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I'm playing a Bard in a 5E campaign. One of my most useful spells has been Dissonant Whispers. It's saved the party quite a few times but the question has come up and I've not found any answers in the rules as written for the spell. On a failed save, the creature takes 3D6 psychic damage and the spell causes it "to move as far as its speed allows away from you." However, there's no explanation as to how far it goes or if it ever comes back.

How far and for how long does the target run away?

(At present, we have have house ruled that it is gone for the duration of the battle, but we're considering a dice roll with a minimum of 5 rounds.)

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It runs away from you at its normal speed and can return immediately

Dissonant Whispers (PHB p.235) states

On a failed save... and must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you. The creature doesn't move into obviously dangerous ground...

So if the creature has its reaction available it uses its reaction to move its speed away. The creature does this immediately so it may not dash or do anything else to increase its speed or make the area safer or... anything. It just moves its speed away if safe to do so. Even if the creature had Dashed on its turn it doesn't matter since dash only lasts for the current turn.

The spell is instantaneous duration and doesn't list any lasting effects. While the DM could make a ruling like, "The creature is afraid of getting hurt again and chooses to avoid you", there is nothing in the spell forcing this to happen. The creature can choose to run right back toward you on its turn.

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It would move a distance equal to its normal speed (which for many humanoid creatures is about 30 feet, but the DM should check the Monster Manual for other creatures).

It's up to the DM if or how quickly the creature returns. But as this spell has a duration of "Instantaneous", it could use its basic movement next round and attack right away (assuming that the party haven't "legged it" in the other direction). I don't see any evidence that it lasts beyond the current round.

Remember, this only happens if it still has its reaction remaining. If it doesn't, it just takes the damage and remains where it is, and probably attacks next round if it hasn't had enough yet!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We assumed it would move at it's maximum distance using a dash action for say...60ft. Did not consider that it might not have a reaction...interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – Fogcutter Mar 29 '16 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fogcutter I think it would only be able to Dash it it still has its Action (or Bonus action if it's a Rogue or a Monk using Ki). It's using its Reaction to move (base movement) and then its Action/Bonus to Dash. Of course, that's all up to you to interpret in the end. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Mar 29 '16 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's how we play it at my table. The spell ends after the creature has moved (if it still had it's reaction available) or successfully saved against the spell. Nothing prevents the target to walk (or run) back on it's next turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Meta4ic Mar 29 '16 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fogcutter You can't dash on another creature's turn... unless you readied the dash action ("If the Cruel Clown walks towards me, I move up to my speed in the opposite direction..."), which will only allow you to move up to your maximum speed (not 2 times that speed). \$\endgroup\$ – Meta4ic Mar 29 '16 at 18:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fogcutter One thing to keep in mind, the spell only lasts for that instant, the creature is free to act as normal on its next round. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Mar 29 '16 at 19:07
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It’s instant on your turn as a reaction, so I would rule also that it wouldn’t be more than its regular movement (usually 30 feet). If the spell started on its turn, the targeted creature must move max distance, then it would waste its action to Dash and move 60 feet. As the spell is written, it only burns its reaction and forces it to waste its movement on following turn.

A good plan would be to cast it at the max range of 60 feet and then use your movement (usually 30 feet) to move away, leaving a gap of at least 90 feet. That would give you 3 turns if it moves normally - 2 turns, if it wastes one Dashing - before it can counterattack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Dissonant whispers doesn't affect the creature's movement on any following turn; its effect is instantaneous, and only forces the creature to use its reaction to move away a distance equal to its speed. On the following turn, it can do whatever it wants. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 23 '19 at 19:36

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