The question "NPC casting Suggestion on PC: who decides it's reasonable?" gets at the issue of who decides what is reasonable when a Suggestion spell is cast.

Other questions try to get at "How do I decide what is a "reasonable" Suggestion?" - but the level of abstraction of the discussion seemed to leave it as relying on too much opinion to have an allowed answer.

As a result, we are attempting to ask a question on Suggestion for a specific scenario to see if a more definitive answer can be reached.

We recently faced a band of five Yuan-ti which can cast Suggestion 3x per day. The DM used this cache of fifteen Suggestion spells to tell our party over multiple rounds to "sleep" in order to capture us. It was overwhelming. We didn't have enough Counterspells and Dispel Magic spells to resist.

In an upcoming session, our party is soon going to enter the Yuan-ti's lair. It is almost inevitable we will face this tactic again with even more Yuan-ti with even more Suggestion spells. In some ways, we were lucky last time because the Yuan-ti let us escape. This time, they won't let us live. There is a risk of a TPK.

Suggestion as a spell says that the action must be considered reasonable.

Is the Suggestion to "sleep" during combat ever reasonable? Technically a PC probably cannot fall asleep at will - so the PC will simply try to sleep - but the effect is the same in that they are taken out of combat.

Adding to that risk is the inability to reverse it even if the risk increases. Jeremy Crawford has ruled that the suggestion only has to be reasonable at the time it was cast. Thus the PC will be trying to get to sleep until they can for up to the next eight hours (see Sage Advice).

Is there agreement that Suggestion can always be worded in such a way that it is reasonable for a PC (or NPC) to be taken out of combat (i.e. despite definite risk to life and limb) by trying to sleep?

Or is there agreement that in all cases where a clear connection between definite risk to life and limb can be drawn that a Suggestion to try to sleep is not reasonable? (In which case - we can rule out that "sleep" is a reasonable Suggestion during combat.)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure whether "clear connection between definite risk to life and limb" is define well enough for an answer. Is sleeping in a yuanti lair a risk? yes but not the same as sleeping right next to an angered yuanti malison \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 16 '18 at 6:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Who are they fighting? Guards that want to jail them for a week for some minor crime or cannibals that want to eat them? \$\endgroup\$ – Ling Mar 16 '18 at 6:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ling They are fighting Yuan-ti. "This time, they won't let us live. There is risk of a TPK." \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Mar 16 '18 at 6:18
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Ling According to SevenSidedDie, one of the highest ranked admins for rpg.stackexchange.com, the question just frames the issue whereas the text should be the actual question. Capturing all the nuance in the question seemed to clutter it needlessly so we just kept it high level. That said, consider the title question aspirational. We would like to see an answer that goes all the way up to the title question - but expect we will only be able to get an answer at the level of detail noted in the question's text. \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Mar 16 '18 at 7:55
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Also a duplicate rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/117612/… \$\endgroup\$ – John Nov 29 '20 at 15:20

Probably not.

Suggestion will only cause people to do what they would do if they thought the idea was their own.

As you've surmised, simply being told to sleep will not make a character instantly fall asleep on the spot - they would simply attempt to do so to the best of their ability. However, I would argue that trying to immediately lie down on the ground and sleep right where they are is beyond its powers as well; that would fall under the Command spell.

Just remember, a suggestion is only a suggestion; the exact method of execution is still up to the victim and would be relatively normal means.

If told to "sleep", most people would not immediately collapse, but rather would go through the whole ritual of preparing for sleep - they would make camp, take off their armor, and try to use a proper bed or bedroll if possible. This would be an extended process that could take many minutes, not a split second. This extended nature would make it much more difficult to be useful the way the enemies were using it, and/or might make it less reasonable to the target.

  • 16
    \$\begingroup\$ Or in other words: Casting a "Suggestion to sleep" in combat might have the effect that the target now suddenly doubts that they can win this fight without having a good night of sleep before. So they might retreat and look for a safe place to rest. But they won't try to sleep right here and there. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Mar 16 '18 at 13:16
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ They might even continue fighting. After all, who can sleep with all this racket? Better quiet everyone down here, or I'll never get any shuteye. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Mar 16 '18 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ A relevant tweet by rules designer Jeremy Crawford from December 2017: "The suggestion spell allows you to compel someone to pursue a course of activity. You could, for example, tell them to go to sleep. That doesn't knock them out; it causes them to try to go to sleep naturally. It isn't magical slumber." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 29 '20 at 8:00


Specifically, it is reasonable whenever it's the sort of thing your character would reasonably do in that situation, which it's up to you to decide. More concretely, sleeping in combat might be a reasonable suggestion if your character has magic combat powers they need to sleep to use, or is so confident in their defenses they see no issue in going to sleep in the middle of a pitched battle (e.g. they are subject to the invulnerability spell and are sitting on a pile of invulnerability glyph of wardings with some extra contingent invulnerability and a similar pile of 9th level globes of invulnerability.

However, just because sleeping in combat might possibly sometimes possibly be a reasonable suggestion doesn't mean it's actually reasonable in the situation you're asking about. Whenever the DM uses suggestion on a player, the DM is responsible for providing a suggestion that sounds reasonable. If the suggestion doesn't sound reasonable, the spell can't be cast in the first place. If the suggestion is worded reasonably but seems obviously harmful, the spell is supposed to end immediately without effect. This means a command to sleep issued during combat with a reasonable character shouldn't be possible in the first place and if it were somehow issued it ought to end immediately. Your DM is running suggestion like command, but suggestion isn't command and you can't just make people do things with it that way.

