Suggestion Spell in Combat


Rules Questions


So, we've had a long standing debate in how the Suggestion spell works in combat, namely our GM treating it as a lesser form of Mind Control. The first time it happened The Mind Flayer made several us drop our weapons and stand still while surrounded by it's goblin minions.

Unsurprising doing this by my argument breaks the "Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell" clause of the spell, as dropping your weapon while surrounded by enemies who also have melee weapons out and standing still seems rather harmful. Not to mention picking up your weapon and provoking AoO.

I've explained multiple times that this is the kind of spell that is cast by a sneaky spellcasting type, to make a guard think he may wanna go to the bathroom soon, or go check another part of the ramparts so she can sneak by, it suggests, not enforces a course of action, one that must sound reasonable and rational to the affected person, of which as I said above dropping your weapons and standing still while sounded by enemies isn't either of those.

But the debate hasn't been settled yet, and we got jumped by not one but five of the squidheads at the end of last session, so I know this will come up again, and after the snafu that lead to this situation in the first place, (caused by multiple party members not coordinating or even paying attention to things said/done), I really want this to be a non-issue as it should have been from the first time it came up.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

"Drop your weapon and surrender, you are against overwhelming forces." would work in that situation, "Drop your weapons." would not, as the spell says: "You influence the actions of the target creature by suggesting a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two). The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the activity sound reasonable. Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell."

Your best defense is Magic circle against evil, it will stop any attempt to influence the group (as long as they stay reasonably close to each other) and it lasts for a reasonably long time.

Suggestion isn't command, the suggested course of action should sound reasonable.

BTW, Mind Flayers are iconic WotC creatures, they haven't been ported in Pathfinder for copyright reasons.


Diego Rossi wrote:

"Drop your weapon and surrender, you are against overwhelming forces." would work in that situation, "Drop your weapons." would not, as the spell says: "You influence the actions of the target creature by suggesting a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two). The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the activity sound reasonable. Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell."

Your best defense is Magic circle against evil, it will stop any attempt to influence the group (as long as they stay reasonably close to each other) and it lasts for a reasonably long time.

Suggestion isn't command, the suggested course of action should sound reasonable.

BTW, Mind Flayers are iconic WotC creatures, they haven't been ported in Pathfinder for copyright reasons.

Well aware of the fact they aren't in Pathfinder because Copyright shenanigans, he's using a port or homebrew as far as I know. Regardless I don't "Drop your weapon and surrender, you are against overwhelming forces." would have worked either, our party has taken on greater odds then those and come out on top, so by my reasoning that wouldn't be reasonable enough to make it work, despite the fact that it would suggest that the enemy would stop attacking us and take us captive, they didn't.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The spell makes it reasonable enough.
You see 5 mind flayers and a few goblins, you don't know if there are others hiding around.
You get a save because it is a spell and it is "reasonable enough".
Sure, the player can say "my character will never surrender" or "they will kill us the same, so surrendering is a no option", but you either build for that, taking traits and feats that will increase your resistance to that kind of attacks or it is simply an attempt to avoid the consequences of failing a save.
After all, command, a lower level spell, can force you to drop your weapon the same.

Suggestion lasts longer but can be easily invalidated. As soon as any of the enemies act in a hostile way surrendering is not an option. Even if some of the PCs save and attack surrendering will become moot.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
JakeCWolf wrote:
I really want this to be a non-issue as it should have been from the first time it came up.

You have explained your problem to the GM, and he disagrees. It is unlikely that even if their was unanimous agreement on these boards, anything posted here will change his mind.

If you don't want it be an issue, then accept that that is how he is going to run his game and move on. If you find you absolutely can't enjoy the game he is running, you are free to not participate.

Really, those are your choices.


Suggestion is a compulsion. It isn't limited to things that the victim would just do anyway. While the word "reasonable" leaves a lot of room for argument, the only real caveat is that it can't make them do something "obviously harmful". Since interpreting "obviously harmful" too broadly would preclude even the bathroom break mentioned above ("I might get fired, and that's harmful!"), one ought to interpret it narrowly. I'd say "Drop your weapons; these goblins are clearly master warriors of their tribe!" works; "Jump off that cliff, there is candy at the bottom!" does not.


I'm of the school of thought that "reasonable" is up to the GM's interpretation of the Suggestion Target's viewpoint, and that's because using Suggestion in a PvP scenario does require GM interpretation, imo, otherwise the target PC will say nothing is reasonable.

Scenario: P1 is a Wizard and P2 is a Rogue, and they are in some type of PvP kerfuffle because the Rogue steals the Wizard's spellbook or something.

