The Frightened Condition DnD 5e

  • A frightened creature has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight.

  • The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

  • Player’s Handbook, pg. 290

The Frightened Condition 5e

Scary stuff abounds in Dungeons and Dragons. From mind-bending spells to horrifying monsters, 5e is chock full of ways to cause the frightened condition and become frightened yourself.

Like pretty much every condition in DnD 5e, players and DMs have plenty of questions about how the frightened condition works. It may only be 34 words long, but allow us to indulge in a deep dive into the nuances and common rules mistakes that come up at tables.

Just to be thorough, we’ll also cover all the spells and creatures that cause the frightened condition, as well all the creatures that are immune to it. And of course, we’ll cover your options for breaking the frightened condition if you find your character’s knees a-shaking.

Hold up! Are you just here for the basics of the frightened condition? Skip to our beginner’s section below to get a no-nonsense description of how the frightened condition works in 5e.

How Does the Frightened Condition Work in DnD 5e?

The frightened condition causes a creature to have disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while its source of fear is within line of sight. The creature also can’t willingly move closer to whatever is causing the frightened condition.

Oftentimes, spells and effects that cause the frightened condition also come with secondary effects, like forced fleeing or dropped items. Sounds pretty simple, but there are plenty of thorny rules to cover…

The Frightened Condition 5e Rules

  • You cannot close your eyes to negate the frightened condition. This common attempt from players centers around a fundamental misunderstanding about what “line of sight” means.

    Line of sight has a very specific definition in DnD 5e — if you can draw a line from one corner of a creature’s space to the corner of another creature’s space without running into an object or effect that blocks vision, line of sight exists (DMG 251).

    In other words, line of sight isn’t a personal, subjective thing that can be overcome by closing one’s eyes. If the two creatures can see each other, line of sight exists between them; whether or not they’re actively looking at each other has nothing to do with it.

  • The frightened condition doesn’t instantly end when you’re out of line of sight of the source of your fear. You cannot simply run behind a wall, break the frightened condition, and then pop back out to your source of fear’s line of sight again with no fear in your heart.

    The frightened condition lasts however long it lasts (different spells and different creature effects that cause the frightened condition all work slightly differently, but a recurring Wisdom check is usually how it works).

    The important point is that the frightened condition ends whenever those conditions are met. When a creature runs out of line of sight of its source of fear, it no longer suffers the negative effects of having disadvantage on attack rolls or ability check. However, it still can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

  • A frightened creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear. For the sake of simplicity “closer” just means that a creature can’t make the distance of squares between it and the fear-source smaller. So if 5 squares separate the frightened and the fearmonger, the frightened can only move to squares that are 5 or more squares from the fearmonger.

    “Willingly” means just what it sounds like. If environmental changes, spells that force movement (like Thunderwave), or other effects cause a frightened creature to move toward its source of fear, it functions normally.

  • You can circle the source of your fear. Yes, that rule clarification above does mean that you can walk in a circle (or more accurately, a square) around the source of your fear. As long as you always move to a square that’s equal to or greater than the distance from your fear-source as the square you’re currently on, you’re playing it right, both RAW and RAI.

    Note that this doesn’t apply to spells like Fear that impose an additional condition requiring the frightened creature to run as far away as possible from the source of its fear.

  • Line of sight requires sight. The Sage Advice Compendium (pg. 11) confirmed that “if you can’t see something, it’s not within your line of sight.” That means that a frightened creature won’t have disadvantage on ability checks or attack rolls if the source of fear becomes invisible, even if it would be in line of sight were it not invisible.

  • A spellcaster doesn’t lose concentration from being frightened. Concentration is only broken by three things (PHB 203):

    • Casting another spell that requires concentration

    • Taking damage and failing a Consitution check

    • Being incapacitated or killed

    Since the frightened condition is none of these things, it has no interaction with concentration.

  • “Attack rolls” refers to spell attacks, too. Spell attacks counts as the attack action (PHB 205). Damaging spells that force saving throws, however, are different.

  • Saving throws are not affected by the frightened condition. Ability checks and saving throws are separate things. The frightened condition does not interact with saving throws at all.

  • The frightened condition doesn’t automatically make a creature run away. Some players and DMs confuse spells like Fear, which do cause a creature to run away from the source of its fear, and the regular frightened condition, which causes no such effect.

