[RPG] Can a charmed person harm their charmer with Burning Hands


If a creature is under the condition Charmed, can they cast the spell Burning Hands and orient the cone such that their charmer is within the area of effect?

The argument I've seen for "yes" is that Burning Hands is not an attack by the definition in Chapter 9, and creatures within an AOE are not targeted by the spell. Is this correct?



  • A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects.

Basic Rules V.0.3, Appendix A, pg. 105 (emphasis mine)

Burning Hands
1st-level evocation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (15-foot cone)

Basic Rules, V.0.3, Chapter 11, pg. 85 (emphasis mine)

If there’s ever any question whether something you’re doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you’re making an attack roll, you’re making an attack.

Basic Rules V.0.3, Chapter 9, pg. 73

A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell's magic. A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or the point of origin for an area of effect.

Basic Rules V.0.3, Chapter 10, pg. 80 (emphasis mine)

Spells such as burning hands and cone of cold cover an area, allowing them to affect multiple creatures at once.

A spell’s description specifies its area of effect, which typically has one of five different shapes: cone, cube, cylinder, line, or sphere. Every area of effect has a point of origin

Basic Rules V.0.3, Chapter 10, pg. 80 (emphasis mine)

Best Answer

No, burning hands targets the creatures in its AOE

Burning hands is noted as having targets specifically in the DMG

The DMG specifically calls out the creatures affected by burning hands to be targets in an example:

For example, if a wizard directs burning hands (a 15-foot cone) at a nearby group of orcs, you could use the table and say that two orcs are targeted...

In the PHB there is even more support for the fact that creatures in an AOE are intended to be considered targets (more generally):

If a spell or other effect deals damage to more than one target at the same time, roll the damage once for all of them. For example, when a wizard casts fireball or a cleric casts flame strike, the spell’s damage is rolled once for all creatures caught in the blast.

Flame strike is a cylindrical AOE spell that does not call the creatures caught in its affect "targets". However, the rules here clearly designate those same creatures as targets regardless.

Either way, the rules are clear: Creatures caught in burning hands' AOE are targets. And since the charmed creature would be targeting the charmer with a harmful spell effect, this is not allowed.

The Rules As Intended agree

Jeremy Crawford also seems to agree with this conclusion:

Dragon's breath has two sets of targets: the creature you give the breath weapon to and the creatures in the area of effect created by the spell.

Dragon's breath is a touch spell that does not specify in its effects that the creatures in the AOE are targets explicitly (just like burning hands). But according to Crawford, the intent is that those creatures are considered targets of the spell.

Also he gives more support here:

A typical area of effect has more than one target: the effect's point of origin and one or more creatures/objects.

The cheese factor

The point of the charmed condition is that the creature views the charmer as a friend and cannot/does not want to do any harm to them. As such, this whole argument seems like a really cheesy way to get out of the intent of this condition.

A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects.

Why is the character wanting to hurt the charmer in the first place? How does the charmed character justify deciding to purposely hurt their "friend"? How does the character know that this spell will work and not others?

As such, regardless of RAW above, I would not allow a player to purposefully pull off this idea at my table.

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