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D&D 5E Crown of Madness not as bad in play as it seems

jgsugden

Legend
Disagree. The charm effect that is so lauded is duplicated by 1st level spell, and the maintenance cost, as noted, is very high. The limitation to humanoids is a drag once the cost of a 2nd level spell slot becomes negligible (and at that point, the maintenance really is a pain). Sure, a one round than drop is possible, but then you've burned a 2nd level spell slot for one round of effect, you really need the right situation and some DM cooperation (cause dissension in the ranks, maybe not have the target and allies move away from each other).
One thing to consider here is versatility. If you're a sorcerer for example, you have very few spells, so you want those spells to be able to serve many purposes, especially at low levels. Heck, even wizards and bards at low levels spend a lot of time wishing they had more spells available to them.

This spell: 1.) Deals damage to an enemy on an enemy's turn, 2.) Charms an enemy, 3.) Prevents an enemy from using their action. It also, potentially, forces the target to relocate - and if they do, you can drop it to cast a different concentration spell, after already forcing them out of position. That is a lot of versatility.

And think about how often you end up maintaining concentration on hold person for a prolonged period. It is not often in my experience. That helpless target gets taken out when the autocriticals are available and before they can escape with a save at the end of their turn. More often than not, the target dies before I have to concentrate once (although there are absolutely exceptions).

This spell is better than it gets credit for being. I have used it on NPCs for fun effect.
 
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You also get a monster that is charmed and that is not nothing. Not as good as a monster that is paralyzed certainly, but it significantly limits what he can do even if you don't take his action.

I am cenrtainly not saying it is better than HP, it isn't, but it in my mind did go from being classed with true strike and witchbolt to something usable in the right circumstances. Using the common SABCDF - I would say it went from F to C in my mind, with HP being probably a solid B.
Even truestrike and witchbolt have their uses.
Truestrike might be a good idea before casting desintegrate or similar spells. If you only have a single level 7 slot, you really want to increase your hit chances.
Witchbolt along with melf's acid arrow have a secret secondary effect: they are terribly annoying for enemy spellcasters. You definitely deal damage in the next round forcing a concentration check.
Admittedly for withchbolt the cost is terribly high, for very little damage (why does the secondary damage not go up with spell level, and why does it end of the target moves away...).
 

Gadget

Adventurer
This spell: 1.) Deals damage to an enemy on an enemies turn, 2.) Charms an enemy, 3.) Prevents an enemy from using their action. It also, potentially, forces the target to relocate - and if they do, you can drop it to cast a different concentration spell, after already forcing them out of position. That is a lot of versatility.

I'm glad that you enjoy it and have found uses for it. It can be nice to have a spell that causes you to think and engage with the story and fiction to make use of in a fun way. I would just like to point out a few things:
  1. Yes, it deals damage to an enemy on an enemies turn, but in exchange for giving up the casters turn. I'm not seeing how this is of any particular benefit, especially since it is an enemies turn some time after the caster's turn. There may be some esoteric benefit to this that I'm missing, YMMV.
  2. Yes, the charmed condition can be a benefit, and it has a much longer range that the 1st level Charm Person. Still a cost to maintain if you want more than a one round effect, unlike Charm Person.
  3. Yes, it can prevent an enemy from using their action, on the first round or if they are unable to put any distance between themselves and targets you want them to attack, but at the cost of the caster's action(s). Sometimes that may be worth it. Others...not so much.
What you see as a lot of versatility, I see as a lot of very situational benefits.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
After watching this in play I am convinced this is the best Ranger.

Gloomstalker is a better martial and a FW is more of a Gish flavor but man he has a lot going for him. He has awesome charisma skills, they are better than Paladins, Sorcerers Warlocks and comparable to bards who put expertise on charisma skills. He gets extra damage with dreadful strike and it is psychic damage.

The guy in our group has a 16 wisdom and cause fear through shadow touched. He casts that as a 1st or 2nd level spell to start the fight, every time someone saves he shifts the fear. The real kicker is it is actually better after someone saves against his cause fear because it goes from concentration frightened to non-concentration frightened. So after 3 rounds or so his cause fear spell is dead but he still has someone frightened and can cast it again (or cast something else like favored foe).

We have not got to the point yet where he has an squad of concentration-free Summoned Fey running around with each one of them casting a charm every single turn. I think it is actually going to be overpowered when we get there. I think we are going to get to a point where after 2-3 turns every single enemy on the battlefield is either charmed or frightened.

