but this is the only magical benefit there. You gain no bonuses to skills, but you do instead look very cool. As a plus, if your Dungeon Master might be persuaded to grant you advantages elsewhere, such as charisma checks, it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
A Map to Dread Helms
If you can’t find a Dread Helm anywhere in your adventures, then don’t worry about it. As a common magic item, they should be purchasable or craftable for a sum less than an uncommon magic item. So unless your DM really hates the Dread Helm and always has it out of stock, then you’ll be able to buy one instead.
If you instead choose to craft your own Dread Helm, you have to ensure you have three things available. The first is downtime to create it, followed by tools to craft one. Lastly, you need the skill to create it. Check with your DM for the appropriate skill checks you might need to go through and what tool proficiencies you require.
Some assured Dread Helms are found in two established Dungeons and Dragons adventures so far. The Dragon of Icespire Peak is one of those. The second can be found in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
Dreading the Dread Helm (Here are better Alternatives)
Despite how cool a Dread Helm may make you look, let’s be honest, looking cool can only get you so far. Unless you have an extremely lenient Dungeon Master, and that’s an emphasis on leniency, the Dread Helm won’t do much.
The Dread Helm is purely a cosmetic item and provides less utility compared to other common magic items. Some common magic items may occasionally prove useful, such as the veteran’s cane which disguises a longsword.
Some are potentially very powerful, such as the clockwork amulet, which guarantees an attack roll of 10 once daily. By comparison, the Dread Helm isn’t pulling its weight.
To get the most mileage out of your Dread Helm, you must ensure that you want the item purely for cosmetic purposes. Take care, as a stingy Dungeon Master might deny you access to magical headgear with useful effects. Say goodbye to that headband of intellect or that hat of disguise.
Additionally, you’ll have to ensure that you have the roleplaying skills to back up your Dread Helm. I’m just saying ‘my eyes glow red’ is a gimmick that often gets old quickly. Unless you have an interesting take on it, you might be bored with the item. For newer players, you might want to consider other common magic items if you want something more interesting.
If you want some other high-powered alternatives, consider looking at some magical headwear instead. These are often harder to access and don’t come cheap. The upside is that these are powerful and do so much more than letting you cosplay. We already have five standout items in the uncommon tier of magic items.
A Cap of Water Breathing doesn’t require attunement but lets you breathe underwater indefinitely until you take it off. Meanwhile, A Hat of Disguise and the Headband of Intellect will provide you with an at-will Disguise Self, or a permanent boost to your intelligence score!
To round out our list of uncommon hats and helms, the Helm of Telepathy and Helm of Comprehend Languages gives you even more free spells with the detect thoughts spell and comprehend languages spell, respectively!
Leveling Up Your Dread Helm
For the Dungeon Masters reading this guide right now, the Dread Helm is a potent tool in your hands. You have to make sure that you make it memorable once the players see the item pop up. What better way to do that than to put it in the hands, or rather the on the head, of an iconic villain?
Think about it; glowing red eyes that radiate pure malevolence is a classic evil trope that works for a reason. Glowing red eyes on a dark helm embodies wrath, ruin, and damnation. There’s a reason Death Knights also have glowing eyes.
These glowing eyes also hide the real look of the creature wearing such a helm. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, try exploring the implications of what it means when your eyes are covered.
For a good story prompt, consider giving the Dread Helm away, but add an interesting curse on it. Other than making it extremely hard to remove, you can also consider giving the player wearing it a form of rage, psychic damage, or madness.
This prompt alone is good enough to spawn a quest to remove the item from your player’s hands. Figuring out how to get rid of it will be quite a problem, especially if any of the Dread Helm’s original owners want to wield it once again.
To reward the players, consider upgrading their Dread Helm to a slightly more magical one. The easiest way to do this is by improving the wearer’s armor class. With armor class being such an important mechanic, just a +1 increase should bump it up to rare or higher.
To make things better, you can also consider attaching a spell you can cast using the helm once per day, such as darkness. Perfect as the helm on some variants also wreathes the wearer in shadow.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Why Does the Dread Helm have no Armor Class Bonus?
Answer: Unfortunately, Dread Helms does not give a flat armor class bonus, as they are meant to be wearable no matter the set of armor that you have. Armor class magic items that stack on top of your normal armor are also extremely rare.
Giving the helm that property would no longer make it a common magic item and would remove the reason for its existence: flavor.
While the Dread Helm doesn’t have an armor class bonus, it doesn’t matter anyway. You are getting one magical effect at no cost since it has no attunement cost. So count your blessings.
Question: Where Can I Get a Dread Helm?
Answer: Other than the official adventures and ones found in the magic item stores, you can always ask your DM to create a new Dread Helm just for you.
As a Dungeon Master, you can always line up an enemy for them to come across that has the Dread Helm on it, or you can craft new story elements revolving around a collection of the helms.
If you want a good place to start creating one as a DM, try flavoring other magical items instead and adding their effects to the Dread Helm. Give your Dread Helm the effect of Efreeti Chainmail and make wearers resistant to fire, or keep a demon bound.
Question: What Designs do Dread Helms Come in?
Answer: While the Dread Helm is traditionally a stell winged helm, you can flavor it any way you want with your Dungeon Master’s permission. Tailor it to specific armor designs by different cultures or base it off other fantasy mediums.
Get ready to make your enemies tremble at the fearsome sight of your Dread Helm. Hopefully, you’ve gained enough information from this to consider seeking out the magic item and using it whenever appropriate.
Whether you are a new player or an old one, keep using common magic items to add more dimension to your roleplaying.
With that being said, keep your head protected, and may you always find shiny hats., As your adventures come along, you’ll certainly need it. That’s all from this retired adventurer, until next time, take care.