D&D 5E Charms and Combat

MarkB

Legend
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'.
It does get awkward - in my experience players will often have their characters use spells during social situations, like the earlier tongues example, or guidance, and you don't always want things to immediately erupt into conflict as a result.

My option would be that if someone's casting something that's disadvantageous to the subject, they can make a Deception check versus either the target's passive insight if the target wasn't paying direct attention to them, or as an opposed check if they're actively interacting. If the target fails, they're considered to be surprised for the first combat round and we can skip straight to resolving the spellcasting attempt. If their Insight check succeeds, we go to initiative.
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.
I know it's been ruled differently officially, but I run suggestion as the verbal component being the suggestion itself, i.e. "I suggest you head home and take a rest, you're not looking well." It's the Jedi mind trick, and even when Ben Kenobi is only convincing one officer that these aren't the droids he's looking for, he can do so without alerting the other troopers that something weird's going on - unless the officer succeeds on his saving throw.
 

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ad_hoc

(he/they)
So, for conversations sake, lets say enchantment spells are granted a sucker punch; What happens when the target saves?

Let's put aside the framing of 'sucker punch' for now.

What happens after is another matter entirely. It depends on the nature of the charm.

If my Glamour Bard had just put on an enthralling performance the targets who saved would probably think it was a great show (I'm assuming a high performance) but wouldn't really understand the adulation some are giving.

With the Fae Spirit teleportation the targets would probably be annoyed. How annoyed would depend on their personality or could be hostile if they don't think kindly of fae.

A Suggestion? Might be downright insulting and depending on the target might start a fight or end a negotiation.

Charm Person? The target knows they were charmed after the spell is over but it doesn't say they know an attempt was made (and a target doesn't know unless explicitly stated). It's probably going to be an embarrassing situation for the enchanter. How obvious it is that a spell was cast will be up to the DM and will probably depend on the targeted creatures. Picture a conversation where one person adds some words in another language and has a flourish with their hands. A smart enchanter would be talking with their hands already, it would just be part of their mannerisms. Could be a contested check but likely a result similar to Suggestion.


The alternative is to effectively cut out enchantment as manipulation and magical charisma aid (Glibness isn't even enchantment for some reason) and relegate it to mind control attack. As subtle enchantment is a common thing in fantasy fiction I think the game loses out.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
It does get awkward - in my experience players will often have their characters use spells during social situations, like the earlier tongues example, or guidance, and you don't always want things to immediately erupt into conflict as a result.

My option would be that if someone's casting something that's disadvantageous to the subject, they can make a Deception check versus either the target's passive insight if the target wasn't paying direct attention to them, or as an opposed check if they're actively interacting. If the target fails, they're considered to be surprised for the first combat round and we can skip straight to resolving the spellcasting attempt. If their Insight check succeeds, we go to initiative.

This leaves the question of what happens if the targets fail their saves. Many charms will only really work if the target isn't aware they are charmed. Let's say in this scenario that an enchanter surprised their target and successfully cast Charm Person. Well the target still saw that a spell was cast and now they feel like the enchanter is a friend and are unwilling to attack them. If we're following the logic that the spellcasting is obvious and would be perceived as hostile then it would still be seen that way even if a charm works as most charms aren't actual mind control. They're just advantage to charisma checks.

I know it's been ruled differently officially, but I run suggestion as the verbal component being the suggestion itself, i.e. "I suggest you head home and take a rest, you're not looking well." It's the Jedi mind trick, and even when Ben Kenobi is only convincing one officer that these aren't the droids he's looking for, he can do so without alerting the other troopers that something weird's going on - unless the officer succeeds on his saving throw.

Yes, this is precisely what I'm arguing for. I want the Jedi Mind Trick to be able to be supported in the game.

If the target knows a spell was cast then they would likely cry for help even while compelled to do the action. That isn't the intent here though.

From Star Wars we also know what happens when it fails (whether it was intentional or not, let's not get into that one). The target would most likely find it weird and insulting.

If we're doing Suggestion as Jedi Mind Trick then that is a game where I'm into being an Enchanter or Glamour Bard. Otherwise, big nope and that's a shame.
 

payn

Legend
Let's put aside the framing of 'sucker punch' for now.

What happens after is another matter entirely. It depends on the nature of the charm.

