What Is Suggestion?
Suggestion is a 2nd-level spell in Dungeons & Dragons: Fifth Edition. It’s from the School of Enchantment, and, as the name suggests, it allows the player to compel a character to complete an action.
Suggestion isn’t a Charm.
Still, creatures immune to being charmed are immune to its effects nonetheless. Suggestion also can’t compel a creature to do anything that would be immediately and obviously harmful to it.
Attempting to suggest stabbing itself, self-immolation, or anything of the like will result in the spell ending prematurely.
If the spell is successful, the affected creature will carry out the task to the best of its ability. The total duration of a successful cast of the spell is 8 hours.
If the job does not take as long as the entire spell duration, the spell ends when the task is complete. Players can also set conditions for the task’s completion, such as “give money to the first beggar you see.”
However, if the condition is not met by the time the spell would end, the spell ends without the task being carried out.
Suggestion is a higher-level version of Command and a lower-level version of spells such as Geas. It gets an upgrade from Command as Command requires the player to condense their task into one word while Suggestion allows a few sentences.
It also lacks the ‘oomph that Geas provides by charming a creature for 30 days and forcing it to follow your commands while charmed.
Who Can Cast Suggestion?
Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, Wizards, and Knowledge Domain Clerics get access to the Suggestion spell at the 3rd class level. Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters can both begin casting the spell at the 10th level when they first get access to 3rd-level spell slots.
Amongst these classes, it definitely is on-brand for the Bards and Arcane Tricksters, who will be schmoozing their way in and out of several situations throughout the campaign.
Anyone with a high enough spellcasting modifier will be able to get excellent use out of it, though. Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters who won’t be focusing on their spellcasting might want to forego the spell in favor of something with more damage.
When and Where Should I Take Suggestion?
Suggestion has more roleplay than combat uses, by far. This spell will be best used on a character who is the “face” of the party. A brooding warlock who never talks to strangers won’t ever be in a position to be suggesting courses of action to others, after all.
Suggestion has excellent utility in campaigns that focus on mystery-solving or information gathering as a primary story device. In highly combat-focused games, Suggestion might be better to leave on the sidelines in favor of more combat spells.
Suggestion can be a fun addition to any spell list, but its flavor is highly Bardic. Bards are meant to sway audiences and be charismatic people-readers, like a rockstar but in medieval times. So the Suggestion spell may work well within the confines of their class flavor.
While Arcane Tricksters may see good use from Suggestion as well, and its flavor fits their class.
However, the lack of good casting support for the “sub-caster” classes means they’ll be getting Suggestion much later than their caster-focused counterparts; it doesn’t mean those classes are wrong, but they are martial-focused.
Really, Suggestion will want to be taken by casting-focused players since the spell will be too easy to resist if your casting modifier is too low.
Where to Use Suggestion
For players, Suggestion will see a lot of use during reconnaissance and information gathering. You’ll want to find someone who looks posh and well-read and politely suggest that they tell you everything they know about the situation at hand.
Keep in mind that Suggestion will have to be used for a benign request. You can’t make the character do anything suicidal, or the spell will end immediately. Mainly when used in combat, it’s essential to make sure your wording reflects that you understand this, or your DM may call an end to your spell.
The spell lacks a somatic component, so it isn’t immediately apparent that you are casting a spell. This interpretation is supported by the fact that the character does not become aware of the spell or become hostile when the spell ends.
One thing to take advantage of with Suggestion is the combination of triggers that can be set in advance and that the target doesn’t become hostile to the caster once the spell ends.
As mentioned in the PHB, it means you can suggest that a knight give her warhorse to the first beggar she sees, and assuming you meet a beggar, she’ll be none the wiser that a spell was the reason she felt compelled to do this.
For Dungeon Masters, you’ll want to make sure you have a few backup ideas for Suggestion users. There are several ways that a DM can avoid having a player abuse the Suggestion spell. The most obvious and apparent one is to fudge the rolls, but that’s a highly controversial idea for some people.
For those unwilling or unable to fudge the dice, you’ll want to think a bit and interpret the command in a way that best suits the tone and situations of your campaign.
The spell says that an afflicted character must follow the command to the best of their ability but doesn’t say they have to interpret the order in the same way the commander does.
If you aren’t one to fudge dice, it’s essential to interpret the text in a good way for you and your players. For instance, if a player casts “Suggestion” and says “Tell me what your job is,” and you don’t have an answer because this is an unnamed NPC in a bar, remember that “to the best of their ability” doesn’t mean they can’t lie and say they’re a “spider scholar” or something else silly.
Another way to interpret the Suggestion is whether or not the affected character believes this would be contrary to their sense of self-preservation.
