Mechanic Overview: 5e Conditions

Published on March 11, 2021

This post was sponsored by WildBot3D! WildBot3D is most famous for their 3D-printed condition rings that can be used to track different 5e conditions when playing with miniatures on a battlemap.

You can check out their condition rings and other gaming accessories at wildbot3d.com.

What are Conditions?

Conditions are applied to creatures as a result of a spell, attack, or another effect. All conditions other than the Invisible condition negatively impact the creature they are applied to.

While most conditions impose a debuff on creatures, there will usually be a saving throw in order to avoid succumbing to its negative effects. Even if the saving throw is failed, the condition can be ended by meeting the specific requirements noted in the spell, attack, or condition itself.

Mechanically, conditions are a massive part of the D&D 5e system. When used strategically, they can be the difference between winning and losing a fight. In this article, we review the rules for each condition, how it can turn the tide of battle, and some common ways to impose each condition.

5e Conditions

Blinded

  • A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.
— Basic Rules

The Blinded condition is an extremely potent debuff and can be a massive headache for nearly every creature in a fight. The primary target for these effects are Melee and Ranged combatants as they will suffer from disadvantaged attacks while creatures attacking them have advantage. 

Magic users will be slightly less concerned by the effects of the Blinded condition. Ranged spell attacks or attacks that contain the verbiage “a creature you can see” will certainly suffer from the results of being blinded, but there are plenty of spells, such as the infamous Fireball, that won’t be affected because they target an area of effect.

Exceptions

When attempting to blind a creature, make sure to consider if they have Blindsight or Tremorsense, as both of these abilities can be used to perceive surroundings without relying on sight. For Blindsight, creatures without eyes, such as grimlocks and gray oozes, typically have this special sense, as do creatures with echolocation or heightened senses, such as bats and true dragons. Tremorsense, on the other hand, mainly belongs to burrowing creatures such as worms and moles.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Blinded condition are:

  • Blindness/Deafness (spell)
  • Blinding Smite (spell)
  • Sunburst (spell)

Charmed

  • A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects.
  • The charmer has advantage on any ability check to interact socially with the creature.
— Basic Rules

Because the Charmed condition makes a creature friendly to the charmer, the effect lacks a certain potency in combat for a number of reasons. 

First, most spells that apply the Charmed condition will give the targeted creature advantage on the saving throw if the charmer is actively hostile towards it. Second, the Charmed condition is usually negated when you or any of your companions do anything harmful to the creature. Lastly, the charmed creature is only limited to targeting the charmer with attacks or harmful abilities, it doesn’t say anything about the charmer’s companion.

Outside of combat, the Charmed condition can be much more useful because it grants the charmer advantage on social checks against the charmed creature. This can be especially convenient for getting into a restricted area without making a scene.

Keep in mind that most low-level charm spells, such as Charm Person and Charm Monster, will result in the target knowing it was charmed by you when the effect wears off.

Exceptions

Another thing to note about the Charmed condition is that it is usually used as a “baseline” effect, with other ability-specific effects being stacked on top of it. Take for example the effect of the Hypnotic Pattern spell:

You create a twisting pattern of colors that weaves through the air inside a 30-foot cube within range. The pattern appears for a moment and vanishes. Each creature in the area who sees the pattern must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature becomes charmed for the duration. While charmed by this spell, the creature is incapacitated and has a speed of 0.

This spell applies the typical Charmed effects listed at the beginning of this section but also stops the affected creature from being able to attack or move. The Hypnotic Pattern spell is an example of a potent combat effect being derived from a less than amazing combat condition.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Charmed condition are:

  • Charm Person (spell)
  • Charm Monster (spell)
  • Crown of Madness (spell)
  • Harpy’s Luring Song (monster ability)
  • Incubus’ Charm (monster ability)
  • Philter of Love (item)

Deafened

  • A deafened creature can’t hear and automatically fails any ability check that requires hearing.
— Basic Rules

Unfortunately, there’s not much to say about the Deafened condition, except that it isn’t a very powerful effect inside or outside of combat.

