A Starting Guide to 5e's Paralyzed Condition, A Woman Leaning on a Frozen Knight

A Guide to the Paralyzed Condition in D&D 5e

Of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition’s many conditions, Paralyzed is a brutal one to encounter. While player characters have very few methods of inflicting it, they have almost equally few options for dealing with it. Meanwhile, Game Masters have a plethora of creatures which can cause the condition on the party.
 
But, what is the Paralyzed condition in 5e? How does it work? And, what sources cause it?
 
This article outlines everything you need to know about 5e’s Paralyzed condition and how you can use it in your game.

First off, let’s take a look at the explicit rules description for the Paralyzed condition.

The Paralyzed Condition Description

D&D 5e Paralyzed Condition, A Knight Resting Their Head on the Hilt of Their Sword
The Paralyzed condition in D&D 5e essentially temporarily takes a creature’s ability to do anything away

Paralyzed is one of D&D 5e’s many conditions which may affect a creature. This condition essentially prevents an afflicted creature from moving or taking any actions for the duration.

Page 291 of the Player’s Handbook has the full description of the Paralyzed condition:

  • 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.
Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Appendix A: Conditions

Basically, Paralyzed causes four separate things to happen.

First, you become Incapacitated (more on this later). Second, you fail all Strength and Dexterity saving throws automatically. Third, all attack rolls have advantage against you, but remember abilities which force a save aren’t affected (unless they’re Strength or Dexterity saves). And finally, any attack which hits you is a critical hit so long as the attacking creature is within five feet of the Paralyzed creature; bolded because that may get finnicky in your game.

So, let’s take a deeper look at how 5e’s Paralyzed condition works, piece-by-piece.

How Being Paralyzed in 5e Works

Two Knights Fighting
Succumbing to the Paralyzed condition in 5e comes with a variety of drawbacks

The basics of how the Paralyzed condition works in 5e essentially outlines how an affected creature becomes incapable of doing anything for the duration of the effect causing their paralysis.

On a surface level, the Paralyzed condition is fairly simple. It prevents a creature from moving, stops them from taking any actions, and comes with some serious drawbacks while in the middle of combat.

But, there are some fiddly rules clarifications which may come up in any given situation. So, this guide breaks each part of the Paralyzed condition down to clarify any questions before they arise.

First up, suffering the Paralyzed condition also means becoming afflicted by the Incapacitated condition.

You Become Incapacitated

Becoming Paralyzed in D&D 5e also means suffering the Incapacitated condition. This means an affected creature follows the rules for both conditions at the same time.

On top of the effects of becoming Paralyzed, a creature also suffers the Incapacitated condition. The description, which is pretty simple, for this condition comes from page 290 of the Player’s Handbook.

An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Appendix A: Conditions

This means a creature can’t more or speak due to being Paralyzed and that same creature can’t take any actions or reactions due to the Incapacitated condition.

Basically, it means a creature afflicted by the Paralyzed condition can’t do anything while affected short of making saving throws with the exception of Strength and Dexterity. This means spellcasters become unable to cast spells.

Casting When Paralyzed

Creatures with the ability to cast spells become unable to do so while Paralyzed in 5e. Since a Paralyzed creature loses the ability to take actions and reactions, they lost the ability to take the Cast a Spell action required for spellcasting.

To reiterate; becoming Paralyzed in 5e means losing the ability take actions and reactions due to also becoming Incapacitated. Casting a spell in D&D 5e requires the use of the explicit Cast a Spell action (or bonus action, but that’s situational).

So, the answer to "can you cast spells while Paralyzed in 5e" is; no. A Paralyzed creature can not cast a spell while Paralyzed.

Can You Concentrate While Paralyzed?

Yes, you can still concentrate on a spell while Paralyzed in 5e. Becoming Paralyzed does not automatically end concentration on an already-cast spell. Nothing in this condition’s description does it state as such.

That said, you have to have cast the concentration spell before suffering the Paralyzed condition.

Timing is important here.

Since you can’t cast spell while Paralyzed, you wouldn’t be able to cast a concentration spell to concentrate on anyway. So, it doesn’t matter whether you can concentrate on the spell to begin with.

That said, if you already have a concentration spell going prior to succumbing to the Paralyzed condition, you can maintain that concentration for the duration of the spell while under the effects of the paralysis. Bear in mind, you made still need to make concentration saves while Paralyzed, but the condition itself doesn’t automatically end the act of concentrating on a spell.

Saving Throws While Paralyzed

The Paralyzed condition causes a creature to automatically fail all Strength and Dexterity saving throws. However, it has no effect on the other saves in D&D 5e.

