Last Updated: October 12, 2022
We’ve all been there as a player: the DM informs you that your character has been stunned. “That’s like paralyzed” the cleric says. The DM gives an informative “Well, yes. But no.” The cleric should know better. The reality of status conditions (conditions, statuses, status effects, whatever) in 5e is that most don’t affect play often enough to memorize. It’s no easy feat to build a character around supporting the party with status conditions. As a DM, certain monsters use status conditions heavily. Lucky for the DM, the standard 5e DM screen has a handy list of status conditions to remind themselves what “stunned” means.
Our goals in this article are as follows:
- Build an ontology to organize 5e’s status conditions
- Identify the desirable attributes of status conditions
- Look at a few builds and spells that allow a party to take advantage of status conditions
- Look at some creatures in each tier a DM can use to entertain the party
Table of Contents
- An Ontology of Ailments
- The Incapacitated Family
- Senses Fail
- More Than a Feeling
- The Art of Violent Hugging
- Under the Weather
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the currentState of the Character Optimization Metaas of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
RPGBOTis unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
An Ontology of Ailments
- The Incapacitated Family: The river of incapacitation and all lands drained by it
- Senses Fail: Statuses that remove the ability to see or hear something or everything
- More Than a Feeling: Ever liked someone? Or really disliked someone?
- The Art of Violent Hugging: The status fruit of violent labor
- Under the Weather: I’ve felt better
The Incapacitated Family
The first grouping of status conditions we should discuss is the “Incapacitated Family.” Most sources in 5e don’t directly cause Incapacitated. Instead, we have a list of four effects that each cause the incapacitated effect AND something else.
What can’t we do?
An incapacitated creature can’t take actions, bonus actions, or reactions. If that creature was maintaining concentration, they lose it.
What can we do?
We can move, but not dash (because Dash is an Action). We can speak.
Why is this first?
Because everything causes Incapacitation.
Conditions that cause incapacitated
Below is a quick reference table for the Incapacitated Family. It’s interesting that Incapacitated does not remove to ability to move and speak, nor does it cause automatic failure of dex and str saving throws or grant advantage on attack rolls like every derived status condition does.
|Status\Impact||Can’t move||Can’t Speak||Auto fail dex and str saving throws||Advantage on attacks against||All hits are crits within 5 feet|
|Stunned||x||No talk good||x||x|
Note that Stunned is basically light Paralyzed. You can speak and you don’t offer crits for nearby attacks.
In addition to the effects in the table, both Petrified and Unconscious have some additional details:
- You and all your non-magical belongings on your person are turned into a solid inanimate substance, most often stone. Due to this your weight has increased by 10x.
- You stop aging, and any poison or disease effects are paused. You are immune to new poison or disease effects while petrified
- You have resistance to all damage types
- You are unaware of your surroundings
- You are unaware of your surroundings
- You immediately drop everything you are holding and fall prone
- Note that because you are prone, ranged attackers make regular attack rolls. They gain advantage because you are unconscious, but still have disadvantage because they’re making a ranged attack on a prone enemy. For the Player Characters
These effects can be fantastic… if we can gain access to them at a level where they’ll be impactful. To maximize impact there are contributing factors to consider:
- Does your party have melee members who can pound on incapacitated creatures?
- Are there few enough enemy creatures that taking a single creature out of the fight for at least a round is worth it?
- If the effect expires or offers a saving throw per round, can you maximize the party’s turns to get enough impact before the first save to justify the resource cost? For instance, it may be worth targeting a creature that just took a turn or readying an Action for after the creature’s turn, but if the creature’s turn takes place immediately after you incapacitate them, then your effect might end before your allies can capitalize on it.
- : Hold Person is a 2nd-level enchantment available to most casters. We can only use it on humanoids, and the target will get a wisdom saving throw at the end of each turn. Against many humanoid enemies, it is worth upcasting to have the opportunity to take multiple creatures out of the fight for at least one round. The Sorcerer can use Twin Spell to target two creatures as long as they haven’t upcast the spell.
