Suppose a cleric wants to question an NPC under the effects of a "Zone of Truth" spell. And suppose said cleric or a member of her party has the ability to strong-arm the NPC into agreeing. Can part of the "agreement" be that the NPC will not attempt to resist the spell? (that is, forego their will save)? This really comes down to 2 questions:

1) Can a creature willingly forego a saving throw on a spell where the description does not indicate that saves apply only to unwilling targets?

2) If a creature agrees to forego a saving throw, would it be possible to tell if they actually tried (or more importantly actually succeeded) a save?

And one more:

Is the answer different if the "request" is not made under duress? Suppose the NPC truly wants the cleric to believe him, and is willing to be questioned under "Zone of Truth" to convince him that he's telling the truth.


1 Answer 1

  1. Can a creature willingly forego a saving throw versus a spell?
    If the creature is targeted by a spell that allows a saving throw, the creature can choose to fail that saving throw.

    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. (q.v. PH 177)

    The same rules apply to saving throws versus psionic powers.

  2. Does the caster know, after a creature makes its saving throw versus the caster's spell, if the creature's saving throw succeeded or failed?
    The caster knows the creature's saving throw succeeded and his spell failed unless the spell is an area spell.

    Succeeding on a Saving Throw
    [I]f a creature’s saving throw succeeds against a targeted spell you sense that the spell has failed. You do not sense when creatures succeed on saves against effect and area spells. (q.v. PH 177)

    By inference, then, the caster of a non-area spell knows the creature's saving throw failed and his spell succeeded if the caster doesn't sense the creature's saving throw succeeded.

    Thus the spell zone of truth, for example, doesn't give the caster feedback, while the spell discern lies does.

  3. If a creature claims it will to forego a saving throw then doesn't, does the caster know if the creature made the saving throw?
    No. The caster can only determine the saving throw's success or failure. He can't determine if the saving throw's failure is due to either voluntarily failure or a bad die roll.

  4. Are these answers different if the creature is forced to fail his saving throw via bribery, intimidation, mind control, or persuasion?
    No. The reason for the creature's voluntary failure doesn't matter to the game system.

Opinion: Personally, I find it repugnant to strongarm creatures into failing saving throws. Although this is a game about going into folks' home, murdering them, and taking their stuff, there's often at least a thin veneer of heroism slapped on the proceedings. Forcing a creature to fail a saving throw, essentially, asks the creature--usually on threat of death if the creature refuses--to volunteer to become another's slave or test subject after the creature's already been defeated... when the creature's defeat is usually sufficient for victory. A case can be made for special circumstances ("We must or the kingdom is doomed!"), but that doesn't mean I find anything heroic about it. As DM, it makes me feel icky when players do such things as that nearly forces me to go all Golden Rule on the PCs. I'm already playing the monsters; don't make me become one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The PH, but, yes, I'll add page numbers; the links go to the System Resource Document, a medium often easier to reference here. I included personally because I've seen so many ruthless players get what they want after a creature's surrender then kill the creature anyway; if you've players of a different stripe, keep them. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2, 2014 at 5:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tack Abbey casts discern lies on Bill. Abbey knows her spell mandates a saving throw. Upon Bill's success, she knows Bill's succeeded as per the text. Upon Bill's failure, Abbey knows Bill's failed because she doesn't feel him succeed. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2, 2014 at 7:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan No, Abbey knows that Bill either attempted the save and failed or did not attempt the save. OP wants to know if Abbey can specifically tell whether Bill tried to resist. Under the rules, an intentional failure is indistinguishable from an unintentional one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tack
    Jul 2, 2014 at 8:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JackLesnie Can you link to a multi-part complex answer that you find well formatted? You've dinged me on this before, so I'm really trying to improve readability not impair it. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2, 2014 at 21:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ The caster can not discern immediately, if the Person tried a saving roll and failed. But he could just ask them "did you just try to resist?" And if the spell succeeded he will know the truth from the answer! \$\endgroup\$
    – Falco
    Jul 3, 2014 at 8:02

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