Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Dungeons and Dragons is a game where just about anything can happen. Powerful spells, incredible creatures, and magical items fill these fantasy worlds that we travel to for roleplaying adventures.
Naturally, this means that there are some nasty things we might come across in our travels.
While there are many unique abilities to be cautious of, like being transformed into a demon or having your mental capacities rendered useless, there are some things that are more common.
Today, we’re talking about a group of mechanics in 5e known as conditions. We’ll obviously be letting you know how they work, but we won’t be stopping at the basic rules.
We’ll do our best to show you when these conditions might come up and how to deal with them as a player or as a DM.
So don’t fear, by the end of this article, you’ll have grappled with these concepts well enough to charm your friends the next time you sit down to play.
What Are Conditions in 5e?
Conditions are a set of general rule mechanics that change how a creature is able to interact with the world around them.
These status effects generally have an important ruling on combat, but trust me, they can affect each of the three pillars: social interaction, exploration, and combat.
The 15 conditions exist as a way to generalize certain effects that might happen.
Instead of having every situation that might knock a creature down create an effect that interacts with the rules in a unique way, the prone condition was created.
There are plenty of situations where an ability might cause a condition and another, more unique, effect to be applied to a creature.
These might seem a bit confusing at first, but once we have a solid grasp of the conditions, things become much easier to understand.
Consider the “dominate” spells (dominate monster and dominate person). These are mind-control spells that say you charm a creature. While the creature is charmed, you essentially have mind control over the creature.
This doesn’t mean that charm automatically lets you mind control a target. Rather, these are two separate effects that are attached for the purpose of a couple spells.
While each condition comes with its own standard set of rules, the condition itself won’t necessarily tell you everything you need to know about a situation.
You still have to understand the other effects of the spell or ability causing the condition.
One of the most important things to understand about a condition is how long it lasts.
The source of the condition will almost always say how long it lasts, but some conditions, like prone, include how you can end the condition in the actual mechanic’s rules.
There is a lot more to talk about, but we’ll get into all of the specifics below. First, let’s just look at a list of the 5e conditions and their basic rules.
The 15 Conditions in 5e
- Cannot see.
- Fails ability checks based on sight.
- Attacks against a blinded creature have advantage.
- Attacks made by a blinded creature have disadvantage.
- Can’t target the charmer with any harmful abilities (attacks, effects, spells, etc.).
- The charmer has advantage on social ability checks on the charmed creature.
- Cannot hear.
- Fails ability checks based on hearing.
- Typically caused by very rare abilities or environmental hazards (freezing weather, stranded in a desert).
- A creature gains levels of exhaustion with new effects being added on at each level.
- A creature suffers from all levels of exhaustion they possess.
- Finishing a long rest (and eating/drinking) removes one level of exhaustion.
- Disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks while the source of fear is in line of sight.
- Cannot willingly move closer to the source of fear.
- Speed becomes 0.
- Effect ends when the grappler is incapacitated or when the creature is moved away from the grappler by some effect.
- Cannot attack or take reactions.
- Cannot be seen except by special abilities.
- Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage.
- Attack rolls made by the creature have advantage.
- Creature is incapacitated.
- Automatically fails strength and dexterity saving throws.
- Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
- Attacks that hit while the attacker is within 5 feet are critical hits.
- Transformed into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone) along with everything the creature is carrying.
- Weight is multiplied by 10.
- Does not age.
- Automatically fails strength and dexterity saving throws.
- Resistance to all damage types.
- Immune to all poisons and disease. Existing poisons and diseases at the time of petrification are suspended, not ended.
- Disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
- Can only crawl as its movement.
- Can end the condition by standing up.
- Disadvantage on attack rolls.
- Attack rolls made against the prone creature have advantage if they’re within 5 feet or disadvantage if made from a longer range.
- Speed becomes 0. Can’t benefit from any bonus to speed.
- Disadvantage on dexterity saving throws.
- Attacks against a restrained creature have advantage.
- Attacks made by a restrained creature have disadvantage.
- Creature is incapacitated.
- Cannot move.
- Can only speak falteringly.
- Automatically fails strength and dexterity saving throws.
