log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E Suggestion spell, AKA: the importance of session zero(ish) discussions with your DM

Sacrosanct

Legend
Lesson learned: sometimes it doesn't matter how long you've been playing together, whenever there is a spell that is subjective and has ambiguity in it, talk with your DM before you choose it. Not just at session zero, but beyond at higher levels whenever appropriate.

Suggestion
You suggest a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two) and magically influence a creature you can see within range that can hear and understand you. Creatures that can't be charmed are immune to this effect. The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the course of action sound reasonable. Asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act ends the spell.

The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it pursues the course of action you described to the best of its ability. The suggested course of action can continue for the entire duration. If the suggested activity can be completed in a shorter time, the spell ends when the subject finishes what it was asked to do.

You can also specify conditions that will trigger a special activity during the duration. For example, you might suggest that a knight give her warhorse to the first beggar she meets. If the condition isn't met before the spell expires, the activity isn't performed.

If you or any of your companions damage the target, the spell ends.

OK, bolded part by me. What is reasonable? Therein lies the rub.

For example, we had just left a dungeon and were pretty beat up. Waiting outside for us were a bunch of cultists demanding we give them all of the treasure. I had one spell left, so I cast suggestion on him to tell his squad to step aside and let us pass unaccosted. The DM ruled they would have advantage, since they were fanatic cultists. He still failed.

so the DM ruled they still wouldn't follow the suggestion since failure in his mission would amount to suicide by his master, and thus, wouldn't be considered a reasonable request as described above.

My take: Well, if it had to be a reasonable request from their perspective anyway, then why have a spell for it? If it's reasonable, they'd do it anyway, right? You wouldn't even need a hard persuasion check, let alone a spell slot if it had to be reasonable from the get go.

Note: I'm not upset, or blaming the DM, or saying they weren't fair. Their game, their rules, and I"m OK with it. However, it's important to have these discussions beforehand, because as a sorcerer, I probably would have chosen a different spell to learn since spells known for sorcerers are far and few between. And I'm passing my lesson on to you ;)
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Coroc

Hero
i am on your side in this one. You chose an enchantment to resolve a potential conflict peacefully. Forcing you to give up all your items could not really have been the cultists task, but even if, it was equally reasonable to avoid death by you opposing them and making up a story about it back home, than fearing the punishment of their master.
 


Retreater

Legend
DMs shouldn't allow rolls for things that are impossible to happen. If the DM knew this wouldn't be allowed, he shouldn't have allowed a saving throw for the cultists. This is how we get stories about people using Persuasion to make an avalanche roll up a mountainside ("Nat 20! Hehehe.")
As a DM, would I have allowed the group to just leave with the Suggestion spell if the cultists knew they were enemies? No.
However, if the party would've set it up like "we're friends of the Cult and need to leave to go speak to the master" and gave logical reasons, then yes. That's good role play and rewards avoiding fights. But just to throw around a 2nd level spell as an instant "get out of a jail free" card, no way.
 


jgsugden

Legend
I would agree that you want to understand how your DM will handle certain things when you select your class, and that you need to provide feedback to your DM before you start using the mechanics.

I also think this is a symptom of a common issue I see in games: The DM making a ruling to preserve his plan, as opposed to looking for a way for the player to tell their part of the story as they wish to tell it.

This happens when the DM is not on the player's side. The DM thinks about how the DM can challenge the PCs. The DM wants to make things tough for the PCs. The DM is the opposition and controls all the variables.

I believe the game works best when the DM is on the side of the PCs. The DM is rooting for them. The DM creates a story for the PCs, filled with challenges, but the quality of the story is the star, not how close the DM can put the PCs to death in each encounter.

It is the difference between a good RTS video game and a good movie. The DM's that oppose players are trying to give you challenges after challenges, every single one deadly or worse, to make sure the PCs struggle. The DM on the player's side weave together a story that the players explore and develop, where combats and puzzles help determine the direction of the story. The scary life threatening moments are climaxes - not routine.

Here, as a DM, I look for ways to allow the player's desired interpretation of the spell to work and add to the story. I say no to the player only if saying yes is going to ruin the game. I understand that magic and other powerful abilities are meant to negate the challenges I set up, and I adjust to players short cutting something I intended to be difficult and let the story that they moved in a different direction through something I did not not anticipate move in that direction.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The spell should have worked. I think the DM might have been trying to save a plot point. A case of poorly implemented DM force.

My impression was that it was very much a plot point. Which then why allow the roll? Perhaps to change their initial "I'm gonna kill you all now" to "give us the treasure and you can leave."? It wasn't the text of the suggestion I used, but perhaps the spell did have an effect on some level.