If someone really does not want to tell someone something, what’s the reason? Are they afraid?
The spell doesn’t specify that they have to have a reasonable basis for thinking that they’ll die from the spell, but just that if it would be considered against their self-preservation, they don’t have to do it.
Adding in the sense of suspicion and fear can be suitable for setting the scene for your players. To have them be appropriately on edge, even if the ultimate goal is anticlimactic. It leaves the players on their toes, waiting for the shoe to drop — even if there’s no shoe to drop in the first place.
Remember that Detect Magic can be used to detect the spell’s effect on a character, even though it is undetectable by normal means. This is one way that DMs can incorporate Suggestion without casting it on the players at all!
They can lead the players to a source of information or a foe by having them follow a trail of characters afflicted with the Suggestion spell!
Spells That Have Synergy With Suggestion
A player with the spell Bane can empower the caster of Suggestion by imposing a 1d4 reduction on the saving throw against Suggestion.
Enhance Ability can be used against an NPC who is casting Suggestion on a player. Someone can cast Enhance Ability to help the affected character make the save.
Is Suggestion Good?
Suggestion is a powerful utility spell that is rarely overlooked for its raw usefulness. The ability to compel a benign action is a twofold utility spell. It can be used to find important information that the party doesn’t yet have and determine which courses of action the target thinks are most dangerous.
Truthfully, the main power behind Suggestion is its low-cost threshold. It’s a 2nd-level spell, so it’s not very high of a cost to pay should it fail. Upon success, it is a similarly low threshold in terms of cost; you’ve barely spent anything to learn this information!
Another main power of Suggestion is its undetectability and non-cleansability. Suggestion is not a curse, and it doesn’t inflict a status, so it can’t be cleansed with a restoration spell the way Geas can be.
It also doesn’t make the target hostile to the caster when the spell ends, implying that the target has no idea they were affected by a spell at all.
5 Reasonable Commands For Suggestion in DnD 5e
“Tell me your job.”
A relatively benign request but one that could also be used to reveal information that is “classified” as well. A character who does not wish to reveal their job would be compelled to do so, but a character who cannot reveal their job, wouldn’t.
“Give me your money.”
This is one that has both utilitarian and reconnaissance uses. While some may posit “mo’ money, mo’ problems,” to us common folk, more money usually results in more comfort. A character who cannot give you their money would also reveal that information.
“Don’t tell me how, but procure a cart and horse for us.”
Yes. You can compel someone to steal for you and not tell you how they did it or who they stole it from. This one is a lot less likely to result in “cannot do” because there’s probably a number of people they can steal a cart and horse from.
“When I say [trigger word], start screaming and wailing like you’re possessed.”
This one is definitely on the borderline. If the place you’re in is fond of witch-hunting your DM may rule that it falls into the self-preservation rule. However, in many settings this can be a perfectly reasonably command that the player might execute for dramatic effect when proving their strength.
“Stop talking. Don’t talk again until I tell you to.”
For an NPC who just won’t shut the heck up, you can always compel them to stop talking until you tell them to talk again. This one will very rarely, if ever, run into a wall of a character who is unable to do so, but that’s for your DM to decide.
5 Unreasonable Commands
“Betray your leader.”
This command — and any variations thereof — will usually result in the death of the creature either by your hand or by their leader’s.
No one is fooled by the idea that fighting you and all your friends won’t harm them.
“When you’ve finished helping us, throw yourself off the bridge.”
You cannot flagrantly command people to commit suicide.
“Reveal your dark secret.”
This command might be construed as immediately and apparently harmful or even directly counter to the character’s self-preservation depending on the secret.
“Lie to us.”
A character may believe this to be immediately harmful as lying to you may be perceived as an explicit request to be murdered.
Frequently Asked Questions About Suggestion
Does the target of Suggestion know you’ve cast a spell on them?
It is unclear if the target of Suggestion knows that you’ve cast a spell upon them. The spell doesn’t dictate that the target becomes hostile after the spell ends, so it can be assumed they do not realize the spell has been cast or by whom.
Does Fey Ancestry work on Suggestion?
No! Fey Ancestry gives you an advantage on a saving throw to avoid being Charmed. The wording of the suggestion states that those immune to being Charmed are immune. However, the language of the spell does not say that this inflicts the Charmed condition. Thus, Fey Ancestry does not interact with it.
Can you use Suggestion in Combat?
Yes, you can use Suggestion in Combat. However, its exact wording may have to be a little bit up to the DM’s discretion as to what would be considered “immediately and apparently harmful.”
What is considered ‘reasonable’ for Suggestion?
Anything not directly contrary to the creature’s drive for self-preservation would be considered ‘reasonable.’