D&D 5E Charms and Combat

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Abilities that charm tend to assume that the party is not in combat and often give provisions (usually penalties) for what happens if they are cast in combat.

They are also things that other creatures typically don't want to have happen to them.

If a player says "I cast Fireball" we roll initiative and see what happens. Does the enemy get the jump on the party and go first? The game resolves hostile action this way so that it isn't just who announces first goes first which would cause game play problems. It is a compromise from going to a timeline of minutes to seconds.

So what happens if a play says "I cast Charm Person." I cast "Enthrall." Or uses a feature or ability which charms.

In order to have enchantments have their proper place in the narrative I resolve them without going into combat.

For spells I think of the verbal and somatic components as being entirely different in nature to something like Fireball. They are words and gestures which may be interpreted as friendly, interesting, or whatever else is appropriate. If the magic doesn't work the caster may end up looking foolish and savvy targets may know what was just attempted.

I don't really see another way of handling them that is fair to the enchanter. If the PCs are targetted by an enchanter it is a matter of playing in good faith to separate player and character knowledge of the situation.
 

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payn

Legend
For me it depends how aware the character(s) are of each other. Is the caster being sneaky about it? Does the caster have any abilities that allows them to cast undetected? If not, I'll look at the situation. Is it a crowded market or full tavern? If there is a reasonable situation I might give a caster a surprise round. If there are no subterfuge options, and no reason for the target to be distracted, then I'll go straight to initiative.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
I don't really see another way of handling them that is fair to the enchanter. If the PCs are targetted by an enchanter it is a matter of playing in good faith to separate player and character knowledge of the situation.

I agree. What I call good players actually enjoy being charmed by an enemy, and roleplaying it. On the other hand, bad (entitled) players will complain about the loss of of their sacrosanct "player agency", and whine and do everything that they can to create trouble at the table. I know the kind of players I'd rather be playing with...
 

payn

Legend
In my games, if the person is friendly or different to the PCs, charm person doesn't require initiative. If the person is hostile to the PCs, charm person may be interpreted as an attack and we'll go to initiative.
Even Friendly and indifferent characters take offense to unsolicited spell casting on them in my settings.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
For me it depends how aware the character(s) are of each other. Is the caster being sneaky about it? Does the caster have any abilities that allows them to cast undetected? If not, I'll look at the situation. Is it a crowded market or full tavern? If there is a reasonable situation I might give a caster a surprise round. If there are no subterfuge options, and no reason for the target to be distracted, then I'll go straight to initiative.

What if the spell is Tongues? Is that initiative?
 


payn

Legend
What if the spell is Tongues? Is that initiative?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isnt tongues a spell a character casts on their self? If it is a target spell, yes folks dont appreciate folks tossing around spells unsolicited regardless of intent.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isnt tongues a spell a character casts on their self? If it is a target spell, yes folks dont appreciate folks tossing around spells unsolicited regardless of intent.

I guess I'm trying to figure out if it is spellcasting in general that people are reacting to or if you're calling for initiative on anything that you determine to be hostile.

What if it just a Bard making a performance? Their magic is inherently performance based.

How about the charm effect on Summon Fae Spirit? The spirit teleports to a space and then charms a creature. It is essentially just the creature being cute.

I've decided to categorize enchantment effects like this that don't cause direct harm as not prompting a move to initiative time. I just don't think they really work otherwise.
 

Stalker0

Legend
What if the spell is Tongues? Is that initiative?
So let’s look at the context. Your trying to communicate with a person, but can’t because of a language barrier.

suddenly that person pulls from their pocket a small building, and waves it at you in a crazy nearly alien motion, while forcely speaking some words even more foreign and crazy than the last.

Wouldn’t that freak you out?

magic is really not subtle as described in the core book, and it’s assumed most people don’t know what a spell does as it’s cast, just that magic is happening.

so if I was already jumpy and worried about a person, I might absolutely attack first if I feared some crazy spell being cast on me
 

payn

Legend
I guess I'm trying to figure out if it is spellcasting in general that people are reacting to or if you're calling for initiative on anything that you determine to be hostile.

