Incapacitated 5e: Condition, Mechanics, and Full Guide for DMs & Players

Incapacitated is probably the most confusing of the status conditions because it’s not a status condition in 5e at all.

“Incapacitated” is a status that is incurred by other conditions; it is very rarely applied as its own status condition. So here’s the 411 on how players and DMs should handle the incapacitated status in-game!

What Does It Mean to Be Incapacitated?

Mechanically, all it means is that a creature cannot take actions on their turn or reactions on other creatures’ turns. Nothing else is implied by being “incapacitated.”

This status does not beget natural critical hits or grant advantage to those attacking them.

It just means that they can’t take an action of any kind. Free, bonus, main, attack, dodge – it doesn’t matter. You cannot take an action when you are incapacitated.

As we mentioned, the Incapacitated condition is rare to see on its own; there are only seven spells that inflict the Incapacitated status on its own.

Rather, “Incapacitated” is a term coined to explain the symptoms of other conditions concisely.

For instance, the Stunned condition also applies the Incapacitated condition, but not the other way around. A creature could be Incapacitated, but not Stunned and not the other way around.

Incapacitated creatures aren’t helpless. They can still move, see, and hear. They just can’t act or react to what’s happening around them.

So for a creature to have restricted movement, they need to be given an actual status that limits their movement.

What Conditions Incapacitate Creatures?

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.

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 10, 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.

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.

Unconscious

  • An unconscious creature is incapacitated (see the condition), 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.

How Do You Break the Incapacitated Status?

You can’t. Incapacitated must end on its own. Incapacitated is rarely executed on its own, so there aren’t any cleansing spells that you can use to remove it.

It’s definitely a bit of an oversight on the part of the developers, but thems the breaks.

How To Incorporate the Incapacitated Status Into Your Game

We’re not going to focus on how to incorporate this status into your game for only one reason: it’s not a standalone condition.

While there are ways to inflict it as a standalone condition, there is no counterplay for those spells, which makes those spells powerful; you cannot remove or end the status of your own volition.

There is no way to “incorporate” Incapacitation by itself without creating a highly toxic game environment for you and your players alike.

While the DM is the “god” of the world, you’re not meant to wield that status like a bludgeon.

To “incorporate” Incapacitated into the game, you have to start wielding what is possibly the strongest condition in the game.

Rather than harp on that, we’ll explain why that condition is so strong.

You can walk over and wake up an unconscious ally. You don’t even need a spell. You don’t even need hands.

You could just nudge them awake with your foot. You could just shout loud enough to wake them if your DM allows it.

Stunned, Petrified, and Paralyzed can all be cleansed with spells.

Poisoned doesn’t hard-stop or prevent you from doing anything; it just makes you worse at what you’re doing because you’re sick.

Restrained and Grappled can be broken by intervention by other players. Ironically, Grappled ends if the Grappler becomes Incapacitated, as maintaining a Grapple is considered an action.

Invisible creatures can be seen with spells and they still leave footprints, and in the worst case, you can always keep pocket sand to throw around the room to find invisible creatures.

All the other conditions have some way to intervene and break it, but Incapacitated doesn’t because it wasn’t designed as a standalone condition. 

A DM’s job is not to make the players do anything, and they are not fighting against the players. The DM’s job is to tell the story outside of the players.

The players and DM must work as a single unit to tell a story of heroes together.

How To Deal With the Incapacitated Status as a Player

Find a new DM. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but it really isn’t.

A DM who is wielding the Incapacitated status like a hammer isn’t a good DM, and if you’ve already had a come-to-Jesus talk with them about it, it’s time to find a new table.

There’s just no excuse to abuse your power like that.

If the DM is using the Incapacitated status naturally, there’s no problem on their part or yours. You just have to wait it out.

But if you’re regularly running into the Incapacitated status on its own, your DM is forcing that status on you, and you should find a new DM. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Incapacitated Status

Can Incapacitated Creatures Use Legendary Actions?

No. Legendary Actions are actions and thus cannot be used if a creature is Incapacitated.

Do Incapacitated Creatures Fall Prone?

No. Incapacitated does not affect a creature’s movement at all.

Does Incapacitated Give Advantage to Attackers?

No. Incapacitated does not guarantee hits or grant advantage to creatures attacking an Incapacitated creature.

What Spells Cause the Incapacitated Status?

  • Tasha’s/Hideous Laughter
  • Nathair’s Mischief
  • Feign Death
  • Raulothim’s Psychic Lance
  • Banishing Smite
  • Symbol
  • Imprisonment

Final Thoughts

The Incapacitated status is an exciting bit of the Player’s Handbook (5e) because its implementation is so unique. But unfortunately, that uniqueness means it can be easy for players who know what they’re doing to abuse it.

It’s important to remember that the most crucial thing in the game is to have fun. If the game isn’t fun for you or your players, your game has failed.

Even though you as the DM have more inherent power in the world, you share the responsibility of storytelling with your party. So, remember to treat them like equals!

As always, good luck, have fun, and happy questing!