- Attacks against a stunned creature have advantage.
- Creature is incapacitated.
- Cannot move or speak.
- Is unaware of its surroundings.
- Drops what it’s holding and falls prone.
- Automatically fails strength and dexterity saving throws.
- Attacks against an unconscious creature have advantage.
- Attacks that hit while the attacker is within 5 feet are critical hits.
Keeping Track of Conditions
Since conditions are such a core part of 5e’s rules, it makes sense that people have come up with some really clever ways to keep track of what’s currently affecting the creatures on the battlefield.
Here are some fun ways you might want to utilize at your next session.
Using things you have lying around the house is probably the easiest way to go. People use anything from candies and gems to sticky notes and dice to signify what conditions are affecting their characters.
Just slap your marker next to your miniature, and move it away when that condition is done with. Don’t forget to keep a legend so you know which color (or candy) represents each condition.
Some people use condition cards to keep track of their conditions. These cards typically have the rule text so the player can easily see all the rules that are currently tacked onto their character.
You can find some printed-out ones, but they’re honestly pretty expensive. It’s much easier to just buy a few index cards and go for it.
These labeled and typically color-coded rings slide onto your miniature and sit on the base, allowing you to move it along the battlefield with your character easily.
You can find some great sets out there that even have an assortment of common spells.
This is a great method for people willing to spend a little bit of money who really enjoy visual representations.
I personally like this product.
It comes in a nice neat case, comes with 96 rings, and the backs of each ring are dry erasable and blank so you can record other things that might arise.
Most virtual tabletops have their own sort of rings or visual representation for conditions.
When getting acquainted with a new online system, make sure you figure out how to show conditions – it will make everyone’s life a lot easier.
Usually, this will be in one of the first tutorials you watch, so don’t skip through no matter how excited you are.
An In-Depth Look at Dealing With Conditions in 5e
Below, we’re going to be looking at each condition and running through how it actually works in a few more words than the basic rules use.
Some of the rules are straightforward, but oftentimes, a couple straightforward things stacked on top of each other can confuse even the savviest gamers.
Before we do get into the specifics though, I do want to talk about some general condition cures.
Lesser and greater restoration are great spells to have on hand in any situation. Generally, it’s more likely that you will deal with a condition during combat than it is that you won’t.
The lesser version ends one effect causing a creature to be blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned. The greater can reduce a creature’s exhaustion by one level or end the charmed or petrified conditions.
These are absolutely excellent for a caster to have, and they’re available in quite a few class’s spell lists.
There are also a lot of racial abilities and features that give characters advantage on saving throws against certain conditions.
This sort of ability shouldn’t be the deciding factor for your character, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for.
If you can lessen the chance of being affected by just one of these, you’re in good hands.
Blinded is a condition that can be pretty devastating, and it probably shows up a lot more often than you’d expect.
This condition can not only be brought on by a lot of light-based spells and other magical effects, but it is also a result of a heavily obscured environment like darkness.
Not being able to see can be hard to imagine when you’re literally looking at a battlefield map and a bunch of miniatures showing you where everything is.
The deficits are used to make interactions with this condition more concrete and understandable.
Ability checks that rely on sight are pretty vague, so it’s up to the DM. If an acrobatics check is being used to climb up a tree, you probably need sight to find the limbs of the tree.
However, if you’re just trying to jump across a hole in the ground that you were aware of, you don’t need to be able to see to jump as far as you can.
DMs working with blindness (and by extension deafness) have to use a lot of rational thinking and should be open to hearing the player’s reasons for not relying on sight in a given situation.
For those characters that don’t have darkvision, full darkness is treated as a heavily obscured environment. This means that creatures inside the area who rely on sight are (drumroll please) blinded!
This is a rule that commonly gets confused. So what exactly happens in this situation?
Well, any creatures without darkvision are going to have some pretty negative effects. Fortunately, if both sides of the combat don’t have darkvision, they’ll be on a level playing field.
A blinded creature attacking a blinded creature has disadvantage on its attack roll, but the defending creature gives it advantage on its attack roll. The two instances cancel out, and this just becomes a normal fight.