I made an especially good one using the satyr race from the Theros book. The synergy is great:

+2 cha, +1 dex
35' movement
Magic resistance
Fey creature type
Mirthful leap ability
Ram attack
Free proficiencies in performance and persuasion
Free Sylvan language
 

Ashrym

Hero
Disagree. The charm effect that is so lauded is duplicated by 1st level spell, and the maintenance cost, as noted, is very high. The limitation to humanoids is a drag once the cost of a 2nd level spell slot becomes negligible (and at that point, the maintenance really is a pain). Sure, a one round than drop is possible, but then you've burned a 2nd level spell slot for one round of effect, you really need the right situation and some DM cooperation (cause dissension in the ranks, maybe not have the target and allies move away from each other).

The charm effect is duplicated by a 1st-level spell plus the additional effects crown of madness offers. Charm person is a better charm effect. Dissonant whispers is a better method of triggering opportunity attacks. Hold person is a better (usually) method of lockdown and damage to the target. The problem is that's 3 spells to do the same thing I can do with a single spell.

A player isn't even saving much on cost with those other spells because the humanoid restriction is also present, as well has concentration and repeat saves. The only difference between crown of madness and hold person is the action cost. That's not as much a cost as what a person might think because it's trading the caster's action for the target's action, and it's an optional upkeep that only comes into play when it makes sense to apply it. The action the target takes on an attack might be weaker than the action the caster is giving up but it also can be stronger.

It's actually the same cost as casting any of these spells in the first place but doesn't cost another slot to repeat it if a person decides to maintain it.

That doesn't require DM cooperation in the slightest. It requires making use of the spell as is, and that can be helped by player teamwork with other options such as effect that hold targets in place or move targets between their turns.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Even truestrike and witchbolt have their uses.
Truestrike might be a good idea before casting desintegrate or similar spells. If you only have a single level 7 slot, you really want to increase your hit chances.
The first rule of true strike is, any time you think you have found a good use for it, you have overlooked something.

In this case, the thing you've overlooked is that disintegrate doesn't involve an attack roll. In all of 5E, there are only three spells above 5th level that call for attack rolls, and all of them (crown of stars, Mordenkainen's sword, blade of disaster) spread out their damage across multiple attacks--you aren't betting the whole spell on one roll.
 

The first rule of true strike is, any time you think you have found a good use for it, you have overlooked something.

In this case, the thing you've overlooked is that disintegrate doesn't involve an attack roll. In all of 5E, there are only three spells above 5th level that call for attack rolls, and all of them (crown of stars, Mordenkainen's sword, blade of disaster) spread out their damage across multiple attacks--you aren't betting the whole spell on one roll.
Oh my god... Why did I think disintegrate had an attack roll?
Was it in 4e or 3e?
 

Dausuul

Legend
Oh my god... Why did I think disintegrate had an attack roll?
Was it in 4e or 3e?
Both. It was a touch attack in 3E, and an attack versus Reflex in 4E. But 5E doesn't have touch attacks, and Reflex attacks became Dex saves, so now it's a saving throw.

I once sat down and tried really hard to find a use for true strike. Not even a good use, just an okay one. It is a remarkable spell--it seems to anticipate and counter every trick you could find to make it effective.
 

jgsugden

Legend
...Yes, it deals damage to an enemy on an enemies turn, but in exchange for giving up the casters turn. I'm not seeing how this is of any particular benefit, especially since it is an enemies turn some time after the caster's turn. There may be some esoteric benefit to this that I'm missing, YMMV.
This is a benefit that is only there if you're strategic and looking to make use of it. There are some conditional 'once per turn' activities or 'boom triggered on damage' abilities that can be used here.
Yes, the charmed condition can be a benefit, and it has a much longer range that the 1st level Charm Person. Still a cost to maintain if you want more than a one round effect, unlike Charm Person.
I think that looking at the maintenance cost is a mistake as this is a spell where you're looking for immediate results, even when it comes to the charm. If your DM requires you to use an action to influence someone you'll need to maintain it, but if not it likely is a cast and influence right away situation.

It does all depend upon what the DM interprets the charm to involve. For some DMs, it doesn't do anything other than the explicit items under charm in conditions. For others, you get a friendly attitude built in as well.
Yes, it can prevent an enemy from using their action, on the first round or if they are unable to put any distance between themselves and targets you want them to attack, but at the cost of the caster's action(s). Sometimes that may be worth it. Others...not so much.
It can be: Caster casts spell using their action. Target goes and loses an action to attack and kills an ally. They then move to a less desirable position to avoid having to attack one of their allies again. Outside of easy access to relocation (Telekinetic Feat), you'll likely drop the spell then, but you've killed two actions with one of yours, potentially, and repositioned an enemy to a less desirable spot.
What you see as a lot of versatility, I see as a lot of very situational benefits.
Definitely situational, but you can set up situations.