- : Hold Monster is a 5th-level enchantment available to Bards, Wizards, Warlocks, and Sorcerers. It works identically to Hold Person except that it can affect all creatures except undead. I would expect that a level 9 caster has better opportunities for doling out damage than using Hold Monster to allow the martial characters to beat on a creature, but the defensive benefits of removing a high-value target are incredible, too. It may be worth it to take one or more creatures out of the fight for at least one round. Remember that the Sorcerer can use Twin Spell to target two creatures as long as they haven’t upcast the spell.
- Silvery Barbs. : Flesh to Stone is available to Warlocks and Wizards at 11th level. Again, I would expect that you have better opportunities for damage, but the spell may be worth the spell slot if removing a creature from the fight for a period of time would be useful. The spell allows a Con save, and unfortunately, Con saves are statistically the strongest saves for monsters. The great news is that if the creature fails the initial Con save, they are Restrained for a minimum of three rounds while they accumulate either enough saving throws to end the spell or become Petrified. That makes it an especially juicy choice for disadvantage mechanics like Heighten metamagic and/or
- : Stunning Strike is a 5th-level Monk feature. Unfortunately, it grants a Con save, but on a failed save the target will be Stunned into the end of the Monk’s next turn. Stunning Strike isn’t one of the best features in the game, but it is one of the best features available to Monks!
- : A 7th-level spell available to Clerics. It allows the Cleric to target any number of creatures that the caster can see within range. Each creature makes a Cha save. On a failed save the creature will potentially suffer a negative effect based on their current HP. If the HP is less than 30 then the creature will be stunned for an hour. Less than 20 they instantly die. Note that extraplanar creatures are cast back to their home plane instead. This spell is situationally useful against mobs or not-quite-mob-but-still-large groups of enemies that have been softened up with a Fireball.
- : An 8th-level spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. If the target has 150 HP or less, it is stunned. At the end of each of its turns it gets a Con save. I’m not certain that one almost-guaranteed round of Stunned makes this worth the high cost. I suppose you could view this 8th-level Enchantment as an expensive way to ask if the target has over 150 HP left.
- : A 9th-level spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. It grants an Int save with guaranteed damage. Allowing for the opportunity to stun up to ten targets, I view the potential 14d6 as lagniappe. Any stunned creature gets another Int saving throw at the end of its turn, but the stun doesn’t have a duration, so it’s technically possible for targets to be permanently stunned, and since Int saves are consistently the weakest save on average, you can often expect enemies to be stunned for a long time.
- : A 1st-level spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Twilight Clerics, and Wizards. This spell has the potential to put multiple creatures to sleep. Each sleeping creature will wake if that creature takes damage or an action is used to shake it awake. Allow your best striker to land a critical hit then have the rest of your martial allies make hit attempts with advantage while the creature is prone.
- : A 6th-level spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. The caster may move the effect from creature to creature for the one minute duration of the spell.
For the DM
Pentadrone – CR 2 – Monster Manual
The Pentadrone’s multiattack allows it to make 5 attacks per turn. It’s great to use its Paralysis Gas action to paralyze the party then bang on them with your many arms.
Young Brass Dragon – CR 6 – Monster Manual
In addition to being a fire-breathing dragon, Brass Dragons have Sleep Breath. All creatures caught within the cone of sleep gas must succeed on a DC 14 CON save or be unconscious for 5 minutes, until they take damage, or until another creature uses an Action to wake it.
Spirit Troll – CR 11 – Monsters of the Multiverse
The spirit troll is resistant to lots of damage types, it regenerates unless it takes psychic or force damage, and its bite attack has the ability to stun the target unless they pass a DC 15 Wisdom save. Even for players that know how to handle a corporeal troll, this creature will present quite a puzzle.
Illithilich – CR 22 – Volo’s Guide to Monsters
The Mind Flayer Lich has lots of great actions available for causing effects in the Incapacitated Family:
- Power Word Stun: Available once daily
- Paralyzing Touch: On a hit and a failed DC 18 CON save the target is paralyzed for one minute or until the target saves at the end of its turn.
- Tentacles: On a hit, a failed DC 15 grapple check, and a failed DC 20 Intelligence save, the creature is Stunned until the grapple ends. Tentacles can be used as a Legendary Action between turns.
- Mind Blast: All creatures within a 60-ft. cone must succeed on a DC 18 Intelligence save or be Stunned for a minute or until the target saves at the end of its turn. Mind Blast can be used as a Legendary Action between turns.
