Is Crown Of Madness A Great Spell In 5E?


Read on to learn more about why crown of madness isn't all it's cracked up to be and why you should avoid adding it to your spell arsenal.

Crown of madness may seem like a good spell, but it isn't.

A Wizard smirks as he grins widely and a crown of thorns suddenly twists around the lich’s head. The lich seems disoriented, randomly lashing out at one of its comrades, eyes misted over. Crown of madness has the potential to turn an enemy into a temporary ally, but it is exceedingly challenging to use effectively, particularly in high-stress situations like combat.

How the Spell Works

The text from the Player’s Handbook states that: One humanoid of your choice that you can see within range must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become charmed by you for the duration. While the target is charmed in this way, a twisted crown of jagged iron appears on its head, and a madness glows in its eyes.

The charmed target must use its action before moving on each of its turns to make a melee attack against a creature other than itself that you mentally choose. The target can act normally on its turn if you choose no creature or if none are within its reach. On your subsequent turns, you must use your action to maintain control over the target, or the spell ends. Also, the target can make a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns. On a success, the spell ends.

There are no additional effects at higher levels.

Who Gets Crown of Madness

Crown of madness is on the Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard spell lists. It is automatically prepared for Oathbreaker Paladins.

What Are the Uses

Crown of madness is one of those spells that looks amazing but is so untenable that most people avoid it entirely. It is widely regarded as one of the worst spells in Dungeons & Dragons, and once you take a closer look at the text, it’s no wonder why. The casting time is an action for this enchantment spell, and it only needs verbal and somatic components. So far so good, right?

The first part of the spell looks promising: not too many humanoids are particularly wise and often fail their Wisdom saving throws. True, it only works on humanoids, and you probably aren’t facing too many of those at lower levels, but that’s not necessarily a point against the spell.

The problems begin with the next part: using its action to make a melee attack against a creature of your choice. Everyone has an action, a bonus action, and movement during a turn. This spell supposedly charms your victim, yet it allows them to decide how to use their bonus action and movement, not to mention their reaction. The spell notes that if no one is within reach the target can act normally.

All the target has to do is use their movement to get away from anyone else, and boom! It doesn’t matter that you’ve wasted a 2nd level spell slot and successfully charmed them. They can still use their action normally because you can only command them to make melee attacks. Plus, it’s a concentration spell, so you’re also stopping yourself from casting and maintaining a potentially useful spell by continuing to control (maybe) their actions.

On top of everything else, the target can roll a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of their turns, ending crown of madness on a success. At this point, it’s fair to say that there is nothing good here that you couldn’t get from another spell or magical effect.

Comparable Spells

If you’re looking for a better enchantment spell at 2nd level for use during combat, you’re much better off with hold person. Similarly, hold person only works on humanoids, takes an action to cast, requires the caster’s concentration, and forces your target to make a Wisdom saving throw. However, once you get past those parts, it’s easy to see why hold person is so much better than crown of madness.

Hold person scales, so at higher levels, you can target more than one creature with your spell. Additionally, hold person actually gives your adversaries the paralyzed condition. True, they can’t attack their allies, but they also can’t run away, can’t make attacks of opportunity, and never have the ability to use their actions/bonus actions as normal if they aren’t positioned in melee with someone you want them to attack.

In Summary

Crown of madness seems like it ought to be a good, useful spell at 2nd level, but when you read the text carefully, it’s actually a complete waste of a spell slot and your concentration. Warlocks especially should avoid it because it doesn’t scale when you cast it at higher levels, and they don’t have a choice about what level they cast at with Pact Magic slots.

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