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D&D 5E Charm, the evil spells

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
Mercing nazis in Europe in 1940 isn't really a case of "when it suits them". You've created a dichotomy wherein all guerilla actions are murder. Any ambush of the enemy, regardless of what the enemy is trying to do to your country and people, is murder? I think that's a pretty absurd notion.
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.
Is it? That seems like a wild assumption, to me. An assassin is someone with that tool in their tool box, who is willing to use it and/or has used it. That certainly doesn't necessitate any sort of eagerness to kill or reluctance to use other tactics first.
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?
Let's not get into current politically charged events, shall we?
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?
Why would the court be relevant, here? Lots of things are good or neutral but can get you in trouble with the law. As for society, while it certainly gets more of a voice in an ethics debate about what is right or wrong than the legal system does, society causes incredible harm to innocent people all over the world. I don't find either question compelling.

Oh, and by the by, you wouldn't exactly have no legal defense you could make if you killed a serial killer that you could then prove was murdering people around you and that you could reasonably believe was going targeting you or your family next. You'd probably not get off clean, but you wouldn't be facing the same charges as you would if you murdered your neighbor for stealing your lawnmower.

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.
If hypnotism could do in real life what it can do in fiction, any hypnotist would at least be a justified subject of suspicion.
You say that beating up bad people is Good. I disagree.
I mean, if we disagree here, well...see below.
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.
I just cannot reconcile this notion with any meaningful definition of words like "good", "evil", etc.
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.
Our points of reference are too far apart to further engage on the subject usefully, I think. Especially since I doubt it was the OP's intent, nor Morrus's desire, to have drawn out discussions of sexual violence, torture, etc, in this thread.

Learning how to torture people is evil, and if you don't see the difference between that and learning to fight, that's fine. We disagree, and always will.
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.
You've made the point in this very post. Controlling a person's mind is comparable to killing them. Not to stabbing them. Not to things people survive, but to the ultimate acts of violence. The only comperable acts to taking control of another person's mind are things that require trigger warnings in polite company to even talk about.
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
Learning how to torture people is evil, and if you don't see the difference between that and learning to fight, that's fine. We disagree, and always will.
Sure, learning to torture people is arguably evil. However, mind control is not equivalent to torture. Granted, it could be used for abhorrent torture. A belt knife could be used to inflict cruel torture, or simply used to open and flatten cardboard boxes.

Say that a bandit is about to murder a child. If a mage casts suggestion and says something along the lines of, "This is turning out to be more trouble than it's worth. You should immediately leave," how is that torture in any meaningful sense of the term? There is nothing cruel about the suggestion. It is used to save the life of a child, not for selfish purposes. It leaves the bandit's will intact beyond the act of leaving the immediate area. He could leave and go to the tavern to drink, hunt for dinner, or go back to his camp and knit a scarf. His will has been technically violated, but it's (IMO) far more merciful than if the mage had cast magic missile, injuring or even killing the bandit.
 


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.
This does raise the question about exactly much does WotC want to encourage a heroic narrative? The sidebar suggested above would be spelling out activities as evil that may not have been considered such earlier. One could see doing something similar with violent actions in game, to really push the "PCs are heroes" narrative home. You could also argue whether or not its needed to explain to people that mind control is very sketchy from a moral perspective.
 

Voadam

Legend
You've made the point in this very post. Controlling a person's mind is comparable to killing them. Not to stabbing them. Not to things people survive, but to the ultimate acts of violence. The only comperable acts to taking control of another person's mind are things that require trigger warnings in polite company to even talk about.
That does not seem to follow from the example.

The example seems to apply to overpowering someone in a grapple just as much as to killing them or using mind control.

The mind controller/grappler/killer takes control of the opponent's hand and uses it to open the palm lock they did not want opened.

After words it is done once the mind control is broken/the grapple is released/the body is raised. The target has control of themself again.

Whatever was done while the target was not in control of their hand, happened.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The trauma of having been mind controlled will continue as a memory of a past event. So will the trauma of having been killed.
Which raises a corollary question: does a mind-controlled person in fact remember what happened while under someone else's control?

I'm thinking of the Imperius curse in Harry Potter, whose victims don't remember - or at best don't remember well - what they did while the curse was in effect.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Breaking free from mind control is undoing it, isn't it; every bit as much as being raised undoes being dead or being cured undoes being hurt.