The “Senses Fail” family of status conditions is our second ontological entry. These effects will impact a creature’s Perception and Investigation checks, their ability to attack and avoid being attacked, and their ability to cast spells.
Deafness causes automatic failure on perception checks where hearing would be required . The deafened creature is also immune to effects that require hearing, such as Dissonant Whispers.
Blindness causes the blinded creature to fail any ability check that requires sight. This is most Perception and Investigation checks. The blinded creature has Disadvantage on attacks even when it manages to attack a space where an enemy is present. Attack rolls against the blinded creature have Advantage. Blindness is devastating for any spell caster as most spells require the caster to see the target.
An invisible creature cannot be seen unless a spell or ability gives the ability to see Invisible creatures. The creature’s location can be detected by other evidence, such as noise or tracks.
Attack rolls against the creature have Disadvantage even if an attacker happens to attack the correct space, and the invisible creature’s attack rolls typically have Advantage because the defender typically can’t see the invisible creature.
Keep in mind that the condition “invisible” does not have the same restrictions as the spell Invisibility. The spell Invisibility ends if the target performs certain actions, but the Invisible condition does not have any built-in clauses which cause it to end.
For the Player Characters
Let’s face it. Deafness is not particularly interesting except in rare situations.
Blindness is extremely useful as it provides the party with Advantage on all attacks while limiting the blinded creature’s ability to find or hit the party.
- : A 2nd-level spell available to Bards, Clerics, Sorcerers, and Wizards. It allows a Con save at the end of each turn.
There is also a large group of spells such as Hunger of Hadar and Fog Cloud that effectively blind each creature in a region unless that creature has an ability such as Truesight. A party could combine the 6th-level True Seeing cast on one or more PCs, allowing them to suffer no ill effects in the region of blindness.
Invisibility causes all other creatures to act as if they’re blind in interactions with the invisible creature unless the other creature has an ability to allow them to see invisible creatures. Got it? Great!
- surprise. : A 2nd-level illusion spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. The caster may touch a creature to make them invisible for up to an hour. The spell ends if the targeted creature attacks or casts a spell. Great for scouting and invoking
- : A 4th-level illusion spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Twilight Clerics, and Wizards. The caster touches a target and makes them invisible for one minute. Great for combat, but with a 1-minute duration it’s not useful for sneaking around.
For the DM
Green Hag – CR 3 – Monster Manual
The green hag plays in illusion and has the ability to become invisible. Quite a useful skill for an intelligent creature that wants to avoid dying at the party’s hands. For higher levels, check out the Hag Coven rules.
Invisible Stalker – CR 6 – Monster Manual
The Invisible Stalker is always invisible. The creature’s lore is that it was drawn from the Elemental Plane of Air and twisted to hunt the summoner’s chosen target. Perhaps the party is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps a party member is the creature’s quarry.
Vampire Spellcaster – CR 15 – Monster Manual
The Vampire Spellcaster has 3 slots of Greater Invisibility available to it. Additionally, it has the ability to shape change into a mist.
More Than a Feeling
Sometimes you meet someone and you just know. Maybe they’re someone you need permanently in your life. Maybe you’re thinking of getting a permanent restraining order. This family of effects are the D&D equivalent to that.
The Charmed creature can’t attack or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects. The charmer has Advantage on ability checks made “to interact socially” with the charmed creature. Usually this means Charisma checks, but if you can convince your DM that Strength (Athletics) is required in a social situation, that would work.
A Frightened creature has Disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls as long as the source of the Frightened effect is within line of sight of the creature. The creature also cannot willingly move closer to the source of the Frightened effect.
For the Player Characters
Charmed usually isn’t great in combat. Take advantage of shopkeepers and guards you never expect to see again with Charm Person. In a chase, consider requesting the lone hostile to instead hold the door closed behind you with either Charm Person or Charm Monster.
Frightened, on the other hand, has entire builds built around it. There are enough feats and spells here to warrant a section on each. We’ll start with class features.
- The entire Oath of Conquest Paladin
- Abjure Enemy: A 3rd-level feature. On a failed save the target is Frightened for 1 minute and cannot move.
- Avenging Angel: A 20th-level feature that allows the Paladin to become an Avenging Angel with a Frightening aura.
