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Suggestion has this line:

If you or any of your companions damage the target, the spell ends.

What counts as a companion?

This might sound silly, but I'm worried if a friendly NPC who tags along does count as a companion. Part of it is because the NPC is played by DM, and thus might ruin any charm based spell.

Is the definition decided by the target? Can I hide the fact that a character is in our party?

We walk as a group, with another ranger hiding in a separate location (thus we do not look like a group). If the ranger damages the target under Suggestion, does it fail?

Do NPCs fighting alongside us count as companions?

The king sends two guards to guard us. In response to an ambush, they (unknowingly it's been Suggested) attacked the target.

In a chaotic situation, can a target of Suggestion misidentify someone as my companion?

A tavern brawl. Party members involved in the "party". I've suggested a dwarf to go back to his home, then he got hit by another patron. This patron have casually talked with us, and seen by this dwarf before the brawl. Does Suggestion end because this patron (which is not our companion) hit the dwarf?

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"Companion" isn't a game term, so it uses its standard English definition

In the context of 5e, "companion" doesn't have any exact rule or definition. With that in mind, Merriam-Webster defines a companion (in this context) as:

one that accompanies another. also : one that keeps company with another

So, "companion" refers to anybody who is traveling with you. In a fight, it's your friends; or the people with whom you are allied. That is, the people on your side. If the friendly NPC is traveling with you (keeping company with you) then they are your companion and they could break the charm. Yes, that might give you one more obstacle to work around, but it shouldn't be any more of a hindrance than if you had another PC in the party.

You could try to keep the relationship a secret

Just like in the real world, you can hide your relationships with other people. Secret affairs and interactions are not unusual. However, just because I try to convince somebody that I don't know my best friend doesn't change the fact that we are actually friends in reality.

So even though you can try to lie to the people around you and claim that you are not friends or a companion of somebody else, the DM is the one who gets to make the final call. And if they think you two are companions, then you are companions as far as the game is concerned.

If the DM leverages that to ruin every charm spell you use, then you need to have a conversation

A friendly NPC is just that; friendly. Just like any PC, unless they have some deep character motivation to act against your use of charming spells, they would do their best not to disrupt your spell. Especially if they are in on the plan to suggest/charm a given target.

By that reasoning, if the DM is using NPCs to ruin your charm spells just for the sake of keeping your charm spells from working, then that DM is being adversarial. In that case, it might be worth talking to them about why they won't let you use these kinds of spells.

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RAW: There is no guidance and the DM will decide

My Interpretation: It depends on what the target believes

You can try and hide that a character is in your party, which may require a deception check or some strategic acting and planning.

Per your examples:

The Ranger can attack and be attacked solo, and the target will likely respond in kind. Any motion to help the Ranger will make it apparent you are hostile to the target and suggest will likely end.

Guards guarding the party will end suggest as they are companions of the party.

In the case of a tavern brawl, unless the target is deceived into believing it has been attacked by your party, suggest will not end. If they saw the patron talking to you that could complicate things, and it could come down to the DM ruling on what the target believes.

Your problem:

An NPC party member would be considered a companion in this case, and could break a target out of a Suggestion or other similar charm. Your character should stress the importance of not harming the target while they are charmed to the NPC. (And if the DM still contrives to ruin the spell, then there may be an out of game talk required).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I certainly see how this answer works and is a reasonable way for a DM to rule, do you have a reason for claiming it depends on what the target believes to be a companion, and not on what the caster believes to be a companion or on what some impartial third-party believes to be a companion? I just don't see an obvious reason for it to be one option over another, though I may just be missing something. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cooper Jr. Apr 23 '18 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCooperJr. Perhaps the RAW isn't very clear on the specifics but here is my reasoning: It cannot be the caster because there could be a situation where the caster does not know the identity of the attacker and cannot tell if it is their own companion or indeed may not know that the target has been attacked at all. It could possibly be some impartial 3rd party but no such description of one exists, other than the DM in which case they can judge as fit. Following the lead of similar spells, which say that the target must not see you as hostile, I imagine the RAI is that the target decides. \$\endgroup\$ – Sir Cinnamon Apr 23 '18 at 17:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SirCinnamon I agree with your interpretation, but you should make it clear that it is your interpretation (i.e., it is not clearly stated on RAW nor backed up by designer's comments) and the reasoning behind it, as you made on this comment. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 23 '18 at 19:36

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