It is not a great spell - but it is not that hard to use effectively and is very thematic. I encourage DMs to toss it into a game here and there on enemy spellcasters and use it.
 

ECMO3

Adventurer
Disagree. The charm effect that is so lauded is duplicated by 1st level spell, and the maintenance cost, as noted, is very high. The limitation to humanoids is a drag once the cost of a 2nd level spell slot becomes negligible (and at that point, the maintenance really is a pain). Sure, a one round than drop is possible, but then you've burned a 2nd level spell slot for one round of effect, you really need the right situation and some DM cooperation (cause dissension in the ranks, maybe not have the target and allies move away from each other).
I don't think this is the same effect as charm person because charm person is done at disadvantage if you are fighting and it drops as soon as you damage the target.

There is also an action economy aspect to this - in the first turn the enemy not only loses an action but actually uses his action to aid the party, so a failed save takes an action away from the enemy and gives it to the party for the cost of the caster's action. Then if he is engaged and moves the party gets an opportunity attack on him, which is essentially half of an action (unless the guy he is engaged with has a reliable use for his reaction). So in terms of action economy if it only lasts one turn you are trading your action (casting it) for about the equivalent of 2.5 actions.

One reason it works so well with a sorcerer though is on subsequent turns he can still use his action to maintain the spell (keeping the enemy charmed and potentially preventing him from reengaging in the fight), while he uses his bonus to cast a quicken spell.
 

ECMO3

Adventurer
  1. Yes, the charmed condition can be a benefit, and it has a much longer range that the 1st level Charm Person. Still a cost to maintain if you want more than a one round effect, unlike Charm Person.
  2. Yes, it can prevent an enemy from using their action, on the first round or if they are unable to put any distance between themselves and targets you want them to attack, but at the cost of the caster's action(s). Sometimes that may be worth it. Others...not so much.
Charm Person is difficult to land in combat and even more difficult to keep up in combat. There is no action cost, but you can't damage the charmed creature at all, and that extends to your companions as well.

You don't just prevent the enemy from using his action, you make him use it to aid your party and if you are engaged in combat with him you force him to choose between taking an OA on his turn or attacking his freind again next turn. He can't disengage because he has already used his action.

You are right it is situational and that we have both a sorcerer and a fey wanderer in the party probably helps us a lot.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
The charm effect is duplicated by a 1st-level spell plus the additional effects crown of madness offers. Charm person is a better charm effect. Dissonant whispers is a better method of triggering opportunity attacks. Hold person is a better (usually) method of lockdown and damage to the target. The problem is that's 3 spells to do the same thing I can do with a single spell.
I would argue that the spells Crown is being compared to here are far more universally applicable and less situational the Crown, in addition to two of them being 1st level spells compared to Crown being 2nd level. That makes a difference. I would also posit that it is rare that you gain all of the above benefits on a single casting of Crown, especially with all the 'only maintain it for one round' suggestions.
That doesn't require DM cooperation in the slightest. It requires making use of the spell as is, and that can be helped by player teamwork with other options such as effect that hold targets in place or move targets between their turns.
I think it does require significant DM cooperation to have all the stars align to get the max benefit from the spell here described, not to mention not just playing the NPCs such to minimize the effectiveness of the spell once cast. Some might argue that is just poor DMing and NPCs should be played according to their type, traits and personality, but it is a temptation I have seen quite a bit over time though.

It does all depend upon what the DM interprets the charm to involve. For some DMs, it doesn't do anything other than the explicit items under charm in conditions. For others, you get a friendly attitude built in as well.
While most things in 5e are up for DM interpretation, I don't see any particular need for it with the charmed condition: the target cannot harm or or target the charmer with harmful effects; and the charmer has advantage on ability checks to interact with the target socially. The 'friendly acquaintance' verbiage is unique to the Charm Person spell.
You don't just prevent the enemy from using his action, you make him use it to aid your party and if you are engaged in combat with him you force him to choose between taking an OA on his turn or attacking his freind again next turn. He can't disengage because he has already used his action.
There are a lot of assumptions present in this situation. I'm not saying that this does not happen, or even that it might not happen semi regularly. But it is not an assured thing. You have to have a target next to an ally that is also engaged with your party. So far, a fairly common occurrence. Then, it must be worth your action, concentration and a second level spell slot to have the target potentially spend their action to to make an attack against their companion. Even then, the target can move away from an ally without taking an Opportunity Attack by just moving to the side without moving out of reach of a foe. Or the ally could be the one moving away from the crazy guy with the glowing crown, perhaps in a similar manner if Opportunity Attacks are an issue. Finally, would eating an OA (which is not guaranteed to hit) worth the cost of the spell and action used to cast it? Maybe.

