D&D 5E Monsters charming PCs during combat

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I have run a couple of combats now against antagonists that are able to charm PCs. I like the flavor of the ability, but I feel like it runs a severe risk of being unfun by virtue of taking one or more PCs out of the fight completely, leaving the players to sit out in boredom. I'm thinking of things like the Dryad's fey charm or the Vampire's charm ability. Once the charm takes effect, the target doesn't get any more saving throws; the only way to even get a chance of breaking the charm is for the monster or its allies to harm the PC.

Now, a vampire might want to bite the PC, but a Dryad has no reason to harm a target she's already charmed, right?

How do you handle monsters with charm abilities? Do you typically find a way for the monster or its allies to harm the charmed PC?

Do your players enjoy or resent being charmed?

Do you typically grant extra saving throws? Allow other party members to snap the charmed PC out of it?

If you run it by the book, do you find that this leads to combats ending in a TPC (Total Party Charm)?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If there's an NPC with the party, I like to target the NPC first as it creates a more interesting situation in my view. Failing that, I target a PC and hold them to the effect of the spell.

As always, I try to telegraph to the PCs that they may encounter creatures with these abilities which allows them the opportunity to prepare accordingly. Calm emotions is something clerics in my game regularly take. I never see that spell in other games I play.
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
A typical battle is supposed to take around 3 rounds and should take up to 20 minutes.

It's really not that not that long to sit out.

The monsters who have dominate abilities tend to be rare. If your campaign is full of them then it might be worth changing it out to something else.

Otherwise I think having a risk of a PC being taken out of combat by a charm once or twice a campaign is fine.

If you find that combat takes a long time to resolve then that might be the source of the problem rather than the charm itself.
 


MarkB

Legend
I don't find it much of a combat assets, so my NPCs tend to go for more offensive spells. Vampires have better options than Charm Person, anyway.
Charm is a pretty powerful option in combat for a vampire. It instantly eliminates a threat, turning them into an asset, and also allows it to auto-succeed on a Bite on them on subsequent turns. For a standard non-spellcasting vampire, I don't think there's anything in its stat block that will turn the battle in its favour as effectively as using Charm.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Well, there's your two schools of thought right there. To be fair to JD I'm just assuming he's indexing the more damage oriented stuff, he might not be. The grapple-bite combo is, IMO anyway, weaksauce compared to the charm. It's the DC 17 that makes that tick, even 13th level characters might actually fail that occasionally. Even though the charm victims won't attack their friends they are out of the fight (no more saves, no dispel, nothing for 24 hours). Layer on a cunning plan and you see a foe that might actually live up to it's CR. Maybe.
 

Charm is a pretty powerful option in combat for a vampire. It instantly eliminates a threat, turning them into an asset, and also allows it to auto-succeed on a Bite on them on subsequent turns. For a standard non-spellcasting vampire, I don't think there's anything in its stat block that will turn the battle in its favour as effectively as using Charm.

Nah. if a vampire isn't a spellcaster, it has lost if it engages in a stand-up fight. Sure, it might sideline one PC, but it will die in the volley of actions directed against it in the same combat round.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Divide and conquer is what makes a Vampire encounter tick. Single monsters generally fair poorly in 5e if they just stand and deliver, and the vampire is no exception. Vamps are mobile enough to make things more complicated than a 1 round tko too.
 

cmad1977

Hero
Nah. if a vampire isn't a spellcaster, it has lost if it engages in a stand-up fight. Sure, it might sideline one PC, but it will die in the volley of actions directed against it in the same combat round.

If a vampire engages in a stand up fight then the DM has messed up.
I found Strahds greatest strengths to be his mobility in combat. His Charm is a powerful addition to the arsenal. He’s also a bit of an outlier.
 

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