Absent time travel, you can't undo what you did while under someone's control any more than you can undo missing some time because you were dead for a while.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Given all the other nasty things D&D characters can and will do to their opponents (and, sometimes, each other), mind control in and of itself is a long way down the list of things I care about when it comes to alignment audits etc.

I pay much more attention to what that mind control is being used for.
 

I'm thinking of the Imperius curse in Harry Potter, whose victims don't remember - or at best don't remember well - what they did while the curse was in effect.
That was my first thought as well.

Although enchantments of this kind are a staple in fiction and folklore, it should be noted that it's generally the villain who is deploying this kind of magic, and if the protagonist attempts it, it generally goes awry.

I think that from a modern perspective (i.e. the one we share), depriving someone of their autonomy and volition is unequivocally evil.

So how about compelling summoned creatures and outsiders?
 

payn

Legend
Let's not get into current politically charged events, shall we?
Why not? Historical events are ok because they fit your needs? Dont answer I dont care to go any further down this rabbit hole with you.

I dont evaluate my in game actions based on real world history. Charming people is evil, but its not on par with numerous other actions. It typically happens once or twice a campaign and its not an issue. I did have a player once who used charm in every possible situation they could. Eventually, I had to explain to them the character was a bit of a scum bag and heading down a path where they would have a knife at their throat and no friends to help. Its situational and abuse usually has repercussions. Being an assassin is the same. You cant reason your way out of being evil. Eventually it will catch up with you. I wont stop you from playing such a character, but I'll never agree to such being a good character.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
That does not seem to follow from the example.

The example seems to apply to overpowering someone in a grapple just as much as to killing them or using mind control.
Not at all.
The mind controller/grappler/killer takes control of the opponent's hand and uses it to open the palm lock they did not want opened.
The grappler hasn't taken control of the person's mind. Or killed them, for that matter. It's a patently silly comparison.
After words it is done once the mind control is broken/the grapple is released/the body is raised. The target has control of themself again.

Whatever was done while the target was not in control of their hand, happened.
Whatever happened isn't necessarily the point, though. While being grappled and physically forced to do something against your will is humiliating, horrifying, and traumatizing, (which is why bullies and abusers do it so much) it does not force your mind to do anything. You are still in control of your nervous system, you are still able to resist, even if in vain.

I really think that folks who think that isn't worse than physical violence are failing to conceptualize the experience.

Mind control would be more like the effects of long term entrapment in an abusive relationship or a program of reeducation, except done to you in a moment. I know people who have survived such situations, and most of them recognize their own trauma in mind control stories like season 1 of Jessica Jones.

Anyway, I should step away from this.

Mind control intersects with real world trauma pretty strongly, and the arguments I see in these discussions often resemble those I've heard from people who don't understand what is so traumatic about some pretty awful stuff that happens to people IRL. I'd consider a human trafficker to be even worse than a murderer IRL, or just as bad at the very least.
 



Mercing nazis in Europe in 1940 isn't really a case of "when it suits them". You've created a dichotomy wherein all guerilla actions are murder. Any ambush of the enemy, regardless of what the enemy is trying to do to your country and people, is murder? I think that's a pretty absurd notion.

Is it? That seems like a wild assumption, to me. An assassin is someone with that tool in their tool box, who is willing to use it and/or has used it. That certainly doesn't necessitate any sort of eagerness to kill or reluctance to use other tactics first.
If a witch had mind controlled Hitler and the rest of the Nazi leadership in 1942 and made them order the Wehrmacht to surrender immediately, would that have been an evil act?
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
That was my first thought as well.

Although enchantments of this kind are a staple in fiction and folklore, it should be noted that it's generally the villain who is deploying this kind of magic, and if the protagonist attempts it, it generally goes awry.

I think that from a modern perspective (i.e. the one we share), depriving someone of their autonomy and volition is unequivocally evil.

So how about compelling summoned creatures and outsiders?
I don't think it's true that from the modern perspective it is unequivocally evil.

Take prison, for example. Being locked away in prison most certainly deprives a person of their autonomy and volition.

Leaving aside cases of innocent people being wrongfully incarcerated, I would say that the modern perspective doesn't view incarceration as evil, but rather a consequence of committing crimes. Certainly prison does violate one's autonomy and volition - a prisoner cannot go where they please, or do what they please, and may be subject to extremely invasive searches that I doubt anyone would welcome.

Of course, if someone were to take an innocent person and incarcerate them in such a way, we would view it as evil. However, when done to criminals it is typically viewed as justice.