  • Teleporting closer to the source of your fear probably doesn’t work. It’s unclear whether teleportation counts as “movement,” rules-as-written. That being said, rules-as-intended, it’s clear that the developers didn’t want frightened creatures making a willing choice to increase their proximity to the source of their fear, regardless of the mechanism of that “movement.”

    That being said, there’s no explicit ruling I can find in the rules or from the developers, so it’s up to your DM.

frightened 5e lich

How to Use the Frightened Condition in 5e

If you’re a player with access to a spell or feature that causes the frightened condition (comprehensive report on all of those down below), you might be wondering how to get the most bang for your buck out of this condition.

Let’s break down exactly what advantages the frightened condition gives to your party:

  1. Offensive debuff. For starters, applying the frightened condition to a creature makes it offensively weaker. It’s so scared that it has disadvantage on its attack rolls while within sight of the source of fear.

  2. Ability check debuff. Frightening a creature so badly that it can’t perform its normal abilities is another central component of the condition. While a spell like Hex gives disadvantage to just one type of ability check, the frightened condition applies to all ability checks simultaneously. Here are a few ways to put that to use:

    • Strength: Excellent for ensuring that you win physical contests, grapples, and shoves. Also great for catching up with/impeding foes going through difficult terrain.

    • Dexterity: Charlatans won’t be very good at pulling their sleight of hand tricks, and sneaky foes won’t be able to hide so well when they’re frightened.

    • Constitution: Good luck holding your breath when you’re scared.

    • Intelligence: Investigating an illusion while terrified might will make your perceptive abilities much worse. Also good for getting an edge in games of skill and fast-talking your way past numbskull guards.

    • Wisdom: There aren’t many Wisdom skill checks that are likely to come up while your target is frightened, but you might mess with their perception to help a party member use their stealth more effectively against a weakened perception check.

    • Charisma. Hey, it’s definitely easier to intimidate and/or persuade a scared creature. It might even help with deceiving someone who’s too scared to realize that you’re feeding them a line of baloney.

  3. Controlling the battlefield. The fact that a frightened creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear is powerful. You can use this to protect an ally, an important item, NPC, or any other objective that you don’t want enemies getting close to.

    You can also use this more offensively and actively pursue the frightened creature, so it has to keep fleeing or make do with its current position.

  4. Be aware of line of sight. The frightened effect is most useful when you can ensure that your enemy either A) will always be in line of sight and therefore suffer 100% of the negative conditions of the effect or B) when forcing an enemy out of your line of sight will also help protect an ally.

    In any case, being cognizant of and proactively using line of sight will make your use of frightening spells more effective.

  5. Be a Dragonborn Paladin and subclass Oath of Vengeance (or Conquest). If you really want to build a character around knee-quaking fear, this is a great combo. The Dragon Fear racial feat from Xanathar’s gives you a free once-a-day, 30-foot area of effect fear.

    Couple that with Channel Divinity: Abjure Enemy, which is a 60-foot area of effect fear that drops frightened creatures speed to 0, and you’ve got a recipe for some serious and consistent battlefield control.

    The Oath of Conquest is a good runner-up, as it’ll drop the speed of a frigtened creature within 10/30 feet to 0 as long as its frightened of the Paladin.

  6. Be a class with lots of spells that frighten. If Dragonborn Paladin isn’t your thing, being a Wizard is another great option. They have access to 8 of the 9 spells in DnD 5e that cause the frighten effect (they’re only missing the Paladin-exclusive Wrathful Smite).

    Warlocks and Bards each have access to 3 frighten-inducing spells, and Sorcerers have 2.

zombie frightened dnd 5e

Ways to Break the Frightened Condition in 5e

The ultimate way to never become frightened in the first place is to succeed on a Wisdom saving throw. Frightened effects are always associated with Wisdom saving throws, so having a high Wisdom modifier will help beat the frightened condition.

Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Warlocks are all proficient at Wisdom saving throws, so they’re a bit more resilient against the frightened condition.

Other than that here are several Race, Class, and Subclass options that grant advantages against the frightened condition:

    Player’s Handbook:

  • Halfling — Brave. Racial trait that grants advantage on saving throws against being frightned.

  • Barbarian (Path of the Berserker) — Mindless Rage. Level 6 subclass feature that grants immunity to the charm and frightened effects while the Barbarian is raging, or suspends the effect for the duration of the rage if charm or frightened is already active.

