Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
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.
What Is the Charm Person Spell?
Charmed person does two main things. First, it allows you to give a creature the charmed condition if they fail a Wisdom saving throw. Then, it adds the extra clause that the charmed creature views you as friendly.
In order to really understand this spell, we have to know what the charmed condition actually does.
If a creature is charmed, they can’t target the charmer with any harmful abilities (attacks, effects, spells, etc.). The charmer also has advantage on any social-ability checks on the charmed creature.
This is one of the least-restrictive conditions, but it’s a great way to protect yourself from a potential enemy. It also means that you can turn your social encounters into a breeze.
There isn’t some official list of social-ability checks anywhere in 5e, but it’s pretty clear that this spell is just talking about any of the skills that could be used in a social setting.
Typically, this boils down to any of the charisma-based skills and insight.
We know that charming a creature protects you from any of their harmful effects, but this spell takes it a bit further, having your target now view you as a friendly acquaintance.
Obviously, there isn’t a “friendly acquaintance” mechanic, so this can mean various different things according to your DM’s interpretation.
This, like most spells, has a couple of things that keep it from being overpowered.
First, it only works if the target fails a Wisdom saving throw. In early play, most creatures won’t have crazy wisdom modifiers, so you have a good chance of success.
Then, once the spell has worn off, creatures will know that they were charmed by you.
Creatures who succeed their saving throw won’t know anything, so you’re free to try again, but if you’re successful, you only have an hour to work before you might have to deal with some negative side effects.
It’s up to your DM if there are any repercussions to charming a creature.
Charming a goblin might mean that when the hour is up, they sound the alarms and send a small band out to hunt you. Of course, the inverse could also be true. Your charmed goblin could “come to” and not really think anything of it.
What Can Charm Person Do?
Using Charm Person on someone turns them into a friendly acquaintance on whom you have advantage with social checks.
While this doesn’t mean you can control them or boss them around, it’s going to make any requests or inquiries go a lot smoother.
This is only a 1st-level spell, which means it’s certainly going to let you do some cool things, but it’s nowhere near reality warping.
Essentially, this spell just gives us a much better chance of succeeding in social scenarios than we would normally have.
It’s important to remember that this doesn’t give you control over your charmed creature. For that, you’ll need more powerful spells, like Dominate Person, at your disposal.
Instead, you get to treat this situation like you might treat a conversation with the friendly blacksmith. This really comes down to what your DM will allow as far as social ability checks are concerned.
A good rule of thumb is that you can’t convince anyone to do something that goes against their moral values.
Let’s say you’ve just charmed a guard. You might be able to persuade them to let you through the gates, but you won’t be convincing them to kill their coworkers (unless this is a particularly sadistic guard).
After Effects of Charmed Person
One of the things that might keep a lot of people from using this spell is the fact that charmed creatures become aware of your influence once the spell is gone.
This doesn’t make the spell useless; it just means that you have to be careful with your actions.
This spell gives players an opportunity to act creatively. The less drastic your suggestions are while you have someone charmed, the less likely it is that they’ll form a hunting party to make you pay for your crimes.
As is my normal prescription for situations like this, talk to your DM about how they handle “post-charmed knowledge.”
Most often it will be a case-by-case scenario, but some DMs will have hard rules. There are certainly DMs out there who will ignore this clause of the spell to make it more viable.
Much like the general usage of this spell though, if you don’t try to get someone to do something they normally wouldn’t, you should be fine.
Who Should Take Charmed Person?
This spell is available to quite a few casters, so we need to think about what builds it works best in. The best characters for this spell will already have a good handle on social encounters, treating this as a boost in special scenarios.
I’ll be honest, this isn’t one of my favorite spells.
It’s one of the few utility spells out there that has a serious drawback, and I believe that the risks don’t outweigh the reward for this one. Still, it is a useful spell that can turn the tide of a situation.
This is why I would only put it on a bard, warlock, or sorcerer that has other ways to deal with social situations first.
These are all charisma casters, so even if they don’t have proficiency in one or more social skills, they have a high charisma modifier to cushion their experiences.
Looking at the numbers, advantage is like getting a +5 to your rolls. Obviously, this is based on averages and a bunch of statistical mumbo-jumbo, but that doesn’t make it useless information.
