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Sitting in front of you is a rogue agent from the enemy. They claim that they have information for you, information that could bring an end to the war between kingdoms. Hesitant to believe anything said, you step forward and raise your hand. Calling upon your deity, magic washes over the room and everyone in the area. Much to your surprise, you feel the rogue willingly subject themselves to your magic, allowing the spell featured in this Zone of Truth 5e Guide to enchant their tongue and mind.
No deliberate lie can leave their mouth, and soon you know the critical details of attack plans from the rogue. Although the information must still be taken with a grain of salt, you can rest easier knowing that they were only able to tell you what they knew as truthful. No longer are they your enemy, but rather a friend in arms who longs for this war to be over finally.
Zone of Truth is a second-level enchantment spell available to Bards, Clerics, and Paladins. Everyone in a 15-foot radius from where this spell was centered must make a Charisma saving throw. The caster is well aware of who fails and who succeeds on their saving throws. This spell does not immediately make it, so the people who fail have to tell the truth or tell you everything they know.
Creatures can be dodgy about answering the question, talk circles around you and the answer, or refuse to speak. Regardless, this spell is ideal for putting people at ease when gathering critical information and can genuinely help to avoid or give advantage for insight checks.
How Zone of Truth Functions
Zone of Truth is a second-level enchantment found on page 289 of the Player’s Handbook. Zone of Truth belongs to the School of Enchantment, meaning that this spell can affect people’s lives without causing them physical harm. Enchantment spells allow the spellcaster to charm people into performing specific actions. For Zone of Truth, this enchantment spell will not allow those affected to lie.
Zone of Truth can be centered on a point anywhere within 60 feet of the caster, spanning into a 15-foot sphere that lasts for 10 minutes. Anyone who enters the sphere or is in the sphere must make a Charisma saving throw.
On a failed save, they can only speak the truth until they leave the sphere. More specifically, they cannot speak a deliberate lie. As an Area of Effect spell, even the caster would need to make a saving throw. It may be your magic, but that doesn’t mean you’re not subject to its effects.
Zone of Truth is, unfortunately, not a very discreet spell. Everyone who makes a saving throw against the spell will be fully aware if they have been affected by the spell or not, and the caster will know if someone has been affected by the spell.
So if you’re trying to casually figure out if someone is lying to you without offending them, this isn’t the spell to use. Instead, just use Guidance on yourself or have someone else do it for your insight check.
How Zone of Truth Doesn’t Function
Zone of Truth does not make it, so you are compelled to tell the truth. This spell does not convince someone to immediately spill all of the beans and let every cat out of the bag.
Those who have failed their saving throws can still talk their way around the questions, avoid answering them directly or just refuse to speak. If you’re attempting to get truthful information from someone dodgy, Zone of Truth might help, but there’s no guarantee of an answer.
This enchantment also doesn’t mean you get the complete and absolute truth. What you get from someone in the Zone of Truth is what they believe to be true. Someone cannot tell a deliberate lie, only what they believe the truth is.
Who Can Make All of Us Truthful?
Bards, Clerics, and Paladins, it’s your lucky day – especially you, Paladins. These are the only classes that allow you to cast Zone of Truth. As a Charisma-based spell, it makes sense that classes that are generally Charisma-based would gain access to the spell. Furthermore, these are classes that (for the most part) are “good-aligned.”
Although Warlocks are also a Charisma-based class, Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t officially recognize them as “good-aligned” at their core due to the generally sketchy and stigmatized means through which they get their powers.
Unfortunately, there really aren’t other ways to get this spell without taking some levels in one of those three classes. Although there are feats like Magic Initiate that allow for you to take spells from other classes (without taking any levels in that class), you’re not allowed to take higher-leveled spells. Magic Initiate only allows for you to take a first-level spell, firmly keeping the second-level Zone of Truth just out of reach.
Can We Get Creative?
This spell is pretty cut and dry, admittedly. However, as soon as you start to pair it with other spells, you can get some interesting results.
Alternatively, you can also just play a character with a single brain cell, like I do, and get equally as interesting and funny results.
As a Dungeon Master
Using Zone of Truth as a Dungeon Master, in my opinion, is where things can get the most interesting. Having employers use it on the party to try and determine if they’re actually worth hiring or if they’ll carry through on their promises.
