Stunned 5e

Stunned

  • A stunned creature is incapacitated, can’t move, and can speak only falteringly.

  • The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.

  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.

Player’s Handbook, page 292

Incapacitated

  • An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions.

Player’s Handbook, page 290

Stunned 5e

The stunned condition is incredibly powerful and the cornerstone of the monk’s combat utility. But many players and DMs feel that it fails as a fun game mechanic, or that there should at least be a condition that’s a half-step less powerful than stunned, but similar in effect.

But before we get into that, let’s cover the actual rules of the condition, how to cause it, and how to counter it.

What Does the Stunned Condition Do in 5e?

The stunned condition causes a creature’s turn to be skipped, and also makes them more defensively vulnerable. More specifically, a stunned creature:

  • Can’t take actions, reactions, or move.

  • Automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saves.

  • Is attacked with advantage.

Stunning is one of the most powerful conditions you can afflict on a creature in DnD 5e.

How Do You Stun Creatures in 5e?

You can stun creatures in 5e with spells, the Monk’s Stunning Strike feature, magic items, and, as a DM, environmental effects and creatures:

    Stunning Spells in 5e:

  • Contagion: 5th-level spell available to Clerics and Druids. Only one of the optional disease effects, Slimy Doom, causes the stun condition (whenever the target takes damage). This, however, requires three failed Constitution saving throws to take effect, so it takes a while to set up.

  • Divine Word: 7th-level spell available to Clerics. Instantaneously stuns, blinds, and deafens any creature with between 21-30 hit points for 1 hour who fails a Charisma saving throw. There is no chance for additional saving throws on subsequent turns.

  • Symbol: 7th-level spell available to Bards, Clerics, Druids (TCoE), and Wizards. The aptly-named “Stunning” glyph will force a Wisdom saving throw to all creatures in a 60-foot radius, stunning all who fail for 1 minute. There is no chance for additional saving throws on subsequent turns.

  • Power Word Stun: 8th-level spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. Automatically stuns any target with 150 hit points or fewer. The creature can break free with a successful Constitution saving throw on subsequent turns.

  • Psychic Scream: 9th-level spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. Deals 14d6 psychic damage and stuns up to 10 creatures who fail an Intelligence saving throw. Affected creatures can break free with a successful Intelligence saving throw on subsequent turns.

  • Class and Subclass features

  • Stunning Strike: 5th-level class feature available to all Monks. By spending a ki point, a Monk can force a target they hit with a melee weapon attack to make a Constitution saving throw. If they fail, they are stunned until the end of the Monk’s next turn.

    This is the bread-and-butter ability of Monks, as it is almost always the best way for them to spend their ki.

  • Rend Mind: 17th-level subclass feature for Soulknife Rogues. Forces a Wisdom save that uses Dexterity as your spellcasting ability modifier, and stuns for up to 1 minute. Affected creatures can break free with a successful Wisdom saving throw on subsequent turns.

  • Magic Items

  • Hammer of Thunderbolts: +1 Legendary maul (DMG 173). Can be used at a 20/60-foot range to force creatures in a 30-foot radius to succeed on a Constitution saving throw or be stunned for one turn. Has five charges, which are regained daily at dawn.

  • Robe of Scintillating Colors: Wondrous item, very rare (DMG 194). Forces enemies in a 30-foot radius to succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be stunned until the effect ends.

  • Staff of Thunder and Lightning: Staff, very rare (DMG 204). When the Thunder ability is used, it stuns a target who fails a Constitution saving throw for one turn.

  • Whelm: Dwarf-exclusive legendary warhammer (DMG 218). Forces creatures in a 60-foot radius to make a Constitution saving throw or be stunned for 1 minute. Affected creatures can break free with a successful Constitution saving throw on subsequent turns.

  • Environmental Effects and Other DM Options

  • Psychic Wind: d20 roll of 1-8 (DMG 48)

  • Short-term Madness: d100 roll of 81-90 (DMG 259)

  • Massive Damage: d10 roll of 4-5 (DMG 273)

  • Creatures

  • Many creatures in DnD 5e’s main sourcebooks can cast spells or have abilities that cause the stunned condition. Here’s a look at a few of the stunning creatures you’re most likely to run into:

    • Mind Flayers: The most common DnD creatures that can stun are Mind Flayers. Two of the Mind Flayer’s attacks — Tentacles and Mind Blast — stun targets who fail on a DC 15 intelligence check.

    • Vrocks: A Vrock is another common stun-wielding creature (demon) that can stun multiple creatures around it once a day with its Stunning Screech ability.

    • Myconid Adult: These little mushroom dudes are only CR 1/2, but if you fail their Constitution saving throw, you can be stunned for up to a minute — actually pretty scary if you’re also outnumbered.

Unimportant pedantic point: Technically, the spell Investiture of Stone can also stun the caster if they end their movement in solid earth or stone.

d&d troll mini vs. party

How to Get Out of Stuns in 5e

To get out of stuns in 5e, you either need to succeed on a spell’s associated saving throw or be targeted by a Power Word Heal spell.

