log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Charm, the evil spells


log in or register to remove this ad

Fanaelialae

Legend
Just learning to control minds in the first place is evil. It’s the only hypothetical knowledge that is evil to obtain.
Why is learning to mind control inherently more evil than learning to kill? Presumably, you don't have to actually mind control anyone to learn a mind control spell, any more than you need to own a magic item to learn Identify. Even if you do, there's no reason it couldn't be a volunteer (perhaps a fellow apprentice) who has consented to being charmed in return for practicing their spells on you.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
I played a 3.5 eberron campaign as a Telepath Psion who used mind-effecting powers nearly exclusively, including dominate. I played him as LG. Or, he believed he was LG. YMMV.

He always tried to use diplomacy first in any conflict if it could be helped. He didn't use any mind-effecting powers for diplomacy, but he was very good at it, and he avoided some fights.

He actually had a power called Telempathic Projection, that could give bonuses to diplomacy by influencing another person's mood, but never used it, as he felt that was a bit underhanded in honest negotiation.

Once combat broke out, his justification was this: dominating his foes robbed them of their free will, yes... but temporarily. Death also robs a person of their free will, and permanently. Mind-control was the lesser of two evils then, because his foe would live to see another day. After the combat if his dominated foe was still alive he would force them to flee.

He also recognized that mind-effecting every opponent was impractical, and used powers like Mind Thrust as well.

I think he was LG, but you are free to disagree if you want. One party member would regularly tell him he was evil, and he did build up a rather terrifying reputation.... shrug
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Not all violence is murder. But intentionally killing a person when it's not necessary for protection is exactly what murder means, at least in an ethical sense.
I would take it a step further and argue that all violence is a violation of self. It's simply that we say its acceptable in certain cases (self defense) but not in others (punching your neighbor because you felt like it).
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I think there's some very... quirky... splitting of moral hairs here. This and other threads over the years are enough to make me really grateful that alignment has been so de-emphasized, particularly in mechanical terms, in the current edition of D&D.
 

Voadam

Legend
My plan with my good valor bard was to use suggestion to get info out of captured prisoners without the threat of torture that I saw being used a lot. Also "Surrender" as an in combat suggestion.

I had used charm person in AD&D and 3e for similar information gathering purposes when it made them treat you like a trusted best friend.
 

Ace

Adventurer
We regard narcissistic manipulation, gaslighting, DARVO and such as Evil in real societies. So is any malicious Witchcraft and the reality of it is irrelevant. Many parts of the world still kill suspected Witches.

Note Witch here used in its traditional form as user of harmful spells not the religion Wicca as such though there are huge parts of the real world world where practicing that faith isn't safe either.

Charm Person would probably be up there with Necromancy and known Enchanters at best distrusted.

Or it could just be ignored whatever works best for your game.

In my D&D worlds its treated like a gun, use it in defense of the community or to defend yourself or against monsters, no issues. Otherwise there will be consequences. Matters of sex are off screen in my games anyway though I'm sure there has been a case in which someone got consensually kinky with Dominate spells and it ended up in court. I'm not going to role play it out though.
 

Amrûnril

Explorer
Why is learning to mind control inherently more evil than learning to kill? Presumably, you don't have to actually mind control anyone to learn a mind control spell, any more than you need to own a magic item to learn Identify. Even if you do, there's no reason it couldn't be a volunteer (perhaps a fellow apprentice) who has consented to being charmed in return for practicing their spells on you.

In terms of learning the magic, I think there's an important distinction in that combat spells can be learned with the intent of using them against non-sapient threats, while most charm spells can't. That said, in the real world, we have plenty of people trained with weapon systems that are only useful against humans, and we don't call such people (soldiers) automatically evil.
 

pukunui

Legend
Neither say they have the charmed condition ...
You are correct that friends does not impose the charmed condition. Charm person, however, does. It may not use the word "condition", but a failure on the saving throw against the spell renders the target "charmed by you" for the duration. In this context, being charmed means having the charmed condition.

]Now I am a big proponent of martial abilities. I have even in other threads suggested that a high Cha rogue or fighter should be able to fast talk someone into being charmed as per the condition.
You mean like the swashbuckler rogue's Panache feature?

Tasha's Cauldron also gives the battle master fighter a new maneuver called Commanding Presence that lets them add a superiority die to their Charisma checks. (The UA playtest version of this maneuver was even called "Silver Tongue".)
 

