Monday, March 14, 2011

DM Dilemma: Charm Person

I thought that it might be useful to group some posts together under the heading of "DM Dilemma." We all run into things that cause us to scratch our heads, make rapid rulings on the fly, then we go back later and dig through the manuals and forum posts for some sort of inspiration on either solidifying a houserule or realizing we had it wrong in the first place. Dilemma might be a strong word, but it's a catchy title, so I'll go with it. I often find myself busy Monday morning looking up things that have puzzled me from the game from the weekend. I hope these posts are useful to some of you.

It's been my experience that players are pretty forgiving of a DM when the DM says "I'm ruling this way now, but I'm going to solidify my understanding to make it right for my campaign in the future." It's part and parcel to improving our skills as DMs, thus challenging our players to improve on their skills as players.

So... that said, I'll post my first "dilemma" which is more of a challenge...

So imagine this. You're a blood-thirsty orc leader. You are on a religious crusade to rid the earth of humans. You just sent your warriors to encircle a party of humans and you've watched this damn human spell-caster deal serious damage to them. In a bloodlust, you and your bodyguards charge the spell-caster, to remove the immediate threat. To your rear, a druid casts charm person on you. He then attempts to persuade you to stop your charge. (Imagine a bearded druid running after a charging orc yelling "Wait! Stop! That spellcaster means you no harm!")

As a DM, how do you rule how the charm has affected the orc?

Charm Person (druid) - AD&D Players Handbook
"The creature then will regard the druid who cast the spell as a trusted friend and ally to be heeded and protected. The spell does not enable the druid to control the charmed creature as if it were an automaton, but any word or action of the druid will be viewed in its most favorable way." 
(NOTE: the magic-user spell description refers to the druid version for effects)

I'll tell you what I did. The orc leader assessed that his new friend, although human, was no immediate threat to him or his orc troops.  He did not order his bodyguards to attack the druid. He assessed his new friend's entreaty to not attack the magic-user. While trusting that his new friend had the best intentions, the orc concluded the mage's continuing aggressive actions were the biggest threat to the orc's survival, as were the other humans attacking him and his friends. To not protect himself and his brothers would be suicide. So the orc leader attacked the mage and damn near killed him.

I think my players were a little surprised at the way I ruled on charm person and I've chewed on it all week and come to the conclusion that my initial ruling was the right one for my campaign/table. Charm Person is an amazingly powerful spell, but it's usefulness in the middle of combat, in the middle of a charge, is dubious. A charmed being doesn't go instantly stupid, nor does he somehow completely change his way of thinking in an obedient automaton. Rather, he has a changed data point to deal with - a powerful one, but only one.

In combat, with life and death on the line, charm person will have mixed results. In the middle of a charge, probably not nearly as much as at a moment of indecision, or if the target of the spell comes into a one-on-one with the charming spell caster. If this were a non-combat situation, the charm might have led to an extremely favorable result, depending on how the magic-user or druid steered the discussion.

Now, had the party ceased their attacks, this might have turned out different with regards to the charm. Weighing the threat versus the words of the druid would have led the orc leader to different conclusions and he would have found the datum of "the most favorable way to view the druid's words" to be more powerful than immediate survival.

It's an interesting spell and ruling to chew on.

Next week will be mounted combat, as I ran into this issue yesterday (3/13/2011) and it's going to take me a few days to chew on.

If there are any DM Dilemmas that you'd like to cover, please feel free to suggest or post your own and I'll link to it.


Gratuitous Saxon Violence said...

FWIW I think you ruling was correct. I've always understood this spell to me you were friends with the caster. Do you always do what your friend asks of you. No. Sometimes your friends are idiots. (At least in my experience.) So I think you were right in that case.

Carter Soles said...

I agree, you ruled correctly; Charm Person is a very powerful spell. I have been wrestling with this particular "dilemma" myself since I have a bard in the party who charmed a powerful troll early in the campaign. I have had to make many such rulings over the course of our adventures with that charmed troll.

