In D&D 3.5e there was a rule that would allow the caster of a touch spell to cast it on six different individuals if they used a full round action to do so (emphasis added):

Holding the Charge

If you don’t discharge the spell in the round when you cast the spell, you can hold the discharge of the spell (hold the charge) indefinitely. You can continue to make touch attacks round after round. You can touch one friend as a standard action or up to six friends as a full-round action. If you touch anything or anyone while holding a charge, even unintentionally, the spell discharges. If you cast another spell, the touch spell dissipates. Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge. In this case, you aren’t considered armed and you provoke attacks of opportunity as normal for the attack. (If your unarmed attack or natural weapon attack doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity, neither does this attack.) If the attack hits, you deal normal damage for your unarmed attack or natural weapon and the spell discharges. If the attack misses, you are still holding the charge.

Let's say that you are a cleric and you have cure wounds, can you have your party stand around you after a battle and use a full round action to administer cure light wounds to six willing subjects?

Does D&D 5e still officially have this rule or one like it?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ For an example; Enhance Ability allows targeting multiple creatures with a higher level slot. The spell doesn't mention anything about how touching multiple targets works. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The rule I can find, for 3.5 is "willing" targets. Are you concerned with "willing" targets or "any" targets? d20srd.org/srd/magicOverview/spellDescriptions.htm#range \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 21:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might help to include the 3.5e rule in your question so we know exactly what kind of rule you're looking for in 5e. As is, there's a pretty straight-forward answer to the title question but as a non-3.5e player myself, I have no idea if that would be the kind of answer you're expecting since I don't know what the rules are for 3.5e. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I started writing an answer, then realised it's really hard to be sure what you're asking here. What do you actually want to be able to do? Can you give us an example scenario? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 3:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ It depends on the spell. Can you clarify this? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 11:07

3 Answers 3


There is no general rule; a spell tells you how many targets it has

Simply put there is no rule that you can cast a spell and administer its effects to multiple people in any way unless the spells description says you can.

In your example, the cure wounds spell says (emphasis mine):

A creature you touch regains a number of hit points...

Since there is no general rule that you can administer touch spells to multiple targets, the spell's description takes over. "A creature" means just that - a single creature.

Compare that to a spell like heroism which states:

When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 1st.

In this case, the spell specifically notes that you can touch multiple targets and grant them the benefits of the spell because the spell's description says you can, not because of any general rule. This kind of exception would be unnecessary if there was a rule that you could touch multiple targets by default.

Keep in mind that you cannot move while casting a spell, so all the targets you want to touch need to be in range when you cast the spell/release a readied spell.


The closest is that 5e does allow great flexibility in how you combine your actions and movement. For example, it is explicit that you may move between multiple attacks, i.e. if you attack action has more than one attack, you may swing (or shoot), move, swing or shoot again, etc. as long as you do not exceed your total movement allowance. Similarly, although it is not explicitly stated as an example, I would allow the caster of a touch spell that does affect multiple people (e.g. Invisibility cast at a higher level allows for more targets) to cast the spell and move between touchings, as long as he does not exceed his total movement allowance, and all the targets are touched in the same turn.


Short answer "depends on the spell" and the same was true for 3.5e

The rule to which you refer in 3.5e did not allow you to actually use the effects on multiple targets. The rule you quote is to allow a spell that can affect multiple people a specified number of people in a round to touch and apply it to, like Water Breathing or other non-combat spell. It did not allow for additional attacks. However, the allowance of multiple targets in a single round for non-combat spells would be wholly up to the DM.

The very next sentence after your emphasis indicates that you discharge the spell if you touch anyone, meaning that if you hold Shocking Grasp the next person you hit will take the damage thus ending the spell. This was designed to not punish Wizards and Sorcerers with low base attacks by spending their spells on misses. Unless the spell indicates otherwise you don't get multiple usages of a single casting.

That said...

There is a similar, albeit much more limited, rule in 5e under "Ready an Action" PHB p193.

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. To be readied, a spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and holding onto the spell’s magic requires concentration (explained in chapter 10). If your concentration is broken, the spell dissipates without taking effect. For example, if you are concentrating on the web spell and ready magic missile, your web spell ends, and if you take damage before you release magic missile with your reaction, your concentration might be broken.

In 5e a spell does exactly what it says it does, so if it says you can affect multiple targets you can but how many people you can touch and apply a spell such as Water Breathing in a single round is up to DM.

That said RAW indicates you can only ready the spell until your next turn.

A personal house rule that I have used is they can keep concentration indefinitely but have to use their action to ready each turn, and the spell slot is still spent whether you discharge or not.


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