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When you use the instrument to cast a spell that causes targets to become charmed on a failed save, the targets have disadvantage on the saving throw. This effect applies whether you are using the instrument as the source of the spell or as a spellcasting focus.

Some spells clearly state in their description that the target “is charmed” if it fails its saving throw (ex: Hypnotic Pattern). Other spells don’t state this, but do state that “creatures that can’t be charmed are unaffected” (ex: Otto’s irresistible Dance).

Are those spells that don't state the Charmed condition, but state those with immunity to Charmed aren't effected, considered as charm spells as well (thus enabling an Instrument of the Bard wielder to impose disadvantage on their saving throws as well)?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ He's asking if those spells count as charm spells and thus other people (not those that can't be charmed) have disadvantage on the spell even though the spell doesn't include imparting the charmed condition. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Apr 17 '18 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch he is trying to class the spells as charm spells for targets other than the immune ones for the feature \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 17 '18 at 15:35
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Intrument of the Bards only works on spells that impose the charmed condition

When you use this instrument to cast a spell that causes targets to become charmed on a failed save, the targets have disadvantage on the saving throw.

Spells that don't say that they impose the charmed condition do not count as imposing that condition and thus do not meet the criteria in Instrument of the Bards.

For example, otto’s irresistible dance does say:

creatures that can’t be charmed are immune to this spell

However, it says nothing about imposing the charmed condition which is the only thing that matters for the effects of Instrument of the Bards.


Jeremy Crawford also supports this here:

"Charm spell" has no meaning in the rules. A spell refers to the charmed condition if that condition is relevant.

and also here:

When the game refers to being charmed, it's referring to the charmed condition. There isn't a general category of charm effects.


Side note: RAW/RAI the Instrument of the Bards' effects can only be used on spells with material components

There is another reason why otto’s irresistible dance would not work with Instrument of the Bards as well.

Since Instrument of the Bard says:

When you use this instrument to cast a spell

This means in order for the Instrument of the Bards' effects to apply to a spell you cast, it must be used as a spellcasting focus (or be the source for the spell). And spellcasting focuses are only used when a spell requires material components.1

Jeremy Crawford also backs this up:

Q: If attuned to an Instrument of the Bards and cast Charm Person, does the target make its save with disadvantage?

A: Charm person doesn't benefit from an instrument of the bards, since the spell has no material component.

1 - It also means that it can only be used on bard spells (see Does using Instruments of the bard gives disadvantage to enemies if I use it to cast wizard spells?).

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No, because there is nothing for the effect to affect.

When you use the instrument to cast a spell that causes targets to become charmed on a failed save, the targets have disadvantage on the saving throw. This effect applies whether you are using the instrument as the source of the spell or as a spellcasting focus.

"The saving throw", as written, refers specifically to the "save" that, if failed, would cause the target to become charmed. If the spell triggers no such specific save, there is nothing for this effect to do, even if it refers to the charm effect in some other way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My question was perhaps worded incorrectly : I’m asking if spells that don’t affect uncharmable creatures without specifically sayinng they charm... can impose disadvantage on saving throws for targets that can indeed be charmed. \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Apr 17 '18 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GaelL That makes sense, and I did get that vibe. I'd still say this is the case because RAW refers to "the saving throw" rather than "saving throws" - the latter would imply that the effect applies to all saving throws for any purpose (including death saves - i.e. the Instrument of the Bard makes it easier to kill people as long as they can be charmed). \$\endgroup\$ – TheHansinator Apr 17 '18 at 21:50

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