If my Glamour Bard had just put on an enthralling performance the targets who saved would probably think it was a great show (I'm assuming a high performance) but wouldn't really understand the adulation some are giving.

With the Fae Spirit teleportation the targets would probably be annoyed. How annoyed would depend on their personality or could be hostile if they don't think kindly of fae.

A Suggestion? Might be downright insulting and depending on the target might start a fight or end a negotiation.

Charm Person? The target knows they were charmed after the spell is over but it doesn't say they know an attempt was made (and a target doesn't know unless explicitly stated). It's probably going to be an embarrassing situation for the enchanter. How obvious it is that a spell was cast will be up to the DM and will probably depend on the targeted creatures. Picture a conversation where one person adds some words in another language and has a flourish with their hands. A smart enchanter would be talking with their hands already, it would just be part of their mannerisms. Could be a contested check but likely a result similar to Suggestion.


The alternative is to effectively cut out enchantment as manipulation and magical charisma aid (Glibness isn't even enchantment for some reason) and relegate it to mind control attack. As subtle enchantment is a common thing in fantasy fiction I think the game loses out.
Sounds complicated, hope you work it out.
 

It does get awkward - in my experience players will often have their characters use spells during social situations, like the earlier tongues example, or guidance, and you don't always want things to immediately erupt into conflict as a result.

My option would be that if someone's casting something that's disadvantageous to the subject, they can make a Deception check versus either the target's passive insight if the target wasn't paying direct attention to them, or as an opposed check if they're actively interacting. If the target fails, they're considered to be surprised for the first combat round and we can skip straight to resolving the spellcasting attempt. If their Insight check succeeds, we go to initiative.
I do this with any spell cast, not just disadvantageous ones. Casting a spell in front of someone who doesn't know magic is going to be considered suspicious, and noble/royal personages are going to have guards watching carefully. I allow Dex/Deception to perform it subtly to give them a chance of success, even if it's not very good. Failing this check will almost certainly trigger initiative, just like drawing a weapon, while success allows the spell to trigger without starting a combat.

I also find the "automatically knows it was magically influenced" to be problematic. Instead, when the effect ends the target makes an Int/Arcana DC: 10+spell level (use DC if non-spell ability). If successful, the target realizes it as normal, but otherwise they mentally justify their actions. If someone points out they were manipulated, they then become aware of the manipulate, even if they failed the check in the first place.
I know it's been ruled differently officially, but I run suggestion as the verbal component being the suggestion itself, i.e. "I suggest you head home and take a rest, you're not looking well." It's the Jedi mind trick, and even when Ben Kenobi is only convincing one officer that these aren't the droids he's looking for, he can do so without alerting the other troopers that something weird's going on - unless the officer succeeds on his saving throw.
Suggestion kinda needs this to be effective outside of combat (although it's amazing in combat). Something to be aware of though, is that the "official rulings" aren't actual rules; they're just the rulings by JC and others. I regularly ignore JC, who I feel is an idiot.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I do this with any spell cast, not just disadvantageous ones. Casting a spell in front of someone who doesn't know magic is going to be considered suspicious, and noble/royal personages are going to have guards watching carefully. I allow Dex/Deception to perform it subtly to give them a chance of success, even if it's not very good. Failing this check will almost certainly trigger initiative, just like drawing a weapon, while success allows the spell to trigger without starting a combat.

I also find the "automatically knows it was magically influenced" to be problematic. Instead, when the effect ends the target makes an Int/Arcana DC: 10+spell level (use DC if non-spell ability). If successful, the target realizes it as normal, but otherwise they mentally justify their actions. If someone points out they were manipulated, they then become aware of the manipulate, even if they failed the check in the first place.

Suggestion kinda needs this to be effective outside of combat (although it's amazing in combat). Something to be aware of though, is that the "official rulings" aren't actual rules; they're just the rulings by JC and others. I regularly ignore JC, who I feel is an idiot.
I agree on suggestion. It’s the fact that saying the suggestion is a part of the spell, and a regular spell has to take place within 3 seconds or so (to fit within one action within a 6 second time frame).

if you have another verbal component and then have to say the suggestion…that’s a lot of to get out of your mouth in 3 seconds.

