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D&D 5E How can players counter Mass Suggestion?

5ekyu

Hero
Well, if they are weak on wisdom saves, hypnotic pattern and a host of other will saves might have clued them in long before.

By the time a party is hitying 6th level tier 3 spells, some counter and recovery potential should be available.

But as GM if you are determined to put it in and also worried it can cause too great an impact, one option is to provide expendable counters along the way.

Maybe over time the minions have collected countermeasures to help them keep their wits. Maybe it happens as other who knew it was a threat came in prepared but got killed and looted by minions.

Even a couple potions of charm immunity can swing the results.

Another consideration is how the damage clause comes into play as far as initiative plays out.

If the battle is group on group, with suggester in the middle, there is no obvious sign afaik that suggestion has worked. So some of the minions may go before the pc gets to act on the suggestion. Their attack might break some free.

Goid help is hard to find, esp if beasts are involved.
 

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Harzel

Adventurer
Do remember that the suggestion has to sound reasonable to the potential victim. While 'reasonable' will obviously be judged differently by different DMs, at least in my world that is a fairly severe constraint on this spell. Unless the caster is known to and trusted by the potential victim, the suggestion can't just sound neutral, it has to sound like it is clearly in the victim's best interest. Rule of thumb: if the potential victim might reasonably reply, "Why?", then the suggestion was not reasonable. Are you sure your villain can fashion a suggestion that will both sound reasonable and be as disabling to the PCs as you fear?

On a different note: to the OP - admittedly, we don't know much about the complete circumstance, but your insistence that your story precludes the PCs knowing that this might be coming seems tenuous. In the absence of additional information, I would say rethinking that would be your best first course of action.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
It's a 6th-level spell; it's supposed to be scary. Would you rather the caster spend that spell slot on disintegrate or chain lightning or globe of invulnerability? Mass suggestion is not lethal, and the threat is directly proportional to what is suggested.

My suggestion (heh) to you is: alter your own expectations. If you expect the party to lose this fight, make the suggestion something that helps them lose the fight. "Flee!" is a good one. Let them run away and lose the fight.

They'll learn this guy's power and take steps against it for next time. They'll come back and get revenge. It will be epic and awesome. Hell, now I want to introduce some mass suggestion into my game!
 

Skyscraper

Explorer
You mention that you don't want to foreshadow the spell and you want to force the PC's to flee the battle against this NPC. You're the DM, you do what you want. But IMO it seems much more interesting to let the battle be decided by actions on the spur of the moment, not by a predetermined outcome.

I've played in a game last year where the DM realized his villain was going to get killed by a PC that did a great job at surprising him, and he steered the battle in a weird and unrealistic direction to avoid that, to save his villain so that his predetermined outcome would be maintained. Honestly, that just sucked and that's the main point I take away from that entire campaign, unfortunately.

As for the counter to mass suggestion, I agree with others that it could be announced to the PCs in advance. You mention that the storyline does not allow this: again, I'd cut that predetermined storyline some slack and allow for some modifications or improvisation. Perhaps you have friendly or neutral NPCs warn the PCs of the villain's powerful charm powers that force entire groups to do his bidding.

This especially makes sense since it is such a powerful spell. I think you have a great opportunity here to follow an interesting storyline with a defining power for an interesting villain. With advance information, if they win the battle, all the better! If they fail, perhaps plan for the villain to capture and imprison them. Maybe they have someone interesting to meet in the prison if they fail, or rescue from prison if they win? Maybe have some escape plan for the villain, such that he can have an opportunity to flee? Although, maybe he won't make it! I've had villains try to flee losing battles often, and only some manage that successfully, but in each case I'm not trying to fudge the battle to a predetermined outcome.

Anyway, all the best,

Sky
 

5ekyu

Hero
Do remember that the suggestion has to sound reasonable to the potential victim. While 'reasonable' will obviously be judged differently by different DMs, at least in my world that is a fairly severe constraint on this spell. Unless the caster is known to and trusted by the potential victim, the suggestion can't just sound neutral, it has to sound like it is clearly in the victim's best interest. Rule of thumb: if the potential victim might reasonably reply, "Why?", then the suggestion was not reasonable. Are you sure your villain can fashion a suggestion that will both sound reasonable and be as disabling to the PCs as you fear?

On a different note: to the OP - admittedly, we don't know much about the complete circumstance, but your insistence that your story precludes the PCs knowing that this might be coming seems tenuous. In the absence of additional information, I would say rethinking that would be your best first course of action.
When I adjudicate suggestion i use the boundaries listed within the spell for guidance - somewhere between obviously harmful to themselves and something like give away all your money to the first beggar (for soldiers)

I definitely put its effectivness as higher than say what could be achieved by exceptional persuasion checks...

