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After reading through the description of the spell compelled duel, it seems as though the spell does not actually say what it does with respect to restricting the movement of the target creature.

Let's review the description bit by bit:

You attempt to compel a creature into a duel. One creature that you can see within range must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is drawn to you, compelled by your divine demand.

"Compel a creature into a duel" is the flavorful description of what this spell does. The mechanical nature of this is supposed to be defined when the spell describes what happens on a failure. What follows after "on a failed save" is the spell's definition of "compelled into a duel".

So what happens on a failed save? "The creature is drawn to you, compelled by your divine demand". This definitely reads like more flavor text. I can see two interpretations of this phrase. The first, we can understand "drawn to you" to mean "the creature cannot willingly move away from you". But we can be certain that this is not the case, as the next part of the spell tells us what happens if the creature does attempt to move a certain distance away from you. The only other reasonable interpretation I can see is that this phrase is, once again, more flavor text, and the spell is going to tell us what it does later on in the description.

The next bit is perfectly clear,

For the duration, it has disadvantage on attack rolls against creatures other than you,

Moving on.

This where it gets weird. The spell now gives a condition which triggers a saving throw, and defines what happens on the success of that saving throw:

[The target] must make a Wisdom saving throw each time it attempts to move to a space that is more than 30 feet away from you.

Okay, this seems to heavily imply that the target is able to attempt to move to a square more than 30 feet away from you. This is what invalidates the first interpretation of "drawn to you" mentioned previously.

Now the spell describes what happens on a success on the saving throw:

if it succeeds on this saving throw, this spell doesn’t restrict the target’s movement for that turn.

As written, it seems the spell already does not restrict the target's movement because the spell never says anything to that effect. It does not describe what happens on a failed saving throw. It never tells us how it restricts the movement of the target.

But it gets worse. Because the spell never tells us what happens on a failed save, there is no reason given in the description that would stop the target creature from attempting the saving throw until there is a success.

What does compelled duel actually do?

This question seems related, but is muddied by the fact that the asker employed an outdated or incorrect printing of the spell description.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth various spells do not describe what happens on a particular saving throw. There are spells that end on a successful save (like feeblemind and confusion) which do not state anything about what happens on a failed save. And there are spells such as symbol which simply do not describe what happens on a successful save at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 26 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please note; there is no flavor text in DnD 5e spells \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Jun 26 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the question considers that, at least in a roundabout way, when I argue that the things I called "flavortext" are contextually defined by what follows. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 26 at 17:29
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The spell is unclear, so it will be up to DM ruling/interpretation.

As you pointed out, the spell is unclear. I haven't found any kind of clarification on it in the Sage Advice Compendium and the spell has never received any kind of errata.

And, well, spells do what they say, so, failing the saving throw does... nothing. From my reading. It does not stop the target from moving outside the range.

How would I rule it (a.k.a.: What I think is the intention of the spell)

Obviously, the RAW interpretation seems far from the intended - otherwise, it would just not include any of this saving throw on movement at all. The intention when I read it is, basically, assuming the consequent. On a successful save, the target can move. On a failed save, the target can not move. This intention, to me, is clear from the text you call flavor1. Although I agree that it is not mechanical, it does state the intention.

You also mentioned (in chat) the possibility that the target starts outside the 30 ft. range anyway - which is possible through actions that move him (e.g. being shoved away). So, the way I would rule it is wording the spell somewhat as follows:

If the target tries to move away from you, to a position that is more than 30 ft. away from you, it is subject to a Wisdom saving throw. If the target succeeds, it can freely move until the end of its turn. Otherwise, it fails to move and can no longer attempt to move away from you (to a position that is more than 30 ft. away).

That way, if the target is already at, say, 35 ft. from you, it can freely move towards you and, I would rule, even in a circle maintaining its distance. However, it could not move away from you without the saving throw.

Ruling that it can only try once is also logical - as movement is only spent after, well, the target actually moved. If it could attempt more times, then it would eventually succeed, which makes the spell again pointless and doesn't make sense to me.


