The official description of paralyzed is as follows: (Source – Roll20)
- A Paralyzed creature is incapacitated, and cannot move or speak
- The creature automatically fails strength and dexterity saving throws
- Attack rolls made against the creature have advantage
- Any attack that hits the creature is a gaurenteed critical hit, if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature
Causes of Paralysis:
There aren’t that many causes of the paralysis condition, at least in the player’s handbook or dungeon masters guide. I’m fairly sure you could probably find more in something like Elemental Evil, or Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, but unfortunately, I don’t have those books to confirm this.
- Hold Person (2nd level) [Player’s Handbook Pg 251]
- Hold Monster (5th level) [Player’s Handbook Pg 251]
- Wand of Paralysis [Dungeon Master’s Guide Pg 211]
- Rod of Lordly Might [Dungeon Master’s Guide Pg 196]
- Wand of Binding [Dungeon Master’s Guide Pg 209]
- Carrion Crawler Mucus (Contact)
- (01-20) The character retreats into his or her mind and becomes paralyzed. The effect end if the character takes any damage.
How Paralyzed Can Be Used for Storytelling:
If you’re looking to use paralysis as a catalyst for sending your party on an adventure, you could create a story of a paralyzed child who is the child of some royalty or the local aristocrats. The child could be kidnapped and held up for ransom, leading to something of a “save the kid” quest with a reward.
My Personal Background with Paralysis
Paralysis is a sore subject for me because I am actually partially paralyzed due to a stroke I had as a child. This is a really frustrating condition to deal with, requiring that I come up with ways to adapt and do things a little differently than normal.
I can say that if someone becomes paralyzed, it usually comes with debilitating fear, so you can probably roleplay some of that into it if you wanted to enhance the effect of using paralyzing effects on someone unaccustomed to it. If you’ve ever woken up with a “dead arm” from sleeping on it, where you can’t feel it, and it just flops around, it’s a little bit like that. Just, a bit more permanent.
In the case of partial paralysis, it’s like trying to make your big toe on your feet move like you make your thumb move – your brain just isn’t wired to use the muscles needed to move it in that way.
What Counters Paralysis?
There are a few counters to the paralyzed condition, but not many. It isn’t as bad as something like the pure incapacitated condition, (When it is applied without piggybacking on another effect), there are only four spells that counter it. For lower-level parties, their only option is the Lesser restoration spell (Unless you get lucky with magic items or your DM has an Elixir of Health available for purchase.)
- Lesser Restoration (2nd level) [Player’s Handbook Pg 255]
- Aura of Purity (4th Level) [Player’s Handbook Pg 216]
- Freedom of Movement (4th level) [Player’s Handbook Pg 244]
- Power Word Heal (9th level) [Player’s Handbook Pg 266]
How Bad is the Paralyzed Condition?
Coming from someone who is actually paralyzed, it sucks. I’ve learned to live with it, but it is frustrating to have to invent my own ways of doing things. At least in the world of tabletop RPGs, there are cures for it.
In Dungeons and dragons, it prevents you from taking any actions, moving, or speaking. The advantage against a paralyzed creature can also quickly end with an afflicted character dying, especially since they cannot react to it in any way. Not to mention that it is a guaranteed nat 20 if you are within 5 feet of a paralyzed creature making a melee attack. Yikes.
It’s the second-worst condition to be inflicted with, close behind exhaustion, especially since there aren’t that many ways to cure it.