Many spells and some other abilities in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition create long-lasting or temporary effects on a target creature or object. These effects are usually pretty beneficial or detrimental, so they require the caster or creature using the ability to focus on them. This focus is called concentration and comes with it’s own ruleset for maintaining the effect created.
But, how does concentration work? What breaks it? And, how do you improve your character’s ability to maintain it?
This guide goes over everything you need to know about concentration in D&D 5e.
First off, let’s go over what the Player’s Handbook says about concentration in 5e.
Rules for Concentration in 5e
Concentration in 5e is a ruleset generally used for spellcasters but sometimes apply to specific class features. How concentration works is a creature casts a spell or uses an applicable ability and must maintain some bit of their focus on the created effect. If that creature loses or ends their concentration, the corresponding effect immediately ends.
Essentially, concentration in 5e is a mechanic for, as it implies, concentrating on an effect. Most of the time, this means focusing on a spell with a duration longer than instantaneous, but there are other abilities which function like concentration spells like the Ranger’s optional Favored Foe feature.
In fact, the rules for concentration come from the spellcasting chapter of the Player’s Handbook:
Basically, some spells with extended durations require the spellcaster to maintain concentration on them. If they lose concentration for any reason, these spells end immediately.
How to Roll a Concentration Saving Throw
To roll for a concentration saving throw, you roll a 20-sided die and add your character’s Constitution Ability Score modifier. If you meet or exceed the Difficulty Class for the concentration save, your character successfully maintains concentration on their spell or ability.
Rolling a concentration saving throw is just a different use for a Constitution save because they’re actually the same thing. As such, if you have proficiency in Constitution saving throws, you also have proficiency in concentration saves.
So, if you’re character is concentrating on a spell or other ability and needs to make a concentration save, simply roll a 20-sided die (1d20) and add your Constitution saving throw modifier. The total equals your concentration save. If you succeed, you maintain concentration on the spell or ability. A failure means a creature loses concentration and the effect they were focusing on ends immediately.
Something to remember is spellcasters need to roll a concentration save every time they take damage. You don’t lump all sources of damage into a single saving throw. For example, if a Wizard concentrating on blur still gets hit by both attacks from a brown bear, they’d need to make 2 concentration saves to keep concentrating on their spell.
How to Calculate the DC for Concentration Saves
To calculate the Difficulty Class (DC) of a concentration saving throw as the result of taking damage, you use the damage received from an attack, spell, or ability or 10 whichever is higher. For non-damage concentration save DCs, you should follow the general rules for how hard a Difficulty Class should be using the Player’s Handbook guidelines.
Since a creature normally makes a concentration save after taking damage, the DC for these saving throws equals 10 or half of damage taken (rounded down), whichever is higher. So, let’s say a Wizard concentrating on their casting of arcane hand takes 23 damage. Half of 23 is 11.5, so they take 11 since we round down. Since the damage taken is higher than 10, their concentration save DC equals 11.
Basically, ask yourself the following question when figuring out the concentration saving throw DC: is half the damage taken from a single attack or effect greater than 10? If yes; use that number as the concentration save DC. If no; the concentration save DC equals 10.
What Breaks Concentration in D&D 5e?
Many circumstances can break a creature’s concentration. However, taking damage is the most common way to break a spellcaster’s concentration in 5e. That said, there are other circumstances when a creature would stop concentrating on a spell or ability.
There are 3 basic things which break a creature’s concentration on a spell or other ability:
Since each of these have their own intricacies, let’s break each of them down.
Failing a Concentration Save Due to Damage (or Other Circumstance)
The most common reason a creature would lose concentration in 5e is as a result of taking damage and failing their saving throw. However, at a Game Master’s discretion, particularly harsh conditions may force a creature to make a concentration saving throw as well.
The easiest way to stop a creature from concentrating on a spell is to deal enough damage to them or deal damage enough times to force that creature to make saving throw after saving throw. As soon as they fail a single concentration save, the spell they’re concentrating on ends.
