A chill runs down your spine as you pass by the pool of magma. You turn around just in time to see a wiggling body emerge from the pool. The strange, winged creature dashes towards you in a flash, opening its mouth to unleash a torrent of flames that consume your body.
I tend to start my long-term D&D campaigns at a low level. Generally either at level 1 or 2. I find it lets the players grow into their PCs more naturally even if the lower levels are less fun to play due to the lack of player options.
One of the first activities I do to get myself in the low-level mindset is to flip through sourcebooks in search of low-level creatures. This helps me both remember the relative power level of appropriate creatures and envision what type of creatures and adventures I want to use in my new campaign.
Mephits are a fantastic and versatile creature that I wish I featured more often in my homebrew games. Much like their well-known older cousins, the elementals, mephits can be found anywhere, often hiding among various features in their habitat.
Please watch your step as we head into the Monster Manual. You never know where a mephit could be hiding!
Magma Mephit Lore
Mephits are to elementals as imps are to devils. They’re small, less-powerful versions of their full-sized counterparts.
I think this is a great analogy, but it’s pretty on-the-nose considering that the 5e mephit artwork looks imp-like. Oh, and the fact that their official background info straight-up says that mephits are imp-like creatures.
So think of them like the elemental version of imps and you’re good to go.
However, one really cool facet of mephit lore that gives them a distinct identity is that, unlike the typical 5e elementals, mephits are actually combinations of two different elements.
For example, the magma mephit is a combination of an earth and fire elemental. Due to this combination, it tends to prefer to live in a location that has both of these elements heavily featured such as a volcano.
Magma Mephit Stats and Abilities
You can find the magma mephit’s statblock on page 216 of the Monster Manual.
Size: Small elemental
HP: 22 (5d6 + 5)
Speed: 30 ft., fly 30 ft.
STR: 8 (-1)
DEX: 12 (+1)
CON: 12 (+1)
INT: 7 (-2)
WIS: 10 (+0)
CHA: 10 (+0)
This is actually a decent ability score array for a CR 1/2 creature. There’s nothing remarkable in here, but the +1 to Dexterity and Consitution will go a long way in direct combat as well as the magma mephit’s ability to succeed on the majority of saving throws.
11 AC is mediocre and 22 HP isn’t much to write home about, but having 30 ft. of flying speed at a low CR is an enormous defensive boon. The magma mephit can fly out of reach of the party’s melee attackers and spew its Fire Breath and cast Heat Metal for two turns, avoiding a decent chunk of damage.
All in all, this is a solid spread. There are some noticeable weaknesses, but they’re offset well by some hefty strengths.
Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills
Skills: Stealth +3
Damage Vulnerabilities: cold
Damage Immunities: fire, poison
Condition Immunities: poison
Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages: Ignan, Terran
CR: 1/2 (100 XP)
Proficiency in Stealth and False Appearance are two great tools for creating an ambush encounter. An extra round in combat will certainly make these already strong creatures, stronger.
Surprisingly, the magma mephit does have a vulnerability, which is dangerous for a creature with such low HP. Even more so since cold damage is a common damage type for spellcasters to use, especially at the lower levels.
However, this flaw is, yet again, offset by a major boon in that the magma mephit is immune to two equally as common damage types, fire and poison.
All in all, I’d say CR 1/2 is a fair label for the magma mephit. Although, they are difficult creatures to judge. They have a ton of useful tools and, ergo, have an enormous amount of potential. However, they still have some punishing weaknesses that a crafty party can exploit to render them useless.
Traits and Abilities
Death Burst. When the mephit dies, it explodes in a burst of lava. Each creature within 5 feet of it must make a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw, taking 7 (2d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
False Appearance. While the mephit remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from an ordinary mound of magma.
Innate Spellcasting (1/Day). The mephit can innately cast Heat Metal (spell save DC 10), requiring no material components. Its innate spellcasting ability is Charisma.
Death Burst is a fun mechanic. It’s a guaranteed 1d6 fire damage at a bare minimum. Ensuring that even if a party takes your mephit down quickly, you can at least drain their resources a bit with one last hurrah.
False Appearance is a fantastic way to generate surprise rounds. It’s a powerful option to help offset the creature’s weak defenses, but also a great way to teach newbies about surprise rounds and ambush mechanics in 5e.
The magma mephit’s Innate Spellcasting is unbelievably powerful. Heat Metal brings a plethora of value to the table. It’s an action to cast it initially, but if the mephit maintains concentration, it then can use its bonus action to continuously deal fire damage to the target on subsequent turns.
Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 3 (1d4 + 1) slashing damage plus 2 (1d4) fire damage.
Fire Breath (Recharge 6). The mephit exhales a 15-foot cone of fire. Each creature in that area must make a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw, taking 7 (2d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
Claws is a respectable bread-and-butter attack. It’s nothing to write home about but 5 damage at CR 1/2 is perfectly o.k.
