Understanding Enchantment Magic
The School of Enchantment is the school of charm and influence. These spells are specifically designed to affect the minds of others so that they will perceive the caster differently than they did before. This can be as simple as making friends to as dangerous as obeying the caster’s every command.
Just as many things in life, there are two sides to the School of Enchantment. On one side, the enchanter can calm emotions, remove the fear from their allies, and even bless their friends for greater success. On the other side, Enchantment spells can destroy the minds of enemies, causing physical pain with mental barrages, controlling their actions like puppets, or even killing with a single word.
The School of Enchantment allows a mage to have instant friends but at a cost. When the magic wears off, the victim of the spell knows they have been enchanted, and not many people appreciate having their minds altered against their will.
While this magic can be a quick and easy way to avoid problems in the moment, there is always a potential for those problems to come back and haunt the players later. Just like in real life, lies and deception can only get a player so far.
What makes Enchantment Magic Different from other Schools
The School of Enchantment is different from any other school because of the subtle way it alters the mind of the target. The spells of this school primarily focus on altering perceptions and emotions in ways that no other school of magic does. Where the School of Divination uses magic of the mind to reveal truth, the School of Enchantment uses the Weave to conceal truth.
There are spells on the School of Enchantment list that do damage, but all of them come with some sort of disorienting effect as well. This is what makes an Enchantment different from an Evocation.
Enchantments target the mind and cause an effect within the mind of the target, whether it be to subtract from dice rolls or cause disadvantage on their own attack rolls. Any damage done is just an added bonus.
The School of Illusion is another branch of magic designed to deceive, but in a different way than the School of Enchantment. Illusions affect a person or thing by changing the way someone perceives the world around them naturally with their own senses. (See more on this school in my article all about Illusion magic in D&D 5e!)
An enchantment touches the mind of the target directly, forcing them to see things differently then they actually are. Some of the spells on both lists might accomplish the same end goal, but just like with Conjuration vs. Evocation, the way the goal was achieved is different.
How to Use Enchantment Magic in your World
Some of the most entertaining moments I have experienced, both as a player and as a DM, have come about because of the School of Enchantment. A single failed saving throw can force a player to have to play their character differently, to the amusement or detriment of others.
The consequences can range anywhere from silly to destructive, depending on the circumstance. A playful fey might just charm a kiss out of an adventurer for their own amusement, whereas a sinister enemy might bewitch the unfortunate soul into seeing their own friends as their enemies.
Either scenario produces a memorable experience for your players and promotes excellent role play opportunities around the table.
On the other hand, I’ve been known to be a player who relies heavily on Charm Person to get my way. So what do you do when the bad guy falls under the spell of an enchanter? How do you keep them from divulging all their wicked plans and ruining the intrigue of the game?
First, remember that spells like friends and charm person don’t make the target instantly do whatever the charmer wants. There are spells that do that, but they are higher level and have their own caveats to them. Spells like charm person only make the charmed person regard the caster as a friendly acquaintance.
While this has its uses in its own way, it does not mean your player can get whatever information they want, unless that NPC has a bad habit of gossiping already. Just like in real life, there are some secrets we don’t divulge to people we like but only kind of know. In the same way, a charmed person will still need to be convinced by some excellent role playing or high persuasion rolls to tell all their master’s evil plans.
Which brings up an important question. How do you differentiate between the effects of a magic spell and a really high charisma roll? We don’t want to give all our secrets away, but at the same time, we don’t want our players to waste a spell slot on something they could have rolled for. So, how do you know which scenario to use?
A persuasion roll is generally called for when a player is trying to convince someone of something. It relies on the character either role-playing or describing how they want to convince a guard who found them where they weren’t supposed to be to not to turn them in. It does not make NPCs act in a way that is contrary to their nature.
Persuasion rolls require a lot of creativity, and the roll helps decide whether it succeeds. However, the guard is still going to do what the guard is supposed to do. He might just tell the players to scram if they convince him not to arrest them, but he isn’t likely going to be their friend and let them just keep on with their plot. He will become hostile if the players push him too far.
Charm person, on the other hand, allows for the requests to move into the realm of illogical. One of my DM friends likens it to a high school crush. The charmed person is suddenly very interested in the charmer and wants to be liked by them, but there are still limits to what they would do. The effect also lasts up to an hour, whereas a persuasion roll is a one-time request.
In short, I think of it this way. Enchantment magic comes into play when there is no time to build rapport naturally. If you need something in a pinch but don’t have the time to convince the NPC they should trust you, magic is the answer.
As always, when looking at magic we want to consider how it will affect the world our adventure is set in. How is the School of Enchantment viewed in your world? What are the consequences for getting caught casting beguiling magic?
It is an ethically questionable school of magic, so what are the rules about using it?
If there are laws regarding the use of enchanting spells, you will want to consider how to enforce them. Since the magic leaves no mark, the only proof of it is the testimony of the victim. How does the justice system differentiate between true claims and false in order to prevent witch hunts? Without someone purposely enforcing order, chaos will abound.
