At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, the guardians are fighting a massive interdimensional monster, The Abilisk. Since they seemingly can’t damage from outside, Drax jumps in its mouth. Ultimately, this didn’t work (though Drax thought it did).
But, does it work in D&D?
Monsters That Swallow
There’s not many monsters that can outright swallow a Player Character (PC) in 5th Edition. The core rules offer the Behir, Giant Toad, Purple Worm, Remorhaz, Tarrasque, Udaak (and the Banderhobb if we include Volo’s Guide to Monsters).
There’s a few other swallowing monsters in specific adventures, but we can focus on these six.
When deciding whether to dive inside a monster’s gullet, there’s a few considerations:
- How much damage can I deal outside?
- How much damage can I deal inside?
- How much damage will I take inside?
- How much damage will I take outside?
First, you need to know how much damage you can deal while on the outside of a monster, so you can establish a baseline to determine whether it’s better to be attacking from the inside. This is pretty simple math, that takes into account your attack bonus versus the monster’s Armor Class (AC), and multiplies the resulting odds by the expected damage output (with small adjustments for stuff like critical hits).
While swallowed, a creature is has both the blinded and restrained conditions. These both impose disadvantage. Luckily for the creature, (dis)advantage doesn’t stack, so they’re just attacking at disadvantage …or are they?
In fact, they’re not. Since a swallowed creature is inside the belly of the beast, they can’t be seen either. Since a swallowed creature can’t be seen, they are heavily obscured. So, the swallowing creature is effectively blinded to the swallowed creature.
What happens when you’re blinded? Attack rolls have advantage against you! Advantage for the swallowing creature cancels out disadvantage from the swallowed creature being blinded and restrained. So, a swallowed creature makes a straight attack roll against the target.
So, the damage inside is the exact same as the damage outside. That is, unless your monster has some special feature that protects them on the outside. For example, the Tarrasque’s Reflective Carapace:
The Tarrasque’s Reflective Carapace can reflect line spells or spells that require a ranged attack roll. While this won’t help a raging barbarian deal any more damage from the interior, a spellcaster can bypass the 100% chance to negate certain spell attacks (and the 17% shot they bounce back to you!).
First, you need to know how much damage you will take while on the outside of a monster, so you can establish a baseline to determine whether it’s better to be attacking from the inside. This is pretty simple math, that takes into account your Armor Class (AC) versus the monster’s attack bonus, and multiplies the resulting odds by the expected damage output (with small adjustments for stuff like critical hits).
If you’re in a monster’s belly, it can’t attack you with its regular attacks! In fact, the swallow rules make this specific by providing you total cover while swallowed. But, you might run into some pesky stomach acid. Acid damage procs at the beginning of the swallowing creature’s turn, and can’t be avoided. Though, it can be reduced with resistance from class features like Bear Totem Barbarian’s Rage or spells like Absorb Elements.
The question is whether you’re taking less (guaranteed) damage inside the monster, than you would from taking full attacks outside the monster. Especially if the damage you can deal in both places is the same. But, there’s a few more considerations.
Primarily, having a creature swallowed doesn’t necessarily stop the creature from doing other stuff on its turn, so the monster’s total damage output may be going up. But, that’s not always the case.
Sometimes, for smaller swallowing creatures, their attacks may be disabled while they have a creature swallowed. For example, the Banderhobb can’t use its bite or tongue attacks while it has a creature swallowed. So while you might not be face-tanking the creature, you can still achieve good damage denial by negating its attacks.
Finally, be sure to take into account defensive measures that work whether you’re on the inside or the outside. While a Udaak’s charge won’t work on a swallowed creature, the Remorhaz’s Heated Body will damage creatures whether they’re on the inside or outside of the creature, since it procs on touch.
It probably doesn’t make sense to hop into a monster’s belly, unless you can’t tank their full attack damage, you’re trying to disable a lower-CR monster’s attacks, or you’re a bulky mage trying to fire off some ray spells into a Tarrasque.
Ultimately, the calculation will come down to your own character’s stats and bonuses, so here’s a handy chart to help you figure that out:
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