Fire Breath, however, is such a fantastic action that should be used whenever it’s available. 7 fire damage on average with at least half of it being guaranteed is a respectable amount. If you clip even two PCs with it you’re leaps and bounds ahead of what you could accomplish with Claws.
Plus, it’s a great way to introduce rechargeable actions to players.
Magma Mephit Strengths
Massive Damage and Offensive Action Economy
If your mephit maintains Heat Metal the party is in for a bad time.
This spell gives the creature a usable bonus action, improving their action economy. Plus, it deals 9 fire damage on average. That’s a hefty amount of damage for a CR 1/2 creature alone.
Even pairing this with Claws nets you 14 fire damage a turn and that’s the creature’s worst offensive action!
The ability to fly is an enormous boon for low CR creatures. Completely avoiding melee attacks will hinder melee-centric PCs, especially if they lack viable ranged options.
Avoiding this damage helps creatures shore up the defensive weaknesses that low CR creatures tend to have.
The magma mephit, however, can not only fly but continue to attack for at bare minimum two rounds plus any subsequent rounds that its Fire Breath is available.
This means that the mephit does not have to choose between staying out of melee range (defenses) and their offenses. Ergo, the creature doesn’t miss a beat in combat.
Plentiful AoE Damage
AoE damage is quite rare for low CR creatures. Which makes sense. Low-level PCs don’t have much health, so constantly being clipped by AoE will quickly drop them, whereas high-level PCs would simply get slowly whittled away by similar attacks.
The magma mephit is quite a dangerous foe as it has two AoE “attacks” that can wreak havoc in the party’s formation rather quickly. Not to mention the fact that both AoEs deal guaranteed half damage on a successful save.
Death Burst and Fire Breath require some finesse with the creature’s positioning, but the amount of damage they can unleash is worth your while.
Magma Mephit Weaknesses
Mediocre Defenses Against Ranged Foes
The magma mephit isn’t in a bad spot with regards to melee opponents. It can function quite well in the air well out of its opponent’s reach.
However, the magma mephit has a real tough time against ranged opponents. Namely spellcasters.
The mephit’s low AC doesn’t do it any favors. While 22 HP isn’t bad at CR 1/2, it quickly takes a turn for the worst if they’re up against a spellcaster a low-level cold damage spell or a Cantrip like Ray of Frost.
How to Play a Magma Mephit
Early Setup is Crucial
The magma mephit has a respectable two-round setup in play. Follow these steps and you’ll kick the fight off in your favor!
- Fly above the party and cast Heat Metal on a target’s armor
- Fly above a cluster of enemies, if possible, and unleash Fire Breath. Cast Heat Metal on the original target using a bonus action
After these first two rounds, you can go in closer to utilize the magma mephit’s Claws until its Fire Breath recharges.
Fret not, with proficiency in Stealth checks and False Appearance, you’ve got a solid shot at gaining a surprise round to help the mephit with their two-round setup.
Know When it’s Time to Die
Death Burst is a fantastic bit of extra damage to drain the party’s resources one last time. Softening them up for the mephit’s allies deeper in the dungeon.
However, the explosion it causes is a relatively small area. Only creatures within 5 ft. of the mephit will be impacted by the blast.
This means that you need to be proactive in knowing when it’s time for your mephits to get up close for their last hurrah. Realistically, if your mephit is at half health or lower, it’s only got about a round or two left against most parties.
When you’ve hit this point, send them into the middle of as many tightly grouped PCs as possible and watch the fireworks happen as your mephit burns them to a crisp one final time.
5 Magma Mephit Plot Hooks
- Missing Hikers – A group of tourists went up Mt. Doom for an leisurly hike. That was three days ago and they’ve yet to return to their rooms at the tavern.
- A Haunted Refinery – The local refinery has been evacuated after the workers claim to have seen “ghosts” in the pools of magma used to heat the machinery.
- Reclaiming their Mountain – A drove of fire elementals moved into the now-charred village at the bottom of the volcano. The townsfolk wish to reclaim their land, but they can’t drive off these elementals themselves.
- A Strange Familiar – A young wizard believes that they can convince a magma mephit to be their familiar. They’re offering a hefty sum to anyone that can bring them a live one.
- The Family Reunion – Once a century, mephits from all over the world convene in a valley at the bottom of a glacier. Scholars alike are keen to get a close-up look of this strange phenomena and are hiring adventuerers for protection.
Mephits are fun creatures. They’re adaptable and can be used almost anywhere. Well, maybe not magma mephits specifically, but there are 6
flavors types to choose from!
While they definitely have the tools to be a huge pain in the ass for a low-level party, magma mephits also are a great way to teach a party of new players a bunch of different 5e mechanics in one go. For example, they’ve got AoE attacks, stealth, spellcasting, damage vulnerabilities & immunities, flying, and a rechargeable action.
They’re a great starter creature to showcase the different elements of the game that’ll pop up as they progress. Plus, they’re quite fun to pilot at a stage of the game that’s full of simple hack and slash-type creatures!