Restrained Condition in 5e: How It Really Works – Full Guide

Restrained is a tough one because there isn’t a whole lot of difference between it and other conditions. 

I went around and talked to the experts here at Black Citadel, and we’ve come up with a guide to tell you exactly what it is, what it isn’t, how to use it, how to avoid it, and how to exploit it in classic Citadelian fashion.

What Is the Restrained Condition?

Restrained is a condition either you or your opponents can suffer from. While Restrained, you can not move at all and you have disadvantage on attacks and DEX saves while attacks against you have advantage.

Restrained

From the Basic Rules:

How Is Restrained Different From Other Conditions?

Restrained is different from stunned and incapacitated in one major way: you are conscious and aware. As soon as you lose consciousness, you automatically change to incapacitated or unconscious

When you are grappled, you are in much the same situation as restrained, yet you can stop the grapple to regain your movement. With restrained, something has you stuck. It’s like grappling but without all the sweaty grunting.

How To Apply Restrained as Written

There are only three ways to force the Restrained condition on a target using the Rules As Written (RAW). These are with a net, the Grappler feat, and magic. 

If you want to get creative and start tying people up, that requires a little more negotiation between you and the master of your dungeon – which is only appropriate. 

First we will go over the RAW applications, then we will get creative which, at Black Citadel, can get a bit scary. 

Nets

A net is a difficult weapon to gain proficiency with, but once you have it, the Net is a very fine choice for a non-spellcaster to gain some control over an enemy.

Combine it with some teamwork effort to gain Sneak Attack on a restrained enemy, and you can systematically clean up the battlefield in a frighteningly efficient manner. 

Grappler

If you look at an enemy and decide that you just want to hold them close, then this feat is for you.

If you are a fighter with the Unarmed Fighting Style, a Rogue with a high strength/athletics skill, or a Monk, this feat will give you the ability to deal some extra damage while controlling your target’s movement. Can’t argue with that!

Spell Table

There are quite a few spells that bestow this condition. At lower levels, Restrained is the main power of the spell. As the spells gain more power, restrained is like a bonus effect in addition to the spell’s main ability. 

Who Can Restrain You?

There are over a hundred monsters who can restrain you with a variety of tools like spells, tentacles, big beefy biceps, a glance… 

If you have the DnD Beyond app, all you need to do is run a search on the word Restrained and filter for monsters.

There you will find all flavors of big, milky XP bags to throw at your players. That way you can get them all tied up and they will thank you for the pleasure. 

But… What if I Use a Rope? For the DMs

Alright, let’s put the kiddies to bed and talk as DMs. This is where we get creative. How do you handle it when your players want to restrain an opponent without one of the above RAW methods?

Let’s take a simple hypothetical. There is an unconscious NPC who has information and the PCs want to hold a completely ethical, totally normal, little itty-bitty interrogation session. 

Psst… you might want to make the Paladin leave the room…I’ll wait.

Right. 

Step 1: Tie the bad guy up because someone just ALWAYS has rope. There is always that guy. 

This is where the magic happens. You have to determine which skill the PC is using to do the tying. So talk to the PC. Ask a few questions and make a decision.

Here’s a guide:

  • Where did they learn ropecraft? 
    • Did they learn in ranger-boy scouts? Survival
    • Did they learn in the rodeo? Athletics
    • Did they learn while interning at the local asylum or hospital? Medicine
    • Did they learn in the circus? Performance

But be careful! Ask serious questions, and make the player do the work because as soon as you open it up to discussion, they will try to make it their best skill. 

DM: So what skill should you use for this rope check?

Player: … Arcana?

DM: No! Bad Player!

Player: No, seriously! One of the material/somatic components we used for spells was the tying and untying of knots to represent energy as it flows through the universe!

DM: …I’ll allow it.

Step 2: Determine how the restrained person can deal with the ropes. 

Naturally, players and NPCs will want to get out of the ropes. Let’s look at the rope stats:

Type: Adventuring Gear
Cost: 1 gp
Weight: 10 lbs.

Rope has 2 hit points and can be burst with a DC 17 Strength check.

Notice where the rope says it has a DC 17 Strength check to burst? Personally, we here at the Citadel call that a banana sandwich. A DC 17 Strength check means a muscularly average person stands a chance at bursting normal ropes. 

We put that to the test here at the Citadel, and not a single one of our victi- I mean – test subjects could burst a rope. One of our warriors managed to do it, but that dude is HUGE!

There is no way a normally sized person is going to break a rope, sorry. But if you use the Rules as Written, it must be so, and there is no point in arguing.

If your wimpy wizard has an anime-level freak out of Herculean proportions and bursts out of the rope on a lucky roll while the Barbarian is as helpless as a babe, the Cleric better be ready to do some therapy.

However, if you tie up a PC, you can make a DC 17 apply to whatever skill they will argue for escaping the tie.

You could use a simple Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence check to get out and wave your DM hand and let it be. Also, the players could conceivably apply acrobatics or any of the other skills mentioned in Step 1. 

If the PC did the tying, eschew the DC 17 standard, and replace that with the skill check the PC made to tie their victim in the first place. 

For Your Use, a Restraint Trap

So, here is a little goody we pull out of our back pockets whenever we want to slow the PCs down. 

The Sticky Situation

Description and Trigger: This is a trap wherein the players step into a room and someone steps on a pressure plate.

The pressure plate requires 25 pounds of force, and when depressed, either through magic or an interlocking grid of support beams, it retracts into the wall from under the subflooring.

When the floor disappears, the PCs fall into mud, acid, thickly coagulated blood, sand, poison powder full of razor blades, or whatever else you want to torture them with. 

Save: Players that are within half of their movement speed to the boundaries of the floor trap can make a DEX save depending on the average group level.

Consider a DC of 7 times their tier of play. If the players make the DC, they manage to jump or dive to the end of the space and are unaffected (unless you use poison and a giant puff was sprayed into the air! Then they must save vs. poison, mwah-hahaha). 

Effect: Players who fail their save are restrained in the offending substance and can only move after making a Strength or Athletics check equal to the DEX DC you determined earlier.

If the substance also poses a threat, there will be other effects as determined by you. 

Escape: If you are trapped, the only way out is to either make the Strength/Athletic save or be pulled out by another character.

That character may either perform the aid action to help you make that save or make a Strength/Athletics check vs. your combined Strength and Constitution scores (to determine your weight). If you are a Small creature, they gain advantage. 

That’s it for us! Have fun and get creative with some ropes!