When playing 3.x we've always played that the willing target of a spell can decline their saving throw and allow a spell to affect them automatically. Recently a comment was posted on an answer of mine reading:

Yeah, we're talkin' about protection from evil, which says that "the subject immediately receives another saving throw (if one was allowed to begin with)," yet when the spell marionette possession was cast the target was not allowed a saving throw because the target was willing when the spell targeted the creature!

This makes it matter in quite a few situations whether or not a willing target declines to take a saving throw to which they are entitled or whether willing targets are just not allowed saving throws in the first place. Which is correct?

a 3.5 example is the 1st-level Clr spell resurgence [conju] (SpC 174-5), which says: "The subject of a resurgence spell can make a second attempt to save against an ongoing spell," presuming the creature made a first.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Where does Protection from Evil says anything about "the subject immediately receives another saving throw"? Looking at the SRD I see it simply says it blocks any possession/domination/etc. effects \$\endgroup\$
    – G0BLiN
    Feb 3, 2017 at 8:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @G0BLiN Oh, that's the 3.5 SRD. The Pathfinder SRD is here. I assumed the OP was looking for Pathfinder rules, even though he mentioned 3.X and put the dnd-3.5e tag. \$\endgroup\$
    – MGlacier
    Feb 3, 2017 at 9:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm looking for both, hence both tags. I assume the answer is probably the same given the similarities between the systems but if not that's important. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2017 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a difference - PF's Protection from Evil grants an additional save, while 3.5's simply block or suppress the domination effect. So, this seems like a non issue in 3.x, but possibly a problem for PF (personally, I think disallowing the second save in PF is dubious, might add an answer explaining that if I have the time) \$\endgroup\$
    – G0BLiN
    Feb 3, 2017 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @G0BLiN ...This question is not about Protection from Evil. What makes you think that it is? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 4, 2017 at 6:38

2 Answers 2


Magic (CRB):

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 the creature is a willing target, they forego the saving throw: in other words they choose to fail it. You can do this at any time, for any spell, even the ones that don't ask for a willing participant (although it is rare to willingly fail against a harmful spell).

I don't really understand your entire question. If the subject of Marionette Possession was a willing target initially, and are then targeted by Protection from Alignment, why wouldn't they choose to fail the reroll, too? In any case, yes, that quote is technically false. Willing creatures get a saving throw (unless the spell says otherwise).

That's the RAW.

I suppose there is some ambiguity with the word forego. Some might argue that it means "refuse" or "bypass", and not "surrender" or "yield".

But I think it's pretty clear what the RAI is. And my experience, from what I've read online and heard from other players and GMs, supports this idea. It's also a common (house?) rule that a creature can choose to purposely fail any save, not just against spells.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure where the quote in the question about "if [a save] was allowed to begin with" comes from - but it seems that with either interpretation, a save was allowed... \$\endgroup\$
    – G0BLiN
    Feb 3, 2017 at 9:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ When this answer "suppose[s] there is some ambiguity with the word forego," it's correct that there is, but I don't see how the answer saying that "it's pretty clear what the RAI is" matters in this rules-as-written question. Likewise, although what's been "read online and heard from other players and GMs, supports this idea," and that "[i]t's also a common (house?) rule that a creature can choose to purposely fail any save, not just against spells" makes no difference to the rules-as-written. With that in mind, I'm struggling to see how one definition of forgo is more valid than another! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2017 at 10:25
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Umbranus It's not in the conditions glossary, it's in the spell targeting rules: "Some spells restrict you to willing targets only. [...] Unconscious creatures are automatically considered willing." \$\endgroup\$
    – Topquark
    Feb 3, 2017 at 10:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding your last sentence, I can't see how you would fail a Fortitude save against, say, poison. It's not like you can tell your body to stop fighting... \$\endgroup\$
    – BgrWorker
    Feb 3, 2017 at 13:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @BgrWorker Poison might be one of those exceptions. That and illusions. The (house?) rule of intentional failure should be used only when it makes sense. Reflex? Just don't move. Fort vs disease? Roll in that infectious goo. Will vs mind control? Relax. \$\endgroup\$
    – MGlacier
    Feb 3, 2017 at 16:51

On Magic on Aiming a Spell on Target or Targets discusses how a target becomes willing:

Some spells restrict you to willing targets only. Declaring yourself as a willing target is something that can be done at any time (even if you're flat-footed or it isn't your turn). Unconscious creatures are automatically considered willing, but a character who is conscious but immobile or helpless (such as one who is bound, cowering, grappling, paralyzed, pinned, or stunned) is not automatically willing.

