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D&D 5E Monsters charming PCs during combat

Nebulous

Legend
Yeah, it is pretty powerful. A harpy's song at least grants a saving throw every round, though. The dryad and vampire versions of charm don't.

The trick is that it is against EVERY harpy, so depending on the DM, that's 1-12 saves. Making a save only makes you immune to that harpy, not all of them. Only one can influence you at a time, but when you make your save against that one you immediately have to save against another. The DC is low, 11, but this can still be a brutal encounter. I had my guys up against 5 harpies and it scared the crap out of them, although ultimately once they made their saves and could reliably fight back it was a cakewalk, they ran the harpies off.

Unless I have misread it.
 

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Nebulous

Legend
The trick with harpies is you have to put them in an area with a lot of hazardous terrain between them and the PCs. Razorvine works well as does quicksand.

Or just fly out of melee range. My guys were 3rd level and not great archers, but they did have enough fire bolts and arrows to scare them away. They were fighting on a cliffside, and spilling into the ocean was a potential threat. It was the encounter from the Essentials set.
 

Richards

Legend
I once spent a whole adventure with my PC, a low-Int fighter, charmed by a female sorcerer right out of the gate. She warned him there were devils about who could disguise themselves, even as the rest of his adventuring team, and asked him to protect her. So he did: first, he tackled her right there in her magic shop and covered her with his body, shielding her from any potential attacks (and inadvertently preventing her from casting any other spells while pinned beneath him); then, when the rest of the PCs ran out of the shop chasing her grandfather, a wizard (and the reason our PCs were there in the first place), she asked my PC to help her escape so he did: by stealing the paladin's horse and helping her get up into the saddle. However, when she tried ditching her charmed friend to go off to help her grandfather against the rest of the PCs, my PC grabbed the reins from her and helped lead her away from the danger.

End result: I took out half of the enemy combat force in that adventure all by myself (there were just the wizard and his sorcerer granddaughter, and while I didn't hurt her at all I forced her to spend the whole adventure trying to escape my overprotective helpfulness instead of using her spells in the fight against my companions), all while charmed. I think my failed Will save against the charm person spell was just about the only die roll I made all evening, but I still managed to have a good time.

Johnathan
 


What do you do when two of your friends fight each other? And what if they try to kill each others? I do hope that you try to intervene. I know I would. So a charmed PC will try to stop his friends from hurting his other "best" friend/trusted acquaintance. A fighter might try to bloc physical access and becomes a nuisance to the other by giving one of them disadvantage on attack roll. A cleric might cast hold person on one or more friends so that the fighting stops. A druid (or any healer) might start to heal his new trusted friend or even hamper his other friends with an entangle spell. A wizard might cast a wall of force or even a sleep spell on his allies so that they stop attacking. A rogue might try to knock out an overly aggressive companion. A bard might charm another PC into helping him protect his new friend!

These are the guidelines I give to charmed PCs. They will not kill their former comrades, but they will certainly try to stop them from attacking this new trusted friend. They will go as far as helping the charmer escape the wrath of their comrades. They obviously do not understand what is going on; so better let his new friend going away until he can convince his other associates to settle down a bit.

With these guidelines, no players are left out of the action.
 
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As has been covered, the various charm abilities have different permutations, but at root, I think of a charm ability as a basic way of altering the tactical game by changing the allegiance of a piece. Most players that I've gamed with love it, as long as it isn't overused. I certainly enjoy it as a player—what's not fun about suddenly healing the villain or having to figure out how to neutralize your former ally? It's a surprising twist.

I usually just tell the player (publically or privately, depending on the situation) what their new perspective is and let them play it out from there. In all but the grittiest games, they might avoid using an insta-kill ability against another PC, but spells that hamper them or cause them to be captured are certainly fair game. I would have some fail-forward options in my back pocket in case the charm is more effective than expected.

In my longest-running (10+ years) campaign, one of the PCs was possessed by a spirit without the rest of the party knowing. This was intended to be a simple combat encounter, but I gave the player a printed character sheet with the backstory for the spirit and she (the player) decided that the spirit was too smart to risk an immediate armed conflict. This led to two additional sessions where she pumped the party for information and helped craft their plans with some flaws based on intelligence that she had that they didn't. In the third session, she led them into a trap and betrayed them. All of the players rank that scenario as one of the best ever. The stakes were high, the surprise was fresh, and the finale was unbelievably tense as they tried to avoid defeat and figure out how to exorcise the spirit possessing their erstwhile friend.
 
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jayoungr

Legend
Me again. I have a question about how monster charm abilities interact with the calm emotions spell. The text of the spell says, in part, this:

You attempt to suppress strong emotions in a group of people. Each humanoid in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on a point you choose within range must make a Charisma saving throw; a creature can choose to fail this saving throw if it wishes. If a creature fails its saving throw, choose one of the following two effects. You can suppress any effect causing a target to be charmed or frightened...

