A discussion has started up in my group about how you actually use enchantment spells on people without them noticing. A good example is as follows:

Charm Person, one of the good lower level spells for Enchantment has the following: Components V, S

This means that you need to make clear hand motions and intone clear words. As far as I can tell, you cast this spell and then the first question they would ask is "What did you just do?". It gets even worse when you consider Sow Thoughts. The target at that point has probably just become less friendly to you.

Is it a case that these kind of spells are supposed to be cast from a hidden location or with silent and still and such? Or should they be fine to cast in conversation?

If the solution is that "you need X feat" or such, then why is there a feat tax being applies to an entire, arguably already restrictive, school of magic.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Mourdos, welcome to the site! If you haven't already, check out our tour. You already have 20 rep, which means you can join us in chat if you wish. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2014 at 11:24
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Mostly duplicate: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/18509/covertly-casting-a-spell \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 21, 2014 at 12:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I find interesting is that spellcasters compare rather poorly to manifesters in this regard. Manifesters don't have components at all - just "displays". With a simple concentration check, a manifester can suppress the display, making the act of casting purely a mental action (i.e., completely covert). No extra feat required, no extra power points expended. Seems a bit unbalanced in that regard. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2014 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MattHamsmith It's not trivial to dispense with displays, especially at low levels, requiring a DC 15 + power level concentration check. And the option remains to stab the psion anyway as, even if he manifests without displays, he still provokes attacks of opportunity. But that's pretty much always been a psionics issue. You gotta go third party to get 'em in Pathfinder though. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2014 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


If a creature doesn't want to be noticed casting spells then, yes, the creature must devote resources to doing exactly that, and that includes Enchantment spells. By eliminating the inexpensive material components with the feat Eschew Materials, somatic components with the feat Silent Spell, and verbal components with the feat Still Spell one can cast a spell nearly undetectably--from onlookers1 (an affected creatures still gets that tingling feeling when it succeeds on a saving throw versus a hostile spell and still has a chance to identify the spell cast on it via a Spellcraft skill check). But, yeah, it's difficult to make casting happen stealthily. And it should be.

Your question focuses on the lack of utility of Enchantment spells when the target knows such a spell's been used on it. I'd be more concerned about the increased utility of Evocation spells were they employed in this nearly-impossible-to-determine-the-source fashion.

The Spell Charm Person
The expectation is that spells charm person et al. actually are cast right out in the open--at an approaching potential enemy. And, if the enemy fails the saving throw he very well might ask, "What did you do?" if the creature is unable to identify the spell as it was cast (and most creatures can't). That's when the caster says, "Just a detect spell; don't worry about it," and, as the enemy is now you're friend, he doesn't.

However, I get the sense that your group might want to use the spell charm person against shopkeepers, city guards, buxom barmaids, and other folks in the middle of town in an effort to get free goods, to encourage a slap on the wrist instead of the gallows, to make them pay more attention to you than the muscleheaded barbarians, or whatever. In those cases, casting a spell can be problematic.

I'd urge casters to role-play these events, using minor magics like the spell prestidigitation to instantly clean the shopkeeper's store, shine the guards' shoes, or conjure a gift for the lady instead of whipping out the charm spells. Harnessing the power of the universe to get a 10% discount on swords, to avoid paying a parking ticket, or to get a lady to pay attention to you2 is... excessive.

Casting in the Campaign

I can't know the kind of campaign you're running, but in my campaigns folks are familiar with magic even though most lack ranks in the skills Spellcraft and Knowledge (arcana). Intelligent creatures in civilized areas view spellcasting the same way many contemporary societies view taking out a pistol and waving it around. You want to clear the bar? Start casting a spell. You want folks to run for cover? Start casting a spell. Spells are worse than firearms--nigh undetectable until used and can level cities.

Polite casters in my campaigns quickly learn to warn onlookers that they're casting a spell, explain what the spell is (making Bluff skill checks if necessary), and provide those who want to the opportunity to leave. Impolite casters get grappled or stabbed by folks claiming self-defense.

The campaign needs to establish guidelines for casting spells in populated areas because, yeah, spells are awesome... if you're the caster. Spells are death via a handful of bat guano, throwing horns, and yelling fireball! to everyone else.