Unlike being blinded, it offers no advantage or disadvantage when attacking and, even though they can’t hear, spellcasters can still speak to cast spells using verbal components.

There is one extremely specific use for this condition, and it is to “blind” creatures that rely solely on Blindsight, such as the Giant Bat or a dragon that has already lost its sight.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Deafened condition are:

  • Blindness/Deafness (spell)
  • Horn of Blasting (item)

Exhaustion

Exhaustion is easily the most complex condition in 5e and will be covered in a separate article coming soon!

Frightened

  • A frightened creature has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight.
  • The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.
— Basic Rules

The Frightened condition is another powerful debuff that is quite common in the 5e system. While it may not be as potent as Blinded or Paralyzed, the big advantage that Frightened has over these conditions is that it is typically applied to an area of effect rather than a single creature.

Applying disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls to multiple creatures can reshape the battlefield drastically, especially if those creatures don’t have a high WIS score (the most common save for the Frightened condition).

The other effect, not being able to move closer to the source of fear, can be crippling for melee creatures as they won’t be able to close the distance and dish out attacks.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Frightened condition are:

  • Fear (spell)
  • Dragon’s Frightful Presence (monster ability)
  • Conquest Paladin’s Conquering Presence (class feature)
  • Leonin’s Daunting Roar (racial feature)

Grappled

  • A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed.
  • The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated (see the condition).
  • The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.
— Basic Rules

The grappled condition is quite underwhelming. 

While it can be used to keep enemies from escaping or from melee attacking other creatures, grappled creatures can still attack normally and attacks against them aren’t granted advantage. This results in a lackluster condition that is missing any significant consequences. 

A creature could be grappled by the party’s Fighter and, instead of using its entire action to try to escape the grapple, can simply continue to hit the Fighter as normal while taking no penalty other than not being able to move.

Much like the Charmed condition, the Grappled condition is only really worth it if you can stack other conditions on top of it. The Grappled condition is most commonly stacked with the Restrained condition, though sometimes the additional effects can come in the form of bonus damage, advantage on attacks, or other conditions such as Blinded.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Grappled condition are:

  • Grapple Attack (special melee attack)
  • Ankheg’s Bite (monster ability)
  • Giant Crab’s Claw (monster ability)

Incapacitated

  • An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions.
— Basic Rules

Incapacitating a creature is an extremely effective way to take them out of combat. Because the creature can’t take actions or reactions, they can usually no longer impact the battle in any way.

The Incapacited condition is also extremely powerful because it is usually the fail case for passive abilities applied by creatures in 5e. Things like concentrating on a spell, the Paladin’s aura, or Sneak Attack/Pack Tactics are negated when the creature (or in Sneak Attack/Pack Tactic’s case, the creature’s ally) is incapacitated.

While it may seem counterintuitive, incapacitating a creature isn’t the same as knocking it unconscious. Rather, becoming incapacitated is part of the Unconcious condition and is what prevents unconscious creatures from using actions, reactions, and other class features.

While knocking a creature unconscious is the most common way to incapacitate a creature, there are some spells or other conditions that can apply this condition.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Incapacitated condition are:

  • Tasha’s Hideous Laughter (spell)
  • Hypnotic Pattern (spell)
  • Stunned (condition)
  • Banishment/Banishing Strike (spell)

Invisible

  • An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured. The creature’s location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have advantage.
— Basic Rules

Invisible is interesting because it is the only condition on this list to provide benefits when applied to a creature, rather than consequences.

Invisibility is extremely powerful in D&D 5e. While there are some abilities that can negate its effects, being invisible will usually allow you to go unnoticed by your foes. Because you are unable to be seen, invisibility acts in a similar fashion as if the creature you are fighting is Blinded. As covered in the Blinded section, having advantage on your attacks while all attacks against you are at disadvantage is a stellar tactical advantage.

