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The hold person spell says it works on humanoid targets, and a Troll is humanoid - do you use hold person or hold monster on a troll?

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Use Hold Monster.

Trolls may look roughly human-shaped, what with their two arms, two legs, and a head, all in roughly the expected configuration. However, they are not Humanoid the game term.

Take a look at the Monster Manual, page 6, where it describes stat blocks for monsters. The right hand column is the Type, which continues on to the next page. Among those are things like Dragons, Oozes, Giants, and Humanoids. As such, Humanoid counts as a very specific game term here.

In the Monster Manual, page 291, it lists Troll. Immediately below that, it says "Large giant, chaotic evil". That means that Trolls are in the Giant category. Compare that with the facing page, where Troglodytes are listed as "Medium humanoid (troglodyte), chaotic evil".

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this correct answer would be improved with a reference to the MM introduction (somewhere around p.8 or 9, IIRC) where statistics are described and "type" is detailed. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jul 6 '18 at 3:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Not quite, you were off by two pages. Wait, two whole pages? Who are you and what have you done with the real nitsua60?! \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6 '18 at 3:14
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No. (for the title question)

Hold Person states

Choose a humanoid that you can see.

Although you could think of a troll as a "humanoid", humanoid is actually a creature type, which include many sub-creatures.

Humanoids are the main peoples of a fantasy gaming world, both civilized and savage, including humans and a tremendous variety of other species. They have language and culture, few if any innate magical abilities (though most humanoids can learn spellcasting), and a bipedal form. The most common humanoid races are the ones most suitable as player characters: humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. Almost as numerous but far more savage and brutal, and almost uniformly evil, are the races of goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears), orcs, gnolls, lizardfolk, and kobolds.

Trolls are not one of them. Trolls are stated as

Large giant, chaotic evil1

Giants are another type of creature.

Giants tower over humans and their kind. They are humanlike in shape, though some have multiple heads (ettins) or deformities (fomorians). The six varieties of true giant are hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, cloud giants, and storm giants. Besides these, creatures such as ogres and trolls are giants.


1 The types, as well as the monster stat block that contains them, are explained in the pages 6 and 7 from the Monster Manual.

A monster's type speaks to its fundamental nature. Certain spells, magic items, class features, and other effects in the game interact in special ways with creatures of a particular type. For example, an arrow of dragon slaying deals extra damage not only to dragons but also other creatures of the dragon type, such as dragon turtles and wyverns.


Hold Monster

Hold Monster, on the other hand, states

Choose a creature that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be Paralyzed for the Duration. This spell has no effect on Undead. 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.

So you can use it, since trolls are obviously creatures and not undeads. Note that Hold Monster can also be used on humanoids (although, if you have hold person, that's kinda of a waste).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "although, if you have hold person, that's kinda of a waste" – unless you’re a Warlock, in which case it’d be wasteful to keep Hold Person around when you can get Hold Monster. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Mar 12 '20 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic Not true... hold person scales within the slot sizes available to a Warlock (four targets out of a 5th level slot), hold monster does not scale because Warlock slots never get bigger than 5th level. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 12 '20 at 17:10
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Hold person wouldn't work on a troll; hold monster would

The hold person spell description states:

Choose a humanoid that you can see within range.

Here, the term is not being used in its generic meaning of "anything shaped like a human" (2 arms, 2 feet, hands with opposable thumbs, etc.). The term "humanoid" has a mechanical meaning in D&D 5e, in that it refers to the monster's type.

Per the description of type under "Monster Statistics" in the basic rules:

A monster's type speaks to its fundamental nature. Certain spells, magic items, class features, and other effects in the game interact in special ways with creatures of a particular type. For example, an arrow of slaying (dragon) deals extra damage not only to dragons but also other creatures of the dragon type, such as dragon turtles and wyverns.

The game includes the following monster types, which have no rules of their own.

[...]

Giants tower over humans and their kind. They are humanlike in shape, though some have multiple heads (ettins) or deformities (fomorians). The six varieties of true giant are hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, cloud giants, and storm giants. Besides these, creatures such as ogres and trolls are giants.

Humanoids are the main peoples of a fantasy gaming world, both civilized and savage, including humans and a tremendous variety of other species. They have language and culture, few if any innate magical abilities (though most humanoids can learn spellcasting), and a bipedal form. The most common humanoid races are the ones most suitable as player characters: humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. Almost as numerous but far more savage and brutal, and almost uniformly evil, are the races of goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears), orcs, gnolls, lizardfolk, and kobolds.

And per the statblock for a troll, it has the "giant" type, not the "humanoid" type:

Large giant, chaotic evil

In contrast, see the statblock of a goblin, for instance:

Small humanoid (goblinoid), neutral evil

Its "goblinoid" tag, listed next to its type, indicates a particular subtype of humanoid:

A monster might have one or more tags appended to its type, in parentheses. For example, an orc has the humanoid (orc) type. The parenthetical tags provide additional categorization for certain creatures. The tags have no rules of their own, but something in the game, such as a magic item, might refer to them. For instance, a spear that is especially effective at fighting demons would work against any monster that has the demon tag.

Because a troll does not have the "humanoid" type, hold person can not affect it. Instead, you would instead have to cast hold monster, which has no such targeting requirements, and could target any creature:

Choose a creature that you can see within range.

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No, use Hold Monster

Because trolls are not humanoids, they are giants. In D&D, humanoid is a specific creature type, and trolls are of the giant type.

Creature Type: (emphasis added)

A monster’s type speaks to its fundamental nature. Certain spells, magic items, class features, and other effects in the game interact in special ways with creatures of a particular type. For example, an arrow of dragon slaying deals extra damage not only to dragons but also other creatures of the dragon type, such as dragon turtles and wyverns.

Hold person specifically affects the humanoid creature type. Hold monster affects a creature regardless of type, making it a much more versatile spell.

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