Casting Time: 1 action
Components: S, M (a small amount of makeup applied to the face as this spell is cast)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
School: Enchantment cantrip
Player’s Handbook, pg. 244
From making fast pals to making even faster enemies, the Friends spell is disparaged by players far and wide who find its short-term benefit not worth the lingering side effects.
Nevertheless, we’ll be going over a few good ways to use this enchanting cantrip in your next session, as well as (try) to unpack some of the headier rules discussions around Friends.
And for DMs who agree with players who find this spell somewhat lacking, we’ve even got a few tips for simple house rules to bring the spell up to speed. But first, the basics.
Who Can Cast Friends in 5e?
The following classes have Friends on their spell list:
No subclasses get Friends for free.
What Does Friends Do in 5e?
Friends causes the caster to have advantage on all Charisma checks (Deception, Performance, Persuasion, and Intimidation) directed at one non-hostile creature for up to 1 minute (concentration permitting). After the spell ends, the creature automatically becomes hostile toward the caster, realizing that it’s been influenced by magic.
Before we get into the deeper rules discussions around the Friends spell, let’s save ourselves some hassle by turning to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which kindly lays out exactly what DnD 5e’s definition of “hostile” is:
Dungeon Master’s Guide, pg. 244
TLDR: There are tiers of hostility, and even the most hostile creature may not engage in violence to express their hostility.
While this is more subjective than most DnD “rules,” I’d like to point out now that it’s unlikely that a creature’s hostility at being duped into conversing more freely than usual will amount to an automatic bout of combat. Especially if you’re in polite society where aggravated assault is usually frowned upon more than smooth-talking.
What Are the Rules for Friends in 5e?
The rules for Friends in DnD 5e are as follows:
If disguised while using Friends, the target creature becomes hostile toward the creature you were impersonating, not you. Here’s Sage Advice confirmation that this is indeed how Friends interacts with disguises, both magical and mundane.
Of course, the disguise itself has to be successful for this to work. But if the disguise does fool the creature, then you’ve not only gotten what you want out of them — they’re also hostile toward whomever you were impersonating.
The hostility caused by Friends is magical. That is to say, a creature is forced to feel hostile toward any player who casts Friends on them once the spell ends. Even if it was in their best interest or they expressly asked you to cast Friends on them, the spell leaves no wiggle room — they are now hostile toward you.
This does raise the interesting question of whether a player could use Dispel Magic to remove this hostility, but I’ve found no confirmation one way or the other from the game’s developers.
Hostile doesn’t necessarily mean aggressive. We covered this above, but to be super clear — a creature becoming hostile does not mean that it’s automatically time to roll initiative. The spell’s description even explicitly states that DMs have the discretion to determine a mode of retribution appropriate for the affected creature’s character and the nature of your interaction with it.
Not only that, but creatures also have to consider the consequences of their actions. A bartender isn’t going to murder a patron who rips them off because they’d risk losing their business, freedom, and life if they reacted that way, for example.
Friends “technically” has the ability to make any creature in the universe hostile toward you. The exact wording of Friends is “directed at one creature of your choice that isn’t hostile toward you.”
It says nothing about actually needing to interact with that target, see them, or even know where they are or if they’re on the same plane of existence.
This could possibly be debunked by the general rule that “to target something, you must have a clear path to it” (PHB 204) which Friends doesn’t specifically say it works in spite of. However, the target of Friends is technically Self, in the spirit of being strictly RAW. The spell itself uses the word “direct” rather than “target.”
Some others might point out that the spell specifies retribution appropriate to “your interaction with [the target]” and say that the hostility can’t be incited because you never interacted with it. But the spell also reads that “the creature realizes that you used magic to influence it,” so that alone counts as an interaction.
In the absence of an official ruling from Sage Advice, it appears that Friends can be used to incite hostility in any creature in any place. What this functionally looks like in a DnD game is entirely up to the DM.
How Do I Use Friends in 5e?