Yes, becoming Paralyzed means failing Strength and Dexterity saving throws without rolling for them. A creature suffering from becoming Paralyzed can’t move to defend themselves, so it makes sense for the condition to affects these saves.

That said, becoming Paralyzed in 5e has no bearing on Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saving throws.

So, even if your character becomes Paralyzed, they may still make these saves normally. For example, a Paralyzed creature still makes a Constitution save as they typically would against the poison spray cantrip despite their current condition.

Attacks Made Against a Paralyzed Creature

All attack rolls made against a Paralyzed creature in 5e have advantage. But, only those made within five feet of a Paralyzed target become automatic critical hits.

There are two parts to this aspect of 5e’s Paralyzed condition.

First off; all attack rolls when targeting a Paralyzed creature have advantage. This includes all weapon, melee, ranged, and spell attacks. If you make an attack roll against a Paralyzed creature, you have advantage. Simple as that.

Of course, you still must consider the regular rules for advantage on disadvantage in 5e.

Second, and this is when things get a bit fussy; if an attack hits and the attacker is within five feet of the targeted, Paralyzed creature, that attack automatically becomes a critical hit. But, there are a few important considerations which come into play here.

Essentially, any attack made against a Paralyzed creature becomes a critical hit if made within five feet of that target. So, you can attempt to make a ranged attack while within five feet of a Paralyzed target and still get the critical if the attack hits. The attack doesn’t necessarily need to be made with a melee attack. Even better, since a Paralyzed creature also becomes Incapacitated, your character wouldn’t suffer from making a ranged attack in close-quarter combat (y’know, unless another, separate hostile creature is adjacent to you).

Now, it’s important to note only attacks made by the aggressor within five feet of a targeted, Paralyzed creature become automatic crits on a hit. This is a fairly straightforward rule, but there are quite a few situations when things may get confusing.

Here are some common situations when an attack against a Paralyzed creature wouldn’t benefit from the auto-crit rule.

  • Ranged attacks made beyond 5 feet
  • Melee attacks made beyond 5 feet with Reach weapons
  • Melee Attacks made beyond 5 feet using the Long-Limbed trait
  • Melee spell attacks cast by a spellcaster who is not adjacent to their target
    • Examples include thorn whip, spiritual weapon, & chill touch

Basically, if an attack originates from an aggressor within five feet of a targeted, Paralyzed creature and scores a hit, that attack automatically critically hits. Any attack coming from an attacker further away doesn’t benefit.

That said, remember all attacks made against a Paralyzed target receive advantage.

Do You Fall Prone When Paralyzed?

No. You do not fall prone when you become Paralyzed in 5e. Nothing in the description for this condition states as such.

It’s easy to see why some people think a Paralyzed creature should fall prone. The condition essentially removes a targets ability to move, so it seems like they may fall over because of it. But, that’s not the case.

Yes, 5e’s Paralyzed condition states a creature can’t willingly move but this sort of implies their body locks up. Essentially, a creature which succumbs to this condition stops where they are and can’t do anything. Their muscles and joints lock in place and they can’t move without being forced to do so as through the use of magic like the effect of the thunderwave spell.

Because of this, they don’t automatically fall prone when falling victim to the Paralyzed condition.

Using the Paralyzed Condition

Man Wielding a Sword and Shield
Using the Paralyzed condition in your game is a good way for adding tension in & out of combat

Utilizing the Paralyzed condition in your D&D 5e game is a good combat tactic for both Game Masters and players. Holding an enemy in place while granting advantage to all attacks made against that enemy is a major boon for anyone in battle.

If you’re looking to add a new threat to any given combat encounter, implementing a creature or ability which instills the Paralyzed condition is a good way to increase the stakes.

As a Game Master, using paralysis against the player characters can make what is a seemingly straightforward combat into a deadly situation. By the very nature of D&D 5e’s design, player characters tend to have less action economy, or less overall things they can do, in combat when compared with what’s at the GM’s disposal. Removing even a single player character from the combat even temporarily is a huge blow to the party’s combat capabilities.

Look at it this way; a party of four 3rd-level player characters has less Actions when put against a goblin gang including one Goblin Boss and five regular Goblin. It’s simple math; six creatures can do more than four. Granted, player characters tend to have bonus actions and access to a wider variety of abilities. But, if the Goblin Boss has a non-standard item or ability which instills the Paralyzed condition against even one player character, suddenly the players are down even more in terms of action economy.

Now for players; using the Paralyzed condition is great for both balancing this imbalance in action economy as well as for prioritizing targets in combat.

Removing or incapacitating enemy combatants as a player is usually the priority during combat. Many combat encounters involved a higher number of hostile creatures compared with the party, so even temporarily evening the numbers is a great tactic to employ as a player. It brings the action economy to a more comparable level with the player characters which usually equates to tipping the balance in favor of the players.