For comparison, a level-one charisma caster with proficiency in a social skill is already adding at least +5 (+2 from proficiency, at least +3 from charisma).
This is typically enough to drastically improve your odds of success even on a bad roll.
All of this means that this spell goes in builds that can avoid using it. Then it becomes a last resort and a very helpful one at that.
If failing a social check would have disastrous effects, use this spell, and boost your odds of success up to near certainty. Then, once the dust is settled, deal with the consequences as they come.
Similar Spells to Charm Person
This is a 1st-level spell that can often be equal parts helpful and harmful. As you progress in your build, you’ll be able to move on to far more effective means of getting what you want to happen.
We’ve thrown together a few spells that can replace or supplement charm person and help you avoid being hunted because you charmed someone you shouldn’t have.
Suggestion, 2nd Level
Suggestion allows you to do just what it says and make a suggestion. Of course, this is a magically aided suggestion, so it’s going to work much better than just talking to someone would.
This spell is like a much more acute version of Charm Person, allowing you to suggest a course of action to a creature. If they fail a wisdom save they will follow the course of action to the best of their ability.
The best part? They have no knowledge that you used any magic on them, making this miles better than charming them.
You do have to make a reasonable suggestion, so don’t go telling people to jump off of high towers, but aside from insane examples, you can get a lot done with just a 2nd-level spell slot.
Disguise Self, 1st Level
This spell has a couple ways to help you in a social situation.
One is that you can make someone think you are a friendly acquaintance of theirs by literally disguising yourself as a friendly acquaintance of theirs.
The second way is a bit more tricky and requires some interpretation of how Charm Person works.
The goal here is that you disguise yourself before charming someone so that their knowledge of who charmed them is actually wrong.
While this isn’t explicitly said in the language of Charm Person, it makes sense that the person saw you and that when the spell ends they realize they’ve been in a magical fog but remember wanting to listen to you.
Disguising yourself gives you a neat way to dodge this.
The guidance cantrip gives a willing creature a d4 to add to their next ability check.
Before you go all out and charm someone, have one of your allies cast guidance on the party member with the best chance of succeeding on your social check, and then go for it.
A potential +4 is a huge bonus, and even a +1 is often enough to make a difference.
Dominate Person, 5th Level
Obviously, this does nothing to help a low-level caster. Still, this is the mind-control spell to use once it’s available to you. There are no repercussions once the spell ends, and they are completely under your control.
You do have to worry about them getting free of your control, which they do by making a wisdom save any time they take damage, but this spell has a much higher reward for the risk.
DMing the Charm Person Spell in 5e
Dealing with this spell can be a nightmare for DMs. You want to allow your players to do cool things, but you also have to be reasonable about the repercussions of influencing people with magic.
In many D&D settings, using magic to control people in any way is a huge crime.
Waterdeep: Dragonheist even has a fleshed-out legal code that tells you exactly what happens if your players go around being murder-hobos.
The punishment for exerting influence over someone is a fine of 1000 gp with failure to pay the fine leading to imprisonment or worse.
This means figuring out a way to deal with players casting spells to influence the minds of others.
Setting down some form of legal code for a region is a smart idea. You can use the one I linked to or come up with your own, and let your players know about it from the jump.
You can also deal with things on a case-by-case basis. Naturally, the more they try to do to a charmed individual, the more severe the repercussions should be.
If a player gets in the habit of using this spell to get themselves out of trouble, they could quickly become an enemy to many different factions in your world.
All of this is why I like to treat this spell a little bit differently. I modify the concerned clause of this spell to say:
“When the spell ends, the creature knows it was charmed. On a successful wisdom save, they are aware that you influenced them; otherwise they are left with a foggy memory of you and your allies. The creature has a +1 to their saving throw for each social check made against them.”
With this modification, there is still a risk, but there’s also a chance that the players get off scot-free.
The last bit is me trying to incentivize my players to realize that less is more. The more they try to get away with, the less likely it is that they’ll get away with anything.
The Charm Person spell is a very interesting spell. It puts a lot of power into the hands of low-leveled characters while reminding them that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Are the repercussions of this spell worth casting it and getting your way? That’s up to you to decide.
As always, happy adventuring.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.