Spells like Suggestion and Charm Person have lines in their description that indicate the spell ends if you or your companions do anything harmful or damaging to the creature. For example, Suggestion has the following line:

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

And Charm Person says:

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.

I've always taken this to mean that when you damage/harm the target the fact that you're directly damaging them causes them to be brought to their senses that they're under the effects of a spell by a hostile creature and so they 'snap out of it' so to speak. Essentially in my mind damaging the target triggers a 'saving throw' with so much advantage that they automatically beat the DC.

As such, my question is this: if the target isn't aware that I'm the one damaging them, does the spell still end?

For example:
As a Sorcerer I cast Suggestion on an enemy and tell them to take off their plate armor, and then while they're in the middle of taking off their armor I use Subtle Spell Metamagic to cast Fire Bolt at the same enemy.

Does my Suggestion spell then end even though there was no verbal or somatic indication that I was the one who cast it at them?

In my mind I don't think it would as long as I can convince the target that the Fire Bolt came from something other than myself and would therefore not trigger the new 'saving throw' with an auto success, but I'm curious to see what other people think about the situation.

P.S. I'm aware it's not actually a saving throw that's triggered I just can't think of a better way to describe it.

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    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


The charm effect ends when the spell says it ends.

Generally speaking, spells in D&D 5E do what they say they do. They are meant to be mostly self-explanatory, without needing any hidden rules or further interpretation. The charm person spell is explicit about any conditions that end the charm effect:

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.

According to the written text, it doesn't matter whether the charmed creature realizes who hit it, or even knows that it was harmed. The spell text is clear. If the caster (or a caster's ally) harms the creature, then the spell ends, because that's how the spell's logic is written.

For example, suppose the sorcerer casts charm person on the bugbear, and later casts fire bolt with Subtle Spell to disguise the casting. Yes, maybe the bugbear doesn't realize that the sorcerer cast fire bolt. However, the sorcerer's attack would break the charm effect, and the bugbear would know that the sorcerer had charmed it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that that's definitely the correct answer when dealing with RAW. I guess I'm thinking more in the realm of RAI. Say I use suggestion to have a bugbear change sides and help my party when fighting a group of goblins and one of the goblins attacks and damages the bugbear. I'm failing to see how, from the perspective of the bugbear, that's any different than me using subtle spell to cast fire bolt at the bugbear and then passing a deception check to convince him one of the goblins cast it. In this situation, why would my attack end the spell when the goblin's wouldn't? \$\endgroup\$
    – Flurbb
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 4:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Flurbb Unfortunately the 5E text doesn't support that interpretation. Based on the wording of charm person, the bugbear's perspective doesn't determine whether the charm effect ends. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 4:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Flurbb: Perhaps the charm spell's magic is tied to your hostility/intent (and the resulting damage)? We can't really tell you what the designers were thinking, only what the spell says (and perhaps how we've run it). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 4:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Flurbb do not try to force logic on a game where booming energy does mind reading. (Booming Blade knows if the target moves "willingly" or not). \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 23:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ The magical weave knows. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 15 at 21:54

If the target knows the source of the damage is the caster or their party, the spell ends. If they suspect the source of the damage, it might end, but that is up to the DM.

The intent of the spell is: if you attack or injure the subject who has been magically compelled to think that you are their close friend and trusted ally, the magic will be ruined and they will no longer believe that you are their friend. This is spelled out pretty clearly in the description.

Your question does have some nuance, so you need to think about the circumstance. Does the person / monster / horrible aberration that you have charmed have reason to think that the damage they just took is a result of your callous actions? Did they fall into the pit filled with spikes because they were clumsy or because you tripped them?

This is going to have to be a DM call.

Is the creature highly intelligent? Are they paranoid? Are they of a race the even loves or trusts anything? (GL trying to charm a beholder...) All of these factors would probably affect the situation.

You could rule that any damage taken snaps them out of the trance, but that would be a house rule as the spell description is pretty clear about the intent. Personally, I would allow 'plausible deniability' situations where the cause of the damage wasn't obvious. Perhaps this might be a good time for a second saving throw, as doubts enter the mind of the charm victim about their new friend?

This could add a whole twist to the spell if one method of dispelling it was to cause the victim to believe that the caster had just attacked them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You have some interesting points, but I'm not sure you actually answered the OP's question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented May 16 at 13:20

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