One humanoid of your choice that you can see within range must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become charmed by you for the duration. While the target is charmed in this way, a twisted crown of jagged iron appears on its head, and a madness glows in its eyes.

The charmed target must use its action before moving on each of its turns to make a melee attack against a creature other than itself that you mentally choose. The target can act normally on its turn if you choose no creature or if none are within its reach.

On your subsequent turns, you must use your action to maintain control over the target, or the spell ends. Also, the target can make a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns. On a success, the spell ends.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
School: 2nd-level enchantment

Player’s Handbook, pg. 229

Crown of Madness 5e

Crown of Madness — the DnD 5e spell that players really want to love but end up really hating. We’ll cover precisely why Crown of Madness consistently pops up on people’s “worst Dungeons and Dragons spells” lists, as well as clarify the spell’s rules.

And, never one for total negativity, I’ll also talk about what Crown of Madness is actually decent at, as well as what Dungeon Masters can do to tweak this spell out of F tier.

Who Can Cast Crown of Madness in 5e?

The following classes have Crown of Madness on their spell list:

The following subclasses get Crown of Madness for free:

What Does Crown of Madness Do in 5e?

Crown of Madness forces a Wisdom saving throw for a creature within 120 feet. If it fails, it becomes charmed by the caster, which means:

  • The target can’t attack the charmer or harm them with abilities/magic effects.

  • The charmer has advantage on ability checks relating to social interactions with the target.

While charmed, a creature must use its action before moving on each of its turns to make a melee attack against a creature of the caster’s choice — one that’s in melee range, of course. Other than that, the creature can act however it wants on its turn.

Crown of Madness ends if the caster doesn’t use their action to continue the spell on their turn (psst, that’s the part that sucks most about the spell). The target can also repeat the Wisdom saving throw on each of its turns and ends the spell early if it succeeds.

What Are the Rules for Crown of Madness in 5e?

The rules for Crown of Madness in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • Crown of Madness has no effect on a creature’s ability to use reactions. While Crown of Madness effectively removes a target’s action (if the caster is able to choose a target to smack), it has no affect on a target’s use of its reactions. Here’s confirmation on Sage Advice.

    Bonus actions are also not affected by Crown of Madness.

  • Crown of Madness only affects Humanoids. Which, to clarify, does not include all humanoid-like creatures — Giants, for instance, are not humanoids and so are immune to Crown of Madness.

  • A creature with Multiattack who’s affected by Crown of Madness only makes one melee attack. Creatures who have the Multiattack have a specific action called Multiattack that allows them to attack multiple times in a single turn. However, when a creature affected by CoM uses their action on “a melee attack,” they forfeit the use of this ability.

    The same goes for players with the Extra Attack feature. Because this feature requires that a player “take the Attack action” and because CoM’s melee attack technically isn’t “tak[ing] the Attack action,” the player won’t be able to use Extra Attack on that round of combat.

  • The caster can choose which type of melee attack the target makes. This one is a bit less clear, since the spell’s description only discusses making a melee attack and says nothing about sheathing or drawing weapons.

    However, it seems clear enough that the CoM caster can select which hand they’d like the target to attack with. For example, if the target’s left hand is empty and right hand holds a scimitar, the caster can select whether to make an unarmed strike or a scimitar attack.

  • The caster cannot choose to have the target shove or grapple. As the Player’s Handbook spells out and the Sage Advice Compendium confirms, making a grapple or shove attempt requires the Attack action (SAC 13). Once again, the melee attack that Crown of Madness forces is not taking the Attack action.

  • A creature who moves while affected by Crown of Madness is moving willingly. A few spells, like Booming Blade, make explicit mention of whether their effects work based on whether an affected creature moves willingly or is forced to move.

    For any such effect, the movement that a CoM-affected creature takes on its turn is considered willing. The target might feel compelled to move away from its allies so it stops attacking them, but it is still making a choice of its own.

  • You can use Twinned Spell with Crown of Madness. Crown of Madness only affects one creature and doesn’t have a range of self, so it’s eligible for Sorcerer’s Twinned Spell metamagic (PHB 102).

cultist mini casting crown of madness 5e

How Do I Use Crown of Madness in 5e?

While Crown of Madness might not be the greatest spell, there are some scenarios where it’s an okay option:

  1. Use it in combat. The one thing that Crown of Madness has going for it over other spells that cause the Charmed condition is that the target doesn’t have advantage on the saving throw if its in combat with you and your allies. It also doesn’t break upon taking damage from you or your allies.

    Use that to your advantage, especially if you’re in combat and separated from your party — charmed creatures won’t be able to harm you.

  2. Reduce the damage of multi-attackers. As noted in the rules section, creatures with Multiattack miss out if you force them to use their action on CoM’s melee attack.

    This is solid even if you’re forced to attack an ally instead of an enemy; you’re effectively reducing the amount of damage that your allies take each round CoM is active.

  3. Cause chaos a la Shadow of Mordor. Crown of Madness’s big range opens up the door to long-distance mind control that can cause a group of former allies to turn on each other.

    Sure, the guy who’s been enchanted will look visibly crazy and be fully capable of explaining his condition, but less intelligent/more aggressive enemies might not be able to discern what’s going on before stabbing their enchanted buddy.