  • Bard — Countercharm. Level 6 class feature that allows the Bard to make a 1 round performance that grants advnatage on saving throws against being frightened or charmed.

  • Cruid (Circle of the Land) — Nature’s Ward. Level 10 subclass feature that grants immunity to being charmed or frightened by elementals or fey.

  • Monk — Stillness of Mind. Level 7 class feature that allows the Monk to spend one action to end one charm or frighten effect on themself.

  • Paladin — Aura of Courage. Level 10 class feature that causes the Paladin to radiate a 10-foot aura that prevents them and their allies from being frightened. This increases to a 30-foot radius at 18th level.

  • Ranger (Hunter) — Defensive Tactics. If a Hunter Ranger chooses Steel Will as their 7th-level Defensive Tactics feature, they have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

  • Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything:

  • Cleric (Twilight Domain) — Channel Divinity: Twilight Sanctuary. Ends a charm or frighten effect on an ally.

  • Druid (Circle of Spores) — Fungal Body. A 14th-level subclass feature that grants the Druid immunity to blind, deafen, frigthen, and poison effects.

  • Fighter (Psi Warrior) — Guarded Mind. A 10th-level subclass feature that allows the Fighter to expend a Psionic Energy die to end a charmed or frightened effect on themself.

  • Ranger (Fey Wanderer) — Beguiling Twist. A level 7 subclass feature that grants the Ranger advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened.

  • Sorcerer (Aberrant Mind) — Psychic Defenses. A 6th-level subclass feature that grants advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened.

  • Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

  • Githzerai — Mental Discipline. Racial trait that grants advantage on saving throws against being frightned and charmed.

Spells That Cause the Frightened Condition in 5e

If you’d like to cause some fear rather than protect yourself against it, think of picking up the following spells:

    Player’s Handbook:

  • Antipathy/Sympathy

  • Eyebite

  • Fear

  • Phantasmal Killer

  • Symbol

  • Weird

  • Wrathful Smite

  • Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:

  • Cause Fear

  • Illusory Dragon

Fun fact: The frightened effect is caused by 4 Illusion spells, 2 Necromancy, 1 Abjuration, 1 Enchantment, and 1 Evocation. I guess that means card tricks are scarier than raising the dead into zombies.

Spells That Protect Against the Frightened Condition in 5e

    Player’s Handbook:

  • Aura of Purity

  • Calm Emotions

  • Dispel Evil and Good

  • Hallow

  • Heroes’ Feast

  • Heroism

  • Magic Circle

  • Power Word Heal

  • Protection From Evil and Good

Class and Subclass Features That Cause the Frightened Condition in 5e

Other effects that cause the frightened condition include:

    Player’s Handbook:

  • Barbarian (Berserker) — Intimidating Presence: Level 10 subclass ability that allows the Barbarian to frighten someone within 30 feet

  • Fighter (Battlemaster) — Menacing Attack. A maneuver option of the subclass that allows the Battlemaster Fighter to spend one superiroity die to attempt to frighten the target until the end of the fighter’s next turn.

  • Paladin (Oath of Vengeance) — Channel Divinity: Abjure Enemy. Forces a Wisdom saving throw on a creature within 60 feet. Frightens the target and drops its speed to 0 if it fails the save.

  • Paladin (Oath of Vengeance) — Avenging Angel. 20th-level subclass ability that can frigthen multiple enemies within a 30-foot radius over one minute.

  • Paladin (Oathbreaker) — Channel Divinity: Dreadful Aspect. Allows the Paladin to force Wisdom saves on creatures within 30 feet of herself. Failed saves result in the creature being frightened of the Paladin for 1 minute or until moving out of range.

  • Sorcerer (Draconic) — Draconic Presence. 18th-level subclass ability that allows the Sorcerer to spend an action and 5 sorcery points to cast a 60-foot radius AoE charm or frighten effect. It lasts up to one minute and requires concentration to maintain.

  • Warlock (Fey) — Fey Presence. 1st-level subclass feature that allows the Warlock to force foes in a 10-foot cube to succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be charmed or frightened.

  • Warlock (Fey) — Dark Delirium. A 14th-level subclass ability that forces a Wisdom save on a creature within 60 feet of the Warlock. This charms or frightens on the target if they fail their save, and lasts up to 1 minute if the Warlock maintains concentration.

  • Sorcerer (Wild Magic) — Wild Magic Surge. Subclass ability; if a 67-68 is rolled on Wild Magic Surge, the Sorcerer becomes fightened of the nearest creature for one turn.

