Concentration 5e

Published on February 5, 2022, Last modified on February 18th, 2022

Just as swordsmen rely on their skills with a blade to keep them alive, the lifeline of spellcasters is their ability to harness magic. Certain powerful spells require more than just the ability to manipulate the arcane arts, they require the user to continually maintain control over the spell’s duration. 

Concentration was introduced in 3.5 as a way to regulate powerful spells with multi-turn durations. But what exactly does it mean, and how does it work?

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What is Concentration in DnD 5e?

Way back in 3.5e, concentration was one of the many skills you could choose to learn. After being absent in 4th Edition, concentration was tweaked and made its return in 5e.

Unlike 3.5e, concentration in 5e is not a skill, but is instead paired with the duration of a spell. Whenever you cast a spell that specifies “concentration” under the duration, that spell must be concentrated on while it is active. Seems simple enough, right?

How Does Concentration Work in 5e?

Whenever you cast a spell that has concentration (time) in the duration, your character must concentrate on maintaining the spell. If they break concentration, the spell ends immediately.

Concentration can also end whenever you become incapacitated or die. Additionally, if you try to cast another spell that requires concentration while already concentrating, you’ll lose concentration on one of them, effectively ending the spell.

Also of note, you must maintain concentration when casting a spell that would take longer than one action to cast. Ritual spells are a great example of this. During the 10 minute casting time, the act of casting the spell requires concentration. This means you couldn’t ritually cast something like detect magic while concentrating on another spell. Jeremy Crawford confirmed this in a Sage Advice Q&A in 2015. Another example would be pre-casting a spell using the Ready action. When you prepare a spell to cast later, you must concentrate on not losing the arcane forces you’ve harnessed, thus the concentration requirement.

Concentration Checks 5e

If you take damage while concentrating on a spell, you must perform a concentration check to see if you can maintain it.

A concentration check is a Constitution saving throw, where the DC is equal to 10 or half the damage you take, whichever is greater. Of course, if you get hit multiple times, you must make multiple checks.

Your DM can also decide whether or not a player needs to make a concentration check if they are doing something strenuous, such as being buffeted by a strong wind or climbing a cliff. The DC of these is usually 10 unless your DM has decided otherwise.

What Mechanics Affect Concentration Checks 5e?

There aren’t a lot of mechanics that affect concentration. This is most likely due to how powerful some of these concentration spells are and thereby how strong spellcasters are throughout the game.

The only real way to improve your odds is to either be proficient in Constitution saving throws or to reduce the amount of damage you take from attacks to 10 or lower. The best way to do this is with feats.

Feats

War Caster grants you advantage on Constitution saving throws for concentration when you take damage. This is especially great for half-casters who will be up close and personal, like Eldritch Knights and Paladins.

Mage Slayer is the opposite of War Caster. Instead of granting you advantage on your concentration checks, it gives your enemy disadvantage on their concentration checks if you damage them.

Resilient (CON) grants proficiency in Constitution saving throws, which can go a long way to succeeding on concentration checks.

Conditions

If a player has three levels of Exhaustion, they have disadvantage on all saving throws (including concentration checks, as they are a Constitution saving throw).

Class Features

Eldritch Mind is an Eldritch Invocation that grants advantage on Constitution checks made to retain concentration on a spell.

Concentration 5e FAQs

How are concentration checks made?

Concentration checks are made when a caster is concentrating on a spell and gets hit with an attack:

  1. Determine if half of the damage dealt by the attack is higher than 10, rounded down. Attacks that deal 22 or more damage in a single strike will qualify here.
  2. Set the DC of the check at 10, or half of the damage dealt by the attack. Whichever is higher.
  3. Make a Constitution saving throw: D20 + CON ability modifier + prof. Bonus
  4. If the saving throw meets or succeeds against the DC, the caster retains concentration on their spell

This check must be made every time a caster is hit with an attack. For example, if a caster is hit with a 1st level magic missile they must succeed in three DC 10 concentration checks.

Are concentration checks a saving throw 5e?

Yes, they are a Constitution Saving throw. This is explained in the Spellcasting section of the Player’s Handbook.

Are concentration checks affected by exhaustion 5e?

If a character is unlucky enough to have three levels of exhaustion, they will have disadvantage on saving throws. Because a concentration check is a Constitution saving throw, this will also be with disadvantage.

Are ritual spells concentration 5e?

If you ever cast a spell that requires more than one action, it requires concentration. This includes spells that have casting times like Ritual spells.

Can an incapacitated creature concentrate 5e?

The specific “incapacitated” status only mentions that they cannot perform any actions or reactions. However, the actual page that explains concentration in the Player’s Handbook explicitly says that those who are incapacitated lose concentration immediately.

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 The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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