Paralyzed condition guide in D&D 5e

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

The paralyzed condition is a powerful one in D&D 5e. It not only prevents a character from doing anything until the paralysis has ended, but it also gives buffs to enemies attacking the paralyzed creature such as advantage on attack rolls and automatic criticals for creatures attacking from 5ft away.

This makes paralyzed a very powerful condition. It also makes it a very frightening one, and, as with many conditions, it’s more widely available to monsters than it is to players. Not to worry though, our guide is here to help you understand how the paralyzed condition works, how you can make use of it and how to defend against it.

Paralyzed rules

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

  • A paralyzed creature is incapacitated and can’t move or speak.
  • The creature automatically fails strength and dexterity saving throws.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
  • Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.
Player’s Handbook, p291

How does the paralyzed condition work?

Jiangshi in I'Cath

As you can see above, the paralyzed condition is extremely powerful and there’s a lot to unpack.

First off, let’s get to grips with the implications of these rules. The main thing to note is that when paralyzed, you are also incapacitated. This is another condition that means you cannot take any actions (including bonus actions) or reactions. That means no attacking, casting spells or anything else you might do with your action. It also means that if you’re concentrating on a spell, that you lose concentration.

On top of the lack of actions, a paralyzed character can’t move or speak (including telepathically). Essentially, you are unable to do anything for the duration of the paralysis. Dreadful if you’re the one paralyzed, excellent if you’re the one causing paralysis!

Being paralyzed also means you’ll be much worse at protecting yourself, this means that any strength or dexterity saving throws you take will automatically be failed (which makes sense as you can’t move). It’s important to note though that your mental fortitude and natural hardiness (or lack of it) remain intact during paralysis so you can still take other saving throws such as a constitution saving throw against the poisoned condition for example.

Because you’re easier to hit, creatures attacking a paralyzed creature do so with advantage. On top of this, if that creatures hits you from 5ft away (whether it’s a ranged or melee attack) they will automatically land a critical hit. This means that not only are you completely useless when paralyzed, you are also much easier to kill.

What can cause you to be paralyzed?

Vecna the Archlich

We already know that the paralyzed condition in 5e is very bad! But what can cause paralysis in D&D? If you’re a player, the answer is, not a lot, but if you’re a DM, you’ve got a fair bit to play with. Let’s start with player options for causing the paralyzed condition.

Spells that cause paralyzed

There are only 2 spells that directly cause the paralyzed condition (hold person and hold monster), however, some spells allow you to summon creatures that can do the paralyzing for you. Even the creatures available that can do this are rare though but we’ve outlined them in the descriptions below. They are:

SpellLevelCasting TimeRangeSaving ThrowDurationClassesDescription
Hold Monster5th1 action90ftWisdom1 minute concentrationBard, Sorceror, Warlock, WizardParalyze a creature for the duration of the spell. Doesn’t affect undead.
Hold Person2nd1 action60ftWisdom1 minute concentrationBard, Cleric, Druid Sorceror, Warlock, WizardParalyze a humanoid for the duration of the spell.
Conjure Animals3rd1 action60ftNone1 hour concentrationDruid, RangerConjure animals of CR 2 or lower including giant spiders which can inflict the paralyzed condition
Conjure Woodland Beings4th1 action60ftNone1 hour concentrationDruid, RangerConjure woodland creatures up to CR 2 including a meenlock that can inflict the paralyzed condition
Infernal Calling5th1 minute90ftNone1 hour concentrationWarlock, WizardSummon a devil of up to CR 6 including an orthon that can inflict the paralyzed condition. The devil may or may not follow your requests
Summon Greater Demon4th1 action60ftCharisma1 hour concentrationWarlock, WizardSummon a demon of up to CR 5 including a maurezhi that can inflict the paralyzed condition.

Magic items that cause the paralyzed condition

While not a reliable way of being able to inflict the paralyzed condition on an enemy, if you have a generous DM, you may be gifted an item that can cause paralyzed. Even then, such items are not common because it is such a powerful condition to impose. There are 3 items that can do this (though more may exist, especially in homebrew content). These are:

  • Wand of paralysis
  • Wand of binding
  • Rod of Lordly Might

Creatures that can cause the paralyzed condition

For the DMs out there, there are quite a few creatures that can cause the paralyzed condition. This is an excellent tactic to be employing as it will help you thin out the crowd and can effectively turn an easy fight for your players into a very challenging one. One word of caution though, if you do decide to use creatures that cause paralyzed, try not to use it too often. Players can easily become frustrated if each turn they’re simply stuck doing nothing.

  • Abominable Yeti
  • Adult Silver Dragon
  • Ancient Silver Dragon
  • Beholder
  • Beholder Zombie
  • Cadaver collector
  • Chuul
  • Death Tyrant
  • Drow arachnomancer
  • Eyedrake
  • Flind
  • Gauth
  • Ghast
  • Ghost dragon
  • Ghoul
  • Giant Centipede
  • Giant Spider
  • Giant Wasp
  • Giant Wolf Spider
  • Grell
  • Iron cobra
  • Lich
  • Liondrake
  • Maurezhi
  • Meenlock
  • Nagpa
  • Orthon
  • Phase Spider
  • Retriever
  • Revenant
  • Scarecrow
  • Silver Dragon Wyrmling
  • Shoosuva
  • Spectator
  • Thri-kreen
  • Tlincalli
  • Yeti
  • Young Silver Dragon

How do you prevent the paralyzed condition?


If you’ve been paralyzed or know you’ll be up against a creature that can cause the condition, you don’t have many options to prevent it. There are some things you can do though to either end the condition or protect against it. These include:

  • High wisdom and constitution – Before you’re made to be paralyzed, you normally have a saving throw to make. Typically, against spells, this saving throw will be against your wisdom modifier. If it’s a creature’s attack causing paralyzed, then it’s typically against your constitution so increasing these abilities can help you out.
  • Abilities that buff your saving throws – Some abilities can be used to boost your saving throws such as bardic inspiration or the spell heroes’ feast. While they don’t prevent the paralyzed condition outright, they can make you more likely to succeed on a saving throw against the condition.
  • Spells – There are some spells that can be used to end the paralyzed condition or provide advantage on saving throws against it These are; lesser restoration, freedom of movement, power word heal and aura of purity. Power word heal is a 9th level spell though so is unlikely to be available to most parties but is an option for extremely tough adventurers. We’ve outlined these spells in more detail below:

Spells that protect against paralyzed

SpellLevelCasting TimeRangeSaving ThrowDurationClassesDescription
Aura of Purity4th1 actionSelf (30ft radius)None10 minutes concentrationPaladinAllies in the area receive buffs including advantage on paralyzed saving throws
Lesser Restoration2nd1 actionTouchNoneInstantaneousBard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, RangerEnd 1 disease or condition including paralyzed.
Freedom of Movement4th1 actionTouchNone1 hourBard, Cleric, Druid, Rangerprevents restriction of movement from various effects including being paralyzed.
Power Word Heal9th1 actionTouchNoneInstantaneousBard, ClericHeals all hit points and ends certain conditions including paralyzed.

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:


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.