  • Warlock (Pact of the Chain) — Quasit. This Warlock subclass-exlcusive familiar from the Find Familiar spell has a Scare ability that can cause the frightened effect against one crature within 20 feet of the Quasit.

  • Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:

  • Bard (College of Whispers) — Words of Terror. Subclass ability that allows the Bard to frighten a creture that it talks to for at least 1 minute, if it fails a Wisdom saving throw.

  • Paladin (Oath of Conquest) — Channel Divinity: Conquering Presence. Subclass ability that allows the Paladin to force a creature within 30 feet to make a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of the caster for up to 1 minute.

Racial Features That Cause the Frightened Condition in 5e

The following racial features cause the frightened condition:

    Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

  • Dragonborn — Dragon Fear. A Dragonborn-exclusive racial feature that allows the player to expand a Breath Weapon trait use to force each creature within 30 feet to make a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of the caster for up to 1 minute.

  • Volo’s Guide to Monsters

  • Fallen Aasimar — Necrotic Shroud. Racial feature that allows for a 10-fot radius AoE frighten effect.

  • Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes:

  • Elf (Eladrin) — Winter. Can cause frightened effect to a nearby creature after using the Fey Step ability.

Creatures That Are Immune to the Frightened Condition in 5e

The following creatures from the Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes are immune to the frightened condition:

    Monster Manual:

  • Deva

  • Planetar

  • Solar

  • Animated Armor

  • Flying Sword

  • Rug of Smothering

  • Banshee

  • Death Knight

  • Demilich

  • Manes

  • Bearded Devil (while within sight of an ally)

  • Lemure

  • Dracoliches (all)

  • Flameskull

  • Gas Spore

  • Shrieker

  • Violet Fungus

  • Ghost

  • Golems (all)

  • Helmed Horror

  • Kraken

  • Lich

  • Mummy

  • Mummy Lord

  • Myconids (all)

  • Black Pudding

  • Gray Ooze

  • Ochre Jelly

  • Revenant

  • Scarecrow

  • Shadow

  • Shield Guardian

  • Androsphinx

  • Tarrasque

  • Ultroloth

  • Swarms of Creatures

  • Advantage on saving throws, not immunity:

  • Bugbear

  • Ettin

  • Death Dog

  • Cultist

  • Gladiator

  • Knight

  • Hydra

  • Volo’s Guide to Monsters:

  • Banderhobb

  • Bodak

  • Swarm of Cranium Rats

  • Maw Demon

  • Shoosuva

  • Mouth of Grolantor

  • Stone Giant Dreamwalker

  • Meenlock

  • Alhoon

  • Wood Woad

  • Yeth Hound

  • Swarm of Rot Grubs

  • Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes:

  • Allip

  • Astral Dreadnought

  • Boneclaw

  • Cadaver Collector

  • Bronze Scout

  • Iron Cobra

  • Oaken Bolter

  • Stone Defender

  • Alkilith

  • Bulezau

  • Dybbuk

  • Molydeus

  • Rutterkin

  • Abyssal Wretch

  • Baphomet

  • Demogorgon

  • Fraz-Urb’luu

  • Graz’zt

  • Juiblex

  • Orcus

  • Yeenoghuu

  • Zuggtmoy

  • Hellfire Engine

  • Merregon

  • Narzugon

  • Nupperibo

  • Bael

  • Geryon

  • Hutijin

  • Moloch

  • Titivilus

  • Zariel

  • Drow Inquisitor

  • Drow Matron Mother

  • Duergar Despot

  • Duergar Hammerer

  • Duergar Screamer

  • Eidolon

  • Sacred Statue

  • Howler

  • Marut

  • Retriever

  • Soul Monger

  • Skull Lord

  • Star Spawn (except Grue)

  • Steel Predator

  • Stone Cursed

  • Sword Wraiths

  • Dire Troll

Creatures That Cause the Frightened Condition in 5e

The following creatures from the Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes cause the frightened condition:

    Monster Manual:

  • Banshee

  • Beholder

  • Death Tyrant

  • Spectator

  • Cloaker

  • Demilich

  • Nalfeshnee

  • Quasit

  • Chain Devil

  • Pit Fiend

  • Dracoliches (all)

  • Ancient Dragons (all)

  • Adult Dragons (all)