With very few exceptions that are based on the function of the universe of the system (animate dead is the only one I can think of off the top of my head), no spell or knowledge is inherently evil. Evil is the action of using that knowledge in a way that fits the definition of evil within the game. Your personal view of evil outside of the game can impact a setting of your making (if a DM) and your character's view of such actions. However, this out of game view is entirely subjective, based on your philosophical view and societal norms.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
In terms of learning the magic, I think there's an important distinction in that combat spells can be learned with the intent of using them against non-sapient threats, while most charm spells can't. That said, in the real world, we have plenty of people trained with weapon systems that are only useful against humans, and we don't call such people (soldiers) automatically evil.
Additionally, if Charm Person were evil simply because it only targets sentient targets, then Hold Person should also be considered evil (because it only targets humanoids, which are almost invariably sentient).

Certainly, Hold Person is capable of being used for reprehensible ends. On the other hand, a LG sheriff who utilizes it to capture criminals without resorting to violence is almost certainly not endangering their alignment by using Hold Person (or Charm Person, for that matter) IMO.
 

payn

Legend
I think it's no more evil than the heroic tropes assumed by the game, wherein the PCs will regularly kill "evil" (oftentimes sentient) being for the cause of "good". If you want to say such killing is evil irrespective of the circumstances, then sure, mind control is also evil irrespective of how it is used. Otherwise, I disagree.
I do think all killing is evil, but sometimes thats the only option. Its a matter of degrees that require context to really weigh out best at the table. Though, this is getting dangerously close to "killing is the worst", so anything short of it is good or heroic trope, which I staunchly disagree with. Take care.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Not all violence is murder. But intentionally killing a person when it's not necessary for protection is exactly what murder means, at least in an ethical sense.
All use of mind control violates the will of another sentient being. One can construct a hypothetical in which it is necessary to prevent a greater (or simply more personally urgent) evil, but violating a person’s most fundamental being is vastly more similar to using sexual violation and torture to get what you want than it is to nearly any other form of violence.
Why is learning to mind control inherently more evil than learning to kill? Presumably, you don't have to actually mind control anyone to learn a mind control spell, any more than you need to own a magic item to learn Identify. Even if you do, there's no reason it couldn't be a volunteer (perhaps a fellow apprentice) who has consented to being charmed in return for practicing their spells on you.
I don’t beleive that a person could learn how to violate the minds, the conscious will, of others sentient beings, without catastrophic trauma to their own conscience and self-identity. For a person to willingly learn that…skill set, would require them to not view other sentient beings as people with a right to live and act of thier own accord.

Learning to fight requires nothing more than being willing to fight if you have to, to enjoy physical contest and challenge, or even just to want to be in shape.

The two are so wildly different on every level that I’m always a bit…I don’t know the right word here. It’s like having people seriously claim that the air is water and I’m actually a hallucinating fish, and trying to explain why that isn’t the case.
I would take it a step further and argue that all violence is a violation of self. It's simply that we say its acceptable in certain cases (self defense) but not in others (punching your neighbor because you felt like it).
We can dismiss out of hand your first claim, simply by looking at any example of consensual violence.

Violence is also quite often not especially lasting in impact. I’ve fought more neo-nazis and other white supremacists than most folks have, I reckon, but I never put anyone in the hospital, much less killed anyone.

I would yeet myself out of this mortal coil before I’d allow someone to mind-violate a neo-nazi to force them to change their thinking. Kicking thier ass to teach them to stay away from my friend’s bar or stop hitting on my other friend’s teenage sister is an act of Good. The other thing would be detestable evil worthy of the strongest legal punishment allowable by the laws of my country.
In terms of learning the magic, I think there's an important distinction in that combat spells can be learned with the intent of using them against non-sapient threats, while most charm spells can't. That said, in the real world, we have plenty of people trained with weapon systems that are only useful against humans, and we don't call such people (soldiers) automatically evil.
Depends on who you ask, but sure. Most of us don’t label soldiers evil. Of course, if they were also the people starting the wars, we would.

Likewise, if we had a world where mind control was used by every army, I’d only consider the leaders necessarily evil, whereas the soldiers would generally be a matter of personal action. So, I don’t think the soldier example really tracks.
Additionally, if Charm Person were evil simply because it only targets sentient targets, then Hold Person should also be considered evil (because it only targets humanoids, which are almost invariably sentient).

