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So there has been this meme-story circulating over the internet where a noble says:"Make me a sword" and the wizard argues that he shouldn't get a save against being turned into a sword because he asked for it. I am aware that polymorph cannot actually change someone into an inanimate object but the idea of gaining consent for a spell through trickery intrigued me.

So what I want to ask is, does acquiring verbal consent allow the caster to deny the ability to make a saving roll?

Example Scenario: The group has to defeat a vampire duchess. The summoner pretends to be a mage who specializes in beautifying their clients and offers his services to the duchess saying:"As a display of my prowess would you be willing to let me change your appearance to something whose cuteness no one can resist?" and upon getting consent he casts baleful polymorph to turn the duchess into a kitten.

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Request-based effects: Nope.

TL;DR 13th level feature of the Wishcrafter implies the answer is no.

So, what you want to do is.... cast a spell on a creature when it wishes for you to do something. Luckily, there's already an archetype for that! So, let's see what precedents it implies:

At 1st level, the wishcrafter can use the wishes of non-genie creatures other than herself in place of the normal verbal components of her spells. A creature can make a wish as a free action at any time, even during the wishcrafter’s turn. The wishcrafter must be able to hear and understand a wish in order to use it as a spell component... A wish doesn’t need to mention the name of a specific spell, but must describe an outcome that can be accomplished by casting a spell the wishcrafter knows (for example, wishing to be bigger could supply the verbal component for enlarge person). A wishcrafter...cannot include herself as a target of such spells. She can be affected by such a spell if it affects an area rather than a target or targets. A wishcrafter is under no compulsion to grant a creature’s wish...

Or in short: creatures can make wishes that allow you to skip verbal components. Not much precedent visible here, but we'll see later that it implies some things. How about the 7th level feature?

At 7th level, as a swift action, a wishcrafter can force a single creature within 30 feet to confess its deepest desire. The target receives a Will save to negate this effect (DC 10 + 1/2 the wishcrafter’s level + the wishcrafter’s Charisma modifier). On a failed save, the creature must immediately wish aloud in a clear voice for something it truly desires, allowing the wishcrafter to activate her wishbound arcana ability if she knows a spell that can fulfill that wish. This is a mind-affecting effect. Regardless of whether the save is successful, a creature cannot be the target of the same wishcrafter’s heart’s desire ability again for 24 hours. The wishcrafter can use this ability a number of times per day equal to her Charisma bonus.

Okay, so you can force creatures to confess their heart's desire and cast a spell on them. This doesn't explicitly say it's largely to be used on enemies... but it's mostly to be used on enemies. You'd think it would mention if verbally wishing to be free skipped the saving throw against Finger of Death, but this is a compulsion effect, which makes everything dicey. How about the next feature?

At 13th level, a wishcrafter becomes adept at corrupting wishes to negatively affect the creature that wished them. When a wishcrafter affects a creature with a spell using its wish as a spell component, she may twist the wish, applying a –4 penalty to the creature’s saving throws against the spell. The effects of wishes twisted this way are difficult to remove; the DC of caster level checks to dispel them increases by 5.

And here's the clincher. At 13th level, if someone wishes "Make me a sword," the sorcerer can unquestionably try to turn that pesky noble into a sword, with a -4 penalty on the saving throw. However, clearly it does not forgo the saving throw - and this time there are no pesky compulsion effects involved, either. That noble said, of his own free will, "Make me a sword," and yet the game assumes he still gets a saving throw.

Obviously, DMs can rule otherwise; I probably would allow it as hilarious, giving a penalty of some sort if not automatically failing the save. But if you want to use enemy's words against them in general... there's an archetype for that.

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Verbal consent is insufficient

When a creature's spell comes into effect and affects a victim so that the victim is entitled to a saving throw against the spell, that's when the victim decides either to make that saving throw normally or to opt out of making the saving throw (effectively failing that saving throw).

Normally, what the victim said, wrote, signed, or thought prior to that decision is immaterial. On Magic on Saving Throws says, "A creature can voluntarily forgo a saving throw and willingly accept a spell’s result," but that doesn't mean that a victim can forgo a saving throw in advance.

