My party were subject to Greater Command at last night's table, the Fighter and Oracle succumbed. The Cleric, hoping to stop some of his teammates from running away, attempted a Hold Person on the fighter. The Fighter, unfortunately, passed his save against Hold Person and was not held.

I have a few questions within this scenario.

  1. a) Would the fighter have to make the saving throw, or could he fail willingly? My feeling is that he would have to make the saving throw because he hasn't much knowledge of spells or spellcasters, and wouldn't know where the spell was coming from, let alone its effects.

    b) If under the compulsion, though, is the Fighter's mind even his own?

  2. Would the fighter even get a save? Or would the Hold Person be more like a counter spell - and if so, how would that work?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you mean to say that the fighter passed the save against hold person? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Jul 10, 2019 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sdjz That's what I assumed the asker meant in my answer. The question doesn't make a whole lot of sense otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 10, 2019 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan That seems like a fair assumption (hence my question) but you never know, they might be confused about how the spell works or something like that \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Jul 10, 2019 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan you assumed correctly! \$\endgroup\$
    – TigerDM
    Jul 10, 2019 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


There's a bit to unpack here, so I'm going step-by-step.

  1. The foe takes a standard action to cast the spell greater command. The spell possesses the descriptor language-dependent, so the foe communicates verbally in a language the creatures understand the action he wants to them to take if the spell's successful in affecting the targets. The command the foe issues is Flee. The fighter and the oracle fail their saving throws against the greater command spell but haven't yet taken their turns while under the greater command spell's influence.
  2. The cleric, either because he succeeded on a Spellcraft skill check to identify the foe's greater command spell as it was being cast or because of a lucky guess, on the fighter—who the cleric assumed failed the Will saving throw because there's no indication yet that the fighter has succumbed—casts the spell hold person. The fighter succeeds on the saving against the hold person spell.

This may not be the exact chain of events, but it should serve nonetheless. Here're the problems and how to address them.

Identifying a spell as it's cast

An onlooker who sees or hears a spell as its cast can make a Spellcraft skill check to identify the spell (DC = 15 + spell level). What identifies means exactly is unclear; this GM allows the player to read the spell description but not gain any information about what decisions were made when the spell was cast (e.g. an onlooker who identifies a plane shift spell as its cast doesn't learn the spell's destination).

However, in the case of a spell with the descriptor language-dependent like the spell greater command, it's a little more obvious as that descriptor indicates the caster must talk to the targets, often informing them of his desires. In the case of the greater command spell, that's likely the order to flee. Even an untrained nincompoop in a magical universe should ascertain that when a dude chants a string of nonsense syllables then yells at a group of people, "Flee!" that the dude just cast a spell.

Also see this FAQ entry on spell displays that this longtime player finds a reprehensible Orwellian retcon on Paizo's part but that is, nonetheless, part of the official Pathfinder rules. That FAQ entry makes it obvious to any onlooker when a spell's actually been cast without any need for guesswork.

Giving up the saving throw against hold person while affected by greater command

Because of the effect of the greater command spell, the fighter and the oracle each on his or her turn, "moves away from [the greater command spell's caster] as quickly as possible for [the spell's duration]. It may do nothing but move during its turn, and it provokes attacks of opportunity for this movement as normal" (emphasis mine). So, while normally the fighter could voluntarily give up the saving throw against the cleric's hold person spell, here it's reasonable for the GM to rule that the fighter can't.

First, though, you're absolutely right to say that the fighter is hampered in his day-to-day activities by his unfamiliarity with the science of magic (i.e. his lack of ranks in the skill Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft), but the fighter's still an adventurer, and if the fighter's cleric buddy yells, "I'm casting a spell to stop you from running away; give up the saving throw!" the fighter can either trust him that he is casting such a spell and not, like, a destruction spell or something or the fighter can not trust him and attempt the saving throw.

However, giving up a saving throw is still a decision that the fighter must make, and, although it goes slightly against the spell's letter, a GM that rules that the fighter can't even voluntarily give up a saving throw against a friend's spell while under this effects a the greater command spell hasn't, in this GM's and player's opinion, ruled unreasonably. Seriously, the fighter failed a Will saving throw against a 5th-level spell: he could be attacking the party or just straight-up dead rather than merely fleeing. The foe has fortunately prepared a largely nonlethal spell.

