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Hypnotic pattern reads:

[...] On a failed save, the creature becomes charmed for the duration. While charmed by this spell, the creature is incapacitated and has a speed of 0. [...]

Unlike most other spells who inflict the Charmed condition, which tend to read, emphasis mine:

If it fails the saving throw, it is charmed by you (...)

The Charmed condition's effects are tied to the "charmer". The "charmer" is not explicitly defined in the rules and idiomatic english doesnt seem to be of great help here. I am uncertain weather or not by RAW (or RAI if there are appropriate sources) the caster of a Hypnotic Pattern spell would be considered the "charmer", for the purposes of benefiting from the implications of the targets being charmed.

The target is not explicitly charmed by you, as with the other spells, but you are the one who applied that charm, as you would have with other spells. So are you the charmer, by RAW/RAI?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It looks like my answer has pulled clearly ahead in the voting, and new votes have tapered off. Is that good enough for a green check? \$\endgroup\$
    – screamline
    Jul 12, 2021 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have been a little busy lately but will start reviewing the answers now! \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Jul 14, 2021 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @screamline I have commented your question! \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Jul 14, 2021 at 19:28

3 Answers 3

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Yes, you are the charmer when you cast hypnotic pattern, because no other interpretation of the spell makes sense.

There is no charmed condition without a charmer

Let's begin with the fact that the effects of the charmed condition actually presuppose a charmer. A charmed target is only prevented from attacking the charmer, and only the charmer has advantage on social ability checks against the target. If there is no charmer, the charmed condition is essentially meaningless and without effect. Acknowledging that the designers have better things to do than waste ink, we can infer that where they went out of their way to specify that a spell or other effect imposes the charmed condition, they did so because they wanted that condition to matter somehow.

If the caster of hypnotic pattern were not the charmer, however, the inclusion of the charm effect in the spell would be superfluous. Targets would be charmed only in the abstract. No one would benefit from their condition, and the targets themselves would not be meaningfully impacted by it. If that were what the designers intended, they could have included all of the spell's other effects -- the incapacitated condition, reducing speed to 0, etc. -- and left the "charmed" part out.

As an example, consider the compulsion spell. The designers worded it to have various effects that do not include imposing the charmed condition. Nevertheless, the spell specifies that "a target automatically succeeds on this saving throw if it can't be charmed," and a successful save means the spell has no effect at all. So we know the designers know how to indicate when the charmed condition, per se, should matter. Where the condition itself it should matter, it is imposed. Where the designers care only about immunity to the charmed condition, they know how to say that, too.

Common sense demands that we treat the caster as the cause of the condition imposed by the spell

As for the fact that the spell says targets are "charmed by this spell" as opposed to "charmed by you," it is of no real moment. The 5E rules expect that we will use common sense in applying them. If "you" are the caster of hypnotic pattern, and your spell is what causes targets to be charmed, then as a matter of common sense, the targets are charmed by you.

Granted, analysis of all other spells published to date that impose the charmed condition confirms they do indeed use the words "charmed by you" -- but I submit that is not determinative. Despite what might appear to be a deliberate consistency and an intention that hypnotic pattern serve as the exception that proves the rule, other examples in the rules disprove that appearance. Consider, for example, the wording of the cambion's Fiendish Charm ability:

One humanoid the cambion can see within 30 feet of it must succeed on a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or be magically charmed for 1 day. The charmed target obeys the cambion’s spoken commands.

This ability does not say the target is charmed by the cambion. Many monster abilities are worded this way; see, e.g., the dryad's Fey Charm, and the satyr reveler's Enthralling Performance. Yet if we were to take that wording literally, without common sense, we would have to conclude that the designers meant for these monsters to have the ability to impose a condition that does not benefit them. Even if certain monsters' abilities have add-on effects that trigger in addition to imposing the charmed condition, that would still leave the condition itself being superfluous.

More to the point, though, not all monsters have charm abilities worded this way. Compare the cambion with the vampire, whose Charm ability says:

The vampire targets one humanoid it can see within 30 feet of it. If the target can see the vampire, the target must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw against this magic or be charmed by the vampire.

(Emphasis added.) In terms of narrative, these monsters are doing the same thing with their abilities. They're overwhelming their targets with their magical force of will. There is nothing in either monster's statblock or description to suggest their abilities are supposed to be fundamentally different. Yet if we want to treat the words "by you" in a spell as if they mean the difference between a functional charmed condition and a nonfunctional one, then we have to treat the vampire as if it gets the benefit of the charmed condition it imposes while the cambion does not. That simply does not make sense.