I look forward to more of the series!

Pat said...

I usually make the creatures into hapless mind-slaves. Same with players who get charmed. As long as an order isn't suicidal, it's obeyed.

In this instance, I might have the other orcs flip their boss off though and continue charging, or turn on him.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Pat - I used to do that and I think that is how a lot of players expect the spell to work. After reading the spell description a few more times, I realized that there's a really fine line between "charm" and "command". In the case of command, I see the target as a mind-slave, but in the case of charm, it's more subtle.

I guess the best way is to think of the influence of a vampire over a potential victim - like a seduction. I guess that could nerf charm person, in a way, but it also allows some really interesting situations. You may charm your target and he/she will still be extremely convincing, much more so than a programmed robot.

If it hadn't been for some of the more important factors in the orc's mind - his hatred of humans, his desire to see his men survive, it might have been a different story.

bighara said...

I like the ruling. If the wizard had cast CP on the orc as it was charging him, the orc should have stopped, IMO. But for a third party –even one seen as friendly– to attempt to intervene in the fog of war? Even if the boss had (momentarily) stopped, the other orcs in mid-charge would probably still initially press the attack.

Alan said...

So if Charm Person is not very useful in the middle of combat, and if casting Charm Person is viewed as an attack in a non-combat situation, when would be a good time to use it?

About the only rare situation I can think of when it may be useful is when the party encounters a solitary creature/NPC.

Koren n'Rhys said...

I'll agree with the rest here, sounds like you made the right ruling.

I'm dealing with a similar situation in my tabletop WhiteBox campaign. I have a PC who is a bard (I really need to post that class writeup...) and knows the power of his Charm abilities from later editions. He tried to play and Charm some bandits after the party walked right into an ambush. He waited until the combat had started, so I ruled that the attempt failed in that case, but it's certainly a situation where you need to make case-by-case rulings to be realistic about it.

Koren n'Rhys said...

@Alan: I don't see it as always being viewed as a hostile action. Walking up to the guards at a city gate and trying to charm one? Yes, that's pretty hostile. But there are other situations where it can be done more subtly and without the victim even knowing it is occurring.

Telecanter said...

DM Dilemmas is a great idea. Yes, I don't really see Charm Person as a combat spell, more like a witches' glamour. Depending on how powerful the caster, an attempt at charming might not even be noticed.

I'll try to think of dilemmas, it seems like I have one a session, but can't think of any off the top of my head.

Alan said...

@Koren - With a range of 120 ft. (per OSRIC), Charm Person could easily be cast at a distance without even coming close to the gate guard.

When I suggested this tactic earlier (casting it on a gate guard), I never suggested that a character should be able to walk up to the guard, wave his hands in the target's face, and get away with anything - hence, my confusion.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Alan - that's a fair question, especially from a player. It's probably been easier to tell you when it's not safe/usable - in front of a few city guards/townsfolk, in the middle of a combat when the combatant is already in the midst of an attack.

Some of the following comments have touched on likely scenarios, but I would have to say it's going to be a case-by-case basis, given the overpowering effect it could have versus nerfing it entirely.

So let's take the two situations - towns guard and orc battle.

Town guards - you are nearing a city gate with two town guards manning their posts and various people moving inside and out. You want to somehow charm one of the guards so you can persuade him that your stuff really isn't all that important/expensive and you shouldn't be taxed upon entry to Skalfier.

Problem is, if you want right up to him and cast, the other guard is going to stick his polearm somewhere where your body will object a lot. If you do it in view of the townsfolk, they'll alert the guards to the fact that someone just cast a spell. Sounds like charm might not be the thing to do?

Well, there are a couple of ways that if I were a player, I might try it (and yes, I fully realize I'm selling guns to the opposing side right now...)

