16
\$\begingroup\$

Had an interesting session with a DM I generally quite like playing with where he made 2 decisions I disagreed with. Unfortunately a bit of research hasn't clarified if I'm misunderstanding the rules, so I thought I'd ask.

Scenario: we encountered a frost giant and a few stone giants who weren't yet hostile to us, but not friendly and refused to cooperate. I cast dominate monster on the frost giant (the leader), making him listen to us in the first instant, while another party member tried to convince them to help us. I then took full control of him, and got him to tell the other giants that we were friends (all of this happening telepathically, as per the spell). At this point the DM said one of the stone giant (a dreamwalker) recognised him as being charmed (apparently because he looked dazed and said that we were friends randomly), and immediately attacked the frost giant, forcing another save and releasing him.

The justification here was the stone giant dreamwalker is familiar with charms (it has a passive charm power that does not allow a save on damage, so works quite differently to dominate monster). I left it when he made the call but then after the game finished argued that because the spells are quite different I doubt she'd have recognised it, and even if she did, she'd be more inclined to attack me than her leader the frost giant.

How easy is it for another NPC to recognise that a creature has been put under the dominate monster spell, after the spell has been cast and the verbal/somatic components not noticed?

And would they think that directly attacking that creature would be the most reasonable course of action, barring metagame knowledge of saving throws?

A dreamwalker has an intelligence score of 10 and a wisdom of 8.

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi! Thanks for posting your question. This site tries to have 1 question per question, so you should split your second question into another question. Check to see if either of them are duplicates, e.g. What is “squeezing”? \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Nov 4 '20 at 13:03
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, as the second question on squeezing into a magnificent mansion seems unconnected to the scenario I trimmed it out. You should ask that as a new question (so it can be answered in full). \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Nov 4 '20 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Nov 4 '20 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the feedback and the editing! \$\endgroup\$ – Raphael02 Nov 4 '20 at 13:12
27
\$\begingroup\$

"Who are you, and what have you done with our leader?"

Thomas Markov talks about the RAW regarding a spell's casting/effects/etc being perceivable, but I'm going to argue that the issue wasn't the visibility of the spell itself.

Consider these three quotes (emphasis mine) from your question:

... we encountered a frost giant and a few stone giants who weren't yet hostile to us, but not friendly and refused to cooperate.

I then took full control of him, and got him to tell the other giants that we were friends

... the DM said one of the stone giant (a dreamwalker) recognised him as being charmed (apparently because he looked dazed and said that we were friends randomly), and immediately attacked the frost giant, forcing another save and releasing him... The justification here was the stone giant dreamwalker is familiar with charms (it has a passive charm power that does not allow a save on damage, so works quite differently to dominate monster).

Now I'm not familiar with exactly what was said during these exchanges, or how much stock your table puts in the balance between player and character skill, but two things jumped out at me immediately.

  1. The giant was unfriendly and uncooperative, then suddenly turned cooperative and even tried to introduce the party as friends? That's suspicious enough on its own.

  2. Unless the ability is completely unconscious (which it could be, some passives are), the dreamwalker has a charm ability of its own. Even putting aside the assumption that creatures with abilities know how they work, in practice if not in theory, the dreamwalker at the bare minimum knows charms exist and roughly what they do - not necessarily how to break said charm, but enough to know that they need to try something: attack, raise the alarm, etc.

You listed its ability scores as being low, but 10 and even 8 aren't that low. Even comparing them to the 15 you get from standard array, an 8 only reduces your chance of success by 15%. Bad, but not crippling, and doesn't preclude specialized knowledge in any event.

We have seen several examples across multiple media of unusual character behavior being a sign that a creature has been anything from reprogrammed to killed-and-replaced, enough to give us the phrase and the trope that opened this answer.

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ While it's possible for the Stone Giant to have realized that the Frost Giant was under a Charm effect, I think it's still unreasonable for it to have immediately known that attacking the frost giant to be a way to break the charm, as many of the different charm effects have different ways to break them. For example, Charm Person which doesn't require concentration, and also only ends if the caster or his companions are the ones to damage the target. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Nov 4 '20 at 21:05
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon Basing that information purely off of their knowledge about their own ability, sure. But they could have come across that information another way, or they could have been entirely guessing. Main point here is that nobody (except maybe the querent) disagrees that it was reasonable for the dreamwalker to suspect enough shenanigans to do something about them. Either way, I've added this concern in an edit. \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil Nov 4 '20 at 22:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ In 5e a score of 10 is the human average, is it not? I know it was a score of 8 in some previous editions, which would make 10 above average. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Nov 5 '20 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o 10 is human average in 5e, yes. \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil Nov 5 '20 at 22:58
10
\$\begingroup\$

It's up to the DM.

The Player's Handbook has some guidance, but it is guidance, not rules:

Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise.

This particular guidance is going to depend entirely on a DM ruling. Xanathar's Guide to Everything contains some additional guidance, mentioning a spell very similar to dominate monster:

Other spells, such as charm person, display no visible, audible, or otherwise perceptible sign of their effects, and could easily go unnoticed by someone unaffected by them. As noted in the Player’s Handbook, you normally don’t know that a spell has been cast unless the spell produces a noticeable effect.

Xanathar's Guide here provides further guidance, and establishes that it is entirely reasonable for a spell like charm person to go unnoticed. But again, guidance, not rules.

The reasoning for your DM's ruling sounds pretty reasonable to me. I can definitely understand that it might a feel a bit cheap for your 8th level dominate monster to get stopped like this, but I also believe it isn't an unreasonable call for your DM to have made.

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ It's also worth noting that the actual casting of the spell isn't hidden. The creatures will notice a caster actually casting a spell, even though they may not know what the spell is. It's not a hard leap to go from "mini thing cast a spell and suddenly our leader changed their position entirely" to "our leader is clearly being influenced by magic" \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Nov 4 '20 at 14:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro The asker already seems aware of this, the question includes the clause "and the verbal/somatic components not noticed". \$\endgroup\$ – smbailey Nov 4 '20 at 15:47
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that it's possible (though not likely) for the stone giant to determine that the frost giant is under a charm effect, but I disagree that it would immediately know what method was required to break it, which was also part of the question. Different charm effects have different break conditions, like Charm Person for example, and no indication was given by OP that the stone giant had done anything to ascertain which specific charm effect his frost giant ally was under. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Nov 4 '20 at 21:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.