READ! Okay, now that I have your attention, welcome to our guide to the Command spell in Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
Whether you need to buy yourself a few precious seconds, derail an enemy cavalry charge, or end a fight before it’s even begun, this 1st-level spell is one of the most effective and versatile weapons in the arsenal of a Cleric, Paladin, or Bard. In this guide, we’ll break down how this spell works, its limitations, and how to get the best possible results while using it in (and out of) combat.
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range/Area: 60 feet
- Duration: 1 Round
- School: Enchantment
- Class: Bard, Cleric, Paladin
- Level: 1st
- Damage/Effect: Disable
- Attack/Save: Wisdom
- Components: V
By speaking a one-word command, you magically force a creature you can see within range to perform a specific action. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or follow the command on its next turn. The spell has no effect if the target is undead, if it doesn’t understand your language, or if your command is directly harmful to it.
Below are listed several possible commands you could issue, although you can issue a command other than one described in this listing as long as it is one word long. If you do so, the GM determines how the target behaves. If the target can’t follow your command, the spell ends.
- Approach. The target moves toward you by the shortest and most direct route, ending its turn if it moves within 5 feet of you.
- Drop. The target drops whatever it is holding and then ends its turn.
- Flee. The target spends its turn moving away from you by the fastest available means.
- Grovel. The target falls prone and then ends its turn.
- Halt. The target doesn’t move and takes no actions. A flying creature stays aloft, provided that it is able to do so. If it must move to stay aloft, it flies the minimum distance needed to remain in the air.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can affect one additional creature for each slot level above 1st. The creatures must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.
What Does Command Do in DnD 5e?
Command is a 1st-level enchantment spell that allows the caster to force a creature they can see to reflexively obey a one-word instruction. This could mean dropping their weapon, falling asleep, fleeing in the opposite direction, or doing anything else the caster can think of.
The spell takes effect on the target’s next turn and lasts for a single round.
However, if the result of the command word would bring immediate harm to the spell’s target — telling someone on the edge of a cliff to “JUMP” — or the target cannot complete the command you give them, the spell doesn’t work.
Who Can Cast Command?
Command is available to three spellcasting classes: the Bard, the Cleric, and the Paladin. As a first-level spell, it’s available to all three classes at 1st level.
This makes a good deal of thematic sense for each of these classes, and I think it fits especially nicely into the character concept of an Oath of Conquest Paladin or any of the more martially focused bard classes — although there’s nothing to say that this spell is exclusively designed for combat. In fact, there are a fair number of interesting ways that a more subtle and manipulative character like a Whisper Bard or a Trickery Domain Cleric could use Command as a way to exert their will over others readily — at least until they pick up Suggestion.
If you’re not playing a Bard, Cleric, or Paladin, then you could find one of the classes that can cast this spell and try to get a ring of spell storing loaded up with a few uses of Command, thereby giving you access to the spell. Spell scrolls are another great way to get hold of a spell that’s outside your character’s wheelhouse without multiclassing or grabbing a feat.
Speaking of which, probably the easiest way to get hold of the Command spell is to learn the Magic Initiate feat, which lets you pick a cantrip and a 1st-level spell from any spell list. Having access to this spell on another spellcasting class (like a Sorcerer with metamagic and Extended Spell for a full two rounds of groveling) can open up some really interesting possibilities.
How Do I Use Command?
While there are always going to be some interesting edge cases — inducing a merchant who’s secretly a cult leader to “SIGN” a confession form, for example — that give Command some utility outside of combat, the primary function of this spell is solidly as a form of combat debuff and disable.
All of the suggested Command options for this spell (Approach, Drop, Flee, Grovel, Halt) are intended to disable or displace an enemy, putting them in a position where they don’t want to be or to hopefully waste enough of their time for you and your companions to take them out.
My personal favorite is using this spell as a poor man’s version of Earthbind. Commanding a dragon or griffon to LAND can dramatically alter the dynamics of a fight, especially if the fighter and barbarian are standing nearby with a big old net at the ready.
You can’t instruct someone to JUMP off the 1,000-foot cliffs beneath Castle Ravenloft, but you could instruct them to DANCE or FREEZE, thereby making them an easy target for the party fighter to Sparta kick them into the misty void below on their turn.