Let's look at the particulars of charm for a second (per AD&D Player's Handbook - there might be differences from OSRIC):

Components: V, S
Range: 8"
Casting Time: 4 segments
Duration: Special
Saving Throw: Negates
Area of Effect: One person or round/level

So it's an 80 foot indoors/80 yards outdoors range. There's nothing that says a mage can't look for a spot that provides some cover and allows him to cast at a range, or behind people, or stashed in the hay of a cart. If his friends provide a distraction that momentarily focuses everyone's attention, a 4 segment (24 seconds) spell that has only verbal/somatic components could be masked. In that time, I was able to only read off the first paragraph and first 15 words or so of the Declaration of Independence. Enough of a distraction and that might work, as long as the mage can keep the target in visual sight.

A second way might be to charm someone else to make a distraction, instead of performing it on the guards directly.

With regards to the orc captain - if the spell had been cast prior to the orc charging, and prior to the full combat engaging, then the effect may have been different. I would submit that it could be very powerful, depending on what you're looking for. Given that I don't make a charmed person into a mindless slave (and my view of this has changed from when I first stated playing again) it becomes more of a powerful suggestion that adds a new dimension to the target's decision making process. An orc charging in bloodlust is different than an orc assessing his options on what to do. An unengaged orc is different than an orc/mage facing off.

I don't think there's going to be a perfect 100% way to always use charm, but it is another tool to use and there are some creative ways it can be used.

Just keep in mind that in my campaign, people know what magic looks like and if you're seen casting in a non-obvious situation, you might be questioned as to what you're doing. Then again, maybe not. :)

ChicagoWiz said...

"I was able to only read off the first paragraph and first 15 words"


"I was able to only read off the first paragraph and next 15 words"

Beedo said...

I actually have had to rule it two ways - in the adult game I run, use it as written (the caster is a friend, his words are viewed favorably, and it's still up to the players to make the case).

In the kid's game (D&D with 9yr olds) the subtlety is lost and it's easier to keep the game moving by allowing a bit of mind control.

Gratuitous Saxon Violence said...

Think of it this way.
A Victoria's Secret/Sports Illustrated/some other equivalent per taste Model shows up and asks you to do stuff. You'd probably be inclined to do so, unless it was truly nuts, bizarre or completely against your own interests. And you'd be happy to do so.

Alan said...

Part of the problem is also a world-specific issue:

1. How obvious is spell casting? Do verbal and somatic components mean small hand motions and muttered eldritch syllables, or must the arms be waved about and the words screamed to the heavens themselves? In short, how stealthy is spell-work?

The 1E PHB (page 40) says that spells with a verbal component must be uttered, and those with a somatic component require movement of the caster's body, such as gesturing. There is an awful lot of leeway there.

2. How much of a big deal is spell casting? If a spell has no obvious side effects (no flaming arrows, no stinging cloud of death, people are not dropping to the ground unconscious) and someone does witness a spell being cast, what happens? Is it automatically viewed suspiciously and classified as illegal, or must proof of harm be provided?

These are all campaign world level decisions, I'd wager, and something for all of us to think about as in my experience, they aren't usually specified (and if they are, then they don't seem to be focused upon in what I have read).

Alan said...

P.S. Thanks for the food for thought, Michael. It's made the first Monday after DST switch more tolerable! ;>

ChicagoWiz said...

@Alan - "world specific issues" and therein lies both the danger and the beauty of making adaptable rules. How specific does the game get before it breaks down? As a DM, I have to straddle the line between keeping the game flowing ("If you cast charm here, you're likely to be seen/questioned by the townsfolk" ruling) versus plotting out exactly what happens ("OK, first word, movement of the spell, let's roll for all 12 people within the specified hearing/visual range, oh, wait, that's 14 - the arc of cover allows two more to see..." (OK, that's stretching it, but you could get that detailed...))

I go with what seems reasonable. It might not be the most precise, accurate ruling, but it's the one that works and once that ruling is given, both players and DM have a strawman for further discussion and tweaking. It's a fine line - one that many of the dilemmas that I have fall onto.

Wait till we discuss mounted combat next. (I actually had a horse person on the phone asking them how long a warhorse could run at full steam... hehe)

I'm glad to have helped. This Monday is sucking hard!

