Dissonant Whispers states:

You whisper a discordant melody that only one creature of your choice within range can hear, wracking it with terrible pain. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it takes 3d6 psychic damage and must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you. The creature doesn't move into obviously dangerous ground, such as a fire or a pit. On a successful save, the target takes half as much damage and doesn't have to move away. A deafened creature automatically succeeds on the save.

I had an incident where a PC was being grappled and bashed about by an Otyugh. The character was "being flailed about" in the grapple (which also restrains the PC), and used Disonnant Whispers successfully. I had the Otyugh release the grapple by chucking the PC away from it as it's reaction (like an tentacle slam, but away and 2d6 falling w/o stun). It moved the frightening thing (PC) away from the Otyugh, which would have otherwise been dragged in the grapple, and since it used it's reaction, it stayed where it was.

The players, of course, were like "Booo" but I honestly think it would have fit the scenario, since the character was being grappled/restrained by the tentacle and was already being flailed about. Did I make an unfair ruling?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Heavily related: does dissonant whispers cause the target to release a grapple \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LN1Casey Thanks for clarifying. Reopened. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8, 2018 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 I read that one before, but the difference is that an Otyugh, with one tentacle, can toss a PC around, and the PC is also restrained. A med sized grappler couldn't, arguably, use it's reaction to toss an PC away, but the Large Otyugh could. \$\endgroup\$
    – LN1 Casey
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ As it stands, this question is bordering on being opinion based which is not compatible with our format. Perhaps you could try to focus your question on which options the monter had, allowing for objective answers \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 18:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree. "Did I make a fair ruling?" is very opinion-based. However, simply asking "According to the rules, what happens if [...] and [...]" which makes this question a duplicate as pointed out by @goodguy5 \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8, 2018 at 21:40

2 Answers 2


I have a question for you. If you are walking around and suddenly feel a tickle on your hand and look down to notice a spider that might be a black widow crawling on your hand, do you take the time to wind up and try to fling that sucker for distance, or do you panic and flail wildly trying to throw it off before it can bite you? The spell instills fear, so ignore for a moment that you are a cool and collected veteran of many battles and have absolutely no fear of a simple spider, assume you are deathly afraid of the little beast.

Likewise, the Otyugh might give you a slight push as it releases you, but would mostly just be dropping you so that it can put as much distance between you and it as possible, as quickly as possible. It is quite loathe to touch you for a mere millisecond longer than it needs to, and so would not be able to fling you with much force. Mechanically, the most it could do prior to fleeing would be to let go of you (releasing a grapple takes no action), and by the intent of the spell, it would be obligated to do so (in order to move away from you).

So, the interpretation in the OP was turning an intended negative effect of a spell into a benefit for the victim, which IMHO is a poor ruling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly I'd go for distance (probably by flicking with my other hand). \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ So you are one of those people that when someone sneaks up behind you, you spin around and high kick them instead of simply jumping in surprise. I envy you (though not your friends - ouch!), but I submit that this is not the norm. \$\endgroup\$
    – cpcodes
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to point out that if there's a spider on my hand, my random flailings will probably send it across the room. Or onto the roof. Or into my bed, to terrify me again. I'm never sure and I'm always scared. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 7:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ "the Otyugh might give you a slight push as it releases you, but would mostly just be dropping you" - Your spider example suggests the opposite, for me at least. If I suddenly find a spider on me I swipe at it quickly and aggressively, because 1) I want it off, NOW, 2) I want to to be as far away from me as possible when it lands, and 3) if it dies in the process if getting flung off, I don't care. I don't like spiders. \$\endgroup\$
    – aroth
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 9:14

Spells do what they say

Dissonant Whispers says

... must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you.

Thus the affected creature, unless its reaction is not available, must use its reaction and the only option listed for that reaction is "move as far away from the caster as possible". The spell does not say that the affected creature can alternatively use its reaction to move the caster away from itself (especially not in a damaging manner). Reactions must be granted by something. Since (as far as I know) the Otyugh does not have in its stat block "if affected by Dissonant Whispers, Otyugh may use its reaction to throw the caster, dealing 2d6 falling damage" so that reaction is not supported anywhere in the rules. The only option I can think of that would play out as you wrote would be if the Otyugh Readied an Action to throw the mage if he cast a spell.

On the other hand, results of actions are mostly up to the DM. If you had ruled that the Otyugh had simply dropped the caster as part of running away, and the drop was far enough to deal falling damage, that makes sense to me. It would still need to fulfill "use its reaction ... to move as far as its speed allows away from you."

Whether your ruling was fair is opinion-based, but I am confident that the ruling was incorrect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ -1: jurisprudence is not merely a matter of opinion \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8, 2018 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Jurisprudence does, however, have multiple schools of thought. Which one is "right" is a matter of opinion. I think it is an opinion-based question that can be answered experiential-ly (so is stackable), but is still opinion-based \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2018 at 0:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1: This is the right way to think about it. The spell does not afford the target any attack action of any kind in its retreat, therefore it should not get one, regardless of any "Ew it's a spider, kill it with fire!" reasoning. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2018 at 12:36

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