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It's quite clear how the DM should play any NPCs that get Charmed by a PC -- the NPC should behave as the caster's best friend, and do things that he'd do for his best friend.

But how do you play things when an NPC caster or cleric hits a PC with Charm Person? Do you just tell the player that his character has been charmed, and then trust him to play him properly? Do you take over the character temporarily? Do you let him declare actions and then tell him "Actually, what you really did was..."

The problem I see is that generally you want your PCs to avoid metagaming, but in this instance you are forcing one to metagame.

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Ouch. That's one of the really nasty edge cases. It boils down to the player's RPing skills and investment in the story rather than the personal triumphs of their character. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 29 '11 at 14:55
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up vote 14 down vote accepted

It all boils down to maturity and trust of your play group as well as the implied (or even stated) social contract.

What I mean by that is it is circumstantial. Can you trust your player to play as if they were charmed? Will they act indignant or get angry about it? As Chad stated, can you count on the player to properly RP the situation like they RP their character on a normal basis?

You have two options at this point once you have answered the above questions:

Trust your players: This is assuming that your players are mature enough (or even have the skill) to RP their characters while charmed, regardless of where the charm comes from. This is the best of the options in that your charmed player doesn't feel like they are out of the game and watching their friends/party members have fun without them.

Play the charmed PC yourself: This is the worst case scenario of the two options. You are effectively making the PC an NPC (or GMPC) for the time being and isolating your charmed player from play. This is no fun for them and has the potential to be a negative gaming experience for your group. This does imply a lack of trust with your players and in many ways violates the implied social contract of your group.

All of that said, if you choose to allow your player to play the charmed PC, bring them over to your side of the table, couch, whatever and have them work with you. If that means you are whispering in their ear for their response to something, so be it. They feel involved and might even have fun potentially conspiring against their friends and fellow players. If this is a PbP or PbE game, send them a private message with some potential responses and let them decide how to respond.

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+1 for making the charmed characters player sit beside the GM –  Oliver Jan 17 at 16:33
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It's really no different than asking them to stay consistent with the actions of their character when they make decisions. After having been charmed, let them act as they think they should, and correct them only if necessary. Taking over the character is definitely a poor decision as it only frustrates the player needlessly.

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We have always played it such that the DM passes a note or talks to the player in private, telling them that this is what you believe and how you feel towards the caster that charmed them and then leaving it up to them to roleplay it however they feel is appropriate and stay in line with what the DM told them has changed about their attitude.

The DM then makes minor corrections as necessary as the role playing progresses (usually by subtle means if possible to avoid drawing attention as much as can be). Usually this works all right for us and most of us do ok with the role playing part and make it convincing.

The DM should never take over the running of another character for a Charm Person, unless the player is out that session and the DM is running them as NPC anyway for that session. Even for something as strong as a Dominate spell, I would still let the player play it wherever possible.

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The way my group handles it works well for us, after losing the save, you are informed something along the lines of, "You think the cleric is the greatest person to ever live on this planet." Expletives are usually muttered by the PC, and if the cleric tells the PC to do something, the PC has to do it, but also has control over how to go about doing it.

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"the PC has to do it"... uhm, sometimes being the best friend of someone is nothing but doing what you feel would be good for him, not what he says, especially if that's detrimental to him. Telling me to help him in a suicide plan that involves going against my other friends? Uhm, maybe as his best friend I should stop him before he gets killed. –  Zachiel Feb 19 at 13:30
    
@Zachiel In the Pathfinder SRD, it specifically states that a charmed Orc would tell you his plans over a mug of grog, or help you kill some skeletons, but would be unlikely to help you plow a field. In the 2e PHB, it says that you would not kill yourself but could be easily tricked into a situation where you would die. "Thus, a charmed person would... hold back a dragon for 'just a round or two'". willing to die for the charmer sounds like "do what he says" to me. Unless it breaks some aspect of the victim's moral code (and worked out in advance). –  Pulsehead Feb 19 at 21:45
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If I know there is a chance of a charm spell hitting a PC during a specific adventure I will roll the sv. during adventure creation.

Then you can flavour any boxed text and interactions between the NPC and various PCs with the results.

There are no dice rolls to clue in the players, and it can lead to great situations where Clerics cast "detect Charm" on themselves or the dumbest PC is the only one who succeeds.

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