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From reading through conditions such as paralyzed (PHB 291) or unconscious (PHB 292), I realized that incapacitated seems to act largely as shorthand so each condition that inflicts it (paralyzed, petrified, stunned, and unconscious, for those keeping track) doesn't have to repeat the text "the creature can't take actions or reactions" every time. But I got to wondering if an effect exists, accessible either to player characters or monsters/NPCs, that inflicts incapacitated and nothing else.

Not even enchantment wizards' Hypnotic Gaze (PHB 112) or the spell hypnotic pattern (PHB 252) inflict only incapacitated; instead they inflict charm and have incapacitated act as a "rider" condition while the charm is active, starting and ending when it does.

So, are there any features that inflict this condition without making it reliant on or a component of another condition, or is incapacitated a (convenient) shorthand?

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There are only a few times where the only condition is incapacitated

The Arcane Archer's Banishing Arrow states:

While banished in this way, the target's speed is 0, and it is incapacitated.

Both the banishing smite and banishment spells state:

While there, the target is incapacitated.

The symbol spell states:

Pain. Each target must make a Constitution saving throw and becomes incapacitated with excruciating pain for 1 minute on a failed save.

The wind walk spell states:

Reverting takes 1 minute, during which time a creature is incapacitated and can't move.

The Short Term Madness table in the DMG states:

21-30 The character becomes incapacitated and spends the Duration screaming, laughing, or weeping.

The Wild Magic Sorcerer's Wild Magic Surge tables states:

41-42 You turn into a potted plant until the start of your next turn. While a plant, you are incapacitated and have vulnerability to all damage. If you drop to 0 hit points, your pot breaks, and your form reverts.

And the Unearthed Arcana Raven Queen Warlock's Sentinel Raven feature states:

While perched on your shoulder, the raven can't be targeted by any attack or other harmful effect; only you can cast spells on it; it can't take damage; and it is incapacitated.

Most of these either make the target go to another plane of existence or they affect the player and not a target. The only one that could be used offensively is the symbol spell's Pain option.


There aren't even very many ways to apply the incapacitated condition with other conditions, which, as user @thedarkwanderer pointed out, would inflict only the incapacitated condition if a monster were immune to the other condition.

The Tasha's hideous laughter spell which inflicts the prone condition:

The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or fall prone, becoming incapacitated and unable to stand up for the duration.

And finally the feign death spell which inflicts the blinded condition:

The target is blinded and incapacitated, and its speed drops to 0.

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The Pain effect of the symbol spell inflicts incapacitated and no other conditions.

One of the options I can choose for the symbol spell (PHB 280) is:

Pain. Each target must make a Constitution saving throw and becomes incapacitated with excruciating pain for 1 minute on a failed save.

While it lists the inconvenience as described in Ben's answer, it does not inflict any other conditions, mechanically speaking.

Maybe I should have looked harder before asking.

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There are no ways to inflict the "Incapacitated" condition on it's own; it's a convenient shorthand.

Basically, the "Incapacitated" condition is non-specific. It says that the affected target cannot act or react, but it doesn't say why. There is no cause for this inconvenience, unless it is used in conjunction with another condition. They are incapacitated because they are paralysed; because they are grappled; because they are unconscious.

You can say "Ok Dave, you're incapacitated now". But why? What's stopping them from taking their action? What's the cause?

Technically, a PC could even be incapacitated because they are simply buried beneath a pile of pillows, and the goose feathers are causing them to have a severe allergic reaction. But again, they are incapacitated because of the effects of the situation.

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