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D&D 5E 5 Years in: Concentration

How do you use Concentration

  • By the book

    Votes: 103 79.2%
  • Limited to 1 concentration spell in effect, but I forget to ask for checks

    Votes: 23 17.7%
  • We just track spell durations

    Votes: 4 3.1%

  • Total voters
    130

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
As I play casters most of the time, I understand their concern, but IME I am more hesitant to start a concentration spell because it is likely before it runs out I am going to need to cast another one and lose the first. When I select my spells, I shoot for a strong blend of instant, set duration, and concentration.
Sure. I just mean that if their goal was to discourage a large percentage of people from using these spells much, they seem to have succeeded.
 

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Nebulous

Legend
Concentration break on damage can go out.
It is annoying,
war caster feat is so popular on DnD beyond for some reasons: people don’t like wasting spell.
It's annoying yes, but it's also one of the inherent balancing factors. I just think it's far too easy to lose concentration, that's the prob
We play by the book but there are some things I find lacking/annoying.

Concentration checks are too easy. Using DC 10 or half damage, whichever is higher, is too low. Once you get past lower levels, especially.

Adding in War Caster, as others have said, makes it even worse.

I would estimate, maybe 1 in 4 or 5 spells are ended because of failed Concentration checks. At higher levels, once Resilient (if needed) and War Caster are taken, it is closer to 1 in 20 or so.

I have thought about some changes:
  • The check to DC 10 or full damage, whichever is higher.
  • The check uses your spellcasting modifier (instead of a save), so you are automatically proficient.
  • You can concentrate on a number of spells equal to your spellcasting ability score modifier.
  • If you fail a concentrate check, you lose all concentration spells you have active.
But, I am still thinking about it. :)

I always loved the old 3e Unearthed Arcana that was a grab bag toolkit of alternate ideas. I would love to see stuff like this crammed into an official product, just tons of ways to tweak your game, here ya go, have at it. I know the online one kind of does that, but I want a big print book filled to the gills.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Nothing is perfect but I think it works fine as written. If a caster is concentrating, I just put a (soft drink) ring on it to keep track.

I remember previous editions and having to have a chart to remember all the bonuses and pluses my fighter had at any given moment. Current game is usually much less fiddly.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I play as is, but I have a lot of home brew spells in my game, and many of the ignore cncentration or bypass it by combining the core elements of two spells that require concentration into one. For example, I put Wraithform into the game as a 6th leel spell that allows the wizard to fly, be improved invisible and pass throuh gaps as small as 1 inch (treating anything they need to side through as difficult terrain). It is concentration and lasts only a minute, but it serves several purposes.

I also introduced a few magical items that assist with concentration, but at the cost of an attunement slot. When I make intelligenct magical items that can cast a concentration spell, the item concentrates, not the PC wielding the item. I also have a magic ring in my game that will maintain concentration for you on one spell that targets only you. The uncommon version will do only a cantrip or 1st level spell. The rare version does up to 2nd level. The very rare version up to 3rd. The legendary up to 5th. It requires attunement and has a few other minor features, but the maintaining cncentration is the main grab. When you take damage, the ringalso has to make concentration checks.

Finally, a good number of parties I've been in/run have made use of a ring of spell storing to allow the melee PCs to be concentrating on buff spells for the party rather than just the spellcasters. Making use of those other PCs' concentration for buffs is a way to effectively expans how much concentration a wizard can do.

Finally, in higher magic games I run, I did insert a variant rule (but it s only in some games in high magic worlds): Spellcasters have concentration points. The concentration points are equal to half your spellcasting level, rounded up (so wizards, clerics, etc... get one every other level starting at one; rangers and paladins every third level starting at 1; eldritch knights, arcane tricksters get them every 4 levels starting at one). Concentrating on one spell requires one concentration point per spell level. Adding a second requires one concetration per spell level plus one additional point. Adding a third requires once concentration point per spell level plus two. Thus, an 11th level caster could concentrate on three first level spells using their 6 concentration points (1 + (1 + 1) + (1 + 2)), or a fourth and a first (4 + (1 +1)); or a second and third (2 + (3 + 1)). When concentrating on multiple spells, any concentration checks you make are at disadvantage, and you must roll them in the reverse order of casting (so that if the 2nd spell you cast fails, when you make the check for the first spell you are non longer at disadvantage).
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
It's annoying yes, but it's also one of the inherent balancing factors. I just think it's far too easy to lose concentration, that's the prob

Interesting. You think it is too easy to lose concentration, I think it is too hard. LOL!