Common Enchantment Spells
According to the D&D 5e spells app, there are 48 spells classified under the School of Enchantment. Of all the spell schools, the School of Enchantment has the most consistency in the effects it creates. With that being said, here are 3 subsets you can break this school down into.
The most common use of the School of Enchantment is to make temporary friends. This is accomplished through spells such as charm person, animal friendship, and of course, friends.
The point of each of these spells is to make someone or something with whom you have no influence or rapport with magically regard you as someone they like.
In the case of friends, the spell only lasts one minute and gives you advantage on charisma checks directed towards them. It’s important to note that this spell specifically says the charmed person becomes hostile when the spell ends.
Both animal friendship and charm person make the target of the spell regard you as friendly and unthreatening. The effects of these spells are not permanent, and once the spell wears off, the person that is charmed knows they were charmed. How they react is not dictated by the spell, so it is up to you as the DM to decide how you want to roleplay it out.
The darker side of the School of Enchantment consists of spells that control other creatures. These are spells such as command, crown of madness, and Suggestion. All of these spells force the target to obey the will of the caster, unless the order is directly harmful to themselves.
Command forces a creature to follow a one word command that the caster issues, such as ‘confess!’ or ‘Halt!’ On a failed saving throw, that target has no choice but to obey the command on their next turn.
Crown of Madness charms the target and forces them to attack anyone the charmer chooses, save for themselves.
Suggestion charms a person into doing whatever you suggest for up to 8 hours to the best of their ability.
These spells are certainly the morally gray area of magic, but can turn the tides of a fight in favor of the heroes. Just make sure your players are prepared for the consequences when the magic wears off.
Debilitating enchantments not only cause damage to the targeted creature, but they also generally impose some type of negative effect to make it harder for the enemy to fight back. An example of spells that debilitate are mind sliver, vicious mockery, Bane, and Hex.
Both mind sliver and bane cause the enemy to subtract 1d4 from their attack rolls. A failed save for vicious mockery imposes disadvantage on their next attack roll. Hex is one of the signature spells of warlocks, causing 1d6 extra necrotic damage every time the warlock hits with an attack and imposing a subtraction of 1d4 on whichever skill the warlock chooses.
All of these spells were designed with misery in mind. They cause pain and break focus. In a fight, they are powerful tools to use against your enemies.
Common Enchantment Items
Including items from the School of Enchantment can be a fun way to challenge players in your game. Whether they receive the item and get to come up with creative ways to use it or they accidentally fall prey to a mislabeled love potion, the role-play opportunities are boundless.
As always, remember that magic items don’t actually get assigned a school of magic in D&D 5e. But if you want to include some items that are specifically designed to enchant, here are a few great options.
Eyes of Charming (wondrous item, uncommon)
The Eyes of Charming is a very simple, basic magic item that does exactly what it says it does. They are described as crystal lenses that fit over the eye. When used, they cast charm person with a spell save DC of 13. They have 3 charges a day and recover their charges at dawn.
These contacts would be a great gift to your low-charisma characters. It gives them a chance to play outside of their usual roles by giving them a way to interact socially without having to be disappointed with low dice rolls.
They also make a great tool for your more nefarious NPCs, the ones the players can’t resist in the moment but can’t figure out why until their contact falls out and they see their eye color change.
Philter of Love (wondrous item, uncommon)
The Philter of Love is your standard love potion, and who doesn’t love the effects of a good love potion? The person who drinks this philter is charmed by the first creature they see. If that creature happens to be of a gender and species that they are normally attracted to, they consider that creature their one true love for the duration of an hour.
Notice that I said creature, not humanoid. It is entirely possible for an NPC to try to use the philter on a player they think they have isolated. Unfortunately for the NPC, the player sees a cat before they see them. Now the whole potion has gone to waste making the player worship the cat as a beloved pet. Whatever schemes that NPC had now have to wait until the player is done building a cat-condo for Ms. Tibbles.
There are so many ways I can think of to use this in my game. An accidental sip of this concoction can create memorable moments of in party role-playing. A more purposeful slip of the drink can cause problems, unexpected consequences, or potentially even whole side arcs.
Ring of Animal Influence (wondrous item, rare)
The Ring of Animal Influence is great for players like me, who love interacting with animals but just don’t want to make a druid to do it. This ring has 3 charges which recharge daily at dawn. As an action, the player can use one of the charges to cast either animal friendship, fear, or speak with animals.
Although Animal friendship is the only spell on this list that actually belongs to the School of Enchantment, I still consider this item to be a mostly Enchantment item. Speak with Animals finds its home in Divination and Fear comes from the School of Illusion.
However, the purpose of this ring is to create influence over animals, whether by befriending them or scaring them away. This purpose is the epitome of the School of Enchantment, making this ring a great item to add to your Enchantment toolbox.