Here are a few fun ways to use the Friends spell in DnD 5e:
Disguise yourself before using it. This is the #1 tip to get around the worst part of Friends. Cast Disguise Self or use a disguise kit, and voila, you’re free to cast Friends and make as many people hostile against whatever person you looked like in the disguise.
Warlocks who are into smooth-talking often enjoy picking up the Mask of Many Faces Invocation (PHB 111) to allow for endless disguising fun (and consequence-free casting of Friends). Or you can pick up the Eldritch Adept feat (TCoE 79) if you’d rather not multiclass dip into Warlock.
For an even more advanced strategy, you can disguise yourself as one of your enemies, or someone else that you’d like the target to become hostile against for one reason or another. Note that DMs might set a higher bar for passing yourself off as a specific person rather than just looking like “not you.”
The Actor feat (PHB 165) can help for situations like this by allowing you disguise your speech as well as your appearance.
Use it on creatures who you’re already planning to make into enemies. Another way to get around the bad part of Friends is to simply use it against foes who are likely to become hostile toward you regardless of what you do.
For example, if you’re planning on intimidating someone (that’s a Charisma check, and so benefits from Friends), there’s a good chance that they’ll be hostile toward you be the end of the interaction regardless of whether you use magic to influence them.
Or say you plan to use Deception to convince someone to act against their best interests. Well, it may have taken them longer to learn they’d been duped, but there’s a good chance they were going to turn hostile toward you at some point.
Another, simpler scenario is if you plan on killing the person you’re using Friends on after they tell you what you want to know. Who cares if a dead guy doesn’t like you?
Run like hell after getting what you want. Situations where you can quickly use Friends to, say, talk some guy off of his horse so that you can take off with it, are great for this spell.
Or if you’re in a busy street, cheat the vendor and quickly get lost in the crowd. He might not like you next time you meet, but he probably won’t bother leaving his stall to chase you down.
Talk your way in for easier infiltration. Getting past a guard who’s looking for a password or just getting her to open the gate for you is all you really need sometimes. If you’re planning on killing those guards or attacking their masters anyway, there’s no love lost by creating post-Friends hostility in the process.
Pair with other communication. A spell like Speak With Animals, Tongues, or Message can open up more opportunities to make use of instant friendship with creatures you can’t normally talk to.
Who cares if a squirrel hates your guts, right? And in the case of Tongues, it allows you to smooth-talk someone at all (can’t make most Charisma checks without communication).
Be an Enchantment Wizard. This is a pretty big commitment just to get some extra mileage out of a cantrip, but Enchantment Wizards are able to avoid Friends’s major downside with their level 14 feature, Alter Memories (PHB 117), which allows them to essentially make a creature unaware it was enchanted and possibly forget the time it spent charmed.
Who Can I Target With Friends 5e?
You target yourself with Friends, and can then direct its Charisma-boosting effects at a creature of your choice that’s not hostile toward you. It is unclear if you need to be able to see the creature you want to target, have a clear path to them, or even know where they are.
Is Friends 5e a Good Spell?
No, Friends is not a good spell for most characters. The fact that it automatically triggers hostility in a targeted creature once the effects wear off means that the lasting impression is one of enmity rather than friendship.
That being said, if you are able to reliably disguise yourself before casting Friends and/or only use it in situations where the hostility aftereffect won’t matter, it can be a useful way to increase your odds of successfully using your Charisma to perform for, deceive, persuade, or intimidate people.
Friends 5e Compared to a Charm Person
Charm Person is a 1st-level spell that’s similar to Friends. Here are the main differences:
Charm Person requires a Wisdom saving throw, with advantage if you’re fighting the target
Charm Person breaks early if you or your party attacks the target
Charm Person causes the Charmed condition — a charmed creature cannot attack the creature that charmed it and the charmer has advantage on all ability checks that involve social interaction with the charmed creature
Charm Person lasts for up to 1 hour, no concentration required
Charm Person causes the target to regard you as a “friendly acquaintance” if it succeeds
When Charm Person ends, the target knows it was charmed — it does not automatically become hostile, though.
Overall, Charm Person gets you a whole lot more with a whole lot less downside. The only bad part is that it’s a save-or-suck leveled spell, so you might waste an action and a spell slot for no benefit.