I haven't read through the thread, so if you don't mind how is it too easy in your experience? Do your casters not often take Resilient and/or War Caster? Do you not multiclass? Do you cast a lot of concentration spells often so it comes up more commonly?
 

RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
Finally, a good number of parties I've been in/run have made use of a ring of spell storing to allow the melee PCs to be concentrating on buff spells for the party rather than just the spellcasters. Making use of those other PCs' concentration for buffs is a way to effectively expans how much concentration a wizard can do.

That's a definitely a good way to expand the number of concentration spells a party can have running, but it's a double-edged sword... Most melee characters (especially tanks) are more likely to get hit, and therefore will be making more Concentration checks, increasing the chances of losing Concentration on that spell.

It's generally more optimal for a melee character to be buffed than to buff themselves, in most situations. But having extra buff spells running, even if one of those only lasts partway through combat, can still be the better option in some situations.
 

RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
Interesting. You think it is too easy to lose concentration, I think it is too hard. LOL!

I haven't read through the thread, so if you don't mind how is it too easy in your experience? Do your casters not often take Resilient and/or War Caster? Do you not multiclass? Do you cast a lot of concentration spells often so it comes up more commonly?

I think this is very group-dependent. If you're playing with optimizers, Concentration checks may seem to be too easy. Otherwise, they may seem to hard.

In my experience, if you build around Concentration, by multiclassing in specific ways, taking feats, focusing on CON as one of your secondary stats, etc., it's usually fairly easy to make Concentration checks. Otherwise, it's fairly common for many non-optimized casters to lose Concentration, especially if the DM has smart enemies who purposely try to disrupt casters' Concentration.

I've seen several players get frustrated with their non-optimized caster characters constantly losing Concentration. Especially with front line full casters like melee Clerics and Moon Druids, as well as front line secondary casters like Paladins. (Moon Druids seem to be the worst offender, due to their role as a front line tank, combined with the low AC of most Wild Shape forms which means frequent hits, plus the inability to re-cast Concentration spells that are lost while Wild Shaped... Everybody wants to be a bear, until that AC 11 bear is getting hit multiple times every round. ;))

A few times this resulting frustration has led to scrapping the character, other times it forces them into reluctantly optimizing because they feel like they have to take a certain feat that they otherwise wouldn't have.


Personally, nearly all of my casters have been built with an eye towards maintaining Concentration, and I usually have no trouble maintaining it.
 
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JeffB

Legend
It's a band-aid for a balance issue that was pretty much solved in the last edition, but.

BTB it is clunky balancing mechanic- but I'm no big fan of Vancian Casting so I'd prefer the whole system get thrown out in the next edition (I can feel all the people on the board who play casters cringing at the thought of a new balanced casting system they cannot "game" :D ).

I/we tend to forget about the checks- and I find it's a shoehorn into one playstyle i..e the "smart" or "cowardly" Wizard depending on how you look at it.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I know. In our current game we take 25 points per hit commonly, and sometimes as high as 40 or so. But it makes checks harder, which is my intent as I think they are too easy as written. I might keep the half damage, but raise the base DC to 15 from 10. That would be easier now that I think about it.

The risk with multiple concentration spells is if you do get hit and fail one, you fail them all. That makes combining those spells potentially powerful, but also risky. I know it is also a balance issue, which is why I am still thinking about it. If we try it out and it is too strong, we'll remove it.

Starting from 15 instead does make it harder in a much better way (potentially too hard in my opinion, because I tend to hit people multiple times with low damage attacks). I just think going with Full Damage is not making it harder, just making it impossible.

And, as someone who has put some very limited ways to get two concentration spells up, I would say if you are going to try it out, start small. I've seen some big moves and very impactful plays from just having two spells up, heck, I've seen it from two different casters concentrating. It is pretty powerful, so I would recommend starting small.

Allow all casters after 5th level to concentrate on two spells at once. See how big an impact that is (I've found it significant when I gave out an item that did this) before jumping into letting them concentrate of 4 or 5 spells at once.
 

I go by the book on concentration. But I am getting a bit dissatisfied with the mechanic.