What if it just a Bard making a performance? Their magic is inherently performance based.

How about the charm effect on Summon Fae Spirit? The spirit teleports to a space and then charms a creature. It is essentially just the creature being cute.

I've decided to categorize enchantment effects like this that don't cause direct harm as not prompting a move to initiative time. I just don't think they really work otherwise.
Spellcasting in general. I mean, if somebody I dont know just starts casting a spell, that can be pretty frightening, even in world that magic is common. You dont know what that person is up to. I mean, these minor charm spells are seemingly harmless, but they still circumvent the targets will. I would be openly hostile to a stranger attempting that on me.

In the case of the Bard performance, thats one of those situations I mentioned above where i'd spare initiative. Can you summon a fae spirit without jazz hands and vocal components? Is it some ancestral/racial ability? I need some context on why you get this off without any possible target reaction.

Also, calling for initiative doesnt always indicate straight to combat. I just want a character to have a chance to react reasonably to somebody casting a spell near them. If they win, they might simply say, "WTF are you doing?"
 

ECMO3

Hero
Abilities that charm tend to assume that the party is not in combat and often give provisions (usually penalties) for what happens if they are cast in combat.

They are also things that other creatures typically don't want to have happen to them.

If a player says "I cast Fireball" we roll initiative and see what happens. Does the enemy get the jump on the party and go first? The game resolves hostile action this way so that it isn't just who announces first goes first which would cause game play problems. It is a compromise from going to a timeline of minutes to seconds.

So what happens if a play says "I cast Charm Person." I cast "Enthrall." Or uses a feature or ability which charms.

In order to have enchantments have their proper place in the narrative I resolve them without going into combat.

For spells I think of the verbal and somatic components as being entirely different in nature to something like Fireball. They are words and gestures which may be interpreted as friendly, interesting, or whatever else is appropriate. If the magic doesn't work the caster may end up looking foolish and savvy targets may know what was just attempted.

I don't really see another way of handling them that is fair to the enchanter. If the PCs are targetted by an enchanter it is a matter of playing in good faith to separate player and character knowledge of the situation.
The original premise is not true.

Charmed is a condition and it is specifically designed for combat. Monsters like Harpys, spells like Summon Fey, Crown of madness and Hypnotic pattern and abuilities like beguiling twist and hyptnotic gaze all cause the charmed condition and they are absolutely meant for combat. Some of those don't even function out of combat.

Some spells like charm person can be influenced by combat or outright fail, but those are the exceptions.

As far as the question I think it is irrelevant. Unless you are using subtle spell the enemy can see you cast a spell and casting charm person is no different than casting a fireball or for that matter throwing a dagger. You are starting combat unless you are hidden when you do it.

No one is going to just let you cast a spell on them unless it is unusual circmustance. Maybe if you tell them, "I am going to heal that broken arm" and then you charm them, but you could also say "I am going to heal that broken arm" and then cast disintegrate too.

Whether you roll initiative or not depends on how the combat is initiated. Depending on the situation I might just let the fireball (or charm person) go off first and use his turn first, then put everyone else in initiative order.

I have also seen different DMs play spells differently. One DM might let me cast charm person from the shadows while hidden, while another is adamant - it is a spell, it has a verbal component and if you start casting your location is revealed just like if you fired an arrow. Jeremy Crawford agrees with the latter stating that a spell with a verbal component reveals hidden creatures.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
So let’s look at the context. Your trying to communicate with a person, but can’t because of a language barrier.

suddenly that person pulls from their pocket a small building, and waves it at you in a crazy nearly alien motion, while forcely speaking some words even more foreign and crazy than the last.

Wouldn’t that freak you out?

magic is really not subtle as described in the core book, and it’s assumed most people don’t know what a spell does as it’s cast, just that magic is happening.

so if I was already jumpy and worried about a person, I might absolutely attack first if I feared some crazy spell being cast on me

To me the initiative system is an abstract solution to who gets to go first. It doesn't need to follow what is happening in the narrative but it does need to exist to allow for different narrative options.

If someone cast Charm Person and it failed then it stands to reason the target would be upset and might fight.

But that's not what I'm asking.

