Stunned Condition 5e: Quick Guide & Discussion

The Stunned condition is one of the most powerful status conditions in D&D. Stunning a creature prevents it from taking actions or reactions, causes it to automatically fail strength and dexterity saves, and gives your party advantage on attack rolls against it.

What Is the Stunned Condition in DnD 5e?

Stunning a creature causes it to become incapacitated, meaning that it cannot take actions or reactions. This is arguably the most powerful part of the Stunned condition as it completely negates any danger posed by the target creature.

A stunned creature also cannot move and can only speak falteringly. This prevents the creature from escaping and may impede it from communicating with allies.

Different DMs may rule differently on what, mechanically, it means to speak “falteringly,” but a stunned creature will usually find it harder to call for help from allies in the next room.

A stunned creature automatically fails any strength or dexterity saving throws, and any attack rolls made against a stunned creature have advantage.

These effects make the creature much more vulnerable to most of your party’s damage-dealing abilities. While a creature is stunned is a great time to use your high-level spells and abilities like Action Surge.

How Can I Stun Other Creatures?

Stunning Strike

Stunning Strike, as the name might suggest, stuns its target. Stunning Strike is an ability that monks receive at level 5.

On a successful melee hit, the monk can spend 1 Ki and force the target to make a constitution save. If the target fails the save, it becomes stunned. This stun ends after one full round of combat.

Stunning Strike is very powerful. At level 5, when monks unlock it, they already have access to 5 Ki points, which reset after a short or long rest.

This means that if they’re willing to spend all their Ki points, they can potentially keep an enemy stunned for five full rounds of combat.

Most D&D combat encounters only actually last for two or three rounds (although they can feel like much longer!), so monks may be able to keep a dangerous enemy stunned for an entire encounter.

To add to this, monks can make two attacks per action at level 5, and they don’t need to declare that they’re using Stunning Strike until after they’ve made a successful attack roll.

They have a very high likelihood of successfully using Stunning Strike each round.

Spells

There are also five spells that you can use to inflict the Stunned condition. All of these are high-level spells, the lowest being Contagion, which is a fifth-level spell.

Druids and Clerics don’t receive fifth-level spell slots until level nine, so all of these spells can only be accessed by relatively high-level characters.

What Other Creatures Can Stun Me?

Many of D&D’s high-level boss monsters are also high-level casters. Any monsters with caster classes that give them access to stunning spells can stun you.

This includes humanoid wizards, but other creatures, such as dragons, often have an arsenal of spells at their disposal.

Several monsters have a stun ability that doesn’t stem from spellcasting. These monsters are also more likely to stun you because they’re choosing from a smaller selection of abilities.

Mind Flayers, who rank among D&D’s most iconic bad guys, can stun you with their basic melee attack, Tentacles, and on their Mind Blast ability.

Garbage-eating Otyughs are also very likely to stun you with their Tentacle Slam ability.

There are far too many monsters with stun abilities to cover them all in detail. The full list though, for reference, is:

  • Air Elemental Myrmidon
  • Allip
  • Amnizu
  • Brain in a Jar
  • Catoblepas
  • Draconian Mastermind
  • Giant Lightning Eel
  • Gnome Squidling
  • Grung Elite Warrior
  • Hammer-handed Golem
  • Martial Arts Adept
  • Mind Flayer
  • Mind Flayer Arcanist
  • Mind Flayer Psion
  • Mindwitness
  • Myconid Adult
  • Neo-Otyugh
  • Otyugh
  • Shemshine
  • Spirit Troll
  • Star Spawn Hulk
  • Steel Predator
  • Su-monster
  • Ulitharid
  • Vrock

How Do I Get Un-Stunned?

All of D&D’s stunning abilities specify the conditions under which the stun ends. This might be after a specified length of time like Stunning Strike, which ends after a round, or upon a successful saving throw, like Power Word Stun.