Certainly, Hold Person is capable of being used for reprehensible ends. On the other hand, a LG sheriff who utilizes it to capture criminals without resorting to violence is almost certainly not endangering their alignment by using Hold Person (or Charm Person, for that matter) IMO.
You really think those two things are the same? You really think that “used only against sentient beings” is anyone’s problem with mind control?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
This is like that assassin that only kills bad dudes, so its actually good argument. There are degrees of bad, but bad is still bad. Some folks cant handle the fact that they are a pinch bad, and thus have to justify it as being really good. At my table, its ok to be a little bad, this contextual discussion is actually welcomed and something we do. It has hints of playing with darkness or being an anti-hero which can be compelling.
If an assassin kills serial killers, and only pulls the trigger after gaining absolute knowledge of their guilt (directly witnessing the act or gaining a confession, etc), how on earth is what they do “evil”?

You really gonna tell us that you think people who ambushed and assassinated nazis during WWII were evil!?
I think it's no more evil than the heroic tropes assumed by the game, wherein the PCs will regularly kill "evil" (oftentimes sentient) being for the cause of "good".
If those beings being killed are labeled evil for reasons other than their actions toward other sentient beings, the world, etc, then the characters killing them aren’t heroes.

So, bad example, IMO.
 

Faolyn

Hero
One thing to remember here is that, in D&D, there is a verifiable afterlife (and even the ability to communicate with people in the afterlife), undeath, and raise dead-type spells. Death isn't truly final in D&Dland, even for regular folks. But there's no way to reverse the effects of mind control. You can shield yourself from it and break free from it, but you can't undo it.
 

Forcing your will on others is no more evil with a Charm spell than a Fireball, they're both forms of violence. One is creepier, one is more horrifying and war-crime-y, but the idea that Charm is Evil and, say, Magic Missile is not is absolutely laughable and shows some serious naivete imho, and on top of that, superficiality.

Charm might disturb someone more but they're likely still alive and there's a reason we put murder as worse than enslavement in virtually all societies. Both can very easily be very wrong but if you think your hands are clean because you always use physical violence or always use mind control, you're wrong either way.
 

payn

Legend
If an assassin kills serial killers, and only pulls the trigger after gaining absolute knowledge of their guilt (directly witnessing the act or gaining a confession, etc), how on earth is what they do “evil”?
Well, its murder, for one, and yeah most descriptions of D&D evil include a bit about not having compassion for living things and freely hurting them when it suits them. The assassin doesn't kill in self defense, or as a last resort, its literally the first thing they turn to in their task resolution tool box. Just a note, being evil in my games isnt an issue, sometimes the players choose characters that are anti-heroes or those who flirt with dangerous forces.
You really gonna tell us that you think people who ambushed and assassinated nazis during WWII were evil!?
So, this is way out in the weeds. Sure, you can point to blatantly obvious situations, like war, and say it cant be evil. Though, do you think Iraqi war was justified? What about if I found out a neighbor was a serial killer, and just went over there and blew him away? Do you think the court and society would be ok with me doing that?

I simplify this at my gaming tables by just making it all evil, and the characters and their society and factions decide on appropriate actions. There may be alignment shifts when patterns occur, and/or if alignment has any mechanical heft, otherwise it's game on and people dont burden themselves with justifying all their actions in good and evil buckets.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
All use of mind control violates the will of another sentient being. One can construct a hypothetical in which it is necessary to prevent a greater (or simply more personally urgent) evil, but violating a person’s most fundamental being is vastly more similar to using sexual violation and torture to get what you want than it is to nearly any other form of violence.

I don’t beleive that a person could learn how to violate the minds, the conscious will, of others sentient beings, without catastrophic trauma to their own conscience and self-identity. For a person to willingly learn that…skill set, would require them to not view other sentient beings as people with a right to live and act of thier own accord.

Learning to fight requires nothing more than being willing to fight if you have to, to enjoy physical contest and challenge, or even just to want to be in shape.

The two are so wildly different on every level that I’m always a bit…I don’t know the right word here. It’s like having people seriously claim that the air is water and I’m actually a hallucinating fish, and trying to explain why that isn’t the case.

We can dismiss out of hand your first claim, simply by looking at any example of consensual violence.

Violence is also quite often not especially lasting in impact. I’ve fought more neo-nazis and other white supremacists than most folks have, I reckon, but I never put anyone in the hospital, much less killed anyone.

