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Provided your target fails his saving throw, the description of Lesser Geas states that it lasts until the target completes its specified objective or, should the task not have a definite end to it, 1 day per caster level. It does not, however, say that the caster level limit takes priority over the "until goal is met" limit. Could it then be possible to force a target to perform a continuous task for longer than 1 day/level by specifying a duration to perform said task longer than that, i.e. "Stay here for 6 weeks" or "remove one brick from this wall every day for a year" or "go one consecutive year without thinking about harming me, my family, or my companions"?

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Might be allowed, but I wouldn't allow it. – Eric B Sep 5 '13 at 21:31
up vote 11 down vote accepted

I couldn't find an official errata, clarification, or FAQ for this spell, so I'm going to use the spell wording and my own explanations as best I can.

If you give a quest that has a definite end, the spell says explicitly:

A lesser geas places a magical command on a creature to carry out some service or to refrain from some action or course of activity, as desired by you. The creature must have 7 or fewer Hit Dice and be able to understand you. While a geas cannot compel a creature to kill itself or perform acts that would result in certain death, it can cause almost any other course of activity.

The geased creature must follow the given instructions until the geas is completed, no matter how long it takes.

If the instructions involve some open-ended task that the recipient cannot complete through his own actions the spell remains in effect for a maximum of one day per caster level.

The thing is that nothing says you can specify how or when the creature can do the quest. You're giving instructions to do something, but this is not total mind control where the target is mindless and just does exactly what you say. A creature under a Lesser Geas is still independent and free to decide how to carry out whatever task you've given.

As a GM I wouldn't allow most of your examples for the following reasons:

"Stay here for 6 weeks"

As per the spell:

While a geas cannot compel a creature to kill itself or perform acts that would result in certain death, it can cause almost any other course of activity.

Just standing there for six weeks would require someone else to bring food and drink to the character, or they die of starvation (assuming they can't create food, but most characters can't). It's also not really a service, although "guard this" might be. In the case of "guard this", I'd consider it an "open-ended task" per the spell description and use the duration limit.

"remove one brick from this wall every day for a year"

This is specifying criteria that the spell doesn't allow. You could say "tear down this wall", and the geas would be in effect so long as it takes the character to accomplish that task (assuming it's a wall they're capable of tearing down, like a wooden fence). By saying to only remove one brick, you're also trying to word it such that the character can't accomplish the task you're giving them, and I'd again enforce the limit.

If it was "tear down this wall" and the character has the means to do that, I would consider that valid. If it's just someone being asked to tear down a castle, I'd consider that something they can't accomplish on their own (again per the spell description) and would enforce the duration limit again.

"go one consecutive year without thinking about harming me, my family, or my companions"

I'd argue that "not thinking about harming me" is not a service, course of action, or activity, and thus not a legitimate use of the spell. "Stay away from me" or "protect me" would be, but those are open-ended and I'd enforce the duration.

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So, how about something like "save my life" (assuming the target is a combat-or-otherwise-capable creature that could actually do so)? It's a definite task, that the character is capable of, but there's no opportunity to do so right now. Would they have to wait until there is? What about "walk around the border of the country five times"? It's a definite task, that will take a lot longer than 1 day per level, that almost anyone is capable of, but will keep them out of your way for a LONG time (unless you're in the Vatican :P). – Ryno Sep 5 '13 at 22:27
@Ryno "Save my life" is an open-ended task because danger in life is literally infinite. Are they saving you from assassins, being hit by a stray lightning bolt, choking, tripping and falling, eating improperly cooked food, what? I'd enforce the time duration in that case, unless an attack happens before the limit and they do save the characters life, in which case it'd be immediate. For the other one, how is waking around the kingdom five times a "service" to the caster? – Tridus Sep 5 '13 at 22:35
@Cobalt If that's how the DM interprets it, than you can make that case. I don't see it that way, but the spell wording isn't precise enough to rule it out. I wouldn't allow it in my game, and I think it's against the spirit of the rules, but there's no ruling that explicitly says no beyond what I've already outlined. – Tridus Sep 6 '13 at 0:16
I'm just trying to find an example that fits what was asked, as well as the new information... Perhaps there's a ritual that needs a crystal to be taken around an area to be warded 5 times. Perhaps there isn't. If you don't have to explain yourself to the geased creature, does it matter? – Ryno Sep 6 '13 at 2:13
You may not have to explain yourself to the geased creature, but you certainly have to explain yourself to the DM. – Eric B Sep 6 '13 at 14:18

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