A Beginner's Guide to Charmed in 5e, Two warriors standing back-to-back

Your Guide to the Charmed Condition in D&D 5e

Affecting the mind of another creature in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is a fairly classic tactic for both combat and social encounters. One such method is through inflicting the Charmed condition to position your character (or monster) as an ally to their target.
 
But, what is the Charmed condition? How does it work? And, what abilities inflict it?
 
This beginner’s guide outlines everything you need to know about how the Charmed condition works in D&D 5e.

Let’s start things off by looking at the explicit description for the Charmed condition in 5e.

Description of the Charmed Condition in 5e

Charmed 5e, Nobles looking at each other

The Charmed condition in 5e is essentially a method of giving a creature an advantage (not necessarily actual advantage) in a social encounter with another or for diverting a hostile creature’s attention during combat. This condition basically puts the charmer as a favorable or even friendly individual to the charmed creature.

In essence, the Charmed condition alters a creature’s perception of another. This alteration places the charmer in a favorable position to an affected creature, usually as a friendly acquaintance.

Appendix A of the Player’s Handbook on page 290 outlines the actual effects of the Charmed condition:

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.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Appendix A: Condition

With these effects in mind, let’s look at how the Charmed condition works and how it affects gameplay.

How Charmed Works in 5e

A knight in the background bowing to one in the foreground

The Charmed condition works through magical means. It alters an afflicted creature’s perception of the charmer to make the latter seem like a familiar or friendly individual.

Almost every effect which inflicts the Charmed condition is magical in nature. That doesn’t necessarily mean these effects are spells, many monsters have innate abilities which charm other creatures.

At its most basic, a Charmed creature treats the charmer as an ally or friendly acquaintance. Additionally, effects which impose this condition rarely last too long often only lasting for up to 1 minute. Some abilities last longer, of course, so be sure to closely read an ability’s description.

So, the question becomes; what happens when you’re charmed?

Well, two things happen when you’re Charmed in 5e. First, a charmed creature can’t attack or otherwise harm the charmer. Second, the charmer has an easier time interacting with a Charmed creature.

Let’s break down each of these effects.

How Charmed Affects Combat

The first effect explicitly outlines how a Charmed creature "can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects." So, a Charmed creature becomes unable to target the charmer with any kind of attack nor can they target the charmer with harmful abilities or effects. Basically, effects which don’t use an attack roll but still cause harm to a target count for the second portion. For example, the phantasmal killer spell forces a target creature to make a saving throw or become Frightened and take psychic damage.

"…Harmful abilities or magical effects" can be a little nebulous or unclear. I’d rule it as anything which would negatively effect a creature. This usually means causing damage, but subjecting the target to another condition should probably count.

This use primarily affects combat encounters.

Assuming the ability which inflicts the Charmed condition doesn’t do anything else, using a spell or ability to subject a hostile creature to this condition effectively turns that creature’s attention elsewhere. This may be a viable tactic for diverting a bruiser-type monster away from the party’s healer or caster.

How Charmed Affects Social Encounters

The second effect of the Charmed condition in 5e grants the charmer advantage on all ability checks made to "interact socially with the creature". This usually means any Charisma (Deception), Charisma (Intimidation), or Charisma (Persuasion) checks have advantage for the duration of the Charm. But, if a player gets creative, it may extend to other checks.

In essence, this effect of the Charmed condition makes social encounters much easier for the charmer.

On the other hand, charm effects rarely extend this benefit to other creatures. So, if your entire party interacts with a non-player character who hates them as a group, that NPC may still have reservations associating with one of them even when subjected to Charmed.

Additionally, most charm spells state an affected creature becomes hostile once the effect ends. If a player doesn’t get what the need during the duration of the Charmed effect, they’ll have an angry individual to deal with.

Charm Spells in 5e

Sorceress charming a knight by leaning on his arm

D&D 5e has a few spells which inflict the Charmed condition on target creatures. These spells often belong to the Enchantment school of magic, usually affect a specific type of creature, and frequently end with an affected creature becoming hostile towards the charmer.

Player characters and spellcasting creatures have a few spells available to them to inflict the Charmed condition on another creature. These spells range from 1st- to 8th-level, so both Game Masters and players have options pretty much at any level of play.

Here is a list of Charm spells available in 5e:

  • Animal Friendship – 1st-level (Beast creature type only)
  • Charm Person – 1st-level (Humanoid creature type only)
  • Crown of Madness – 2nd-level (Humanoid creature type only)
  • Nathair’s Mischief – 2nd-level
  • Fast Friends – 3rd-level (Humanoid creature type only)
  • Hypnotic Pattern – 3rd-level
  • Incite Greed – 3rd-level
  • Charm Monster – 4th-level
  • Dominate Beast – 4th-level (Beast creature type only)
  • Awaken – 5th-level (Beast or Plant creature types only)
  • Dominate Person – 5th-level (Humanoid creature type only)
  • Geas – 5th-level
  • Modify Memory – 5th-level
  • Dominate Monster – 8th-level

Now, some of these spells alter how the Charmed condition works slightly. The base effects still happen, but they may have a caveat or do something in addition to the regular effects. For example, the modify memory spell charms the target creature but also incapacitates them for the duration as the caster dictates the memory they’re altering.