So suggestion does get a bit of a pass from me, no crazy somatic component, the material component isn’t crazy looking, and the verbal is not alien language but a normal sentence. So to me that one is more like “Jedi mind trick” to me….or “the voice” with our recent dune resurgence
 


MGibster

Legend
Even Friendly and indifferent characters take offense to unsolicited spell casting on them in my settings.
That's how I roll in my games. In my first 5E campaign, one of the PCs wanted to cast Charm Person on the king. I explained that the spell has both verbal and somatic components so it's going to be obvious he's casting a spell unless he tries to hide it. Plus, the king's advisors, the arch-druid and bishop (cleric), were attending to the king at the time and they might take offense on his behalf if they observe you casting a spell upon him. A lot of players seem to treat any spell that doesn't cause damage is essentially harmless for some reason. You put a whammy on me that affects my mind and we're going to be enemies.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
That's how I roll in my games. In my first 5E campaign, one of the PCs wanted to cast Charm Person on the king. I explained that the spell has both verbal and somatic components so it's going to be obvious he's casting a spell unless he tries to hide it. Plus, the king's advisors, the arch-druid and bishop (cleric), were attending to the king at the time and they might take offense on his behalf if they observe you casting a spell upon him. A lot of players seem to treat any spell that doesn't cause damage is essentially harmless for some reason. You put a whammy on me that affects my mind and we're going to be enemies.

How about a lone NPC? Can a character cast Charm Person on them or will they automatically know?

And what about having friends nearby? They will try to convince the charmed character that they are charmed, but how does the charmed character respond to that?

If the target of Charm Person just automatically knows they are charmed then the spell is pretty bad.

I think there is a trend towards not allowing subtler charms and I think the game loses something for it.

I guess if nothing else I recommend advising players of how charms are going to be handled at the beginning of the game.
 

MGibster

Legend
How about a lone NPC? Can a character cast Charm Person on them or will they automatically know?
They'll know. If they make their saving roll they'll know the PC was trying to do something to them even if they don't have the arcane knowledge to exactly what they were attempting to accomplish. That's just how I handle it at my table and isn't something I can point to in the rules.

And what about having friends nearby? They will try to convince the charmed character that they are charmed, but how does the charmed character respond to that?

And this is why my players don't use Charm Person any more. As written, it's a weak spell. In third edition, the target of a Charm Person spell would treat the caster as a trusted friend and ally. In 5th edition, the target of the spell treats the caster as a friendly acquaintance. There's no way I'm going to trust a "friendly acquaintance" over my party members whom I often depend on for my life. So I would interpret it as the PCs being able to talk their friend out of treating the caster as a friendly acquaintance fairly easily.

f the target of Charm Person just automatically knows they are charmed then the spell is pretty bad.

As written, the target of the spell realizes they were charmed once it wears off.

think there is a trend towards not allowing subtler charms and I think the game loses something for it.

I think Charm Person should be rewritten to be a little more useful. And I don't mind subtle, but if you have V,S components then you've got to do something to keep the casting hidden in my opinion. And I'd give the PC some options including Deception, Sleight of Hand, Performance, or whatever else best fits the situation.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
They'll know. If they make their saving roll they'll know the PC was trying to do something to them even if they don't have the arcane knowledge to exactly what they were attempting to accomplish. That's just how I handle it at my table and isn't something I can point to in the rules.

I'm asking whether they know even if they fail their roll. They suffer the effects but that doesn't mean they are dominated. The rules don't actually say they don't know.

As to the part of making their saving throw to know they were targeted, this is actually against the rules. The rules specifically state that they would not be aware of being targeted by a spell. If you're going to change how Charm Person works for the worse why not make it a bit better when it does work?

And this is why my players don't use Charm Person any more. As written, it's a weak spell. In third edition, the target of a Charm Person spell would treat the caster as a trusted friend and ally. In 5th edition, the target of the spell treats the caster as a friendly acquaintance. There's no way I'm going to trust a "friendly acquaintance" over my party members whom I often depend on for my life. So I would interpret it as the PCs being able to talk their friend out of treating the caster as a friendly acquaintance fairly easily.

Well it depends on how trusted the companions are. The key here is whether they can convince the target they have been charmed. I'm going to say that it's hard to do that, otherwise the spell (and other charms) are practically worthless.


