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I'm playing a traitor in a large party during the next campaign. Both the DM and I are working out the details but we can't seem to come up with a solution to the Zone of Truth which is a 2nd level spell that someone in the party may have.

The thought is to tell the party that there may be a traitor among them early on to sow distrust among one another. The only problem is the Zone of Truth which one or more party members may be getting at level 3. This spell breaks everything we're working toward since at level 3 a player can just cast Zone of Truth and go around the table asking them one by one if they're working with or against the party (or something similar).

As far as I know there's nothing a player can do to resist the zone of truth. Is there anything the DM can work in or work with to prevent the zone from working properly or help the traitor from outing himself?

Simply put, are there any methods to resist zone of truth?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @BloodySprinkles please don't answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Mar 25 at 7:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you also provide some information on why you and the DM are creating this traitor storyline? What is the end-goal for it from a story perspective? Is this a redemption storyline for you? Is it part of the DMs overall storyline that you need to be a traitor (and if so, why?) I think we need to understand that in order to figure out how to handle a ZoT situation. When/why should you be found out? etc. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 25 at 14:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ For those answering, please remember that this is not for idea generation. Answers should be supported by actual table experience on what things worked/didn't work/etc. Idea generation answers should be down voted. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 25 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ A warning to answerers. We have a SE rule that you can't just answer with opinion, but that you need to Back It Up! per our citation requirements. We've been closing questions as opinion-based when they get flooded by opinion answers but that makes people asking legitimate questions sad. Therefore, if you get a "citation needed" notice on your answer, it means that IT MAY BE DELETED AS NOT AN ANSWER. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Mar 25 at 16:33
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Zone of Truth is not what you think it is

Zone of Truth only states:

On a failed save, a creature can't speak a deliberate lie while in the radius...

An affected creature is aware of the spell and can thus avoid answering questions to which it would normally respond with a lie. Such a creature can be evasive in its answers as long as it remains within the boundaries of the truth.

This gives whomever is under the effects quite a bit of leeway in answering.

You don't have to divulge the truth, you just can't lie.

But you can twist your words any way you'd like to not be a lie...but to not tell them the truth they are looking.

It's possible a "no" response still isn't lying.

It very much depends on what the 'untruth' is and what it means to you as a character. That is going to entirely be up to you and your DM and it can be made as such that answer "no, i'm not a traitor" is entirely reasonable. Maybe you're not a traitor to your nation, or your family, or to your friends because by being a traitor you're actually helping them. All of this is up for discussion when figuring out what 'being a traitor' actually means.

It's also important to note that whomever is asking is not above suspicion. Throwing that back is always a technique, and a very reasonable one. An innocent person is just as likely to use this tactic.

In order to do this effectively, you will have to work very closely with the DM in terms of your backstory and in terms of what information is given to the other party members that they can act on/ask about.

If they already know the right questions, then it's Game Over, Man.

Yes, they could corner you, but if they've cornered you then they already know how and why you're a traitor. If they're already that knowledgeable about the traitor in their midst, then there is little you can do.

2nd level characters don't have access to 2nd level spell slots.

The spell is also a level 2 spell and would not be accessible by a player character until level 3. No level 2 characters can do this without access to a spell scroll (and they'd risk failure with a DC 12 spellcasting ability check.)

The DM can help

If this is the way the DM wants to set up their story, they can help by providing the uncommon magic item, Ring of Mind Shielding. This item does the following (emphasis mine):

While wearing this ring, you are immune to magic that allows other creatures to read your thoughts, determine whether you are lying...

You can use an action to cause the ring to become invisible until you use another action to make it visible, until you remove the ring, or until you die.

The ring works to prevent magic, like Zone of Truth to do it's job (determine if you are lying) and thus can completely prevent identification of the lie and it can be invisible. Unless they've got See Invisibility active or some way to see it (and to know to look for it), then it's an excellent way to bypass this concern. (Thanks Rubiksmoose!)

Sadly, the language isn't watertight and may still be up to the DM if it will work or not in that way. But if the DM decides it does, and that they give it to the player expressly for this purpose, then it should be fine. If a DM does not think it will, then this is not a viable option.

Player-Player antagonism in a campaign

While not directly related to this, it is most important that your table is open to this type of campaign. If players aren't expecting to be antagonist to each other or actively aren't interested in a table environment of distrust amongst each other, then this may not be a great course of action. Making sure that the table is open to and wanting an intrigue-heavy campaign that includes players possibly playing against other players is something that should be decided at the onset of the campaign prior to start.

You also need to have some sort of (very very flexible) plan for what happens when the traitor (intentionally or otherwise) reveals themselves and now finds themselves in direct and open conflict with the party. Are they ok with their PC dying? Becoming an NPC? etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Mar 25 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ring of Mind Shielding doesn't, RAW, work against the Zone of Truth since it isn't a lie detector spell, it's a lie preventor spell. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Mar 26 at 8:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri I addressed that potential reading in the answer. I don't think it's a given either way. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 26 at 13:41
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The key with Zone of Truth is you know you are affected, and are not required to speak.

All it does is force the words that exit your character's mouth to be truthful. Generally, you are still in total control of what your character says, it won't compel you to out yourself as a traitor.

