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A flying creature that doesn't hover and can't move must fall:

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its speed reduced to 0, or is otherwise deprived of the ability to move, the creature falls, unless it has the ability to hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as by the fly spell.

The spell Tasha's Mind Whip can prevent movement:

You psychically lash out at one creature you can see within range. The target must make an Intelligence saving throw. On a failed save, [...] on its next turn, it must choose whether it gets a move, an action, or a bonus action; it gets only one of the three.

If a flying creature fails the saving throw against Tasha's Mind Whip and chooses to either take an action or a bonus action, does this mean the creature must fall?

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4 Answers 4

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Shorter Answer:

They will fall if and when they deprive themselves of movement

At the start of the affected creature's next turn,

it must choose whether it gets a move, an action, or a bonus action; it gets only one of the three.

A mind-whipped creature that chooses to take an action or bonus action does not get a move.

A flying creature will fall if it is

deprived of the ability to move

So, the basic question here is whether "not getting a move" is the same as "depriving yourself of the ability to move". What do the flying rules mean by "ability to move"? Having a move, where this is a rules-defined part of your turn (Action, Bonus Action, Move), or being able to move at all - that is, not being paralyzed?

It is helpful here to look at the consequences of the Stunned condition.

A stunned creature is incapacitated [can't take actions or reactions], can't move, and can speak only falteringly

Note that a stunned creature can speak (albeit only falteringly) - that is, they can move their jaw, their tongue, their lips, and consciously control their breath. And yet they "can't move". So it is clear that when stunned, the "can't move" does not apply to the natural English meaning of move (which includes the ability to move parts of one's body). Rather, "can't move" means they can't take their move in the game sense, they can't change their position on the grid (and compare this with the Paralyzed and Unconscious conditions, where the creature "can't move or speak" and the intent is that the creature does not have conscious control of its body).

Thus, for a flying creature to be "deprived of the ability to move" does not require that it be paralyzed or unable to move in a natural English sense, but rather will apply any time it has lost the ability to translate its Speed into Movement. And this is precisely what the mind whip spell does by removing a creature's move.

A mind-whipped creature will remain aloft up until the moment of its choice, but once it has chosen an action or bonus action, it has removed its ability to move for the rest of the turn and will then fall.

Narratively, having been subjected to the mind whip, it is so confused that it cannot do more than one thing at a time, such as 'walk and chew gum' (which would be a move and an action). By concentrating on its action (or bonus action) in its confused state, it cannot pay enough attention to moving so as to maintain itself flying.

Longer Answer and Response to Critiques:

Flying and the nature of Free Will

In his answer, Thomas Markov argues that "Because they are free to make that choice, to move or not to move, we cannot say that they have been “deprived of the ability to move". A creature has only been deprived of the ability to move when they cannot choose to move, or could not have chosen to move."

I agree with some of this, but it needs to be carefully applied over the course of the mind-whipped flyer's turn. At the start of their turn, they have not made a choice, have not been deprived of movement, and are not falling. They are, as he says, "free to make that choice". However, at precisely the instant in their turn at which they take an action, bonus action, or begin to move, they have then made that choice - and they cannot rescind it. If the flying creature does not choose to move, they have then removed that as a choice for themselves for the remainder of their turn - they do not get a move. As he says, "A creature has only been deprived of the ability to move when they cannot choose to move" - and once they have made the choice not to, they cannot then later choose to move. They have, in other words, deprived themselves of the ability to move for the remainder of the turn, and will begin to fall.

Thomas Markov also notes that any creature, even in the absence of being mind whipped, that expends all of its movement on its turn is at that point unable to move further. Through its own choice, it has become unable to move (further). He argues that if this election counted as depriving itself of the ability to move, then any flying creatures which took their full movement would fall at the end of their turns, which would be silly. This argument merits more serious consideration.

I have to admit that linguistically, there is a point to be made here. If I contend that when a mind-whipped creature chooses to take an action, it deprives itself of the ability to move for the rest of the turn, then why is it not the same thing for any flying creature to take their full movement, and thus deprive themselves of the ability to move for the rest of the turn? Why don't all flying creatures fall at the end of their move?

In order to answer, I have to go beyond the actual text and talk about RAI and the theory of a game round. In doing so, I recognize that I am going beyond what I can actually defend RAW and instead expressing my opinion. Ultimately this may be an unsatisfying explanation for many.

It seems to me that, RAI, the mind whip spell is about reducing the options for the target's actions. The intent is that a failed save forces the target to prioritize one part of its turn over the others. A target on the ground that chose to act would lose the ability to move. It does not seem like the intent of the spell to say that a target in the air has more options than a target on the ground, that on a failed save they can not only take an action but can also use their movement to remain aloft as long as they don't actually move in any direction. It does not make sense to me to say that if they had no movement they would fall, but if they have movement they cannot use, they can remain aloft.

