Hypnotic Pattern 5e D&D Guide

You make a pattern of colors that twists and flows through the air inside a 30-foot cube. The design shows up for a second and then disappears.

Every creature in the area that sees the design must make a Wisdom saving throw.

If the creature fails its save, it is charmed for as long as the spell lasts. While this effect is on the creature, it can’t move and its speed is 0.

The spell ends for a creature if it gets damage or if someone else uses an action to wake it up.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: S, M (a glowing stick of incense or a crystal vial filled with phosphorescent material)
Duration: Instantaneous
School: 3rd-level illusion

Player’s Handbook, pg. 252

Hypnotic Pattern 5e

Many players who can use it think of Hypnotic Pattern as a “must-pick” spell. But some people are left thinking what makes this spell to lock down an area of effect so powerful.

We’ll talk about why Hypnotic Pattern is so good, how to use it well, common questions about the rules, and how DMs can deal with a party that uses this spell too much.

Who Can Cast Hypnotic Pattern in 5e?

The following classes have Hypnotic Pattern on their spell list:

The following subclasses get Hypnotic Pattern for free:

  • Paladin (Oath of Redemption) (XGtE 39)
  • Artificer (Armorer(TCoE 15)

What Does Hypnotic Pattern Do in 5e?

The effect of Hypnotic Pattern lasts for 30 feet and causes all creatures that can see to make a Wisdom saving throw. If they don’t succeed, they will be charmed for up to 1 minute.

More importantly, while they are charmed, they are also unable to act or respond and have a speed of 0 (which means they can’t move).

If a creature’s saving throw is successful, nothing bad happens to it.

There are four ways for Hypnotic Pattern to end:

  • Breaks from concentrating. By taking damage, casting another spell that requires focus, choosing to end it, or effects in the environment. This stops the affect of the spell on all the creatures at the same time.
  • Something else does something. This is a special move: “Shake the creature out of its stupor.”
  • Any damage is done to the enemy. Hypnotic Pattern ends right away if even one hit point of damage is taken. Note that other effects that don’t cause damage won’t stop the hypnotic pattern early.
  • Duration runs out. It has a maximum duration of 1 minute, which is equal to 10 rounds of fighting.

Let’s talk about the spell’s length and area of effect before we get into the rules. The spell has a range of 120 feet, which means that you can put a point “anywhere on a face of the cubic effect” (PHB 204). This means that you can use the effect of Hypnotic Pattern even if you can’t see the target.

Illustration below:

The mage is the purple square. The dark line is a wall that blocks all of the caster’s line of sight. The “point of origin” of Hypnotic Pattern is the green circle. The area where the spell works is shown by the green square. The spellcaster could set up the spell in many different ways using the same starting point.

Note that full cover still stops Hypnotic Pattern from working. In other words, if there was a full-cover wall that cut the green square in half vertically, it would only affect the space on the left side of the square.

What Are the Rules for Hypnotic Pattern in 5e?

In DnD 5e, these are the rules for Hypnotic Pattern:

  • You can’t just turn away from Hypnotic Pattern and ignore what it does. Some players like to say that the fact that the spell only works on “every creature that sees the pattern” means that it’s easy to avoid friendly fire by just closing your eyes. This is not how sight-based spells or powers work.
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Basically, if a creature can see the pattern, it does see the pattern, no matter which way it is looking. Take the line of sight rule, which basically says that if a line “doesn’t pass through or touch an object or effect that blocks vision, then there is line of sight” (DMG 251).

We can also use the useful “slippery slope” argument, even though this rule doesn’t exactly cover what we’re talking about. What keeps foes from closing their eyes, which would make the spell useless? Or, what about conditions or affects like “frightened” that depend on being able to see something? Do those not work if someone can quickly close their eyes?

  • But animals that have been blinded or are blind for good can’t be affected by Hypnotic Pattern. Since seeing the pattern is what makes the spell work, a creature that can’t actually see can’t be hurt by it.

This could be someone who is blind because of a magic effect, a blindfold, or because they are sleeping.

  • Hypnotic Pattern has no effect on creatures who are immune to being charmed. Here’s Sage Advice confirmation that the spell affects all creatures except those immune to being charmed.This is because the incapacitate and 0-speed effects are contingent on the creature suffering from the charmed condition that the spell causes.
  • Hypnotic Pattern works in dark places, whether they are magical or not. This is like the “close your eyes” argument in that there is no strict RAW to turn to. But the materials for the spell are a “glowing stick of incense” and “phosphorescent material,” which shows that this “twisting pattern of colors” is some kind of light show or flashbang bomb.
  • You can’t stop the impact of Hypnotic Pattern by pushing a creature that has it. The spell’s description is very clear that a creature must take the ad hoc action of “shak[ing] the creature out of its stupor.” This is not the shove move, so it doesn’t have any effect on Hypnotic Pattern.
  • The effect of Hypnotic Pattern lasts for a long time, but the place where it works is safe after the spell is cast. In other words, Hypnotic Pattern works like a one-time flashbang. The light show lasts about 6 seconds, and any creature that sees it and fails its save is affected by it.