If you have a party that frequently deals with churches or temples, especially with the holy people who work inside those areas, Zone of Truth can be an interesting mechanic that ensures that your party remains truthful while on holy grounds.
My personal favorite situation is when your party is dealing with detectives or is being interrogated. While these NPCs might want to have good faith that what your players are telling them is the truth, utilizing Zone of Truth not only offers these NPCs more authority in their station but could help to convince your players that they are trying to do good.
These types of situations can put your players into a situation where they need to be truthful, or they have to be mindful of their words in order to make some coin or continue on the path that they’re going.
As a Player
Character bonding can be difficult for new players, especially when your characters are all dodgy about their origins or hesitant to tell anyone anything about them. So, to spur everyone to get connected and form a reason to stay together as a group, my Dungeon Master convinced all of us to sit around a campfire and give a little bit of backstory or our interests so we could all bond.
Thinking I could be sneaky and get everyone to bond truthfully, my cleric cast Zone of Truth. Everyone immediately was aware I had done it because, as stated earlier, Zone of Truth isn’t a discreet spell. To make the deal all the sweeter, all but two had failed the Charisma saving throw: Me and the Rogue. Regardless, I held strong to my resolve and refused to drop the spell until it ended.
Although it wasn’t sharing backstory, it was a moment for everyone to laugh at my Cleric’s single brain cell and sheer stubbornness. He was teased relentlessly about failing his own spell’s Charisma saving throw, and in the end, it did end up being a chance for everyone to bond and have a bit of a laugh, even if everyone wasn’t coerced into being truthful.
If you’re looking for more serious questions, defer back to the introduction of this article. The situation I presented was one that dealt with verifying the truthfulness of a rogue agent rather than trying to get them to comply. Although Zone of Truth is a spell that is easy to work around, it is one that can help to offer some peace of mind.
Utilizing Zone of Truth with Other Spells
You really do need the consent of another party in order to achieve the best results from Zone of Truth. A spell like Charm person might help to make someone more amicable to you. They’ll become more likely to tell you what you need or want to hear, and while you can be more confident that what you’re receiving is truth, Zone of Truth helps you to verify that the information is actually true. Other spells, like Friends, might also help to convince someone that you mean only good.
If you want to get cheeky with it and you are attempting to get information out of an enemy that you may have accidentally (or purposefully) killed, paring a few spells together could help to get the information that you need.
If you’re aware of what their allies look like, using a Disguise Person spell, paired alongside Charm Person, and Speak with Dead, can be incredibly helpful. The same person may not be able to cast all these spells at once, but getting all your spellcasters on board could very easily get you the information that you need without having to keep someone alive.
Zone of Truth 5e Guide: FAQs
Question: Does Zone of Truth work with Speak With Dead?
Answer: Yes, it does. Neither spell requires concentration, and both are active for 10 minutes. So, if timed right, both spells can be used at once, and both can be cast by the same person. However, you do need to keep in mind that the dead will not be compelled or coerced into telling only the truth. If they are not sufficiently convinced or charmed by you, they can very easily refuse to respond, talking around it, or even succeed on their saving throw.
Question: Is Zone of Truth visible?
Answer: No, but everyone who is in it will know that they’ve been affected by it. The caster will know who has been affected by the spell as well.
Question: Can you beat Zone of Truth?
Answer: Step outside of the range of the spell, and you won’t be coerced into only speaking truthfully anymore. If that isn’t available to you, but you’re aware that the spell is coming, try casting Aura of Protection on yourself if you’re a paladin or having another party member do it. This will give you advantage on your Charisma saving throw. If all else fails, just don’t talk. Sure, your party members or the enemy will know you’re hiding something, but they won’t know what it is.
Finally Ending the Spell
Zone of Truth is not a useless spell. Although many will frame it that way, it does have its uses, even if it is situational. This spell can offer peace of mind with your party and can help you to avoid needless insight checks.
It is undoubtedly a consent-based spell, but when paired with others, like Charm person, it can be incredibly helpful. Zone of Truth isn’t the compelling truth serum we all dream of, but it is a little peace of mind that few other spells can offer.
It is difficult ot take Zone of Truth at face value for what it is, but with a bit of creativity and a few extra spells, it can help players and Dungeon Master’s alike to feel like they’re having a fun and immersive game.