That said, the same things that can be used to counter excessive use of the command spell (i.e. clear, strong characterization such that specific undesired commands constitute direct emotional harm) can presumably be used here as well.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is pretty solid, but would benefit from the rules passage that supports your point. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 16 '18 at 12:15
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps add that if the first character attempts to sleep and harm somehow comes to him, subsequent Suggestions to the other characters and especially that same character should fail because they would no longer consider it reasonable, even if the first attempt seemed reasonable at the time. Additionally, your party could take a short/long rest immediately before entering the lair, so sleeping again could seem unreasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – Phlucious Mar 16 '18 at 15:47
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Not only that, but suggestion tries to manipulate a character's choices--and while one might try to bed down, actually going to sleep in the middle of a battle is probably just plain not happening (noise, adrenaline, etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Mar 17 '18 at 6:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ A relevant tweet by rules designer Jeremy Crawford from December 2017: "The suggestion spell allows you to compel someone to pursue a course of activity. You could, for example, tell them to go to sleep. That doesn't knock them out; it causes them to try to go to sleep naturally. It isn't magical slumber." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 29 '20 at 8:01

Suggestion is about making the command seem reasonable. Here are some examples from Jeremy Crawford:

Suggestion examples: "Flee! A dragon comes." "Don't attack; I intend no harm." "Your sword is cursed. Drop it."

So, how do make "sleep" seem reasonable in combat? How about, "That arrow you just got hit with is covered in sleeping potion. You're going to fall asleep now," or "I think we've settled our issues, we're all friends now, and you look tired. Why don't you have a little nap." If those pass muster is up to the DM, and before you say that none of those sound reasonable, ever, consider the effects suggestions have on us even without magic. For instance, in 1518, there was an instance of Dancing Plague.


Possibly, but...

Reasonableness is subjective. The Yuan-ti should probably give some justification of why you should sleep, but there are many ways they could do so (see other answers have given good examples).

However, I disagree with one element of your statement: you said "Thus the PC will be trying to get to sleep until they can for up to the next eight hours." Depending on the instructions, this is not necessarily true.

If the Yuan-ti instructed you to "go to sleep", then as soon as you fell asleep the spell would be over. After all:

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. (PHB, p. 279).

Suggestion could definitely still take a character out of a fight (which it could always do, if the suggestion was to travel to somewhere remote, or look for something that won't be found), but it won't necessarily keep them immobilized for the full eight hours. And if even one of the party members is free willed and awake while the others are asleep, that member could wake the others and end the spell upon them (since they were told to sleep, and have slept).

The Yuan-ti could try and get around this (telling you to "get a good night's sleep" or "get a full eight hours of sleep"), but as you've described it, the instructions are vague enough that they may not have the intended effect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention the issue of some party members making saving throws ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 16 '18 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's what I meant by "if even one of the party members is free willed and awake". Of course, they will need to stay upright until the party members under the effect of Suggestion have actually fallen asleep. Which could take a while. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Mar 16 '18 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme We actually agree - though perhaps the statement doesn’t read as intended. The text “the PC will be trying to get to sleep until they can for the next 8 hours” meant that the “until they can” sleep would mean that they would stop trying when they finally “can” sleep. \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Mar 18 '18 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ A relevant tweet by rules designer Jeremy Crawford from December 2017: "The suggestion spell allows you to compel someone to pursue a course of activity. You could, for example, tell them to go to sleep. That doesn't knock them out; it causes them to try to go to sleep naturally. It isn't magical slumber." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 29 '20 at 8:02

First, remember rule 0: The DM is always right! When the DM says that in their campaign Suggestion can duplicate the effect of the Sleep spell, then it can. But you might warn your DM that you might attempt the same thing later and will expect it to work just as well.

But if you really want to play this by the rules, then I have to disappoint you. It is one of those spells which are intentionally vague and open to interpretation so you have to resolve them through role-playing. Different people (players and player-characters) have different ideas of what's reasonable in what situation and what is not. How to resolve this is up to the group, and according to Rule 0, the DM has the last word.

But if you would like to discuss this, then you might want to point out that "Sleep!" is a command, not a suggestion. "You should take a Long Rest before you engage these enemies" would be a suggestion, and IMO an entirely reasonable one under most circumstances. "This dungeon floor looks really comfortable and these nice Yuan-ti will guard you while you sleep. You should take a nap here and now." would also be a suggestion, but a slightly less reasonable one. Still not completely unreasonable, especially if the Yuan-ti have not yet performed any violent actions.

When the DM clarified what the Yuan-ti are actually suggesting, then you can discuss if this is a reasonable suggestion and how your characters would act it out.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I thought rule 0 was to have fun. \$\endgroup\$ – M C Mar 16 '18 at 19:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @MC I've jokingly called that rule -1. That the GM may always be right, but the players will leave when the game isn't fun. More seriously, I disagree. The DM is not always right. There are times in a session when you don't want to drag the game down with complicated rules, but between sessions, I'd have no problem with telling the GM he's wrong about suggestion. He would still be free to house-rule suggestion to be this powerful, but it should be a house-rule. Also, if suggestion is this powerful, I encourage the party to start using suggestion for themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – Patrick M Mar 17 '18 at 9:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I see how @PatrickM is reading the sentence. DMs are human and can always be wrong. It sounds like he is saying that the adage might be better phrased, “The DM always has final say.” \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Mar 18 '18 at 20:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Praxiteles Exactly. The GM has the final say for what the house rules are, but in cases like this I think that Arguing over what wizards of the coast mean in the official book is reasonable. That rule zero only applies if the GM is willing to claim that this is a house rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Patrick M Mar 19 '18 at 0:20

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.