Does the target of “Planar Binding” experience an irresistible compulsion?

If the target of Planar Binding fails its Charisma saving throw, it “must follow your instructions to the best of its ability”.

How does the target experience the “must” portion of the effect? Do they experience an utterly irresistible compulsion? Or does it seem completely natural to them to behave in the manner dictated by the instructions given to them?

Planar Binding

… first paragraph snipped …

A bound creature must follow your instructions to the best of its ability. You might command the creature to accompany you on an adventure, to guard a location, or to deliver a message. The creature obeys the letter of your instructions, but if the creature is hostile to you, it strives to twist your words to achieve its own objectives. If the creature carries out your instructions completely before the spell ends, it travels to you to report this fact if you are on the same plane of existence. If you are on a different plane of existence, it returns to the place where you bound it and remains there until the spell ends.

… third paragraph snipped …

The bold text above seems to suggest that the spell does NOT make instructions “completely natural”, and that the creature is thus aware of when an instruction is at odds with its own preferred behavior. For example, if an evil Dao that prefers to torture their slaves is bound with this spell and instructed to “be kind, considerate, respectful, and loving to everyone you interact with”, that they are aware of both their preferences and the instruction and the dichotomy between them.

But this leaves unanswered what exactly their experience of the magical effect is, whereby they must follow the instructions. Do they try to act normally but find themselves unconsciously acting in accordance with the instructions (like Jim Carrey in “Liar, Liar”)? Or is their experience more akin to an ongoing internal struggle that they never win, in which they try desperately, every single time, to do what they want to, but are (somehow) forced to act in accordance with the instructions?

The Planar Binding spell is an abjuration, which feels problematic given that the primary effect of the spell is coercive rather than protective (enchantment would make more sense). Having it be adjuration makes it more powerful, since numerous entities are immune to enchantment but few are immune to abjuration. But I’m left unclear how the spell enforces the instructions and what the target’s subjective experience is. Knowing the answer to this question will help answer a whole flock of related questions.

How does the target of “Planar Binding” subjectively experience the effects of the spell?

If the target of Planar Binding fails its Charisma saving throw, it “must follow your instructions to the best of its ability”.

How does the target experience the effects of the spell? What is the subjective psychological and physical impact on the target?

Having some understanding of how the target of the spell experiences “must follow your instructions” can help answer many questions related to this spell. Below, I pose various sub-questions meant to clarify (and add context to) the over-arching question of how the target experiences the effects. Note that there is not a great deal of RAW related to this (that I am aware of), so much of this will be answered with “it is up to DM discretion”. What I’m looking for is guidance around what is sensible in that context (preferably that aligns with game balance, related game mechanics, etc.)

The relevant portion of the spell description:

Planar Binding

… first paragraph snipped …

A bound creature must follow your instructions to the best of its ability. You might command the creature to accompany you on an adventure, to guard a location, or to deliver a message. The creature obeys the letter of your instructions, but if the creature is hostile to you, it strives to twist your words to achieve its own objectives. If the creature carries out your instructions completely before the spell ends, it travels to you to report this fact if you are on the same plane of existence. If you are on a different plane of existence, it returns to the place where you bound it and remains there until the spell ends.

… third paragraph snipped …

  1. Does the target feel an irresistible compulsion? The description specifically states that creatures hostile to the caster strive to twist the caster words to achieve its own objectives, so the magic of the spell does not magically make the target willing. Does that mean that if a command is antithetical to the nature of the target, they experience continual psychological distress in abiding by the commands of the caster? For example, if an evil Dao is subject to this spell and is commanded (among various other things) to “be kind to everyone you meet”, is this experienced by the Dao as torture? Or does the magic of the spell make it feel natural to do what is commanded of them?

  2. Suppose the caster has a long list of instructions for the target (see “How can an entity bound by Planar Binding be prevented from betraying the caster?” for an example). The spell states “… must follow your instructions to the best of its ability“, which to me implies that it is possible for mistakes to be made. Depending on the intelligence of the target, keeping such a list in mind at all times and being able to see the interactions between competing commands will sometimes be beyond their intellectual abilities in the moment (no matter how intelligent) and they may therefore unintentionally violate some command at some point. What happens to them if this occurs? Are they wracked with guilt? Do they suffer psychic damage? Or are there zero consequences in this situation?

  3. A somewhat related spell is Geas, which specifically states “While the creature is charmed by you, it takes 5d10 psychic damage each time it acts in a manner directly counter to your instructions”. Since Planar Binding does not have any such verbiage, can we assume it is simply impossible for the entity to intentionally violate instructions? If so, how is this experienced by the target? If it is not magically impossible for them to intentionally act counter to instructions, what does keep them from doing so? If their personalities remain intact (as suggested by their attempts to twist words), commands dictated by the caster will inevitably chafe (especially those antithetical to their ethos). So what keeps them from rebelling if it isn’t physical damage, etc.?