Stopping the fighter with hold person while he's affected by greater command

Had the fighter failed his saving throw against the cleric's hold person spell, the fighter would've been affected by the hold person spell. The greater command spell's effect has been rendered irrelevant by the hold person spell's effect. Were the fighter to've been affected by the hold person spell, the fighter would've been paralyzed and been unable to flee in accordance with the greater command spell, in the same way that were the fighter rendered unconscious or dead he'd be unable to comply.

The greater command spell's effect would be suppressed—its duration still counting down but its effect neutralized—while the fighter were subject to the hold person spell, but were the hold person spell's duration or effect to end before the greater command spell's duration or effect, the greater command spell's effect would pick up where it left off and the fighter zip off into the woods away from the caster, following the order issued in conjunction with the greater command spell.


The fighter could choose to be affected by the spell.

He would know the Cleric was casting a spell.

The Spell Manifestations FAQ states:

What exactly do I identify when I’m using Spellcraft to identify a spell? Is it the components, since spell-like abilities, for instance, don’t have any? If I can only identify components, would that mean that I can’t take an attack of opportunity against someone using a spell-like ability (or spell with no verbal, somatic, or material components) or ready an action to shoot an arrow to disrupt a spell-like ability? If there’s something else, how do I know what it is?

Although this isn’t directly stated in the Core Rulebook, many elements of the game system work assuming that all spells have their own manifestations, regardless of whether or not they also produce an obvious visual effect, like fireball. You can see some examples to give you ideas of how to describe a spell’s manifestation in various pieces of art from Pathfinder products, but ultimately, the choice is up to your group, or perhaps even to the aesthetics of an individual spellcaster, to decide the exact details. Whatever the case, these manifestations are obviously magic of some kind, even to the uninitiated; this prevents spellcasters that use spell-like abilities, psychic magic, and the like from running completely amok against non-spellcasters in a non-combat situation. Special abilities exist (and more are likely to appear in Ultimate Intrigue) that specifically facilitate a spellcaster using chicanery to misdirect people from those manifestations and allow them to go unnoticed, but they will always provide an onlooker some sort of chance to detect the ruse.

As such, it is noticeable that the cleric is attempting to cast a spell. Additionally, prior to casting the spell, the cleric could shout out to the fighter, "Don't resist, this will help!" so that the fighter knows the spell is being cast at them.

If we then look at Saving Throws we see:

Voluntarily Giving up a Saving Throw

A creature can voluntarily forgo a saving throw and willingly accept a spell’s result. Even a character with a special resistance to magic can suppress this quality.

So the fighter could choose to be affected by the spell, even without knowing what it is.

On the subject of countering Command.

If we look at Hold Person, it says:

The subject becomes paralyzed and freezes in place. It is aware and breathes normally but cannot take any actions, even speech. Each round on its turn, the subject may attempt a new saving throw to end the effect. This is a full-round action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. A winged creature who is paralyzed cannot flap its wings and falls. A swimmer can’t swim and may drown.

It makes no mention that it counters the Command spell, therefore the fighter would simply be affected by both, and thus unable to move.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "If the subject can’t carry out your command on its next turn, the spell automatically fails." - wouldn't counter it, but would cause it to break. Greater Command lasts for multiple rounds, but did not modify the text about the spell breaking. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Jul 10, 2019 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden Your assessment is incorrect. The spell only fails if you give the creature(s) a command they cannot follow (IE Drop when they are holding nothing). Spell failure isn't something that happens after the spell has already succeeded; something intervening does not end the higher level spell. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 10, 2019 at 20:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso is "fails" with respect to spells a specifically defined term in Pathfinder, then? I wasn't under the impression that it was. The only general reference I see to spell failure is the arcane spell failure chance from armor. I admit that I could be missing something. If I am, I want to know. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Jul 10, 2019 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, actually. "If you ever try to cast a spell ... the casting fails and the spell is wasted." \$\endgroup\$ Jul 10, 2019 at 22:56

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