Second, Paralyzing an important enemy either due to their destructive output or for engaging in an interrogation following combat is a great tactic to keep in mind. For example, instilling the Paralyzed condition on an enemy mage may keep them from teleporting away if / when the player characters dispatch their lackeys.

Basically, employing the Paralyzed condition both as a Game Master and player is a great way for enhancing combat and other encounters.

What Causes the Paralyzed Condition in 5e?

Shouting Man Holding a Banner Pole
Outside of monster abilities, there are very few ways of inflicting the Paralyzed condition in D&D 5e

D&D 5e’s Paralyzed condition is actually a fairly rare status effect. Very few spells cause it and it most often happens due to a monster’s ability rather than originating from the player characters.

There…aren’t really any common methods of imposing the Paralyzed condition in 5e. That is, none available to player characters. 5e has many monsters with some sort of ability to paralyze player characters.

From what I could find looking through the various sourcebooks, none of the playable classes have a feature which inflicts paralysis. For that matter, neither do any of the player races or lineages. About the only option for players is to play a spellcaster with access to the (limited) spells which impose this condition.

I will say, aside from spells, there are the Wand of Paralysis, Wand of Binding, and Rod of Lordly Might magic items which all either have a feature which or allows the casting of a spell which causes the Paralyzed condition.

But, as with all magic items, accessibility to these relies solely on the Game Master. So, it’s not really a reliable method of paralyzing a creature.

That said, let’s get into the easiest way for a player character to inflict the Paralyzed condition; spells.

Spells

Only two spells in D&D 5e inflict the Paralyzed condition; hold person and hold monster.

Player characters really only have two options for easily imposing the Paralyzed condition on a creature, and both options are spells. First, you have the 2nd-level spell hold person. Then, you get what is basically the upgraded version of that with hold monster, a 5th-level spell.

That’s it.

To make matters even more limiting, hold person only works on humanoid creatures. So, no beasts, undead, monstrosities, or anything weird beyond humanoids. Luckily, hold monster works on most everything with the only exception being undead.

So, if you want to include paralyzing as a frequent tactic during combat, you either need to play as or play with a spellcaster who takes one of these spells.

Monsters

The most common source of the Paralyzed condition comes from various monsters at a Game Master’s disposal. Many fairly common creatures have some ability which imposes the Paralyzed condition on a player character (or other creature) usually after failing a saving throw.

While player characters have very few options for inflicting paralysis on a creature, Game Masters have quite a few monsters they may employ in their games with the ability to do so. As such, you’ll probably experience this condition either as a player or using a creature against your players. Why are there so many creatures with an immunity to this condition when player characters have so few options of inflicting it? Your guess is as good as mine.

That aside, here’s a list of creatures capable of inflicting the Paralyzed condition in D&D 5e.

Monsters Which Can Cause the Paralyzed Condition

  • Monster Manual
    • Beholder
    • Death Tyrant
    • Spectator
    • Chuul
    • Ancient Silver Dragon
    • Adult Silver Dragon
    • Young Silver Dragon
    • Silver Dragon Wyrmling
    • Ghast
    • Ghoul
    • Grell
    • Lich
    • Revenant
    • Scarecrow
    • Thri-kreen
    • Yeti
    • Abominable Yeti
    • Beholder Zombie
    • Giant Centipede
    • Giant Spider
    • Giant Wasp
    • Giant Wolf Spider
    • Phase Spider
  • Volo’s Guide to Monsters
    • Gauth
    • Shoosuva
    • Flind
    • Meenlock
    • Tlincalli
  • Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
    • Cadaver Collector
    • Iron Cobra
    • Maurezhi
    • Orthon
    • Drow Arachnomancer
    • Nagpa
    • Retriever
  • Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons
    • Eyedrake
    • Ghost Dragon
    • Liondrake

How to Stop the Paralyzed Condition

Man Wearing Knight's Armor Adjusting a Strap
Since there are so few ways of inflicting it, D&D 5e has very few ways of stopping or ending the Paralyzed condition

Player characters have a few options available to them for ending the Paralyzed condition early, all of which involve spellcasting. On the other hand, many creatures available to Game Masters have an immunity against this condition, negating its effectiveness on the player’s behalf.

Many instances of Paralyzed in 5e end after a short while. Rarely does the condition last longer than one minute. That said, even one minute is an agonizingly long time in-combat.

So, player characters have a few options for ending the Paralyzed condition available to them, but not many.

Players basically have three spells which end this condition and one of them is a very high-level option.