  4. Each of Command (1st level enchantment), Suggestion (2nd level enchantment, Compulsion (4th level enchantment), Geas (5th level enchantment), Planar Ally (6th level conjuration) and Mass Suggestion (6th level enchantment) spells specifically disallow “obviously harmful” and/or “suicidal” commands, but Planar Binding (abjuration) does not (note that Planar Binding is the only abjuration spell on the list). Does this mean the target is forced to perform even a suicidal command, or do we read in this exclusion as unintented missing text?

  5. Is the target aware of the binding? There is no explicit mention in the spell description of the target being aware, but the effects of the spell seem like they would be pretty obvious to the target (unless the magic is masking these effects). It all comes back to the question “how does the target experience the effects of this spell?”.

  6. Of the 50+ abjuration spells, a few include effects that influence the behavior of creatures, including ProtectionFromEvilAndGood (disadv on attack rolls), Sanctuary (must make Wisdom save to make attack), and Magic Circle (certain creatures cannot willingly enter AofE, disadv on attacks). Can answering similar questions about how creatures experience the effects described in those spells help shed light on what happens in Planar Binding.

  7. All of these questions are made more pointed when the spell is cast at a higher level. If the entity is bound for 30 days (7th level), 1/2 year (8th level) or 1 year + 1 day (9th level), the question of how the target experiences the spell are more relevant, as it influences how they behave, whether they go into a deep depression, how much planning they can perform to escape the spell (especially when commanded not to engage in such planning), etc.

Here are some initial thoughts as to answers (sadly, they generate more questions). Where do these answers run counter to RAW and/or RAI?

  1. I’m highlighting the fact that Planar Binding is abjuration rather than enchantment, and assuming that this implies some external forcing function enforces the magic rather than the magic affecting the mind of the target (as would happen for an enchantment). But I do not know what this “external forcing function” is (having Mystra have to consciously monitor and enforce every occurrence of every such command seems untentable), and such an external forcing function would seem to suggest that it wouldn’t be possible for the entity to unintentionally violate a command either (but the wording of the spell suggests they can, because of the “to the best of its ability” phrasing). So I’m left with no satisfactory answer to exactly what the target experiences. I do think that commands antithetical to the creature would be experienced as torture (which is disconcertingly horrifying to contemplate, if a Ki-Rin is bound and forced to torture innocence, for example).

  2. The spell does not mention anything about damage, so in situations where the target unintentionally violates a command, I am assuming zero consequences. It can be an opportunity for the caster to ask for an explanation of how the commands were interpreted by the target, and to clarify commands for the future.

  3. The simpliest ruling would be that it is impossible for a creature to intentionally violate the commands (leaving the mechanism unspecified), but that leaves open the question of how the creature experiences this. If they normally lie all the time, but are commanded to tell the truth, do they start to lie only to find the truth coming out of their mouths instead? Or does the thought of lying simply not cross their mind because of the magic of the spell? Does telling the truth feel natural or unnatural? Is the target aware they are doing something contrary to their normal behavior?

  4. Since spells exist that explicitly disallow suicidal/harmful commands, but Planar Binding does not provide such wording, it would seem that this does indeed mean that the target will perform such acts. I would, however, rule that they are allowed another save to break the spell anytime this happens (maybe even at advantage).

  5. It seems more reasonable for the target to be aware of the effects of the spell. On the other hand, if the target is NOT aware of the spell, it means that it feels completely natural to them to perform the actions dictated by the instructions provided by the caster. This resolves many of the other questions (they do not feel mental anguish over following instructions counter to their normal behavior, etc.). So, although the more reasonable answer is awareness, there is a part of me that wants a lack of awareness, because this feels like such a horrifying kind of torture to inflict on something.

  6. If a creature attacks someone who has Sanctuary cast on them, how does the creature experience the magical effect? Game mechanically, they need to make a saving throw, but what is the in-game analog of that save? Are they conscious of some impediement, or does it just feel completely natural for them to attack someone else, without being aware that their behavior was affected by magic? I don’t know the answer to that … I feel another SE question in the making…

  7. I can’t imagine how horrifying it would be to be bound by a caster with an opposite alignment forcing me to do things every day that are antithetical to my ethos. Suicide would be a natural response … except that the caster could command me not to attempt suicide. It is the reason I’m tempted to rule in #5 that the target feels completely natural performing the actions commanded of it.

