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Need D&D 5E rulings on Elder Sign spell
5 Posts
May 15, 2020 - 12:20 am

Hi there,

I’m running a 5e campaign using Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos 5e rule book.  We’re in combat now where a character has an Elder Sign from the Elder Sign spell on the front of his shield.  He is in combat with a Daughter of Shub-Niggurath. 

Here are my questions:

1. Does the elder sign on the shield give any benefit to protecting the character from the Pheromones of the creature?  I’m thinking No as it appears only the Elder Sign itself is “is immune to the damage, spells, and abilities from any Elder Influence, or creatures bound to their service.”

2. I get that if the character interposes the shield between himself and the Daughter the Daughter can’t touch or pass through the shield.  However, what’s preventing the Daughter from closing to 5 ft. distance and reach around the shield with its tentacles (20 ft. reach) to attack the character?  I’m thinking here that nothing is preventing this and the Daughter can attack the character as if there was no Elder Sign there.

3.  If the answer to question 1 above is No and the answer to question 2 is the Daughter can attack with her tentacles as if the Elder Sign was not there, then what is the benefit of having an Elder Sign in the possession of a character?

I want to add here that the Cthulhu Mythos 5e book is amazing and I’ve read it from cover to cover and am using it heavily in my campaign.  Please don’t take this question as looking negatively on this wonderful book.



47 Posts
May 15, 2020 - 10:40 am

1. I’d say no, based on two reasons. 1) The Shield itself is protected, the the person. It is extremely specific in the spell that the elder Sign itself is protected, not what it is on. Since the Pheromones are an area of effect, they’d go around the shield. 2) The Pheromones don’t do any damage. They cripple the target. The Sign just prevents damage and blocks creatures from moving through it.

2. Nothing. It’s even explicitly used as an example in the Elder Sign spell.

3. Well, you need to be creative. For example, you put an Elder Sign on a bunch of shields, you could for a human tortoise and be mostly covered. If you stand in a door frame, you’d be preventing the creatures from going through that door. Strap the shield to your back to help counter-act sneak attacks. And I’d even argue that the Daughter would still have to beat the player’s AC to hit them, as they could potentially see the tentacle come from the side and turn to react. 

5 Posts
May 16, 2020 - 12:21 pm

Thanks LuckyHastur (though it’s hard for me to imagine the two words Lucky and Hastur associated together, ha ha).  This is kind of what I thought but wanted to make sure.  Thanks for the time, help and guidance!

Sandy Petersen
157 Posts
May 15, 2020 - 2:23 pm

The Elder Sign isn’t like a crucifix vs. Dracula. The Elder creatures aren’t forced to shy away from it. They just can’t touch it. It is protective, but is most effective when set in place, rather than carried around. Thus you can seal a portal to keep Things inside, but a shield isn’t likely to be as useful.

In my games, I play that the Elder Sign “pushes back” against Elder Influenced entities, like when you try to push two magnets together. They literally can’t touch. 


The rules state: 

The Elder Sign is immune to the damage, spells, and abilities from any Elder Influence (see Chapter 8), or creatures bound to
their service (including deep ones or Tcho-Tcho, and most aberrations). These creatures can’t touch or pass through
an object with the Elder Sign. Generally, an Elder Sign is destroyed after being within 30 feet of an Elder Influence
for more than 5 continuous rounds. Note that since only the Elder Sign itself has immunity to various alien horrors,
its protection can be unreliable. For example, a shield with the Elder Sign drawn on it would not be affected by a Great
Old One’s attack, but the monster could still strike the bearer if it avoids striking the shield (and thus the bearer’s AC is
not any higher than it would be with an unmarked shield). Engraving the sign upon a door or on an archway prevents
such creatures from passing through the portal


I’d argue that the SHIELD isn’t affected by the pheromones, but I can’t see how it protects the shield’s user much. 

Answers Post
47 Posts
May 15, 2020 - 3:06 pm

Maybe if you shove the shield right up against your face…

5 Posts
May 16, 2020 - 12:52 pm

Wow, a response from the author!  Thanks Sandy.  This is really helpful.  I like the description of two magnets repelling each other and also your explanation that it’s not like a crucifix.  This will be incorporated into our battle during the next game session.  Thanks!

I’m loving your book! I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the old AD&D modules by Gary Gygax, G1 – G3 Against the Giants, D1 – D3 and Q1, but I’m running them now (something I’ve always wanted to do since 1980) in 5e on Roll20. It’s taken me a while to convert the modules to 5e and I have supplanted many of the creatures with ones from your book.

