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Protection from Evil reads:

Second, the barrier blocks any attempt to possess the warded creature (by a magic jar attack, for example) or to exercise mental control over the creature (including enchantment (charm) effects and enchantment (compulsion) effects that grant the caster ongoing control over the subject, such as dominate person).

The spell Suggestion is an Enchantment (Compulsion) effect.

However, I'm not sure whether Suggestion would count as "ongoing mental control" or not. It certainly allows the caster a level of mental influence over his target, but the exact choices are made by the warded target, not the caster.

But it is still a form of "mental control", since you can plant ideas in their head that they are compulsed into following (and Protection specifically calls out Enchantment(Compulsion) effects.)

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Yes.

The phrase "including X" means that X is not a comprehensive list of effects.

The only way for Suggestion to not be stopped by Protection from Evil would be for Suggestion to not qualify as an attempt to "exercise mental control over the creature." I doubt such an interpretation exists.

For what it's worth, I believe the reference to charms, and compulsions that grant ongoing control is an intensifier clarifying that Protection from Evil will suppress spells that have already been cast on the target but are still in effect. The examples given (Charms and Compulsions) both fall into the category of long-term mental manipulation.

It is likely that at some point play testers were confused about the interaction between spells like Dominate or Charm Person and Protection From Evil, so they added an aside to address them. Asides like that aren't meant to be all-encompassing, they're simply a way of saying "yes, even these."

Appendix: English Fun Time

As with many bits of rules text, this can be interpreted several ways. The way I'm interpreting it is simply the one that strikes me as following the written text most closely, while leaving a minimum of unknowns.

There are other interpretations that are valid from an English syntax point of view, but generally leave lingering questions. Whether these interpretations are better, worse, valid, or invalid doesn't concern me here. Only whether my interpretation fits the printed text.

Okay, so let's strip down Protection From Evil to a more streamlined version that's a bit easier to talk about:

This spell blocks any attempt to exercise mental control over the target, including effects that grant the caster ongoing control over the subject. The protection suppresses the effect for the duration of the Protection From Evil effect.

I've italicized the controversial bit. The phrase "exercise mental control" isn't defined in the game, so you have to pick an interpretation. There are three reasonable ones:

  • An attempt to exercise control is an action that imposes a condition on a target that forces it to act in a certain way. E.g. casting the Dominate Person spell.

  • An attempt to exercise control is an action that gives a target a new compulsion. E.g. issuing a command via Dominate Person.

  • An attempt to exercise control is anything that overrides the will of a target.

You can take your pick. The first one causes the "but what's this clause for?" problem, but both of the second two line up.

For my part, I choose the third interpretation, because it feels closer to natural language, and I don't like adding rules constructs without purpose.

Let's look at an example. Say I give you a Suggestion, and order you to dig ditches until the spell ends (in 10 hours). Three hours later, the English sentence "I am exercising mental control over you" is a valid statement. Even though I'm not actively issuing new commands.

Now suppose someone casts Protection From Evil on you (and we suppose it works the way I say it does).

The English sentence "I am attempting to exercise mental control over you, but it is being suppressed by Protection From Evil" is a valid sentence, that is in agreement with the text of the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: the last paragraph, that’s an interesting interpretation; I like that. But I didn’t understand what you meant the first time I read it, so I think it could be clarified. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 12 '15 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, your clarification is not what I meant. That was clear. What wasn’t is how that sentence could be referring to such a thing; the text makes no mention of “existing” effects, and is specifically talking about “blocking” (present tense) “attempts to [...] exercise mental control.” Now, you could argue that attempts to issue new commands is a new attempt to exercise mental control, and thus existing effects that would allow such things are blocked, but I think you have to actually make that argument. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 12 '15 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It seems that description of compulsion effects here states that Suggestion isn't an "ongoing control" type of compulsions. For reference. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Jun 12 '15 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp Excellent find. Ace, I’m afraid that definition does seem to nix your understanding of “ongoing mental control,” sadly. I really did rather like it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 12 '15 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kryan Not really. The phrase "ongoing mental control" is still in the "including" clause of Protection From Evil. Suggestion is still "exercising mental control." \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jun 12 '15 at 21:08
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This is a frequent and unresolved debate on D&D forums

RAW, the answer is “yes” (as it is an an attempt to exercise mental control), but that makes the following parenthetical pointless. It’s therefore unclear if it’s really supposed to. And there is just no way to solve that argument definitively and objectively.