As written, the target of the spell realizes they were charmed once it wears off.

Right, but I'm asking if they know while they're charmed. Rules don't say they don't. And if we're making rulings based on what 'makes sense' why wouldn't they know they were charmed during the spell? I think we need to make some rulings in order to make the spell make sense.


I think Charm Person should be rewritten to be a little more useful. And I don't mind subtle, but if you have V,S components then you've got to do something to keep the casting hidden in my opinion. And I'd give the PC some options including Deception, Sleight of Hand, Performance, or whatever else best fits the situation.

I think it's just a matter of ruling that the target of charms don't know they're charmed.

I'm all for consequences if it doesn't work but if it is successful I don't want the charmed to realize it.

And as you said in the second part ruling that the spell
 

payn

Legend
It's complicated to decide how an NPC reacts depending on their personality and the situation?

That's just D&D 101 to me.

What do you do?
I've mentioned how I do things and think I've posted enough. I see what you want to do and I kind of agree. We are not going to agree on how to do this though. I'm going proactive and saving us 10,20,30 pages of back and fourth. At this point, just interested in any house rules or future suggestion folks have on how enchantments should work.
 

MGibster

Legend
I'm asking whether they know even if they fail their roll. They suffer the effects but that doesn't mean they are dominated. The rules don't actually say they don't know.
Since the spell description specifically says the target knows who cast the spell on them once it's ended, I'm going to go out on a limb here and interpret it as the target not knowing they were charmed while they're actually charmed.

As to the part of making their saving throw to know they were targeted, this is actually against the rules. The rules specifically state that they would not be aware of being targeted by a spell. If you're going to change how Charm Person works for the worse why not make it a bit better when it does work?
Where in the rules does it specifically state that they would not be aware of being targeted by a spell? It's a big big and I must have missed that.

Right, but I'm asking if they know while they're charmed. Rules don't say they don't. And if we're making rulings based on what 'makes sense' why wouldn't they know they were charmed during the spell? I think we need to make some rulings in order to make the spell make sense.
This is one of those questions that I can only shrug at and say, who cares? Even if they know they're charmed they're still going to treat the caster as a friendly acquaintance.

I'm all for consequences if it doesn't work but if it is successful I don't want the charmed to realize it.
And that's fine. It's not like there's no room for house rules.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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 have to tell you, other than fear effects, I've decided to largely avoid using mind-controlling magics in my games. My players have similarly chosen to avoid them, due to some of the ethical implications they raise.

If they are seen, it is used by one NPC on another, to show how the one is a really nasty piece of work who can be killed with extreme prejudice.
 

MGibster

Legend
I have to tell you, other than fear effects, I've decided to largely avoid using mind-controlling magics in my games. My players have similarly chosen to avoid them, due to some of the ethical implications they raise.
They're some of the most terrifying magics to me. When I was running a Living Greyhawk game many years ago, one of the PCs decided to cast Charm Person on some random villager for some reason. The random villager made his save, realized someone was casting something on him, and raised the hue & cry which brought the other villagers rushing to see what the problem was. The player didn't understand what the big deal was. "It's not like I tried to cast a spell that would hurt him." Honestly, if someone cast Charm Person or Dominate I'd be out for blood.
 


ECMO3

Hero
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.


The rules do not support this.

The fey spirit does not need a surprise round. You can attack and hit the target for 50hp, then the spirit can attack that same target for 20 more and then the fey spirit can use his bonus action to charm the same target and the target (down 70hps) is charmed by both you and the spirit PERIOD. He suffers from the charmed effect and can not harm you or the spirit as long as he is under that effect and ability checks against the target have advantage.

Sure the target can attack your allies, as long as he does not harm you. So he can't fireball your allies if you are standing by them. If you and your spirit are blocking a corridor, sure he can hurt your allies, but he can't get to them so he has to like maybe throw his sword at them and they have cover.

As far as the rest of the charmed effect, that is in play too. If you make a social ability check against the enemy it is with advantage. Your allies, no they don't do it with advantage, but they would not do it with advantage if you cast charm person either.

This is part of the problem with this discussion, there is nothing in the description of the charm effect or the description of the Summon Fey spell that says or implies combat affects this at all. The effects of combat are not on the charmed condition or on enchantments in general, they are only to specific spells like charm person.