The way to get rid of this instance of the blinded condition is to either gain darkvision or create a source of light.
- Blinding Smite
The paladin spell blinding smite is a concentration spell that requires the target to make a constitution-saving throw or be blinded until the spell ends.
The creature can also repeat the save at the end of each of its turns to end the blinded condition early.
Since the blinded condition doesn’t affect constitution saves, they’ll likely be able to make the save at some point to unblind themselves so they don’t have to be blinded for a whole minute. If not, it will eventually end.
The charmed condition is mainly used for social interactions on its own but can often be seen paired up with some nasty effects.
It’s important to remember that these additional effects are not caused by the charm; they are simply linked to the charm in that specific instance.
Charming a creature on its own, without getting into any other abilities, is incredible for making your way through a difficult social encounter.
Advantage on any social ability check against that creature means you’re more than likely to persuade or intimidate them into getting your way.
Charming does not make a creature do something they wouldn’t normally do.
Just because you successfully charm a king doesn’t mean you can persuade them to kill themselves with a high enough roll of your d20. For that, you’ll need something a lot stronger than a core mechanic.
- Dominate Person
This and its stronger companion spell dominate monster are in fact used for mind control.
It’s a concentration spell, so it lasts until you break concentration or until the spell would naturally end. It can also be ended by the creature succeeding on a Wisdom-saving throw, which it gets to do every time it takes damage.
This is one of the spells that is so well known for being attached to the charm condition that it becomes analogous. Unfortunately, you don’t get to control a creature’s actions every time you charm them.
Vampires are incredibly charming, and they have an ability to prove it. They have an action they can take, very simply labeled as charm, which allows them to charm a single humanoid within range.
The target is charmed on a failed DC 17 wisdom save.
For the duration of the charm, the target treats the vampire as a trusted friend and will follow most of their directions to the best of their ability, even being a willing victim for their bite attack.
This isn’t complete mind control, but it’s a form of mental enslavement that’s hard to avoid. Luckily, the creature gets a chance to save against the charm whenever they’re damaged by the vampire or one of its allies.
Deafened works similarly to blindness, but it doesn’t impose the same advantage and disadvantage scenario on an affected creature. Because the rules are so scant, it’s a bit hard to picture what this actually does in game.
Again, we’re in a situation where we have to use our imaginations to figure out when this matters.
Sneaking around is one common use for deafness. You might want to cast deafness or silence on someone you don’t want to hear you to make it much easier to walk around and get into position.
Interestingly, in some rare situations, deafness can even be beneficial.
Some spells or abilities, like vicious mockery, rely on the target hearing you. Casting deafness on yourself means you are no longer a viable target for such a spell.
This trope goes back 700 BCE with the story of Odysseus’s soldiers covering their ears to be safe from the sirens.
Exhaustion is a rather extensive condition with a variety of effects, culminating in death if you’re not lucky.
Since this condition works by giving you levels of exhaustion, you can receive exhaustion levels from different sources, and they do in fact stack, making your life even worse.
Those are some pretty nasty things to happen to you, and they stack up fast.
Removing exhaustion levels with spells requires using a 5th-level spell, greater restoration, which is insanely expensive, and the spell only removes a single level at a time.
The best way to get rid of this deadly condition is to just get out of the danger zone and take a good night’s rest.
While there are some creature abilities, character abilities, and even a spell that can inflict levels of exhaustion, the most common way to run into this is by being caught unprepared in a harsh environment.
As a DM, you’ll want to come up with a concrete way to handle exhaustion before you create an encounter that will include it.
Your characters might gain a level if they fail to eat, if they don’t take a short or long rest within a certain amount of time, or if they’re caught in a harsh environment, like bitter cold or sweltering heat, for too long without shelter.
Rules differ from DM to DM, and Harry’s in-depth guide on this condition will give you a lot more guidance for making this work smoothly.
Fear comes into play in D&D quite often. When you’re living in a world where zombies, giants, and dragons aren’t even close to the most terrifying things you come across, it makes sense to be a little bit afraid most of the time.
