Last week we delved into enchantment basics. This week, we'll examine a few enchantments that are representative of the school and consider how they work in play.
As noted in Part One, charm spells grant the caster some degree of control over the subject. Charms tend to be the most troublesome enchantments because arguments arise over the extent of the control the spell provides, especially when a player character falls victim to a charm spell. Fortunately, a quick review of the spell description usually proves sufficient to establish what the spell can do.
When a player character falls victim to a charm and the player finds it hard to cooperate to the extent that the spell requires, it's usually best for the DM to point out a course of action for the character that properly reflects the enchantment. If the player continues to balk, the DM should to step in and treat the character as an NPC for a short time.
Charm Person: The quintessential charm spell, charm person makes the target creature friendly to the caster. According to the sidebar on page 72 of the Player's Handbook, a friendly creature wishes you well and will chat with you, advise you, offer you limited help, and act as your advocate.
In general, a charmed (or otherwise friendly) person might be expected to be roughly as accommodating to you as a co-worker that trusts you and gets along well with you or as obliging as an old school chum. You shouldn't expect a charmed character to make any truly painful or costly sacrifices for you.
You have a limited ability to persuade a charmed creature to go out on a limb for you when the consequences to the charmed creature aren't immediately obvious. The spell description uses holding off a red dragon while you escape as an example (and that works only when the charmed subject is a fighter type with appropriate equipment). For more suggestions on handling charms, see Save My Game: Adjudicating Charm Spells
In any case, when you give a charmed subject orders (rather than just take advantage of its friendly attitude), you must win an opposed Charisma check against the creature to persuade it obey. Giving an order usually is a free action for you, and making the opposed check is part of that free action. If your subject also is under another creature's mental control, you first must make an opposed check against the subject to make it obey you, then you must make a separate check against the other controlling character. The extra check isn't an action for you.
Charm person isn't a language-dependent spell, but it isn't much good to you if you don't have some way to communicate with the subject. Speaking in a language that the subject can understand allows you to make the best possible use of a charm person spell. You can use pantomime to communicate with a subject; however, gestures won't allow you much in the way of detailed communication with a subject, but you can convey simple things such as "come," "go," "pick that up," or "open that." When in doubt, the DM might call for an Intelligence check to decide if the subject can understand the gestures. For something fairly simple, such as "come" or "go," a DC of 10 is sufficient. For something more complex, such as "pick that up" or "open that," the DC is 15. Concepts that merit a higher DC probably are too complex to communicate through gestures that you make up on the spot. As always, adjust the DC upward for unfavorable conditions, such as poor visibility, a particularly obtuse subject, or any situation that makes the gestures hard to understand, such as an overabundance of things that your gestures might indicate.
If the creature you target with a charm person spell is currently under attack by you or your allies, or under the threat of attack, the subject gets a +5 bonus on its saving throw. See page 171 in the Player's Handbook for a definition of attack as it pertains to spells. The DM must decide if the subject is under the threat of attack; this usually requires nothing more than a common sense judgment about what you and your allies are doing. If the subject can reasonably assume that you or your group will attack, it is under threat. For example, you and your group threaten attack if you've already attacked the subject's allies, when you menace the subject with weapons or spells, or when you've invaded some building or territory where you don't belong.
Charm person affects only humanoids. Many other spells work just like the charm person spell, except that they affect other kinds of creatures. These spells include charm animal (affects only creatures of the animal type), charm monster (affects creatures of all types, though not creatures immune to mind-affecting spells), mass charm monster (just like charm monster, but multiple creatures), and symbol of persuasion.
Enthrall: This spell makes other creatures pay attention exclusively to you. The creatures must be able to see you and hear you speak or sing for a full round in a language they can understand (enthrall is language-dependent, see Part One). Though the spell description speaks of an area, enthrall is a targeted spell and you can select any number of creatures within range as targets for the spell. If any creature comes within range after you cast the spell, you can target it, too.