There is one way to end stuns early, but it’s extremely high cost. The ninth-level Power Word Heal spell heals its target to maximum health and ends several status conditions including Stunned.

This spell is accessible to Clerics and Bards, neither of whom receive ninth-level spell slots until level 17.

Other Conditions Similar to Stunned

There are three other conditions besides stunned that also automatically incapacitate the target.

Paralyzed

Paralyzed is almost identical to stunned but with two differences. A paralyzed creature cannot speak at all, unlike a stunned creature that can speak falteringly.

Additionally, any attack that hits a creature made by an attacker within 5 feet of it is automatically a critical hit.

This means Paralyzed is a slightly more powerful version of Stunned. The only potential downside of Paralyzed is that you can’t interrogate a Paralyzed creature because it can’t speak.

Paralyzed can be inflicted by the second-level spell, Hold Person, which players gain access to at a relatively low level. However, it can also be removed by Lesser Restoration, which is also a second-level spell.

Petrified

Petrified creatures are transformed into stone. This has several effects.

The notable differences between Stunned and Petrified are that Petrified creatures become 10 times heavier, gain resistance to all damage, and become immune to poison and disease.

Petrified creatures’ worn and carried items are also transformed, making them impossible to loot.

Petrified is a signature condition, inflicted by monsters like Medusas and Basilisks. Players can only inflict Petrified using the sixth-level spell, Flesh to Stone. It can be removed by Greater Restoration, which is a fifth-level spell.

Unconscious

Unconscious is different from Stunned in several ways. As with Paralyzed, unconscious creatures can’t speak at all and are critically hit by any successful attacks made from within 5 feet.

Creatures knocked unconscious also initially drop anything they’re holding and fall prone, and unconscious creatures are completely unaware of their surroundings.

Unconsciousness most commonly arises when a character is reduced to 0 hp and either forced to make death saves or knocked unconscious using non-lethal damage.

Unconscious can be inflicted by the first-level spell Sleep, but it’s also the easiest of these conditions to remove. In the case of all three spells that inflict Unconscious, the condition ends if the target takes damage.

If you don’t want to deal damage to an unconscious creature, you can also slap or shake it to wake it up. This doesn’t work on creatures that have been knocked unconscious by being reduced to 0 hp.

The Monk Keeps Stunning All My Boss Monsters! How Do I Stop It?

For DMs, the Stunned condition can be understandably frustrating.

Monks are highly mobile, and they will often be able to catch and stun-lock your boss monsters with Stunning Strike, allowing the rest of the party to burn through the boss’s hp before it can act.

This can undermine combat encounters that you spend hours designing and, if you like to build your encounters around a single powerful enemy, it can mean that combat encounters always feel like they go the same way.

This is a problem to be solved, but it’s important not to over-solve it. You need to find ways to build combat encounters that aren’t trivialized by Stunning Strike.

That said, it’s important that your players have the opportunity to shine in combat, and your monk player is unlikely to have much fun if Stunning Strike never has a significant impact.

There are two main ways to negate the effect of Stunning Strike. If your boss monster is a serious, high-level bad guy, then it may have legendary resistances.

Particularly in the case of dragons, who are smart and tactical and far easier to kill if they’re pinned on the ground, a monk’s Stunning Strike may be worth burning a legendary resistance on.

The second way to play around Stunning Strike is to use multiple weaker enemies rather than one very powerful one. This is useful in a much wider range of combat encounters.

If there are many enemies and your monk stuns one of them, it doesn’t trivialize the entire encounter. There are still plenty of enemies who aren’t stunned and who can take actions.

Beware of over-using this strategy though because it can make the game less fun for your monk.

One very sneaky compromise solution is to include an enemy in your combat encounter that exists purely in order to be stunned by the monk.

This enemy should have high damage so they represent a meaningful threat and high health so they live long enough to be worth stunning.

Making them physically larger than the other enemies on the battlefield is also a nice touch. Ogres are a great option for this enemy at lower levels.