[RPG] If you Command (“grovel”) a creature that is already under the effect of Confusion, what happens on their turn

dnd-5espells

A cleric casts confusion on a Stone Giant and it fails the saving throw. A paladin then casts command with the one-word command, "Grovel". What happens? Some possibilities:

  1. Confusion is a higher level spell, so it takes effect. If you roll 9-10, it "acts normally" and Grovels.
  2. The outcome is random.
  3. The later spell takes effect.
  4. The cleric and paladin do a Wisdom contest to see which spell dominates.
  5. Something I'm totally missing that you'll tell me.

Best Answer

The character only Grovels on a 9-10 roll

Spells only factor in potency when they are the same (emphasis mine):

The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don't combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect - such as the highest bonus - from those castings applies while their durations overlap.

Instead, both spells affect the target regardless of possible potency metrics such as timing, spell level, or spellcasting modifier:

The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap.

This means that regardless of your command...

An affected target can't take reactions and must roll a d10 at the start of each of its turns to determine its behavior for that turn.

Any other activity (such as falling prone) would be considered behavior, and as such could not be done if the d10 roll decides a specific behavior before the creature has the opportunity to act on your command. Command then ends if the creature is unable to Grovel.

If the target can't follow your command, the spell ends.

Confusion takes priority because it takes effect at the start of the turn, before the creature can decide it's own behavior (and thus decide to follow command). If multiple effects trigger at the start of your turn, the GM would have to decide the order unless there is specific guidance on the text. In this case, though, command only specifies "on its next turn", so the more specific trigger has priority.

TL;DR

On a roll of 1-8, it's behavior for that turn is defined by confusion. It doesn't have an opportunity to fall prone since that would be a different behavior.

On a roll of 9-10, while "acting normally", the creature will fall prone and end its turn per the command.

If the GM instead decides that the effects happen simultaneously...

... Xanathar's Guide to Everything (XGtE) provides a suggestion as guidance in the Dungeon Master's Tools section:

If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen

I worked from the assumption that confusion triggers first, but I've seen arguments that the effects are simultaneous despite the differing wording.

Under this ruling and using XGtE's advice, the GM would directly decide which happens first (the creature falls prone and ends it's turn or rolls for confusion) since the GM controls the NPC.

Related Topic