Either way, I suppose my point was that it's a good idea, even for tables who have been gaming a while, to have a pre discussion whenever there is an ability that may have some ambiguity to it.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That's always a good idea. I dont think this a case where it was the issue though. I've had that conversation with DMs and when it sounds like that it's almost always plot point related. That's why prescripted plot without flexibility can make for an awkward game.
 

Bolares

Adventurer
Lesson learned: sometimes it doesn't matter how long you've been playing together, whenever there is a spell that is subjective and has ambiguity in it, talk with your DM before you choose it. Not just at session zero, but beyond at higher levels whenever appropriate.

Suggestion
You suggest a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two) and magically influence a creature you can see within range that can hear and understand you. Creatures that can't be charmed are immune to this effect. The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the course of action sound reasonable. Asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act ends the spell.

The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it pursues the course of action you described to the best of its ability. The suggested course of action can continue for the entire duration. If the suggested activity can be completed in a shorter time, the spell ends when the subject finishes what it was asked to do.

You can also specify conditions that will trigger a special activity during the duration. For example, you might suggest that a knight give her warhorse to the first beggar she meets. If the condition isn't met before the spell expires, the activity isn't performed.


If you or any of your companions damage the target, the spell ends.

OK, bolded part by me. What is reasonable? Therein lies the rub.

For example, we had just left a dungeon and were pretty beat up. Waiting outside for us were a bunch of cultists demanding we give them all of the treasure. I had one spell left, so I cast suggestion on him to tell his squad to step aside and let us pass unaccosted. The DM ruled they would have advantage, since they were fanatic cultists. He still failed.

so the DM ruled they still wouldn't follow the suggestion since failure in his mission would amount to suicide by his master, and thus, wouldn't be considered a reasonable request as described above.

My take: Well, if it had to be a reasonable request from their perspective anyway, then why have a spell for it? If it's reasonable, they'd do it anyway, right? You wouldn't even need a hard persuasion check, let alone a spell slot if it had to be reasonable from the get go.

Note: I'm not upset, or blaming the DM, or saying they weren't fair. Their game, their rules, and I"m OK with it. However, it's important to have these discussions beforehand, because as a sorcerer, I probably would have chosen a different spell to learn since spells known for sorcerers are far and few between. And I'm passing my lesson on to you ;)
to me this sounds like a DM not being happy with a players action and the dice roll... If they were going to rule that the spell fails, why make the ST with disavantage?
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
If this had happened at my table, I'd have asked you to give the guy a reason (as part of your suggestion) for why letting you pass would seem like a good idea at the moment. It could be pretty much anything, though, as long as it made some internal logical sense. "These aren't the droids you're looking for" is a good reason for the stormtroopers to let Luke and Obi-Wan pass, for example.

My take: Well, if it had to be a reasonable request from their perspective anyway, then why have a spell for it? If it's reasonable, they'd do it anyway, right?
I think a lot hinges on the definition of reasonable here.

Here's an example of a suggestion spell that was used (not by me) in a game I played in. The party wanted to get into an illicit auction being held in the back room of a shop. There was a guy on duty who was supposed to make sure no one got in who hadn't been invited. Our bard cast suggestion on him that he really badly wanted a cup of tea and should take a break to go get some--from a shop on the other side of town.

The DM in that game allowed it, but your DM might well have said it wasn't reasonable because he'd be punished for leaving his post. Getting a cup of tea when you're thirsty or have a craving for it is a reasonable thing to do, but maybe not when you're on the job. Lots of room for interpretation there.

Personally, I kind of get the feeling that suggestion stops the target from thinking about consequences two or three steps away, like the anger of the master in your case.
 

ZeshinX

Adventurer
That's always a good idea. I dont think this a case where it was the issue though. I've had that conversation with DMs and when it sounds like that it's almost always plot point related. That's why prescripted plot without flexibility can make for an awkward game.

That's a conversation I have with my players before any campaign starts. They know my style in that I like to have a pre-scripted plot, so we discuss it early so they can offer suggestions for their characters that might be useful to work into said plot. They don't get details of said plot, but offer interesting things they'd like their characters to do, or interesting aspects related to their characters they'd like to explore. So they rely on me to find interesting ways to take those suggestions and work them into the plot, to whatever degree makes sense (they allow for me to manipulate suggestions so long as it hews close to their desired intent). That way, they don't get too rankled about the game feeling overly railroad-y, and as often happens, makes me change my plot for the better.

