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Charm Person 5e vs Older

Hikikomori

Villager
While trying to devise my first 5e scenario I realised there is a big difference between how Charm Person works in 5e and how it works in 1e. The amount of influence the caster has is diminished and the duration of the Charm is reduced by 99%+. "The creature then will regard the [caster] as a trusted friend and ally to be heeded and protected." (1e PHB p.55) vs "The charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance." (5e PHB p.221) Some older modules relied on long duration charms of greater impact that does not seem possible under the 5e rules. Even Dominate Person at fifth level is limited to 1 minute duration.

The idea of a villain using mind control to work through agents appears in fiction and I was inspired by N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God to try something similar myself. The Charm effect used by the Vampire (CR13) in the Monster Manual 5e takes its phrasing from the 1e Charm effect, but even it has a duration limited to 24 hours. I understand the 1e effect was too powerful for its level, but is there any replacement to fill this role at lower CRs?

Right now I'm looking at Yuan-Ti with Suggestion 3x/day and CR3. Not exactly the cult leader I first imagined but it's a start.
 

erachima

Explorer
If they're an NPC they can just have whatever mind control you want as a special [personal mutation/fiendish pact/etc.] ability. Like how the villain's zombies always seem more coordinated and contagious than anything the Cleric can work out how to do, or those old encounter-in-a-can monsters like the Cat Lord.

When the purpose of an enemy ability is to create the scenario for the adventure, you make it "fair" by awarding the normal XP for the resulting scenario, not by making the scenario something that a PC of the same level could cobble together with their own abilities.
 

Coroc

Explorer
And thank god so.

When I started playing 2e I had to houserule some spells either do not exist or you would instantly snap out of them as soon as an attacking motion is made vs. the target of the spell. And I mean motion, not actually finishing.

Those spells were sleep, charm person, hold person. Why? Because those spells in 1e and 2e, designed for a sneaky gygaxian approach of a dungeon,
e.g. put all the goblins asleep, take the treasure, move out again, or RP approach of some fiddly situation e.g. you charm the guard to let you into a castle
in contrast to simply slaying said guard and goblins has a major flaw.

They all are instakill spells at spell level 1 or 2, mightier than other save or die spells in the case of sleep because with other spells at least you would get a saving throw, as mighty than a level 9 power word kill!

With charm person you could add insult to damage, back then you could basically order the charmed mob to jump the cliff. And you were always fast because you had the shortest casting time.

Way better now with 5e way, way, better.
 

erachima

Explorer
I believe OG Hold Person was written assuming the normal case where you were fighting Persons was when you randomly encountered 1d6+2 bandits trying to steal your loot on the way back from the dungeon, and saving a special spell just to auto-win that encounter was, in a purely gamey sense, balanced.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
While trying to devise my first 5e scenario I realised there is a big difference between how Charm Person works in 5e and how it works in 1e. The amount of influence the caster has is diminished and the duration of the Charm is reduced by 99%+. "The creature then will regard the [caster] as a trusted friend and ally to be heeded and protected." (1e PHB p.55) vs "The charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance." (5e PHB p.221) Some older modules relied on long duration charms of greater impact that does not seem possible under the 5e rules. Even Dominate Person at fifth level is limited to 1 minute duration.

The idea of a villain using mind control to work through agents appears in fiction and I was inspired by N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God to try something similar myself. The Charm effect used by the Vampire (CR13) in the Monster Manual 5e takes its phrasing from the 1e Charm effect, but even it has a duration limited to 24 hours. I understand the 1e effect was too powerful for its level, but is there any replacement to fill this role at lower CRs?

Right now I'm looking at Yuan-Ti with Suggestion 3x/day and CR3. Not exactly the cult leader I first imagined but it's a start.
The power of Charm Person is shown in the DMG in the rules for resolving social checks.

In those resolutions the DCs (and even possibilities you can gain) shift by 10 for going from indifferent to friendly. Even more for hostile to friendly. Note that the save vs charm is only getting disad if you are attacking etc, not just it not liking you.

So, once you have them charmed, even if hostile before, your advantaged Charisma check only needs a 10 result to convince them to accept a minor risk or sacrifice to help you. And only a 20 to get them to accept significant risk or sacrifice.

If it'sgot no risk or sacrifice, they just go with it.

That is pretty big for a first level spell if you ask me.
 