So if someone were to cast Zone of Truth and asks,

"Are you working against the party?"

you easily can respond with something like

"I'm helping the party, aren't I?"

(presumably, you are contributing in some positive way to the party, otherwise you'd be outed as a traitor for that long before ZoT is cast on you).

So as long as you can spin it the right way, you can usually work around a Zone of Truth. The real problem is when you have a case where Zone of Truth is in place, and a demand that you -only- answer in "Yes" or "No."

If something like that is in place, I would advise to start pushing suspicion towards the caster.

Note, this is touching into Player vs. Player territory, so the GM is also responsible

The big thing here is the results of the save need to be kept secret. The caster of ZoT knows if the target made it or failed it, but not the entire party. The number you roll on that save needs to be kept secret.

This uncertainty is what is needed to protect you here. If there is a risk of a traitor, there is no way to really know if the caster of ZoT isn't the traitor. They might be lying that you are under (or not under) the affect of a ZoT. If you can cast enough doubt on the caster, you can likely shield yourself.

Note that the GM is the final arbiter of truth in this scenario. He could allow that only a particularly narrow view of "truth" be applied, and allow for seemingly untruthful responses unless especially narrow or direct questions are asked. "Are you a traitor" is simply too vague a question, on some level, everyone is a traitor because ultimately they will put something above the party.

Also, don't forget, there is a 15ft radius boundary.

If you're tricky, you could (during an animated conversation) step outside the zone. The spell doesn't indicate that the caster knows you're no longer under the affect of ZoT. Arguably there also ins't a visible boundary you're stepping over, its just a matter of distance in space. Using this limit is exceptionally difficult though, as almost any attempt at using it is bound to blow up in your face, but if you secretly ask your GM to let you try to deceive the party somehow that you are doing this, and can succeed on that, then you're in the clear.

Note this is basically impossible if you're tied up, or required to stand still in the center of the zone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You may also want to point out that getting Zone of Truth at character level 2 is (as far as I know) impossible unless the DM gives them something that allows it. Maybe helping OP clear up character level and spell level would be helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 25 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Why would getting ZoT at level 2 be impossible in 5e? Also, I think the roll results are kept secret to everyone but the caster. \$\endgroup\$ – Howdy_McGee Mar 25 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Howdy_McGee because casters get access to 2nd level spells at character level 3. And that is only for full casters like wizards and clerics. Paladins and the like would only be able to get it after 5th level (if it even is a paladin spell). \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 25 at 15:42
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Cantrip saves the day

Minor Illusion can have this effect (PHB 260, emphasis mine):

You create a sound ... If you create a sound, its volume can range from a whisper to a scream. It can be your voice, someone else’s voice, a lion’s roar, a beating of drums, or any other sound you choose. The sound continues unabated throughout the duration, or you can make discrete sounds at different times before the spell ends.

There is a somatic component to casting this spell, but you could cast when the person before you is being asked, so attention is not on you, or you can cast it with some hand flourishes that appear normal. By establishing your character beforehand as someone that moves your hands a lot this could easily pass muster.

When it's your turn, move your mouth as if to say "No, I am not the traitor" but don't actually say it. Use the Minor Illusion cantrip to vocalize the words. This combined action is doable in the Zone of Truth.

Zone of Truth states (PHB 289, emphasis mine):

On a failed save, a creature can’t speak a deliberate lie while in the radius. You know whether each creature succeeds or fails on its saving throw.

The Minor Illusion trick will work because Zone of Truth works by preventing a creature from speaking a deliberate lie - you will be moving your mouth without vocalizing, so not actually speaking. The sound the other players will hear is an illusion, so not actually your voice, so again you're not actually speaking. The words created by Minor illusion are not you speaking, they are an illusion of your voice.

To use Minor Illusion you will need to be a Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock or Wizard. However if you don't want to be one of these classes you could also be a gnome and you'll have use of the Minor Illusion cantrip as a racial feature.

Be the Spellcaster you wish to see in the world

Be a Bard, Cleric or Paladin (these classes have access to Zone of Truth), when you gain the proper spell level take the lead on planning a way to root them out. You cast Zone of Truth and be the last person to get asked if you are a traitor. End the spell just before you get asked and voila! Answer as you please. You can also sow distrust by claiming that other PCs lied.

Do both

If you are a Bard, or if you are a Gnome Paladin or Cleric, you can have access to both minor Illusion and Zone of Tuth and you can use either of these two strategies depending on the situation. Or use both to really secure your position as an honest member of the party.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The question is explicitly about the PCs casting Zone of Truth when they have it available, can you clarify that part of your critique? \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Mar 25 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch As to the other part of your critique, I've done this and it works. Both as GM and PC. I often play Gnomes just to have this cantrip as it is incredibly useful and versatile. Though I don't see why I have to state that in the answer if it works by RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Mar 25 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I feel like I've covered all the necessary points in the answer. If something specific doesn't make sense I can clarify. Since this is RAW, and I've explained why, I don't want to make the answer longer than it needs to be. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Mar 25 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that casting minor illusion without being noticed is RAW: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/50944/… \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 25 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 25 at 18:49

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