How To Stop the Charmed Condition

Charmed knight with a woman behind him

Stopping the Charmed condition is relatively easy as creatures tend to have a few options for ending it. These options may include succeeding on a saving throw, using a spell to counteract the effect, or taking damage from the charmer or their allies.

As with any other condition, Charm effects in D&D 5e often have some way of either stopping them outright or ending them early. The methods for stopping Charmed effects usually have the same methods as other conditions but with one unique exception.

The 3 main ways of stopping the Charmed condition in 5e include:

  • Saving Throws
  • Spells
  • Damage

Let’s break each of these down starting with the option involving the least amount of work; just make your saves.

Resisting Through Saving Throws

Many abilities which inflict the Charmed condition allow and affected creature to save out of it on following turns.

Abilities which inflict the Charmed condition usually force a saving throw to resist its effects. Usually, these abilities force a Wisdom saving throw as it represents a contest of willpower to resist the enchantment.

Luckily, many effects which inflict the Charmed condition usually let an affected creature make saves to attempt to break the charm on subsequent turns. Furthermore, innate abilities of monsters often include a caveat that saving once against a Charm effect is enough to confer immunity against becoming Charmed by that effect. Sometimes, this immunity extends to effects from the same kind of creature but usually only apply to the original monster..

For example, the Harpy’s Luring Song action states "A target that successfully saves is immune to this harpy’s song for the next 24 hours." So, a creature may succeed on a save against one harpy, but a different Harpy may still instill the Charmed condition with its Luring Song.

It’s all a matter of reading monster abilities and spell descriptions closely.

While its not flashy and it has a better chance at failing due to varying Wisdom saves bonuses, saving throws are the most accessible to player characters and monster because they all have the ability to roll saves against Charm effect. That said, some spells remove the Charmed condition relatively easily.

Spells Which Counteract Charm

Some spells in 5e may help in ending the effects of the Charmed condition early.

Countering the Charmed condition is actually a bit more difficult through the use of spells. This is possibly due to the fact that most Charm effects don’t last all that long. Spending a spell slot to end a 1 minute effect often doesn’t seem worth it. Especially when an affected creature has a chance of saving out of it.

That said, 5e does have a few spells available for ending the Charmed condition should you so choose.

  • Calm Emotions – 1st-level (Humanoid creature type only, also only suppresses the Charmed condition for the duration)
  • Dispel Evil and Good – 5th-level (only works on effects from Celestial, Elemental, Fey, Fiend, or Undead creatures)
  • Greater Restoration – 5th-level
  • Power Word: Heal – 9th-level

Aside from spells and saves, ending the Charmed condition can be as simple as taking a bit of damage.

Taking Damage

Often, a spell or ability which inflicts the Charmed condition state taking damage from the charmer or one of their allies ends the effect early.

Many of the spells which inflict the Charmed condition have a caveat that if the charmer deals damage against the affected creature ends the effect. Additionally, these spells also include the charmers allies, often including a caveat like that featured in the charm person spell; "…[the creature] is charmed by you until the spell ends or until you or your companions do anything harmful to it." This caveat may not explicitly read the same, but each one means basically the same thing; if the charmer or their allies harms the Charmed creature, the effect ends.

Now, monster abilities don’t often include this caveat.

Usually, if a monster ability inflicts the Charmed condition, dealing damage to the affected creature doesn’t do anything. The more reliable methods like saving out of it or a spell are the better options for these effects.

That said, even if a monster’s effect includes some sort of caveat for dealing damage to a Charmed creature, it usually only allows the creature to make another saving throw against the effect.

For example, the Succubus’ Charm ability states if a creature "suffers any harm…it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on a success." Aside from that, failing the save against the Charm ability inflicts the Charmed condition for a full 24 hours.

Another example is the Harpy’s Luring Song ability. It mentions taking potential damage concerning harmful terrain specifically providing examples in lava or a tall enough pit. Also, the ability mentions "whenever it takes damage from a source other than the harpy the target can repeat the saving throw." So, if a creature affected by the Charmed condition resulting from a Harpy’s Luring Song, they can make saving throws to end the effect early if they’re about to enter harmful terrain or a creature other than the Harpy deals damage to them.

So, damage can be a good, almost desperate attempt at ending the Charmed condition providing the effect inflicting this status allows for it as many of them do.