Once the spell takes affect on a target, that creature does nothing but stand quietly and pay attention to you. It looks at you and listens to you. The spell lasts for as long as you speak or sing and for 1d3 rounds after you stop speaking or singing (but see below), up to a maximum of 1 hour.
If any member of the audience is attacked or subjected to some other overtly hostile act, the spell ends immediately (no 1d3 rounds of additional effects occur), and the enchanted creatures become unfriendly or hostile to you, as noted in the spell description. Any attack or hostile action ends the spell, not just acts from you or your allies. The spell description doesn't say so, but if some third party ends the spell by attacking your audience, it's a good bet that the party who disrupted the spell also draws the audience's wrath.
Most compulsion spells literally force the subject to act in some manner, or not act at all. Many compulsions simply make their subjects feel particularly good (or bad) and provide bonuses (or penalties) when the subjects take certain actions. The bless, good hope, bane, and crushing despair spells are examples of the latter type of spell.
Many compulsions grant the caster some degree of control over the subject, however, and require the same careful handling as charm spells. Here are a few examples:
The target animal cannot be one tamed or trained by someone else. This includes familiars (which are magical beasts and not subject to the spell anyway) and animal companions. It also includes any animal that has been taught tricks or trained for a purpose with the Handle Animal skill.
The spell gives you the power to impress upon the animal a set of directions to some location you specify, and the animal will carry a message to that location for you. You can attach the message or item to the animal somehow (such as with a collar or leg band) or have the animal carry it in its mouth or a manipulative appendage (if the animal has one). You must know the route to that location yourself and the directions you give must be fairly simple. The spell description doesn't define "simple" in the context of the spell, but I recommend something based on obvious landmarks and a minimal number of landmark-based steps, say three steps per point of Intelligence the animal has. Such directions might include "go to the top of that hill" (This would require the hill to be in sight and you would have to point at the hill.) Other possibilities would include walk a half mile in that direction (you point in the direction), follow the left bank to the rapids, walk into the woods, and wait by the lightning-struck oak.
You cannot communicate with the target animal in any way other than to direct it to the location you desire. When the animal reaches the location you specified, it waits there for the remaining duration of the spell. The spell doesn't give creatures at the location any special ability to communicate with the animal or any special ability to read or decipher any message the animal might carry for you.
Animal Trance: This spell affects 2d6 Hit Dice worth of animals or magical beasts with Intelligence scores of 1 or 2. Roll the dice to determine how many Hit Dice worth of creatures, then select targets for the spell. If you select more targets than the roll allows, the targets closest to you are affected first. If you select a target that the spell can't affect (because it is not an animal or magical beast or because it has an Intelligence higher than 2), that creature doesn't count against the number of Hit Dice the spell can affect.
A creature affected by this spell becomes fascinated with you. It takes no actions other than to pay attention to you. It takes a -4 penalty on skill checks made as reactions, such as Listen and Spot checks. Any potential threat, such as a hostile creature approaching, allows the creature a new saving throw against the spell; however, only a dire animal or an animal trained to attack or guard (see the Handle Animal skill description) is allowed a saving throw against the spell. Any obvious threat, such as someone drawing a weapon, casting a spell, or aiming a ranged weapon at the fascinated creature, automatically breaks the spell, even when a subject is not allowed a saving throw.
Command: You use this spell to issue a single order to one living creature. You must give the order in a language the subject can understand (command is language-dependent; see Part One). The spell provides a short list of orders you can use. When affected by this spell, a creature must obey its order to the best of its ability and at the soonest possible moment, usually during its next turn after receiving the spell. The subject generally obeys you for 1 round. See the spell description for details.
The greater command spell functions just like the command spell, except that you command multiple creatures and the creatures you command might obey you for multiple rounds. You must give the same command to each creature. An affected creature obeys you for at least 1 round if it fails its initial save. Each round thereafter, at the start of its turn, the creature gets a new saving throw to end the effect. A successful save from one creature doesn't affect any other creatures you have targeted with the spell.
