“The words of power are simple spells, really. Powerful, but simple. They exist in the purest realm of magic. They are thought and intention and will be made manifest as they were in the moments of creation.
When abstract thought became concrete reality, the Words were in play. We have only recovered a few of them, and if we recovered anymore, our minds would crack.
Take my mind, for example. When I first discovered Power Word Stun, my brain was laid bare as the day I was born before the forces of creation. It took me a month to recover, and some say I never have.
Now, if everyone would please release the goats from their bags of Holding, we can begin!”
-Overheard in a Black Citadel lecture hall
Power Word Stun
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 60feet
- Duration: Instantaneous
- School: Enchantment
- Class: Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
- Level: 8th
- Damage/Effect: Stunned (if the target has fewer than 150HP)
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: Verbal
- Ritual/Concentration: No
What Is Power Word Stun?
From the Basic Rules
You speak a word of power that can overwhelm the mind of one creature you can see within range, leaving it dumbfounded. If the target has 150 hit points or fewer, it is stunned. Otherwise, the spell has no effect.
The stunned target must make a Constitution saving throw at the end of each of its turns. On a successful save, this stunning effect ends.
Like all the Power Word Spells, this one is brutal in its simplicity. The target is simply stunned, meaning they cannot move, act, or react.
They can barely speak, and they fail all STR and DEX saving throws. Attack rolls against them will have advantage, so notify the rogue!
The party has been facing off against a warforged monk. This warforged is non-stop! They’re attacking four, five, or sometimes even six times per turn; not to mention running 55 feet or more.
Their AC is ridiculous, and no one can hit the thing even if they manage to catch up to them.
But Lanscan the Bard has seen enemies like this before, and he knows what to do. Lanscan waits until the warforged engages the barbarian and then steps within 60 feet.
Praying to the gods of trickery and luck and anyone else who will listen, Lanscan breathes deeply and plays a shrill note on his flute.
He casts power word stun.
The warforged twitches and clutches their head, nearly dropping to their knees. This leaves them wide open to the barbarian’s pummeling, the rogue’s sneak attack, and finally the sorcerer’s carefully sculpted fireball.
Lanscan may not have landed the final blow, but he made sure the fight was finished and the right side won.
Who Can/Should Be Casting Power Word Stun?
This spell is available to Bards, Sorcerers, Wizards, and Warlocks, but not every Wizard wants to use an 8th-level spell slot for a simple stun, nor would a Sorcerer.
These tend to be the heavy-hitters of the party, so they will more than likely take their 8th-level spell slot and sink it into a supercharged lightning bolt.
Warlocks are a better bet for this spell as they aren’t necessarily the primary spellcaster.
They will often have other combat abilities focused on dealing high damage to a specific target as opposed to altering the terrain or working on crowd control.
Also, Bards are a great candidate for power word stun. A stunned target gives everyone else in the party advantage, and a natural support role like the bard can truly set up a win-condition by stunning the big threat in the enemy’s ranks.
Other 8th Level Spells
When you get to the point where you can choose from some of the most powerful spells in the game, you’re hard pressed to pick the right spell for your character.
Of course, 8th level has some great spells to choose from, whether you’re a necromancer or an evoker.
Power Word Stun will be the best spell for you to choose if you have a tendency to favor enchantment and illusion spells over the flashier, world-changing spells like demiplane or sunburst.
Power Word Stun is guaranteed to work for at least one round and could even go on indefinitely if someone can cast bane or a similar spell that can weaken the target’s CON saves.
Therefore, if you enjoy attacking your opponent’s strategies and unit cohesiveness as opposed to simply attacking their HP, Power Word Stun is for you.
Restrictions of Power Word Stun
As an 8th-level spell, just getting to a high enough level to have the spell slots is a bit of a restriction.
That being said, Power Word Stun is a simple enough spell that it is hard to foil.
But folks come to the Citadel when they want the burning questions answered, the implications explicated, and the exploitive insight of our hardcore, tactical, nerd brains!
Here are a few questions travelers to the Citadel often bring with them concerning Power Word Stun.
Does the target get a saving throw? No. This is one of the reasons why this spell is so powerful.
How long does the target remain stunned? A target will remain stunned until it can pass a CON save vs. your spellcasting DC.
Again, this could conceivably be forever under the right circumstances. If the target falls unconscious, however, it is safe to say they will no longer be stunned when they awaken.