So, this emotion worked its way into a mechanic. There are some really diverse abilities that can frighten a creature, from the frightening presence of an Ancient Black Dragon to the fear ray of a Beholder.
Fear can even be used to make an environment more threatening. A lot of haunted-house adventures will have more than a few jump-scare situations where you might end up frightened and running back the way you came.
Often, fear is connected to a wisdom-saving throw. If you’re wise enough to realize you shouldn’t be afraid, you can often avoid this condition or break free of it at some point.
Since this condition keeps your enemies from getting closer to you, it’s employed by a lot of creatures and class abilities.
Breaking free of the fear isn’t necessarily difficult; it’s normally based on time, distance, or making additional saving throws.
- Conquering Presence
The oath of conquest, paladin’s channel divinity, is a great way for a player to invoke fear in their enemies.
In this specific instance, the creatures you frighten can make an additional save at the end of each of their turns to end the condition.
Grappling is actually its own mechanic. To grapple a creature, you make a special melee attack as part of your attack action.
The attacker makes an athletics roll contested by the defender’s athletics or acrobatics roll. If the attacker wins the contest, the defending creature is then grappled.
So, grappling requires the grappler to hold onto the grappled creature, which means it’s probably one of the easiest things to get out of.
If the creature lets go or is involuntarily moved away from you (by something like a thunderwave spell), you’ve been released.
You can also use your action to escape by repeating the contest. Again, as the grappled creature, you get to choose between acrobatics and athletics (dexterity or strength), so you should always use your best ability.
Grappling doesn’t stop you from attacking the creature either; it just reduces your movement speed to 0. Realistically, being grappled isn’t so bad. It’s typically what comes next that’s the problem.
- Ankheg Bite
The ankheg, a vicious bug-like monstrosity, has a bite attack that automatically grapples a creature that is a size large or smaller. This means no contest. It simply deals its bite damage and grapples you if it hits above your AC.
This is particularly bad because while the ankheg has a creature grappled it can only bite that creature and has advantage to do so.
In this way, the ankheg opens itself up to an onslaught from other creatures while also dealing a lot of damage to the one creature it has grappled.
In this situation, it’s good to have a spellcaster on the team that can push or pull the creature. There are plenty of spells that can do this.
An eldritch blast with grasp of hadar or repelling blast, grasping vine, thunderwave, gust of wind, and many more can all move the grappling creature away.
- Shambling Mound
The shambling mound packs a vicious combo attack. If it makes two slams against a medium or smaller creature, it grapples that creature and then engulfs it.
Once the creature is engulfed, it is restrained, blinded, and unable to breathe, plus it will take damage each turn if it doesn’t succeed on a constitution-saving throw.
So, don’t fight a shambling mound? No, get in there, and mess them up, but remember how the mechanics work.
The grappled condition doesn’t end just because you become restrained (this goes for any similar situation that doesn’t specifically state otherwise).
You can still escape the mound’s grapple, and when you do so, you are no longer affected by the other conditions tied to the grapple. That last part can be a bit confusing.
Basically, if you are only affected by one ability/condition because you are affected by another ability/condition, once the primary one ends, all others have to stop as well.
This condition has a very simple effect, and you might even wonder why they bothered to make it a condition in the first place. There are likely a few reasons for this.
For starters, this condition shows up in a lot of other conditions. Stunned, paralyzed, grappled, petrified, and unconscious all reference back to this condition.
There are a lot of ways that a creature can lose the capacity to do anything, so it makes sense to have a simple condition to call back to.
That rolls us into the other reasoning. A lot of things naturally stop working if you can’t do anything.
Rather than say “whenever a creature can’t take any actions or reactions, this effect ends,” 5e made us a simple condition to reference.
Being incapacitated ends most character and creature abilities.
Basically, whenever you have a long-lasting effect, like a spell you’re concentrating on or an ability that is being caused by you, incapacitation ends that real quick. The same goes for creatures.
Since this is caused by so many other conditions, there aren’t many things that purely incapacitate.
A few examples are the symbol spell’s pain option, the banishment spell, and one entry on the wild magic sorcerer’s table that turns them into an incapacitated potted plant.
“Oh no, not again.”