Koren n'Rhys said...

@Alan: I actually like the idea of verbal/somatic requirements being a variable thing. In Harry Potter, for example, the teachers can cast spells with minimal obvious monkeying around. Compare that to the students, who must shout out commend words and make big waving movements with their wands.

Maybe at higher levels, mages can cast those low-level spells more easily than they used to. But I agree, that is going to be campaign-specific, or house-ruled in detail.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Koren - somewhere, someone has a table that matches decibel levels required to class level to spell type. ;)

JoeGKushner said...

Ignore the knife I'm sticking into you friend. Doesn't it feel more like a back scratcher? At best, I would have ruled that the orcs went to knock out the mage for use as slave labor latter. Otherwise the Druid himself might have to be knocked out for his own good since obviously he was insane.

Alan said...

@Koren - really like that idea a lot!

... and if you model magic as channeling/summoning extra-planar creatures for their abilities, we could then have a random table to see how "loud and active" the contacted other-worlder is.

Just hope you don't roll up "Sam Kinison"!

ChicagoWiz said...

We do not mock the Holiest of Holies - the Kinison.

Andrew said...

CW: I would have done roughly the same. I just finished explaining to my PCs that the "Charm" on the captured Lizardman warrior was not "Mastery" or even "Suggestion." Hence he views the Bard as a friend but doesn't necessarily want to answer the questions of the party except where it might concern his "friendship."

ChicagoWiz said...

@Andrew - ha! That reminds me of the time one of my players cast "Speak with Animals" to talk to a rabbit. He wanted to know about the orc camp further west.

The rabbit's most common response? "No. I'm lookin' for luuuuuuuv!" and grinding his hips.

That spell hasn't been used too much since. LMAO!

John said...

I would have had the orc leader obey the druid, stop attacking, and command his bodyguard to do likewise. Of course, whether the bodyguard would listen when in blood lust is a completely different story. Most likely the mage would have killed or severely decimated the unrushing bodyguard. The orc leader would then feel betrayed by his 'friend', break the charm, and attack the druid!

Alexis said...

I think you made the correct ruling, given the description of the spell in the book. But I also think the book kinda sucks. It can only affect one person on the battlefield after all, that person gets a saving throw (which doesn't seem to be affected by intelligence - so with low level creatures we're not talking about a lot of impact. The namby pamby language is, I believe, in case the mage casts it on something really powerful, like a stone giant, that happens to blow its save ... the authors didn't want a first level spell commanding something that powerful. It could have been gotten around with a 1HD/level limit, but...

However, my first question is, with a view to the spell Charm Person also being a 1st level mage spell, how does it compare to the third level Suggestion? Which also, according to the book, doesn't make automatons. And isn't that effective against a lot of high level characters with good saving throws (it always fails, mostly, when I throw it against a party).

My second question, why is it that monsters always seem to be living in a world where, when Uggh starts acting weird, they don't think, "Uh oh, Uggh's been charmed!" The players always leap to that conclusion. Don't you think that if the orc leader stopped acting according to reason (ie., decided not to kill the druid), that as a longtime associate of the orc leader you'd realize something was askew? Given that everyone knows magic exists and is easy to encounter in the form of rather common first level casters who might - seriously - be anyone?

Thanks for this. Been trying to decide on how to finally rewrite the spell.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Alexis - thanks for stopping by. You should know I heard your "voice" in my head when writing this post, as I figured you'd probably have some thoughts on the spell.

I like that 1HD/level limit, I might keep that one in mind, thanks.

Suggestion is a good subject to bring up. In my mind, suggestion is a step up from charm person. Where with charm person, I might be able to keep the orc boss from attacking me (as I'm now his "friend"), but that's probably just for me, and my friends are toast. With suggestion, I'm more likely to get him to cease attacking period and command his troops to do the same. ("You and your brothers stop attacking us, as we are here to negotiate with you and this combat is a misunderstanding. We will stop attacking you as well.") It's not much of a step up, I supposed geas or limited wish/wish would be more of the realm of utter mind-control which I think charm person seems to be used for.