More often than not, player characters will have their concentration broken due to taking damage. A bad roll or taking enough damage which makes a saving throw DC extremely difficult (or impossible) means losing concentration.
Now, aside from damage, Game Masters have the option to have creatures make concentration saves due to extenuating circumstances. Generally speaking, it takes pretty intense situations to force a creature to make a concentration saving throw from something other than taking damage. For example, dangling from a cliff face probably wouldn’t be enough to force a saving throw. But, dangling from a cliff face while hurricane level winds batter a creature may warrant a concentration save.
Some other situations when concentration saves may be appropriate include:
- Being repeatedly dunked in and out of rough waters
- Hanging onto something while an airship rapidly plummets from the sky
- Standing in the presence of a magical implement which disrupts magical energies
- Getting waved around by a gargantuan creature
Succumbing to Certain Conditions
A creature can not concentrate on a spell or ability while incapacitated. As such, any other condition which causes a creature to become incapacitated also breaks a creature’s concentration. If a condition doesn’t cause a creature to become incapacitated, then that condition won’t end concentration.
Essentially, if a condition causes a creature to become to become incapacitated, that condition breaks concentration. So, you’ll need to read a condition’s description carefully to see if it also can be used to stop a creature from concentrating on a spell or ability.
The following conditions all break a creature’s concentration in 5e:
- Death: dying ends concentration on any existing spells
- Incapacitated: per the rules for concentration, becoming incapacitated ends concentration
- Paralyzed: causes a creature to become incapacitated
- Petrified: causes a creature to become incapacitated
- Stunned: causes a creature to become incapacitated
- Unconscious: causes a creature to become incapacitated
Honestly, the biggest thing to remember when it comes to conditions ending concentration; if a creature becomes incapacitated in any way, then they lose concentration. So, not only does the incapacitated condition break concentration, but the paralyzed, petrified, stunned, and unconscious conditions do as well as an extension of their own effects.
On the flip side of this; this means none of the other conditions end concentration. On their own, the blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened, grappled, invisible, poisoned, prone, restrained, or exhaustion conditions all won’t end a creature’s ability to concentrate on a spell of ability. That said, 3 levels of exhaustion does impose disadvantage on all saving throws, so concentration saves become harder at that point.
Finally and of course, if a creature dies while concentrating on a spell or ability, that spell or ability also ends. Being dead means they can’t focus on the effect.
Casting Another Concentration Spell
Casting a second spell which requires concentration ends the previous spell’s or effect’s concentration. As such, a creature can’t maintain concentration on 2 spells or abilities at once.
Finally, something I feel a lot of players forget; if a creature casts a concentration spell while already concentrating on a spell, the previous spell ends. A creature can not concentrate on more than 1 spell or ability at a time.
For example, if a Wizard casts cloud of daggers to help with damage output but later casts blur for a better defense, they’d end their concentration on cloud of daggers and start concentrating on blur.
Improving Your Concentration Saving Throws
There are few ways to improve a creature’s ability to maintain concentration on a spell or ability. Generally, that creature needs to improve their Constitution Ability Score modifier, but there are class features, feats, and magic items which do so as well.
Of course, as a player, you want to maintain concentration on your spells and abilities. If you can’t keep concentrating, then you’re not getting the most out of these abilities. So, you may ask; "how can I improve my concentration saves?"
There are basically 4 ways to improve your concentration saves in 5e:
- Increasing your Constitution Ability Score
- Certain class features
- Specific magic items
- A select few feats
Let’s start with the most basic of these methods: increasing your Constitution Ability Score modifier.
Constitution Ability Score
Increasing your character’s Constitution Ability Score modifier improves their chances at succeeding concentration saving throws.
This is the most straightforward way to improve your character’s ability to succeed on concentration saving throws. Since concentration saves are just Constitution saves, using your regular Ability Score Improvements to boost your Constitution score also makes maintaining concentration easier.
