In designing a new compulsion spell am not sure whether to follow the cleric tree or the bard/wizard/sorceror tree in regard to spell levels and other rules/effects.

On the cleric side, we have command...

Level: Clr 1

Components: V

Casting Time: 1 standard action

Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Target: One living creature

Duration: 1 round

You give the subject a single command, which it obeys to the best of its ability at its earliest opportunity. You may select from (Approach, drop, fall, flee or halt)

...and greater command.

Level: Clr 5

Targets: One creature/level, no two of which can be more than 30 ft. apart

Duration: 1 round/level

On the bard/sorc/wiz side we have suggestion...

Level: Brd 2, Sor/Wiz 3

Components: V, M

Casting Time: 1 standard action

Range: Close

Target: One living creature

Duration: 1 hour/level or until completed

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.

...and dominate person.

Level: Brd 4, Sor/Wiz 5

Components: V, S

Casting Time: 1 round

Range: Close

Target: One humanoid

Duration: One day/level

You can control the actions of any humanoid creature through a telepathic link that you establish with the subject’s mind.

If the spell will be available for players, how does one decide to which type of caster it will go to? It appears to me that arcanists have the upper hand in enchantment... Why is the power of (insert deity here) not very compelling?


4 Answers 4


The best way to judge what classes should have access to a spell is to compare it to the kind of spells those classes already have.

Wizard and Sorcerer compulsions tend to be forceful in method and drastic in effect: The examples you gave describe subverting the victim's normal mental process by forcibly inserting a foreign thought, and blatantly stealing control of the victim's mind.

Clerical spells, on the other hand, tend to use more straightforward methods of achieving their ends, and often express the role of clerics as spiritual leaders: Thus, the spells that allow them to speak with authority and be obeyed.

As for why the power of Power X isn't compelling... Well, if you look at the ecology of gods as described in, for example, the Planescape setting, belief is the food of the gods - without it, they lose strength and eventually starve to death, or at least enter a state that is for most practical purposes equivalent to death. A follower who only vaguely follows their patron deity's teachings is still more faithful, and therefore more valuable, than an unbeliever magically compelled to serve. Of course, individual gods might have a thing for magical compulsion, but that's not enough for something to get included in the standard priesthood package.

Oh, and like mxyzplk suggests, there's more game design-y reasons for it, too: if Clerics were good at all forms of magic, they'd be far superior to wizards, even enchanters - and playing an enchanter would be much less interesting.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Nice breakdown of the fictional difference. It's a good reminder that mechanics aren't everything, just one of the important things. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25, 2012 at 6:10

Q1: How does one decide to which type of caster it will go to?

A1: Compare it to existing spells, like you're doing.

Q2: Why is the power of (insert deity here) not very compelling?

A2: Same reason wizards can't heal worth crap. Concepts of the different classes dating back to Gygaxian days.


I think this is game balance - clerics already have decent hit die, BaB and I think saves.

Also "Command" can be quite useful in combat - 4 attacks of opportunity out of the blue, plus a wasted move for the large brute with weak will save.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Clerics get fortitude and will, compared to wizard/sorceror will. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Oct 6, 2012 at 5:34

Also, from a pure role-playing perspective, the Cleric/divine command could be more useful sometimes.

The arcane line requires close-range, the Cleric/divine command allows you to do it from as much as 30 feet away or more at the higher levels. 30 feet can be quite a distance.

Also, it requires less materials, when your characters end up in a bind, and materials are scarce, needing less materials could be a saving grace.

And let's face it, what's a good RPG without characters occasionally ending up in a bind?

Also from a role-playing perspective, the divine line does not require your command to be reasonable, whereas the arcane line does; as some creatures lack the ability to reason, no arcane compulsion would be reasonable to them, whereas with divine compulsion, its a divine command they must obey.

For example:

Suggesting a guard to come closer to you as you try to escape a prison cell; or if you already have escaped, suggesting he halt, or flee, while you go the other direction, or let your buddy out, probably doesn't sound reasonable; also, getting him close enough for the arcane compulsion to work, might be an issue in and of itself.

For the divine compulsion, he has no choice, he'll do it as soon as possible, as best as he can; he just received a divine command to come to you, or a divine command to run/flee/fall down; and it doesn't matter if he's across the room, or down the hall, as long as you're in range, you got it.

Depending on the situation, that could be a LOT more powerful.

Divine compulsion also allows a priest to have a guard "fall" or "halt" in a situation, from a distance, say, when you're trying to sneak into a castle. Enough for a skilled rogue to get by, in an instance where he might not otherwise be able to.

Simple examples, there's probably far better ones, but from a role-playing perspective, I definitely see a big boon/benefit to the divine compulsion in a wide variety of scenarios over the arcane compulsion.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused by your statements on range: all four spells mentioned in the question have Range: Close. (Range: Close is always 25 feet + 5 feet/2 levels) Could you clarify? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 11, 2012 at 21:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Compulsion effects are compulsion effects whether divine or arcane. Arcane has compulsion effects as well, just not until higher level - then they last longer. A charm person would suffice to get one free from a jail cell, in most cases I'd wager. It doesn't require a component, either.. Just V/S. It's range is also close. Are you speaking theoretically in this post or from experience? Have you played a divine or arcane enchanter? \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Oct 12, 2012 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer doesn't seem to answer the question of why there's a difference between arcane and divine compulsions, though it does describe an important aspect of that difference that could be useful in deciding what classes should gain access to a spell, so +1 for that. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Oct 12, 2012 at 3:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .