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D&D 5E Monsters charming PCs during combat

Quickleaf

Legend
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)?

I don't have experience running 5e vampires in combat yet, but in regard to the dryad's Fey Charm, there are more ways to be freed of it than you're representing, and total party charm isn't possible due to the 1 humanoid limitation. Here are the relevant paragraphs from Fey Charm:

Each time the dryad or its allies do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success. Otherwise, the effect lasts 24 hours or until the dryad dies, is on a different plane of existence from the target, or ends the effect as a bonus action.
If a target 's saving throw is successful, the target is immune to the dryad's Fey Charm for the next 24 hours. The dryad can have no more than one humanoid and up to three beasts charmed at a time.

"Harm" might cover more ground than physically roughing up a target. Stealing from the target might constitute harm, for instance if the target has a beautiful necklace that the jealous dryad wants, but the loss of that necklace would ruin a critical quest – as DM I could see that being construed as harm.

After a day, the target can attempt its save again. So, if a party is willing to parlay and not resort to violence, they could buff up the target's save in various ways (e.g. diplomatically arranging for the paladin to be within 10 feet, the Bard singing a song to the dryad disguising Bardic Inspiration to his charmed ally, guidance, and so forth).

Killing the dryad ends the charm.

It's niche, but transporting the target or the dryad to a different plane ends the effect. For instance, if there's a passageway to the Feywild in an oak nearby, the PCs could cast compulsion to move the dryad within, trick/coerce her within, knock out the dryad and toss her within, abduct their companion and flee within.

Parlaying with the dryad is possible, for if they can convince her that the charmed PC has an essential quest to complete which benefits the dryad or nature in some way, she could release the PC as a bonus action.

Finally, a clever party could trick the dryad into charming someone else (probably a NPC), which would cause the charm effect on the previously charmed PC to end.

It's unlikely all of these would apply in every situation, but I could see at least two or three of them applying in most.
 

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77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
I bribe the charmed player with Inspiration and/or bonus XP for role-playing their charm really well. (I award XP to every PC at the same rate, so all the other players are happy to see the bonus XP come rolling in.)
 



jasper

Rotten DM
...... 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?

1. 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?

2. Do your players enjoy or resent being charmed?

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

4. If you run it by the book, do you find that this leads to combats ending in a TPC (Total Party Charm)?
1. Heck no! Charm is the double barrel saw off shot gun of monsters attacks.
2. RESENT.
3. WHY give the suckers an even break? Yes Bob can punch Judy to snap her out of it.
4. Best I ever did was 2 charmed fools.
PS Sometimes the monsters win.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I tell them that their ‘best friend’ is in danger and wants help.

Charm person says, "The Charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance. " Not "...as your best friend". Charm gets a foot in the door for conversations to happen, but does not override other concerns.

If a friendly acquaintance attacks one of your closest allies, you are not going to take it well - so this isn't really useful in combat.

A Dryad's Fey Charm is slightly more potent, but still will not override other concerns. If your trusted friend is doing something violent to other trusted friends, you aren't going to take that well, either.
 
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Li Shenron

Legend
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.
Exactly, Charm simply negates a PC.

I think you are overplaying charm abilities:

Charmed -> "A charmed creature can't attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects. The charmer has advantage on any ability check to interact socially with the creature."

Dryad -> "Fey Charm. The dryad targets one humanoid or beast that she can see within 30 feet of her. If the target can see the dryad, it must succeed on a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or be magically charmed. The charmed creature regards the dryad as a trusted friend to be heeded and protected. Although the target isn't under the dryad's control, it takes the dryad's requests or actions in the most favorable way it can. Each time the dryad or its allies do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success. Otherwise, the effect lasts 24 hours or until the dryad dies, is on a different plane of existence from the target, or ends the effect as a bonus action. If a target's saving throw is successful, the target is immune to the dryad's Fey Charm for the next 24 hours. The dryad can have no more than one humanoid and up to three beasts charmed at a time."

No way being charmed takes a PC out of the battle.

First of all, you can still attack all other monsters, just not the one who charmed you.

Then, the Dryad specifically has the additional abilities of making the charmed target (1) wanting to protect her, and (2) trying to fulfill her requests. These don't apply to other charming monsters in general.

In no way the PC is forced by (1) to fight against the other PCs. Assuming the PCs are not an evil party, they are very likely "trusted friends" too, to the charmed PC will act as if two PCs had started fighting with each other... so why should he side with one against the other? The obvious outcome is that the charmed PC will try to actively stop the fight. What kind of person would sit there and watch two "trusted friends" try to kill each other?

Then the Dryad can try using (2) to improve her situation. Again, it is NOT enough to turn the PC against the others, because "the most favorable way it can" does not extend to attacking another trusted friend (again assuming a non-evil party). What she can try instead with (2) is to request something "please do not attack my other friends" (i.e. the other monsters). That can help her somehow, but if the other monsters keep attacking the PCs, the charmed PC is not going to just stand idle and watch, he'll resort to grappling or other non-lethal force.

I really don't think there is much chance for charm or domination to make a PC idle at all (domination CAN force the PC to go against his friends, but he'll definitely be still fighting), unless a specific monster's ability adds some extras that tell you that the target really can't do anything at all.
 


jayoungr

Legend
Do PCs go up against dryads a lot? IIRC, I've never used them, in any edition.
Well, I just used a group of three in @iserith's adventure "Vow of the Silent Knight," which is what prompted me to post the thread. There may be other monsters that charm, but dryads and vampires are the two that I know of off the top of my head.

No way being charmed takes a PC out of the battle.
Maybe it doesn't have to, but when my some of group were charmed by an ability equivalent to a vampire's charm, they chose to do nothing rather than try to prevent their friends from attacking the being that charmed them.
 
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Nebulous

Legend
I found out recently that the harpy's charm is pretty powerful and has a 300' range. But as far as combatants, they are pretty weak. They were a pain the ass for the party, but they were scary other than being an actual terrible threat.
 



It is if you have multiple dryads.
Unfortunately for you and your party, you've encountered the Boss Encounter Dryad. Therefore as the Elder sister of the three Dryads you've met, her mastery of her charm ability is much greater than her other two younger sisters. So sucks for three of your party members who just got charmed by the Elder Dryad sister.
 



jayoungr

Legend
What I mean is, as written, a PC cannot snap another PC out of being charmed by a dryad or vampire. Only the one who cast the charm effect, or its allies, can do that.
 



Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
No you party ally can punch you, aka do damage to you and you get a save.
That depends on the charm, doesn't it? For succubus and harpy, any damage breaks charm is explicitly true by RAW.
But that's not how the charm spell, or the vampire and dryad charm powers seem to be written. In those cases, only damage from the charmer or its allies prompts another save. I could be wrong, but that's how I read the statblocks.
 

MarkB

Legend
That depends on the charm, doesn't it? For succubus and harpy, any damage breaks charm is explicitly true by RAW.
But that's not how the charm spell, or the vampire and dryad charm powers seem to be written. In those cases, only damage from the charmer or its allies prompts another save. I could be wrong, but that's how I read the statblocks.
No, you're correct. No matter how much you're damaged by anyone who isn't the vampire or its allies, you won't get a save against the charm.
 

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