Suggestion: Here's a potent spell that often provokes arguments. Using suggestion, you can compel a subject to undertake some activity that you can describe briefly. The spell description says you must be able to describe the activity in a sentence or two. I recommend that you limit suggestions to two fairly simple sentences of no more than 25 to 30 words total.
Suggestion is language-dependent, so you must speak to the subject in a language it can understand (but see Part One).
You can't use the spell to compel a subject to do something suicidal or obviously harmful. The course of action you suggest must seem reasonable. The DM is the final judge of what's reasonable, but as a rule of thumb a suggestion should be something that the subject might decide to do on his own if the circumstances were appropriate or if the subject shared the caster's point of view. You can word a suggestion so as to make the requested activity seem reasonable. The spell description uses an example in which the caster suggests that a pool of acid is pure water and suggests a swim therein.
Very reasonable suggestions impose a penalty on the saving throw. The DM must decide what is very reasonable, but in general, these are things that the subject might do without any special prompting from anyone else. A suggestion to flee from a fight and get as far away as possible would be very reasonable, especially if the subject was already facing defeat (or the subject has a credible expectation of defeat).
A suggestion effect ends when the subject follows the course of action the caster specifies. You should be careful to word suggestions so that they can't be fulfilled in a round or two. For example, a suggestion to "flee" or "hide" can be completed pretty quickly, and nothing in those suggestions prevents the subject from rejoining a battle immediately afterward.
The spell also allows you to specify some action that the subject must take in response to a trigger you specify. The triggered action can't be anything you couldn't normally do with the spell. For example, you can't use suggestion to order someone to kill himself at sundown. When describing a trigger, you must fit the description into the two fairly simple sentences of no more than 25 to 30 words total that the spell allows you.
Many spells and effects in the D&D game allow you to make suggestions, including the bard's fascinate class feature (when the bard is 6th level or higher), and the demand, guards and wards, and illusory script spells. The mass suggestion spell works just like suggestion except that it affects more than one creature. You must give the same suggestion to each subject you affect with a single spell.
Dominate Person: This spell functions much like a supercharged version of the charm person spell. The spell is not language-dependent and it provides you with a telepathic link with the subject. The link allows you to control the subject from afar (even when you can't see the subject; see the spell description) and to know what the subject is experiencing, as noted in the spell description.
If you don't share a common language with the subject, you can give her only simple commands, such as "Come here," "Go there," "Fight," and "Stand still." If you and the subject share a common language, you can compel the subject to do just about anything you want. You can't force a subject to do anything obviously self-destructive, but just about anything else goes. If you try to force the subject to act against its nature, it gets a new saving throw with a +2 bonus, and a successful saving throw ends the spell. (It pays to be careful about what you order a dominated subject to do.) The DM must decide what's contrary to the subject's nature. The discussion of things you can accomplish with a charm person spell provides a good basis for what a dominated subject can be made to do without getting a new saving throw.
Once a dominated subject receives an order, it tends to follow that order to the exclusion of all other activities (other than basic activities such as eating, drinking, and sleeping) until it fulfills the order. If the DM decides the order is against the subject's nature, it gets only one saving throw to resist the order and throw off the spell, even if the order takes some time and effort to accomplish. As with the suggestion spell, it pays to be careful how you phrase orders. For example, if you order a subject to attack its ally, it almost certainly will get a saving throw to throw off the spell. The subject, however, can accomplish this order with a single action. If you repeat the order, the subject will get a new saving throw. On the other hand, if you order a subject to slay one of its allies, the subject will get only one saving throw.
Each day the spell lasts, you must spend 1 round concentrating on the subject to maintain your influence. If you don't do so, the spell doesn't necessarily end, but the subject gets a new saving throw to throw off the effect.
Dominate person affects only humanoids. The dominate monster spell works just like dominate person except that it works on any kind of creature (provided it is subject to mind-affecting spells).
That wraps up our short look at enchantments.
About the Author
Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for many years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.
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