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In 5e, Otto's Irresistible Dance forces its target to do the following things:

The target begins a comic dance in place: shuffling, tapping its feet, and capering for the duration. ... A dancing creature must use all its movement to dance without leaving its space and has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws and attack rolls.

The creature can choose to take an action to make a saving throw against this effect.

However, if the creature decides to do something else instead, can it? The text clearly implies that it can make attacks, but can it cast spells? If it is flying, does it fall? Shuffling, tapping your feet, and capering are all things you can do with just your legs, so does that mean its hands are free to move at will?

A strict reading of the text would suggest that, unlike the 3.5e version, which locks down all actions, the 5e version of the spell still allows essentially all actions. Is this true?

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It's pretty clear

The spell says exactly what it does.

Choose one creature that you can see within range. The target begins a comic dance in place: shuffling, tapping its feet, and capering for the duration. Creatures that can’t be charmed are immune to this spell.

A dancing creature must use all its movement to dance without leaving its space and has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws and attack rolls. While the target is affected by this spell, other creatures have advantage on attack rolls against it.

As an action, a dancing creature makes a Wisdom saving throw to regain control of itself. On a successful save, the spell ends.

(From SRD, emphasis mine)

  • You lose all your movement (you cannot move from that place)
  • Disadvantage to Dex saves and attacks
  • Advantage to all attack vs you
  • You may spend your action to re-do a save

That's it. It is not as ultimate as the 1-3.x version of the spell. But still hilarious. It becomes much more of a combo spell than before, especially if you can throw Dex-save spells on the enemy or can move away from it.

As an action, the spell is clear that all you do is make a new save.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's all that clear. The spell says neither "must" nor "may" (... make a Wisdom save), so can you do other things with your action if you want? Your answer even contradicts itself: "You may spend your action" vs. "All you can do is" \$\endgroup\$ – Jorn Nov 11 '18 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jorn it’s using imperative language “a dancing creature makes ...” there is no scope in the language used for not making it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Nov 11 '18 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dale Now I'm confused. Your own answer seems to disagree with that, saying you can take any action. \$\endgroup\$ – Jorn Nov 11 '18 at 20:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jorn I’m just explaining JP’s reasoning, not saying I agree with it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Nov 11 '18 at 20:28
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I don't know that your reading has to be "strict": on any reading it does not limit actions, bonus actions or reactions other than to impose disadvantage on attacks, Dexterity saving throws and give advantage to attackers. The victim could even use their action to Dash although the only effect of that would be for them to dance twice as fast while going nowhere.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Presumably any fighting that does happen while under the effects of this spell will feature spectacular choreography. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Aug 3 '17 at 10:22

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