The spell states that:

You speak a one-word command to a creature you can see within range.

and the spell requires a Verbal component.

When I cast this spell, is the one-word command the only verbal component?


RAW, No, the one-word-command of Command, is not the verbal component of that spell.

1.With reference to Verbal components in general:

'Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion.' (SRD p.101)

So, the spell Command requires the chanting of 'mystic words', this has a couple of implications:

  1. That's words, a plural, so it can't refer to the 'command word' (which must always be a singular word).
  2. If the 'mystic words' were the specific 'command word', then that would mean all of the various uses of Command would be different spells, with different mystic words, not the same spell, with just one set of 'mystic words' to be learned.

2.Furthermore, regarding Command specifically:

'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.' (SRD p.125)

So the command in this spell must be intelligible to the target. 'Mystic words' implies that to the vast majority of hearers, the verbal component of a spell is not intelligible. So, if people had to understand the mystic words in order to be affected by the spell, it would render it almost useless.

3.Support from rulings on similar spells:

For further evidence of this ruling, see this similar question regarding the Suggestion spell and specifically this text from the Sage Advice Compendium about Suggestion:

Verbal components are mystic words (PH, 203), not normal speech. The spell’s suggestion is an intelligible utterance that is separate from the verbal component (SAC p.15)

The spell Suggestion's suggestion is not part of its verbal components, so it makes sense for the same to be true of Command's command.

However, could you homebrew it otherwise?

While it isn't RAW, a DM could allow the one-word-command, of the spell Command, to function as that spell's verbal component in their game.

As the 'mystic words' are normally the only componenet of this spell, a DM that removed the mystic words might find that doing so complicated the question of whether or not an observer would be able to perceive that a spell had even been cast. If they ruled that casting Command became imperceptible to an observer (it's only component now being a perfectly intellible phrase) then that would represent a strong buff to this spell, under the right conditions. Unless ruthlessly exploited, however, even this is unlikely to be game-breaking (though it could be an interesting tool to give a BBEG).

In general though, spell components are there to help balance spellcasting, in terms of action economy and cost. So, extrapolating this exception and applying this principle to other spells (amalgamating or removing components), as a consequence of this ruling, could cause wider balance issues long term.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ To address your point about perceiving a command spell whose verbal component was the command word: as DM I get around this by saying that the command word is the verbal component (which allows players some cool roleplay moments by working the word into a sentence) but stating that the command word is accompanied by some special effect (like otherwordly echoes, or a deep rumbling reverb, or coming out in another voice) that makes it clear that this word had magic behind it (thus making it perceivable). Functionally the same, but cooler to roleplay. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Apr 30 '18 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @anaximander - That's a pretty common technique in visual media as well, and it works really well to convey "This is a command that Must Be Obeyed". \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Apr 30 '18 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ It also should be noted that Xanathat's Guide to Everything states that a spell would be perceived as cast if it has V, S or M components (even stipulating that it doesn't matter if a focus is used for material components). So it would make sense that even if it were just a single word command, the effect is the same, RAW you perceive it being cast. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke May 1 '18 at 6:58

Here is Jeremy Crawford's answer on Sageadvice for similar spell - Suggestion:

Sentence in "Suggestion" spell (and others) contains V component or needs additional words? @GromHall

Verbal components are mystic words (PH, 203). The spell's suggestion is a separate, intelligible utterance. @JeremyECrawford

Suggestion and Command both requires Verbal component and speaking something that must be understood by the target, thus the same rule can be applied:

The spell's one-word-command is a separate, intelligible utterance.

When a spell requires a verbal component, it always require completing the mystic words, then do as the spell says (the one word command).


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