Dungeons & Dragons 5e is full of great area-of-effect spells to drop onto a big group of enemies.
From the iconic and perennial Fireball to more subtle stuff like Sleep, there are plenty of ways you can use magic to turn a dangerous encounter with an overwhelming enemy horde into a trivial concern.
While it may not deal as much damage as a well-placed Fireball or be quite as neat as casting Sleep, Confusion might be my all time favorite spell for disrupting and derailing a large group of enemies, especially if outright chaos is your goal.
Whether you’re trying to halt an enemy advance, create a disturbance in a crowd, or sow discord in the enemy ranks, Confusion is a 4th-level enchantment spell you should absolutely have in your toolkit.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at Confusion, how it works, who can (and should) cast it, and how to get the most out of this fantastic battlefield control spell.
- Casting Time: 1 Action
- Range: 90 ft. (10-foot-radius sphere)
- Duration: 1 minute (Concentration)
- School: Enchantment
- Class: Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard, Knowledge Domain Cleric, Oathbreaker Paladin
- Level: 4th level
- Damage/Effect: Control
- Attack/Save: WIS Save
- Components: V, S, M (three nut shells)
Using an action, you assault and warp the minds of all creatures inside a 10-foot-radius sphere centered on a point of your choosing within range. The spell twists its targets perception of reality, spawning delusions and provoking uncontrolled action.
Each creature within the spell’s area of effect must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw when you cast this spell or be affected by it.
An affected target can’t take reactions and must roll a d10 at the start of each of its turns to determine its behavior for that turn.
An affected target can make a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the spell’s effect on a successful saving throw.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the radius of the sphere increases by 5 feet for each slot level above 4th.
What Is Confusion in DnD 5e?
Hands down, this might be my favorite spell in all of D&D 5e for sowing chaos. At the very least, it ties for first place with Summon Lesser Demons as the ultimate disruption spell.
This spell can turn an orderly enemy formation, a tightly-packed crowd, a temple full of chanting acolytes, or any other large group of individuals (or creatures – it works on animals too) into an absolute, grade-A, top-tier disaster in no time.
First, the range is amazing.
A 10-foot-radius sphere (discounting verticality) can potentially catch up to 12 enemies (according to Jeremey Crawford and the Dungeon Master’s Guide page 251), assuming they’re packed in tight and are all size medium.
Then, the ability to add an extra 5 feet to the sphere’s radius with each subsequent spell level means that – in a mass combat situation, especially – upcasting Confusion gives some pretty good bang for your buck by almost doubling the number of creatures you can hit.
Now, while it’s definitely not an optimal choice to cast Confusion as a 9th-level spell on an entire army when spells like Meteor Swarm exist, you will undoubtedly get points for style.
Also, if you want to break your DM’s brain trying to figure out the individual, turn-by-turn saves, actions, and attacks of 124 enemies (plus any flying or burrowing creatures that happen to be in the same zip code), this is the way to do it.
Just imagine it. The massed ranks of hobgoblin infantry arrayed before you – swords drawn, armor glinting in the dun red sunlight filtering through an ash-choked sky.
The war drums thunder, the rhythmic fall of hundreds of iron-shod boots shakes the very earth… you cast 9th-level Confusion, sit back and enjoy the show.
Immediately, about 40-60 hobgoblins are aware they just resisted the effects of a spell. Strange, itchy-brain paranoia momentarily squeezes their gray matter and recedes.
They don’t have very much time to think about this as, immediately, a dozen hobgoblins sprint at full speed in a random direction, 20 more stand stock still in seething, panicked paranoia, and another two dozen warriors turn their blades indiscriminately upon their own comrades.
In short: utter chaos ensues.
Basically, the applications for using Confusion to disrupt a large group of enemies are more or less endless.
Even if the affected creatures can act normally (there’s a 20% chance of this happening), they still can’t take reactions, meaning you’re free to spend your movement running straight through their midst without provoking attacks of opportunity, and they’re still going to have to save against the spell next turn.
Best case, however, is that the enemy positions descend into total, unmitigated madness for at least a turn with a pretty good chance of it all happening again next round.
If you manage to catch an especially powerful enemy with Confusion, consider hitting them with a follow-up combo spell like Mind Sliver, which can force them to subtract a d4 from their next saving throw.
When Should I Cast Confusion?
The biggest issue with Confusion is that it requires concentration to maintain for its minute duration.
This means that, if you’re in combat and take damage (assuming you fail your concentration save) or you need to do something else that requires concentration, the spell’s effect ends early.
However, I think this lines up quite nicely with how the spell feels intended to be used.
This isn’t a spell you cast while you and your allies charge heroically at the enemy lines; there are more effective, more reliable ways to give yourself the edge in a stand-up fight.
For me, Confusion is a spell you cast at the start of an encounter with the goal of bypassing it entirely.
It’s a spell you cast from the shadows at the edge of the altar to derail the vile cultists’ ritual. It’s a spell you use to create enough of a disturbance in the crowd to sneak up to the gallows and rescue your friend…
It’s also a spell you cast at people in confined quarters or on bridges because of the way that option 1 works.
“1. The creature uses all its movement to move in a random direction. To determine the direction, roll a d8 and assign a direction to each die face. The creature doesn’t take an action this turn.”
Now, there may be an obscure Crawford-ism that I’m missing here, but I think that the stipulation of a specific movement, coupled with the fact the affected creature has to use all of its movement going in that direction, means that if you manage to send someone running toward – say – a sheer drop… they’re going over the edge.
Is it reliable? No. Will your DM allow it? Maybe not. Will it be the best thing ever the one time it does happen? You bet.
Should DMs be using this against their players for brutal comedic value? Absolutely.
Also, it shouldn’t be understated that this spell affects “creatures” not “humanoids” or another specific creature type. You can cast confusion on anything.
The fact that large, dumb animals or mindless undead tend to have lower Wisdom scores really doesn’t hurt.
Use this spell to stampede herds of wooly mammoths or dinosaurs. Use it to set a necromancer’s horde of undead against itself. Use it on all the pigeons in the town square.
If it’s chaos you’re after, there are very few bad targets for this spell.
If you do want to cast confusion in a stand-up fight, it can be a great way to even out the action economy, especially if you can catch a few targets who have multiattack.
Because Multiattack is phrased on page 11 of the Monster Manual as an action that means “A creature … can make multiple attacks on its turn,” as long as the target affected can only make a multiattack, it has to use it against its allies.
Who Should Take Confusion?
This 4th-level spell is available to the Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard, and the Knowledge Domain Cleric at 7th level. The Oathbreaker paladin gains access to their spell at 13th level.
The best candidate for this spell (assuming you take my advice and use it as a sneaky chaos bomb to derail large groups) is the sorcerer.
By pairing Confusion with the Subtle Spell metamagic effect, you can effectively start a riot without anyone noticing it was you.
Honestly, the chances that a warband full of rowdy orcs stop hitting each other, even when the spell effect wears off, are nowhere near 100%.
We’ve all seen bar brawls in movies. It doesn’t matter who threw the first punch or why; there’s a fight happening now, and everyone’s just happy to participate.
Frequently Asked Questions About Confusion
Can Confusion Target Constructs and Undead?
Yes. The rules for Confusion stipulate that the spell affects “creatures,” meaning all creature types can be included.
Does Confusion Affect Charmed-Immune Creatures?
Yes. Even though Confusion is an Enchantment spell, it does not explicitly state that a target is “charmed for the duration,” only “affected.” This means creatures that are immune to the charmed condition can still be affected by Confusion.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.