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Incapacitated in 5e – An Incurable Condition… Kinda

The official description of incapacitated in 5e is as follows: (Source – Roll20)

  • An Incapacitated creature can’t take Actions or Reactions.

What it means to be Incapacitated

The incapacitated condition is often misunderstood simply because it isn’t named very well. All this condition does is prevent players from taking any actions (Including bonus actions) or reactions for its duration. It does not prevent player movement, however, so you can still move around in a battle. If I had my way, I would have instead called this condition dazed.

Causes of Incapacitated in 5e

Incapacitated blurred vision

There are only a few causes of the incapacitated condition, outside of the other conditions that piggyback it onto their effects. But, of course, you can always apply this effect to any NPC you like as the DM for the purpose of storytelling. Still, as far as in battle afflictions, only two spells stand out as inflicting only this condition – Banishment and Symbol. The rest tag another condition along for the ride.

Spells

Other Conditions

  • Paralyzed
  • Petrified
  • Stunned
  • Unconcious

Poisons

Diseases

  • Cackle Fever [DMG Pg 257]

Short-Term Madness

  • 21-31 The character becomes incapacitated and spends the duration screaming, laughing, or weeping. [DMG Pg 259]

The Deck of Many Things

Spells and Abilities That Interact with this Condition

There are a few spells and abilities that interact specifically with the incapacitated condition. This is by no means a complete list, but I’ve listed some of the more common ones. In addition, feats and particular class features also interact with this condition, so keep an eye on what you decide to go with for your characters. I’ve listed two as an example.

Concentration

Any spell effect that requires concentration will be broken upon being incapacitated, as outlined in the player’s handbook:

You lose Concentration on a spell if you are incapacitated or if you die.

PHB Pg 203

Dodge Action

If you choose to take a Dodge action, the benefit is removed if you are incapacitated or your speed drops to 0:

When you take the Dodge action, you focus entirely on avoiding attacks. Until the start of your next turn, any attack roll made against you has disadvantage if you can see the attacker, and you make Dexterity saving throws with advantage. You lose this benefit if you are incapacitated (As explained in appendix A) or if your speed drops to 0.

PHB Pg 192

Shield Master Feat

There is a feat that grants your shield’s AC bonus to any Dexterity saving throw, but only if you aren’t incapacitated.

If you aren’t incapacitated, you can add your shield’s AC bonus to any Dexterity saving throw you make against a spell or other harmful effects that targets only you.

PHB Pg 170

Create Thrall Feature – Warlock

If you are a Warlock with “The Great Old One” as your pact, you gain an ability called “Create Thrall” at the 14th level.

At 14th level, you gain the ability to infact a humanoid’s mind with the alien magic of your patron. You can use your action to touch an incapacitated humanoid. That creature is then charmed by you until a remove curse spell is cast on it, the charmed condition is removed from it, or you use this feature again.

You can communicate telepathically with the charmed creature as long as the two of you are on the same plane of existence.

PHB Pg 110

How Incapacitated Can Be Used for Storytelling:

Inkwell and Quill on Parchment

Honestly, this condition is typically piggybacked onto another condition, with banishment and symbol essentially being the only ways to inflict it by itself reliably. That makes this condition pretty hard to use in normal gameplay. But there are certain ways you can use this effect on your NPC characters for storytelling purposes.

For example, the party could encounter a battle-shocked soldier in the aftermath of a war. This soldier is stuck in a mental loop in their heads, playing the horrors they experienced on the battlefield over and over. This consumes all of their mental capacity to do any action, but they can still walk, eat, etc.

The condition, as I understand it, is a sort of daze or trance that they are unable to snap out of. There is no way to remove this condition either, as far as I have been able to find, with exception to other conditions that specify something like “While the creature is paralyzed, they are also incapacitated.” This allows you to cure paralysis and resolve the incapacitated condition at the same time. But by itself, it is incurable.

The rare instances where a creature inflicts incapacitated directly usually have a specified duration, such as “For one turn, you are incapacitated—emphasis on the rare.

What Counters Incapacitated?

Nothing directly counters this condition. It must run its course, as specified by the spell or ability, and can only be removed indirectly with other conditions that piggyback this one onto their effects.

How Bad is this Condition?

As rare as this condition is by itself, it isn’t really a concern for most players. However, once inflicted, not being able to do anything except move around on a battle map can be quite frustrating and dangerous in the middle of battle. This is because it has no direct cure if the condition inflicted is only incapacitated.

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Devon Kubacki

Hi there, I'm Devon, nice to meet you! I am the founder of Notes of Yore, and I'm an avid fan of tabletop games, particularly Dungeons and Dragons. I've been playing for just under two years now, and can say that I am hooked...or rather grappled by it. I hope you find my work here on NoYo helpful, and thank you for reading!View Author posts

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