The pros:
  • It is a great balancing factor that prevents number bloating.
  • Story wise, its a good narrative point. (The evil wizard is concentrating hard on maintaining his hold over you!).
The cons
  • It is a bit too much over present on spells. Spells like hunter mark and Hex should not have concentration (and I did remove the concentration aspect as it is a limiting factor that is way too strong)
  • It is often combined with spells which already allow a saving throw every round to end the effect. That one is my greatest frustration on concentration. Let's take the hold person. Concentration and a save every round. That makes that spell garbage in the hands of the NPCs as most NPCs have a low spell DC (14 or less for CR 5 or less) which makes it about a two round spell on average (less with bless). I know that the autocrit on helpless opponent is strong, but you need allies for that. With no allies a BBEG will never use such a spell.

I am considering doing something about spells that have both concentration and save every round. I am still unsure of the final form but it will probably look like this:
As long as you are concentrating on a spell, you can, as a bonus action, reactivate the spell effect on a target that has failed its initial save but succeeded on a subsequent save. If you reactivate your effect, the target will have to make a new saving throw to avoid the effect. If you do not reactivate your spell on the target and there are no other target affected by the spell, the spell ends.

In other words this introduces some kind of battle of wills where a PC fights an effect that an enemy is trying to impose on him. If the initial save is failed, that is not the end. You will want to make that enemy lose his concentration for sure. Do you attack the warlord or do you attack the low level cultist concentrating on the hold spell affecting your rogue?

Or I will apply the three save to end a duration effect. This is something I do with poison. The ongoing damage of poison is stopped only with three successful save. This has resulted with a lot of anti-poison elixir and neutralize poison potion being bought in my games. Ongoing poison effect is now hated and fear, even if it is only 1d6 of ongoing damage.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
Starting from 15 instead does make it harder in a much better way (potentially too hard in my opinion, because I tend to hit people multiple times with low damage attacks). I just think going with Full Damage is not making it harder, just making it impossible.

And, as someone who has put some very limited ways to get two concentration spells up, I would say if you are going to try it out, start small. I've seen some big moves and very impactful plays from just having two spells up, heck, I've seen it from two different casters concentrating. It is pretty powerful, so I would recommend starting small.

Allow all casters after 5th level to concentrate on two spells at once. See how big an impact that is (I've found it significant when I gave out an item that did this) before jumping into letting them concentrate of 4 or 5 spells at once.

I like the DC 15 change better the more I think about it. We thought also about tying the number of concentration spells to tier as well as limiting it by half max spell level or a combination of the total spell level maximum.

For example, if your maximum spell level is 5th, you can cast and concentrate on spells with total spell levels of 5 or less.

I do know, ultimately like most house-rules, we will probably just continue to play RAW and not bother. I can see the DC 15 and using spellcasting modifier instead of CON being the easiest route to go.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
I am considering doing something about spells that have both concentration and save every round. I am still unsure of the final form but it will probably look like this:
As long as you are concentrating on a spell, you can, as a bonus action, reactivate the spell effect on a target that has failed its initial save but succeeded on a subsequent save. If you reactivate your effect, the target will have to make a new saving throw to avoid the effect. If you do not reactivate your spell on the target and there are no other target affected by the spell, the spell ends.

In other words this introduces some kind of battle of wills where a PC fights an effect that an enemy is trying to impose on him. If the initial save is failed, that is not the end. You will want to make that enemy lose his concentration for sure. Do you attack the warlord or do you attack the low level cultist concentrating on the hold spell affecting your rogue?

I like this idea. It IS incredibly annoying that you can to concentrate on a spell that allows a save every round. For just such reasons I do avoid those spells. Make it one or the other, not both. IMO it is almost like having a spell require an attack roll and then the target also gets to save, which is something they don't do.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Interesting. You think it is too easy to lose concentration, I think it is too hard. LOL!

I haven't read through the thread, so if you don't mind how is it too easy in your experience? Do your casters not often take Resilient and/or War Caster? Do you not multiclass? Do you cast a lot of concentration spells often so it comes up more commonly?
I'd say the sweet spot for Concentration is in the 75-90% success rate, which is roughly where having either Con save proficiency or War Caster put you for your standard DC 10 check in Tier 1 and 2. Once you need to start making higher DC checks (usually around late Tier 2 into Tier 3), only having 1 of those (or not having either!) starts to put you in a position where failure becomes pretty common.
 

RogueJK

It's not "Rouge"... That's makeup.
IMO it is almost like having a spell require an attack roll and then the target also gets to save, which is something they don't do.

Sure they do. There are spells requiring both attack rolls and saves.

Some of them are set up to where the attack roll does one thing, and the target then gets a save to avoid another thing. Several of the Paladin's various Smite spells are examples of this. The end result is that the spell can do nothing (attack misses), something (attack hits but target makes save), or everything (attack hits and target fails save). And these Smite spells even require Concentration to boot!