Just remember; your Constitution Ability Score modifier only increases at every even number. For example, going from 12 to 13 doesn’t change your modifier; it stays +1. But, increasing your score from 13 to 14 does increase your modifier from +1 to +2.
Here’s a refresher showing when your character’s Constitution Ability Score modifier increases:
- Ability Score 1: -5
- Ability Score 2-3: -4
- Ability Score 4-5: -3
- Ability Score 6-7: -2
- Ability Score 8-9: -1
- Ability Score 10-11: +0
- Ability Score 12-13: +1
- Ability Score 14-15: +2
- Ability Score 16-17: +3
- Ability Score 18-19: +4
- Ability Score 20: +5
Get Proficiency in Constitution Saving Throws
Related to improving your Constitution score; if you can somehow gain proficiency in Constitution saving throws, you’ll have an easier time maintaining concentration. This may involve taking specific feats (which I’ll touch on later) or choosing a class at character creation that starts with proficiency in it and multiclassing into a spellcaster later.
Having proficiency in Constitution saves means adding your Proficiency bonus to those saving throws, making maintaining concentration that much easier. Even better, since your Proficiency bonus increases passively as you level up, your saves get better and better the later into your campaign you get.
Players have some options for improving their concentration saves depending on the class they play.
Some of the classes in 5e give you special bonuses to maintaining concentration. They’re all spellcasters since most character that have to worry about concentration are concerned with their spells. So, your choices are a little slim.
The following class features improve your general concentration saves in some way:
- Artificer: Artificer Infusions (Mind Sharpener) – can spend a charge to turn a failed concentration save into a success
- Bard: Bardic Inspiration – additional die roll for saving throws
- Druid (Circle of Stars): Starry Form (Dragon) – can treat a roll of 9 or lower as a 10 on concentration saves
- Warlock: Eldritch Invocations (Eldritch Mind) – advantage on concentration saves
- Wizard (Bladesinging): Bladesong – flat bonus to concentration saves
- Wizard (School of Conjuration): Focused Conjuration – advantage on concentration saves for conjuration spells
- Wizard (School of Transmutation): Transmuter’s Stone – proficiency in Constitution saves
- Wizard (War Magic): Durable Magic – flat bonus to concentration saves
There are few feats in 5e which improve a player character’s ability to succeed on concentration saves. Many of them are indirect, half-feats through increasing a character’s Constitution Ability Score.
Feats are a popular choice for a variety of builds, and there are some which can help your character with their concentration saves. Few of them help directly, but you have some options depending on how you want to play your character.
Here are the feats you could take to help boost your character’s concentration saves a bit:
- Aberrant Dragonmark: +1 Constitution
- Chef: +1 Constitution option
- Crusher: +1 Constitution option
- Durable: +1 Constitution
- Knight of the Crown: +1 Constitution option
- Knight of the Rose: +1 Constitution option
- Lucky: can roll 1d20 on a save and use any total
- Resilient: can gain proficiency in Constitution saves
- Skill Expert: +1 Constitution option
- Tavern Brawler: +1 Constitution option
- War Caster: advantage on concentration saves
Now, a lot of these are half-feats which give you a +1 to your Constitution score or gives you the option to do so. They might not explicitly improve your concentration saves, but boosting your Constitution through them still works.
D&D 5e doesn’t have many magic items which explicitly improve a creature’s ability to succeed on concentration saves. However, there are quite a few items which improve either a creature’s saving throws overall or boost their Constitution score.
Now, there aren’t any magic items which benefit concentration saving throws specifically, but there are quite a few which boost saving throws in general. As such, since maintaining concentration is a type of saving throw, these magic items also help with those.