I don't think it's controversial to say that, typically, a creature that opts to make a saving throw then rolls the die then determines the saving throw's result, be that result a natural 1, 2–19 plus the creature's modifiers, or a natural 20.

That said, Magic on Saving Throws on Voluntarily Giving up a Saving Throw only says, "A creature can voluntarily forgo a saving throw and willingly accept a spell's result." This seems to leave but two choices about the meaning of the phrase voluntarily forgo. These are put into context below:

  1. A creature makes a saving throw yet picks a result that fails to willingly accept a spell's result.

  2. A creature doesn't make a saving throw to willingly accept a spell's result.

Such a subtle distinction is rarely needed, but when it is, this GM leans toward #2. That's because the remainder of the game makes it clear—on attack rolls, for instance, and on skill checks—that any attempt the GM allows a typical creature to make has the possibility of success, whether due to a natural 20 or to modifiers that the creature isn't aware of, and whether the creature actually wants to succeed or not.1 And, while a creature can impose upon itself penalties sufficient so that failure is almost certain, the creature's failure—if it makes the attempt at all—is not assured.

The only real way to have no chance of success is not to make the attempt. To paraphrase Yoda, in this GM's campaigns it's try or try not—there is no do and pick the result.

Example for

Creature A that's suffering emotional trauma due to its recent dental torture (don't ask) urges Creature B to cast on it the 3rd-level Clr spell heart's ease [conj] (Book of Exalted Deeds 100). Creature B casts the spell, Creature A voluntarily forgoes its saving throw, and the spell's effect ensues.

Ten years later, Creature A decides it no longer needs the effect of that heart's ease spell and urges Creature B to cast on it the 1st-level Clr spell resurgence [conju] (Spell Compendium 174-5), which says, "The subject of a resurgence spell can make a second attempt to save against an ongoing spell."2 Creature B explains to Creature A that resurgence won't work, Creature A having never made the first saving throw against the spell heart's ease, but Creature B's happy to use an effect like dispel magic instead.

Example for

Creature A that's sleeping (therefore equivalent to unconscious therefore willing) is targeted by Creature B's marionette possession spell. The spell has the entry Target: One willing creature and the printed version the entry Saving Throw: Will negates. (The saving throw entry's parenthetical see below is unmentioned by the spell's description.) Creature A is willing so, in this GM's campaign, Creature A makes no saving throw as it's a willingly target of the spell marionette possession.3

Later, Creature C casts on Creature A—still affected by the spell marionette possession—the spell protection from evil, which allows "the subject… [to make] another saving throw (if one was allowed to begin with) against any spells or effects that possess or exercise mental control over the creature." However, this GM would rule that the Creature A—if awake and not willing—is not allowed another saving throw against the spell marionette possession as Creature A wasn't allowed a saving throw to begin with!4

There's an argument saying that, essentially, a creature is in absolute control of its results if those results would typically seem to be less than optimal.5 That is, a GM may allow a Str 10 Medium creature to deal with its dagger 1d3, 1d2, or 1 point of damage; or allow a creature to declare its attack roll a 1; or allow a creature to pick the result of its saving throw—even against poison or disease!—as long as the result is failure. That's absolutely an attractive and fun position, but this GM finds no support for it in the rules.

1 This question discusses voluntary failure specifically.
2 One of my players pointed out the disturbing and darkly amusing duration of the spell heart's ease, which is merely permanent rather than the expected instantaneous. One can, using the spell heart's ease, torture a creature more by first ridding it of the mental anguish caused by its torture then bring flooding back all that mental anguish! There are some messed up spells in the Book of Exalted Deeds!
3 By the way, the spell marionette possession would've failed outright had it been cast on an unwilling creature.
4 The spell marionette possession says first, "You project your soul out of your body and into the body of a willing creature," then immediately after says, "This possession is blocked by protection from evil or a similar ward." The former spell doesn't again reference the latter, making it the GM's option whether the spell protection from evil can have any effect on the spell marionette possession after the spell marionette possession is cast. This author has assumed the example's GM entertained the more upbeat notion.
5 Just an aside: taking 10 and taking 20 are not a check's results but substitutes for die rolls. The check's result is 10, 20, or the die roll plus modifiers, and a creature may be unaware of some modifiers until or unless the GM reveals the result!

  • \$\begingroup\$ So for you voluntarily forgoing a die roll counts as not having been allowed to make one? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2017 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Not necessarily, but being a willing target means the target wasn't allowed to make a saving throw against the effect. The creature has willingly accepted the spell's result rather than tried and failed to resist the spell's effect. (Much like a creature about to be slain by its foes may either suffer the consequences for not making a Diplomacy skill check or risk making the check and possibly fail. The destination's the same, but the journey's different.) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2017 at 20:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .