What does D&D 5e define as a living creature? More specifically, which creature types would be considered not to be living? The only creature type I see that suggests nonliving is undead.

Page 7 MM:

Undead are once-living creatures brought to a horrifying state of undeath...

The phrase "once-living" suggests that it is no longer a living creature, but what about Constructs, Elementals, Fiends, Celestials, etc.?

The Bag of Devouring directly mentions this on page 153 DMG:

Animal or vegetable matter placed wholly in the bag is devoured and lost forever. When part of a living creature is placed in the bag, as happens when someone reaches inside it, there is a 50 percent chance that the creature is pulled inside the bag... Any creature that starts its turn inside the bag is devoured, its body destroyed.

Given the mention of "living creature" as to what the bag specifically pulls in, and the additional mention of "Any creature" suggests that there are living and unliving creatures.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you include an example of where the books refer to "living creature" for completeness? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Nov 7 '17 at 6:31
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you ask? The difference between creature and object is relevant and previously dealt with. Why do you care about the difference between living and non-living? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Nov 7 '17 at 6:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I added the example of where this comes up underneath the question. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7 '17 at 6:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not seeing how this makes a mechanical difference \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Nov 7 '17 at 7:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The mechanical difference is whether or not a Bag of Devouring would completely ignore say something like a Vampire, Zombie, Skeleton, etc. Someone could use Animate Dead and command the skeleton/zombie to withdraw items from the bag safely. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7 '17 at 10:03

A living creature is a creature that is alive

Defining life is difficult, but recognizing it is pretty easy. You consider the creature in question and then go 'Is that alive?' and if the answer is 'Yes.' then it's yes, and if it's 'No.' then it's no and if it's 'Maybe?' then it's probably no for the purposes of D&D.

Beyond that, it comes down to souls. D&D acknowledges the soul as the seat of identity as well as life, and things that have souls are, generally, alive, while those that do not are not. The biggest category of exception are the undead who, in keeping with folklore, are neither truly dead nor truly alive, trapped in a hellish and unnatural state of being. Other exceptions can exist, and it's probably best to just go with your intuition on this one.

There's no 5e equivalent to the 3.5 rule about Constitution scores, if that's what you're looking for.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Undead are obviously not alive, and in previous editions constructs weren't (except Living Constructs, i.e., warforged) -- but at the same time, is that what it really means for the Bag of Devouring? Are undead really safe from being devoured? (Which actually is kind of a cool idea, a vampire who keeps valuable items in a bag of devouring that only he and his minions can safely use...) But constructs? Animated armor isn't alive, but are modrons not living things? Flesh golems? Maybe there IS a consistent answer to this, but it's really up to the DM to make that determination. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7 '17 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ My personal sense is that the idea behind the bag of devouring is 'living creature' doesn't exclude undead or constructs, but rather is meant to distinguish between, say, testing a bag with a corpse's arm versus a creature that is conscious and moving around. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7 '17 at 16:31

I believe in this context undead and constructs would be considered "non-living". I make this judgements because there are many spells and abilities that specifically call out that they don't work on undead and constructs, and lore-wise, constructs are inanimate objects given an appearance of life via magic.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .