The Complete Guide to Charms and Enchantments: Part Two

This is the second part of a series on charms and enchantments in 5e. As I mentioned in the first post (link), these spells are tricky. It can be hard for DMs to know exactly what they can achieve. Hopefully this article will help!

In this post, I’m going to focus on five spells: suggestion (and its high-level counterpart, mass suggestion), compulsion, geas, and dominate person.


As always, let’s start by looking at the spell description:

Let’s have a closer look, with a particular eye to how this spell is different to charm person.

Close range. 30 ft is six squares on a battle map, or half a ruler. If you’re close enough to cast suggestion, you are already in harm’s way if something goes wrong.

No somatic component. However, there is a still a material component, so you probably can’t cast this while bound or restrained. Interestingly, Jeremy Crawford has clarified that the verbal component of the spell is separate from the suggestion itself:

So you say some mystic words and then state the suggestion. This makes it much more obvious to me that a spell is being cast.

Long duration. Unlike charm person, suggestion requires concentration, but it can be sustained for up to eight hours. That’s a really long time! Of course, you can’t concentrate on more than one spell, which rules out lots of other useful spells like invisibility, hypnotic pattern, and silence. But on the flip side, it’s a long enough duration for you not to worry about the spell running out.

It is language-dependant. Another difference from charm person. Obviously this rules out most beasts, monstrosities, and plant monsters automatically, but if you think you only need to speak Common, think again. There are 267 creatures in the Monster Manual which are not immune to suggestion—ie, they understand at least one language and are not immune to being charmed—and of these, there are 143 (more than half) which don’t understand Common, including most aberrations, fiends, giants, and Underdark creatures, as well as some fey and elemental creatures. So: learn a language!

Now, let’s talk about the business of the suggestion itself.

You suggest a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two) [ . . . ] The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the course of action sound reasonable. Asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act ends the spell. [ . . . ] On a failed save, it pursues the course of action you described to the best of its ability.’

If charm person is about making someone more friendly, this spell is about compelling them. (Confusingly, there is also a spell called compulsion, which we’ll look at in a moment.)

But what is ‘a reasonable action’? Well, this is the OED’s definition of ‘reasonable’:

‘Within the limits of what it would be rational or sensible to expect; not extravagant or excessive; moderate.’


‘in accordance with reason; not irrational, absurd, or ridiculous; just, legitimate; due, fitting.’

The potential here is huge, so I tried to come up with examples of suggestions that seem reasonable. Here they are:

  • ‘Be cautious’
  • ‘Go get help!’
  • ‘Fall back’
  • ‘Take a break’
  • ‘Try a more diplomatic approach’
  • ‘Patrol the area’
  • ‘Guard the entrance’
  • ‘Offer us food and drink’
  • ‘Inspect the basement’
  • ‘Tidy up’
  • ‘Escort us to your leader’
  • ‘Go over there and see if you can find something unusual’

And conversely, some actions that do not seem reasonable:

  • ‘Jump off that cliff.’
  • ‘Give me all your stuff.’
  • ‘Tell everyone your darkest secret.’
  • ‘Set your house on fire.’
  • ‘Here, drink this poison.’
  • ‘Quit this job right now.’
  • ‘Run to the front line of the battle, naked’
  • ‘Destroy everything of value to you.’
  • ‘Stand still a moment while we attack you.’

(You may disagree with some of these. Let me know in the comments.)

Note that unlike with charm person, there is nothing in the description to say what happens when the spell ends. Presumably the target remembers a) the actions that they were compelled to take, which they probably wouldn’t have taken otherwise, and b) the conversation with the caster where the action was ‘suggested.’ It’s possible the creature is unaware of the suggestion effect and does not know why they did what they did, but they would certainly feel a sense of unease or confusion about their actions. Depending on the suggested action, they might even feel violated, and this could lead to hostility or distrust towards the caster.

(Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has rules for identifying a spell on page 85. For suggestion, it would be a DC 17 Intelligence (Arcana) check with advantage if the character is a member of the same class as a the caster.)

As a side note, several monsters can cast suggestion: yuan-ti, most faerie dragons, lamias, rakshasas, gynosphinxes, arcanaloths, and ultroloths. This gives them some fun out-of-combat utility! See my post on the best non-combat monsters and how to run D&D without combat.

Mass Suggestion

I’ll cover this one more briefly.

As the name implies, the fundamental difference between suggestion and its 6th-level counterpart is its scale. It is slightly longer range (60 ft), can target up to twelve creatures, and lasts at least 24 hours (and potentially longer using higher-level spell slots). Mass suggestion, unlike suggestion, does not require concentration. Otherwise, everything above still applies.