Further, I believe that the intent of initiative and the combat round are to fairly adjudicate events that are actually happening simultaneously within the narrative. Even though each creature's turn is six seconds, the entire combat round itself with all turns together also totals six seconds. That is, on your turn you can do about six seconds worth of things, but these six seconds are occurring simultaneously with everyone else's actions during the same time period. The purpose of initiative is to help resolve any conflicting events within the overlapping time period, but it does not establish that all of your actions actually happen before all of the actions of the next creature in the initiative order.

Within this context, a flyer that is mind whipped and then chooses an action will not be capable of moving for the next six seconds - within six seconds of its own time, being unable to move, it will fall. However, a flyer that has used all of its movement during its turn has moved for its entire six seconds and then its position is in some sense 'frozen in time' - it counts as aloft for the purposes of other creatures' actions until the beginning of its next turn when its movement resumes. Simply using all the movement you have been allotted within one time period does not make you fall, because you never actually stopped moving - there is a seamless transition from the movement you made on your last turn to the movement you are still making at the start of your next turn, regardless of the language of the movement rules. A mind whipped creature that can't move, in contrast, does not get to move on its entire turn and is treated as such until the start of its next turn.

It is clearly silly to contend that flying creatures fall at the end of each turn, but I find that Thomas Markov's argument of 'you can't ever deprive yourself of something as long as it was a free choice' to be unsatisfying as well.

First, because in English "Depriving oneself" is a standard expression, and can be found in many quotes, including one attributed to Franklin Roosevelt:

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.

And second, because at some point you have to account for the consequences of choices that were made, even if they could have been different. Thomas Markov writes "A creature has only been deprived of the ability to move when they cannot choose to move, or could not have chosen to move." Thus he contends that even if the mind whipped creature chose not to move, they have not been deprived of movement after the fact, because they still could have chosen differently. For an absurdly extreme version of this argument, consider a flying creature that chooses, on its turn, to do something that renders it unconscious through damage (drinks a potion of poison, casts life transference, whatever). The unconscious condition means that it "can't move". I don't accept the argument that it hasn't been deprived of movement simply because the action to render itself unconscious was its own choice, and that even while unconscious it maintains itself aloft because it could have chosen differently. Whether or not it falls should not depend on whether its unconsciousness was a result of its actions or someone else's.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Apr 22 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ How does the Dash action interact with your assertion that a creature who chooses to take an action has deprived themselves of the ability to move? \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Apr 23 at 10:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, if the argument is that choosing not to do something is to depriving oneself of something (per the quote about voting), are you also saying that a creature who has a move action but chooses not to use it falls at the end of their turn? \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Apr 23 at 10:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @smorgan I would be happy to respond to your comments if you would post them in the chat provided \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 23 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not trying to have an extended discussion, I'm trying to ask for more information about your answer since it seems to leave some important interactions with other basic rules unanswered. My understanding of the meta here is that comments are the right place for that. \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Apr 23 at 16:24
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The affected creature is not “deprived” since they can choose to move or not.

At any point prior to taking a bonus action or action, the creature is free to choose to move. This means that the creature is choosing not to move when they instead choose an action or bonus action. Because they are free to make that choice, to move or not to move, we cannot say that they have been “deprived of the ability to move". A creature has only been deprived of the ability to move when they cannot choose to move, or could not have chosen to move. This is why a flying creature does not fall after expending all of their movement on a turn. If a creature choosing for themselves to do something that later prevents them from moving is the same as being "deprived of the ability to move", as Kirt argues in his answer, then a flying creature who expends all of its available movement on a turn falls. By expending all of their movement, they are no longer able to move, and have thus deprived themselves of the ability to move. Obviously, this is a silly conclusion, a flying creature should not fall at the end of every turn that it expends all of its available movement.

Ergo, they do not fall, even if they choose to take an action or bonus action.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There's a notable difference between expending all your movement and choosing not to move. Namely, that the Dash action can be taken in the former case to continue moving. I'm not sure the cases are as similar as your answer claims. Expending all of your movement doesn't prevent moving while choosing to not move does \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Exempt-Medic Then take the Dash action and expend all your movement again. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ That technically makes nothing ever truly "deprived of the ability to move", since that always was consequence of their choice made some time ago ("do not move out of the spell range", "attack that guy" to name few). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see the logic on both sides of this nuanced issue, and so I am forced to vote based on how I think a DM should rule to maximize player enjoyment. Flight is already a significant advantage against which relatively few countermeasures are available at lower levels. If I were a player casting mind whip against a flying foe who made the tactical error of getting within range and the foe was not subject to falling, I would be disappointed. So I have to upvote Kirt's answer. But due respect to yours, @ThomasMarkov. Reasonable minds may differ on this, and your reasoning is sound. \$\endgroup\$
    – screamline
    Apr 20 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Obviously, this is a silly conclusion, a flying creature should not fall at the end of every turn that it expends all of its available movement." To support this further, see Totem warrior Barbarian's Level 14 Eagle option: "While raging, you have a flying speed... only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft," suggesting that falling at the end of your turn is an exception to the norm when one has a flying speed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ty Hayes
    Apr 22 at 11:00
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The affected creature remains aloft, because they have not been deprived of the ability to move

