Let's say I used Dominate Person on an enemy spellcaster and they failed their save. Should I be able to know what spells they can use? If not, should I still be able to order something like

blast this creature with your strongest offensive spell

and retain control over, for example, the exact space this spell (e.g. Fireball) will affect so it doesn't hurt my friends?

I am referring to this part of the spell:

You can use your action to take total and precise control of the target. Until the end of your next turn, the creature takes only the actions you choose, and doesn't do anything that you don't allow it to do. During this time you can also cause the creature to use a reaction, but this requires you to use your own reaction as well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Some metagamer: "Read your entire stat block to me." The DM: "Okay, you sit out this fight. Oh, and the domination wore off. Roll a Wisdom save." \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2023 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MindwinRememberMonica Wouldn't even take a metagamer. "Tell me what you can do"--you would find out but the dominate would be used up in the process. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2023 at 15:29

3 Answers 3


This question really got me thinking because I had assumed that Anagkai's logical answer was just the way it was done. But seeing the question up there made me think it about more, and I don't think the assumption of full knowledge is correct.

Total and Precise Control isn't Total Knowledge

The above is my main thesis here. You can have total and precise control of a creature, but not have total knowledge of what it can do or what it knows.

I can absolutely take control of a creature and be able to force it to do precise things, but if I don't know that it can do precise thing X, then I can't force it to do it.

If the spell also granted total knowledge of a creature's abilities (and/or other general knowledge), then it would likely say so - but it doesn't. It also would make this question about using Dominate Person in interrogation moot as the caster would immediately know the information if they were granted Total Knowledge of the target.

General commands vs Total and Precise Control

The spell gives clear examples of what a general command is:

Attack that creature

In this case, it's a very generic command. No specific weapon, no specific riders, just 'attack'. And I've had players dominated who opted to attack with their fists.

Now, if the caster wanted Total and Precise Control, they could do that and have the creature attack with their great weapon. The next question is, what if the target also had the Great Weapon Master feat? Would the caster know this and be able to use their Total and Fine control?

What does the caster know?

The spell also has the clause that there is a telepathic link with the target. Does this link provide a path to the knowledge of a creature?

Telepathy is defined in the MM and DMG:

Telepathy is a magical ability that allows a monster to communicate mentally with another creature within a specified range. The contacted creature doesn’t need to share a language with the monster to communicate in this way with it, but it must be able to understand at least one language. A creature without telepathy can receive and respond to telepathic messages but can’t initiate or terminate a telepathic conversation.

This is purely a communication method - your means of commanding the target. It is not a pathway into their mind or knowledge.

Knowledge is knowledge

Dominate X spells do not grant you knowledge, they grant you control.

If they were to grant you any knowledge, then it's granting you access to all. Do you know what spells they know? Do you know how many slots are left? Do you know who they work for? Do you know if they don't trust one of their companions? Do you know if they are exhausted? Or how many hit points they have left?

To assume that there is a hidden rule that you know some things but not all things, and that there is no guidance as to how to tell the difference, is a bridge too far for me.

The caster's knowledge of the target is what matters here because that is the information they will use to command them. And they only know what they have seen/heard/discovered (or what you as GM choose to tell them.)

Let the table figure it out

This also gives the players an opportunity to have used any prior scouting or preparation in learning about their targets to full advantage. Or if this isn't the first action in the combat, they may have already seen what the target can do.

As a GM, you can also use the same as a potential opportunity to impart something important that may just have been at top of mind and thinking 'aloud'. Fluffing the description of the domination with some key information that moves the story or scene forward is always a nice addition to an encounter.

So why cast it?

To clarify, not having full knowledge isn't a nerf to the spell. Taking Total and Precise Control over a creature is a Big Deal. This isn't just some wave your hand and make it go hit something, this is full on puppeteer and you've got yourself a meat-puppet. That's incredibly powerful - both in combat and out. This spell is absolutely still worth it even if you don't get full knowledge of what's in the target's noggin.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Anagkai I'm separating out knowledge from control and showing the difference through the question about interrogation. What makes it extreme? I'm trying to show there is no amount of known knowledge, it's all based on what the caster already knows. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 13, 2023 at 17:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Knowledge of capabilities != Knowledge of all info the person knows. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Apr 13, 2023 at 17:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Knowledge = knowledge. I'm saying they know nothing beyond their own knowledge. If you're saying they know something, please explain how they know that :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 13, 2023 at 17:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Anagkai A target is capable of telling me where their secret gold is, the gold that only they know about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Axoren
    Apr 13, 2023 at 17:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...for a second, I thought that "Anagkai's Logical Answer" was a spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vorbis
    Apr 14, 2023 at 7:49

Taking total and precise control requires precise knowledge of capabilities

It is evident that the spell description is silent on the specific knowledge provided. Additionally, Dominate Person and other analogous spells are Enchantement while spells like Detect Thoughts are Divination. The first and general part of the spell description allows you to

issue commands to the creature [...] which it does its best to obey. You can specify a simple and general course of action, such as Attack that creature, Run over there, or Fetch that object

This is already enough for your example of blasting a creature. If you say

blast that creature without hurting me or my buddies

the best a controlled spellcaster can do is using a strong spell for the purpose. However, this does not require you (the dominator) to know what spells the dominator has.