  4. Pair with grapple. If your party’s grappler can hold an enemy in place (ideally near other enemies), then you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll get to use Crown of Madness optimally for the full duration if you choose.

  5. Pair with hazardous terrain and/or push/pull effects. Things like Web to hold enemies where you want them, Wall spells to limit movement options, and Thorn Whip to manipulate location are a few quick examples of how to get/keep your CoM’d enemy in the right place.

    Note that many of these rely on teamwork, so make sure to consult with your party about your plans for maximum effect.

  6. Reduce the options of spellcasters. This requires that a spellcaster be in melee range of something, but if they are, you can make sure they waste a turn whacking your party’s tank with a staff rather than casting a Fireball into the middle of your party’s backline.

  7. Use it in tight spaces with lots of enemies. This is more of a general strategic tip — casting Crown of Madness in a small room or on the central member of a tightly-packed battle formation can make it easier to get more swings in against enemies.

  8. Pair with Mind Sliver or Bane. If you want to make sure Crown of Madness lands and continues to stick around, spells that reduce an enemy’s Wisdom saving throws will make things a lot easier.

  9. Strike up a conversation with your erstwhile enemy. One often overlooked part of the in-combat charm benefit of Crown of Madness is that you have advanage on ability checks to socially interact with the target.

    Now, if you’re in the midst of a pitched battle and your allies are actively murdering the target’s friends, there’s probably no amount of charm that’ll fix that situation. But if you’ve accidentally gotten into a bit of a scuffle with some thugs you’d rather not fight, Crown of Madness might actually be just the thing to calm the situation down.

  10. Be an Arcane Trickster Rogue. Magical Ambush is a 9th-level feature that gives Arcane Tricksters’ targets disadvantage on saving throws when the Rogue is hidden from them (PHB 98). Naturally, this pairs really well with the “cause chaos from the shadows” strategy we outlined above.

  11. Use Quickened Spell. While Crown of Madness eating up your action every turn is a real bummer, Sorcerers have a way around it. With Quickened Spell, a Sorcerer can cast a spell for a bonus action rather than an action, evening up the action economy (albeit at the expense of sorcery points).

Who Can I Target With Crown of Madness 5e?

You can only target humanoids with Crown of Madness. Fewer than 1/4 of the creatures in DnD 5e’s main sourcebooks are listed as humanoids, which does limit the potential applications of this spell significantly.

Is Crown of Madness 5e a Good Spell?

No, Crown of Madness is not a good spell in DnD 5e. Here’s why it’s bad in order of importance:

  1. It wastes your action every turn to maintain.

  2. Creatures will naturally move away from their allies to avoid hitting them, all but ensuring you only get one attack in against a prime target.

  3. It requires concentration to maintain.

  4. It’s a Wisdom saving throw (average modifier of +1 among creatures in the 5e’s main sourcebooks).

And then here’s the real kicker: every class that has access to Crown of Madness also has access to Hold Person — a much better spell that accomplishes more while costing less. Sure, it’s also a Wisdom saving throw and also requires concentration, but you get paralysis which in turn gives you:

  • Melee allies have attack advantage against target

  • Melee allies automatically critically strike target

  • Automatic failed Strength/Dexterity saves

  • Automatic end to concentration

  • The inability to take actions or reactions

All that, and you still get to use your action however you want on your turn. That’s the real reason Crown of Madness is never the optimal 2nd-level enchantment spell to cast.

Crown of Madness 5e DM Tips

As a DM, you can naturally make Crown of Madness a little more potent by allowing for the spell to cause aggressive/unthoughtful enemies to instantly start attacking each other.

Although the “acting normally” part of the spell suggests that the target can just explain what’s going on, the fact that they just stabbed their buddy in the back will probably matter more to whoever’s present.

As far as in-combat buffs to Crown of Madness, the obvious one is to allow for the caster to maintain the spell without using their action every turn. I personally see nothing broken about this simple change, as the spell will still commonly be used to purposefully direct attacks at your party’s tank rather than get extra DPR against enemies.

Alternatively, you could allow for the caster to control the target’s movement and attack target, but still require that a player use their action each turn to maintain the spell. That also seems balanced enough to me, since you’re essentially trading your turn for an enemy’s turn. It also makes it much easier to land attacks against enemies each round of combat CoM is maintained.

There are other homebrew ideas out there, but these simple ones are easy to integrate and intuitive to use. I personally like the second one more, since I think it matches what most players are expecting when they cast it: a full-fledged in-combat mind control that allows you to use an enemy group’s badass reaver to your party’s advantage.

Simple Crown of Madness 5e Spell Text

Crown of Madness: (2nd-level enchantment, 120 feet, Concentration, up to 1 minute, V/S) One humanoid must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become charmed by you for the duration.

The charmed target must use its action before moving on each of its turns to make a melee attack against a creature of your choice. The target can act normally on its turn if you choose no creature or if none are within its reach.

On your subsequent turns, you must use your action to maintain control over the target, or the spell ends. Also, if the target succeeds on a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns, the spell ends.

Crown of Madness Compared to Other Enchantment Spells in DnD 5e

Is Friends good?
Is Mind Sliver good?
Is Vicious Mockery good?
Is Animal Friendship good?
Is Bless good?
Is Charm Person good?
Is Command good?
Is Dissonant Whispers good?
Is Hex good?
Is Sleep good?
Is Hold Person good?
Is Suggestion good?