Introduction to Concentration
Not all spells are instantaneous. An instantaneous spell happens, and then the effect goes away; there is no lasting magical property to the spell. Others may see the results of their spells lasting for hours or days, and some require the caster to maintain Concentration on the spell.
If you lose concentration on the spell, it ends even if there is time left on its maximum duration.
Players will see concentration spells notated with the symbol shown below using the Wizards of the Coast official 5e website, DnD Beyond.
That little diamond with a C indicates that a spell requires concentration. Players using other websites will simply see the word ‘concentration’ notated in the spell’s duration.
Covered in the basic rules, if a spell requires concentration, players can choose to concentrate on it or not. If they decide not to concentrate, the spell will end immediately. If they choose to concentrate, the spell’s effect can be maintained for its maximum duration or until they otherwise lose concentration.
Players will be compelled to lose concentration under the following circumstances:
Casting Another Spell Which Requires Concentration
You cannot maintain concentration on multiple spells. Everyday actions such as attacking, moving, and even casting instantaneous spells do not affect your attention. Casting any spell which requires concentration will force the player to choose between the two periods.
For instance, if Bob the Cleric casts Spirit Guardians, he can choose to concentrate on this spell for up to 10 minutes. While concentrating on Spirit Guardians, he will have its effects up, halving the speed of nearby enemies and dealing damage in a 15-foot radius around him.
If he then wants to cast Bless on his ally Derek the Golbin, he will have to choose whether to concentrate on Spirit Guardians or Bless. If he chooses Bless, his Spirit Guardians will disappear, even if he cast the spell the turn prior. He decides to maintain concentration on Spirit Guardians.
So, he cannot cast Bless as he would need to drop his concentration on Spirit Guardians to cast Bless.
However, even though Bob the Cleric maintains concentration on Spirit Guardians. He can still cast Guiding Bolt as his main action, as Guiding Bolt does not require concentration and won’t interrupt his concentration on Spirit Guardians.
When a caster concentrating on a spell takes damage, they have to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain their concentration. A caster who fails this save will lose concentration, and the spell they were concentrating on will end.
So, Bob the Cleric casts Spirit Guardians and then chooses to concentrate on the spell. Derek the Goblin then stabs him with his dagger for 1 damage for not casting Bless on him in the previous example. Bob will now need to make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw.
If Bob rolls a 9 or lower, after accounting for modifier, he will lose concentration and Spirit Guardians will end, regardless of how long it has been active. If Bob rolls a 10 or higher with his modifier, he will maintain concentration, and the spell will continue.
Being Incapacitated or Killed
Characters who are incapacitated cannot take actions or reactions. Though maintaining Concentration isn’t an action, it makes logical sense that an incapacitated person can’t concentrate on much of anything… neither can a dead person.
Dungeon Master’s Choice!
The Dungeon Master can also rule that any interaction with the environment or other stimuli can compel a concentration check. Environmental phenomena such as an earthquake, a thunderclap, or a wave crashing over the player might be times for the DM to call for a Concentration save.
If the player wants to have a loud argument with their ex-spouse while concentrating or try to do a hundred arithmetic problems in 1 minute, this might also be a time for the DM to call for the Concentration save as well.
Calculating the Concentration Saving Throw
Dungeon Masters will need to keep in mind the amount of damage dealt to a player when they’re concentrating on spells as the damage value determines the DC of the saving throw.
As long as the damage is less than 22 per single hit, the DC is 10.
What do I mean by “per single hit”? The rules, as written, stipulate that the saving throw must be made when the character takes damage. Many monsters perform multiattacks in which they will attack or cast spells 2, 3, even 5 times.
So a player hit by all 5 of the Tarrasque’s attacks will need to make a saving throw for each hit.
The DC goes up when half of the damage dealt equals a value greater than 10. Half of 22 is 11, so the DC is 11. Half of 24 is 12, so the DC is 12, and so on. So the formula for calculating your Concentration saving throw for all of my maths nerds out there:
DMG/2 > 10 ⟹ DC = DMG/2
For the regular folks, “when DMG divided by 2 is greater than 10, the Difficulty Class is equal to DMG divided by 2”. So if the damage dealt is 36 (the average damage for the Tarrasque’s Bite attack), the DC would be 18.
Resting and Concentrating
What about Resting? Would it be possible to take a short rest while concentrating on a spell? Unfortunately, that one’s up to your DM. When it comes to long rests, it’s a bit more clear-cut since lots of races need to sleep, and you cannot concentrate while sleeping.
But what about elves? Could I trance and concentrate on my Hex spell? Again, it depends on the DM. I don’t want to make calls one way or another because I think it’s essential for all DMs to figure out what works for them and their group.