The spell itself cannot be the charmer

Finally, we must contend with the illogic that results from reading hypnotic pattern's wording literally, without common sense. The words "charmed by this spell" would seem to suggest that the spell itself is somehow the charmer. But the spell's description does not say it is a creature or creates a creature. We have no reason to believe the spell itself can make attacks or social ability checks. So the spell would not benefit in any way from imposing the charmed condition and being the charmer.

Ergo, the only sensible conclusion is that the designers were not as deliberately consistent as they might have been, and a caster using hypnotic pattern is indeed the charmer for purposes of the spell's targets.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The charmed condition always matters regardless of whether there is a charmer, because charmed is one of the most commonly resisted conditions in 5e. Any creature immune to it will be immune to Hypnotic Pattern. So your assertion about designers "[wanting the charmed] condition to matter somehow" does not support the idea that their must always be a charmer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Jul 10, 2021 at 15:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I fear you both miss the point. If the designers wanted immunity to the charmed condition to be the thing that mattered, they could have said, "creatures immune to the charmed condition are immune to this spell" without also imposing the charmed condition. \$\endgroup\$
    – screamline
    Jul 10, 2021 at 15:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @screamline that's a pretty big assumption. The inclusion of "while charmed" makes it pretty clear that the application of the charmed condition is key here and immunity would naturally be significant. To say otherwise means that this answer is based on the assumption of designer incompetence. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Jul 10, 2021 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andrendire I do not believe I am assuming anything; I am inferring. But semantics aside, if you feel your view is the superior one, I'd suggest you edit your answer rather than say so in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – screamline
    Jul 10, 2021 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just want to say there may be situations where being charmed by a non-creature might be relevant aside from flat out immunity. An elf or half-elf would have advantage against hypnotic pattern regardless of whether the caster or the spell itself was considered the "charmer", whereas they'd have no advantage against suggestion that doesn't impose the charm condition, even though creatures who are immune to charm are immune to suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 10, 2021 at 19:32
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No

The charmed condition provides the following benefits to the charmer:

A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects. The charmer has advantage on any ability check to interact socially with the creature.

As you've stated, nowhere in the spell's description does it state that the target is charmed by you.

As such we can confidently state that you are not the charmer, meaning that none of the benefits of the charmed condition apply to you.


I suspect that you may have additional questions related to this, so here is some further analysis.

Who is the charmer anyways?

Taking an English idiomatic interpretation of the spell's description, the following phrase gives the implication that the spell itself is the charmer.

While charmed by this spell...

There are no rules for being charmed by a spell so the implications of this fall under DM purview.

Does it matter?

It might. The spell's description states that "while charmed by this spell, the creature is incapacitated and has a speed of 0."

The incapacitated condition has the following effects:

An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions.

While an incapacitated creature cannot take the Attack action, there are no rules which state that social interaction requires an action, and, unlike the stunned condition, which states that affected creatures "can speak only falteringly", the incapacitated condition does not restrict a creature's ability to communicate.

This is significant because it implies that the caster of Hypnotic Patter does not have advantage on social interactions with an affected creature, despite the creature being charmed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ this is good to know. I never even thought of using hypnotic pattern this way (I typically use it to open a combat to have to fight less at a time if I happen to have 30ft between my party and the enemies), but it makes sense in flavor you can't. They are "charmed" in that they are staring off into space at a pattern, not so much beholden to anyone in particular. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 10, 2021 at 11:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Obligatory OOTS, and the few strips before. IMO yours is the correct answer. Making your enemies stare in the void for a time has a lot of applications outside simple combat situations. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11, 2021 at 13:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe this is the most correct interpretation. The targets are mesmerized by the spell. The charmed condition is relevant for immunities, advantages, or for any feature that might break a charm effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Baergren
    Jul 12, 2021 at 14:33
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Yes. It is an explicit principle of 5e rules interpretation that the most natural interpretation is usually correct. The charmed condition refers to a "charmer". The most natural interpretation of that word is "the person that did the charming". So the caster of hypnotic pattern is the charmer for purposes of the charmed condition.

Any other interpretation -- the spell is the charmer, the charmed condition is only mentioned to trigger immunities, etc. -- would have been better served by being explicitly mentioned. "You are the charmer" is the most straightforward interpretation and therefore the correct one.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is quite a useful source, thank you. What I pull from it is that one could make a just case for both being the charmer and not being considered the charmer, perhaps a slightly more just one for being the charmer (target is charmed by the spell, spell is cast by you). As you say, other interpretations would have been better served by being explicitly mentioned, but so would the one where you are considered the charmer... \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Jul 14, 2021 at 19:39

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