The catch that i use more to the point is that *how* the task is achieved is still up to the character. They are not dominated, not puppets, etc. As long as what they are trying to do is actually accomplishing the task not trying to chest out of it, its not a difficult case to adjudicate.

So, for example, a task to flee or leave and go get something from the horses would not necessarily mean abandoning the other pcs but to try and get them to leave as well, especially if they have encountered resistance so that having the group together is seeming necessary for survival.
 

5ekyu

Hero
So, a question, to the other GMs, how do you feel about the following suggestion as a mass suggestion...

"Flee until sunset as far as you can unless you are wearing heavy armor, in which case you stay and fight."

The obvious strength of this is to split the pcs who fail saves (assuming some in heavy and some not - but it could be elves or humans or some other observable feature.)

So you have flee, stay and made saves... Three groups of pcs.
 

Ashrym

Hero
So, a question, to the other GMs, how do you feel about the following suggestion as a mass suggestion...

"Flee until sunset as far as you can unless you are wearing heavy armor, in which case you stay and fight."

The obvious strength of this is to split the pcs who fail saves (assuming some in heavy and some not - but it could be elves or humans or some other observable feature.)

So you have flee, stay and made saves... Three groups of pcs.
I would call that two courses of activity instead of a course of activity. It's really 2 different suggestions attempted to be combined with qualifiers. Higher complexity sentence structure would not grant 2 different options in my ruling.


It's unnecssary, however; just make the suggestion to flee to a far away place to some and don't target the rest. Less control but similar effect.
 

Ashrym

Hero
[MENTION=82555]the[/MENTION] OP: either let them run away to return again a future day (with cheese in their ears) after playing it out, or let them learn of the issue in advance and start with cheese in their ears.

Spells like mass suggestion are surprisingly easy to foil with advanced knowledge.
 

Telegraph and foreshadow this threat well in advance.

QFT. The players will defeat this with prior preparation, and will feel rightfully proud when they do so.

As to what they actually do, they could use missile fire from long range, they could use saving throw bonus magic (like bless), they could stock up on counterspell and dispel magic. Most probably they'll do something else entirely, surprising you. :)
 

Harzel

Adventurer
When I adjudicate suggestion i use the boundaries listed within the spell for guidance - somewhere between obviously harmful to themselves and something like give away all your money to the first beggar (for soldiers)

To me, that example has always seemed obviously at odds with the notion that the suggestion has to be reasonable. Giving away all your money for no apparent reason is not a reasonable course of action for most people.

I definitely put its effectivness as higher than say what could be achieved by exceptional persuasion checks...

That's a different, but interesting, threshold. It does make sense that the spell should give you more than a persuasion check could. At the same time, it should be significantly less than you could accomplish with Antipathy/Sympathy or Dominate Monster.

So, a question, to the other GMs, how do you feel about the following suggestion as a mass suggestion...

"Flee until sunset as far as you can unless you are wearing heavy armor, in which case you stay and fight."

Without some context that would provide motivation (such as the PCs are losing badly or being coupled with a dire and believable threat), it doesn't seem remotely reasonable. I think that is a point that I am (rightly or wrongly) stuck on: if a suggestion is at all contrary to the potential victim's interests, it won't seem reasonable unless some contravening motivation is provided.
 

Thanks all for the suggestions (da dum tsh).

The majority of you suggest that Mass Suggestion can best be countered with some prior knowledge. I cannot do that at this particular encounter - the surprise is important - so the particular NPC will be introduced later. I'll just replace him with one of his helpers in the upcoming encounter. Using Mass Suggestion without any advanced knowledge against this party seems like railroading, because the outcome is predictable.

I opened this thread to check if it was indeed so predictable, and I haven't read much that counters this idea. We'll have fun with it at another point in the campaign, when I have a chance to drop a few hints that people can mess with their minds.
 

Forest for the trees... forest for the trees.

What I do not like is the mentality that players should be punished for character design, whether that design results in low wisdom saves, low wisdom scores, or low wisdom skills.

You're telling a great story together. The players are not trying to gain the DM's approval. The DM should not be attacking their 'poor PC design', but instead finding ways to work the design of the PCs into a great story.

This DOES NOT mean avoiding wisdom saves when there are low wisdom saves across the board. Instead, figure out how to make these challenges interesting and fun. See my suggestions above for more...

So, if everyone in your party decide that they are naturists and choose to wear no armour, you would make sure enemies didn't use weapons against them?