But after the spell is over, other animals are free to go into the area where it was cast without getting hurt. In the same way, a creature affected by the spell can be moved out of the spell’s area of effect, but it will still be affected by the spell.

  • You do not have advantage on attacks against incapacitated targets. And they still make saving throws as normal. These are clarifications on how the incapacitated condition (PHB 290) works more than a rule for Hypnotic Pattern.

How Do I Use Hypnotic Pattern in 5e?

Here are a few ways to use Hypnotic Pattern in DnD 5e:

  • First, take care of the enemies who make their saving throws. Hypnotic Pattern is so powerful because you can consistently kill between 50 and 70% of enemies in a large area. The last 30–50% of enemies are now much easier to deal with, and your party will take much less damage in the process.

After that, you can move on to the people who failed their saving throw in any way that makes the most sense to you.

  • Think about allies and effects that fight being charmed. The fact that Hypnotic Pattern affects a big area can be bad when your allies and enemies are in the same place. But if you put together and plan your party right, you can make sure that you only influence the people you want to.

Some good combinations are Devotion Paladins (Aura of Devotion, a 7th-level feature that makes allies within 10 feet immune to charms) or a Sorcerer’s Careful Spell metamagic (automatic saving throw success for allies), or just targeting areas where your party’s Elves (or any other race with Fey Ancestry) are (Fey Ancestry gives advantage on saving throws against charms).

  • Throw it into corners. As we saw above, Hypnotic Patterns’ big range and big, cube-shaped area of effect make it possible to hit creatures that aren’t in your straight line of sight.

This can be a very strong way to start a fight, since you’ll not only have the upper hand in starting it, but you’ll also have to deal with 50% or more fewer enemies. And since there is no verbal part, you might even be able to surprise the remaining enemies (up to the DM’s judgment).

  • Hold back enemies who can’t move. If you can kill the enemies who weren’t affected by the effect and still have time left over, you can always use it to stop the creatures that can’t move.
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Note that the rules don’t say how long it takes to tie someone up, so again, it’s up to the DM to decide how long it takes. But this can help keep one witness living after the slaughter so they can answer questions or send a message to someone.

  • Get ready and take out each enemy one at a time. You can really make the most of the huge edge that Hypnotic Pattern gives you by doing things like pushing them down to get the upper hand on your next attack, putting debuffs on powerful enemies before they wake up, etc.
  • Know who your foes are. Once you’ve met a creature that doesn’t respond to charms, like the Undead, or one that doesn’t respond to charms, like an Elf, you should learn about it or remember it. Hypnotic Pattern is a powerful spell, but official sourcebooks say that one in five D&D animals can’t be charmed by it.
  • Protect your focus. Smart enemies will go after the spellcaster who is actively killing half of their force. Be ready for this by putting yourself in a good position and working with your party to make yourself a less desirable target.

Is Hypnotic Pattern 5e a Good Spell?

Yes, there is no question that Hypnotic Pattern is a great spell in DnD 5e. How come?

Why Is Hypnotic Pattern a Good Spell?

Here are the main reasons why Hypnotic Pattern is an incredibly powerful 3rd-level spell:

  • It puts you in a very strong position to take action.When it comes down to it, the math of D&D combat boils down to “the side that does more stuff has the advantage.” When you get rid of more than half of an enemy group, they do half as much damage to you and you only have to watch out for half as many targets.

At this point, many new players say, “Sure, but an enemy creature that isn’t affected only needs to use an action to wake up its friend, making the spell useless.”

What these players don’t realize is that an enemy had to use their whole action to wake up their friend. Now you’ve spent the turns of twice as many enemies, which really puts the enemy force in a “rock and a hard place” situation where neither move is good.

Players also say that HP is a bad spell because damage stops the impact. But this is never really a problem, no matter how well the parties talk to each other and work together.

  • Large area of influence. If your war map is 5 feet by 1 inch, there are 36 whole squares. That’s enough to take a good portion of almost any enemy force. Just be careful not to use this too early, when enemies are spread out or waiting in ambush.

New players also say that the large area of effect makes it easy for friendly fire to happen, but planning and talking with other players can help fix this problem.

