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I've got a question on the Conjure Animals spell. I was DM'ing a game, and a player used it. They summoned their creatures within 60' of themselves, and then directed them to attack the bad guys.

The question I had was how far out can they control the animals? In the overworld maps are large, at 128x128 grids (640'x640'). At one point the summoned bears were something like 200' away from the caster. It occurred to me that there might be a control range or an effective control range that goes with the spell, but there is none listed other than verbal commands. So would the control range be as far as a person/creature could reasonably hear?

You summon fey spirits that take the form of beasts and appear in unoccupied spaces that you can see within range. Choose one of the following options for what appears:

One beast of challenge rating 2 or lower Two beasts of challenge rating 1 or lower Four beasts of challenge rating 1/2 or lower Eight beasts of challenge rating 1/4 or lower Each beast is also considered fey, and it disappears when it drops to 0 hit points or when the spell ends.

The summoned creatures are friendly to you and your companions. Roll initiative for the summoned creatures as a group, which has its own turns. They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don't issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.

The GM has the creatures' statistics. Sample creatures can be found below.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using certain higher-level spell slots, you choose one of the summoning options above, and more creatures appear: twice as many with a 5th-level slot, three times as many with a 7th-level slot, and four times as many with a 9th-level slot.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Thystra and welcome to the Stack! This is a good first question, and you have outlined well both your understanding of the rules and what you are concerned about. It is well done to link to the spell description; I am editing it to be a prettier link, and you can open the edit history to see the formatting for how that is done. Also, we generally don't list an entire spell description in a question or answer. I will leave it to you to pare it down to just the parts of the description you think are relevant. Happy stacking! \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 13 at 2:07

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On spell ranges in general

In the general rules on Spellcasting Range we are told:

Once a spell is cast, its effects aren't limited by its range, unless the spell's description says otherwise.

So for any effective command range we need to look within the description of conjure animals, as the range will be specific to that spell.

Conjure Animals in specific

They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don't issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.

The animals are under your control, but your control is mediated by your ability to issue verbal commands. You could give them a command that takes them very far away ('hawk, fly north for an hour, but alight on the arm of anyone bearing a blue pennant and hand them this roll of parchment') and expect to have it faithfully executed - even if your circumstances changed.

If you want to change the last command you gave them, though, they have to be within range of your voice, as the spell says. If they are out of this range, you will be unable to change your commands.

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They need to hear your verbal commands, but are not limited by that range in carrying them out

Spells in general do what they say they do, and not anything else, and control animals tells you how you control the animals

They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don't issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.

Technically, the spell does not say "they obey any of your verbal commands that they hear, but rather that you issue, so one could argue all that matters is that you issue the command to them, no matter how far away they are or if they can hear you. But that interpretation is probably taking this principle too far. It would mean that even in a silence you could "issue" verbal commands, they are just silenced.

There also is a principle that we should interpret words by their common English meaning. And in that sense, you need to be able to hear a verbal command I make for me really having issued it to you. If you cannot hear it, I may have made a command, but it never made it to you, so it was not successfully issued. Thus, a reasonable interpretation of this text is that their need to hear is implied by "verbal commands", and they need to be within hearing range for you to give them new commands.

Once given, there is no distance limit for how far they can go away from you to fulfill the command in the spell (other than that imposed by their movement speed and the spell's duration), so they could move out of hearing range and still would be in your control. You just could not give them new comnands then.

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There is no explicit distance in the rules of 5th edition for speech distance.

The game doesn't say how far away speech can be heard under normal circumstances, so you have to make a judgement.

One possibility can be found on the Dungeon Master's Screen, however, as it lists audio encounter distances:

Audible Distance

  • Trying to be quiet - 2d6 x 5 feet
  • Normal noise level - 2d6 x 10 feet
  • Very loud - 2d6 x 50 feet

Going by that table, the maximum distance would be a range of 100 to 600 feet, averaging 350 feet.

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