Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition features many magic items the player characters may come across in their adventures. Some of these enchanted objects may require the wearer or wielder to form a magical connection to them. This process is called "attunement".
But, how does attunement work? How many magic items can you attune to? And, how do you attune to a magic item in 5e?
This beginner’s guide to attunement in 5e explains everything you need to know to get started.
First off, let’s take a look at what attunement means in D&D 5e.
What Attunement Means in 5e
Attunement in 5e means spending time to form a bond with a magical item that requires it. Many magical items requires a user to attune with them before granting a character the full extent of the object’s powers.
Basically, attunement in 5e means taking time to form a magical bond with an enchanted item.
Page 136 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) defines attunement as such:
Now, some magic items have other requirements aside from attunement such as the ability to cast at least one spell or by being restricted to certain player classes. The item should list these prerequisites in its description along with if it requires attunement.
What is the Point of Attunement?
The point of attunement in 5e is to limit the number of powerful magic items any one player character may use.
Magic items that require attunement are usually a good tick more powerful than mundane objects and even other enchanted objects. The limits attunement sets, which we’ll get to later on, mean any single D&D character won’t get incentivized to hoard all the magic items the party comes across.
Basically, the point of attunement in 5e is to prevent any one player character from becoming unreasonably powerful through the use of as many magic items as they like.
Can You Use a Magic Item Without Attuning to It?
You can still use a magic item that requires attunement without attuning to it. But, you won’t have the ability to use any of the object’s magical abilities.
Most magic items in D&D 5e are just enchanted versions of mundane objects. As such, you may still benefit from the mundane properties of a magic item without attuning to it.
For example, the Armor of Invulnerability magic item counts as plate armor. If you choose not to or don’t have the time to attune to it, you still treat it as plate armor. Meaning, your Armor Class becomes 18 without bonuses from your Dexterity Ability Score.
Now, bear in mind for this example, you’d still need to have a Strength score of 15 to wear the armor without detriment. But, that’s true for the armor regardless of whether you get the magical features or not.
So, yes; you can use a magic item in 5e without attuning to it but you won’t benefit from the magical features.
How to Attune to Magic Items in 5e
To attune to a magic item in 5e, a player character must complete a short rest, spending the time in physical contact with the item.
Page 138 of the DMG describes how to attune to magic items in 5e:
So, 5e’s attunement rules explicitly state you need to complete a short rest to attune to a magic item. The method of attuning isn’t outlined because it’s all up to flavor and roleplaying. A Fighter might do some light weapon practice to attune with a magic sword or a Rogue might practice climbing a tree or building while wearing a new pair of enchanted boots.
The important part is maintaining physical contact and their concentration remains unbroken for the duration of the short rest.
Can You Attune During a Long Rest?
Rules as written, attuning to a magic item in 5e explicitly requires a short rest. The rules are up for interpretation on whether player characters may attune to a magic item during a long rest. But, the general consensus seems that GMs allow player characters to attune over a long rest.
There’s debate on whether the rules allow attunement over a long rest in 5e.
The rules explicitly state "Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a short rest focused on only that item…". And, they make no mention of allowing a long rest. So, as they’re written, it seems like you can’t attune to a magic item over a long rest.
That said, the basic rules for a short rest state they only take one hour to complete. Meanwhile, the rules for a long rest state that a creature needs to spend eight hours resting, of which, they must spend at least six hours asleep.
This gives two hours of wiggle room when a creature still can’t do anything too strenuous.
Because of this, many Game Masters argue that you could spend at least one of those hours attuning to a magic item. After all, what’s the difference of spending an hour resting for a short rest and the two hours of free time during a long rest?
In most cases, ending attunement in 5e simply requires a short rest with the character focused on dropping their bond with a magic item. This is the easiest way to drop attunement, but spending 24 hours at least 100 feet away from the item, dying, or having another creature attune to an item also end a character’s attunement to an object.
Much like how attuning to a magic item in 5e requires a short rest, the easiest way of dropping attunement is by finishing a short rest.
That said, page 138 of the DMG also outlines how a creature may lose their attunement to a magic item:
So, a creature may end or lose their attunement to a magic item in D&D 5e in x ways:
- Completing a short rest focused on ending their attunement
- Another creature attunes to an item already attuned by your character
- Your character spends 24 hours at least 100 feet away from their attuned item
- Your character dies
Attuning to Cursed Magic Items
Attuning to a cursed magic item works in much the same way as regular enchanted objects. The difference lies in dropping attunement. Creatures usually may not willingly end their attunement to a cursed magic item through the short rest method.
Cursed magic items usually have some stipulation that you can’t willingly end your attunement with them. So, that means you can’t spend a short rest focusing on ending attunement with a magic item in 5e.
That said, the other methods of ending attunement still work.
Additionally, the remove curse spell states that casting it on a cursed object removes the item’s attunement with its owner. Which, honestly, sounds a lot easier than ending attunement normally anyway.
How Many Magic Items You Can Attune To
In D&D 5e, a player character may only attune to three magic items that require it at a time.
This is the limit mentioned earlier. If a creature were allowed to attune to more than three magic items, it might upset the balance of the game as that creature hoards magic items and greatly increases their power.