Note that “ongoing mental control” is the description of a certain type of compulsion:

Compulsion

A compulsion spell forces the subject to act in some manner or changes the way her mind works. Some compulsion spells determine the subject’s actions or the effects on the subject, some compulsion spells allow you to determine the subject’s actions when you cast the spell, and others give you ongoing control over the subject.

Here we see that “ongoing control” refers to a type of compulsion, a category separate from “compulsion spells [that] allow you to determine the subject’s actions when you cast the spell,” like suggestion.

But again, even though suggestion is not one of the “enchantment (compulsion) effects that grant the caster ongoing control over the subject, such as dominate person),” protection from evil states only that such compulsions are included; that doesn’t mean that non-ongoing compulsions are not included. Suggestion certainly seems to be an attempt to “exercise mental control over the creature,” after all. But then why would you even have the clause that specifies “ongoing mental control” if any form of mental control at all was covered?

For your own table, it comes down to this: Enchantments are problematic.

They are extremely capable of really disrupting a society. Particularly in an urban campaign, which often has a lot of low-level-but-still-really-important humanoids, they can easily be overpowered. Having a 1st-level spell that can provide broad protection from the school for those humanoids could be crucial to maintaining a functioning society.

But in your typical dungeon-delving, dragon-slaying adventure, they’re extremely weak, because so very many things are immune to it, and it’s rare that your compulsion allows you to do much more than just sideline a foe while you handle others. Having a single 1st-level spell shut down the entire school turns an already-weak school into something rather close to useless.

So I recommend deciding this point on the basis of the sort of campaign you are playing, and which of the two above problems is more serious for you.

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Yes.

The RAW is unclear as to what all counts as "exercise mental control," but the way my group's tables play it is that anything that seeks to give you direct commands or makes you take a specific action against your will (suggestion, dominate, panicked level of fear where you run, etc.) is suppressed for the duration of the Protection from X but anything that simply affects your mood (emotion spells, despair, confusion, lesser forms of fear, etc.) is not blocked.

We had to debate Confusion for a while because it is a Compulsion that affects what you do, but it's not directly controlled or even influenced by the caster - as we're talking about a first level spell, all corner cases should go into category 2, IMO. Charm is arguably not "direct mental control," but the spell text implicitly includes all the charm subtype spells so they're in. We take the assumption that the spell text isn't some kind of legal trickery, but a game designer trying to describe the general set of "mind stuff" that the spell should keep back, so similarity is a very legitimate argument.

In the end, your group will need to decide for itself which effects are in and out (death ward is a similar ambiguous spell) as there hasn't been anything more specific established in the game.

The Apparently Obligatory Grammar Section

Here's why I believe the spell should be parsed as

[the spell] blocks

  1. any attempt to possess the warded creature (by a magic jar attack, for example) or
  2. to exercise mental control over the creature
    1. (including enchantment (charm) effects and
    2. enchantment (compulsion) effects that grant the caster ongoing control over the subject, such as dominate person).

as opposed to 2.1 including the "ongoing control" clause.

First, the sample spell in that list is a compulsion. Not proof, but if it was a charm, then the alternate reading would be clearly true.

Second, in the description of compulsions in the Spell Descriptions section, it says

Enchantment

Enchantment spells affect the minds of others, influencing or controlling their behavior.

All enchantments are mind-affecting spells. Two types of enchantment spells grant you influence over a subject creature.

Charm

A charm spell changes how the subject views you, typically making it see you as a good friend.

Compulsion

A compulsion spell forces the subject to act in some manner or changes the way her mind works. Some compulsion spells determine the subject’s actions or the effects on the subject, some compulsion spells allow you to determine the subject’s actions when you cast the spell, and others give you ongoing control over the subject.

The "ongoing control" clause is clearly part of the compulsion writeup. It's not part of the charm writeup, there is no such thing as "charm spell that gives you ongoing control." Therefore the alternate reading is clearly wrong. It's any charm, or any compulsion providing ongoing control, two categories clearly defined as separate (though not really clearly defined as well as they could be per se) in the book.

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