The Charmed Condition in 5e: How the Charm Effect Works

Last Updated on October 10, 2023

Table of Contents


  • 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.

How Does the Charmed Condition Work in DnD 5e? 

When a creature is charmed, it cannot use harmful abilities or magical effects to directly harm the creature it has been charmed by. The charmer also gets advantage on ability checks to interact socially with the charmed creature. 

The charmed condition is one of the most frequently misunderstood conditions in D&D 5e. A lot of people (including myself after I listened to the first arc of The Adventure Zone) tend to expect someone who’s charmed to be completely under the control of the creature who charmed them. However, it’s important to note that charmed does not mean mind-controlled

Charmed does not mean mind-controlled!

The fact is that the rules for a charmed creature are actually quite limited. However, there can still be some confusion over exactly how to interpret the rules of this condition, which we’re going to try and clear up below. 

For starters, a charmed creature explicitly can’t: 

  • Take the Attack Action against the creature that charmed it. 
  • Use an ability that harms the charmer, like a Dragonborn’s breath weapon, for example. 
  • Cast a spell that directly inflicts damage on the creature that charmed them. Spells that also inflict negative effects, like Slow, Sleep, or even Charm Person are also out of the question. 

Simple, right? Well, now we get into the gray areas. 

Can a charmed creature, through inaction, allow harm to come to their charmer? Yes. Can a charmed creature deliberately target a creature near the charmer so that the charmer is harmed indirectly (with an AoE spell like fireball, for example)? Maybe. Could a charmed creature tell its allies to attack the charmer? Maybe? Yes? No? Yes. Definitely yes.  

Would a charmed creature do that? Oh, I don’t know. Probably not

If you take a strictly rules-as-written approach to the Charmed condition, then in combat the condition just prevents the charmed creature from directly attacking the charmer (in addition to the advantage on social ability checks, which is much more straightforward). 

Often, effects and spells that inflict the charmed condition also apply additional effects, from which many of the misconceptions about the condition arise. The spell Charm Person, for example, imposes the charmed condition, but also stipulates that “The charmed creature regards you as a friendly acquaintance.” This is not a part of the charmed condition, but a secondary feature of the spell.

How Long Does the Charmed Condition Last? 

The duration of the charmed condition is determined by the effect used to create it. Several spells, like Charm Person, last for an hour (assuming you don’t break concentration), whereas more powerful spells, like Modify Memory and Geas can last longer. 

How Do I Break the Charmed Condition in DnD 5e?

The most common ways of breaking the charmed condition are: 

  • Saving throws: many abilities and spells will let the target of the charmed condition make a saving throw (typically using Wisdom) at regular intervals to end their effects. These saving throws are typically made with advantage if the charmer or their allies are being openly hostile towards the charmed creature. 
  • Damage: taking damage from the creature that charmed you (or their allies) often ends the effect, or gives the chance to save. Sometimes, taking damage from any source ends the effect. Also, if the spell or ability being used to charm a creature requires concentration (like Crown of Madness, for example), a failed concentration check by the caster after taking damage will also end the effect. 
  • Racial traits: some creatures, like those with the Fey Ancestry trait, are harder to charm than others. 
  • Spells: there are several spells that end the charmed condition.
    • Calm Emotions
    • Hallow (this only works against against celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead)
    • Dispel Evil and Good (see: Hallow)
    • Greater Restoration
    • Power Word: Heal
  • Class Features: some subclasses and classes have access to abilities that make it easier to resist being charmed, like the Monk’s Stillness of Mind and the Bard’s Countercharm. 

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