Does the target have to understand the language I speak in order to be affected? No.
The verbal component of the spell can be spoken in any language, and just because you are ostensibly using a “word” and commanding the target to be stunned, doesn’t mean they have to understand your command. It’s magic, duh!
Does the target get advantage or disadvantage on its CON save if it takes damage from another source? No. Taking damage will not affect its CON save whatsoever.
Because Power Word Stun is such a powerful spell, it has a few restrictions:
- The target must have fewer than 150 HP.
This means you should either use it against a weaker monster or opponent to temporarily remove them from the board or save that spell slot and make sure you go last in the initiative to ensure they have less HP.
If you go last in the initiative, however, be careful. This will give your opponent a chance to make a CON save and end the effect.
If you are confident they have less than 150 HP, then make sure you go first in the initiative so that everyone in the party gets an attack with advantage before they get their first saving throw.
When To Use Power Word Stun
With these in mind, here’s the general rule around the Citadel.
Use Power Word Stun on WEAKER monsters if:
- You need to reduce the threat of the Boss’s minions.
- You need to make a CHR check and want a social advantage against the witnesses.
- You’ve got one 8th-level spell slot left and you are about to take a long rest.
Use Power Word Stun on STRONGER monsters if:
- You have been saving back that one last 8th-level spell slot for just this occasion.
- You have made an Insight check (or the healer has made a Medicine check) to determine how much HP the monster has left.
For DMs: Helping Your Players Determine a Monster’s HP
When your players ask, “How injured does this thing look?”, instead of giving a vague response like, “It’s fairly hurt,” tell your players to make an Insight or Medicine check to determine the level of its health.
Use the following guide:
In addition, it helps if you can do a little planning and change the monster’s tactics depending on their health level.
Maybe at the start of the fight, they confidently engage in melee, and the lower their health gets, the more they either rely on defensive techniques or even start throwing more powerful but wild and careless attacks.
This will let your players do a little “table insight” before they start asking you questions and rolling dice themselves.
A Gift for Your Table: The Tent of Stunning Curiosities!
Very Rare Art
This artwork (either a painting or a sculpture) is a self-portrait of a gnome in either a regal or intimate pose.
What is most interesting about this artwork is the very large eyes of the gnome that seem to draw the viewer in. Simply looking into the eyes of the gnome will subject you to a Power Word Stun effect.
You may make a CON save vs. DC 16 to end the effect at the end of your subsequent turns.
The great gnome bard Doceli Mossgraben once had a brilliant idea to alleviate the wealthy patrons of his city of the excess weighty stress they carried in the form of jewels and gold.
Not content with merely knabbing a handful of purses here and there, Doceli planned a masterpiece of trickery.
He traveled the land to get the best entertainers and performers he could find to create Doceli’s Wandering Players, and together they pulled off some of the greatest heists known and many that are still unknown.
The centerpiece to Doceli’s greatest caper was known as the Tent of Stunning Curiosities.
In this tent, Doceli himself created over two dozen pieces of artwork and sculptures. Each statue and painting was a portrait of himself in various grand and sultry poses.
However, Doceli alchemically sealed a Power Word Stun spell of his own casting into the eyes of each bust and self-portrait. When the viewer gazed into Doceli’s endless pools of color, they were immediately stunned as per the spell.
When so stunned, the skilled fingers of Doceli’s performers would liberate the valuables from the stunned audience.
Word spread of the wonderous artwork in this tent, and Doceli used the reputation to make viewings more and more exclusive, selling tickets at exorbitantly higher and higher prices until, as planned, Doceli brought his tent to the King’s castle.
On the night of his greatest heist yet, Doceli sought to steal the crown from the King’s head! When the royals and nobles entered into the Tent, they were all subject to the Power Word Stun… except the King.
The King, it turned out, was immune to being stunned by virtue of being completely unaware of his surroundings at most times! He rarely, if ever, had any idea what was going on or any idea at all about anything.
He did, however, manage to catch Doceli as the gnome tried to lift the crown. See, Doceli couldn’t tell if the king was stunned or was simply staring off into space like he always seemed to do…
Needless to say, Doceli was imprisoned until he escaped some time later.
His stunning curiosities, however, remain at large and could pop up anywhere in your game or campaign, perhaps hanging on a wall or thrown carelessly in a hoard.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].