- Fey Presence: A starting feature for Warlocks with an Archfey patron. Allows the warlock to cause the Charmed or Frightened condition for a round, allowing a Wis saving throw.
- Dark Delirium: A 14th-level feature available to Warlocks with the Archfey patron. Allows for causing Charmed or Frightened while plunging the target into an illusory realm of the warlock’s design.
- : A 10th-level feature available to Barbarians that take the Path of the Berserker. In order to sustain the Frightened condition the Barbarian may use their Action each turn to extend the duration. Overall, not super useful against multiple enemies, but keeping solo enemies frightened with no way to end the effect can win a fight.
- : An 18th-level feature that allows a Sorcerer with a Draconic Bloodline to spend 5 Sorcery Points to cause either the Charmed or Frightened condition.
And the spells
- : A 1st-level necromancy spell available to Warlocks and Wizards. It’s a Wis save with an additional save at the end of each of the target’s turns.
- : A 1st-level evocation available to Paladins. A bonus action that adds 1d6 damage and a Wisdom save against Frightened to your next successful melee attack. The creature may use its Action to attempt a Wisdom save.
- : A 3rd-level conjuration available to Warlocks and Wizards. The summoned creature has the Dreadful Scream ability that can be cast once per day, causing fear to any creature, friend or foe, within 30 ft. All targets make a Wisdom saving throw and have an opportunity to save again at the end of each of their turns.
- : A 3rd-level illusion spell available to Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. In addition to being Frightened, all affected creatures must take the Dash action to get away from the caster. Each affected creature doesn’t get another attempt to save until the caster is out of line of sight.
- : An 8th-level enchantment available to Druids and Wizards. Imbue a creature, item, or space with an aura that can frighten or attract one kind of intelligent creature.
- Weird: A 9th-level illusion available only to Wizards. Grants Frightened and damage on each turn until each effected creature saves!
For the DM
Succubus – CR 4 – Monster Manual
The Succubus is a classic charmer! Succubi have the ability to charm a creature for 24 hours and have lots of levers available to manipulate the charmed creature.
Revenant – CR 5 – Monster Manual
The Revenant’s Vengeful Glare forces a DC 15 WIS save. On failure the target is paralyzed until the revenant deals damage to the creature or until the end of the revenant’s next turn. Once the paralysis is over, the creature is Frightened for up to one minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw for frightened at the end of each of its turns, but does so with Disadvantage if it can see the revenant.
Warlord – CR 12 – Monsters of the Multiverse
The Warlord’s Frighten Foe Legendary Action allows the Warlord to frighten a creature once per round. This plus its damage-dealing Legendary Actions as well as its multiattack will allow the warlord to deal plenty of damage.
The Art of Violent Hugging
This family of status conditions is the most easily accessible to players from level 1. The ability to shove or grapple a creature scales well with martial characters using ability scores and skills these characters were likely investing in anyways.
When prone the only option to move is to crawl (doubles consumption of movement) or stand up (half your movement, at least 5 ft). While prone, the creature has disadvantage on attack rolls.
Other creatures’ attack rolls have advantage on a prone creature if they are within 5 ft. Otherwise they attack with disadvantage. Note that this means that attacks with ranged weapons will be made with disadvantage unless you are adjacent to the target, then the advantage from prone and the disadvantage of attacking an adjacent target with a ranged weapon will cancel out.
A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0 and they can’t benefit from bonus to movement.
The grappled condition ends if the grappler becomes incapacitated. If an effect separates the two creatures, then the grapple also ends .
A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0 and they can’t benefit from bonus to movement.
Additionally, a restrained creature has Disadvantage on all attack rolls. Any attack roll against the creature has Advantage. The restrained creature has Disadvantage on Dex and Str saving throws.
For the Player Characters
The easiest way to force someone prone is to Shove them. There are enough class features here that I’ll again divide the list in twain. The class features first:
- See the Fighter Subclass Breakdown for more info. : Battle Master Fighter. Available at 3rd level for Battle Master Fighters (or for anyone with the Martial Adept feat), the Battle Master spends a superiority die to add damage. If the creature is Large or smaller, the creature is knocked prone on a failed Str save.