Really, there's not an enormous gap between the meme and the reality in Pathfinder, but it is more complicated and dice are involved. In sum, the meme:

DM: The NPC says, "Loathsome finger-wiggler, make me a sword!"
PLAYER: I cast polymorph any object on the NPC and transform him into a sword. Now, DM, I know you're going to argue with me about this, but the NPC shouldn't get saving throw because this is what he wanted and…

In Pathfinder, mechanically, it goes like this:

DM: The NPC says, "Loathsome finger-wiggler, make me a sword!"
PLAYER: I cast polymorph any object on the NPC.
DM: The NPC makes a Spellcraft check to identify the spell as it's being cast. [Rolls dice.] Although you're still within his threated area, the NPC chooses not to make against you an attack of opportunity. The spell comes into effect. [Rolls dice.] You sense that your spell has failed.

In that second scenario, it's possible that the NPC failed the Spellcraft skill check. Nonetheless, when the spell comes into effect, the NPC was told to make a saving throw. Thus, rather than risk being a victim of an unknown effect—even if that effect were to bring forth for him a sword—, the NPC makes the saving throw and succeeded on it.

It's also possible that the NPC succeeded on the Spellcraft skill check and determined that the spell being cast was polymorph any object, and that's cool because that could totally bring forth a sword. However, when the NPC himself must make a saving throw, he knows that he is, in fact, the target of the spell and not the rock or whatever that the caster implied would become a sword, so the NPC makes the saving throw and succeeded on it.

The caster can totally talk up the idea that the NPC will have to forgo the saving throw to get the magic sword, and maybe that will persuade the NPC to forgo that saving throw when the time comes, but the NPC can't, like, preforgo the saving throw before he can make it!

That makes the scenario in question plausible, but also risky:

DM: The vain vampire duchess agrees to see you.
PLAYER: "Your grace, I am a mighty wizard and purveyor of appearance-improvement magic. Allow me to cast a spell that will render you even more irresistible. However, the spell requires that you lower your magical defenses against it."
DM: Make a Bluff check.
PLAYER: But I'm not Bluffing! As a housecat, she really will be even more irresistible!
DM: [Sighing.] Whatever. "Get on with it, turd," says the duchess.
PLAYER: I cast polymorph any object to transform the duchess into a kitten.
DM: The NPC makes a Spellcraft check to identify the spell as it's being cast. [Rolls dice.] She narrows her eyes at you menacingly, but she doesn't make the attack of opportunity against you. The spell comes into effect. [Rolls dice.] The duchess is transformed into a kitten. You do not sense that your spell has failed.

In that scenario, the caster doesn't know if the duchess identified the spell as it was being cast and made yet failed the saving throw, didn't identify the spell and made yet failed the saving throw, identified the spell and forwent the saving throw, or didn't identify the spell and forwent the saving throw. All the caster really knows is that the spell didn't fail.

Fortunately, this cuts both ways. PCs are no more bound to their words than NPCs. A PC who verbally agrees beforehand to accept a caster's spell doesn't actually have to when the time comes. Even if the PC swears up and down on his mother's empty grave that he'll forgo the saving throw, when it's actually time to decide whether to make the save or forgo it, that decision is still his to make.

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You can trick them to give up their save, but they need to do so willingly

The rules for spellcasting say:

Voluntarily Giving up a Saving Throw: A creature can voluntarily forego a saving throw and willingly accept a spell's result. Even a character with a special resistance to magic can suppress this quality.

If you can trick her to give up her saving throw, you can turn her into a kitten without her making any save. She is giving up the throw, and the save happens before the effect is determined, so she has no chance to find out what you are actually doing before it is too late.

Saving throws are introduced like this

Usually a harmful spell allows a target to make a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect.

That is you save to avoid the effect. If you forgo the save, you cannot avoid the effect. You however do not know what the effect will be when you make or forgo the save. For example, the rules for Succeeding on a Saving Throw: say: "A creature that successfully saves against a spell that has no obvious physical effects feels a hostile force or a tingle, but cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack." That is, at the time of the save, it is not clear what the exact nature of the spell is -- that will only be revealed when the spell takes effect, either because you failed the save, or you did forgo it.