Does a fight happen before the Charm Person is cast? The initiative system allows for an enemy to attack before the PC does a hostile action and vice versa. If a PC is going to cast Fireball I instead call for initiative and if someone beats their initiative then it gets explained away such as 'they see the intent in your eyes before you can act'.

The question then is whether the game needs to account for that with enchantment spells? If I cast Suggestion on a knight to ask them to give their horse to the first beggar they see can that knight win initiative and strike me down before I talk? Or put another way do we want that opportunity supported in the fiction?

For me I want to allow a space for enchantments and to me that means they can happen before initiative is rolled in the right circumstances. That makes them powerful but otherwise they would be too weak.

Spellcasting in general. I mean, if somebody I dont know just starts casting a spell, that can be pretty frightening, even in world that magic is common. You dont know what that person is up to. I mean, these minor charm spells are seemingly harmless, but they still circumvent the targets will. I would be openly hostile to a stranger attempting that on me.

In the case of the Bard performance, thats one of those situations I mentioned above where i'd spare initiative. Can you summon a fae spirit without jazz hands and vocal components? Is it some ancestral/racial ability? I need some context on why you get this off without any possible target reaction.

Also, calling for initiative doesnt always indicate straight to combat. I just want a character to have a chance to react reasonably to somebody casting a spell near them. If they win, they might simply say, "WTF are you doing?"

The fae spirit already exists. The spell was cast 30 minutes ago. They just teleport to a nearby space and then choose a creature to be charmed by them and the caster.

The charmed condition itself is not harmful. It just means the target cannot attack the charmer and the charmer has advantage on Charisma checks. So the charmer can't even get the target to do anything they don't already want to do.

So the question then is if the fae spirit teleports is initiative called? Is initiative only called if the spirit wants to charm another creature after teleporting?

As for reacting to a spell being cast they can say 'wtf are you doing?' without initiative.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
No one is going to just let you cast a spell on them unless it is unusual circmustance.
I'm not sure what rolling initiative really accomplishes in situations like the one the OP describes. If the PCs are talking to a hostile creature, sure. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?!" while drawing a sword. But if the creature is friendly or indifferent, it could be more like "Say, friend, I don't understand those words you're speaking..." or "What's this about, stranger?" respectively. This also has the effect of setting up the next complication to be resolved in the social interaction challenge: How do the PCs answer this question, whether or not the NPC's save fails? That might have an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure (a roll resolving which will be easier due to advantage if the charm condition lands).

This plays nicely into the social interaction rules in the DMG (Page 244-245) that nobody reads or uses.
 

payn

Legend
Does a fight happen before the Charm Person is cast? The initiative system allows for an enemy to attack before the PC does a hostile action and vice versa. If a PC is going to cast Fireball I instead call for initiative and if someone beats their initiative then it gets explained away such as 'they see the intent in your eyes before you can act'.
Charm works the same as fireball (or any spell) for me. You lost initiative and they noticed you beginning to cast a spell, which allows them to react before you drop the spell. They can ask what you are doing, or they can run, or they can attack. Its up to them but they still get a chance. I might give the caster a surprise round if the situation supports it.
The question then is whether the game needs to account for that with enchantment spells? If I cast Suggestion on a knight to ask them to give their horse to the first beggar they see can that knight win initiative and strike me down before I talk? Or put another way do we want that opportunity supported in the fiction?
The game does account for enchantment with class feats and abilities. Otherwise, enchantments work like any other spell. Would you want a knight dropping charm on your PC, and taking their horse for whatever purpose without a chance to stop it (minus save of course)?
For me I want to allow a space for enchantments and to me that means they can happen before initiative is rolled in the right circumstances. That makes them powerful but otherwise they would be too weak.
You can still win initiative, or get a surprise round, if that fails, you can still cast charm and end the fight on your turn. Enchantment is powerful already.
The fae spirit already exists. The spell was cast 30 minutes ago. They just teleport to a nearby space and then choose a creature to be charmed by them and the caster.
I'd give a surprise round for this.
The charmed condition itself is not harmful. It just means the target cannot attack the charmer and the charmer has advantage on Charisma checks. So the charmer can't even get the target to do anything they don't already want to do.
Being mind raped is harmful to a character, even if they dont have a risk of physical harm.
So the question then is if the fae spirit teleports is initiative called? Is initiative only called if the spirit wants to charm another creature after teleporting?
Surprise round.
As for reacting to a spell being cast they can say 'wtf are you doing?' without initiative.
Doesn't matter if the spell goes off anyways, might as well just roll the save at that point.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Charm works the same as fireball (or any spell) for me. You lost initiative and they noticed you beginning to cast a spell, which allows them to react before you drop the spell. They can ask what you are doing, or they can run, or they can attack. Its up to them but they still get a chance. I might give the caster a surprise round if the situation supports it.

