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The Modrons have the following trait:

Axiomatic Mind. The [modron] can't be compelled to act in a manner contrary to its nature or its instructions.

What does this mean?

It sounds to me like nonphysical means fail to make it act in a contrary manner. It is pretty clear that persuasion and intimidation would never work in such a case and since I, as GM, decide on skill checks anyway, that is no problem.

But, does this mean that the modron is immune against spells such as suggestion? Or against the charmed and frightened conditions when they would ask for contrary actions?

Clarification: "spells like suggestion" means spells that can be used to force a course of action, also including mass suggestion, command and dominate monster.

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It keeps the modrons from doing things contrary to their instructions

But instructions are not infallible!

In the general description of Modron's in the MM:

Absolute Law and Order. Under the direction of their leader, Primus, modrons increase order in the multiverse in accordance with laws beyond the comprehension of mortal minds. Their own minds are networked in a hierarchal pyramid, in which each modron receives commands from superiors and delegates orders to underlings. A modron carries out commands with total obedience, utmost efficiency, and an absence of morality or ego.

This puts a greater burden on the caster to make things like suggestion and command work.

An example would be if a a modron was told to guard a door. If this was a normal being you could suggest falling asleep, the door is moved, or so forth. But these would all be contrary to the instruction. It knows where the door is, it cannot move, it cannot be watched if the modron is asleep, etc.

But I could suggest, "Guard the door from the other side."

That is still well within the parameters of guarding the door. So it could still obey the suggestion by opening the door, walking through, and standing on the other side of the door.

Dominate Monster would work similarly. You cannot make them do anything contrary to their programming such as attacking another modron. However you could say, "That modron to the west of you has turned rogue. Subdue it so that it may be reprogrammed."

This means there should not be a blanket statement of "immunity to charmed and frightened". The caster just has to work harder to make it stick.

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This is slightly vague but it's useful to note this general aspect written in the descriptions of each of the various Modron types:

Their own minds are networked in a hierarchal pyramid, in which each modron receives commands from superiors and delegates orders to underlings. A modron carries out commands with total obedience, utmost efficiency, and an absence of morality or ego.

As beings of absolute law and order, this suggests that no form of persuasion or intimidation and so on, magical or otherwise, can deter a Modron from following it's explicit instructions or duties. As a specific feature, this would override spells such as suggestion, dominate monster and similar.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure that dominate monster is merely compelling the creature, if you use the "take complete control" option. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 16 at 10:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega I can see the argument, but Dominate Monster is still an enchantment spell that creates a telepathic link. It seems clear you are controlling the monster's mind to do things, not its physical body, even if you "take complete control". And to me this would be prevented by the Axiomatic Mind if you tried to make it act against its nature. \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Jul 16 at 11:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I interpreted complete control as superseding the mind of the target, making the properties of that mind irrelevant. But yes, this is an interpretation. They should have just written "immune to charmed and frightened" and be done with it. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 16 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Except that it's potentially possible for a charm effect to work on a modron, you just can't use it to convince them to do something that contradicts their existing instructions. IOW, as written I would expect suggestion to work if it's suggesting a course of action that's in line with it's instructions, but automatically fail (with no need for a save) if it would contradict it's instructions. \$\endgroup\$ – Austin Hemmelgarn Jul 16 at 17:49

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