Is there a cap on experience for Ironsworn?

The Ironsworn character sheets have bubbles for tracking the experience that you mark by fulfilling your vows. The portrait character sheet has 30 bubbles, and the more-recently-released landscape sheet has 50 bubbles. Chapter 2 of the rulebook explains how to use them, with a key note that “to start, your experience is unmarked”, and instructions to “Mark an ‘X’ on your character sheet for each point you’ve earned” and “Replace the ‘X’ for each point spent with a filled-in dot.”

You can spend experience points to add a new asset or upgrade an asset when you focus on your skills, receive training, find inspiration, earn a reward, or gain a companion (per the Advance move). Is there a practical cap on the number of experience points you can have (beyond the character sheet you choose and the assets you buy)? Should you clear points put toward an asset or leave them filled in?

How is PC experience calculated when higher level CR allies help in Adventurers League?

The recent adventure Tomb of Annihilation released by WotC includes allies that can join the party. As an open-world adventure spanning multiple PC levels and Tiers, PCs could potentially gain allies more powerful than themselves such as the NPCs below.

Spoilers:

How does one calculate awarded experience when the PCs have allies that are more powerful than themselves in Adventurers League?

We are wondering if there is an official formula – something like:

$ $ \text{Awarded_XP} = \text{Received_XP} \times \frac{\text{Expected CR}}{\text{Actual CR}}$ $

As opposed to the answers to the question Determining "level" of an NPC ally for purpose of budgeting encounter XP, we are looking for official Adventurers League guidance or acceptable practices — not homebrew suggestions.

Item Creation Without Experience Points

Suppose you’re playing an RPG with item creation rules that require you to spend experience points as part of creating the item, such as D&D or Numenera. Suppose further that your gaming group has house-ruled experience points out of the game and the GM tells everyone when to level up as befits the story.

How can you still make it cost the players something to create items, when they don’t have experience points to pay up?

Do summoned creatures, such as with Summon Lesser Demons, give experience points to the party?

I’ve looked at various conversations on here, Reddit, and other forums, but I can’t seem to find any official ruling on this topic, so I figured I’d ask here and see if anyone knows of any.

There are other summoning spells, but in this instance I’m specifically referring to the Xanathar’s Guide To Everything spell Summon Lesser Demons. The demons are not under the caster’s control, have their own initiative and attack any non-demon in reach until they are either killed or the spell ends/is ended.

As an example, in our last session the wizard summoned 4 dretches to help in combat. One of the enemies killed one of the dretches, then, with no other enemies left, the party attacked the dretches, killing 2 of them. The wizard then ended the spell, getting rid of the fourth. Should the party be awarded for killing those 2 dretches?

RAW, it seems that if it’s not a creature under your control that will attack you and the spell doesn’t say anything to the contrary, they should be awarded XP for killing them. Of course, this immediately led to the party joking about XP farming. It’d have diminishing returns, but is still a loophole that I’d rather not leave open. (I know, DM fiat, I’m just wondering if there is any RAW or even RAI that would prevent it without me making a ‘house rule’ ruling on it.)

What are some possible repurcussions of using story-based leveling rather than experience points?

I am the DM for a D&D 4e game. Recently, I stopped keeping track of XP, on the assumption that I could just give my players a level every time they finished a major quest. In my mind, this had a few benefits:

  1. It severely reduces bookkeeping, both for the players, and for me, because it means I don’t have to worry about each adventure having exactly ten encounters.
  2. It prevents leveling at an awkward time ― we’ll never have an issue where the PCs finish an adventure and aren’t quite leveled up, and then get an encounter or two into the next adventure. In this way, it also helps split the game into even chunks.
  3. It also removes a mindset that I think a lot of players pick up from videogames, where they feel like they need to go fight monsters and engage in random, pointless fights just to gain XP. This is not the sort of thing I want.

However, before I completely commit to this progression system, I’m like to see it from the opposite perspective, to see what I may be missing out on by abandoning XP.

What benefits does an XP-based leveling system offer that I will lose if I use a story-based leveling system?

What happens if a dragon gets older but doesn’t gain experience?

Chapter 3 of the Draconomicon details how, every couple years, a true dragon must take its next level in its dragon “class”. But what if the dragon just sits around, not gaining any XP, and therefore never actually gains a “next level”?

It’s said that many dragons let their natural abilities grow rather than adventuring to get experience. Do they somehow get dragon “class” levels for free via aging (like, they instantly get enough XP to advance a level but are required to put it towards being more dragony?), or will they eventually be an ancient dragon with all the statistics of a wyrmling?