I have a couple of questions about this. First, if a creature is charmed, would it logically want to fail the saving throw? I worry about PCs voluntarily failing the save for metagame reasons.

Second, does this make it too easy for a high-level PC to get out of a vampire's charm ability? I do think the vampire ability is potentially a bit OP, but this seems a bit OP in the other direction.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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 suggest doing it in groups only. If it's one Vampire charming the PC, the PC is out until he saves. If it's the Vampire and 12 flunkies, then charming isn't going to stop the PC from being able to attack the other bad guys. All the spell does is make you view the "caster" as a friendly acquaintance. Not even a friend. Just a friendly acquaintance.

If I knew a gang member as a friendly acquaintance(and I have when I was in school) and I was jumped by his buddies, him being an acquaintance would not have stopped me from fighting back. It also won't stop a charmed PC. Heck, the PC will be able to fight the other bad guys and they can't fight back without breaking the charm!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I have a couple of questions about this. First, if a creature is charmed, would it logically want to fail the saving throw? I worry about PCs voluntarily failing the save for metagame reasons.

While I allow PCs and NPCs to voluntarily fail a save, I don't think 5e allows it by RAW. If it's an issue, end the practice and rule that the body/mind instinctively resists.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There's no need whatsoever for a charmed PC's player to sit out anything.

Their character still gets the same number of actions each turn; the only difference being it might just start doing some unexpected things with those actions.

Now if a PC is dominated and ordered to stand in the corner, that's different, but if I'm a BBEG and I've got a PC dominated I'm not about to waste that resource by having it do nothing! It's going to fight for me, and its player is going to do the rolling.

(side note: just for fun we've always had it that a natural 1 on a save vs charm means the spell overcooks it a bit and the victim falls in love with the caster...)
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
In the case of the calm emotions spell, 5E explicitly allows it by RAW.
Hrm. I don't think that one has been used yet in my game. I wasn't aware that the spell was written to allow it.

Looking at the spell, I don't have an issue with it or the voluntary save failure. It's a 2nd level spell overriding one specific 1st level spell/effect, so that seems kosher to me. And it lasts 1 minute and is concentration, so it could end well before the fight is over, and definitely before the charm is over, which then reasserts itself.
 

MarkB

Legend
Me again. I have a question about how monster charm abilities interact with the calm emotions spell. The text of the spell says, in part, this:



I have a couple of questions about this. First, if a creature is charmed, would it logically want to fail the saving throw? I worry about PCs voluntarily failing the save for metagame reasons.

Second, does this make it too easy for a high-level PC to get out of a vampire's charm ability? I do think the vampire ability is potentially a bit OP, but this seems a bit OP in the other direction.
It's a tough call on the deliberately failing a saving throw, but I'd say it would be entirely plausible if the caster presents it reasonably. The thing to remember about Charm effects specifically is that, while they give the target a new sense of loyalty to the caster, they do not override the character's existing loyalties. They will still consider their party members to be allies, close friends even, so if the cleric is casting what they claim to be a beneficial spell at them, they've got no reason to try and resist it.

Regarding it making things too easy, it is a fairly low-level spell to be countering Charm effects, but it's also one with limited utility aside from that, so it's not one that the party will necessarily pack on any typical day. If they do so in response to knowing what they're going up against, that's good planning.

Plus, is only suppresses the charm, it doesn't remove it, and it's a Concentration spell with a one-minute duration. It'll help the character out for the duration of one combat, but it leaves the caster unable to use any other Concentration spell, and may make them the focus of the opposition's attacks. And if two PCs are charmed, there's no way to help them both.

So basically, it is a solution, but it has enough downsides not to be too easy a solution.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Regarding it making things too easy, it is a fairly low-level spell to be countering Charm effects, but it's also one with limited utility aside from that, so it's not one that the party will necessarily pack on any typical day.
You might think that, but I've got a Glamour Bard who always prepares it. Player is playing the same character in about 4 different games right now, and every version of the character has the spell every day.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You might think that, but I've got a Glamour Bard who always prepares it. Player is playing the same character in about 4 different games right now, and every version of the character has the spell every day.
Then it's a wasted spot the vast majority of the time. If he's rewarded every once in a while when a charm happens, great. Knowing how limited charm really is, I'd have a different spell prepared myself.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
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

Vampire Charm feature is different from charm person.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Vampire Charm feature is different from charm person.
While that's true, it still doesn't override anything else. The rest of the party are also still trusted(probably) friends to be heeded and protected. At best the spell will create a conflict in the PC that will require some roleplaying.
 




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