I like to think of the spell as working similarly to real-world hypnotism rules; you can’t command someone to “DIE” or otherwise do something that would immediately cause them to come to harm as the spell clearly doesn’t completely overpower their innate survival instincts. It’s much the same as the way that people misunderstand how the spell Charm Person works; viewing the caster as a friendly acquaintance does not equal mind control.
Is Command a Good Spell?
For the price of a first-level spell slot, I can’t think of many other options that temper this much mileage with this much versatility. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and Earth Tremor both come close, and Charm Person is still a decent spell outside of combat (despite people’s constant mistaking it for freaking mind control). For the ability to outright disable one or more enemies, Sleep is almost unbeatable at lower levels.
However, the combination of roleplaying utility, open-endedness, and combat efficacy conspire to make Command a truly top-tier choice when you’re in your earlier levels and only have a few spells to play with a day.
Being able to command a guard to OPEN or UNLOCK a jail cell, a goblin holding a lit bomb to JUGGLE, a fleeing coach driver to HALT, or any number of other instantaneous actions that can turn the tide of a tense roleplaying moment or a combat is simply fantastic.
So is the spell’s range. While it’s not a subtle spell by any means, being able to throw it out at an enemy 60 feet away can do a lot to ensure the caster’s safety, and disrupt the enemy’s plans from afar. Given the average PC movement rate, Command’s range basically lets you HALT the cultists’ ritual one turn sooner, which sometimes can make all the difference.
In combat, the true beauty of Command lies not just in its ability to apply conditions to enemies and generally ruin their day but as a time waster. GROVEL is a great example because with the prone condition applied, not only is the enemy missing their next turn, but all melee attacks against them have advantage.
Still, the really useful bit here is that you’ve just used a 1st-level spell to force an enemy, possibly with multiattack or some other terrifying ability, to miss an entire turn. With the average fight in D&D 5e lasting just three or four rounds, you’ve made one of your opponents at least 25% less effective at very little cost.
Then, there are the ways that you can more creatively (read: evilly) use Command to really screw your opponents up. Asking for more interesting things that don’t technically directly harm the target but definitely disable them — like VOMIT, or DRINK a potion that they don’t know for sure is poisoned, or even DISPEL a magical effect they’re concentrating on — are all perfectly legitimate and fantastic ways to ruin the BBEG’s day.
Of course, the effects wear off very quickly, so just make sure that whatever you’re trying to accomplish can irrevocably alter the state of play in one round. Commanding an enemy commander to SURRENDER might only serve to create confusion as the effect wears off less than 10 seconds later. However, if you can also take an enemy’s weapon in that round or get a blade to their throat when the effect of the spell wears off, they’re much more likely to keep on complying.
Upcasting the spell is also an amazing way to turn a fight around in a single move. It’s obviously a shame that you can’t order multiple targets to do different things, but ordering half a dozen enemies to DROP their weapons at once can easily tip the balance of a potentially deadly fight in the direction of the party in the blink of an eye.
The biggest drawback of Command is its Spell Save, Wisdom being a pretty common save for monsters to be proficient in (probably the most after Dexterity), which means that unless you have a pretty great Spell Save DC, you’re always going to run the risk of wasting the slot. Unlike an AoE damage spell, you don’t get to tag your enemies for half damage even if they save, so spells like Command are always a bit of a gamble.
Consider working with your fellow spellcasters to maximize your chances of success with a spell such as Bane.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Command Last?
A creature affected by the Command spell spends its next turn following the spellcaster’s instruction word. Unless using one of the options suggested in the spell description, the exact interpretation is up to the GM.
A creature commanded to RUN might take the Dash action, but some instructions might involve no action at all. Either way, if the spell’s target completes the command, they immediately end their turn without taking other actions or moving.
Does Command Stop You Taking Reactions?
No. A creature affected by Command obeys the command word and then ends its turn. Seeing as reactions occur outside of a character’s turn, they are not overridden by the spell. Opportunity attacks and spells like Hellish Rebuke can still occur even if the creature performing them is under the effect of the Command spell.
How Do You Counter Command?
Other than Counterspell or the Mage Slayer feat, the best ways to prevent the effects of the Command spell are to either blind (line of sight is required to cast) or silence the caster or deafen yourself when going into battle against an enemy that uses Command against you.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.