- Way of the Open Hand Monk Handbook : Way of the Open Hand Monk. Available at 3rd-level, the Way of the Open Hand Monk may, upon landing an attack with Flurry of Blows, knock a creature prone on a failed Dex save. See the
- Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian Handbook for all the details. : Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian. A 14th-level class feature. See the
And the spells
- : A 1st-level Enchantment available to Clerics and Paladins. On a failed Wisdom saving throw, the target creature must follow your one word command on its next turn. Grovel is provided as an example that will force a creature prone.
- : A 1st-level Evocation available to Bards, Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards. On a failed Dex save, each creature other than the caster in the area of effect takes 1d6 and is knocked prone.
- : A 1st-level Conjuration available to Artificers and Wizards. Creates a 10 foot square of grease that forces creatures traversing it to succeed on a Dex save or be knocked prone.
- : A 1st-level Enchantment available to Bards and Wizards. On a failed Wisdom save, the target is prone, incapacitated, and unable to stand. They can crawl while they laugh. On each turn, and each time they take damage they may repeat the saving throw.
- : A 1st-level Evocation available to Paladins. As a Bonus Action you may cast Thunderous Smite. The next time you hit with a melee weapon attack, you add additional damage. On a failed Str save, the creature is pushed 10 ft. and knocked prone.
- : A 3rd-level Conjuration available to Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards. On a failed Dex save, a creature in the 40 ft cylinder will fall prone.
- : A 3rd-level Conjuration available to Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards. On a failed save, creatures within the area of effect take a small bucket of damage and are knocked prone.
- : A 5th-level Evocation available to Paladins. In addition to a bucket of damage on a failed Con save, all chosen targets within 30 ft are knocked prone. Note that the caster may select targets.
- : A 5th-level Evocation available to Druids and Rangers. The “Rocks” Bonus Action deals a small bucket of damage on a hit. On a hit, the target creature must succeed on a Str save or be knocked prone.
- : An 8th-level Evocation that wrecks entire cities and leaves the terrain itself shattered. It’s available to Clerics, Druids, and Sorcerers. Creatures within the region( a circle with radius 100 ft) are knocked prone on a Dex save. Ideally, you aren’t casting Earthquake with allies in the region. Right? RIGHT?
As we want to talk about violent hugs, we should begin with our Practical Guide to Grapple. The gist of the practical use of grappling is to first render an opponent prone then grapple them. While grappled, they can’t stand up to end the prone effect. This gives attackers within 5 feet Advantage to attack them until the creature can break the grapple and stand up.
Restrained is superior to the grapple/shove combo if you can induce the condition. We will again separate class features, feats, and weapons from spells.
Class features, feats, and weapons
- : The grappler feat is available to any PC with strength of 13 or higher. It allows you to make an additional grapple check against a creature you are currently grappling. On success you are both now restrained. Generally, it would be better for the party to use the grapple/shove tactic rather than allow yourself to become restrained.
- : On a successful ranged attack roll, the net leaves an opponent restrained. Any creature within reach can make a DC 10 strength check to free the restrained creature. Alternatively, 5 slashing damage on an AC 10 attack will free the creature AND destroy the net. You’re also stuck with near-perpetual Disadvantage when attacking with nets due to their frustrating range. Nets aren’t great.
And the spells
- Ensnaring Strike: A 1st-level Conjuration available to Rangers. It allows a Str save to avoid being restrained and take 1d6 damage each turn. Once restrained, the creature or another creature nearby must use their action to attempt to free the creature with a strength check.
- : A 2nd-level Conjuration available to Artificers, Sorcerers, and Wizards. It allows a Dex save to avoid being restrained, then a Str check to escape restraint.
- : A 4th-level Conjuration available to Wizards. It creates an area of difficult terrain that restrains creatures that fail a Dex save. A restrained creature must use their action to attempt a Str or Dex check to end the restrained condition.
- : A 5th-level Transmutation available to Artificers, Druids, and Wizards. The caster may turn mud into rock or rock into mud. Both transmutations have the capacity to leave creatures restrained. In the rare condition where your opponents are knee deep in mud, encasing their feet in rock is a more effective restraint.
For the DM
As a DM, anytime we are looking to grapple our player characters, we should look to bring the players somewhere they don’t want to be: into the murky abyss of the swamp, into the lava flow, or perhaps off that nearby ledge. Grappling can also be effective for keeping a player character out of the fray while other monsters deal with the rest of the party.
