Hold Person is the ultimate power flex spell. It can be used to tee up an enemy for the finishing blow or to keep a person of interest still for interrogation. The spell has elements of use in and out of combat, and versatility is always a plus when dealing with spell slots.
The rules for Hold Person can be found in the Players Handbook on page 251.
Hold Person 5e
Enchantment 2nd Level
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 60 Feet
Components: V, S, M (A small straight piece of iron)
Duration: Concentration (1 minute)
Choose a humanoid that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be paralyzed for the duration. At the end of each of its turns, the target can make another Wisdom saving throw. On a success, the spell ends on the target.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, you can target one additional humanoid for each slot level above 2nd. The humanoids must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.
Hold Person can be a great spell. The rules outline the pros and cons effectively. It can only be cast on a humanoid, and the target gets a save at the end of each of its turns.
It doesn’t state that the effect is broken when the target takes damage which is important to note. It does provide the opportunity to be upcast. Hold Person is an all-or-nothing spell in its purest form.
What does Hold Person Work on?
Hold Person can specifically target humanoids only. This is intentional to limit the power of the spell. It has a similar higher-level spell version in Hold Monster that targets creatures and will work on basically anything.
This does not mean the spell is useless by any means. It just indicates that you should follow the guidelines. There are numerous humanoid, monstrous races such as goblins, gnolls, lizardfolk, and kobolds that could be targeted by Hold Person.
The book descriptions should be followed firmly in their descriptions of the monsters. If it doesn’t say humanoid, it will not be affected by Hold Person.
Is Hold Person a Good Spell?
Hold Person, like many enchantment and illusion spells, is based on a saving throw for the spell to be effective. This creates an all-or-nothing scenario for the caster. Wisdom saves are hard to pass for most monsters and NPCs, so the odds are good for the spell to work.
The spell becomes increasingly powerful as it gets cast at higher levels. Considering it can affect a group of enemies within 30 feet of each other, it allows the caster to manipulate the battlefield quite well. If you take into consideration the generally weak wisdom saves by enemies, the spell is powerful.
Generally, the saves do not get better for enemies as you level. They rely on abilities more. Sure, a humanoid enemy with legendary resistance is going to auto-save, but his minions may not. This can significantly decrease the difficulty of an encounter.
What does Hold Person do?
When the target of Hold Person fails the save and is affected by the spell, they are subject to the paralyzed condition. The paralyzed condition has the following effects:
- A paralyzed creature is incapacitated (an incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions) 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.
Limiting actions and reactions is great. Automatically failing strength and dexterity saving throws is also really good. The big hitter with the paralyzed condition is that last line: Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet.
This is a huge opportunity to setup a kill shot on a, particularly tough enemy. Allowing a paladin, rogue, or barbarian to have a go at an automatic critical is spectacular.
Clarification for Hold Person
- Hold Person does not work on any creature that is not specifically listed as a humanoid.
- Being immune to charm spells does not provide any immunity or resistance to Hold Person.
- Hold Person will cause a flying humanoid to fall out of the air if they do not have the ability to hover.
- Hold Person can be removed using dispel magic.
- Hold Person cannot be removed by dealing damage to the target. The target makes a save at the end of each of their turns.
Hold Person is a useful and potentially powerful spell. The spell has the ability to shut down one big enemy or multiple enemies if cast at a higher level, so it would not be a waste to have it in the spell book. It is important to note that it only works on humanoids.
If your adventure takes place on the material plane, it will probably be of use at lower levels at least. If your adventure takes place on another plane or in an incredibly uncivilized area, it might be worth passing over.