The party in the game I'm running is being taken to court, in a reasonably big city. I'm trying to figure out what sort of measures would be used in a courtroom where magic is available. I've already established that there will be a zone of truth in effect, that everyone will be expected to allow to affect them. However, I've said that alignment detection and the like is probably not admissible. On the other hand, they'll likely have most of their magical effects/items removed.

Specifically, I'm looking for two main things:

  • Is there anything beyond zone of truth that would likely be employed by the court to ensure an honest and fair trial? Assume access to at most 4th level spells.

  • What sort of measures for security would be reasonable to implement? Mostly to prevent violence or people charming the jury.


2 Answers 2


I would expect courts to make use of detect thoughts to prevent people from fudging about with half-truths under zone of truth. (Also because I don't think you can actually tell when someone has allowed zone of truth to affect them.)

I would also expect someone to use detect magic or its elder cousin arcane sight, just to make sure nobody has stealthy magic powers.

It might be a good idea for the judge to wear a magic item that grants a bonus to Sense Motive. This costs (bonus squared) * 100gp to create.

One popular way to generate a lasting spell effect is with the hallow spell, which is not quite within your "first-to-fourth-level spells" criterion but is very useful for this sort of thing.

Very paranoid court systems will have teleportation-blocking effects (dimensional anchor attached to the hallow, perhaps?) on the prison, and possibly on the trial room as well.

For physical security, I'd recommend removing everyone's armor, putting them in manacles, and hiring a bunch of low-level archers.

Note that, at high levels, the court system becomes unnecessary, because a ninth-level cleric can just cast commune and ask their god if you're guilty of the crime. If your city contains a ninth-level cleric (perhaps the same one that casts raise dead?), and if the crime is serious, that's probably what happens.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There's an answer somewhere about how rare high-level clerics ought to be (aside from adventurers, that is) -- I think the upshot is that there's likely to be only one that level in a medium sized kingdom. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good note about hallow. I hadn't realized that Zone of Truth is only a minute per level, so I'm going to have the courtroom hallowed with Zone of Truth. I've said that Detect Thoughts is too invasive, and so won't be used. Probably going to have people detecting magic at the door and confiscating magic items and spell components until the trial is over. \$\endgroup\$
    – StephenTG
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 19:50

Can you prove that everyone has been successfully affected by a Zone of Truth?

Personally I'd recommend widespread use of Antimagic Fields. whilst this doesn't meet your criteria of being castable as a 4th or lower level spell, it will inherently stop all magical shenanigans.

Having guards wearing Antimagic Torcs (Forgotten Realms - Underdark pg. 73) for 25k gp a pop could be workable too. They would be expected to stand near the Jury, Judge, Defendant and anybody giving evidence. It's also incredibly easy to tell if they are switched on or not at any given time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The caster of Zone of Truth knows who's made their saves, so as long as they're trusted it's fine. I considered anti-magic fields, but that negates the zone of truth \$\endgroup\$
    – StephenTG
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StephenTG As it's not a targeted spell, zone of truth doesn't relay to the caster who succeeded on their saving throws. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Huh, I must have mixed it up with the 5th edition version, which explicitly says that the caster knows who succeeded \$\endgroup\$
    – StephenTG
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StephenTG Yeah, as written the zone spell is a pretty darn terrible method of determining if folks are telling the truth. I'm glad to hear 5e changed it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 20:22

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