D&D is a game, as well as a story. At some point an enemy is going to cast a spell at the party that targets wisdom. If they enemy is intelligent and learns that everyone in the party is weak willed (which, as I have pointed out is actually quite difficult to achieve), they are going to make a point of doing so at every opportunity. The party needs to learn that they need to defend against such attacks, preferably before TPK, or the DM is stuck in the trap of nerfing pretty much every intelligent spellcasting enemy.
 


So, if everyone in your party decide that they are naturists and choose to wear no armour, you would make sure enemies didn't use weapons against them?

In our case, we are first and foremost writing a story together. The game elements come second. Yes, I would adapt the encounters to a party that decides to wear no armor, which coincidentally my players do. They're not naked, but most of them have no proficiency in armor at all, and only two have light armor. There are no tanks in this group. And all casters use charisma, and made wis somewhat of a dump stat. I can recommend DMing such a group: It is absolutely hilarious, if a little unbalanced. But man, it makes for a good story.

Btw, I am deliberately not giving away much in terms of the actual storyline, because some of the players lurk around these forums too, and by now they may have realized we're discussing them.
 

In our case, we are first and foremost writing a story together. The game elements come second. Yes, I would adapt the encounters to a party that decides to wear no armor, which coincidentally my players do. They're not naked, but most of them have no proficiency in armor at all, and only two have light armor. There are no tanks in this group. And all casters use charisma, and made wis somewhat of a dump stat. I can recommend DMing such a group: It is absolutely hilarious, if a little unbalanced. But man, it makes for a good story.

Btw, I am deliberately not giving away much in terms of the actual storyline, because some of the players lurk around these forums too, and by now they may have realized we're discussing them.

Putting together a balanced party, where each character complements each other and covers for weaknesses, is a central component of D&D gameplay. If you play a very unconventional game, it's probably not going to be helpful asking for advice from other players, who almost certainly play very differently.


(Mechanically, a party of six bards and sorcerers shouldn't have any difficulty countering Mass Suggestion - there should be plenty of Counterspells and Dispel Magics).
 
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Quartz

Adventurer
Btw, Mass Suggestion is really a Kryptonite to my players:

The antagonist sending the protagonists packing the first time they meet is a trope. So play it up! It makes Round Two all the sweeter for the players. The PCs then have to find a way to counter it. The monster should have its own Kryptonite. Or maybe they can just generate an anti-magic effect and beat it the hard way.
 

jgsugden

Legend
So, if everyone in your party decide that they are naturists and choose to wear no armour, you would make sure enemies didn't use weapons against them?
This is addressed in my last paragraph ... with capitalized letters to draw attention to it, even.
D&D is a game, as well as a story. At some point an enemy is going to cast a spell at the party that targets wisdom. If they enemy is intelligent and learns that everyone in the party is weak willed (which, as I have pointed out is actually quite difficult to achieve), they are going to make a point of doing so at every opportunity. The party needs to learn that they need to defend against such attacks, preferably before TPK, or the DM is stuck in the trap of nerfing pretty much every intelligent spellcasting enemy.
That is one way to tell the story... but there is a lot more than those few words to tell that story. How does the story unfold in a fun way beyond that approach? How do the low wisdom save PCs win the day? How does the DM create that story with the players.

D&D is a game in addition to a story, but that game is not DM versus players. It is DM and players creating interesting and fun challenges together. Picking on a weakness of a group and abusing them because of it is hard to make fun.
 

How do the low wisdom save PCs win the day?

Quite easily, if the DM doesn't rule out any sort of preparation or the use of Counterspell…

Or retreating and coming back for a rematch...

Or being captured and having to escape...



It sounds to me that, rather than collaborative storytelling, this campaign is as on rails as a novel, with every outcome pre-decided by the DM.
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
"Flee until sunset as far as you can unless you are wearing heavy armor, in which case you stay and fight."
Stop at the word "unless" and you get a reasonable Suggestion - especially if you are backed up by a squad of toughies or a Dragon.
Likewise, the last four words are good: the Suggester wants to eliminate the PCs here / now, not allow them to flee-prepare-return and bother him some more.

The complication of using both will give the PCs an extra chance to break out of it: "What does he want me to do?"
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
When I set up opponents, I don't worry too much about how the party will respond. As long as I'm following basic CR guidelines, I give abilities and spells I think they should have and let the players respond to it.

On the flip side, if the players actively seek out information or if they can gather intelligence ahead of time they may be prepared but I'm not generally going to broadcast weaknesses ahead of time.

Something like mass suggestion is powerful, the first time it is used. After the first time there are potentially ways to counter it. But I also wouldn't make the assumption that the party will all fail or that they won't come up with some clever way of countering it.

Suggestion spells are difficult to adjudicate though, because it's based on the "reasonable" clause which is in the eye of the beholder.
 

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