I don’t see this 4th-level spell being used anywhere near as much as the other charms on this list. Why is that? It only lasts a minute, unlike suggestion, and it’s pretty much exclusive to bards. It requires concentration, just like suggestion. Its usage is also much more limited: essentially, it forces an enemy to move in a direction you choose every turn. I’m not sure how useful that is; it can’t be used to move an enemy into obvious danger (eg, into a fire, off a cliff) but it does trigger opportunity attacks from nearby enemies. As charms go, it’s pretty lacklustre.


(How do you say this one, anyway? My understanding is ‘gesh,’ although the OED also lists ‘gaysh’ and ‘geesh.’ I did a whole post on pronunciation in D&D.)

In Irish mythology, a geas is a solemn injunction, not unlike a vow or a curse: it might be an obligation (‘you must’) or a prohibition (‘you must not’). I found two examples from fiction, neither of which is explicitly called a geas. From Shakespeare: ‘no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth’. And from Tolkien, referring to the Witch-King of Angmar: ‘Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man shall he fall.’

Geas in 5e is not a combat spell as it takes a whole minute to cast. Its effects, however, are potentially quite powerful. It lasts 30 days, and there aren’t many limits on the command you issue, ‘short of an activity that would result in certain death.’ If upcast, it can last a year; with a 9th-level slot, it is essentially permanent. Like many other enchantments, it requires the target to understand you.

What might you use geas for? Probably something long term, since that’s one of the main selling points of the spell. How about the following?

  • Long-term guard duty
  • Spying or reconnaissance
  • Travel somewhere
  • Research assistance
  • Help build something
  • Provide healing or magic
  • Use political or local influence
  • Protect something or someone

Lamias and guardian nagas can both cast geas, and if you’re running these monsters, it’s worth considering what they might use the spell for. Characters without access to remove curse will have to do what they’re told!

Dominate person

In my experience, when people misuse spells like charm person and suggestion, it is maybe this spell, dominate person, that they are really thinking of.

This is a really sinister enchantment. One failed Wisdom save, and bam, the target is under your control. This control comes in two forms: telepathic commands (no action), which the target must do its best to obey, or total and precise control of the target, which requires an action but otherwise has no real limits on it. This is where you become a true puppeteer. You can direct people to walk off a cliff. I could see this spell being used for some seriously messed-up stuff.

There are some provisos. It’s mid-range (60 ft) and only lasts a minute by default. Like charm person, it only works on humanoids (hence the name). It requires concentration. The target will make their save with advantage if you or your allies are fighting it, and if at any time the target takes damage, they have a chance to retake their save. But in other ways this spell is extremely powerful. It can be extended to ten minutes, an hour, or eight hours depending on which spell slot you use, and it functions as long as the target is on the same plane of existence. Rakshasas, spirit nagas, and spellcasting vampires can all cast dominate person.

The 8th-level spell dominate monster is practically identical, except it works on all creatures, not just humanoids, and lasts an hour unless upcast. To quote Tyler Kamstra of RPG Bot, it’s arguably the best save-or-suck spell in the game. In the Monster Manual, only liches and mind flayers have this spell.

(By the way, if you want a list of high-level creatures who are likely to fall under the spell of a dominate monster spell, consider the following: behirs, fire giants, wyverns, slaadi, T-rexes, treants. Imagine having one of those under your control and you get the idea.)

What are your favourite charms and enchantments? Have you ever seen them used to particularly imaginative effect? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Charms and Enchantments: Part Two

  1. Those two example geas are not valid — neither puts an obligation onto the geas target.

    A better example might be the ur-example geasa (that’s the plural btw) on the Irish folklore hero Cú Chulainn of 1) he must accept any food offered to him by a woman, and 2) he must not eat dog meat.

    1. Hi Eric. Do you mean the examples from Tolkien and Shakespeare? You might be right. They’re definitely not geasa in the D&D sense!

      1. My understanding is that a geas can also be a prohibition, as with the king in the Irish saga of Conchobar mac Nessa. According to Wikipedia, he was said to have the right to the first night with any marriageable woman and the right to sleep with the wife of anyone who hosted him, and this was called ‘the Geis of the king.’ That’s not technically an obligation, right? More a prohibition on others. Could not the same be said of the Tolkien and Shakespeare examples?

        (I’m happy to be proved wrong on this, by the way! It’s a concept I’m very much trying to get to grips with.)

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