Is there a check by which a combatant can force-feed an unwilling target a potion?

The question stems from several magic items, including the Potion of Diminution and Potion of Poison. I am seeking to develop an expanded list of potions for the Unearthed Arcana Artificer class and the ability to affect an enemy with potions such as these would be grounds for a much higher spell slot to Infuse than if it was restricted to willing targets (or misled, in the case of Poison).

This question is specifically in reference to conscious opponents, enemies who can resist the attempt.


5 Answers 5


The only thing stopping you is the DM.

You might need to force it's mouth open, Strength vs Strength, or torture (oooooh evil acts!) to make it scream, or maybe even beat a Constitution check (gag reflex throwing the potion up) in order to make it drink.

But really your job is simple: describe what you want to do, roll against whatever the DM wants. If your DM is floundering, make your case as to why you're doing it, and what would make sense logically to you.

If you are the DM, go with whatever makes sense. There's no hard and fast rule on this, so it's going to be an improvised situation.

Oh, incidentally, there's no crafting table either. Which means when you craft your potions, consider the 3 methods of attack; Ingested, Contact and Inhaled.

Who's to say you can't turn that poison potion into a contact (attack roll to administer) or inhaled (Con save) version?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just splashing acid on an unwilling target takes a successful attack roll. Do you think that makes the case that whatever a DM comes up with should be at least as difficult as a successful attack? (Nice new avatar, btw.) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Mar 28, 2016 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Largely dependent on the situation IMO. If target is unconscious for example, no. If not, then clearly yes. And thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2016 at 4:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ My initial thought was contested Athletics (with Acrobatics as optional). Incidentally, there are actually four methods: ingested, inhaled, contact, and injury. Contact and injury are differentiated by one being able to be absorbed through the skin while the other has to be delivered through slashing or piercing damage because the toxin has to be introduced into the bloodstream. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sawyer
    Mar 28, 2016 at 4:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's entirely situational. I hate answers that are just, "Ask the DM," but when you get into the realm of improvised attack actions, that's where you end up. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2016 at 4:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sawyer The attempted contest rolled with Disadvantage. Take a look at the advantage/disadvantage and see if that makes sense. The problem with that is that with just one party member assisting (Help Action) the Disadvantage could go away. Do you want it to be that easy for the enemy to pour something down a player's throat in combat? If you've ever tried to feed an uncooperative baby or pet I think you'd arrive at the conclusion that, in combat, this doesn't make sense. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2016 at 10:44

A quote for you:

Potion of Healing: A character who drinks the magical red fluid in this vial regains 2d4 + 2 hit points. Drinking or administering a potion takes an action. (PHB, p 153)

Administering a potion generally implies doing it to someone else. It implies a lack of opposition, but nothing prohibits doing it to an unconscious foe.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Fleshing out your answer a bit more might help to dissuade those who would downvote you for having too brief an answer, particularly since the question specifically asks about conscious foes and you seem to be only addressing unconscious foes. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2016 at 20:58

What is Administering

Administering a potion to a willing party is much different than force-feeding an enemy.

Administering means (dictionary definition):

  • dispense or apply (a remedy or drug).
  • give help or service.


Force-feeding an unwilling person a potion, I'd argue, is a lot more involved than "administering" a potion.

Rules About Forcing a Potion

There aren't any rules concerning this, but D&D rules don't aim to solve every edge case. How to handle improvised actions, which are a lot of good D&D, is up to the DM.

For DMs making a reasonable ruling for this sort of thing, consider what it is like in reality, and what rules you already have.

Having a child and a dog who sometimes need to take medicine they don't want to take, I can tell you that in reality, it is more difficult and time-consuming than it seems.

There are rules for grappling, which seems like a first step or similar action to forcing someone's mouth open. I could see some kind of save from the person to see if they could spit the liquid out. So, I likely would have ruled the same way you did.


The RAW has No specific "check" to force-feed an enemy

There is no specific Check to "Force-Feed" a target in 5e. That's typically left-up to the DM, as there are few-to-no creatures in 5e which specifically force-feed their targets (as opposed to implanting eggs in them like Slaadi, because those rely on Claw attacks).

However, it's not hard to envision the process.

It's not easy to force-feed someone

Force-feeding itself is a difficult task, whether it be poison to an enemy or antidote to a spy who is trying to poison themselves. Typically, it requires the target being Restrained, Grappeled, or Incapacitated in some way.

Because your question states:

This question is specifically in reference to conscious opponents, enemies who can resist the attempt.

I will primarily discuss Restrained and Grappeled opponents rather than Incapacitated opponents for the purpose of "resisting", though I will mention Incapacitation as-well.

To outline the process of Force-feeding, the first check should be to Restrain or Grapple them if they are not, because it is almost entirely impossible to force-feed someone who is capable of moving away. This can be either done by the person performing the force-feeding or one of their Party-Members. The next check would be a Strength Check to force their mouth open or a Dexterity check to "feed" them while their mouth is open. Finally, whatever Save is required of the Poison or substance being fed is required to resist it. If there is no stated "Save", I would rule it as having at least a DC 10-15 (based-on the substance) Constitution Save to resist the Poison, because the creature does not want the effect, having no effect on a successful save.

If the Target was Incapacitated as opposed to Grappled or Restrained, the Dexterity or Strength check would be made with Advantage.

So, in-summary:

  1. Grapple, Restrain, or Incapacitate the Target
  2. Strength or Dexterity Check to force the substance into the Target
  3. (Target) Constitution Save to determine the effects of the substance.

All-in-all, it's easier to Charm the target into drinking a "new beverage" instead of trying to force-feed them.


Once, but not twice

"A group of lesser combatant overwhelming a greater opponent and force-feeding him a potion and defeating him" sounds like a great and memorable scene, but only the first time it happens. After that it just get silly.

Combat is to hectic and prying someones mouth open and then pouring the entire content of the potion into them would require quite a lot of time and concentration. In my estimation it is also a task that would require two maybe three persons to achieve; One to grapple the victim, One to pry the victims mouth open and One to pour the liquid and make sure not to much is spilled.

While the group is busy doing this I would give them all kinds of penalties. Make them easier to hit since they are no longer dodging, give the opponent attacks of opportunity and so on.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I wish people would let me know why they did not like my answer. 2 upvotes and 4 downvotes, so it can't be all bad. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marius
    Mar 29, 2016 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I gave you a -1 because your answer lacks any rules citation and doesn't answer the rules-based question. "Once, but not twice... after that it just gets silly" is not based on anything but your opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 29, 2016 at 15:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ …which is technically a valid way to answer a rules-based answer. However, even though it's a valid way to write an answer, experience shows that when an answer dodges the main point of a question, it often gets downvoted unless it's really, really well-written and convincing. See our meta question on “frame challenges” for some thoughts on how to successfully pull off this kind of answer (and on accepting it when an attempt doesn't work out). \$\endgroup\$ Mar 29, 2016 at 16:49

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