Class Features

Some of the classes in D&D 5e have features which counter the Charmed condition.

The biggest downside of the class features which end the Charmed condition is none of them are available before 6th-level. Granted, the same can be said of the spells.

Additionally, only a few of these features help other creatures; most of them only benefit the character themselves. So, you won’t have a ton of party utility in terms of countering the Charmed condition. That said, a couple of these features, like the Devotion Paladin’s Aura of Devotion, do help creatures other than the individual character.

  • Barbarian (Path of the Berserker): Mindless Rage – 6th-level
  • Bard: Countercharm – 6th-level (advantage against Charm)
  • Druid (Circle of the Land): Nature’s Ward – 10th-level (only against Fey & Elemental creatures)
  • Paladin (Oath of Devotion): Aura of Devotion – 7th-level
  • Warlock (The Archfey): Beguiling Defenses – 10th-level
  • Fighter (Psi Warior Martial Archetype): Guarded Mind – 10th-level
  • Ranger (Fey Wanderer Ranger Archetype): Beguiling Twist – 7th-level (advantage against Charm)
  • Sorcerer (Aberrant Mind Sorcerous Origin): Psychic Defenses – 6th-level (advantage against Charm)

Some other class features indirectly end or help against Charm effects. But, since they don’t specifically call out the Charmed condition, I left them off the list.

Charmed vs Frightened

Intimidating knight wielding a torch

The Charmed and Frightened conditions are similar in how they alter an afflicted creature’s perception. But, they do very different things mechanically speaking.

Both the Charmed and Frightened conditions affect a creature through the manipulation of the perception of a creature. On the one hand, a Charmed creature essentially views the charmer as friendly or at least trustworthy. Conversely, the Frightened condition instills a deep fear of a creature to the point an afflicted individual can’t even willingly approach the source of their fear.

These conditions also affect combat though in different ways.

The Charmed condition prevents an affected creature from harming the charmer either directly or indirectly. In a combat encounter, this effectively means an afflicted creature can’t help in attacking the charmer, dividing the attention of the party or group of monsters when focusing on one, high-threat individual would be more beneficial.

On the other hand, the Frightened condition prevents a creature from willingly getting closer to the source of their fear, reducing the mobility of that creature. Additionally, all attacks and ability checks have disadvantage while an affected creature can see the source of their fear, making combat that much more difficult.

So, both the Charmed and Frightened conditions benefit and hinder creatures in combat, depending on whether you’re inflicting or suffering either status effect.

5e Charmed Condition FAQ

Mounted knight holding a lance to kneeling opponent

Are Charmed Creatures Willing in 5e?

Charmed creatures are not automatically willing in 5e. A state of friendliness does not mean a creature is automatically willing to subject itself to spells or other effects.

Nothing in the Charmed condition’s description states an affected creature becomes willing. To put it simply; familiarity or friendliness doesn’t equate to willingness. Friendly characters may not be willing to get subjected to abilities or spell effects for a variety of reasons like a distrust of magic.

I think many players assume their fellow player characters are automatically willing creatures. As such, this may extend to any friendly creature including those affected by the Charmed condition.

Can You Charm a Charmed Person?

Yes, you can charm a Charmed person in 5e but this does not override any previous, still-in-effect charm effects. There is nothing stating a Charmed creature can not fall victim to multiple charm effects.

There aren’t any restrictions on how many different Charm effects may affect a target creature. That said, unless explicitly stated in an ability’s description, charming an already Charmed creature doesn’t override any existing charm effects.

Can Undead Be Charmed in 5e?

Unless specifically stated in a monster’s stat block; yes, Undead creatures in 5e may still be Charmed.

The Undead creature type doesn’t offer a blanket immunity against the Charmed condition. It’s true that some Undead creatures have an immunity to this condition like the Ghoul but it’s not pervasive amongst all monsters of this type.

Can Fey Be Charmed?

Generally speaking, Fey creatures in 5e may still be Charmed. That said, individual Fey creatures may not be Charmed if their stat block states as such.

There is nothing in the description for the Fey creature type which states they can’t be subjected to the Charmed condition. Some Fey creatures do have an immunity to the Charmed condition, but it’s not because they fall under this monster type.

 

Summary of the Charmed Condition in D&D 5e

That about covers the basics of how the Charmed condition works in 5e.

Charmed is one of the many conditions both players and monsters may inflict on another creature. It basically positions the charmer in a positive light to the affected creature, preventing them from attacking the charmer and making social rolls easier. And, there are a good number of spells you may use to inflict this condition while ending it has comparatively fewer options.

How would you rule "harmful" concerning the Charmed condition in your game? Have you used this condition to give your party an advantage in combat? Leave a comment below to share your stories and thoughts!

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