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We are brand new to D&D. Recently we finished up the first section of the starter set for 5E.

There was a point in the story where one of my PC's got really creative and wanted to cast Command out of combat (while sneaking) on a boss NPC, and then immediately command that boss to kill himself by shoving a javelin right into his head.

Since this was out of combat, and there were no turns, my player's rationale was that he could these things in succession since it was part the group narration, and just had to pass a difficulty check...

I felt this was too strong, and that I was probably missing something from the rules since I had only just bought this box the night before.

So as the DM I stepped in and said "no you can't do that... that can't be right, that's too strong." So I asked my player to roll a d20 to see if he was successful, which he was.

But I feel like I overstepped my bounds because I basically said "no" to my player because I didn't want this boss encounter to be bypassed so easily.

Was I in the wrong to try to stop my player from doing that crazy one hit kill?

How would this situation have played out if I had more experience with the rules?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What was the one-word command your player used? \$\endgroup\$ – András Jan 9 '16 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks everyone for the help! @András he just said "I cast command, and make the enemy kill himself by shoving his own javelin in his head." \$\endgroup\$ – GC8Rally Jan 10 '16 at 0:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Command was just promoted to Power Word: Death \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jan 11 '16 at 10:44
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I agree with Dan B's first point, but let's expand upon it.

  1. The command is only a single word. "Suicide" could maybe work, though in my experience, it is rarely used as a verb . However...

  2. As Dan mentioned, the command cannot be directly or obviously harmful to the target. Thus, "Suicide" or some one-word version of "stab self" would not work.

  3. The Command only is followed for 1 round, or about 6 seconds. If you wanted to cause the target to do multiple things in succession, it would require several successful castings of the spell with different Commands to accomplish more intricate behaviors.

So, ultimately, you were right in your ruling. You cannot make a target do anything obviously harmful with Command.

Now, getting a target to APPROACH across a trap that he hasn't spotted... ;)

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Command says: "The spell has no effect if... your command is directly harmful to the creature."

Also, even if a creature wanted to kill itself, 5e doesn't have rules for doing so in one attack. It would use the same rules as for attacking helpless creatures, meaning the attack has advantage and is an automatic critical. But you can't just say "he cuts his own throat and now he's dead"; hit points do not work that way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To be somewhat morbid, neither do real-life self-inflicted wounds work that way (reliably and instantly lethal), with only a few notable exceptions. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 9 '16 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ And as an addendum, Hit Points are primarily for combat scenarios, as an abstraction. Having a samurai roll to see if he hits his own AC to commit hari-Kari would be ridiculous. \$\endgroup\$ – Lost_in_Hyrule Jan 9 '16 at 19:33
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The spell has no effect if the target is undead, if it doesn’t understand your language, or if your command is directly harmful to it.

In the rules for the spell, it says the creature cannot hurt itself. The spell would end after casting. Also don't argue with your players. You are the DM; Your job is to describe what happens, not discuss it. Your player absolutely can cast that spell and say any one word command. Tell him what happens. In this case, your player wasted a turn and a spell slot for no effect.

"As you finish casting your hand motions for the spell, you lock your mind on the target and whisper the final incantation needed to complete it: Suicide you say. For a moment the warrior stands perplexed, but then shakes his head, snapping back to reality and back to his senses." -DM

Some typical commands and their effects follow. You might issue a command other than one described here. If you do so, the DM determines how the target behaves. If the target can’t follow your command, the spell ends.

Suicide is a noun, not a verb, so it isn't a command. Using suicide as a command for this spell is just as confusing as someone using the word "Apple!" Explain to your player that he must use a command or the spell does not work, out of game of course. Game time is for playing. Discussion is for after.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree with your suggestion "don't argue with your players... your player wasted a turn and a spell slot for no effect". The character knows how their spells work; if they know that a given action would be useless, it's proper to warn the player of this, and not just say "you wasted a turn". Worst case, the DM could ask for a skill check to realize a given action would be useless and get a chance to do something else. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Jan 11 '16 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Suicide actually is a verb, and has long been such. There is nothing ungrammatical about the suggested usage of "Suicide" as a command. (The spell still won't do what's wanted here, but that's not because it's bad English.) \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 May 24 '16 at 23:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ In addition to suicide being a verb, I don't think the spell specifies that it needs to be? "Out!" isn't a verb, but it's perfectly understandable as a one-word command. So is "Silence!" \$\endgroup\$ – John Evans Sep 29 '18 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanB FWIW, I find that players frequently don't know how a spell works. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 15 '18 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnEvans, Out can be a verb, although to be fair I've rarely found a use for commanding the enemy to make it publicly known that someone is gay. \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland May 5 at 21:14

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