A PC casts Suggestion and gives the following order:

For the next fifteen minutes, do everything I tell you do to.

How should a DM adjudicate this?


2 Answers 2


The suggestion spell's caster makes one reasonable suggestion

First, the course of activity Do everything I tell you do to for the next 15 minutes isn't reasonably worded and is potentially harmful. Second, the caster can only suggest one course of activity not several courses rolled into one. In this GM's campaigns, that suggestion spell would fail. (To be clear, from a rules perspective in this GM's campaign the course of activity "cannot be made to conform [to the spell's description so] the casting fails and the spell is wasted"—see here.) The spell suggestion, in part, says

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. Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell.

On the first point, the course of action Do everything I tell you do to for the next 15 minutes is neither reasonably worded nor harmless. The course of action Do everything I tell you do to for the next 15 minutes straight up includes absolutely no reason to obey. Further, merely asking the subject to do something obviously harmful causes the spell to fail. Since the caster has not asked the subject to do anything yet except blindly and slavishly obey, this GM would rule that an attempt is being made to Schrödinger the spell, that the cat is actually dead, and that the spell fails because in all but the sharpest of edge cases blind, slavish obedience is obviously harmful—few would view the complete and utter absence of free will as anything but catastrophically harmful—, and the course of action by default allows the caster to demand at 14 min. 59 sec. the subject's suicide.

Possibly, with a generous GM in the right campaign, a caster could rephrase the course of action to be both reasonable and harmless:

I just learned from a sending spell sent by a powerful cleric that a horrible curse has been placed upon you! You must do everything I tell you do to for the next 15 minutes or else everyone you care about will die! Don't worry, none of my cures for your curse will see you harmed.

However, to reach both the reasonable bar and the harmless bar this convoluted course of action runs three sentences and over 50 words—beyond what this GM views as "a sentence or two," the printed limits of what a suggestion spell's caster can ask of a subject.

(My professional training in the education field has taught me that a sentence's meaning starts to break down after about 17 words. While these three sentences could probably be edited to 34 words, a better basis is probably the sending spell's 25 words, the game not otherwise offering a definition of a "a sentence or two." As an aside, I've read that a lone comic book panel should contain no more than 17 words. With that in mind, imagine if a wizard casts a suggestion spell in a comic book's first panel then drones on about the suggestion spell's course of action for three panels! I can imagine the editor looking at that sequence and saying, "Really? You think that is what readers want from their comic books?")

The second point—that the course of action Do everything I tell you do to for the next 15 minutes is, in fact, not one but more than one course of action—is more important… and insurmountable. Unfortunately, I'm not equipped with the legal, mathematical, and philosophical language to explain why. Instead, the best I can do is through analogy:

PC: I open the efreeti bottle.
DM: Okay. An efreeti issues forth from the bottle, [rolls dice] and it says, "I will grant you three wishes."
PC: "I wish for infinite wishes."
DM: The efreeti says, "Dude, what did I just say? Seriously, what part of 'I will grant you three wishes' didn't you understand?"

Similarly, the suggestion spell allows the caster to influence the actions of the subject in but one way. Therefore any course of action that allows the caster potentially limitless influence over the subject's actions violates the spell's own description. In short, breaking a rule with a rule still breaks a rule. In this GM's campaign, the rule that the course of action be absolutely and only one course of action can't be broken—or even potentially broken—by the course of action itself or else the spell fails.

I know it kind of sucks that the suggestion spell pretty much mandates the GM adjudicate what's a lone course of action, but that's what makes the spell playable. Absent the GM's intervention, the spell suggestion can be inflated to rival or exceed the power of the spell dominate monster.

For example and further comparison, in this GM's campaigns, the suggestion spell allows the course of action You should sign this contract; you'll make a lot of money as that's clearly one course of action. However, in this GM's campaigns, the suggestion spell does not allow the course of action I'm buying you a house; to get it, you need to sign every document I put in front on your for the next five hours as that's several courses of action and breaks the suggestion spell's own rule.

Note: Interested readers can pursue more about genie wishing here that includes a link to this related and amusing Web comic. For more on the suggestion spell in the Pathfinder antecedent D&D 3.5 see answers to this question and this question. (Nothing's changed significantly between the two games so far as I'm aware.) Finally, 15 min. is a weird amount of time to pick as the suggestion spell has the entry Duration 1 hour/level or until completed. If the PC's pushing the spell's limits, he should consider going all in.

  • \$\begingroup\$ We all know the only appropriate response to a creature wishing for more/infinite wishes is to turn them into an (NPC) genie themselves. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 12:44

This wouldn't work.

Suggestion states (emphasis mine):

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

A blanket suggestion to do whatever you say in the coming time would end up being multiple courses of activity the moment you actually provide a command, and that's beyond the scope of the spell. The given orders also run the risk of overflowing the course of activity specified, depending on how long they are, but that's less clear.

At most you would be able to get this to work once, using the following clause:

You can instead specify conditions that will trigger a special activity during the duration.

So a command of "When I say so, pull that lever" or similar would work.


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