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Confusion in D&D 5e Is a Confusing Mess

D&D 5e confusion spell confused condition featured image is a combination images by Wizards of the Coast’s book The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: A Feywild Adventure and a photograph by Hans-Peter Gauster.
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After 8 years of playing, DMing, and making content for D&D 5e, I feel like it’s time I nit-pick what I feel is the biggest flaw with this system from a purely mechanical standpoint. This is going to sound so remarkably “nothing”, but I really do believe it has led to page bloat with its incredibly clumsy workaround across dozens of monster stat blocks, and I can at least theorize that it kept a lot of cool character options from getting introduced.

I’m not kidding when I say this bothered me so much two years ago that I was actually considering starting to design for Pathfinder because I feel like this would require too much fiddling with the moving parts of the 5e system to fix. This affects literally every part of the game: adventures, classes, monsters, magic items, and spells.

Fixing Confusion

Why does the 5e system reference the confusion spell with like half a sentence every single time the mechanic pops up rather than just have a “confused” condition? 

See? I told you this is going to sound pedantic. But for real, this has been maddening as someone who gets paid to overanalyze and write for this game. 5e was meant to be a more streamlined version of the game, but D&D 3.5 had a “confused” condition and this step away from that part of the system makes it a cluttered mess and limits its potential depth. This might not seem like much of anything to the regular D&D player, but to those of us doing homebrewing or adventure writing, this is like hearing the beauty of Chopin’s Opus 9 No. 2 with Gilbert Gottfried screeching in the background.

This hang-up put me on a line of thought that the pool of Conditions in 5e is shallow and arguably insignificant with the number of features and traits players can get to overcome them. I know this comparison isn’t totally apt, but growing up on Final Fantasy and remembering the interesting and robust system of Conditions in there, I’m left feeling underwhelmed by the low-magic conditions that don’t support the high-magic fantasy this game claims to be.

The Proposed “Fix”

Now, I’m not just going to bring up issues here, I prefer trying to propose solutions when I have a critique to help support my position. After hearing Wizards of the Coast was abandoning the class concept, I wrote a new take on the Mystic in 2020 almost as if I was trying to prove to them they had a cool core but just didn’t see it. Part of writing that class was a “band-aid” fix to separate the effects of the confusion spell into a new Confused condition, then rework the original spell for this new condition.

Then I wanted to give the school of enchantment a much-needed debuffing cantrip for combat that uses the new mechanic in the form of a new spell Jordan at Flutes Loot coined as muddle, which targets a single creature for the condition, and ends the effect early when it takes damage, similar to what we see in Final Fantasy. Zero playtesting on this thing, but I’m just theory-crafting here.

Now, if we look at monster statblocks that have text that includes a long string about “subjected to the effects of the confusion spell”, you can start condensing those down into simple, one-sentence lines of text. This would be the same for any dungeon trap, poison, magic item, whatever that makes mention of the confusion spell. We can even expand on the condition with a “while confused in this way” line like they do with grappled and poisoned for more customized effects! Now that I’ve added this condition for everything else to refer to, I think you can see how this starts to remove page bloat across multiple books. 

Reworked and New Conditions

My inspiration clearly began with dissatisfaction regarding what should’ve been the “confused” condition. However, I developed a desire to further expound on D&D 5e’s condition system.

I added the following conditions to the game:

  • Confused
  • Frenzied
  • Frozen
  • Jinxed
  • Undeath
D&D 5e conditions reworked Confused
D&D 5e conditions reworked Frenzied
D&D 5e conditions reworked Frozen
D&D 5e conditions reworked Jinxed
D&D 5e conditions reworked Undeath

Reworked and New Spells

I reworked the confusion spell to use the aforementioned confused condition. I also added an enchantment cantrip (muddle) to utilize the confused condition.

D&D 5e Confusion spell reworked
D&D 5e muddle cantrip spell

Reworked Monster Ability

A monster in 5e that is designed with the confusion spell in mind is the Alkilith. Here’s the before-and-after of its ability with my new rework to use the confused condition:

Before – Foment Madness. Any creature that isn’t a demon that starts its turn within 30 feet of the alkilith must succeed on a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw, or it hears a faint buzzing in its head for a moment and has disadvantage on its next attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. If this saving throw fails by 5 or more, the creature is subjected to the confusion spell for 1 minute (no concentration required by the alkilith). While under the effect of that confusion, the creature is immune to Foment Madness.

After – Foment Madness. Any creature that isn’t a demon that starts its turn within 30 feet of the alkilith must succeed on a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw, or it hears a faint buzzing in its head for a moment and has disadvantage on its next attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. If this saving throw fails by 5 or more, the creature is confused. While confused in this way, the creature is immune to Foment Madness.


Not saying “I have the right opinion about how this should work.” However, this one change caused an inspirational spark in my brain for this system again. I looked back on some of these conditions from video games and other fiction and worked them into this system, and it was like I pushed back the event horizon of the black hole known as writer’s block. Now I’m excited to concept new conditions to expand on every aspect of this game and maybe open up some builds that try to intentionally inflict themselves with certain conditions for new, interesting styles of play.

I’m hopeful to see the Conditions really open up in the upcoming edition because I believe this could lead to a bunch of awesome new classes and ideas that toy with them. Anyways, that’s kind of it for this rant. Let me know what you guys think in the comments! Don’t think of this as me “crapping on D&D”, I’m just giving a critique for a system I really love despite its flaws hoping it can improve in the future.

If you enjoy this kind of homebrew content, read more revisions and ideas from Flutes Loot here.


Writing & Design: Taron “Indestructoboy” Pounds

2 thoughts on “<b>Confusion in D&D 5e Is a Confusing Mess</b>”

  1. Hi Taron, I’m going through spells and other effects for my own DND group at the moment and have also added a confused condition. But one thing I’ve noticed is a couple of monsters like the Faerie Dragon have a slightly different table of effects for their confusion effects. How did you handle those effects?

    1. Hi Stormcroe! You could do a few things: have different confusion conditions, standardize all confusion effects to be the same, or leave the monster effects as they are.

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