I'm not sure of the applicability of charm person once combat has started anyway. I tend to view charm and suggestion as spells to use during the negotiation or initial encounter if fighting hasn't commenced, or useful against single foe combats when the party wants to subdue/capture versus kill.

I'm very curious to read your take on the spell now.

I agree about other monsters reacting to spells and those targeted. Although magic is known to exist in my world, humans fear it and the orcs would definitely have issues with it. The use of suggestions above would find the orcs in a very confused and aggressive state of mind. While they are trained/drilled to obey their leader, such an order ("Stop attacking, we're negotiating") would be seen as almost anathema and would lead to a very interesting encounter.

As a side-note, Alexis, have you ever tried counterspelling as a houserule?

Pat said...

I see where I got the mind-slave interpretation now that I'm home and not at work - it's the Moldvay version of the spell.

"Any commands given will usually be obeyed, except that orders against its nature (alignment and habits) may be resisted, and an order to kill itself will be refused."

Also of interest: "It will not affect undead, nor creatures larger than an ogre." which I always interpreted as 4 HD limit.

I started with Moldvay way back when and "graduated" to AD&D, but apparently the Moldvay Charm Person is what "stuck" with me.

The AD&D Charm Person is just different - a lot less mind-control, and no hit die limit.

1d30 said...

I had this crop up recently, trying to decide whether the charmed creature believed the caster to be the friend but not the caster's allies, etc.

Here's how I do it. From the charmed creature's perspective, it's like the charmer who was an enemy before suddenly threw off a disguise and revealed himself to be the charmee's trusted friend. Of course you wouldn't continue attacking! But there would be a moment of confusion and indecision, and certainly the charmee is no automaton.

The charmed creature can be given orders, and those orders can fall into three categories: those which always succeed, those which offer a new saving throw, and those with always fail and also offer a save.

Orders which always succeed are those that already align with the charmee's goals, that do not harm his interests, or that aren't too onerous. Examples include directing him to pickpocket a different person than he had already planned, or turn his unit and charge at a different but worthwhile enemy unit, or help with some immediate chore like cleaning.

Orders which offer a new save are those that are especially onerous or are against the charmee's goals. Examples might be asking for all his treasure, asking the location of his hidden treasure, asking about the weaknesses of his fortress, or asking him to attack his friends. It would also include asking him to help you pack up and move your furniture across town or work for you for free.

Orders that always fail and also offer a new save are those which directly imperil the charmee to the extent of suicide. These include jumping off a cliff, holding off that dragon for "just a few rounds," or asking him to give up all his arms and armor in a hostile environment.

I count all the charmer's friends as also friends of the charmee. In your example of the PC party vs. the Orcs, it's pretty clear to all the Orcs who "our side" and "their side" is. So if an Orc is charmed, he will now understand the PC party to be friendly as well as his old Orc buddies.

This may seem to make Charm spells virtually useless. But consider that for the price of a failed saving throw, a single target is not only eliminated from combat but is gained as an ally for some time! That's better than a Death spell of a much higher level. That a Charm Person is usable only on a narrow category, and Charm Monster on a wider category, doesn't make much difference to me. The power of such a spell is incredible. So I would include certain "tenacious charms" that offer big save penalties, but are of higher level. Example:

Level 1: Charm Person (no penalty, one target, persons only)

Level 3: Tenacious Charm Person (-4 save, one target, persons only)

Level 4: Charm Monster (no penalty, one target, any monsters)

Level 5: Mass Charm (no penalty, many targets, persons only)

Level 6: Tenacious Charm Monster (-4, one targ, any monsters)

Level 7: Long Charm Monster (no penalty, one targ, any monsters, huge duration)

And so forth. The basic Charm Person spell level would be modified upward if the spell affected multiples, a broader category, save penalty, or longer duration.

Regardless, the spell has roleplaying effects. Asking a charmed merchant to give you a discount is a lot easier, asking a charmed guard to let you pass, etc.