Spell 1: P1 casts Suggestion on P2, and says "Give me back the spellbook." This is not a reasonable request because the rogue knows that once the Wizard has the spellbook back, he might/probably will be on the business end of a Fireball and this is obviously harmful. The spell fails.

Spell 2: P1 casts Suggestion on P2, and says "set the spellbook down on the ground in front of me, and then step back 10 paces." This is still unreasonable because the rogue isn't stupid and it's just a cleverly re-worded version of Spell 1 and this is obviously harmful. The spell still fails.

Spell 3: P1 casts Suggestion on P2, and says "Leave the spellbook on the table in your room and go downstairs to have a pint in the tavern." This is a completely reasonable request because the rogue wouldn't necessarily have the foreknowledge that the Wizard is going to pick the lock to his Inn room to get the spellbook back and this isn't obviously harmful. So, the spell would succeed.

..

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Edit: As for the OP question, the Mind Flayer would not be able to use Suggestion to make you drop your weapons even if you were surrounded and he used the wording "you're completely surrounded, drop your weapons", because this is obviously harmful. There is a clear and present danger and dropping your weapons all but ensures your torturous death.

However, if the Mind Flayer casted Mass Suggestion on you and said "those goblins are here to kill you, quick, throw all your weapons and ammunition at them and they will flee!" That is a reasonable request because goblins are notoriously cowardly. Now you're disarmed anyway and the Mind Flayer's lair looks like a yard sale littered with your weapons.


Ryze Kuja wrote:


Spell 1: P1 casts Suggestion on P2, and says "Give me back the spellbook." This is not a reasonable request because the rogue knows that once the Wizard has the spellbook back, he might/probably will be on the business end of a Fireball and this is obviously harmful. The spell fails.

Spell 2: P1 casts Suggestion on P2, and says "set the spellbook down on the ground in front of me, and then step back 10 paces." This is still unreasonable because the rogue isn't stupid and it's just a cleverly re-worded version of Spell 1 and this is obviously harmful. The spell still fails.

Spell 3: P1 casts Suggestion on P2, and says "Leave the spellbook on the table in your room and go downstairs to have a pint in the tavern." This is a completely reasonable request because the rogue wouldn't necessarily have the foreknowledge that the Wizard is going to pick the lock to his Inn room to get the spellbook back and this isn't obviously harmful. So, the spell would succeed.

Personally I'd disagree that either 1 or 2 are obviously harmful. The wizards ability to fireball the rogue is completely independent of the wizard possessing his spellbook at the time or not, and only dependent on whether he studied the spell that morning or not.

Even if the suggestion were "Hand me the wand of fireballs" would not fall under obviously harmful IMO. Under that kind of reading, any suggestion that disallows the rogue to immediately kill the wizard is a harmful suggestion, since the wizard (wand or not) might have a spell that can harm the rogue. The only safe course of action under such a reading is to kill the wizard to ensure the wizard does not harm the rogue.

In fact, in this scenario, #2 is the safe bet for the rogue to take. The spellbook on the rogues person will not be harmed by the wizards fireball (so the wizard is free to fireball said rogue). A spellbook sitting on the ground is unattended, and thus fully subject to the wizards fireball spell if he casts it - an unlikely thing for the wizard to do. So putting the book on the ground is a very safe option.


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Bottom line: Expect Table Variation™. : )


@bbangerter

It truly does depend on the entirety of the scenario though. The example I was using above doesn't involve any history of the PvP between the Rogue and the Wizard, and that definitely plays a factor in how the GM interpretation of the Suggestion Target's viewpoint is.

If this was a completely cold example with no previous history, then I completely agree with you; there would be no reason to expect a fireball from the wizard, so #1 and #2 would actually be perfectly reasonable. But if there was a significant history of malfeasance and aggression between the Rogue and the Wizard, then #1 and #2 would definitely not be reasonable at all.

So, it really does come down to GM interpretation of the target's viewpoint, and that's why I prefer to play that way. It settles any possible arguments between the two PCs instantly.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ryze Kuja wrote:

@bbangerter

It truly does depend on the entirety of the scenario though. The example I was using above doesn't involve any history of the PvP between the Rogue and the Wizard, and that definitely plays a factor in how the GM interpretation of the Suggestion Target's viewpoint is.

If this was a completely cold example with no previous history, then I completely agree with you; there would be no reason to expect a fireball from the wizard, so #1 and #2 would actually be perfectly reasonable. But if there was a significant history of malfeasance and aggression between the Rogue and the Wizard, then #1 and #2 would definitely not be reasonable at all.

So, it really does come down to GM interpretation of the target's viewpoint, and that's why I prefer to play that way. It settles any possible arguments between the two PCs instantly.

The problem in your scenario is that putting down the book doesn't put in harm way the rogue, so you are simply arguing that being put in a detrimental position is the same as doing something "obviously harmful".

