25
\$\begingroup\$

The command spell states, in part, that:

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

The spell also requires a Verbal component.

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

\$\endgroup\$
26
\$\begingroup\$

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.

So, the spell command requires the chanting of "mystic words". This has a couple of implications:

  • That's words, a plural, so it can't refer to the "one-word command" (which must always be a singular word).
  • If the "mystic words" were the specific "one-word command", 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.

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 (p. 19) 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.

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

However, could you homebrew it otherwise?

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

As the "mystic words" are normally the only component of this spell (it doesn't have somatic or material components), a DM who removes these mystic words might find that doing so complicates the question of whether or not an observer would be able to perceive that a spell has even been cast. If they rule that casting command is now imperceptible to an observer (its only component now being a perfectly intelligible 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.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 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
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Of note the quote from the Sage Advice Compendium explicitly addresses the command spell: "[...] The command spell is the simplest example of this principle. The utterance of the verbal component is separate from, and precedes, any verbal utterance that would bring about the spell’s effect" \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jul 11 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the SAC ruling actually addresses command explicitly: "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. The command spell is the simplest example of this principle. The utterance of the verbal component is separate from, and precedes, any verbal utterance that would bring about the spell’s effect." You may want to update your answer to include that part of the quote, as it directly supports that part of the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 26 at 0:26
12
\$\begingroup\$

This is addressed in the official ruling from the Sage Advice Compendium for a similar question about the suggestion spell:

Is the sentence of suggestion in the suggestion spell the verbal component, or is the verbal component separate?

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. The command spell is the simplest example of this principle. The utterance of the verbal component is separate from, and precedes, any verbal utterance that would bring about the spell’s effect.

The suggestion and command spells both require a Verbal component and speaking something that must be understood by the target; thus, the same ruling can be applied:

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

When a spell requires a verbal component, it always requires first completing the mystic words as part of the casting of the spell; only then does the spell's effect occur as given in the description (which includes the one-word command, in this case).

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.