1d30 said...

Oh and this ignores the concept of a Domination-style "I control your mind and body and you do as I please" sort of spell. That would be higher level of course and much shorter duration than a Charm.

myrystyr said...

I think you got it right... although I say that based on the number of times I've seen A) players fail to see the difference between CP and higher level/more powerful effects, B) players try to wriggle out of the spell when they fail their save against an enemy's charm.

Justin Alexander said...

1d30 said basically everything I was going to. The spell makes one person the kind of friend that would die for you (but not commit suicide for you). How far you can push that will depend on the person in question. (The paladin who has sworn a holy oath to protect a door may not let you by even if he does consider you his dearest friend; whereas an average guard on the city gate can probably be convinced to look the other way if their friend tells them it's really important.)

It may also be valuable to note that the AD&D1 DMG has additional recommendations on how to rule a charm person spell on page 43.

@Pat: It's interesting looking at the variance in charm person over the early editions. In OD&D, the spell was basically dominate person ("the charmed entity comes completely under the influence of the Magic-User") and the duration was permanent ("until such such time as the charm is dispelled (Dispel Magic)").

Holmes (1977) keeps the dominate person effect, but allows for new saving throws at regular intervals based on the target's Intelligence score.

The AD&D PHB (1978) tempers the effect of the spell to "you're a good friend, Charlie Brown" and also implements saving throws at regular intervals (but with a significantly different table).

Moldvay (1981) kind of blends all of these: He includes the "best friend" verbiage and AD&D's allowance that "orders against its nature ... may be resisted", but everything else is heavily influenced by the OD&D version of the spell to suggest an effect closer to mind control. On the other hand, the interval between saving throws has been significantly reduced.

(To compare: If the target has Intelligence 13, it gets no additional saving throws in OD&D; a new saving throw every week in Holmes; a saving throw every 2 weeks in AD&D; and a saving throw every day with Moldvay.)

1d30 said...

Ouch, every day. Maybe we need a more complete set of spell effects?

"Friends" sounds like the softest control. You are just generally more persuasive, maybe superhumanly so if you already were pretty good. The target will go out of his way in his normal duties and might even abandon his duties for you or enter into some danger.

"Charm" sounds like a tough though resistable compulsion, like being deeply in love. The target will abandon his duties and might even turn away from his friends or against them.

"Domination" sounds like a control that, once established, is a puppeteer relationship. The target is under your complete control. If you tell the target to smash his face into a wall until he passes out, he will start doing it before you get to "... pass out."

I forget what the Suggestion spell does! To me it sounds like planting a more permanent and specific Charm-level seed in a person.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Justin - Ha! I keep forgetting about the DMG. Interestingly, the discussion on the druid version of charm person/mammal has more to say:

"Remember that a charmed creature’s or person’s priorities are changed as regards the spell-caster, but the charmed one’s basic personality and alignment are not. The spell is not enslave person or mammal.
A charmed figure can refuse a request, if such refusal is in character and will not directly cause harm to the charmer. Also, a charm spell does not substantially alter the charmee’s feelings toward the charmer’s friends and allies."

I'm secretly very pleased that Gary and I had similar views on how this should work, even separated by 30 years.

That's a fascinating breakdown of how charm has changed through the various editions - I can see now where I (and others) have had the impression it is mind-enslavement.

ChicagoWiz said...

@1d30 - review my response to Alexis regarding suggestion.

The Rubberduck said...

My ruling of the Charm spell is actually more heavily influenced by a comic I once read, than by the spell description. Still, the spell description could be interpreted my way.

The way I play it, the target of the spell comes to feel a deep loyalty towards the caster. The caster's goals and wants becomes very important to it. It still retains its own wants and goals, but if they are in conflict with the caster's goals, the caster's wants wins.

One important fact that isn't mentioned in the spell description, is that the subject probably will realize that it is being magically compelled, if it has the mental capacity to realize such. However, given the above, it won't mind. It wants to help the caster, and so it is good that it had been charmed, for otherwise it probably wouldn't help the caster.