Describing Enchantment Magic in Your World
The School of Enchantment twists the Weave in entirely mental ways, making it hard to describe with the five senses. It is a school of magic that is designed to deceive the perceptions of an individual directly, so in many ways they will ignore what their senses might be otherwise telling them.
With that being said, let’s take a stab at describing the School of Enchantment in your world.
Describing the way an enchantment looks might be trickier than describing the effects of the spell itself. One example that comes to my mind when I describe the spell charm person comes from the novel Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik.
In the book, one of the characters has distant fey ancestry, which gives her a natural charm that affects the way people perceive her. Those who are immune to such charms see her as an incredibly ordinary, plain, average girl. Nothing special about her. But those who are not immune see her as radiant and beautiful.
No one can really put a finger on why. If they see her in drawings they reflect that it is an accurate likeness, but something is just not right, because the drawing can’t capture the fey ancestry in her blood.
I use something like this description when I describe the effects of a person being charmed. Where once the character was hostile or wary of a creature, they suddenly notice just how beautiful their smile is, or just how lustrous their hair looks. Having noticed these sudden alluring details, the player wonders why they were wary in the first place. Surely, such a lovely creature couldn’t possibly mean them any harm.
Fortunately, when it comes to describing the sound of certain enchantments, some spells come with their descriptions baked in. Both vicious mockery and dissonant whispers rely on sound to cause their effects.
Even if the creature is unable to understand the words of the insults slung at it, there is something about the power of the words that causes it actual physical pain. Maybe this comes from an infernal cadence laced in the magic, or maybe it just booms louder or shriller than a normal sentence. Whatever you choose, the actual sound of the spell causes so much pain the target isn’t quite as sure of their next attack.
Dissonant whisper is cast with a discordant melody that only the target can hear. Discordant just means harsh or jarring. You and your player get to decide what is harsh and jarring about that melody. Is it haunting, or screeching, or just plain out of tune?
Do you want the melody to actually sound like whispers reaching into the mind of the target, causing them to go temporarily mad?
Just because a spell doesn’t specifically rely on sound doesn’t mean you can’t use sound to describe it. Like the sirens of Greek mythology, a song can be used to charm your person or make the mind malleable to suggestions.
A bolstering word can imbue the bravery of heroism and the sharpness and certainty of the commanded word for command can be what drives the magic home. These are all viable options and great examples of using sound in your enchantments.
Scent is always a hard thing to describe, especially when it comes to describing mental magic like Enchantments. So much of this magic is perceived through sight, sound, and feel, it can be easy to forget that some magic also has a scent to it.
Since most of the spells from this school involve some sort of saving throw, scent can be a good way to explain a failed save. There are several novels that ascribe a certain scent to magic, so the idea isn’t unprecedented.
Let’s just say in my world, when the Weave is plucked to cast an enchantment, it is accompanied by a sweet, sugary scent. Perhaps the target begins to fall under the influences of the spell, but they catch the scent of the actual magic itself, and it awakens them to the spell being cast against them. Now they are alert and aware that the creature they are facing is charmer.
Another example of using scent with a specific spell is calm emotions. Since this spell is used to de-escalate potentially violent situations, one way of describing it could be with scent.
Herbs such as lavender and chamomile have a calming sensation, or you could choose to let the magic trick the mind of the target into smelling something comforting, that reminds them of home or their childhood. Scent is a powerful stimulant, and therefore shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to beguiling the mind.
The sense of feeling is the very first sense I go to when I start to describe the effects of an enchantment spell. I’ve often heard enchantments explained as having similar effects to drugs or alcohol, which gives you a plethora of sensations to pull from.
From mind fog to blissful euphoria, the charmed person feels themselves in an elevated state of being. They can’t quite think clearly, or they feel too good to think clearly. On the other side of the coin, the effects of mind sliver are disorienting and painful, perhaps causing splitting headaches or a burning feeling.
Even emotions are felt in a physical way. Sudden affection or fear cause adrenaline spikes that affect heart rates. The character who receives bravery might still feel their fear, but distant and far away in a place that can’t touch them. There are really endless ways you can choose to describe the way an enchantment makes a character feel.
Just like with the sense of smell, the sense of taste can be easily overlooked when it comes to describing magic, and enchantments are no exception. In some ways, I think enchantments are one of the hardest spells to describe the flavor of.
Unless you’re drinking a potion, you’re not normally tasting the Weave as you cast it. But that doesn’t mean that a magical effect can’t leave a taste in your mouth. Maybe, for the duration of a charm, the character that is bewitched tastes honey or chocolate, which contributes to their good, sweet feeling.
When that charm dissipates, however, they are left with a bitterness on the tongue that lets them know they were fed vinegar, not sugar. The tangy flavor could be just what tips off the enchanted person that their enchanter is less of a friend than they thought.
By incorporating the senses when we describe enchantment magic in our world, we create richer worlds for our players to interact with. Try picking just one sense to describe the next time your player casts an enchantment spell and see what a difference it makes!
I do hope this gives your game advantage, my friends!
Until next time!