In a previous question I mentioned you could reduce an entire village to a mindless horde using Feeblemind, and given a high enough DC, they'd be unable to save against it.

Someone I talked to in real life mentioned that they could all die by just forgetting to eat and do other basic tasks necessary to survive (using the restroom, sleeping/meditating, etc.) I was wondering whether this would be true in the game world.

Nothing in Feeblemind addresses this, presumably because someone afflicted by it would still have friends and companions who would take care of it, as the spell description does mention a character could still "identify its friends, follow them, and even protect them."

I'm inclined to say yes, the villagers could still function because each victim repeats the save every 30 days. It wouldn't make sense to have a save that long if the victim would just die after a few days.

Are there any official rulings on this, or are there similar spells or relevant rules that address what level of intelligence is required to perform basic tasks necessary to survive?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also presume that no one in the village is above Int 1 (therefore unable to assist each other) and I'm assuming that they have enough food stored away that they wouldn't need to farm or hunt to gather food (but they would, presumably, have to be able to find the food). \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Rose
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 23:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I expect you mean a mindless horde. While a hoard would indeed generally be mindless, it's usually not what you'd be turning villagers into with something like Feeblemind. \$\endgroup\$
    – Glen_b
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 7:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you read Robin Hobb's Farseer books (The Assassin's Trilogy)? If so, I can offer you a point of reference. Also, if the villagers auto failed the save due to the DC being too high(21), why would they ever be able to make the save again? What changed? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 11:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast There are plenty of possibilities. Curse of a god; some sort of artifact; or, call it a "hamlet" rather than a village and there are a smaller number of people. Maybe one member of the settlement's population has been replaced by an evil wizard who feebleminds one victim per day — the whole village isn't there yet, but if the party doesn't figure out what's going on.... \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 12:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast No I haven't sorry. I assume they wouldn't be able to make the save again, I'm just concerned as to whether feeblemind would prevent them surviving. The body of the question is simply to give more context, the title is all that really needs to be answered. Regarding the technical details of casting it, I'm not really concerned, that's a creative question. Though thanks for pointing out that villages are considered that large, that's something I missed. I'd be happy to go into more detail in what I'm thinking, but that probably belongs in chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Rose
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 14:12

4 Answers 4


I don't think there is anything in the rules about this. But, in addition to the portion of the spell you quote, you can extrapolate from known monsters: Creatures with Int 1 include frog, seahorse, various giant forms of vermin (although the giant fly rates a 2), and similar.

But I'd also consider this:

The DM might ask you to make a Wisdom (Survival) check to follow tracks, hunt wild game, guide your group through frozen wastelands, identify signs that owlbears live nearby, predict the weather, or avoid quicksand and other natural hazards.

There's nothing about penalties to one check due to low abilities in another — someone can have a very sickly Con of 1 but still be the World's Best Athlete with Dex and Str of 20 each. It seems that Feeblemind targets very specific parts of the mind concerned with language, communication, and personality — leaving perception and insight unaffected.

A whole village of feebleminded victims with no caretakers would probably have a hard time functioning for a long time — and maybe 30 days is a stretch — but it's not unreasonable to expect animal-level functional survival, given that creatures with Int 1 do survive on their own, plus what the spell itself says, plus the description of actions powered by Wisdom.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point, though I'm surprised the giant fly rates a 2 in Int. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Rose
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 6:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm I don't disagree with your reasoning, but there isn't a mass version of Feeblemind, it's an 8th level spell, and a village can have up to 1000 people. (let's call it an average of 500). The role play on the DM side as why the villagers who are not yet FM'd not fleeing is the ignored elephant in the room. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Maybe some evil god did it, or whatever. Or an artifact which duplicates the effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast An evil wizard running around in broad daylight lobotomizing people is one thing, but an invisible wizard feebleminding those who don't show proper respect to an altar made in the wizard's image is another. The villagers might be convinced that some supernatural entity beyond reproach is punishing them, which the wizard could reinforce by throwing a Symbol (Death) at the first person who tries to abandon their sacred duty and flee the village. \$\endgroup\$
    – barvobot
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 19:39

A Int 1 creature would be mostly guided by its basic instincts. They would not forget to eat, drink and sleep because they would become hungry, thirsty and sleepy. They would then attempt to fulfill those needs by eating anything that looks edible, drinking anything that's liquid and just taking a nap wherever they are when they get tired.