Here’s a list of magic items you can add to your game or request of your Game Master to help a character’s concentration saves:
- Amulet of Health: sets Constitution score to 19
- Axe of the Dwarvish Lords: +2 Constitution
- Belt of Dwarvenkind: +2 Constitution
- Blackrazor: advantage on saving throws
- Candle of Invocation: advantage on saving throws
- Cloak of Protection: +1 bonus to saving throws
- Harkon’s Bite: +1 bonus to saving throws
- Ioun Stone of Fortitube: +2 Constitution
- Luck Blade: +1 bonus to saving throws
- Manual of Bodily Health: +2 Constitution
- Potion of Advantage: advantage on one saving throw
- Potion of Heroism: gain the benefits of the bless spell for 1 hour
- Ring of Protection: +1 bonus to saving throws
- Robe of Stars: +1 bonus to saving throws
- Rotor of Return: +1 bonus to Constitution saving throws
- Staff of Power: +2 bonus to saving throws
- Stone of Good Luck (Luckstone): +1 bonus to saving throws
Concentration in 5e FAQ
Is Concentration a Check or Save?
Maintaining concentration in 5e requires a Constitution saving throw, so it counts as a type of save for the purposes of other abilities and effects.
Specifically in the rules for concentration in 5e, whena creature needs to maintain concentration due to taking damage or experiencing an extreme event, they need to succeed on a Constitution save. So, maintaining concentration is a type of saving throw.
Can You Willingly Drop Concentration in 5e?
Yes; the rules for concentration in 5e explicitly state you can stop concentrating on a spell or other ability at any time without the use of an action.
The rules for concentration in 5e explicitly state; "You can end concentration at any time (no action required)." This means you can willingly drop concentration whenever you want.
Do You Have to Stay Within Range for Concentration?
Generally, you don’t need to stay within range of a target to maintain concentration on an effect affecting them. That said, the description of a spell will outline if your character does need to stay within range.
Nothing in the rules for concentration state you can’t maintain it if the target leaves the casting range of the spell. That said, you should always thoroughly read a spell’s description to make sure you don’t need to stay within range. For example, the witch bolt spell explicitly states the spell ends if the target moves further than the spell’s range.
Can You Use Cantrips While Concentrating?
You can still use cantrips which don’t require concentration while concentrating on another spell. However, if you cast a cantrip which requires concentration, like guidance, then your character would stop concentrating on their previous spell.
Spellcasters can still cast spells and cantrips while concentrating on a previously cast spell as long as the new spell doesn’t also require concentration. For example, a Wizard concentrating on blur can still cast the fire bolt cantrip. But, if they cast the dancing lights cantrip, which requires concentration, they’d have to stop concentrating on blur since creatures in 5e can’t concentrate on 2 concentration spells at the same time.
Does Dispel Magic Cancel Concentration?
The dispel magic spell can end the effect of a spell if used on the target of a concentration spell. That said, it does not cancel a spellcaster’s concentration if that spellcaster is the target of the dispel magic casting.
This might work best with an example.
Say a Cleric casts the bane spell on 3 bandits and the bandits are backed up by a spellcaster. If that spellcaster casts the dispel magic spell on the Cleric, nothing happens to the bane casting. The spell isn’t affecting the Cleric, so disple magic does nothing in this scenario. That said, if the spellcaster casts dispel magic on one of the affected bandits, then the effects of bane end on that creature. But again, this doesn’t really end the Cleric’s concentration.
Basically, dispel magic doesn’t really end concentration but the effects of a concentration spell.
Can You Hold Concentration While Raging in 5e?
No; the rules for the Barbarian’s Rage features explicitly state your character can not concentrate on spells while raging.
Simple as that. The Rage feature’s description specifically outlines how a Barbarian can’t maintain concentration on spells while raging.
Summary of How Concentration Works in 5e
That covers everything you need to know about how concentration works in D&D 5e.
Concentration is a rule for certain spells and abilities with longer than instantaneous durations. A creature who casts one of these spells or uses an ability which requires it needs to maintain concentration to keep the effect going. Concentration can get ended by casting another spell which requires it, failing a Constitution saving throw to maintain it, becoming incapacitated or dying, or by dismissing it freely.
How often do you run into issues with maintaining concentration in your game? As a Game Master, have you made a player character roll to maintain concentration due to extreme circumstances and not explicitly from damage? Leave a comment below to share you experience!
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