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I'm playing a Bard in a 5E campaign. One of my most useful spells has been Dissonant Whispers. It's saved the party quite a few times but the question has come up and I've not found any answers in the rules as written for the spell. On a failed save, the creature takes 3D6 pyschic damage and the spell causes it "to move as far as its speed allows away from you." However, there's no explanation as to how far it goes or if it ever comes back. At present, we have have house ruled that it is gone for the duration of the battle, but we're considering a dice roll with a minimum of 5 rounds. Any thoughts?

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I concur with the answers below and I'll be passing this on to my DM. He'll no doubt house rule what he thinks is best but I will be suggesting that if a creature fails its save, upon returning to the battle he would be at disadvantage for x number of rounds due to the psychic damage. – Fogcutter Mar 30 at 18:54
Of course, you can house rule as much as you want, but keep in mind that Dissonant whispers is a level 1 spell. The spell by itself does damage (which scales using higher spell slots) and gives a chance to make opportunity attacks on a failed save. Adding a disadvantage for x rounds on top of that would make the spell very (too) powerful. – Meta4ic Apr 1 at 11:32
up vote 17 down vote accepted

It runs away from you at its normal speed and can return immediately

Dissonant Whispers (PHB p.235) states

On a failed save... and must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you. The creature doesn't move into obviously dangerous ground...

So if the creature has its reaction available it uses its reaction to move its speed away. The creature does this immediately so it may not dash or do anything else to increase its speed or make the area safer or... anything. It just moves its speed away if safe to do so. Even if the creature had Dashed on its turn it doesn't matter since dash only lasts for the current turn.

The spell is instantaneous duration and doesn't list any lasting effects. While the DM could make a ruling like, "The creature is afraid of getting hurt again and chooses to avoid you", there is nothing in the spell forcing this to happen. The creature can choose to run right back toward you on its turn.

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It would move a distance equal to its normal speed rating (which for many humanoid creatures is about 30 feet, but check the Monsters Manual for other creatures).

It's up to the DM if or how quickly the creature returns. But as this spell has a duration of "Instant", it could use its basic movement next round and attack right away (assuming that the party haven't "legged it" in the other direction). I don't see any evidence that it lasts beyond the current round.

Remember, this only happens if it still has its reaction remaining. If it doesn't, it just takes the damage and remains where it is and probably attacks next round if it hasn't had enough yet!

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We assumed it would move at it's maximum distance using a dash action for say...60ft. Did not consider that it might not have a reaction...interesting. – Fogcutter Mar 29 at 18:40
@Fogcutter I think it would only be able to Dash it it still has its Action (or Bonus action if it's a Rogue or a Monk using Ki). It's using its Reaction to move (base movement) and then its Action/Bonus to Dash. Of course, that's all up to you to interpret in the end. – Matthew Mar 29 at 18:44
That's how we play it at my table. The spell ends after the creature has moved (if it still had it's reaction available) or successfully saved against the spell. Nothing prevents the target to walk (or run) back on it's next turn. – Meta4ic Mar 29 at 18:48
@Fogcutter You can't dash on another creature's turn... unless you readied the dash action ("If the Cruel Clown walks towards me, I move up to my speed in the opposite direction..."), which will only allow you to move up to your maximum speed (not 2 times that speed). – Meta4ic Mar 29 at 18:53
@Fogcutter One thing to keep in mind, the spell only lasts for that instant, the creature is free to act as normal on its next round. – Matthew Mar 29 at 19:07

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