  • Ghost

  • Sea Hag

  • Lich

  • Lizard King/Queen

  • Mummy

  • Mummy Lord

  • Revenant

  • Scarecrow

  • Androsphinx

  • Tarrasque

  • Beholder Zombie

  • Volo’s Guide to Monsters:

  • Gazer

  • Bodak

  • Bheur Hag

  • Meenlock

  • Mindwitness

  • Vergouille

  • Yeth Hound

  • Yuan-ti Anathema

  • Yuan-ti Nightmare Speaker

  • Blackguard

  • Kraken Priest

  • Warlord

  • Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes:

  • Dybbuk

  • Rutterkin

  • Baphomet

  • Red Abishai

  • Narzugon

  • Bael

  • Geryon

  • Hutijin

  • Moloch

  • Titivilus

  • Drow Matron Mother

  • Eidolon

  • Summer Eladrin

  • Howler

  • Nightwalker

  • Merrenoloth

Fear + Frightened Spell Interactions

Just for good measure, here are some common rules questions that come up often in the context of the frightened condition and spells that impose other fear-like conditions:

  • Heroism can stop a frighten effect that’s currently affecting a creature. More accurately, Heroism “suppresses” the frightened effect — if the Heroism-caster’s concentration were to be broken or the spell ends for some other reason, and the frightened condition is still active, then the creature immediately becomes frightened again.

    Here’s confirmation from Sage Advice and the Sage Advice Compendium (pg. 18).

  • Aura of Devotion works much the same. Aura of Devotion prevents allies (and the Paladin who has it) from being charmed or frightened. If an ally enters the spell’s range while under the effects of the frightened condition, it doesn’t automatically dispel the effects; it merely suspends it.

  • A creature forced to move by a fear effect checks line of sight at the end of its turn. When a creature is affected by fear effects that force them to move, as with the Fear and Dissonant Whisper spells, they don’t stop mid-flee to check if the source of their fear is still within line of sight.

    They use their entire turn to run as far away as possible until it checks at the end of its turn to see if the caster is within LoS. Sage Advice confirmation.

  • Some fear effects can cause opportunity attacks. To be clear, this isn’t specifically about the frightened condition, but rather fear-like effects which are often confused with the frightened condition (like the spell Dissonant Whispers) or coincide with the frightened condition (like the spell Fear).

    Normally, if a player is moved against their will, they don’t trigger attacks of opportunity. However, if a fear effect on a spell like Dissonant Whispers forces a creature to use its reaction to move, then they do trigger opportunity attacks.

    That’s because a creature is eligible for opportunity attacks when something uses its “movement, action, or reaction,” even if it’s against the creature’s will (PHB 195). Here’s further confirmation from Sage Advice.

  • A creature under the effect of the Fear spell with nowhere to move can use their action how they like. The Fear spell forces creatures to take the Dash action on their turns and move away from the creature by the safest route possible, unless there’s nowhere to move.

    At this point, the frightened condition continues for the duration of the spell, but it mustn’t waste its action on the Dash action any longer.

The Frightened Condition for Beginners

Here are the quick basics on how the frightened condition works in DnD 5e:

When a creature is frightened and within line of sight of whatever it’s frightened of:

  • It has disadvantage on ability checks: Ability checks are d20 dice rolls that players and creatures make when they have to overcome a challenge. Having disadvantage on these rolls means that you roll 2d20 and must use the lower number.

    A frightened creature won’t be as good at using its abilities while it’s within sight of whatever caused the frightened condition. Saving throws, however, are not affected by the frightened condition.

  • It has disadvantage on attack rolls. Attack rolls are d20 dice rolls used to determine whether or not an attack hits. Melee and ranged attacks use attack rolls, as do spell attacks (but not spells that force saving throws).

  • It can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear. In other words, if the “source of fear” is currently 20 feet away, the frightened creature can move to any space that is 20 or more feet away from the source of its fear. The frightened creature can “circle” the source of your fear, but not approach it.

    “Willingly” just means by choice — spells, effects, and terrain conditions that force a frightened creature’s movement continue as normal, even if it brings the frightened creature closer to the source of its fear.

  • “Line of sight” means a straight line can be drawn from the “source of fear” and the frightened creature. It doesn’t mean that the two creatures have to be looking at each other. It just means that there are no obstacles that are completely preventing the two creatures from, say, throwing a ball to one another.

    So no, you can’t close your eyes to break the frightened condition.