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Zone of truth's spell description includes (emphasis mine):

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.

However, this seems like it might make the spell able to be circumvented in seemingly ridiculous ways. For example, suppose there is an interrogator (referred to as person A) and the person they are interrogating (referred to as person B). B has failed the saving throw against the spell.

Suppose the following interaction occurs:

A: What is your name?
B: (Mentally, to himself) I now name my sword Charles. What is the name of my sword?
B: Charles.

A: Did you conspire to kill the king?
B: (Mentally, to himself) Is 2 plus 2 equal to 1?
B: No.

A: Where is the rest of your party at?
B: (Mentally, to himself) Where is the rest of my party not at?
B: To the East.

A: Repeat after me: I am innocent of all crimes I stand accused of.
B: (Mentally, to himself) What is an example of a lie?
B: I am innocent of all crimes I stand accused of.

It would appear, if this is allowed, that it nullifies the purpose of the spell itself without any of the mental gymnastics that would normally go into evasive answers. There also seem to be relatively few checks to prevent this behavior, short of a Detect Thoughts spell being cast simultaneously. Is this allowed?

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No

This isn't how answering a question works. Being 'evasive' means giving an answer that isn't an answer. For example:

"Did you steal the king's crown?" "I've never been in the castle!"

That's an evasive answer and if they stole the king's crown outside of the castle and never stepped foot inside of it, they are perfectly speaking the truth, albeit in an evasive manner.

What you are doing is flat-out lying by asking yourself a different question in your head, which isn't how answering questions works. No sane person in the world would call that 'speaking the truth'.

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Yes, that's called "making the saving throw".

Zone of Truth allows a save to resist, which means that it's not totally reliable. It's a Charisma save, which tells us that someone with a forceful personality (or a giant ego, if you prefer) will have a better chance of fighting it off.

So yes, maybe if you make the Charisma save, you're able to assert your ego and mentally replace the stupid questions this loser is asking with the questions you want to answer. Or maybe you just convince yourself that what you're saying is true. There are many possible defenses.

But if you fail the save, then whatever defense you're attempting has collapsed. The mental pressure of the spell is too much for you. At that point, if you open your mouth to speak, you will tell the truth.

As with all mind control, some players have trouble accepting this, and if you can't, you should say so to the DM as early as possible. "Don't put me in situations where I'm forced to act against myself, because I don't think I can do it right" is a reasonable request. What you shouldn't do is roll your saving throw, fail it, and then announce that you've thought of a cute trick to be immune to Zone of Truth. This will just annoy everyone.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Last few lines are the best \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Dec 8 '19 at 16:20

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