Some moments still occur where it seems like I'm being somewhat unfair or NPCs seem overly protected with plot armor, but they do understand it's not a "forever like that" state of affairs. They do still tease the hell outta me for it, but we all recognize it as necessary and constructive (and fun!) venting for moments they feel reek a tad too much of DM abuse.

I've also made strong efforts to highly minimize moments like that and roll with whatever wild and wacky "solutions" the PCs might dream up...mostly in the form of trapdoor options for when actions by the PCs take my written plot elements and wipe their metaphorical bottoms with them.

In that particular example by the OP, I'd likely have let the PCs succeed...the cultists return to their master, get absolutely chewed out for being so susceptible to such an "amateurish" tactic, then sent on one final test to prove their value to said master, probably in the form of some kind of ambush, with any subsequent failure being punishable by death or implied threat of death (so they have at least a plausible reason to not be susceptible to any lower-levelled mind affecting spells of effects). I'd roll with it from there...the cultists might get slaughtered...the PCs might somehow find a way to turn the cultists against the master, etc.
 

Retreater

Legend
Also the OP describes "a bunch of cultists." The spell specifically works on one target. It absolutely should not have worked. At best, it would've saved you from a single cultist in the mob.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Also the OP describes "a bunch of cultists." The spell specifically works on one target. It absolutely should not have worked. At best, it would've saved you from a single cultist in the mob.
Hit the leader and it's all stormtroopers. We aren't the droids you're looking for.

that's what it was. I directed the spell at the leader, and even used subtle spell to help hide the suggestion "We aren't what you want, tell your squad to stand aside and let us pass."

I even literally joked the star wars reference at the time because that's essentially what it was lol.
 

6ENow!

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Yeah, I agree with @Retreater on this one and your DM, but I also see the other point of view.

The spell affects a single target. The DM could easily rule that target gets advantage because it knows following your suggestion will put it at odds with the other cultists anyway.

Now, since the target failed the save, the DM could have ruled the suggested cultist tries to command the others to let you go with your treasure, making a CHA (persuasion or intimidation?) check. If it succeeds, it convinces the other cultists to let you leave. If it fails, maybe the other cultists rebel or perhaps a subordinate in the group challenges the leader for dominance?

Regardless, as a DM, once I allow the spell and make the save against it, I am just was bound by the dice as my players. Personally, I don't think your DM handled it well. The DM should have told you upfront the request was unreasonable, or since it was high-risk for the cultist, grant advantage (which he did), but should then follow through with it.

Like others have said, it could have led to more interesting play later on.

Part of this also sounds like it was a planned encounter the DM just didn't want to let go of. He wanted the fight (for whatever reason) and was disappointed bad rolls on his part made it avoidable. It sucks when you're the DM and plans get messed up like that, but we all know it happens.

I would definitely hash things out after the session and suggest if the DM will run the spell like that, ask if you can select a different spell for your character (if you want to, of course) and I think your DM should allow a swap.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I would find it reasonable for the leader to turn to the other cultists, tell them that these aren't the adventurers they're looking for, then have some cultists balk at this. A subsequent Charisma check could then be made by the DM with success meaning they all agree with the cult leader and failure meaning only some do, leaving the rest to have at the PCs (a schism, if you will). It could very well be an amusing scene.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It's weird, isn't it? If a request is reasonable enough, why do you even need magic in the first place? It becomes an act of persuasion...not a magic trick. Depending on the situation and the request, of course.

Maybe a quick way to rule it on the fly is to make a "reasonable course of action" a Charisma (Persuasion) check, and have the suggestion spell grant a +10 bonus to the roll?
 

Session Zero is always a good idea. But it's never going to cover every eventuality. Faith and trust in each other (players and GM) is always more important.

Most times I allow my players to alter my plots, because I have faith and trust that they see a path as fun that I might have missed. And on the few occasions I don't, they have faith and trust that I have something fun for them.

My current group has been together for over a year now, so I think we are doing something right.
 


For example, we had just left a dungeon and were pretty beat up. Waiting outside for us were a bunch of cultists demanding we give them all of the treasure. I had one spell left, so I cast suggestion on him to tell his squad to step aside and let us pass unaccosted. The DM ruled they would have advantage, since they were fanatic cultists. He still failed.

Thats actually a feature of Cultists:

Dark Devotion: The cultist has advantage on Saving Throws against being Charmed or Frightened.


the DM ruled they still wouldn't follow the suggestion since failure in his mission would amount to suicide by his master, and thus, wouldn't be considered a reasonable request as described above.

So why allow the save in the first place?

Your DM got that one wrong.
 

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top