With that interpretation suggestion will never work, as an alert, attentive, person will notice that the guy using the spell his trying to play a fast one on him.

Considering the number of level 2 spells that can outright kill or disable the Rogue without harming the book, using Suggestion and not Hold Person, Scorching Ray or any of the others already show that the Wizard isn't trying to kill him.


It all comes down to how you word it. In the example of the wizard and the rogue there are ways to get the rogue to give him his spell book back.

If the wizard said give me back my spell book and I will forget about you stealing it sounds reasonable to me.

If the mind flayers had said drop your weapons and you will not be harmed that also sounds reasonable.


jakeCWolf wrote:
Unsurprising doing this by my argument breaks the "Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell" clause of the spell, as dropping your weapon while surrounded by enemies who also have melee weapons out and standing still seems rather harmful. Not to mention picking up your weapon and provoking AoO.

No that is not obviously harmful, 'falling' on your weapons is obviously harmful. Simply dropping them is not obviously harmful, but potentially/possibly harmful. But, I'd also consider what's happened up to that point. Have any members of your party been harmed/damaged in previous turns. Have any been harmed in the current turn or have the minions backed off and allowed the Mind Flayer to use his Suggestion during a parlay? Generally I'm going to make Suggestions much less useful to use once blows have traded unless the foes step back and at least act as if negotiation is an option or similar. Context and wording is very important.

Paizo Employee Customer Service Representative

Removed a post and its reply. The commentary, although I recognized it was for humor's sake, was targeting a group of people negatively.


For some context of where some of us might be coming from here's the old text of the spell from AD&D days (bolding mine):

AD&D 1st Ed. wrote:


Suggestion (Enchantment/Charm)
Level: 3
Range: 3"
Duration: 6 turns + 6 turns/level
Area of Effect: One creature

Explanation/Description: When this spell is cast by the magic-user, he or she influences the actions of the chosen recipient by utterance of a few words - phrases, or a sentence or two - suggesting a course of action desirable to the spell caster. The creature to be influenced must, of course, be able to understand the magic-user’s suggestion, i.e., it must be spoken in a language which the spell recipient understands. The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the action sound reasonable; a request asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act will automatically negate the effect of the spell. However, a suggestion that a pool of acid was actually pure water, and a quick dip would be refreshing, is another matter; or the urging that a cessation of attack upon the magic-user‘s party would benefit a red dragon, for the group could loot a rich treasure elsewhere through co-operative action, is likewise a reasonable use of the spell’s power. The course of action of a suggestion can continue in effect for a considerable duration, such as in the case of the red dragon mentioned above. If the recipient creature makes its saving throw, the spell has no effect. Note that a very reasonable suggestion will cause the saving throw to be made at a penalty (such as -1, -2, etc.) at the discretion of your Dungeon Master. Undead are not subject to suggestion. The material components of this spell are a snake’s tongue and either a bit of honeycomb or a drop of sweet oil.


Let's not forget Command and Murderous Command are level 1 spells.


I bet Ultimate Intrigue has some guidelines for this.

I don't have a copy with me, but someone could probably look. They detailed a lot of this kind of stuff.


Kayerloth wrote:

For some context of where some of us might be coming from here's the old text of the spell from AD&D days (bolding mine):

AD&D 1st Ed. wrote:


Suggestion (Enchantment/Charm)
Level: 3
Range: 3"
Duration: 6 turns + 6 turns/level
Area of Effect: One creature

Explanation/Description: When this spell is cast by the magic-user, he or she influences the actions of the chosen recipient by utterance of a few words - phrases, or a sentence or two - suggesting a course of action desirable to the spell caster. The creature to be influenced must, of course, be able to understand the magic-user’s suggestion, i.e., it must be spoken in a language which the spell recipient understands. The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the action sound reasonable; a request asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act will automatically negate the effect of the spell. However, a suggestion that a pool of acid was actually pure water, and a quick dip would be refreshing, is another matter; or the urging that a cessation of attack upon the magic-user‘s party would benefit a red dragon, for the group could loot a rich treasure elsewhere through co-operative action, is likewise a reasonable use of the spell’s power. The course of action of a suggestion can continue in effect for a considerable duration, such as in the case of the red dragon mentioned above. If the recipient creature makes its saving throw, the spell has no effect. Note that a very reasonable suggestion will cause the saving throw to be made at a penalty (such as -1, -2, etc.) at the discretion of your Dungeon Master. Undead are not subject to suggestion. The material components of this spell are a snake’s tongue and either a bit of honeycomb or a drop of sweet oil.

I'm convinced that this was the case in 3.0 as well. The 3.5 SRD does not seem to include those lines, but I never played AD&D, and I'm certain I've red the vat of acid part before.