At the beginning of its turn, the affected creature has the option to choose to move. Even if it does not choose to do so, it has the ability to move. Tasha's Mind Whip does not deprive the creature of this ability. The spell merely deprives it of the opportunity to move in addition to performing other actions.

ability, n. The quality in a person or thing which makes an action possible; suitable or sufficient power or proficiency; capability, capacity to do, or (now rare) of doing something. (OED)

Ability is an inherent quality in the creature. Tasha's Mind Whip doesn't interact with this quality of the creature, it just creates circumstances where it is more difficult/time consuming for it to use its ability.

opportunity, n. a time, condition, or set of circumstances permitting or favourable to a particular action or purpose. (OED)

Tasha's Mind Whip creates a set of circumstances where moving is not permitted in addition to other actions, it does not remove the ability of the creature to move. Spells only do what they say they do. Tasha's Mind Whip does not impose the prone condition, reduce a creature's speed (at all, let alone to 0) or contain any indication it affects a creatures ability to move, only the circumstances under which the creature may exercise this ability.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Problem with this argument is that Tasha's Mind Whip is very explicit in that it prevents/removes their ability to move if they take an action or bonus action. As such there is no concept of making it more difficult or time consuming. The creature simply has no movement action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anketam
    Apr 21 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ "At the beginning of its turn, the affected creature has the option to choose to move. Even if it does not choose to do so, it has the ability to move." At the beginning of its turn, suppose it chooses an action; after that, it cannot move - how has this not taken away its ability to move? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 21 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to agree with @ThomasMarkov - by that logic, a creature that has used its movement has lost the ability to move, which is clearly absurd. Tasha's Mind Whip is not explicit that is prevents/removes their ability to move. It reduces the amount that a creature can do in a turn, not removing their ability to do something. For a rule that is very explicit that is removing their ability to move see paralyzed: "A paralyzed creature is incapacitated (see the condition) and can’t move or speak." Tasha's mind whip is affecting action economy, not the abilities themselves. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ty Hayes
    Apr 21 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are even a few spells that specifically remove the ability to move: Haste's wave of lethargy "[w]hen the spell ends, the creature can't move...". Imprisonment (chaining): "The target is restrained until the spell ends, and it can’t move or be moved by any means until then." Magic Jar: "... You can’t move or use reactions..." Wind Walk (during transformation): "Reverting takes 1 minute, during which time a creature is incapacitated and can’t move". \$\endgroup\$
    – Ty Hayes
    Apr 21 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ If anything, Tasha's seems to me to be the stronger condition - "it gets only one". 'You don't get a move' seems more powerful than 'You have a move, you just can't use it'. But that's me. Thank you for answering and clarifying your perspective. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 21 at 18:36
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RAW: It's unclear

The spell description is not clear, because "gets a move" doesn't have an unambiguous interpretation in 5e; 5e movement is not discrete. The phrase also is not plain English ("gets to move" would be the natural way to say that something can't use movement) so the default rule of things following their plain reading doesn't clearly apply. But it's also not referring to a clear game mechanic since "a move" isn't a specific game mechanic.

So it's unclear RAW whether the create cannot move at all if it takes an action (which leads to strange conclusions like the creature being unable to move even if it takes the Dash action), or whether it just doesn't get its normal movement.

RAI: Probably not

This is speculative, but since the core problem is the use of a phrase that is both not plain English and not referring to a clear game mechanic, it's potentially interesting to try to figure out where that strange phrasing came from.

An obvious possible answer is 4e, where instead of "movement", there was "the move action". That is a discrete mechanic that could be referred to with "a". For instance, the following is part of the Dazed condition in 4e:

You can take either a standard action, a move action, or a minor action on your turn (you can also take free actions).

The similarity to the description of Tasha's Mind Whip is striking. So a very plausible interpretation is that Mind Whip is an attempt to translate 4e's Dazed condition into a 5e spell, and it accidentally kept language that makes sense for 4e's discrete movement action, but not 5e's movement system.

Under that interpretation, the obvious conclusion would be that the creature does not fall, since:

  • 4e had many ways to move as part of a standard action (e.g., Charge), so choosing a standard action instead of a move action when Dazed was unambiguously not the same as lacking the ability to move.
  • 4e's flight rules caused a creature to fall immediately if Stunned (a condition that allows no actions at all), but not if Dazed.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ The PHB uses the phrases "your move" and "your movement" interchangeably, at 10 times and 9 times each. The densest use is on pages 189-191, eg "Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move." Gets a move has the unambiguous meaning in 5e of Is able to take or use its movement on its turn. What it means to use movement may depend on context, and it may be confusing whether you need to use movement without moving (such as in this question), but the concept of "a move" is abundantly clear. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 23 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Your move" is a grammatically correct way to refer to non-discrete movement like what 5e has; "a move" is not. A creature in 5e has movement, but not a move. So the existence of "your move" in the rules is irrelevant to my argument. I can say that I disagree with "your logic" here, but not that I think that it's "an incorrect logic". \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Apr 23 at 20:54

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