Crocodile – CR ½ – Monster Manual
The Crocodile has the ability to grapple upon a successful bite. Crocodiles tend to live near water. What if your crocodile picked up a player and brought them home? At higher levels I suggest the Giant Crocodile. Don’t feel bad about doing this to players, it’s how crocodiles work in real life.
Shambling Mound – CR 5 – Monster Manual
The Shambling Mound has the ability to engulf one creature, rendering the creature restrained while dealing damage to the restrained creature on each turn.
Dragonbone Golem – CR 11 – Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons
This creature has a bit of everything: fear aura, petrifying breath, and the pinion action. The Golem can pin up to two creatures, rendering them restrained.
Under the Weather
These are the “I don’t feel so good” status conditions.
Poisoned is fairly simple: the creature suffers disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
Poisoned is often used as a stand-in for anything where creatures might feel sick, nauseated, ill, etc., such as when subjected to the Troglodyte’s stench.
Exhaustion is the only status condition in 5e with levels:
|1||Disadvantage on Ability Checks|
|3||Disadvantage on Attack rolls and Saving Throws|
|4||Hit point maximum halved|
|5||Speed reduced to 0|
Exhaustion is applied by things which make the creature feel tired, such as long marches and being exposed to radiation.
For the Player Characters
Similar to Meatloaf the man and meatloaf the food, we have poison the effect and poison the damage type. There are also things we call “poison” that do neither. For a great breakdown see the Practical Guide to Poisoner, Poison, and Poisoning.
For the poisoned condition we have a couple of options to inflict the condition via a vial:
- : 150 GP. A creature must ingest a full vial of the poison; if they do, they must pass a DC 10 Con save or have the poisoned condition and take 6 damage. I believe this makes Assassin’s blood the most expensive shot in the game. Sure, it might kill a house cat, but so would 6 shots of tequila at a significant savings. Given the high likelihood of failure it might be more cost effective to hire an actual assassin.
- : 200 GP. The poison must be applied to any object that deals piercing or slashing damage. A creature damaged by this object must make a DC 13 Con save or be poisoned for 1 hour. If they fail by 5 or more, they are also unconscious.
We also have a handful of spells:
- : A 1st-level of spell available to sorcerers and wizards. The caster first has to hit with the spell attack. On a hit, the target must make a Con save or be poisoned until the end of the caster’s next turn.
- : A 5th-level spell available to Clerics and Druids. On a hit, the target creature is poisoned. It makes a Con save at the end of each turn; on three successes the creature is no longer poisoned. On three failures things get… worse. Given that combat is expected to last about three rounds, ideally the creature will be poisoned for the rest of its life.
- : Sickening Radiance is a 4th level Evocation spell available to Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. Sickening Radiance creates a 30 ft radius sphere. When a creature first enters the sphere or at the beginning of a turn starting in the sphere, they must pass a constitution saving throw or take a level of exhaustion. Sickening Radiance is best used when you can either corner and close the door on a creature or group of creatures or when your party can block the exits. The 10 minute duration of the spell means that, if you can trap a creature in the region, that creature will most likely reach the 6th level of exhaustion: death.
For the DM
Gingwatzim – CR 2 – Candlekeep Mysteries
The Gingwatzim’s Energy Drain action on a hit allows a DC 12 Con save or gain one level of exhaustion.
Orthon – CR 10 – MotM
This devil is a status conditions nightmare for the party. Their infernal dagger causes the Poisoned condition on a failed DC 17 Con save. In addition, there are options to cause blindness, to cause paralysis, and to restrain targets.
Soul Monger – CR 11 – Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
The Soul Monger has the Wave of Weariness action that allows a DC 16 Con save to avoid suffering a level of exhaustion in addition to reducing the damage taken. It targets all creatures within a 60-ft cube. Combining this with a prior strike of the Phantasmal Dagger on the previous turn will lead to quite weary adventurers.
Sibriex – CR 18 – MotM
The Warp Creature ability allows the Sibriex to target up to three creatures, allowing a DC 20 Con save or leaving them poisoned and taking an additional level of exhaustion. Each target repeats the save at the start of their turn, gaining another level of exhaustion for each failure. Three successful saves ends the poison effect and removes all levels of exhaustion gained this way.