I may rule one way or another depending on the specific scenario. So, really, it’s about thinking about how to make the game fun and what your party expects.
If your party is looking to have a grueling, semi-realistic experience, then probably rule that they can’t. But if the party is looking to have a simple, low-effort one-shot, being flexible could go a long way with making sure everyone is having fun.
Spells with a Cast time of Longer Than 1 Action
Some spells have a longer cast time than 1 action. While they’re generally not to be used in the heat of battle, nothing is stopping your DM from throwing a bunch of goblins at you while you’re trying to animate a dead goblin in the forest.
As stated in the Players’ Handbook, spells with a cast time of 1 minute or longer require concentration for the entirety of their casting time. Breaking this concentration doesn’t use the spell slot for the spell you were trying to use.
However, to complete casting it, you will have to start over from scratch. For a 1 minute cast time, starting over from the beginning doesn’t sound too bad, but when you go up to the 8 hours required to cast Awaken, the 12 hours needed to cast Simulacrum, or the 24 hours needed to cast Hallow… the stakes are certainly higher.
Voluntarily Ending Concentration to Protect Allies
Choosing to end your Concentration prematurely is not an action as confirmed by Jeremy Crawford, so it can be done at any time. This gives your spellcasters a bit of wiggle room with casting concentration spells without hurting their allies.
Feats That Affect Concentration
As the name implies, Mage Slayer inflicts disadvantage on all Concentration saving throws made by characters hit by the wielder.
This feat is the opposite of Mage Slayer. It grants the wielder advantage on all Concentration saves.
This one gives proficiency in a saving throw of the wielder’s choice. Choosing Constitution will provide a bonus to their Constitution saving throws, including Concentration saves.
Class & Subclass Features and Concentration
The Artificer’s Spell-Storing Item can hold a 1st or 2nd level spell. If the spell would require concentration, the user will have to concentrate on using it.
Infusion: Mind Sharpener
This Infusion grants the wearer up to 4 charges that they can expend to choose to succeed a Concentration save if they fail.
Until the 20th level, when the Druid gains their Archdruid capstone feature, Druids cannot reactivate concentration spells that they cast before transforming, as they cannot cast spells in this shape.
Aura of Protection
Aura of Protection grants a bonus equal to the Paladin’s Charisma modifier to all saving throws. With 20 points in Charisma, that’s a +5 bonus! If you take Resilient as well, that’s an extra +11 to your Concentration saving throws!
Wild Magic: Wild Magic Surge
Wild Magic Sorcerers who fail their Wild Magic Surge on a spell have the chance to cast spells at random based on their Wild Magic Table.
If the effect they roll is a spell that would require Concentration, it doesn’t require Concentration and lasts for the entire duration, regardless of Concentration.
Bladesong grants a bonus equal to the caster’s Intelligence modifier to any Constitution save to maintain concentration.
School of Conjuration: Focused Conjuration
10th-level School of Conjuration Wizards cannot have their concentration broken whilst focusing on a Conjuration spell.
War Magic: Durable Magic
10th-level War Magic Wizards gain +2 to their AC, and all saving throws whilst they maintain concentration on a spell.
Which Statuses End Concentration?
|Status Condition||Breaks Concentration?|
Being blinded does not end concentration.
Being charmed does not end concentration. However, a spellcaster could request that concentration be dropped using spells such as Charm Person and Geas.
Being deafened does not end concentration.
Being frightened does not end concentration. However, a DM may rule that a frightened character must make a Concentration check depending on the circumstances of the condition.
For instance, the spell Fear conjures an image of the character’s worst fears, and a character with a phobia of spiders may lose concentration if show spiders.
Being grappled does not end concentration. However, a DM may rule that the opposed Strength check made to avoid being grappled and any attempts to release oneself stipulate a Concentration check as well.
Being incapacitated always ends concentration.
Becoming invisible will not end your concentration. However, casting a spell would end invisibility. So, a DM may rule that concentrating on a spell cast before becoming invisible ends the invisibility.
Paralysis ends Concentration as it Incapacitates the character. Concentration on the spell ends immediately, even if the paralysis is removed with Lesser Restoration before the caster’s next turn begins.
Petrified also Incapacitates. So it would end concentration
Being poisoned does not end concentration.
Being prone does not end concentration. However, the DM may rule that the circumstances under which you find yourself in the prone position (falling) may warrant a Concentration check.
Being restrained does not end concentration. However, the DM may require a Concentration check if the circumstances that led to the restraint were strenuous enough to disrupt concentration, such as being caught in a rope.
Being stunned ends concentration as it includes the Incapacitated status.
Unconscious characters cannot concentrate and lose concentration on all spells when they fall unconscious.