However, they would no longer possess the mental capacity to till a field, cook a meal, dig a well or build a house. So while the stupidified villagers might be able to survive for a few months, many of them might die as soon as their stockpiles of food run out. There might also be some casualties to accidents, because the feebleminded villagers might be unable to recognize everyday dangers and be unable to provide aid to those who get injured by them. They might also forget how to recognize what's edible and what isn't, causing some of them to become sick and die.

Regarding using the toilet: I would rather ignore that aspect, but if your GM likes to be gross, he could also decide that they forget how to use a toilet and just relieve themselves into their clothes. This would be rather unhealthy too.

So bottom line: This event will certainly not be pretty and result in a lot of tragedy, but some lucky villagers could survive in this state at least until winter. Maybe indefinitely when they have help.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Although I do agree they probably wouldn't be able to figure out how to make a nice dinner, Survival is technically a Wisdom based skill. Though something like how to grow food would probably be covered under a Nature check, which is Int based. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Rose
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 14:37

Feeblemind does much more than just lowering your INT to 1

The Feeblemind description explicitly says that

The creature can't cast spells, activate magic items, understand language, or communicate in any intelligible way.

So the creature "can't communicate in any intelligible way" because the Feeblemind effect in first place, not just because its INT is 1.

Intelligence, on the other hands, means quite narrow thing in 5e:

Intelligence, measuring reasoning and memory

An Intelligence check comes into play when you need to draw on logic, education, memory, or deductive reasoning.

So your INT represents your memory, reasoning and logic, but nothing more. Creatures with INT 1 don't die automatically just because of their "stupidity".

Feeblemind "shatters intellect and personality"

There are two different things in any spell description:

  • What happens in the game world
  • How can we treat this in terms of mechanics

For the Feeblemind spell, first one isn't very clear:

You blast the mind of a creature that you can see within range, attempting to shatter its intellect and personality.

What does it mean in the game world, as always, is up to the DM. If the DM is an adept of the "spells do only what they say they do" school, they might use the second (mechanical) part, which only says that

The target takes 4d6 psychic damage and must make an Intelligence saving throw.

On a failed save, the creature's Intelligence and Charisma scores become 1. The creature can't cast spells, activate magic items, understand language, or communicate in any intelligible way.

In this case the villagers will be okay, because the spell doesn't say the target "requires assistance in basic tasks in order to survive".

The last part in interesting though:

The creature can, however, identify its friends, follow them, and even protect them.

It seems the playtest reveals a few questions like "if I had INT of 1, can I remember my party members?" and the PHB now explicitly says "yes you can". But this answer doesn't imply that the creature cannot do anything except things mentioned in the list.

So probably the villagers survive, although a DM might rule otherwise.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your point about feeblemind having the effect of inhibiting intelligible communication, not just Int 1, made me curious so I looked at the MM and found that almost all creatures have at least Int 2. The ones that only have Int 1 though are mostly bugs and other creepy crawlies, nothing that I could expect any level of humanoid-creature interaction with (unlike say, a Cat, with Int 3 that I would presume would be able to communicate at least in some basic way to indicate that it's hungry/etc). So I wonder whether someone reduced to Int 1 via other methods would be able to communicate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Rose
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 14:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ A centipede with INT of 1 has bad memory, weak logic/reasoning skills and no education. That doesn't mean other creatures with INT of 1 have any and all mental skills (except for their reasoning and memory) at the level of a centipede. At least this is what the PHB says. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 8:44

Like mattdm said, creatures have 1 INT and still are able to eat. And wisdom is unaffected and survival checks still depends on WIS and not INT: hunting and the simple use of traps on animals might still be possible.

However, for roleplaying purposes, they should not be able to use tools to cook or sustain a fire, and would resort to raw meat, fruits and vegetables, if not helped by someone unaffected. I would imagine that diseases could appear (mainly for the raw meat), and develop in the first month or so, before the first save.

Even if nothing is clear on that aspect in the PHB or the DMG, every DM can determine the consequences of such an act; whether on a modern or classic fantasy setting, I would clearly see a very tragic result to such an action.


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