  • Succeed on a saving throw. Almost every ability or spell that causes the stun condition involves a saving throw, with Constitution being the most common of the bunch. Many of the spells and abilities that stun also allow the target to make those saving throws again on subsequent turns — that’s usually your best way to get out of a stun.

    With that in mind, you should try to tactically boost your saving throw capabilities whenever you’re up against creatures that frequently use stun effects. A few examples of resources to boost your saving throws:

    • Paladin’s Aura of Protection

    • Bless (1st-level spell)

    • Bard’s Bardic Inspiration

    • Artificer’s Flash of Genius

  • Mercy Monk. Physician’s Touch is a 6th-level subclass feature that allows a Monk to use spend ki to end one of several conditions, including stuns, afflicting a creature they touch (TCoE 50).

  • Be targeted by Power Word Heal. This 9th-level spell is available to Bards and Clerics. It’s the only spell in the game that can end the stunned condition, and it can’t be acquired until 17th level at the earliest.

  • Wait. Sadly, this is the only option you have sometimes. For stun effects that last for one round of combat, you’re simply not involved for that round.

Rules of the Stunned Condition 5e

Here are answers to some common questions about how the stunned condition works in 5e:

  • Being stunned doesn’t make a creature easier to grapple or shove. Grapples and shoves are not attack rolls, nor do they force saving throws; they’re ability check contests. (SAC 10). Since the stunned condition has no effect on ability checks, it technically has no affect on a creature’s ability to resist being shoved or grappled.

    However, many DMs find this blatantly ridiculous and opt for advantage or even just automatically succeeding on grappling/shoving a stunned creature. It’s ultimately up the DM, but the game’s lead developer claims to have stunned creatures automatically fail grapple checks “in most cases” when he’s DMing, so that’s something.

  • Being stunned ends concentration. Because concentration ends when a creature is incapacitated (PHB 203), and the stunned condition incapacitates a creature.

  • A stunned creature cannot stand up from being prone. Standing from being prone uses movement and therefore qualifies as moving. A stunned creature can’t move.

  • A stunned creature cannot take bonus actions. “Anything that deprives you of your ability to take actions also prevents you from taking bonus actions” (PHB 189). The stunned condition incapacitates you, which deprives you of your ability to take actions.

  • A stunned creature cannot use the Ready action. The Ready action is still an action. Incapacitated creatures can’t take actions, and stunned creatures are incapacitated.

  • A stunned creature cannot make opportunity attacks. Opportunity attacks require a reaction. Incapacitated creatures can’t take reactions.

DM Tips for the Stunned Condition

Here are some general tips on the stunned condition for DMs:

  • Don’t stun players (usually). DnD is a game where each player only gets to do something about 20%-25% of the time. And with rounds of combat lasting a few minutes each, having that number drop to 0% for a round (or more) just feels bad. Chronically-stunned players can quickly start to feel like spectators rather than adventurers.

    While stun is certainly powerful, it’s also just not fun. There’s not much players can do to counter stuns once they land — they just have to eat it and wait twice as long to play the game again.

    On the other hand, stunning a PC can be great for challenging groups that have advanced tactics that rely on one player’s ability as the lynchpin. By entirely removing this player from the fight (briefly), you can challenge players to think of a new strategy.

    Basically, you should avoid stunning your players for the most part, but keep it in your back pocket for veteran groups that need an extra challenge.

  • Use DnD 4e’s Dazed condition. It represents a less powerful version of stun that can be appropriate for certain occasions. I’m not suggesting that you nerf Monk’s stuns to this effect, but consider dazing your players instead of stunning them if the situation is already challenging enough.

    Here’s what the Dazed condition did in DnD 4e (roughly translated to 5e terminology):

    • Dazed creatures attacks have disadvantage; attacks against Dazed creatures have advantage

    • Dazed creatures can only do one of the following on their turn: take an action, take a bonus action, or move.

    • Dazed creatures cannot take reactions.

  • I like the Dazed condition because the player can still take their turn — they’re just limited in what they can do and noticeably less effective offensively and defensively.

  • Use minions to counter Monks. If your BBEGs keep getting completely shut down by a Monk player’s repetitive Stunning Strike tactics, I suggest including minions in your encounters. I especially like small groups of powerful henchmen who are a real threat to the party’s backline.

    When confronted with this, the Monk will have a legitimate reason to consider using their Stunning Strike to protect an ally rather than focus fire the boss.

  • Employ stun-immune creatures. There are surprisingly few stun-immune creatures in 5e’s official monster sourcebooks. And most of them are found at the god-level of difficulty (CR 20+). However, swarms of animals are great for any level.

Creatures Who Are Immune to the Stunned Condition in DnD 5e

  • Swarms of animals (CR 1/4-5)

  • Helmed Horror (CR 4)

  • Revenant (CR 5)

  • Skull Lord (CR 15)

  • Phoenix (CR 16)

  • Steel Predator (CR 16)

  • Demilich (CR 18)

  • Leviathan (CR 20)

  • Astral Dreadnought (CR 21)

  • Molydeus (CR 21)

  • Zaratan (CR 22)

  • Jubilex (CR 23)

  • Elder Tempest (CR 23)