Spells Which End the Paralyzed Condition in 5e

  • Lesser Restoration (2nd-Level)
  • Freedom of Movement (2nd-Level)
  • Power Word: Heal (9th-Level)

There’s also aura of purity, a 4th-level spell, which grants advantage against the Paralyzed condition. But, it doesn’t outright end it.

Lesser restoration and freedom of movement at least are fairly low-level spell available to a wide variety of spellcasters. So, if you’re dealing with this condition by 3rd-level, you have those as options. Even better, they do more than deal with paralysis, so they’re good to have on-hand anyway.

On the other hand, power word: heal only becomes available at the earliest at 17th-level. So, I wouldn’t recommend relying on it for cure the Paralyzed condition.

Monsters Immune to the Paralyzed Condition

Now, there are also 295 creatures with an immunity against the Paralyzed condition.

Is that gonna come up often as a Game Master? Ehh, probably not since player characters very few options for inflicting this specific condition. But, maybe your players befriended a Silver dragon who may aid them in combat.

Again, why do so many creatures have an immunity against this condition when player characters don’t really have an easy way of inflicting it?

Your guess is as good as mine. Thematically, it makes sense for these creatures to be unaffected by it, I suppose. But, in practicality, these creatures being unable to become Paralyzed will rarely come up in your game.

Stunned vs Paralyzed

Knight Frozen in Place
The Stunned & Paralyzed conditions effectively accomplish the same thing but have slightly different rulings between them

While similar, the Stunned and Paralyzed conditions are separate while effectively doing roughly the same thing. The difference between the two being the Stunned condition sometimes lasts for a shorter time.

To begin with, here’s the description for the Stunned condition in 5e:

  • 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.
Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Appendix A: Conditions

So, you can see how similar this is to Paralyzed.

A creature becomes Incapacitated and can’t move just like with Paralyzed, but Stunned creatures can still kind of speak. Otherwise, this condition also causes an affected creature to automatically fail Strength and Dexterity saves and grants advantage on attacks made against them; the same as with Paralyzed. However, the Stunned condition doesn’t grant automatic critical hits coming from attackers within five feet of an affected creature, unlike Paralyzed.

Effectively, the Stunned and Paralyzed conditions in 5e do the same thing with slight variations.

The difference between these conditions is the length of their durations. Paralyzed creatures usually suffer the condition for a minimum of one minute (10 combat rounds) with opportunities to save out of it every six seconds (or one round). On the other hand, the Stunned condition more often lasts only one round either until the end of the afflicted creatures next turn or the start / end of the creature imposing the condition. For example, the Monk class’ Stunning Strike feature can cause a creature to become Stunned until the end of the Monk’s next turn.

That said, you’ll often see the Stunned condition last for one minute or the Paralyzed condition lasting only a single round. Just make sure to thoroughly read the ability causing either condition.

Also, certain spells or abilities interact with these conditions differently. For example, the lesser restoration spell has the option of ending the Paralyzed condition but not Stunned.

Due to this, the Stunned and Paralyzed conditions can’t be interchanged with one another despite achieving essentially the same thing.

Paralyzed in 5e FAQ

Close Up of a Man Wearing a Medieval Helmet

Can You Subtle Spell When Paralyzed?

No. You can not use the Subtle Spell Metamagic while Paralyzed in 5e as you still need to use some type of action to cast a spell.

Subtle Spell removes the Verbal and Somatic components for spellcasting in D&D but it does not remove the action / bonus action / reaction requirement. A Sorcerer still needs to take the Cast a Spell action even when they use Subtle Spell. As such, they can not cast a spell using Subtle Spell while Paralyzed.

Can You Rage While Paralyzed in 5e?

No. You can not Rage while Paralyzed because it requires the use of a bonus action.

Becoming Paralyzed in 5e means losing the ability to take actions and reactions; this includes bonus actions. Since using the Barbarian’s Rage feature requires taking a bonus action, the Paralyzed condition prevents that character for using this feature.

 

Summary of the D&D 5e Paralyzed Condition

That covers about everything you need to know about 5e’s Paralyzed condition.

Paralyzed effectively prevents a creature from doing anything through removing their ability to move and take actions. It also makes attacking an afflicted creature easier by granting advantage on attack rolls made against them and causing them to fail all Strength and Dexterity saving throws. That said, players have very few options for inflicting paralysis while Game Masters have a myriad of monsters with some sort of ability to do it against the party. Finally, there are very few ways of removing the Paralyzed condition outside of waiting for the effect to end on its own.

Have you used the Paralyzed condition against your players? Leave a comment below with how it went!

Make sure to follow Role Player’s Respite for more rules breakdowns, inspiration for your setting, and tips for running your game!

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