  • Only one chance to save yourself. Almost every DnD 5e spell that has a long-lasting effect on a group has a saving throw that the creature affected by the magic can make once per round of battle. Hypnotic Pattern is very stable because it keeps working even if you mess up a save.
  • No verbal component. Say that again, Silence spell and mouth gags!
  • It stays good for the whole campaign. This is the last thing, but it’s not the least important. Even though 3rd-level spells like Fireball are very powerful at levels 5–10, they finally stop being useful.

Incapacitating 50%+ of any group of enemies is just as powerful at 20th level as it is at 5th level (even more, one could easily argue). Plus, spell save DCs tend to scale faster than enemy ability scores, so the spell landing on more enemies only becomes more reliable as you progress.

Hypnotic Pattern 5e DM Tips

Hypnotic Pattern is a strong spell that no one really questions once they see it in-game. So powerful, in fact, that many DMs get annoyed when players use it to make easy some of the hardest fights they’ve set up.

Here are some suggestions for DMs who are in this situation:

  • Incorporate charm-immune/resistant enemies. As we’ve already talked about, 20% of the creatures in DnD 5e can’t be charmed. Another group has Fey Ancestry, which gives them an edge on saving throws against being charmed.
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Utilize these creatures to force your players to consider alternative crowd control options or find a new way of dealing with a challenge.

  • Target the person who casts the spell to make them lose focus. Don’t play too much with meta-games, especially if your monsters have no reason to know how magic works. But if you have a better creature that knows something about magic, it makes sense to attack the person who is killing half of your army first.

If you can break focus quickly, the action economy will be back to normal, you’ll have wasted a player’s 3rd-level spell slot, and the party might have put themselves in a dangerous situation because they were too sure of their numbers.

  • Spread out and use all the cover you can. If Hypnotic Pattern hits 100% of your force, it will only hurt 50–70% of the creatures you’re running. Don’t let that happen. Keep your backups in different rooms, on different floors, or just out of sight.

Even though HP can be used around corners, the impact doesn’t work through full cover. If you make a plan with a lot of columns, rocky hills, and other things that make it hard to see, players won’t be able to use Hypnotic Pattern to its full potential.

  • Spells like Counterspell or Dispel Magic. If the creatures you’re running have any spellcasters, these two easy spells can be used to easily and reliably stop Hypnotic Pattern. Just don’t rely too much on this, or people will start to say you’re lying.

At the end of the day, it’s not hard to stop your players’ powerful magic from working. But it does make the experience (for everyone) more interesting if they sometimes have to think of new ways to solve a problem.

When and Where should I cast Hypnotic Pattern?

Hypnotic Pattern is a great low-level control spell. Using it on large groups of low-Wisdom enemies such as Goblins, Kobolds, and other smaller enemies that might be seen either as a low-level mob or as an additional monster in a boss fight can tip the scales of a fight drastically by putting them out of commission.

When using the spell against low-level enemies, Hypnotic Pattern can be used to incapacitate them for one minute or to incapacitate them briefly. Once the spell takes effect, the only

FAQs

What is Hypnotic Pattern in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition?

Hypnotic Pattern is a spell in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition that creates a swirling pattern of colors and shapes, captivating and mesmerizing creatures within its area of effect. It is a powerful illusion spell that can incapacitate or charm multiple targets, rendering them unable to take actions.

How does Hypnotic Pattern work in D&D 5e?

When a character casts Hypnotic Pattern, they create a 30-foot cube within range filled with shifting patterns. Each creature within the area must make a Wisdom saving throw. Those who fail the save become charmed by the illusion and are incapacitated, perceiving the pattern as captivating and mesmerizing. The affected creatures have a speed of 0 and are essentially stunned until the spell ends or they take damage.

What level is Hypnotic Pattern in D&D 5e?

Hypnotic Pattern is a 3rd-level spell in D&D 5e. It is available to bards, sorcerers, and wizards. Bards can learn the spell at 5th level, while sorcerers and wizards gain access to it at 7th level.

How long does Hypnotic Pattern last in D&D 5e?

The duration of Hypnotic Pattern is concentration, up to 1 minute. As long as the caster maintains concentration on the spell, the mesmerizing pattern persists, and affected creatures remain charmed and incapacitated. However, if the caster loses concentration or willingly ends the spell, the effect immediately ends.

Can creatures attempt to break free from Hypnotic Pattern in D&D 5e?

While under the effect of Hypnotic Pattern, creatures have the opportunity to make a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of their turns. On a successful save, the creature breaks free from the charm and the spell’s effect ends for them. Additionally, if a creature takes any damage while charmed by Hypnotic Pattern, it can make another Wisdom saving throw to end the effect. However, creatures that succeed on their initial saving throw are immune to the spell’s effects for the duration.