The game does account for enchantment with class feats and abilities. Otherwise, enchantments work like any other spell. Would you want a knight dropping charm on your PC, and taking their horse for whatever purpose without a chance to stop it (minus save of course)?

You can still win initiative, or get a surprise round, if that fails, you can still cast charm and end the fight on your turn. Enchantment is powerful already.

I'd give a surprise round for this.

Being mind raped is harmful to a character, even if they dont have a risk of physical harm.

Surprise round.

Doesn't matter if the spell goes off anyways, might as well just roll the save at that point.

Those surprise rounds aren't supported by the rules.

The problem I'm having here is that it doesn't look like there is any room to have enchantments actually work.

Say the fae spirit has a 'surprise round' and successfully charms the creature. Well the charmed effect doesn't force the creature to like you and they can still attack your allies. So all you ended up doing is instigating a fight.

I think for enchantments to work the DM needs to allow for them to be used without a fight automatically happening, or for their targets to be aware of the charming and react in kind.

As to the question about allowing NPCs the chance to charm the PCs without chance to win initiative? Yes, I think it's a compromise to allow enchantments to work.

Let's look at Suggestion again. The PC successfully casts it and suggests the knight go give their horse away. Is the knight going to yell for help along the way shouting 'I've been enchanted please help! those are the culprits!"

The spell doesn't stop that from happening and if thought through that is what the targeted character would do. But that ruins enchantments in the game.

I just think they should be assumed to be subtler than that.

If my Glamour Bard puts on a magical performance and charms a crowd I don't think of it as assault. I think the magic made the performance stuff of legends and the 'targets' respond in kind.
 

ECMO3

Hero
I'm not sure what rolling initiative really accomplishes in situations like the one the OP describes. If the PCs are talking to a hostile creature, sure. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?!" while drawing a sword. But if the creature is friendly or indifferent, it could be more like "Say, friend, I don't understand those words you're speaking..." or "What's this about, stranger?" respectively. This also has the effect of setting up the next complication to be resolved in the social interaction challenge: How do the PCs answer this question, whether or not the NPC's save fails? That might have an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure (a roll resolving which will be easier due to advantage if the charm condition lands).

This plays nicely into the social interaction rules in the DMG (Page 244-245) that nobody reads or uses.
I would say most intelligent creatures would recognize a spell being cast in a world with spells and would not simply let it continue.

I think casting a spell would generally be like drawing a dagger, sure maybe you are going to use it to make a carving or cut your dinner but it is going to be treated with obvious suspicion unless there is an ovbious reason for doing it.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I would say most intelligent creatures would recognize a spell being cast in a world with spells and would not simply let it continue.

I think casting a spell would generally be like drawing a dagger, sure maybe you are going to use it to make a carving or cut your dinner but it is going to be treated with obvious suspicion unless there is an ovbious reason for doing it.
When thinking about what happens in the fictional setting, I avoid the words "must," "would" or "will" in favor of "could," "might" or "may." In a game based on make-believe, I think this is a more appropriate frame.
 

payn

Legend
So, for conversations sake, lets say enchantment spells are granted a sucker punch; What happens when the target saves?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
So, for conversations sake, lets say enchantment spells are granted a sucker punch; What happens when the target saves?
I would say it comes down to the NPC's attitude toward the characters as I mentioned here. The PCs might have to do some 'splainin to do to ensure the NPC's attitude doesn't shift in the wrong direction.
 

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