Finally Fey Spirit lasts an hour, so if you want to use it without someone reacting to you casting it then cast it ahead of time and YOU can charm someone. Said creature will still not be charmed by your allies though and can attack them or do anything else they would normally do.

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!"

Suggestion does not cause the charmed condition, so it should not be confused with charmed.

It depends on the exact wording, assuming you told the knight to "go give your horse away" he would probably kill you then go give his horse away. If you worded it such that he had to do it right now, absolutly he would yell on the way that he has been enchanted and probably shoot his crossbow at you while riding his horse in the direction you told him to go and give it away.

We used suggestion about two months ago to make a powerful enemy stay seated while we robbed his house and freed two prisoners he was screaming from his seated position the entire time. After we had all his goods and the prisoners we lined up on the other side of the room and attacked him. The DM ruled this broke the suggestion because it is causing him to harm himself.

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.

It is what he SHOULD do. That is how the game and the spell works, there is no problem or ambiguity with it

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

If you use subtle spell they are. That is why subtle spell exists. Take the metamagic feat or play a sorcerer - problem solved.

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.

That is not a spell. It does not fall under the rules for spells. Neither does beguiling twist or Hypnotic Gaze.

In the case of the bard this is also covered in the description of enthralling performance:
"If a target succeeds on its saving throw, the target has no hint that you tried to charm it."

Finally I think people have the wrong idea of what charmed is in social situations. "Charmed" can not make someone do something they wouldn't otherwise do. For example, RAW if it is impossible to convince the guard to let you pass when he is not charmed it is still impossible when he is charmed too. Being charmed does not change that, all it does in this situation is give you advantage on the roll that is already possible. So if you are trying to bribe the guard and he can't be bribed then you are going to fail whether he is charmed or not. If he can be bribed with a DC 20 persuasion check then you get 2 shots to make it. Now suggestion is absolutely something you could use.
 
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ad_hoc

(he/they)
Since the spell description specifically says the target knows who cast the spell on them once it's ended, I'm going to go out on a limb here and interpret it as the target not knowing they were charmed while they're actually charmed.

Yeah, I totally agree with you only it doesn't actually come out and say that. What I'm getting at is that there is a lot about charms and enchantments that the game doesn't really tell us how they work and so we're coming up with our own way of handling them.

I used to handle them as being obviously offensive and allowing initiative to resolve how the targets can respond. Only, I think that really kills them so I'm approaching from another way.

Where in the rules does it specifically state that they would not be aware of being targeted by a spell? It's a big big and I must have missed that.

PHB pg. 204 Targets:

"Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise."

This is why the Detect Thoughts spell specifies that the target knows about an attempt to 'probe deeper'.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
They're some of the most terrifying magics to me. When I was running a Living Greyhawk game many years ago, one of the PCs decided to cast Charm Person on some random villager for some reason. The random villager made his save, realized someone was casting something on him, and raised the hue & cry which brought the other villagers rushing to see what the problem was. The player didn't understand what the big deal was. "It's not like I tried to cast a spell that would hurt him." Honestly, if someone cast Charm Person or Dominate I'd be out for blood.

I see the point and I agree only I'm having trouble with the way 5e has lumped a lot of abilities into 'charm'.

Take the Glamour Bard's Enthralling Performance. If this was in a movie I could see it going either way depending on the tone and themes. In a light hearted movie it is a performance so magnificent and moving that the targets lose themselves in their emotions for a time. In a darker movie they're ensorcelled by mind control magics to worship the performer.

So I think it depends on how they are handled.

Is the Jedi Mind Trick a problem?

The Charmed condition alone only has the effect: The target won't attack the charmer and the charmer has advantage on Charisma checks with the target.

Is Charm always mind control or can it represent the charmer being extraordinarily charming?

Are seelie fae evil because they are magically charming?

Maybe this is something for D&D to work on for next time. Have Charm effects buff the charmer rather than target others. Would that be okay?
 

payn

Legend
What is really confusing is comparing spells and abilities as if they should work similar. Then, saying different enchantment spells should work differently.

Buff the charmer you say? Hmm, like a true strike effect giving the charmer advantage or whatever equivalent bonus on their next diplo? I could live with that.
 

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