D&D 5E Charm Person ends if caster does something harmful to target. Is hurting the target's ally harmful?

You might start seeing the caster as a friendly acquaintance, but once they start attacking your allies no matter how much you protest, your own feelings become suspicious and that would arguably become an Insight check (with a reasonable DC) to realize you've been affected by something strange, especially when you can't remember how you ever became acquaintances.
See, I'd question why aren't you upset that your allies are trying to kill your friend. You could just as easily believe that they're the ones being manipulated.
 

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Speaking more broadly here--about the "indirect harm" argument--I find this to be some pretty hinky-sounding logic. If "indirect" harm qualifies, then it's effectively impossible to use charm person in a significant swathe of situations. Further, given the text explicitly speaks of harm to the target itself, it seems at the very least a stretch to start talking about "indirect" harm based on harm caused to others.

Like, I get that these spells are very powerful when they're allowed to be, and that many DMs are keen on trying to prevent that power from becoming abusive. But this sounds like trying to finagle a way to break the spell no matter what, while maintaining a veneer of "playing fair." I don't know whether this is a player's logic trying to break a charm cast on them, or a DM's logic trying to wriggle out of a failed save without any actual consequences. Regardless of the motivation, it strikes me as trying to invalidate the resources expended. I don't care for that.

5e is a "natural language" game. It is supposed to speak clearly, using straightforward meanings, without goofy gotchas or weird jargon. When I read, "until you or your companions do anything harmful to it," I don't think, "Ah, so if I do something harmful to someone it cares about, that counts as doing 'anything harmful to it,' and the spell will break." The thought wouldn't even cross my mind without it having been brought up here. By far the most natural, straightforward reading is that you have to actually attack the target of charm person in order to trigger that effect, though "attack" could be indirect (e.g. dropping a wall of fire on top of them isn't technically attacking them, but is still an offensive action directly affecting them.)

Given this is by far the most natural reading of the text in question, why should one consider any other reading? It seems to me that this "indirect harm" concept requires defense. Why should it be that indirect harm would break a charm?
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Speaking more broadly here--about the "indirect harm" argument--I find this to be some pretty hinky-sounding logic. If "indirect" harm qualifies, then it's effectively impossible to use charm person in a significant swathe of situations. Further, given the text explicitly speaks of harm to the target itself, it seems at the very least a stretch to start talking about "indirect" harm based on harm caused to others.

Like, I get that these spells are very powerful when they're allowed to be, and that many DMs are keen on trying to prevent that power from becoming abusive. But this sounds like trying to finagle a way to break the spell no matter what, while maintaining a veneer of "playing fair." I don't know whether this is a player's logic trying to break a charm cast on them, or a DM's logic trying to wriggle out of a failed save without any actual consequences. Regardless of the motivation, it strikes me as trying to invalidate the resources expended. I don't care for that.

5e is a "natural language" game. It is supposed to speak clearly, using straightforward meanings, without goofy gotchas or weird jargon. When I read, "until you or your companions do anything harmful to it," I don't think, "Ah, so if I do something harmful to someone it cares about, that counts as doing 'anything harmful to it,' and the spell will break." The thought wouldn't even cross my mind without it having been brought up here. By far the most natural, straightforward reading is that you have to actually attack the target of charm person in order to trigger that effect, though "attack" could be indirect (e.g. dropping a wall of fire on top of them isn't technically attacking them, but is still an offensive action directly affecting them.)

Given this is by far the most natural reading of the text in question, why should one consider any other reading? It seems to me that this "indirect harm" concept requires defense. Why should it be that indirect harm would break a charm?
Agreed. I trust my post about negative thoughts and harm was understood to be entirely facetious.
 

The issue is that the 'friendly acquittance' bit doesn't really jive 'can't attack' bit in some situations. If my 'friendly acquittance' would try to hurt someone I would try to restrain them, if they tried to hurt my partner or my dogs I would punch them!
 

The issue is that the 'friendly acquittance' bit doesn't really jive 'can't attack' bit in some situations. If my 'friendly acquittance' would try to hurt someone I would try to restrain them, if they tried to hurt my partner or my dogs I would punch them!
Right. This is the problem with leaving mechanical evaluation to natural language rather than jargon. It is imprecise, but the precision matters a lot in a variety of use cases. For my part, I see the "instantly a friendly acquaintance" as a magical override. You're going to presume the best of your new "friend" unless they harm you, personally. If the spell were sensitive to harm done to other people you care about, it would say so, even though that may mean the spell warps how you would behave toward other people you like/love/care about. I would, however, be willing to grant an extra save or the like for obvious harms that have to be rationalized, and obviously as soon as the spell wears off, the target would know exactly what happened and have every reason to be EXTREMELY pissed off.

Because if we allow this "indirect harm qualifies as harm" standard, the spell is objectively worthless in almost all situations that aren't a single opponent being targeted, and that's clearly more niche than the spell warrants. We already know what a more limited spell would do, it's called friends.
 