To balance the strength of the Invisible condition, many low-level items, and spells that grant invisibility immediately end their effect if you attack or cast a spell.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Invisible condition are:

  • Invisibility (spell)
  • Greater Invisibility (spell)
  • Ring of Invisibility (magic item)
  • Cloak of Invisibility (magic item)
  • Invisible Stalker (monster)

Paralyzed

  • A paralyzed creature is incapacitated (see the condition) and can’t move or speak.
  • The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
  • Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.
— Basic Rules

Paralyzed is a doozy of a condition. Not only can a creature affected by this condition not take actions or reactions, but all STR and DEX saves automatically fail, attacks against the creature have disadvantage, and any attack that hits auto crits. Ouch.

There isn’t much more to say about this condition other than you really don’t want to be affected by it because it can be straight-up nasty.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Paralyzed condition are:

  • Hold Person (spell)
  • Hold Monster (spell)
  • Ghast’ Claws (monster ability)

Petrified

  • A petrified creature is transformed, along with any nonmagical object it is wearing or carrying, into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone). Its weight increases by a factor of ten, and it ceases aging.
  • The creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
  • The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.
  • The creature has resistance to all damage.
  • The creature is immune to poison and disease, although a poison or disease already in its system is suspended, not neutralized.
— Basic Rules

The Petrified condition usually occurs as a result of a living, breathing creature being turned into stone or some other type of inanimate substance.

This condition is one of the most impactful, especially for PCs, because the effects of petrification don’t go away on their own after a saving throw or period of time. Once petrified, there are only a couple of ways to undo the effects. As of now, the only ways to undo petrification are to have the Greater Restoration or Wish spell cast on the affected creature.

While this may not be a problem if your party has a 9th-level cleric, petrification could certainly be devastating if a cleric isn’t available and your party is crawling through a dungeon.

One thing to note is that most petrifying effects come with two caveats that make this scary condition easier to avoid:

  1. Most monsters that can apply the Petrified condition, such as the CR 6 Medusa, give the players the ability to “look away” at the beginning of their turn. This means all attacks will be made with disadvantage, but you will be safe from being turned into a statue.
  2. When a creature is targeted by a petrifying ability, they will usually get two chances to save. After the first failure, they will be Restrained as they begin to turn to stone but won’t be fully petrified until they fail a second saving throw.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Petrified condition are:

  • Flesh to Stone (spell)
  • Prismatic Spray (spell)
  • Gorgon’s Petrifying Breath (monster ability)
  • Basilisk’s Petrifying Gaze (monster ability)
  • Medusa’s Petrifying Gaze (monster ability)

Poisoned

  • A poisoned creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
— Basic Rules

The poisoned condition is simple, straightforward, and effective. Giving a creature disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks is a surefire way to make it less of a threat in combat. 

Being poisoned by an attack or ability is usually resisted by a CON saving throw, but on a failed save it is not uncommon to be dealt additional poison damage on top of being affected by the Poisoned condition.

Exceptions

The Poisoned condition offers great added value on spells and attacks. However, keep in mind that poison damage and the Poisoned condition are, respectively, the most resisted damage type and condition of all creatures in published 5e materials.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Poisoned condition are:

  • Ray of Sickness (spell)
  • Contagion (spell)
  • Rutterkin’s Bite (monster ability)
  • Dagger of Venom (magical item)
  • Assassin’s Blood (item)

Prone

  • A prone creature’s only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.
  • The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
  • An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.
— Basic Rules

The Prone condition is arguably the most common condition in the 5e combat because it is applied whenever a creature is knocked off of its feet. 

The Prone condition is the best friend of melee fighters, who can get advantage on their attacks as long as the target is prone without the need for magic. Most often, the Prone condition is applied by the Shove action (or a similar ability) that can be done as part of one of the combatants’ attacks.

Most of the time, the Prone condition is one of the easiest to rectify because it only requires half of the creature’s movement to stand up, rather than a saving throw or other spell.

The Prone condition can also be considered a beneficial condition because all attack rolls outside of 5 feet have disadvantage. A creature can willingly drop prone without using any of their movement against ranged creatures to give themselves a higher chance of being missed by their attacks. This is doubly so if dropping prone allows the creature to get behind cover of some sort.

The biggest tactical advantage that can be gained by the Prone condition is against flying foes:

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as the fly spell.