It is a very thoughtful and tactical approach to the game, and all have provided good points on how to use the spell well. Some may not want to get into that detail and just want a more direct effect though.
 

Ashrym

Hero
I would argue that the spells Crown is being compared to here are far more universally applicable and less situational the Crown, in addition to two of them being 1st level spells compared to Crown being 2nd level. That makes a difference. I would also posit that it is rare that you gain all of the above benefits on a single casting of Crown, especially with all the 'only maintain it for one round' suggestions.
You can argue that and I wouldn't disagree.

The point is that one spell does all that instead of three spells. It doesn't have to be all at once to be true. When a player only knows eight spells that matters and that's the real benefit in taking crown of madness.
I think it does require significant DM cooperation to have all the stars align to get the max benefit from the spell here described, not to mention not just playing the NPCs such to minimize the effectiveness of the spell once cast. Some might argue that is just poor DMing and NPCs should be played according to their type, traits and personality, but it is a temptation I have seen quite a bit over time though.
What stars?

If I see the need to charm someone then the options is there. If I want to deny actions and add damage then it's a bit of a gamble on how that might play out but there are only two outcomes on a failed save:
  1. The target attacks and then moves because of incentive to trigger the opportunity attacks. That's a damage spike and action denial.
  2. The target attacks and then doesn't move, giving the caster incentive to maintain the spell instead of using an action to spend another spell slot. If maintenance is paid then it's another attack causing action denial and another opportunity to create the incentive to move for the opportunity attacks.
Neither of those is particularly bad, and I don't need all the benefits of the spell at the same time. If the charm effect also comes into play in combat (unable to attack the caster, for example) that's bonus.

There are also plenty of ways to move targets or prevent movement available to the rest of the party if they players do want to make use of additional attacks.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
You can argue that and I wouldn't disagree.

The point is that one spell does all that instead of three spells. It doesn't have to be all at once to be true. When a player only knows eight spells that matters and that's the real benefit in taking crown of madness.
Fair enough. To each his/her own.
What stars?

If I see the need to charm someone then the options is there. If I want to deny actions and add damage then it's a bit of a gamble on how that might play out but there are only two outcomes on a failed save:
  1. The target attacks and then moves because of incentive to trigger the opportunity attacks. That's a damage spike and action denial.
  2. The target attacks and then doesn't move, giving the caster incentive to maintain the spell instead of using an action to spend another spell slot. If maintenance is paid then it's another attack causing action denial and another opportunity to create the incentive to move for the opportunity attacks.
Neither of those is particularly bad, and I don't need all the benefits of the spell at the same time. If the charm effect also comes into play in combat (unable to attack the caster, for example) that's bonus.

There are also plenty of ways to move targets or prevent movement available to the rest of the party if they players do want to make use of additional attacks.
Some of the stars are suggestions posited by others such as having the orcs turn on one another due to the treacherous attack of one of their own (with a strange glowing crown on his head no less). Plausible in many instances, but does require the DM to play along, so to speak.

But on to your example. That is all well and good, and I agree the situation described is the ideal situation, or close to it. However, as I posited above, this assumes that the choice for the victim is to either move and take an OA, or stay and be a meat puppet the next round. Frequently, this is not the case, as it is possible in many instances (though certainly not all) to move away from an ally while not eating an OA, even when engaged with the party. Or the ally(s) could be the ones moving away (in a similar manner to avoid OA if possible). At this point, one might just choose to drop the spell, of course.

I've learned a lot from this discussion, and see better how the spell can be best applied. I think the reasons why many find the spell unpalatable, some of which are campaign dependent, are as follows:
  • In many campaigns, humanoid foes ( with the possible exception of BBEG & lieutenants that might be more resistant to the spell) become mook cannon fodder at even lower levels, usually outnumber the PCs and are meant to be distractions to hinder them while the 'boss' type does the real damage. In this scenario, applying the spell to minion #4 can be a dubious benefit when the spell caster can spend actions mitigating the real threat.
  • Many campaigns do a more 'theater of the mind' type play style that undervalues the more subtle tactical positioning choices of "do I eat an OA or remain here possibly attack my friends again."
  • There is a tendency among some DMs who are tactically savvy to play all opponents as strategic geniuses, always making the tactically optimal choices that minimize the impact of the spell.
 

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