When you willingly accept the spells result, you accept the spell's result, whatever it may be. This does not indicate you have any precognition what the result that you accept will be. You either forgo the save, to accept it, or you don't.

"Make me a sword"

This of course would not work: the intention of the request is that you create a sword for the noble, even if the wording is ambiguous. There is no consent from the noble to be turned into anything, and if you cast a spell at them, they can and most likely will save against it. There's no reason that she or he would expect or accept you lobbing sorceries on them for the purpose of you crafting a sword, so they would not willingly give up their saving throw, when you do so.

You would need to con them into believing that to be able to craft a sword, you first need to ensorcerel them for some reason, and they agreeing to it and willingly forgo the save. Then, you could let your polymorph any object rip to swordify them unimpeded.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In short, you need to have the victim of this trick, at the moment when they would roll the save, believe that the save is for the effect that they are expecting. This is most straightforwardly accomplished by arranging for the expected effect to be one that actually does have a saving throw for the victim. Fortunately for this trick's prospects, there are many beneficial spells that technically have saves even though knowing recipients of those spells would almost always choose to forgo the save. \$\endgroup\$
    – Douglas
    Dec 9, 2023 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Douglas Yes, exactly. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2023 at 6:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Douglas "Fortunately for this trick's prospects, there are many beneficial spells that technically have saves" - Even that may be overly optimistic. Saving throws are just a mechanic; NPC's don't know about them, they just know that something magic is happening and they may resist it. The rules are likely silent on how this happens, but it's not unreasonable that an NPC might intuitively know the difference between, say, "your body starts to heal" and "your body starts turning to metal". As in, mere verbal dishonesty won't suffice if the true nature of a spell manifests itself in casting. \$\endgroup\$
    – aroth
    Dec 11, 2023 at 1:16
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The commonly accepted notion of consent excludes verbal approbation obtained through deception. Philosophically one could argue if this definition is self-consistent but for the purpose of playing a game it usually is consistent enough. Anyway, it is also commonly accepted that consent can be revoked (for example if newly acquired information makes the situation different).

You could see the saving throw as the target's body/spirit/soul attempting to reject the effect as it happens. If I understood a wizard was going to give me a sword and then strange stuff starts to happen to my physiology, then I am going to resist, the same way I am going to resist if I go to the doctor just for a routine check but then they start turning a chainsaw on and laughing maniacally, even if I just admitted I wanted the pain in my arm to go away.

Now, in your example I think you summoner could get away with that, but it would anyway require way more than a verbal admission by the duchess that they indeed would like to be prettier.

As Nobody quoted from the SRD (emphasis mine):

A creature can voluntarily forego a saving throw and willingly accept a spell's result. Even a character with a special resistance to magic can suppress this quality.

She has the accept the spell's result, not the existence of a spell being cast. In that case she has to accept that becoming a kitten is indeed worth it in the name of becoming more cute, at least at the moment when the spell occurs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That would require target to actually understand what's going on, which means identifying the spell, knowing exactly how it works and knowing targets, ranges, saves. There's a lot of potential metagaming going on in here and I think we can all agree that metagaming is a no-go route. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nec Xelos
    Jan 19 at 0:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NecXelos I don't think so. From my interpretation you don't need to identify the spell to save against it the same way you don't need to know anything about thermodynamics to remove you hand from anything that is quickly becoming hot. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22 at 10:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ RAW you don't get to have an interpretation. No successfull Spellcraft = No idea. Once you feel the spell's effects it's already too late, because decision to save or not to save is made before spell effects come into play. What you're suggesting is 100% metagaming. Btw. if you don't know that something is supposed to be hot (since you have no idea what that is) you have no reason to not touch it and get burned in the process. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nec Xelos
    Jan 22 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NecXelos You always have to interpret when rules are supposed to emulate pretty much everything. Your interpretation is also just an interpretation. There is no such thing in the rule as a specification that nobody ever could have any subconscious idea of what a spell is doing unless then succeeded a Spellcraft roll. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23 at 0:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I am pretty sure the way to use the word "metagaming" isn't what it means for most people. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23 at 1:01

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