D&D 5E Dominate Person vs. Suggestion


No rule is inviolate
Last session ran into a scenario where dominate person conflicted with a suggestion. I wonder if I was going to rule it fairly. See below.

BBEG cast dominate person on a PC who carried a weapon artifact that was a piece of the BBEG. If the BBEG could reunite with the weapon, it would become very powerful. Otherwise, it was a potent weapon to be used against the BBEG.

BBEG mentally tells the PC to "bring me your weapon." The PC casters recognize the spell (Arcana check), realize what's probably happening, and the Bard successfully casts a suggestion on the victim PC that the PC "give your friend bard the weapon and use the weapon you've been using your whole life (her beloved intelligent greatsword)."

We had two conflicting spells with two conflicting interests. My initial ruling was going to be that the higher level spell wins. However, I never got there because the party's wizard intentionally tagged the PC with some damaging spells so she could get another saving throw on dominate person. She succeeded, so I didn't have to adjudicate which one prevailed.


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I agree with Stalker0. Dominate is stronger than suggestion, both from a spell level perspective and that dominate is more "forceful" than suggestion.


the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
If you want a middle ground option, you could require the dominator to use the “full control option” to overcome the suggestion.
I like the middle ground option you offer. Suggestion sneaks into the mind, misdirecting the target's actions and I treat the default dominate person effect as about equivalent to your own thoughts, so it can be mislead or subverted by suggestion. Imagine if there was an illusionary pit and a real pit, and the dominator told the target, "Throw the weapon into the pit," if the illusionary pit was closer, the target would head to that one. The mind sees the suggestion the same way, IMO. Only by taking active control can the dominator overcome it.


Possible options depending upon additional facts not provided:

1.) Suggestion fails. It is possible that the suggestion given would not seem reasonable to the dominated target. That is a judgment call.

2.) Last in time prevails. The suggestion overrides the Dominate Person - but only until the 'Dominator' issues a new command to the target, which they can do telepathically at any time.

3.) Opposed check: The two spellcasters roll opposed checks to see who's directives win out.


This looks like attribute check time.

Lots of "how should this magic corner case work" can be solved by attribute checks.

Here the suggestion is cleverly trying to subvert the domination command; the domination command is still obeyed, just not the way expected.

Which is legit.


Victoria Rules
I'd have it that if the Dominate was in place first the Suggestion would auto-fail, as would any other charm-like effect of lesser power than Dominate. However, it wouldn't be nearly as clear-cut were the Suggestion in place before the Dominate; I'd probably end up with something that gave multiple outcome possibilities. In approximate order of likelihood:

Suggestion ends, over-written by Dominate
Suggestion remains, Dominate fails
Dominate takes effect alongside Suggestion (the target is conflicted, could be bad news for the target's mental state)
Dominate fails but wipes out Suggestion in the process, leaving target free to act as normal.


I don't understand the folks saying dominate person somehow erases suggestion. Are you really arguing that any mind-affecting spell can be used like dispel magic to wipe away lower-level mind-affecting spells?

If a character is under two spells simultaneously, both of their effects apply. The only time you have to consider whether one trumps the other is if their effects are mutually exclusive. The bard worded their suggestion in a way that avoids such a scenario: The BBEG only said "Give me your weapon," not which weapon. Any weapon would do. So the PC could follow both commands, and would do so, giving the artifact to the bard and the greatsword to the BBEG.

Now, the BBEG could force the issue by re-wording the command: "Give me Artifact X." That would put the two spells in direct conflict--the PC cannot simultaneously give artifact X to the bard and to the BBEG--and in that case it makes sense for the stronger spell to win. Dominate person doesn't require an action to give commands, so it's reasonable to say it can be used out of turn... but only if the BBEG realizes the need to do so before the suggestion is carried out. If the BBEG can't tell that suggestion was cast, or doesn't guess the wording of it, he won't know that he needs to update his orders until the PC suddenly gives Artifact X to the bard, at which point it's too late.
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Follower of the Way
I would allow a cleverly-worded suggestion to overcome a command from dominate person, but it would need to be clever and quick.

I do actually think the Bard player had the right idea here. The suggestion was not "do not do the thing you were told to do." Instead, it was tweaking the implementation of the command given. "Oh, no, don't give him that old thing, give him the best weapon you have. Oh, how about your beloved greatsword, it's obviously a much better choice."

That seems to me like a much more interesting way to handle things--a duelling of different types of mind control. Primacy and spell level do matter, but only so much. E.g. a suggestion that is already present will be hard to overcome even via dominate person, but it can be done; but suggestion cannot overcome dominate person directly, and must instead be used cleverly, essentially treating the dominated mind as a whole new personality that needs to be given a reasonable "suggestion" in order to change. Since dominate person requires the caster's action in order to truly control the target, rather than just giving suggestion-like instructions, this seems a reasonable thing. Outright defiance is not possible, but getting bamboozled with a clever workaround seems perfectly valid.

Dominate person prevails. However, at the table, I would likely allow the successfully cast suggestion to have a chance to at least cause some brief delay in carrying out the dominate person directive. Probably by virtue of a contested Int(Arcana) ability check between the spellcasters.

RAW, suggestion probably has no chance against someone under the control of dominate person based on this line in the spell description of the latter:

You can use your action to take total and precise control of the target.

Anything to the contrary just would not seem "reasonable" (per the suggestion spell description) to the dominated person.

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