I DM a game in which the spell Hold Person was used recently and there was a dispute as to a minute detail which impacted the game seriously. The spell outlines that the affected individuals "cannot move or speak" and cannot use "motion."

In video games like Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate, hold person still allows melee combat by a held creature if you come within melee range.

However, the mage's player thought that with lack of motion the held creature could not use his arms.

Would this not constitute paralyzation if one couldn't use any portion of their body? Seems OP or melee should be allowed.

How motionless does Hold Person make the affected creatures?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. The site is happy to help with older and out-of-print games, but the question's tags do need to indicate the system. (While this can oftentimes be inferred, the site's been wrong enough to make this mandatory.) Please add a system (probably adnd-2e), and I'm certain someone will offer assistance shortly. Thank you for participating and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 1 '18 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DoctorKill (Your helpfulness is awesome, but it's usually better to let askers do it themselves. See this Meta question.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 1 '18 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ErinThursby Please write your answer as one, not as a comment. \$\endgroup\$ – Tommi Feb 1 '18 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your comment on the effects of "Hold person" in Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale are incorrect. Hold person does in fact, completely freeze a character. Thus, making them ineffective in combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Cheesus Crust Feb 1 '18 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ for reference, in 5e, hold person does indeed cause paralysis. Of course, the two systems are vastly different, especially balance-wise, but it might provide indication what the intent behind the spell is. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Feb 1 '18 at 16:26

By the Text of the Spell

This spell holds 1d4 humans, demihumans, or humanoid creatures rigidly immobile for five or more rounds.


Held beings cannot move or speak, but they remain aware of events around them and can use abilities not requiring motion or speech.

AD&D is famously open to DM interpretation, but I don't see how you could interpret that in any other way than immobile.

Video Games

Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale use "a modified version" of AD&D, which may allow for such inconsistencies. I'm not sure all the modifications they made.

The game itself seems to agree with the D&D game though (and I never remember a Held creature doing this, but haven't played the game in ages):

Status Effect "Held":

The character is frozen for a number of seconds. They cannot move, attack, or use items.

Sources of the "Held" condition:

  • Hold Person
  • Hold Animal
  • Ghast attack
  • Shadow attack

Attacks of Opportunity

These became available in the Player's Option: Combat and Tactics supplement.

Attacks of opportunity occur when a threatened character or creature ignores the enemy next to it or turns its back on a foe. The threatening enemy gets to make an immediate melee attack (or sequence of attacks for monsters with multiple attacks) against the threatened creature. Attacks of opportunity cannot be performed with missile weapons. This is a free attack that does not take the place of any actions the threatening creature had already planned.

My best guess, maybe the creators of Baldur's Gate/Icewind Dale interpreted the spell differently than the obvious way it should be interpreted. Or, maybe their code for "do an attack of opportunity" superseded their code for "Held person" due to a bug.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Although not as infamous as dawizard, that some fellow at TSR used the find-and-replace function to change every 1–4 to 1d4—an especially important (and inaccurate!) change in the hold person spell—is probably worth noting. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 1 '18 at 16:18

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