Gygax had an “Elder Elemental God” that the drow villainess Eclavdra was worshipping in the hopes that she would supplant Lolth as the ruler of the drow.  I’m wondering if Gygax reall wanted to use Cthulhu for the Elder Elemental god, but didn’t for fear of copyright infringement.  He even created the fish/man race of the Kuo-Toa worshipping a being known as Blibdoolpoolp which are uncannily familiar to the Deep Old Ones and their worship of Cthulhu.  In fact, in my campaign, I’ve renamed the D2 module to Shrine of the Deep Ones and of course put in Cthulhu as the worshipped deity of the Shrine.  I’ve merged your Deep Ones from the book with Gygax’s Kuo-Toa creating a single race of Deep Ones.

In my campaign, Eclavdra unearthed the Necronomicon which she used to summon Nyarlathotep, in which Nyarlathotep will then summon the Elder beings so that they return to the D&D multiverse.  The endgame is at level 20 the party will go to what 5e calls the “Far Realm” to seal the Necronomicon and another artifact (the “amulet of Nyarlathotep”) there forever removing the threat of the Great Old Ones, Outer Gods from the multiverse.

Sorry for the long reply here, but I wanted to let you know that your book has been a wonderful resource for me and has given half a dozen people hours and hours of fun!  I couldn’t resist on sharing a little bit of it with you.  🙂

All the best!


Sandy Petersen
157 Posts
May 18, 2020 - 7:00 pm

I am of course quite familiar with Gygax’s work. You are going to either love or hate what I’m about to reveal. 

In 1980, D&D published DEITIES & DEMIGODS, and included Lovecraftian horror (also some other properties Chaosium owned, i.e., Lhankmar & Stormbringer).  Chaosium, who had the license to Lovecraft’s work at the time, contacted TSR Hobbies and told them so. Here was the deal we offered them: 

“We don’t want to hurt gamers. So we are happy to give TSR Hobbies FULL RIGHTS TO PUBLISH references to all Lovecraft’s work in their book DEITIES & DEMIGODS. All we ask is that on the title page there is a single sentence reading, “Lovecraft entities by permission of Chaosium Inc.”

That’s it. All we wanted was them stating that we had given them permission. 

Rather than do this, what they actually did in the second edition of DEITIES AND DEMIGODS  was to print the sentence that we had given permission, and they took out the Lovecraft gods! We were bemused. They’d rather NOT have Lovecraft than give us any credit? But … they DID give us credit anyway! What the heck. The third edition, they also didn’t have Lovecraft, plus they took out the permission line. 


So gamers were screwed, because how are they better off not getting D&D stats for Cthulhu? TSR Hobbies back then was a real bunch of idiots/amateurs/jerks. Please note that Gygax at that time was no longer chief owner. But when he did Against the Giants he actually had full permission to use Lovecraft’s monsters, so if he didn’t, that’s on him. 

5 Posts
May 19, 2020 - 10:55 pm

Thanks Sandy! Love the reply and love you sharing the history, especially since you personally experienced it. I’d love to hear more. 🙂

I didn’t know that about Chaosium holding the rights and offering to give them full rights to publish. That’s too bad. I bought that book when it came out and was thrilled that it had Cthulhu/Elric/Lankhmar in it. When I saw the next version of it and saw those sections missing, I was disappointed. Learning more about what happened to TSR and Gary Gygax, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I was thinking, have you ever thought about creating a 5e Cthulhu module from Peterson Games in Roll20? It would be a great way to promote your book and increase sales, add another revenue stream on Roll20, and give people the opportunity to play with all of the awesome monsters/elder influences/spells/characters/races/magic items/dread rules, etc. If so, I’d be happy to help create a module on Roll20. I could leverage off of what I’ve already created. I have over 1,500 hours of experience on Roll20 and have built campaigns there from scratch. I’d be happy to show you my work if you’re interested. Let me know. Sounds like creative fun to me!

Sandy Petersen
157 Posts
May 20, 2020 - 12:20 pm

My team did look into Roll20. Your offer is useful. 

5 Posts
May 20, 2020 - 11:09 pm

Hi Sandy, here’s a 30 second example of my work on Roll20 using your material:


I’d love to put a module out on Roll20.

Let me know,


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