Invisibility is just about the only condition that is consistently beneficial to have on yourself. This ability makes you very stealthy since you can’t be seen, but it doesn’t make you impervious to detection.
You still make sounds as you move around, so being clumsy or even just walking through a crunchy forest can easily give you away. Essentially, this spell works like one-sided blindness.
All creatures are blind when it comes to you, which gives you advantage on attack rolls against them and gives them disadvantage on attack rolls against you.
There are a lot of uses for invisibility, and when paired with gaseous form or silence, you become almost entirely undetectable.
This is great for rogues to have especially, but any character that can get their hands on this from an ability or spell should definitely do so.
Detecting invisibility can be a bit more difficult.
If you’re trying to find an invisible enemy, you’ll want to use spells like faerie fire or trueseeing to spot them. Of course, you can also be a little bit more creative and invoke the trope where you throw sand or water into the air.
Seeing the grease spell used for invisibility detection is always hilarious, especially when the extremely stealthy bad guy ends up slipping and falling.
“The enemy LICH is paralyzed! It can’t move!” That’s right, those of you that grew up playing Pokemon probably have this condition completely memorized by now.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, it depends from where you’re looking at the situation), paralysis does a lot more than stopping someone from moving in 5e.
Of all the effects that come along with this condition, one of the worst is that attacks made against you at a range of 5 feet or less that hit are automatically critical hits.
Being paralyzed means taking a lot of damage and having quite literally nothing to say about it. It’s a condition you’d much rather see on an enemy than an ally.
Breaking paralysis works the same way as many other conditions. Typically, the effect causing paralysis will allow you to make continued saves against it.
Gross alien lobsters are never fun to deal with, especially when they have an attack that both poisons and paralyzes you. Yeah, it’s bad. This CR 4 aberration has tentacles that can poison their prey, which in turn paralyzes them.
In this situation, the paralysis doesn’t end until the poison ends. The poison itself doesn’t end for a minute or until you successfully save at the end of your turn.
This spell, which you might use yourself or see on an enemy spellcaster, paralyzes a humanoid on a failed wisdom save. Its greater version, hold monster, can be used on any creature, which can become very impressive, though hard to pull off.
This spell doesn’t come along with any extra abilities, but it does create an extra way to end the spell. Since it is a concentration spell, breaking the caster’s concentration will end its effect on your ally.
Such a feat isn’t hard to accomplish. You just have to keep dealing damage until they fail their con-saving throw and boom. You now have one unparalyzed party member.
Just hope that they didn’t cast it at a higher spell slot to paralyze multiple allies.
Petrification is a very rare ability and one you probably don’t want to encounter. Unless you’re trying to time travel the slow way, I would do everything I can to avoid being afflicted by this condition if I were you.
There’s a lot to unpack in the rules for this condition, but I’m pretty sure it’s all self-explanatory. The big question is, “How does it end?”
You’ve probably heard of the gorgon’s statue collection and don’t want to become a fresh addition.
Oops, your low-level party ended up fighting a basilisk, and it did not go well for you. You failed both of your constitution saving throws, and now you’re starring in buddy cop movies with Kevin Hart.
Fortunately, there are quite a few ways for your friends to return you from stone back to your soft, squishy, aging self.
It even says it in the basilisk’s petrifying gaze ability. You are “petrified until freed by a greater restoration spell or other magic.”
There are other spells that might be able to end petrification, like remove curse or dispel magic, but those really only work if the petrification is caused by a curse or magical source, respectively.
Typically, if a DM is planning to put a creature that can petrify, they either plan on giving you a way to end it or they really want to get rid of that character.
There could be potions of petrification removal, powerful mages who work at a cost, priests, a necklace of prayer beads stocked with greater restoration, or any number of options they introduce as a failsafe for such a permanent condition.
In other words, be nice to your DM and stop rescheduling 5 minutes before a session.
There is a lot to cover for this condition. One of the most important things I want to clear up is that the poisoned condition has no relation to poison damage.
Even if you see poison damage and a poison condition in the same attack or ability, the two are separate mechanics.
The next thing to know about poison is that there are a lot of things that can come along with it.
