What constitutes as an "enemy"? Can for some reason a PC declare another PC an enemy at any point?

For example, we will take this first level Warden spell which puts spikes around an enemy that will only effect enemies:

Earth Spikes(4EPHB3)
The earth rises in concert with your attack, driving sharp spikes of wood and stone up toward your foe even as your weapon slams down.

Encounter✦Primal, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC

Hit:1[W] + Strength Modifier damage. Until the end of your next turn, the target's space and each square adjacent to it are filled with spikes. Any enemy that enters this spike-filled area or starts its turn there takes 5 damage.

I believe this spells is worded this way because it assumes you will have melee pcs in the group, which if it didn't say enemy, they would be effected by the spikes being adjacent to the enemy. What if mid fight the warden declares one of the other pcs an enemy. Would the spikes then work against the pc?

If so, would the effect take place immediately?

Edit: My case - I run a game that has a Warden, Shaman, and a Fighter. The Warden and the fighter don't get a long to well because of backgrounds (warden is a shifter and the fighter calls her a dog all the time...it makes for good rp most times). With yelling being a free action during battle, she playfully said he was an enemy. I didn't take it serious in this situation but they have thrown hands at each other in game on multiple occasions so I could see her calling him an enemy at any point if he presses the wrong button.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Could you get into your usecase a bit here? generally PCs don't switch side mid fight, and if they were to do so, there would be a lot more of a mechanical concern than this. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    May 27, 2014 at 15:02

4 Answers 4


The effect will not happen until the trigger does.

Announcing that an ally is an enemy will not cause the effect to trigger unless you do so as the former ally is now moving into an affected square. If the ally is now an enemy she would be such until declared otherwise. And as such would be affected by any and all effects that effect enemies.

4e doesn't really have rules stating when an ally becomes an enemy so the conditions at which time this changes is entirely up to you as the DM. However, if there is a dispute between you and your players over this, it might be a good idea to develop a rule within your social contract (written or unwritten) that defines how you guys treat PVP and ally/enemy relations.

Note: be mindful of the mechanical implications of this, this is not a situation covered by the rules and a such, any house rule you make may come at the expense of system balance. Attacking allies is something that is used to great effect in certain optimization circles, allowing powers that target enemies to target former allies may have unpredictable results.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Everyones answers are amazing. I am accepting this one because it also addressed when the trigger occurs which was another vital aspect of the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – 13ruce1337
    May 27, 2014 at 15:18

D&D 4e is about a group of heroic adventurers working together to solve problems and overcome enemies

D&D 4e has zero rules for, mention of, nor any desire to deal with PVP situations. The closest it comes to anything like that is when a PC is dominated, but the power causing the dominated status will delineate what it does and does not do. As such the Party and anyone working with them (summons, NPC allies, etc.) are considered allies and anyone working/fighting them is considered an enemy. If a Target line reads: enemy it willy only target enemies, but if it says creature it will target both enemies and allies.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @András I'm not sure how players wanting to hit each other is a problem. I can't stop them from doing what they want, I can only guide as a referee. I didn't know all 4E games were supposed to be about all sunshine and flowers. \$\endgroup\$
    – 13ruce1337
    May 29, 2014 at 15:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @13ruce1337 Just stating the intent of the system and what its mechanics and systems can best handle. When you ask a question I'm answering both for you and for the wider community on rpg.se now and in the future. \$\endgroup\$ May 29, 2014 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith sorry, wasn't targeting you. Your wording is perfect and it is clear. I come from SO and understand. Also thanks for the dominated reference. It made for a great metaphor. \$\endgroup\$
    – 13ruce1337
    May 29, 2014 at 15:16

Yes. The game does not go into the meta-philosophy of defining "what makes someone an enemy or ally" in its rules, treating that as a given, and is thus silent on this point. Therefore, by inference, the spellcaster's intent would be the only remaining meaningful factor, as they are generally the ones designating the target of their spells.

"Enemy" and "ally" are basically placeholder words for "the people you want it to work on." If a PC gets dominated and turns on you, that doesn't automatically change his status - "In spite of this condition, the creature’s allies remain its allies, and its enemies remain its enemies", RC 230 - but if you want to, you can just mentally move him to the "enemy" category and start spamming effects on him along with the rest of the opposing force - similarly, if you dominate a bad guy and don't want to hurt them, you can just count them as an ally. There is no universal descriptor of ally/enemy except the spellcaster's state of mind.


I have no rules to back this up but I've always considered that:

  • Enemy means a creature you designate
  • Ally means a willing creature you designate

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