Right. This is the problem with leaving mechanical evaluation to natural language rather than jargon. It is imprecise, but the precision matters a lot in a variety of use cases. For my part, I see the "instantly a friendly acquaintance" as a magical override. You're going to presume the best of your new "friend" unless they harm you, personally. If the spell were sensitive to harm done to other people you care about, it would say so, even though that may mean the spell warps how you would behave toward other people you like/love/care about. I would, however, be willing to grant an extra save or the like for obvious harms that have to be rationalized, and obviously as soon as the spell wears off, the target would know exactly what happened and have every reason to be EXTREMELY pissed off.

Because if we allow this "indirect harm qualifies as harm" standard, the spell is objectively worthless in almost all situations that aren't a single opponent being targeted, and that's clearly more niche than the spell warrants. We already know what a more limited spell would do, it's called friends.
Sure. I'm not really disagreeing with you analysis, it just is that the spell gives contradictory information about the mental state of the target, so it is rather hard to figure out what they would actually be thinking and how they would reasonably react to the situation.
 

jgsugden

Legend
See GURPS.
I have. I have played a lot of GURPS, with access to almost every single supplement they have ... and there are plenty of situations that arise where rules do not cover it at all, or cover it in a reasonable way where it is covered.

...Well, that's sort of Rule Zero, and since it always applies, it's not exactly helpful.
And yet it isn't the first thing that many people consider. Look how many responses come out here telling you the way to rule it.
My point was that since "anything harmful" can be just about anything, just about anything can end the Charm spell. Attacking the wizard PC's warrior-friend is harmful to the wizard's chances of survival, harmful to the relationship that the wizard and warrior have, harmful to the wizard's personal bubble of safety, harmful to the wizard's nostrils and ears, harmful to...
...and that is why it needs to be a judgment call by the DM. They could have written 50 pages with specific examples and it would still result in people saying their situation was different because of a nuance. In the end, despite how much you write, it comes down to the DM making a call, and that IMHO should be based upon a totality of circumstances. If the caster does something that makes the target feel harmed, that should be enough. That is going to change from target to target.
 

See, I'd question why aren't you upset that your allies are trying to kill your friend. You could just as easily believe that they're the ones being manipulated.

The thing is, the Charm Person spell does not overwrite memories beyond a superficial recognition. The fact that your party members are so hostile to the "friendly acquaintance" will bring up the "WHY???" of the situation, and then you have to wonder how you even know the "friendly acquaintance" to begin with. You might either hesitate for a bit or try to get between the party members and the "friendly acquaintance", but there's going to be doubt created by the conflict. This is why Charm Person can be great as a brief distraction during combat but won't likely take you out for the whole encounter unless you fail massively hard on checks that should be made upon observing conflict.
 

ehren37

Legend
Absolutely. IMO it would at least warrant a new save, assuming the target was at least friendly with their allies. In other cases, they might join in, like if there was lingering resentment or infighting. The wording is intentionally vague to make it a ruling though, so neither side is right or wrong. This is the kind of thing a DM needs to let the player know up front, so they aren't caught off guard by a ruling they may not have anticipated.
 

p_johnston

Explorer
So the funnies thing to me is the line "a friendly acquittance" wouldn't actually be a huge hindrance to my party attacking the charmer. The times where one character has attacked an friendly NPC/other character the party reaction has more often then not been "Beat them down talk after." because of the way death and healing work in 5e. If a friendly NPC was attacking another friend just beating them into unconsciousness is usually better then trying to grapple them in a mechanical sense.
 

ECMO3

Hero
You might start seeing the caster as a friendly acquaintance, but once they start attacking your allies no matter how much you protest, your own feelings become suspicious and that would arguably become an Insight check (with a reasonable DC) to realize you've been affected by something strange, especially when you can't remember how you ever became acquaintances.

I would rule the magic overcomes that. Any time you are trying to reason through the use of magic, the magic always wins because it is by its very nature beyond the laws of science, logic and physics. You are literally altering the perceptions of the charmed guy.

Now he may not like you attacking his friends (or his baby in the example above) and he might shut the door on you or feed them a potion of healing or try to pick them up and run away from you but that does not change how the magic is altering your thoughts and actions. You can probably even grapple him to stop him in the same way you might grab your raging out of control teen if he is throwing a tantrum.

Regardless of his actions to others he is still a "friendly acquintance" (despite the fact your baby is spitted on his sword) and you can't target him with harmful affects (because you have the charmed condition.
 

The issue is that the 'friendly acquittance' bit doesn't really jive 'can't attack' bit in some situations. If my 'friendly acquittance' would try to hurt someone I would try to restrain them, if they tried to hurt my partner or my dogs I would punch them!
I would regard the spell as effectively doing multiple things.

Its not that you can't attack/target the caster because you regard them as a friendly acquaintance.
Its that the spell makes you regard them as a friendly acquaintance and does not let you attack/target them as a separate effect.
 

I would regard the spell as effectively doing multiple things.

Its not that you can't attack/target the caster because you regard them as a friendly acquaintance.
Its that the spell makes you regard them as a friendly acquaintance and does not let you attack/target them as a separate effect.
So how does that additional effect feel like to the target and how do they not realise that they're magically controlled?
 

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