Page 138 of the DMG clearly outlines how many magic items a player character can attune to:
This section of the rules also clearly states that any one magic item may only be attuned to one creature at a time. If another creature attunes to an already attuned object, the previously attuned creature loses attunement.
So no; two creatures can’t attune to the same magic item simultaneously.
Additionally, attempting to attune to more than three magic items results in a failed attunement.
Can You Attune to More Than 3 Items?
Most player characters can not attune to more than three magic items. Attempting to attune to a fourth item fails. The only exception is the Artificer class in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything as they eventually get class features that grant them the ability to attune to more magic items.
This is the hard limit on magic items in 5e. Most character classes can not attune to more than three magic items.
Now, the only exception to this rule is the Artificer class in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything Eventually, the Artificer may attune to a maximum of six magic items. Which sounds unreasonable, but the class itself doesn’t have a ton of spells (and far fewer spell slots than other casting-focused classes) and their additional attunement slots take up a class feature.
Can You Attune to the Same Magic Item?
Another limit on how many magic items you may attune to in 5e is you can’t attune to copies of the same object.
Page 138 of the DMG states:
This all said, you may use any number of magic items so long as they don’t require attunement. This means you could have a +1 weapon, +1 shield, +1 armor, Brooch of Shielding, Belt of Hill Giant Strength, and Amulet of Health as the first three don’t require attunement.
Just be sure to check what requires attunement and what doesn’t.
5e Attunement Rules FAQ
Do All Magical Items Require Attunement in 5e?
No. Not all magic items require attunement in 5e.
There are quite a few magic items that don’t require attunement. For example, the bag of holding, one of D&D’s most famous magic items, doesn’t require attunement.
Do You Have to Attune to +1 Weapons?
No. You don’t have to attune to +1 weapons if that’s all they do. Other magic items that confer +1 to Attack and Damage Rolls but have other effects may require attunement.
For that matter, you don’t need to attune to +2 or +3 weapons either. Again, if one of these items have an additional effect while also granting the bonus to Attack and Damage Rolls, they may require attunement.
Summary of Attunement in 5e
That covers the basics of 5e’s attunement rules.
Attunement in 5e is the process of establishing a bond with a magic item. The process of attuning to a magic item requires the new owner to complete a short rest. At most, a creature may only attune to three magic items at a time (with the exception of higher level Artificers).
What’s your favorite attunement item to give to your players? Or, what’s your favorite magic item your character has ever attuned to? Leave a comment below!
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6 thoughts on “A Guide to D&D 5e’s Attunement Rules”
Are there any classes that get a bonus per item attuned?
From what I could find, only the Artificer gets an outright bonus for number of magic items attuned. Their 20th-level, capstone feature gives them a bonus to their Saving Throws for each magic item attuned on top of getting the ability to attune to more than 3 items at a time over the course of leveling.
Thief Rogues eventually can ignore level, class, and race requirements for magic items starting at 13th-level, but that’s not so much a bonus as much as it allows them to use a wider variety of items.
Thanks. I thought that Artificer got some bonus for attunements and that is why the ring of attunement would be good for an artificer, but I didn’t realize it didn’t come online until 20th level. That pretty much puts it out of my reach unless I do a level 20 one shot. I have never been in a campaign that went all the way to level 20.
Query: Would you know if you were no longer attuned to an item? Example: you spent an undetermined amount of time separated from an object. If you came into contact with it again, would you know if you were still attuned?
That is a fair question. And, one that I had to do a bit of digging for.
Rules as written, nothing states whether you have a sense of connection with an attuned magic item. You learn the item’s effects, how many charges (if any) it has, any command words, your number of attuned items, and the knowledge of how to activate any of those.
This leaves things up to interpretation. On the one hand, since nothing states you have a sense of your attunement, you could say you wouldn’t know if you lost that attunement, almost like getting pickpocketed and finding out later you lost your coin purse. However, you are forming a magical bond with said magic item which may mean an intertwining of energies which could mean a severing of those energies would inform the previously attuned owner.
The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide includes a section that explains how attunement appears in the Forgotten Realms:
Because of this, you could argue that severing this "entwining" of energies would cause a previously attuned creature to notice their loss of attunement on an almost spiritual or maybe existential level. But, there’s nothing which explicitly states this.
Even outside of that, creatures in D&D 5e seem to have a sense for how many items they’re currently attuned to, almost like a sense for the limit on their existence for tying themselves to magic items. If a creature can sense they may only attune to three items, would they know once a slot opens up, so to speak?
It’s an interesting question.
I’d say the answer is, as with many things, up to the GM. For more high-magical games, maybe attunement is a strong, supernatural bonding of energies to the point where the magic item becomes almost an extension of the wielder’s existence and vice versa. Or, for lower magic settings, maybe creatures only form a surface-level connection, knowledge to activate and use a magic items powers, and they wouldn’t notice a loss of attunement.
Since there’s nothing that explicitly states a creature has a sense of connection with a magic item but they are forming a magical bond through attunement, either option for sensing or not sensing a loss of that attunement seems valid to me.