The suggestion spell states (emphasis mine):

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.

This formulation, combined with the "language-dependent" tag makes my DM rule that the suggestion must be spelled out loud during the spell casting for the target to hear it (and it is not negated by Silent Spell and makes the spell fail against deaf opponents).

Moreover it means that the target and her friends are actually able to distinctly hear what the caster is asking for, and take that into account. As I read the rules you could just tell some story in the concerned language and don't need to actually formulate the request out loud.

Is there support for my DM interpretation (which he considers to be rules-as-written) or is it a houserule?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I answered your question referencing the language-dependant tag, but it seems you already read that tag, but remain unconvinced of your DM's position. Can you explain further how you come to your own conclusion, so that can be adressed specifically? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually I didn't read it correctly. Reading it makes me agree with half of my DM's position. The last half wasn't clearly explicited and so I edited my question. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe (but am not certain) that speaking is what distinguishes this from the Charm spells. In that case, the target becomes your best friend even if he can't understand you. (Can anyone confirm?) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 21:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you confirm something? From the edit, it seems like you're understanding "suggest" to be a synonym of "imply". Is that the case, and is that an important part of your question? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 22:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme, if I understand you correctly, your alternative is to speak to the target on some unrelated topic (to satisfy having to communicate and be understood by sound), while meanwhile mentally feeding a whole different suggestion to the target, delivered by the spell "weaved through" the speech? I must admit, while that feels wrong (and the spell hints to it working differently), like you say, I can't immediately point to a rule saying point blank that that doesn't work, and will have to think that over. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2017 at 14:11

4 Answers 4


Yes, you must speak the suggestion out loud

Suggestion is a [language-dependent] spell. The definition of language-dependent is:

Language-Dependent: A language-dependent spell uses intelligible language as a medium for communication. If the target cannot understand or hear what the caster of a language-dependent spell says, the spell has no effect, even if the target fails its saving throw.

(Emphasis mine, from http://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic/#TOC-Descriptor-)

Language-depended specifies that the target must be able to hear the suggestion in a way he can understand it - so it must be loud and clear enough to be distinguished by the target.

Only the target needs to distinctly hear the suggestion. If, with the above considerations, you can speak in such a way that the target can hear you clearly, but his friends cannot, you can do so, but the spell itself does not provide for that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme, I edited the answer to speak to that specific situation; is the addition a clear answer to the issue? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would Drow sign language work? \$\endgroup\$
    – jhominal
    Nov 8, 2017 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jhominal, no, because you can't hear sign language. Language-dependant pretty clearly only works by spoken language (whether that is on purpose or desired is a seperate issue) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm reminded of this OotS comic. Definitely not a hard rules setting, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian J
    Nov 8, 2017 at 20:11

If you can think of a way to make a suggestion without speaking, it may work, but the word itself does inherently mean you must communicate somehow. The spell doesn't include any magic that sends the suggestion for you.

If you don't have some supernatural means of communicating the suggestion without language, you're limited to using language, likely spoken.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You must communicate, but do you have to tell out loud exactly the formulation of your request? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is what i was thinking. A silent suggestion should work through telepathy. Or a suggestion spoken on a language that only you and the target can speak. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Nov 8, 2017 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Anne Of course — if the caster doesn't, they haven't suggested it to the target yet. … Or are you asking if the player needs to say the exact suggestion? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 20:00

As others have mentioned, the words must be spoken and heard by the target(s, in the case of Mass Suggestion). They could be whispered into the target's ear.

Also remember that this is a suggestion and not a command. Other listeners may not know that there is magic happening. Suggestion lends it self to subtly.

Think of these words by a shop keeper to a potential customer in a group:

This is a very valuable box. You want the box don't you? You'd pay a lot for this box, wouldn't you?

Any of the customer's friends might think that the shop keeper was just trying to be persuasive and not notice the magical push.

Another typical use is for a Bard to hide the suggestion inside a song. The listeners might not know that the Bard has a deal with the bartender and that when he sings the song about a desert they all get really thirsty.

There are a number of ways suggestion if you apply it with some finesse.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's literally like the famous Jedi Mind-Trick. I actually played in a game where the spellcaster said "This is not the hobbit you're looking for...." \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8, 2017 at 20:57

Yes, you must actually suggest something to the target of the spell. It's right there in the first sentence you quoted:

You influence the actions of the target creature by suggesting a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two).

If you don't "suggest a course of activity", then you don't "influence the actions of the target" and the spell has no effect.

If you just tell a random story in a shared language without ever saying what it is that you want the target to do, then you are not "suggesting a course of activity" to the target.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason why suggesting this course of activity would imply telling it out loud? With the same reasoning as what I understand from you for example Dominate Person ("You can control the actions of any humanoid creature through a telepathic link that you establish with the subject’s mind.") can't be used unless the caster is already able to establish a telepathic link. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2017 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme - How do I suggest that you do something without telling you what I'm suggesting? For example, maybe you could try to suggest that I should delete my answer without saying anything about answers or deleting them. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2017 at 10:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's magic, of course it makes possible things that are not supposed to be! Besides that if you look at an ad for a product X (car, perfume, whatever) it is quite frequent that there is no clear "You have to buy X!" speech, just things that are supposed to make you want to buy X. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2017 at 10:18

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