Hikikomori

Villager
Thanks for pointing that out 5ekyu. I missed the connection between the description of the spell and the table in the DMG that allows us to quantify the effect of Charm Person. I agree with you it's a strong effect for a first level spell even in fifth edition. The first edition version is rivalled only by Sleep at that level for how much it can swing an interaction.

My concern isn't that Charm Person 5e is too weak, but rather that there is no replacement effect for the 1e version. That makes me think it's too strong to house rule it onto a creature a low level party could reasonably face so I'm looking for alternatives or other things I've missed. It also makes it hard to convert classic modules that depend on this level of enchantment being available.

And to erachima I was considering your suggestion of just making up a power but since this nerf to Charming is valid I worry that it's unfair to throw this kind of encounter at low level PCs. I suppose as long as I don't do any kind of long term domination against their characters it's not a big impact in terms of what they have to overcome.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Thanks for pointing that out 5ekyu. I missed the connection between the description of the spell and the table in the DMG that allows us to quantify the effect of Charm Person. I agree with you it's a strong effect for a first level spell even in fifth edition. The first edition version is rivalled only by Sleep at that level for how much it can swing an interaction.

My concern isn't that Charm Person 5e is too weak, but rather that there is no replacement effect for the 1e version. That makes me think it's too strong to house rule it onto a creature a low level party could reasonably face so I'm looking for alternatives or other things I've missed. It also makes it hard to convert classic modules that depend on this level of enchantment being available.

And to erachima I was considering your suggestion of just making up a power but since this nerf to Charming is valid I worry that it's unfair to throw this kind of encounter at low level PCs. I suppose as long as I don't do any kind of long term domination against their characters it's not a big impact in terms of what they have to overcome.
Regarding use of custom mind conttol vs PCs, I have always found the best use for custom long term abilities in rpg is against NPCs, established as an over-time feature and as a means of creating an extra layer of paranoia, uncertainty and risk.

Using it directly on PCs practically never plays as fun, except for a few select players, and especially if its custom built it starts to skirt some boundaries.

The one thing players bring is playing their characters and when GM fiat not only removes that but keeps the character active, that is a recipe for nagging problems.

I have less worry if its an established in-game resource but even thrn, it's used sparingly and not st tier 1. Its not really an effect I vondidernpullingnout until the second half of tier 2 as far as direct PC targets.

But that's me.
 

Coroc

Explorer
Thanks for pointing that out 5ekyu. I missed the connection between the description of the spell and the table in the DMG that allows us to quantify the effect of Charm Person. I agree with you it's a strong effect for a first level spell even in fifth edition. The first edition version is rivalled only by Sleep at that level for how much it can swing an interaction.

My concern isn't that Charm Person 5e is too weak, but rather that there is no replacement effect for the 1e version. That makes me think it's too strong to house rule it onto a creature a low level party could reasonably face so I'm looking for alternatives or other things I've missed. It also makes it hard to convert classic modules that depend on this level of enchantment being available.

And to erachima I was considering your suggestion of just making up a power but since this nerf to Charming is valid I worry that it's unfair to throw this kind of encounter at low level PCs. I suppose as long as I don't do any kind of long term domination against their characters it's not a big impact in terms of what they have to overcome.
There is an alternative it is called dominate person, it is of an appropriate spell level (5th) and does what you need
 

Coroc

Explorer
Regarding use of custom mind conttol vs PCs, I have always found the best use for custom long term abilities in rpg is against NPCs, established as an over-time feature and as a means of creating an extra layer of paranoia, uncertainty and risk.

Using it directly on PCs practically never plays as fun, except for a few select players, and especially if its custom built it starts to skirt some boundaries.

The one thing players bring is playing their characters and when GM fiat not only removes that but keeps the character active, that is a recipe for nagging problems.

I have less worry if its an established in-game resource but even thrn, it's used sparingly and not st tier 1. Its not really an effect I vondidernpullingnout until the second half of tier 2 as far as direct PC targets.

But that's me.
If you got dedicated roleplayers at your table and you secretly tell one of them that his char is dominated by a mob e.g. a succubus without the other pc noticing, then you can have super fun. All the other chars desperately trying to figure out why the charmed char behaves so strange suddenly.

Did this once at my table and it was perfect. I even gave him saving throws from time to time, but the DC (18) was quite high. I did not have to intervene once because he was roleplaying the situation so good.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
One houserule I've added to the various charm spells is that you don't automatically know that you were charmed when the spell ends. You make an Int/Arcana check against DC 10+spell level to determine if you realize it. If you fail, you internally justify your actions, and will still be somewhat friendly towards the caster.
 
