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In a one-shot my DM ran, one of the other players decided to play as a high elf that thought they were a cat and ended up being a drunk 'cat'. I asked if I could use Lesser Restoration to cure the drunkenness (mainly because the player was being very annoying with the drunk cat), under the argument that alcohol could be considered poison – but after hearing the spell description, the DM asked me to cure the whole thing about thinking they're a cat.

I'm not asking if this was allowed in that context, since the DM explicitly allowed it, meaning it was fine then. I'm asking if this would be allowed when the DM hasn't explicitly said that I can.

The description of Lesser Restoration states:

You touch a creature and can end either one disease or one condition afflicting it. The condition can be blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned.

I was thinking maybe it could fall under the 'disease' portion of the spell, but I needed to make sure.

For added context, this was level 3 and I'm pretty sure the player didn't even ask the DM if they could do that, hence why the DM asked me to fix it.

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2 Answers 2

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This is madness!

What you are calling a 'mental illness', the game addresses with rules on Madness (DMG, p. 259-260). The rules on curing madness state:

A calm emotions spell can suppress the effects of madness, while a lesser restoration spell can rid a character of a short-term or long-term madness. Depending on the source of the madness, remove curse or dispel evil might also prove effective. A greater restoration spell or more powerful magic is required to rid a character of indefinite madness.

To identify what can remove such a condition requires diagnosing "a high elf that thought they were a cat" as a short-term, long-term, or indefinite madness. Short-term madness (eg., "The character experiences vivid hallucinations") typically lasts d10 minutes, while long-term madness (eg., "The character experiences a powerful delusion") lasts d10x10 hours. Indefinite madness lasts until cured, which seems like the scale the player was going for when they chose it.

Then again, how did this character join the adventuring group? Did the other PC's really take on as an adventuring companion someone who actually believes that they are a cat, with the expectation that they would be relying on such a person with their lives? What was the party dynamic like before the cat became drunk?

The nature of the one-shot has put your group in a bind, DM included. Lacking a session 0, it seems like the expectation was 'any character concept is fine, we will just assume you are all working together' - and then one player shows up with a background that can't really work. Permitting the indefinite madness harms the viability of the group and is annoying to everyone but the cat person, while removing it against their will, as Kevin says in comments, is "taking an in-game action with the intention to make a permanent alteration to how another player roleplays their character".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for clarifying that for me. I just wanted to make sure before the situation pops up again. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Mar 12 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ "because they don't want it to be cured" - IMHO, if you're taking an in-game action with the intention to make a permanent alteration to how another player roleplays their character, that player should probably have the right to refuse the action. But this will depend on whose table you're sitting at. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kevin
    Mar 13 at 8:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ They were annoying everyone at our table and probably the tables nearby by constantly yowling loudly as if they were a drunk cat \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Mar 13 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would suggest adding the Madness durations: short-term = 1d10 minutes; long-term = 1d10x10 hours; indefinite = until cured (obviously). DMG pg 259 \$\endgroup\$
    – Journer
    Mar 13 at 21:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tasi in-game mechanics won't cure something that's clearly an out of character issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Mar 14 at 9:11
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Decide at the table.

The DM has the final say on these matters, as stated in the DMG (p.4):

The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren't in charge. You're the DM, and you are in charge of the game.

However, since your case involves, as Kevin notes, "[making] a permanent alteration to how another player roleplays their character", the resolution should ideally be agreed upon among the players in the game.

In a longer-term campaign, I would recommend resolving it when developing the "mad" character during Session 0: should the Madness rules from the DMG be used, or should some other way of resolving the "madness" mechanically be applied?

In your one-shot case, where maybe less time is spent on character development ahead of the game, I would (as a DM) just pause the game right then, go to Out of Character, and ask the player controlling the "mad" PC: "do you think, based on your backstory, that Lesser Restoration is enough to cure your madness?" Maybe this even becomes an opportunity for some fun improvisation: "yes, but unfortunately only so much that I now think I'm a dog".

Basically, choose the most fun option for all parties involved.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Sorry, I didn't know because the DM guide isn't free on DND beyond. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Mar 13 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ With the broader context added in the comments to another answer about the "drunken cat" player being a nuisance and removing the fun of the players, I think the problem is difficult to resolve using interpretation of the game rules. A separate question would be appropriate, but a gist of an answer would be: pause the game and tell the disruptive player: "look, your drunken cat idea is fun but currently you are interrupting other players and making the game less enjoyable. Can you think of a way of roleplaying your character which is more respectful to the DM and other players?" \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14 at 10:40

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