  1. There doesn't seem to be Pathfinder equivalent of the Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition feat Invisible Spell (Ci 61), but I have no doubt there will be. There is, however, the third-party feat Secret Spell, which, while not making the spell's effects invisible, makes stealthy casting easier.
  2. Depending on the lady, obviously.
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about just doing the somatic component "behind one's back" while casting? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Jul 21, 2014 at 12:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob I'd argue that the "measured and precise movement of the hand" is impossible behind the caster's back, just as it is while grappling. Otherwise, every caster would always do that. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2014 at 12:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was mostly asking from a point of view of a character who wants to be able to cast spells in conversation. We are playing in a P6 game where magic is rare, but that is too specific for this question I felt. You fully got what I was trying to ask in your 2nd paragraph under Charm Person. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mourdos
    Jul 21, 2014 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ It was actually during diplomacy that the character was planning to use it. The campaign is going to be centered around getting support for one thing or another. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mourdos
    Jul 21, 2014 at 14:11

Charm Person

I think the most important part of the charm person spell from this point of view is:

The spell does not enable you to control the charmed person as if it were an automaton, but it perceives your words and actions in the most favorable way

In other words the target may know you cast a spell, but so what. You are their best friend, their best friend casts spells. That's cool. Generally they wouldn't even question it and if someone else did question it they would jump to your defense as they perceive it favorably.

I.e. in a hypothetical situation:

A group of toughs in a bar, the leader is squaring up to the players, looking to start a fight.

The wizards casts charm person on the leader, who fails his save:

Wizard: Hey, no need for trouble. You know me remember, we met last year. I helped you out.

Leader: Oh wow, yeah. How are you doing mate?

Minion: But boss, he just cast a spell.

Leader: Of course he cast a spell, he's a powerful wizard! I bet he was just checking it's really me before revealing himself. We've had those assassins running around in disguise recently after all!

Wizard: That's right, can't be too careful. Now why don't you and your boys sit down and we can talk some business.

... etc

The thing is the charm person spell will actually make the target want to put the most favorable light possible on the fact you just cast a spell.

Clearly you do still need to think about. You need to pick the right target, in the right situation. Ideally you want to use the 30' range to cast the charm person before you even go in and strike up the conversation.

For example to get past guards at a gatehouse - stop 30' away, have your friends step between you and the guard to hide your hands while you can still see the target. Cast Charm Person, then walk up and start the conversation once he's already charmed. Depending on how alert the guards are they may get a perception roll to notice the spell casting, but a lot of the time they wouldn't even get that unless they made the save.

All of these strategies have both play and counter-play available to them, but that's part of what makes them interesting. Perhaps the bandit leader could instruct his men to ask him the name of any "sudden friends"... but how many would actually take that sort of precaution, and even then you are their best friend and they know they gave that instruction. They would make up an answer to cover for their "friend" .

"Uh, he's the Wizard Berlung, we hung out last year, or at least that's what he was calling himself then..."

Sow Thoughts

This is harder, clearly if you cast a spell in front of someone they are going to suspect it. But this is a subtle spell, designed to be used in subtle ways. You have a 30' range on it, that's actually a fair distance. Wait for the target to walk past, cast it at them through a window, cast it in a noisy crowded bar.

The point is that this is an intrigue spell, one used for plots and cunning. No it won't work if you walk up to someone and cast it in their face, but neither should it. If you want to be cunning then be cunning.

For example, injured target on the floor (maybe the party rogue dropped a brick on their head from the roof). The witch runs over:

I'm a healer let me help, I know healing magic

The witch casts sow thoughts followed by cure light wounds one after the other.

Any magically knowledgeable onlookers might notice that the spell took longer than usual to cast, but no-one else would be any wiser, particularly when they saw the healing start to work.

You are pulling a con on a shopkeeper, the party face goes up and engages them in conversation, in the meantime the caster stays back and casts the spell looking in through the window. Or if acting solo then wait for another customer to distract the shopkeeper then cast the spell followed by going in yourself.

The point is these spells have weaknesses, but that just means you need to think about how you use them. If you want point-and-click then charm spells are not the school for you :)


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