5th Edition Spells – Charm Person

Charm Person

Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard - 1 Level Spell

School: Enchantment
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 30 ft
Components: Verbal and Somatic
Duration: 1 Hour
Attack/Save: WIS

You attempt to charm a humanoid you can see within range. It must make a Wisdom saving throw, and does so with advantage if you or your companions are fighting it. If it fails the saving throw, it is charmed by you until the spell ends or until you or your companions do anything harmful to it. The charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance. When the spell ends, the creature knows it was charmed by you.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 1st. The creatures must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.

My Comments: This is another classic spell going way back in the history of D&D, and it’s definitely been tweaked and refined over the years. Back in the 1974 basic rules the spell would only end if one of these conditions occurred:

  • The caster dismissed it or Attacked the target.
  • Someone used dispel magic on the target
  • The target made a saving throw, which they got at intervals based on their intelligence.
    1. If the Target had an intelligence of 13+ they got to save every day.
    2. If they had a 9-12 Int, they saved every week
    3. and if they had an 8 or less, they only got a save once a month.

So the original spell could actually be pretty permanent. You could say they really nerfed it, but I think this version is still useful without being game-breaking. I mean, imagine your fighter getting one chance every week to break the charm.

But probably the most important thing that needs to be said about it …

Charm Person is not mind control.

It charms people, which has a very specific meaning in 5th edition D&D:

  • 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.

So, for an hour, the target is friendly toward you and can’t attack you. This doesn’t mean that they are under your control and will do everything you say.

If you want the charmed goblin guard to open the doors to the den’s treasury, you have to convince them to do it. You’ll have advantage, but you can’t just say “Hey booger-face, open the door so we can steal all the loot!”

Charmed goblinHowever, you can convince them that you have a reason to go in there treasury, or that you’re their replacement, or even that they should leave and go check on the front door.

Also, this isn’t the greatest combat spell. Note that if you’re already in combat, the target has advantage on saves, and even if they fail, they aren’t necessarily going to do what you want. Just because they are now friendly to you and won’t attack you, doesn’t mean that they’ll attack their own friends. Heck, it doesn’t even mean they won’t attack your friends. Given that you are temporarily friendly, you can probably convince them not to hurt your friends, but it really should be played out by the player and DM.

Also, I wouldn’t suggest using it on merchants to get free or discounted goods. Sure, they might be friendly for now, but you’d better be gone in before the hour is up, because they will know they’ve been charmed and they will be pissed. Maybe keep a Disguise Self spell handy to use in combination with Charm Person.

And it doesn’t change the target’s nature or disposition. If you charm a street tough and convince them to find some herb you need for a spell component, they would be more likely to go to a shop and threaten or pummel the owner rather than go look in the field nearby. If you convince an orc to help move your unconscious friend to another room, they’ll probably grab a foot and drag them.

They might be convinced to do something you want, but they’ll do it their way.

Another thing to keep in mind- if they make their save, they are probably going to be able to guess what you were trying to do. Again, they will not be pleased.

But what about if you charm a humanoid that is already charmed?

This is covered in the Player’s Handbook:

The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap. The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect — such as the highest bonus — from those castings applies while their durations overlap, or the most recent effect applies if the castings are equally potent and their durations overlap.

So most of the time, the most recent Charm Person will prevail. The exception of course, is if the original spell was cast using a higher level spell slot, in which case I would rule that it wins out.

And finally, the target has to be a humanoid. That word describes a specific group of creatures in D&D. So while a Hill Giant might be reasonably describe as “humanoid” in shape, they are not a humanoid in terms of D&D. If you want to charm a Hill Giant you’ll want Charm Monster, which covers everything this spell does and more.

In summary, it’s a great spell with a lot of uses, but don’t expect to have total control over someone.

Dave Goff

Writing and creating in my spare time to avoid going crazy in this mad, mad, world. Check out some of my materials on DMsGuild and let me know what you think! subscribe to keep up with new posts and leave comments to keep the conversation going.

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