5E Flameskull: A Powerful, Underrated, & Versatile Enemy

The flameskull is one of my favorite low to mid-level enemies in 5th Edition D&D, and it’s one that you can get crazy creative with because of some very unusual and particular features of this creature. In fact, one such use by me in an old campaign has the group ultra aware of any potential signs of 5E flameskulls and loaded up with holy water in every single campaign…even when there’s no Cleric or Paladin in the group.

The 5E flameskull is a CR 4 monster that is far more dangerous than the rating thanks to dangerous spells, fast speed, and unique features that make it a very interesting potential challenge to a party.

I am a huge fan of this monster as it can pose a very interesting challenge, indicates some strong magical influences in the area, and can really set the tone for that section of a session or campaign, especially when it comes to using it in a creative, unusual, or foreboding enemies. This is one of those rare enemies that isn’t “Just another enemy.”

While you can certainly use it that way for a dungeon crawl or one-shot, the potential for mischief that the flameskull brings to the table is something that should not be ignored by DMs because if you want to challenge an experienced TTRPG player party, you need to be able to think outside the box and this is an enemy that allows you to do that.

So let’s jump in and look at everything the 5th Edition DnD flameskull has to offer!

5E Flameskull Complete Stat Block

The 5E Flameskull

  • Tiny undead, neutral evil
  • Armor Class 13
  • Hit Points 40 (9d4 + 18)
  • Speed 0 ft, fly 40 ft (hover)

STR 1 (-5), DEX 17 (+3), CON 14 (+2), INT 16 (+3), WIS 10 (0), CHA 11 (0)

  • Skills: Arcana +5, Perception +2
  • Damage Resistances: Lightning, Necrotic, Piercing
  • Damage Immunities: Cold, Fire, Poison
  • Condition Immunities: Charmed, Frightened, Paralyzed, Poisoned, Prone
  • Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 12
  • Languages: Common
  • Challenge: 4 (1,100 XP)
  • Proficiency Bonus: +2

Illumination. The flameskull sheds either dim light in a 15-foot radius, or bright light in a 15-foot radius and dim light for an additional 15 feet. It can switch between the options as an action.

Magic Resistance. The flameskull has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Rejuvenation. If the flame skull is destroyed, it regains all its hit points in 1 hour unless holy water is sprinkled on its remains or a dispel magic or remove curse spell is cast on them.

Spellcasting. The flameskull is a 5thplevel spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). It requires no somatic or material components to cast its spells. The flameskull has the following wizard spells prepared:

  • Cantrip (at will): Mage Hand
  • 1st level (3 slots): Magic Missile, Shield
  • 2nd level (2 slots): Blur, Flaming Sphere
  • 3rd level (1 slot): Fireball


  • Multiattack. The flameskull uses Fire Ray twice.
  • Fire Ray. Ranged Spell Attack: +5 to hit, range 30 ft, one target. Hit: 10 (3d6) fire damage.


Blazing green flames and mad, echoing laughter surround an undead flameskull. This disembodied skull blasts foes with fiery rays from its eyes and dreadful spells called up from the dark recesses of its memory.

There’s a lot here to break down. The first is to point out that if there is more than one flameskull: be careful! A fireball is just as fun for the DM as it is for the players for the same reason: it’s overpowered. If you have two flameskulls pop up and fireball, fireball, that Level 6 adventuring party can be in serious trouble.

Especially with some failed DEX throws.

That said, let’s break down the flameskull in more detail.

The 5E Flameskull, Feats & Uses


The flameskull is tiny and it flies at 40 feet of movement which makes it likely faster than all party members except maybe a Monk. This can make them hard to spot, or make for some fun with perception checks as “something” is zipping around, tossing off some dim light as it zooms behind ancient pillars or through cracks in the cave, or wherever your party happens to be.

This also can be fun if you have a flying PC character. Maybe the skulls were just sitting up in enclaves, the light coming out to light up the room, but not really paying attention to the floor until that character floats up a little too high and finds several skulls staring back, eyes flickering to life and recognition of an intruder.

Also be funny if they only targeted the flying and likely squishy character until they shot them down before attacking the rest of the party, like watching an old WWI aerial combat. 5E flameskulls can be used in interesting ways and you should take advantage of this to use good and interesting tactics.

Lots of Resistances & Immunities

The Flameskull is going to be much more challenging of an opponent than the initial stats suggest because of all the resistances and immunities it has. The advantage on saving throws against spells and magical effects plays in perfectly with the small, flying, nimble magical undead causing the party so many problems.

It only takes half damage to lightning, necrotic, and piercing damage and is straight up immune from cold, fire, poison, paralysis, being charmed, frightened, or made prone. That takes a lot of spells out of the common casters’ playbooks and halves the effectiveness of many others. This definitely makes life interesting – especially for parties without Magic Missile.

Is the Fight Really Over?

If no one does an Arcana check, do they actually know that they need to have Holy Water or the very specific spells of dispel magic or remove curse in over to actually finish the fight? Because if they don’t, this can become incredibly interesting when they are, hours later, moving quickly to leave the cave to get somewhere for a long rest only to find reanimated flameskulls waiting for them once again, blocking the way out!

5E Flameskull stat block
5E Flameskull stat block from the Monster Manual.

I Used Flameskulls As An Assassination Tool

That resurrection feature (yes, I know it’s not technically resurrection, but close enough, mechanically speaking) gave me an idea. The group was in the city of Islandport, where multiple Noble Houses and factions co-ruled but also frequently found themselves in conflict. One house that had been corrupted, but it wasn’t known yet as common information, agreed to overlook several illegal acts of theft and sabotage in return for them delivering a closed cloth bag to a specific man at the Greene Manor’s back kitchen, entrance by the cellar door.

This was only 20 minutes away, and the bag handed to them rustled with sounds of what sounded like broken pottery. When they asked what it was, the response was “Unless you want to get into politics, don’t worry about it.” They didn’t, and were heading to the manor to make a delivery when they were sidetracked, decided it could wait, and then were surprised when 40 minutes later the bag burst open in the town square, with 3 flameskulls emerging and causing havock.

The skulls had been broken but not dispelled, un-cursed, or sprinkled with holy water, and three of those did serious damage in the open town square. It occurred to them in that in a small house that wasn’t expecting an attack, this would have been a potentially devastating assassination attempt.

They pieced together that the man at Greene Manor would have planted the bag in an interior room and the family would, in all likelihood, have suffered devastating casualties or even a successful assassination attempt…not to mention a mansion that very much would have been heavily on fire.

This was an idea to use the flameskull creatively in 5th Edition, and there were consequences for getting sidetracked (The City Guard was not amused) and lucky for the party they were very cooperative and agreed to a Zone of Truth to confirm. Even so, that was a mess that would have been even worse had the assassination attempt been successful.

This was an extremely interesting plot point that could happen only because of that unique feature the flameskulls have in 5th Edition D&D.

The Flameskull, Final Thoughts

The flameskull can hit hard, make sense with Liches, wizards, or cursed territories, and has enough creative features to be used in a variety of unconventional ways. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a well-intentioned but not particularly all-together tinkerer gnome having one of these “contained” in a workshop.

There are many great ways to use the Flameskull in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign and in my opinion from years of experience as both a player and a DM, the flameskull is a fantastic enemy for raising the stakes, getting everyone invested in strategically dealing with it, and sometimes it’s the perfect enemy to create a nasty plot twist or surprise.

Try one in your next campaign and let us know how it goes!

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