Friends 5e DM Tips for Roleplaying Hostility
These tips are to help DMs roleplay the various ways that a creature could display being “hostile toward a player” (that aren’t violence):
The merchant is infuriated that you tricked him into selling his wares for an unfair price. He refuses to do business with you and spreads word among other wealthy townspeople and traders that your party isn’t to be trusted.
The nobleman resents that you used magic to intimidate him in front of his peers. He’ll do his best to make sure the local ruler stops giving you contracts and find a way to save face by humiliating you in public.
An urchin whom you persuaded into sharing info on an underground crime network decides to get his gang together and target you (and your party) with a relentless series of picked pockets.
The guy you were flirting with so successfully all of a sudden becomes repulsed as he feels violated by the magic you’ve used to affect his perception of you.
The bartender whom you convinced to spot you a free drink asks for his money and refuses to serve you another drink.
The street vendor whom you took advantage of calls the guards to investigate your predatory use of magic on innocent townsfolk.
The evil (but not very powerful) court wizard whom you tricked into sharing some secret lore works from the shadows to hinder you with minor magical tricks.
The centaur whom you convinced to share the secrets of the forest departs in a huff. He refuses to share any more knowledge with you or your party.
Don’t forget, the DMG says that a few “challenging Charisma checks” might be able to win over a hostile creature, so remind players that all is not lost if a creature isn’t 100% hellbent on retribution.
Friends 5e DM House Rules
It’s no secret that most players hate Friends (the spell, not the hit NBC sitcom). Here are a few common house rules that players use to make this enchanting cantrip a tad more palatable for folks who aren’t keen on making enemies wherever they go:
Make the hostility contingent on a failed Charisma check. This is actually a house rule suggested by DnD developer Will Doyle.
By making Friends work this way, players have to make a calculated risk each time they try to “push their luck” with another Charisma check — will this be the one that makes the target finally catch on and become hostile?
And if players are happy to just get one advantaged Charisma check and move on scot-free, this tweak also allows for that.
A Wisdom saving throw at the end of the spell. There are a few iterations on this, but they’re all pretty much the same. Once Friends finishes, the target makes a Wisdom saving throw; if it succeeds, it realizes that you used magic on it and becomes hostile (same as the regular spell).
Make the hostility contingent on the quality of your Charisma checks. This one is a little more complicated, but it works like this: if your worst Charisma check during Friends’ duration was a 12 (for example) and the DM had the Charisma check DC set at 15, then the target realizes it was duped.
This pretty much functions like the first house rule, but allows for the player to keep interacting with the target until the spell’s completion, even after a failed Charisma check.
Ultimately, you don’t have to do anything to “fix” Friends. While it might not be the best cantrip in the game, it certainly has its place when combined with other spells, tactics, and strategies.
Now for the second Friends-related question that we left DMs with above in the rules section: how to handle a player who wants to use Friends to trigger hostility from a random creature they’ve never met (hey Tiamat, wanna be “Friends”?)
In my opinion, this strict RAW reading of Friends is silly and should be ignored entirely. At my table, if a player doesn’t use Friends to actually interact with the creature, the creature isn’t aware that magic was used and doesn’t become hostile against the player.
After all, the only spell that works across distances and planes of existence like this is the 5th-level spell, Dream — and even that requires “a creature known to you…”one the same plane of existence as you.” Surely, the games’ developers didn’t intend for a cantrip to have greater-reaching effects than powerful leveled spells.
But if you decide that this application of Friends is cool at your table, I’d suggest playing the hostility as a predisposition if/when the creature ever meets the player. I don’t think Tiamat would fly directly toward the punk-ass player who cast Friends on them from half the world away.
Simple Friends 5e Spell Text
Friends: (Evocation cantrip, Self, Concentration, up to 1 minute, S/M (a small amount of makeup applied to the face as this spell is cast)) Gain advantage on all Charisma checks directed at one creature of your choice that isn’t hostile toward you. When the spell ends, the creature becomes hostile toward you. (“hostile” definition DMG pg. 244)