Now comes the part of the spell description you cite, especially where it says you

take total and precise control of the target

and the dominated

takes only the actions you choose

Take only Actions you choose could be read as you can choose the Cast a Spell Action without knowing the available spells. However, this is already offered by the first general part of the spell and this second part is clearly worded in a way that indicates it gives more control. Total and precise is a very strong wording as far as the quality of the control is concerned. This level of control cannot be reasonably exercised without knowing a good deal about the capabilities of the dominated. The spell description doesn't make sense without this knowledge so we should assume that it is given without an explicit statement of this fact.

Knowledge of capabilities includes spells known or approximately how far the person would be able to jump. It would not include other information if it is not needed to use these capabilities, e.g. where did the person learn or train to do such a thing.

You can force the dominated to disclose information

Since you control the person and they do their best to follow your commands, mandating that they inform you about spells they know is always an option even without taking total control. Own known spells is information available to a spellcaster so they would be able and forced to tell you about those.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 13, 2023 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're assuming that "total and precise control" implies that remote piloting / puppeting can make full use of a creature's magical abilities (and mundane dexterity). I guess it's also partly a question of whether it's "total and precise" in the narrative only (e.g. you have to put mental effort into each finger of their grip), or for players at the table stating their precise actions but letting the creature in-world make the physical movements of moving their arms to swing a sword to attack, and defend themselves. (Some of this is got discussed by @NautArch in chat; I'll post there, too.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2023 at 6:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your answer captures most of what I'd want to say on the subject, but I think "knowledge" may be an ambiguous terms in this case as it can be associated with active learning and stored memories -or- it can refer to an intuitive awareness where no memory recall is needed. When the caster takes precise control of the target, he chooses its actions, which inherently requires being "aware" of what actions or capabilities the target currently has. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2023 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ The spell Modify Memory makes a useful counter case to support your position, since I could target a wizard and make him completely forget the "knowledge" that he studied and prepared the spell "Detect Thoughts" last night. But nothing in the spell description gives it the power to strip the target of prepared spells or any other type of action. Even though the target can't remember doing studying it, the target remains inuitively aware that he is prepared to cast Detect Thoughts. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2023 at 19:26

It's about Telepathy

The wording of the spell states that:

... While the target is charmed, you have a telepathic link with it...[as long as you're on the same plane of existance]

Using the Telepathic Feat in Tasha's as our base understanding of what Telepathy is, then it allows you the telepath to speak into someone elses mind and be understood, but not for them to communicate back to you.

This definition of telepathy seems to best match the one we have hear in Dominate Person:

You can use this telepathic link to issue commands to the creature while you are conscious (no action required), which it does its best to obey. You can specify a simple and general course of action, such as Attack that creature, Run over there, or Fetch that object...

So far, so reasonable. If it wasn't a mind control spell then its within the bounds of something you could plausibly shout at someone and expect them to do with sheer force of personality.

As you've noted, this is where you hit an impasse with the RAW and with the implications of the spell.

You can use your action to take total and precise control of the target. Until the end of your next turn, the creature takes only the actions you choose, and doesn't do anything that you don't allow it to do. During this time, you can also cause the creature to use a reaction, but this requires you to use your own reaction as well.

This suggests that you know all the skills, spells and available actions of the dominated creature. Pure RAW, my reading is that you don't know any of this, you can instruct the dominated creature to "attack with the strongest weapon you have and don't hurt me or my buddies" and that person might then be able to use their own interpretation as "i'll do a fireball" but we're veering into opinion.

Perhaps if you're a few rounds into a combat you'd have a sense of if they're a magic user and could say "attack with a spell" or you might be able to argue that someone really attempting this would be able to infer from your armour or weapons choices if you're primarily a caster, and to instruct accordingly to "Attack with a spell" versus "attack with that massive axe in your hands" but that is of course, just supposition and down to you and your DM to argue about.

For me, it feels like a case of the spirit of the spell is that you gain that knowledge, but the written ruling of the spell is that you don't.


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