While the condition itself only gives a creature disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks, there’s a good chance another, even worse, effect will be tacked on as well.
The best way to get rid of poison is just by a quick casting of the 2nd-level spell lesser restoration.
You can also use Protection from Poison, another 2nd level that can neutralize one active poison and then give a creature advantage on constitution-saving throws against poison.
One is more versatile and one is very good at dealing with poison, but both are cheap 2nd-level spells.
Your DM might include some sort of antidote potion if they know you’re going to be dealing with a lot of poison in an upcoming encounter, but if anyone has this spell in the party, you should be good to go.
Poisons can cover all sorts of strange effects.
The grung have a different type of poison for each different colored grung with effects that range from forcing a creature to spend its action eating if there is food nearby to stopping the creature from moving unless it uses its movement to climb or jump.
A carrion crawler uses its poison to paralyze its prey, the vegepygmy’s poison is used to deal more poison damage every turn, and some poisons will even knock you unconscious if you can’t deal with them fast enough.
In most scenarios, you can just ride it out until you successfully save against and end the poison. If things are getting really bad, you better hope someone has a 2nd-level spell slot ready to go.
Prone is one of the easiest conditions to both understand and get out of. It means that you’ve fallen and can get up. All you have to do to stand back up is use half your movement speed.
The biggest downside of prone comes from close range attacks having advantage on you. If you are knocked prone and there are still plenty of creatures left in the initiative that can wail on you, you’re in for a bad time.
Fortunately, someone can easily spend an action helping you back up to your feet. That’s it. This was the easy one.
Restrained is often a secondary result to being grappled. We went over the situation with the shambling mound in the grappled section, and that still applies here.
Almost every ability that restrains a creature can be ended by making an escape check against the grappler.
This even works with the most basic form of restraint – pinning a creature. If you have a creature grappled, you can spend an action to pin them, which then makes them restrained.
This basic scenario can become more dangerous thanks to a lot of cool abilities, like those of the shambling mound or the bodytaker plant, but it doesn’t get any more complicated.
Restrained is also a nice condition to apply to characters who are restrained in a more traditional sense. Being handcuffed to a wall medieval style definitely counts as being restrained, so it makes sense to tack the condition on as well.
Since restrained is a physical condition, you won’t find spells that remove it. Rather, you and your allies will have to deal with the source directly.
The stunned condition is functionally almost exactly the same as being paralyzed. It’s slightly less harmful because it doesn’t turn close-range hits into critical hits. Besides that, they have the exact same rules text.
By this logic, stunned is just a weaker version of paralyzed. So, for further clarification, see paralyzed.
That being said, there are some different sources for the stunned condition, and if I didn’t include Power Word Stun, I would be a bad DM and writer.
Power Word Stun automatically stuns a creature with 150 or less HP and is ridiculously powerful. It’s basically only beat out by Power Word Kill as far as that family of spells goes.
Unconsciousness is a very common condition. It’s what happens when you go to sleep at night for a long rest. It’s also what happens if you get knocked to 0 hit points.
In the death situation, you’re unconscious and bleeding out, but that’s an entirely different article.
Things that can make you or a monster unconscious mostly have to do with sleep. The beholder’s sleep ray, the kamadan’s sleep breath, the sleep option of the symbol spell; all these and more knock a creature out.
Because this condition knocks creatures out, there aren’t many ways to deal with it. Actually, there are a lot of ways to deal with it.
Typically, an ability that magically or otherwise knocks a creature out is going to specify how long the creature is unconscious for.
It’s up to your DM whether or not the affected creature can be woken up by the normal ways you wake someone up. Abilities will specify if the sleep is magical and unbreakable but won’t do so for the opposite.
It never hurts to ask “Can I try to wake them up?” Your DM will decide if it makes sense in the specific situation. More often than not, a creative solution to waking them up will be enough.
You now know more about the 5e conditions than most people do. These 15 mechanics are so common in just about any campaign, so having a good understanding is integral to playing the game with ease.
As you probably know by now, the more you understand the game, the more you can do incredibly cool things.
Cheers to that, and as always, happy adventuring.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.