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Dausuul

Legend
The best spell for this is mass suggestion. Despite the name, it has some key differences from the regular suggestion spell, the biggest being duration. The mass version does not require concentration, and the duration starts at 24 hours and scales with slot level up to a full year.

It isn't puppet-style control like dominate person, but for a villain seeking to manipulate via agents, there is much to be said for subtlety. You can even implant conditional suggestions with triggers.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
One houserule I've added to the various charm spells is that you don't automatically know that you were charmed when the spell ends. You make an Int/Arcana check against DC 10+spell level to determine if you realize it. If you fail, you internally justify your actions, and will still be somewhat friendly towards the caster.
My house rule is to allow an end of dpell save to see if you realize you were charmed. But you may have advsntsge or disadvantage depending on if the things done were against charscter trsits, with character traits or neutral.

That means the manipulator is best served with more subtle uses on golks inclined in that direction.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
One way to handle Charm (and keep player agency) is by rewarding the player for roleplaying a Charmed character well. Let the player decide how to do it and where the limits are, and if the job is satisfactory, award Inspiration or even some other kind of reward, like healing, a magic item, or whatever.

Some kind of reward that allows the player to want to play a Charmed character.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
If you got dedicated roleplayers at your table and you secretly tell one of them that his char is dominated by a mob e.g. a succubus without the other pc noticing, then you can have super fun. All the other chars desperately trying to figure out why the charmed char behaves so strange suddenly.

Did this once at my table and it was perfect. I even gave him saving throws from time to time, but the DC (18) was quite high. I did not have to intervene once because he was roleplaying the situation so good.
I agree, that is where " practically" comes into play.
It also varies a lot with the style of game. Much different flavor in Esper, Vampire, mystery etc.

But what you are describing seems more along the lines of suggestion rather than domination.
 

Gadget

Explorer
I would just like to add that there is also the fifth level Geas spell that can perform the long term co-opting of a person's will the the OP seems to want. Dominate Person gives more complete control, but the duration is limited for a "sleeper agent" type scenario.

I would like to point at that, though it was a necessary nerf--for PC magic, to tone down the charm type spells, that is not necessarily the case for NPC/Monster abilities. As long the CR is taken into account for this ability, it is perfectly okay for monsters to have abilities that PCs don't, as they are built with a different purpose and with slightly different rules than PCs. As long as you keep in mind @5ekyu 's wise advice about using it on PC's too early in the level progression, it could be perfectly alright. It could be fine for some obscure ritual (unavailable to PCs) to be used on a captured NPC by the demon cult to turn them into a willing minion, but becomes more tricky to use against PCs. Not to mention several monster abilities that just outright offers long term domination (see aboleth enslave ability).

One of the problems with PC spells in particular is that they have to balanced against using them on PCs in addition to the PCs employing them against monsters. That is one of the reasons spells like the Power Word line are so lackluster for PCs, they are deadly when turned against the party.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
Probably the easiest way to "mind control" adventurers is to just offer them gold and XP to go do a thing the NPC wants.
I dont use xp, and all players level up at the same time. Unequal xp is not a playstyle I care for.

But yeah, something like that, some kind of reward for roleplaying the Charm well.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I dont use xp, and all players level up at the same time. Unequal xp is not a playstyle I care for.

But yeah, something like that, some kind of reward for roleplaying the Charm well.
Actually, in one of my 3.5 campaigns, the PCs had been marching and Stomping their way up the food chain of a villainous organization and as they approached the city the mastermind was centered in...

The villain through an intermediary setup a rescue and relief mission to a neighboring area in dire straights, had rumors of bandits and monsters on the road and had a third party try to hire the PCs as guards for this worthy cause.

Of course it would take them out from that city for a month or so which was more time for him to get to a point he wanted.

But they chose to stay in it and not get diverted.

Oh well.

But it seemed easier to just buy them off,
 

Monayuris

Explorer
I miss how charm person can last weeks depending on the intelligence of the target.

A first level party can charm an ogre and have a powerful ally UNTIL it wears off and you end up with a deadly and mad foe in their midst.

It’s a fun push your luck mechanism.

As a DM, though, If you want a creature to have a charm effect that lasts longer, just make one. You are not constrained by the rules and you can develop whatever you need.
 

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