To take the orc example.
First I'm going to assume that the orc actually notices the druid (depends on where the druid is, and how loud he is shouting compared to the surrounding battle noise).
The orc would hear the druid's shouts. There isn't really anything in the words themselves that would cause it to stop its charge, but there is a strong implication that someone wants to get in touch with him, and that he'll want to he what is being said. So he'll look over his shoulder.
Seeing the druid, he'll realize that it was one of the humans that shouted. He instinctively wants to put the druids wants and goals over his own. He may or may not believe that the wizard does not wish to harm them. But he does realize that the druid doesn't want the rest of the party harmed, and that so he himself wishes to prevent this (though he does have personal reservations). So his first priority is to cause as little damage as possible to the party. His secondary, and almost as important, priority is to avoid casualties among his own warriors. Depending on the situation, he might try to halt the combat, he might get his followers to retreat, or if the party seems entirely uninterested in stopping combat, he might try to subdue them.

After the combat is stopped, and he has had some time to think, he'll probably realize that his new relationship with the druid is unnatural. But he prefers it this way, since it means he can help the druid and help him accomplish his goals.

However, the orc still thinks that his god says the earth should be rid of humans. He won't do it, when the druid thinks it is a bad idea, but it is a part of his personality that will have to be resolved. He will probably try to take the issue up with the druid, and try to convince him of his ways. In the end, however, his trust and loyalty to the druid now trumps his loyalty to his god, so the druid might be able to convince him to switch over to his nature god, and drop the "kill all humans" agenda.

I have considered upping its level, since, as have been mentioned above, it is a powerful spell. On the other hand, I think it a cool spell, with lots of roleplaying potential, so I don't want to make it too high.

Slatz Grubnik said...

I very much enjoyed this post. I hope to see more "DM Dilemma" posts in the future! =)

mordrin said...

I've deeply detested the placement of the Charm Person spell for a long time. As played by most people, it's horrifically overpowered for a 1st level spell.

My books are stored away, so I can't dig out exact quotes, but consider the spectrum of Enchantment spells (some coming from 2E):

L1) Friends
A boost to your charisma. You get a bit better reaction rolls on plausible requests and suggestions.
Essentially useless once things have already hit the fan.

L3) Suggestion
Short-term ability to dictate behavior that is almost always followed, outside of the ludicrous and suicidal.

L4) Charm Monster
Charm Person, but on monsters.

L5) Dominate
Can force the controlled to do things they are violently opposed to.

*) Charm Person
Effects are usually very long-term


Given the way most people play it:

It's as strong as Suggestion, except it lasts much longer.

It's weaker than Dominate.

It's comparable to Charm Monster, with one being for humanoids and one being for non-humanoids.

So, if you play it like most people I've seen, IMO it's a no-brainer that it's a 4th level spell.

If it's going to be a 1st level spell, it needs to be far less powerful than Suggestion, on a par with Friends, and far less powerful than most people play it (and less powerful than its description suggests, IMO).

If you're playing 2E, its pointlessly redundant to nerf Charm Person down to the level of Friends. Who needs 2 L1 Enchantment spells that both make people like you better? Keep it powerful and make it L4.

If you're playing 1E, like we are, you have the choice (although in this campaign, it's already been introduced as L1).
If kept at L1, IMO it cries out for uber-nerfing and careful explanations to players of what to expect, since their previous experiences are probably quite different.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Modrin - Talos's player was surprised when the charm on the orc didn't work like a dominate or mind-control spell. We spoke about it on the Thursday game and he seemed to understand where I was coming from on it. I think it's definitely in the realm of friends-like, but longer lasting and has a different result.

Friends has an area effect of multiple creatures and a limited duration and works through Charisma increases. Charm Person is directed at one target, longer duration (possibly forever depending on target's INT... ask Izil! :D) but does effectively the same thing. Once the caca hits the whirly-whirly, I don't see it being as effective, if at all.