Because, when provoked, creatures fall 500 feet instantly and 500 feet per turn at the start of each turn, knocking a creature Prone while flying can result in upwards of 20d6 damage.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Prone condition are:

  • Shove Attack (special melee attack)
  • Tidal Wave (spell)
  • Grease (spell)
  • Tasha’s Hideous Laughter (spell)
  • Walloping Ammunition (magical item)

Restrained

  • A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.
  • The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.
— Basic Rules

The Restrained condition is like the successful older sibling of the Grappled condition. The main distinction between the two is that a grappled creature is being latched onto by something, whereas a restrained creature is being completely, well, restrained by something.

While both conditions drop the affected creature’s speed to 0, that is where the benefits of the Grappled condition end while the Restrained condition offers more benefits.

Granting advantage on attacks against the restrained creature, while all of the attacks the restrained creature makes are at disadvantage, is a massive debuff that can swing an encounter in the unrestrained creature’s favor.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Restrained condition are:

  • Grappler Feat (special melee attack)
  • Evard’s Black Tentacles (spell)
  • Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp (spell)
  • Giant Toad’s Bite (monster ability)
  • Swallow (monster ability)

Stunned

  • A stunned creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move, and can speak only falteringly.
  • The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
— Basic Rules

The Stunned condition is a lot like a less severe version of the Paralyzed condition, though it is still a potent debuff. 

There are a number of reasons that the Stunned and Paralyzed conditions are differentiated. First, a stunned creature doesn’t take automatic crit damage and can talk falteringly. Second, the Stunned condition is usually accompanied by extra damage in addition to the effects listed above. Last, the Paralyzed condition is so powerful that it usually only affects single targets whereas Stunned can sometimes affect an area.

An interesting thing to note is that, even though the Stunned condition seems to be a less severe version of Paralyzed, the spells that cause the Paralyzed condition (Hold Person (1st), Hold Monster (5th)) are lower-level or equal to the earliest spell that can inflict the Stunned condition (Contagion (5th)).

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Stunned condition are:

  • Contagion (spell)
  • Power Word Stun (spell)
  • Mind Flayer’s Mind Blast (monster ability)

Unconscious

  • An unconscious creature is incapacitated, can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.
  • The creature drops whatever it’s holding and falls prone.
  • The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
  • Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.
— Basic Rules

While the Prone condition may be the most common condition applied in combat, the Unconscious condition is likely the most common condition overall. This is mainly because whenever a creature sleeps, unless they have a feature like the Elves’ Trance, they are considered unconscious.

Just like in real life, being unconscious is only really a bad thing if you fall unconscious unwillingly. The most common way for this to happen in D&D 5e is to have your hit points reduced to 0. There are also a number of abilities listed below that can cause unconsciousness without reducing a target to 0 hit points.

The effects of this condition are very similar to that of Paralyzed. The exception is that unconscious creatures are unaware of what is happening around them and they drop whatever they are holding. While this may seem like a potent effect (because Paralyzed sure as hell is), most abilities that cause unconsciousness are negated when the unconscious creature takes damage with the exception of being reduced to 0 hit points.

Methods

Some examples of things that can apply the Unconscious condition are:

  • Sleep (spell)
  • Eyebite (spell)
  • Symbol (spell)
  • Pseudodragon’s Sting (monster ability)
  • Sprite’s Shortbow (monster ability)

Closing words

Well, that’s it! We have covered all of the 5e conditions, their use cases, how powerful their effects are, and what can cause them. I have found the way the 5e system uses these conditions, in combination with the advantage/disadvantage system, creates an intuitive series of interactions that keeps the game streamlined and interesting.

What do you think about the condition system? Do you think we missed anything about conditions in 5e? Let us know in the comments below!

This post was sponsored by WildBot3D!

WildBot3D is most famous for their 3D-printed condition rings that can be used to track different 5e conditions when playing with miniatures on a battlemap.

You can check out their condition rings and other gaming accessories at wildbot3d.com.

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Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and continually strives to help players and DMs have fun playing D&D. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios.

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