Frightened condition guide in D&D 5e

Learn how the frightened condition works and how you can take advantage of it and protect yourself from it

Adventurers in D&D 5e face many perilous situations from deadly dungeons to malicious monsters and mages. A party will often have their bravery severely tested in most campaigns and some situations represent something so terrifying that those adventurers might just bottle it in fright.

This is where the frightened condition comes into play. A character can become frightened by certain abilities and spells if they fail a wisdom saving throw. Of course, your gnarly warriors may also invoke fear themselves so not only have we got a guide to explain how the frightened condition works and how to optimise against it, but also how you can use it to your own advantage.

Frightened rules

The Player’s Handbook explains the rules for the frightened condition, explaining that it causes the following effects:

  • 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, p290

How does the frightened condition work?

If you come up against something fear inducing, you will need to take a wisdom saving throw to determine if that thing frightens you.

In addition to the rules explained above that always accompany the frightened condition, many fear abilities and spells will add in additional effects, perhaps because the frightening thing is particularly terrifying. This is the case with the fear spell which causes frightened creatures to drop what they’re holding and run away from the source of their fear.

The frightened condition isn’t an automatic condition, you do have a chance to not become frightened by taking a wisdom saving throw. Wisdom saving throws are very common so it can be a good ability to at least improve a little (and depending on your class, maximising).

What can cause you to be frightened?

Red Wizard

Primarily, there are 2 ways the frightened condition might be imposed. Through spells and abilities. Fear inducing abilities are more common among monsters, and normally only for particularly terrifying foes. Of course, the more powerful the creature imposing fear, the more difficult the wisdom saving throw is to pass. Of course, by this point, characters are normally tougher too, though low wisdom will become more of a challenge at higher levels.

Spells that cause frightened

Below are the spells that can cause the frightened condition:

SpellLevelCasting TimeRangeSaving ThrowDurationClassesDescription
Antipathy / Sympathy8th1 hour60ftWisdom10 daysDruid, wizardCan cause those in the area to become frightened or not leave the area
Cause Fear1st1 action60ftWisdom1 minute concentrationWarlock, WizardCan frighten a creature
Eyebite6th1 actionSelfWisdom1 minute concentrationBard, Sorceror, Warlock, WizardCan cause a target to be frightened, unconscious or sickened
Fear3rd1 actionSelf (30ft cone)Wisdom1 minute concentrationBard, Sorceror, Warlock, WizardFrightened and cause targets to take the dash action away from you
Hallow5th24 hoursTouch (60ft radius)WisdomUntil dispelledClericVarious including frightened and immunity to fright
Illusory Dragon8th1 action120ftWisdom1 minute concentrationWizardFrightened and 7d6 damage
Phantasmal Killer4th1 action120ftWisdom1 minute concentrationWizardFrightened and 4d10 psychic damage
Summon Shadowspawn3rd1 action90ftWisdom1 hour concentrationWarlock, WizardSummon a shadow spirit which can cause fear
Symbol7th1 minuteTouchVariousUntil dispelled or triggeredBard, Cleric, WizardVarious including being frightened
Weird9th1 action120ft (30ft radius sphere)Wisdom1 minute concentrationWizardCreatures in the area become frightened and take 4d10 psychic damage
Wrathful Smite1st1 bonus actionSelfWisdom1 minute concentrationPaladinFrightened and 1d6 psychic damage

Abilities that cause frightened

If you’re not a spellcaster (or don’t want to use precious spell options on a frightened spell), then there are also a number of abilities that you can use to cause frightened including:

  • Berserker Barbarian – Intimidating presence
  • College of Whispers Bard – Words of Terror
  • Battle Master Fighter – Menacing Attack maneuver
  • Oath of Vengeance Paladin – Channel Divinity: Abjure Enemy
  • Oath of Vengeance Paladin – Avenging Angel
  • Oath of Conquest Paladin – Various abilities that utilise fright
  • Draconic Ancestry Sorceror – Draconic Presence
  • The Archfey Warlock – Fey Presence and Dark Delirium
  • Pact of the Chain Warlock – Quasit familiar has a fear ability

Monsters that cause frightened

If you’re a DM and really want to terrify your players, then you can also introduce creatures that cause the frightened condition. Some of these creatures include:

