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The 5e D&D spell Freedom of Movement says:

The target can also spend 5 feet of movement to automatically escape from nonmagical restraints, such as manacles or a creature that has it grappled.

But, the grappled condition sets a grappled creature's speed to 0. therefore, by the rules as written, doesn't she or he have no movement to spend?

Is there some rule where you can "spend" from your normal base speed even when it is temporarily reduced? Or is this just one of those cases where we all shrug and go "eh, it is obvious what was meant"?

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Per Jeremy Crawford on Twitter

"Is Freedom of Movement Broken? It doesn't seem to help a Grappled or Restrained creature, at all. It this a mistake or working as intended? if your speed is 0, how do you expend 5 feet of movement?" -Keith

"Freedom of movement is an example of a feature (an exception) that lets you circumvent a general rule; it lets you spend 5 feet of movement to escape a grapple, even though your speed is 0. Magic!" -Jeremy Crawford

There was a follow up question to this:

"So under freedom of movement, a creatures speed can be reduced to 0 (non-magically) but they are able to suspend 5ft to escape? So after that, (if in init.) their speed would still be zero for that turn?" -Keith

"If you escaped the grapple, your speed isn’t 0 any longer." -Jeremy Crawford

With that question and answer, I guess it means that you can spend 5ft of movement, as many times as needed, to escape a grapple.

Per the spell:

The target can also spend 5 feet of movement to automatically escape from nonmagical restraints, such as manacles or a creature that has it grappled.

This means that if you need to escape from 1 grapple you will have 25 movement (assuming 30 movement to start). If you need to escape from 4 grapples you will have 10 movement. If you need to escape from 6 grapples you will have 0 movement. And most importantly, if you need to escape from 7 or more grapples you will still have 0 movement (but you can still spend movement to escape from them).

When deciding if you want characters to be able to spend movement they don't have, keep in mind the rules for standing up from prone:

You can drop prone without using any of your speed. Standing up takes more effort; doing so costs an amount of Movement equal to half your speed. For example, if your speed is 30 feet, you must spend 15 feet of Movement to stand up. You can’t stand up if you don’t have enough Movement left or if your speed is 0.

This set of rules uses the term "costs" rather than "spends", but I could see how someone could say you can't spend something you don't have. The example even goes further to specify you can't spend movement if you have 0, or even if you have less than the "half your speed" amount left. So RAW, it seems like Freedom of Movement shouldn't allow you to spend movement you don't have. However, since it is specifically called out that you can use the spell to spend movement and get out of nonmagical restraints and grapples (and it is known that when grappled your movement drops to 0), I would say that the magic of the spell lets you spend movement you don't have. When you are out of the grapple you then have your original speed minus whatever you've spent to get out of the grapple.

Per the official SA Compendium:

The public statements of the D&D team, or anyone else at Wizards of the Coast, are not official rulings; they are advice. Jeremy Crawford’s tweets are often a preview of rulings that will appear here (https://media.wizards.com/2019/dnd/downloads/SA-Compendium.pdf).

I was not able to find any official ruling for Freedom of movement or the spending of move.

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    \$\begingroup\$ now I want to see what circumstances would allow a person to be grappled by 7+ people \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Gorman Jan 26 '18 at 21:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, seems contrived, but instead imagine being manacled, on hand and feet, twice (so 4 sets of manacles) and 3 people holding you down. Now there are 7 things you need to "escape" from so that you are no longer Restrained or Grappled. \$\endgroup\$ – wakkowarner321 Jan 26 '18 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Updated to reflect that tweets are not official, also added in some rules about spending movement as part of the "standing up from prone" move. \$\endgroup\$ – wakkowarner321 Dec 10 '19 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelGorman You can be grappled by a lot more than seven creatures - Ropers have a 50' reach. :) \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Dec 10 '19 at 21:51
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I think this is one of those instances (we've certainly found a few in the past few weeks) where the natural language approach does hurt.

Rather than speed of 0, it should likely be "you can't move by normal means."

It's pretty clear that this is supposed to mean "hey, you get out of the grab and still have 25 (or 20 or whatever) feet of movement left." But it's a bit of an odd way to go here. If we're parsing it exactly as written, then yeah, it doesn't actually work.

So if we're taking a strict RAW approach, this spell doesn't work. This is definitely a case where anyone should be able to see what the spell is supposed to do and apply a fair and just ruling that it allows you to escape and subtracts 5 from your remaining movement. The following wording for the spell indicates the fairly clear mechanical intent:

The target can also automatically escape from nonmagical restraints, such as manacles or a creature that has it grappled. Its remaining speed is reduced by 5 feet.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +50 for not only giving the right answer but addressing the source of the problem: the very unfortunate wording of the spell. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jan 30 '18 at 12:58
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The description of the Grappled condition is irrelevant. The text for Freedom of Movement specifically says that it can used to free the target from a grapple. This overrides any implications from the Grappled condition. This is a situation where a general rule (for the Grappled condition) is explicitly set aside by a specific rule (for the Freedom of Movement spell). When a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule is considered to be authoritative unless developers make their intentions known by providing relevant errata.

Ultimately, this is a question for the DM. And the DM has to ask himself or herself: "What is my goal?" If the DM's goal is to PvP with the player, then twisting the player's ability to work against them is fair game, and the player is always going to be on the losing end of that equation. I personally don't find that kind of game fun for either side, so that's not how I would rule. But I acknowledge that a pedantic interpretation can negatively affect the intended use of the spell. My suggestion is both radical and simple: Don't do that.

Note that Jeremy Crawford, the Official D&D Rules Lawyer, has ruled that the Freedom of Movement spell ignores any implications as a result of the Grappled condition, thereby confirming this answer's accuracy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I know this is pedantic, but it's a pedantic RAW question. The spell does not say "it can be used to free the target from a grapple". It says "The target can spend 5 feet of movement [to escape from] a creature that has it grappled". If your speed is 30 and you only have 10 left, you can't spend 15 to stand up. This would be more clear if the spell said your speed can't be reduced at all, but in fact it specifically says that it can't be reduced by magical means. There isn't any text in Freedom of Movement that explicitly sets aside the Grappled condition's reduction of movement. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Sep 2 '17 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I actually disagree @mattdm. Freedom of Movement is more specific than the Grappled condition, therefor it takes precedent over the Grappled condition. If Freedom of Movement says you can spend 5 feet of movement, you can spend the movement (despite the larger situation that would cause you to lose all your speed). \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jan 26 '18 at 20:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Apparently Jeremy Crawford agrees with you. :) \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jan 27 '18 at 8:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that Crawford's tweets are no longer official rulings. You may want to update your answer accordingly. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 10 '19 at 5:11

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