I certainly think that compelling a summoned creature can be evil. For example, forcing a summoned celestial to commit evil acts. However, I don't think that all compelled acts are evil. Using a summoned demon to rescue a child who would otherwise drown might infuriate the demon, but I think it's vastly overreaching to call it evil. Rescuing a drowning child is a good act. It doesn't suddenly become evil because you compelled a summoned demon (who is at no actual risk) to do it.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I fundamentally disagree. Not all violence is murder. All mind control is violation of Will.
Arguably, "charm" spells (Friends, Charm Person, et al) are not "mind control" so much as mind/emotion/perception "influencing." You can not force them to harm themselves or do things that are intrinsically against their nature. The target knows they were ensorcelled when the spell wears off. It's a...mental "nudge."

Is the bard or knightly- or warlordy-played battlemaster guy (some missionary or preachery paladin or cleric types) who "influence" you through inspiration or rallying calls or uplifting sermons (which tangibly change your rolls for the better or enemy rolls for the worse) "evil" for using those features? I presume you/reasonable people will say, "No, of course not." So my query, then, is, "Why not?"

That can be contrasted with the other arm of Enchantment magics, everyone's favorites, the "compulsions." This is mind "control." You don't have a choice [if you fail the save]. You, generally, awaken from the spell with no knowledge of what you've done. The compulsions are your, arguably, intrinsically evil enchantments. While we look at Dominate as the quintessential example of this, it really starts waaaay back at 1st level, with the cleric's Command spell. Hold Person! Though, I believe, in both of those lower level cases you are aware of what you're doing/is happening to you. You just can't help it... makes it even more evil, if you ask me.

Right out the gate, it's not the enchanters or the necromancers you need to watch and worry about being evil. It's those shifty pompous clerics.
 

I don't think it's true that from the modern perspective it is unequivocally evil.

Take prison, for example. Being locked away in prison most certainly deprives a person of their autonomy and volition.
This is a poor example, and misses the mark. The case in point refers to intervening in an individual's selfhood, and compromising the integrity of their consciousness.

Better - but still inadequate examples - might include lobotomizing psychiatric patients, unsanctioned anaesthesia, spiking someone with LSD without their consent, or administering large doses of lithium sulfate to Alzheimer's sufferers in order to pacify them. How do you feel about those?
 
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Arguably, "charm" spells (Friends, Charm Person, et al) are not "mind control" so much as mind/emotion/perception "influencing." You can not force them to harm themselves or do things that are intrinsically against their nature. The target knows they were ensorcelled when the spell wears off. It's a...mental "nudge."

Is the bard or knightly- or warlordy-played battlemaster guy (some missionary or preachery paladin or cleric types) who "influence" you through inspiration or rallying calls or uplifting sermons (which tangibly change your rolls for the better or enemy rolls for the worse) "evil" for using those features? I presume you/reasonable people will say, "No, of course not." So my query, then, is, "Why not?"

That can be contrasted with the other arm of Enchantment magics, everyone's favorites, the "compulsions." This is mind "control." You don't have a choice [if you fail the save]. You, generally, awaken from the spell with no knowledge of what you've done. The compulsions are your, arguably, intrinsically evil enchantments. While we look at Dominate as the quintessential example of this, it really starts waaaay back at 1st level, with the cleric's Command spell. Hold Person! Though, I believe, in both of those lower level cases you are aware of what you're doing/is happening to you. You just can't help it... makes it even more evil, if you ask me.

Right out the gate, it's not the enchanters or the necromancers you need to watch and worry about being evil. It's those shifty pompous clerics.
I have been thinking about this and it indeed is a tad muddy whether charm person let alone friends are mind control. Some classes can do similar things without magic. Swashbuckler has a charm effect that works like charm person, but is presumably perfectly mundane. And we generally don’t think mundane people being charming is mind control… Yet when it is a spell it definitely feels more mind controly.

The more powerful effects like suggestion and compulsion are in that sense clearer as they’re blatantly obviously mind control.
 

AnotherGuy

Explorer
The case in point refers to intervening in an individual's selfhood, and compromising the integrity of their consciousness.

Better - but still inadequate examples - might include lobotomizing psychiatric patients, unsanctioned anaesthesia, spiking someone with LSD without their consent, or administering large doses of lithium sulfate to Alzheimer's sufferers in order to pacify them. How do you feel about those?
I feel this touches on utilitarianism, which is, considerably of current importance.
 
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