See also Ray of Sickness, Ensnaring Strike, etc.

Ice Knife is another example of this split effect, requiring both an attack roll and a save. Attack roll for initial damage, with a subsequent DEX save for further damage. The difference with this spell is that even if the initial attack roll misses, the target still has to make the DEX save, so it adds a fourth outcome. So it can do nothing (attack misses and target makes save), something (attack hits but target makes save), another something (attack misses but target fails save), or everything (attack hits and target fails save).

And while they're rare, there are a others that require both an attack and a save for an "all or nothing" effect, like Plane Shift. It requires both a successful attack roll and a failed CHA save by the target. If the attack misses or the target makes its save, the spell fails.
 
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DwarfHammer

Explorer
I play it raw. But i think it needs some tweaking. Hopefully 6E will rework it in a better way. It does alot of good and i would hate to throw out the baby with the bath water. So I just use it as is instead of house ruling it to death. I would like some spells like protection from energy removed as a concentration spell.

i think more than anything it prevents spellcasters from going nova and burning all their spell slots. Personally I like watching novice spellcaster waste spells and die until they learn to play the game. But that’s just how I think.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I see many posters are saying concentration has prevented number bloating that was so common in 3.5e. I agree that having your fighter reaching AC 50 because he had a DEX bonus, an enhancement bonus, an unnamed bonus, a shield bonus, a natural armor bonus, a deflection bonus, an insight bonus and wondering if wondering asking around if someone could cast a spell to get a profane bonus... But it was more a "feature" of the stacking rules than stacking spells IIRC (it was, after all, a long time ago...)

In the current 5e, stacking wouldn't allow that : advantage doesn't stack, very few spells provide a flat bonus... Shield of faith (+2) ? Not many other I can think of.

The main thing it prevent one from stacking are spells granting special abilities like flying and invisibility.

I am also doubting that there are battlefield-controlling spell providing a sufficent advantage to warrant both concentration (and risking becoming the enemy's pincushion) and saving throws. I'd say forcecage might qualify as providing enough advantage (potentially splitting the enemy group in half), but it's a 7th level spell and it doesn't offer a saving throw.
 

Ashrym

Hero
Huh. I never really considered just screw it, and ignore the limitation. I guess if the bad guys can do it too it's all fair. Although doesn't that make the casters significantly more powerful than they'd otherwise be? Now you can have flying, greater invisible and banishment all running at once.

It allows spending more time buffing up but the current system allows for stacking buffs already by giving spell casters incentive to work together as a team and coordinate buffing or other effects.

I like a mechanic that encourages working together.

Concentration checks are too easy. Using DC 10 or half damage, whichever is higher, is too low. Once you get past lower levels, especially.

Adding in War Caster, as others have said, makes it even worse.

I would estimate, maybe 1 in 4 or 5 spells are ended because of failed Concentration checks. At higher levels, once Resilient (if needed) and War Caster are taken, it is closer to 1 in 20 or so.

That depends on how often the character gets attacked. +3 CON bonus without proficiency vs DC 10 fails about one check in three. 7 or higher saves and 6 or lower fails. Attacking that character 3 times before the spell ends almost guarantees losing the spell to a failed concentration check.

That's if the caster starts with 16 CON.

At higher levels the DC does go up by higher damage while players often max the casting stat before looking at those feats. The alternative lowers attack bonuses or saving throws.

There are some high damage attacks that get too high to save in some odd cases too.
 

Most PC put a 14 in their constitution score. This means that they have a 55% chance of success. Add in warcaster and you get about 80% to succeed any normal non massive damage concentration checks. Monsters/NPCs do not have this luxury. When a caster take resilient and chose constitution, then you even add proficiency to it. At level 9 it is an other +3 (15% maybe even 20% if it raises the constitution of the PC to 16) pushing up the chance at the 95% success rate on a non massive damage concentration roll. Failure is almost non existant in this case (which happens quite a lot at my table).
 

Nebulous

Legend
Interesting. You think it is too easy to lose concentration, I think it is too hard. LOL!

I haven't read through the thread, so if you don't mind how is it too easy in your experience? Do your casters not often take Resilient and/or War Caster? Do you not multiclass? Do you cast a lot of concentration spells often so it comes up more commonly?
I see it easily ruined from the evil wizard standpoint, to the point that concentration spells don't usually last more than a single round.
 

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