MonsterSource BookChallenge RatingExperienceSaving Throw
Variant Satyr PipesMonster Manual, p2671/2100xpWisdom (DC13)
ScarecrowMonster Manual, p2681200xpWisdom (DC11)
QuasitMonster Manual, p631200xpWisdom (DC10)
Sea HagMonster Manual, p1792450xpWisdom (DC11)
MummyMonster Manual, p2283700xpWisdom (DC11)
SpectatorMonster Manual, p303700xpWisdom (DC13)
GhostMonster Manual, p14741,100xpWisdom (DC13)
BansheeMonster Manual, p2341,100xpWisdom (DC13)
Beholder ZombieMonster Manual, p31651,800xpWisdom (DC14)
RevenantMonster Manual, p25951,800xpWisdom (DC15)
Chain DevilMonster Manual, p7283,900xpWisdom (DC14)
CloakerMonster Manual, p4183,900xpWisdom (DC13)
BeholderMonster Manual, p281310,000xpWisdom (DC16)
NalfeshnessMonster Manual, p621310,000xpWisdom (DC15)
Death TyrantMonster Manual, p291411,500xpWisdom (DC17)
Mummy LordMonster Manual, p2291513,000xpWisdom (DC16)
AndrosphinxMonster Manual, p2811718,000xpWisdom (DC18)
Pit FiendMonster Manual, p772025,000xpWisdom (DC21)
Ancient White DragonMonster Manual, p1002025,000xpWisdom (DC16)
Ancient Brass DragonMonster Manual, p1042025,000xpWisdom (DC18)
LichMonster Manual, p2022133,000xpWisdom (DC18)
Ancient Copper DragonMonster Manual, p1102133,000xpWisdom (DC21)
Ancient Black DragonMonster Manual, p872133,000xpWisdom (DC19)
Ancient Green DragonMonster Manual, p932241,000xpWisdom (DC19)
Ancient Bronze DragonMonster Manual, p1072241,000xpWisdom (DC20)
Ancient Blue DragonMonster Manual, p902350,000xpWisdom (DC20)
Ancient Red DragonMonster Manual, p972460,000xpWisdom (DC21)
Ancient Gold DragonMonster Manual, p1132462,000xpWisdom (DC24)
TarrasqueMonster Manual, p28630155,000xpWisdom (DC17)

How do you prevent frightened?

Wizard casting spell on mind flayer

Typically, the frightened condition will give you the opportunity to retake saving throws each turn to determine if you recover from being frightened. Beyond this, there are abilities and spells that can stop you being frightened or boost your ability to resist fright. These include:

Spells that prevent frightened

SpellLevelCasting TimeRangeSaving ThrowDurationClassesDescription
Aura of Purity4th1 actionSelf (30ft radius)None10 minutes concentrationPaladinAllies in the area receive buffs including advantage on frightened saving throws
Calm Emotions2nd1 action60ft (20ft radius sphere)Charisma1 minute concentrationBard, ClericSuppresses effects of frightened and charmed conditions
Dispel Evil and Good5th1 actionSelfWisdom1 minute concentrationCleric, PaladinCan end frightened condition among others
Hallow5th24 hoursTouch (60ft radius)WisdomUntil dispelledClericVarious including frightened and immunity to fright
Heroes’ Feast6th10 minutes30ftNoneInstantaneousCleric, DruidImmunity to frightened condition among other buffs
Heroism1st1 actionTouchNone1 minute concentrationBard, PaladinImmunity to frightened and target gains temporary hit points
Magic Circle3rd1 minute10ft (10ft radius, 20ft tall cylinder)None1 hourCleric, Paladin, Warlock, WizardImmunity to fright from certain creature types among other benefits
Power Word Heal9th1 actionTouchNoneInstantaneousBardTarget’s hit points all restored and several conditions end including frightened
Protection from Evil and Good1st1 actionTouchNone10 minutes concentrationCleric, Paladin, Warlock, WizardProtection from a creature type including frightened immunity

Abilities that prevent frightened

  • Berserker Barbarian – Mindless Rage
  • Bard – Countercharm
  • Circle of the Land Druid – Immune to fright from elementals and fey creatures
  • Monk – Stillness of Mind
  • Paladin – Aura of Courage
  • Hunter Ranger – Defensive Tactics (Steel Will)

The other way to reduce how much you might be affected by the frightened condition is to invest in your wisdom ability score as all frightened conditions come down to a wisdom saving throw.

All condition guides

Conditions are powerful tools or problematic obstacles in D&D 5e. You can learn more about all the conditions of D&D 5e in our guides below:



Does the frightened condition always work the same?

No, some abilities and spells will outline additional rules that apply in this instance of a condition. For example, the frightened condition does not state that characters must run away from a creature they are frightened of, but some spells such as fear, do state that characters will use the dash action to run away from the source of their fear.

If a creature is frightened, can they look away from the source of their fear to remove disadvantage?

Although the condition states disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks while in line of sight of the source of our fear, this does not mean that looking away from the source of your fear will stop its effects. Instead, what it means is if you are in a position where if you looked at the creature, you could see them, then you’re within line of sight.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.

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