The 3.0 open standard did not include the acid or similar examples.

It should also be noted that AD&D was a far more lethal game, so while I personally agree with applying such examples, I can't speak for what Paizo had in mind with the word "reasonable" other than to point out that the more conservative interpretations in this thread render the spell utterly useless.


Especially since Paizo stated that magic is always obvious and you always know when a spell is being cast on you.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
blahpers wrote:

The 3.0 open standard did not include the acid or similar examples.

It should also be noted that AD&D was a far more lethal game, so while I personally agree with applying such examples, I can't speak for what Paizo had in mind with the word "reasonable" other than to point out that the more conservative interpretations in this thread render the spell utterly useless.

3.5 Player handbook text for Suggestion:

Quote:

You influence the actions of the target creature by suggesting a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two). The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the activity sound reasonable.

Asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell.
However, a suggestion that a pool of acid is actually pure water and that a quick dip would be refreshing is another matter.
Urging a red dragon to stop attacking your party so that the dragon and party could jointly loot a rich treasure elsewhere is a likewise reasonable use of the spell’s power.
The suggested course of activity can continue for the entire duration, such as in the case of the red dragon mentioned above. 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 instead specify
conditions that will trigger a special activity during the duration. For example, you might suggest that a noble knight give her warhorse to the first beggar she meets.
If the condition is not met before the spell duration expires, the activity is not performed.
A very reasonable suggestion causes the save to be made with a penalty (such as –1 or –2) at the discretion of the DM.
Material Component: A snake’s tongue and either a bit of honeycomb or a drop of sweet oil.

3.5 Open source SRD:

Quote:

You influence the actions of the target creature by suggesting a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two). The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the activity sound reasonable. Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell.

The suggested course of activity 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 instead specify conditions that will trigger a special activity during the duration. If the condition is not met before the spell duration expires, the activity is not performed.

A very reasonable suggestion causes the save to be made with a penalty (such as -1 or -2).
Material Component

A snake’s tongue and either a bit of honeycomb or a drop of sweet oil.

Pathfinder Suggestion:

Quote:

You influence the actions of the target creature by suggesting a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two). The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the activity sound reasonable. Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell.

The suggested course of activity 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 instead specify conditions that will trigger a special activity during the duration. If the condition is not met before the spell duration expires, the activity is not performed.

A very reasonable suggestion causes the save to be made with a penalty (such as –1 or –2).

As the CRB was written under the Open Licence rules, it couldn't cite the 3.5 Player Handbook, but only what was in the SRD. As the spell wasn't changed from the 3.5 roots it should have the same limitations.


So the CRB did mention the acid part!


Ryze Kuja wrote:
It truly does depend on the entirety of the scenario though. The example I was using above doesn't involve any history of the PvP between the Rogue and the Wizard, and that definitely plays a factor in how the GM interpretation of the Suggestion Target's viewpoint is.

If the Rogue has stolen the Wizard's spellbook, there's by definition a history of PvP between them, even if that history is brief and one-sided.

Any Rogue who doesn't expect violent retaliation from their victims when they get caught wouldn't have survived to be in a party with a 5th level Wizard.


Goblin_Priest wrote:
So the CRB did mention the acid part!

Oh, that part goes back farther than that....

AD&D 1st ed Player's Handbook, Suggestion wrote:
The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the action sound reasonable; a request asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act will automatically negate the effect of the spell. However, a suggestion that a pool of acid was actually pure water, and a quick dip would be refreshing, is another matter; or the urging that a cessation of attack upon the magic-user's party would benefit a red dragon, for the group could loot a rich treasure elsewhere through co-operative action, is likewise a reasonable use of the spell's power.


Oh yea I knew it existed before 3.0, it's just that it doesn't seem to appear in the SRDs, so the question was whether it had survived to 3.x or not. Which is relevant given that PF is based off 3.5.

Shadow Lodge

I might let something like drop your weapons and stand still function as a suggestion if it was worded better, but the subject would obey for one round then it would end, because they fulfilled all the requirements of that suggestion.

A suggestion compels you to carry out the specified action, but not how to go about it, nor does it entirely rob you of control. You get to decide how to complete the action and you can certainly try to complete it in the quickest way you can imagine, using all abilities at your disposal.

A frequently used suggestion is to have someone "go get help," so they run off back to town or wherever their closest allies are. It works great to remove someone from the fight, but if they are capable of long distance communication (ex sending), they could do that instead and fulfill the suggestion.


in Starfinder (different system but same concept) my solider got hit with a suggestion spell to "go back to the ship to get handcuffs" for the prisoner we captured. My character ran off and the caster started fighting while I was away. They took me out of the entire combat by doing that.

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