I would yeet myself out of this mortal coil before I’d allow someone to mind-violate a neo-nazi to force them to change their thinking. Kicking thier ass to teach them to stay away from my friend’s bar or stop hitting on my other friend’s teenage sister is an act of Good. The other thing would be detestable evil worthy of the strongest legal punishment allowable by the laws of my country.

Depends on who you ask, but sure. Most of us don’t label soldiers evil. Of course, if they were also the people starting the wars, we would.

Likewise, if we had a world where mind control was used by every army, I’d only consider the leaders necessarily evil, whereas the soldiers would generally be a matter of personal action. So, I don’t think the soldier example really tracks.

You really think those two things are the same? You really think that “used only against sentient beings” is anyone’s problem with mind control?
To draw a real world analog, you believe that a person cannot study hypnotism "without catastrophic trauma to their own conscience and self-identity"? A stage hypnotist might make a volunteer do embarrassing things that they wouldn't otherwise do (dance like a chicken in front of an audience). That said, I don't think hypnotism is inherently evil by any stretch of the imagination.

You say that beating up bad people is Good. I disagree. I, by no means, have any love for bad people. That doesn't mean that I think violence against them (or anyone) is good though. Necessary, at times, perhaps.

Personally, I think that if you didn't want them in your bar or talking to your friend's sister, telepathically forcing them to leave is actually less bad than beating them up until they do what you want. Either is a violation of their will and self, as I see it. However, forcing them to leave without violence is better than doing so by resorting to violence. It's a violation either way, IMO, but at least in the case of mind control they won't be suffering the reminders of the beating days later.

I think that a mage could certainly study charm person without defending into moral depravity. For example, they might study it with the intent of neutralizing violent confrontations non-violently. If learning charm person is somehow inherently immoral, then I would say that learning fireball (a spell that is not good for much else other than mass killing) is also immoral. However, I don't think that learning either spell is inherently immoral.

As I see it, it's how you use them (or intend to use them) that determines the morality. Heck, a wizard might learn both because they love magic and want to learn all spells (gotta catch 'em all), never intending to prepare or cast either. As far as I'm concerned, that's clearly not immoral.
 

Voadam

Legend
One thing to remember here is that, in D&D, there is a verifiable afterlife (and even the ability to communicate with people in the afterlife), undeath, and raise dead-type spells. Death isn't truly final in D&Dland, even for regular folks. But there's no way to reverse the effects of mind control. You can shield yourself from it and break free from it, but you can't undo it.
Can you elucidate on your perceived difference there?

Breaking free of mind control seems analogous to bringing someone back from the dead. It doesn't undo what happened while they were mind-controlled/dead, but the condition no longer is active going forward.

While mind controlled someone could get you to open a palm print lock and there is no taking it back. They could also use the hand from your corpse to do so and when you are raised there is no taking that back.

The trauma of having been mind controlled will continue as a memory of a past event. So will the trauma of having been killed.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Can you elucidate on your perceived difference there?

Breaking free of mind control seems analogous to bringing someone back from the dead. It doesn't undo what happened while they were mind-controlled/dead, but the condition no longer is active going forward.

While mind controlled someone could get you to open a palm print lock and there is no taking it back. They could also use the hand from your corpse to do so and when you are raised there is no taking that back.

The trauma of having been mind controlled will continue as a memory of a past event. So will the trauma of having been killed.
To me, being raised undoes the death, to the point that even raise dead "closes all mortal wounds." You're weak (1 hp) but it's as if you never died in the first place. Unless you use some house rules to represent trauma or say that the person has memories of the afterlife, of course, but there's no actual rules for that (even if there should be). You're not in your body so nothing that happens to your body after you die really affects you when you come back. Unless a limb gets chopped off--but the limb would be restored with a resurrection rather than a raise dead. (As a note, I consider revivify to be more like powerful CPR rather than proper raising from the dead.)

But breaking free of a charm, especially a long-term charm (like in earlier editions, when charm person could lasts for days or weeks) doesn't undo what happened during that time. It doesn't make it so that you didn't do all the things you did while charmed and you remember them all. It literally twists your mind into thinking that you want to do whatever it is you did.

So anyway. I'm not saying that death and killing isn't bad (or at least isn't usually murder) in D&D. But I think the mind-mess-uppery of many charm spells is kinda worse. (And, as I said, my favorite spell is enemies abound, which is a total mind-mess-up spell.)
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top