1 As noted in the comments by MivaScott (thanks for the link, I knew we had that question somewhere), spells in 5e do not contain "pure flavor". As I said, in this case, although the text does not describe the specifics of the mechanics, it can not be ignored either, hence my point that the intention of the spell is clear, we just need to rule how the mechanics actually work.

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The spell makes it more difficult for the target to fight against anyone other than the caster, and encourages the caster to engage with the target

I agree with your assessments of what's flavor text (by which I mean text in the spell which cannot be directly, mechanically evaluated) and what isn't, but the mechanics seem pretty clear to me. If we assume that the spell was not intended to be useless or trivially defeated in a single enemy turn:

  1. [The target] has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than [the caster]

    The target will be less successful in fighting anyone other than the caster. They can still do so, but will be less successful in hitting any target but the caster. This provides a mechanical incentive for the target to engage with the caster, not too dissimilar to effects like Hunter's Mark or Hex-- once in place, these spells favor one target over others for the caster. This spell works similarly but in reverse.

  2. [The target] must make a Wisdom saving throw each time it attempts to move to a space that is more than 30 feet away from [the caster].

    The target will have a more difficult time maneuvering if far enough away from the caster. As in (1), this is an incentive for the target to fight the caster rather than anyone else. For a target with a good Wisdom save, this effect isn't very important. This fleshes out the flavor text of drawn to [the caster]-- it's more difficult for the target to move such that they are 30+ feet from the caster than to be nearer.

    In particular, this is relevant because an end condition to the spell is that the target is more than 30 feet away from the caster at the end of the caster's turn.

  3. if it succeeds on this saving throw, this spell doesn’t restrict the target’s movement for that turn.

    This could have been written more clearly, to be sure. But the plain-English interpretation is that if the target fails the Wisdom saving throw they cannot move more than 30 feet from the caster:

    If [success on WIS save] --> no movement restriction; Elseif [failure on WIS save] --> movement restriction (cannot move to a point more than 30 feet from the caster)

    Whether that means the Movement phase of that turn is wasted, or the relevant movement speed to get to the (now restricted) space is consumed, is unclear. The most parsimonious reading suggests to me that the target gets to try to move to any space more than 30 feet from the caster once per turn, and either succeeds on the save (they can move wherever they want within their speed, terrain permitting) or fails (they can move wherever they want within 30 feet of the caster, speed and terrain permitting). This interpretation is supported by the for that turn wording, which implies that one save per turn is allowed. But as that isn't written in the description it's just another ruling.


This is a level 1 spell, so we can't expect too much from it. It's also only available to the Paladin class, which has implications for its intended use cases (though we shouldn't speculate very much on what those might be).

But using interpretations other than the ones above would lead to another answer:

The spell Compelled Duel does basically nothing, because if it's so trivially defeatable and useless no one will ever prepare or cast it. It would, at most, grant disadvantage on attack rolls against most targets for a single enemy turn. Maybe there are edge cases where that's worth the effort, but off the top of my head there are better uses for a spell slot.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint It's a fairly explicit guideline of 5e. Ambiguity exists frequently in linguistic communication, and so interpretations have to be made and are subject to linguistic vagaries. I don't think it's less fallacious to ignore flavor text (what the spell says) in guiding the interpretation where ambiguity is present. But if your preferred reading of the spell is that it's pointless, that's fine, and then the final section of my answer applies. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Jun 26 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 26 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please note; there is no flavor text in DnD 5e spells \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Jun 26 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ It should be important to note that this doesn't just inhibit a target from moving away from the caster; if they are far enough away, it will also inhibit them moving toward the caster. After all, it says "attempts to move to any space more than 30' away". If the target is 40' away and try to walk towards the caster, and fails their save, then they cannot enter the space that is 35' away or any other space. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Jun 26 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon Thinking about that was what spawned this question. I realized I didn't even know how it worked within 30 feet, much less outside of it. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 26 at 19:37

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