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From the spell description:

Sleep (...) Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected in ascending order of their current hit points (ignoring unconscious creatures). Starting with the creature that has the lowest current hit points,(...) Subtract each creature’s hit points from the total before moving on to the creature with the next lowest hit points. A creature’s hit points must be equal to or less than the remaining total for that creature to be affected. Undead and creatures immune to being charmed aren’t affected by this spell. (PH p.276)

Now, to build the ascending order of their current hitpoints, the spell instructs to count everyone in area of effect, but only ignore unconscous creatures. Then later on it says that Undead and creatures immune to being charmed aren't affected.

Are those two latter kinds of creatures excluded from the roll of current HP by default? Following the "if they were it would say so" philosophy of Sage Advice, it doesn't seem so to me.

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Looking at those two fragments:

Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected(...)

A creature’s hit points must be equal to or less than the remaining total for that creature to be affected.

it seems like "being affected" means having your hp deducted from the roll and being subjected to sleep, so therefore this:

Undead and creatures immune to being charmed aren’t affected by this spell.

would mean to me that these creatures are not subject to the spell at all, just like unconscious ones. Also note it says "aren't affected by this spell", and not "aren't affected by the sleep effect" or something similar.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 7 '20 at 0:32
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Yes, they're excluded.

Specific beats general. So the general rule for sleep is that all creatures within 20 feet are affected. Then, later in the spell description, a specific exception is made for undead and creatures immune to being charmed. They aren't affected at all by the spell, so they don't count against the total HP affected by it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just remember, not being affected by magical sleep is not the same as immune to being charmed. So you (half-elves at least) can have your HP total reduce the spell effectivness, but not actually be put to sleep. \$\endgroup\$
    – JPicasso
    Nov 29 '17 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, but the question didn't ask that. Is there something specific you think would improve this answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Nov 29 '17 at 19:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I prefer this answer. Not because I'm sure it's right, but because I can tell what it's trying to say. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30 '17 at 2:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JPicasso But not being affected by magical sleep is the same as not being affected by the sleep spell, so it's another instance that falls in line with being undead or immune to charm. (Not affected.) It would just be silly and redundant to say "creatures which cannot be put to sleep by magic are not put to sleep by this magic." If the conclusion is creatures which are not affected are not counted towards the HP total, then half-elves are in that group. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeus
    Dec 1 '17 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zeus The Fey Ancestry trait just says "magic can’t put you to sleep". Creatures affected by sleep have two things happen to them: (1) their hit points reduce the total hit points affected by the spell, and (2) they are put to sleep if all of their hit points were affected. Creatures that can't be put to sleep ignore the second effect; creatures that aren't affected by the spell ignore both of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Apr 8 '19 at 12:31
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Creatures unaffected by the sleep spell, like undead, do not count towards the hp total.

tl;dr The spell iterates over affected creatures. Undead are specifically called out as unaffected.

Unaffected creatures are unaffected.

Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected in ascending order of their current hit points...

Since the undead are unaffected, they are not in the group of creatures spelled out by the effects.

Sleep hit point calculation

The dependence for being in the affected group of creatures is further supported by the text describing the calculation procedure.

Starting with the creature that has the lowest current hit points, each creature affected by this spell falls unconscious until the spell ends, the sleeper takes damage, or someone uses an action to shake or slap the sleeper awake.

The next sentence explains the HP calculation, and the phrase "each creature's" refers to the same group from the preceding sentence; specifically those in the spell's range and affected.

Subtract each creature's hit points from the total before moving on the creature with the next lowest hit points..."

Since unaffected creatures are not being referred to by this statement, they do not end up counting towards the hp total of the spell. It only applies the unconscious condition and subtracts the hp of affected creatures from the total.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How does this add meaningfully to the answers by Mark and Marq? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 21 '19 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, the current dndbeyond text on elves is "magic can't put you to sleep", not "you are not affected by the sleep spell". \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 21 '19 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Grosscol Upvoted for having the most thorough textual analysis and because mentioning the two types of player characters who would be excluded is helpful. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21 '19 at 17:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ My point is that there's a semantic difference between "unaffected by sleep" (ie, the spell) and "magic can't put you to sleep" (the text on the elf trait). This answer conflates the two without comment, as if ignoring the exact wording on the elf trait. I suppose that you could make the argument that the poitn of the sleep spell is to put people to sleep,a nd therefore if it can't put them to sleep, they are practically unaffected by it, etc, etc, etc... but you haven't made that argument. Given that this is the only logical distinction between your answer and the other two.... \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 21 '19 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The pertinent answer in "other relevant questions" is Sleep's hp total and (half-) elf targets - which disagrees with you. If you want to assert this answer, you're going to need to provide the logic for yourself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 21 '19 at 18:44
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So when I read this question the scenario it conjured up was someone wanting to know if surrounding themselves with lower level undead can work to absorb hit points from an incoming Sleep spell, thus making themselves effectively immune to sleep.

Rules as written, Sleep specifically states "Undead and creatures immune to being charmed aren't affected by this spell."

What it doesn't say is that they're not targeted by this spell.

Let me use a different example that uses the same defensive mechanic:

The Necromancer, with his skeletons, casts sleep on the party of adventurers he's fighting - unable to make out their features, due to disguises and fog cloud, lets say, he misses the fact that they're a party of 4 High Elves and a Human.

So looking at the "do undead eat away at Sleeps effectiveness" question, you need to address that same question with Elves, who share the the same defense:

"Fey Ancestry: You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can't put you to sleep."

So in that situation either the Elves are completely immune and the sleep spell entirely wallops the lone human, or they soak up some of the effectiveness of the sleep spell and their natural immunity makes the magic less effective.

Sleep says "aren't affected by this spell." Fey Ancestry says "magic can't put you to sleep." Sleep also says "each creature affected by this spell" And then says "undead aren't affected by this spell"

So while it may initially seem like the same defense it's not. I'd argue the following:

Undead HP totals aren't counted by Sleep for targeting because the spell specifies "roll 5d8; the total is how many creatures this spell can affect.

Starting with the creature with the lowest current hit points, each creature affected by this spell falls unconscious until the spell ends [...]

Undead [...] aren't affected by this spell.

Elves, on the other hand, can be hit with the spell, it just doesn't put them to sleep.

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They are 'included', but not 'affected'

To me these are separate things included in 2 separate clauses within the description.

Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected in ascending order of their current hit points (ignoring unconscious creatures).

This section talks about how the hit dice work and does not mention undead.

A creature’s hit points must be equal to or less than the remaining total for that creature to be affected. Undead and creatures immune to being charmed aren’t affected by this spell.

This clause only talks about effect and undead are unaffected; if they were not targeted they would not need to pick them out as unaffected.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nothing's targeted, it's an AoE. But you're saying undead HP are still counted towards the effectiveness of the spell, such that some of the effectiveness of the spell is lost by casting it near creatures which are not affected by it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeus
    Dec 1 '17 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes exactly. I mean targeted as the word rather than the D&D term (Must learn to separate my terminology better). I read that any conscious creature counts towards the hit dice pool, regardless of race, class, immunity etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Dec 2 '17 at 10:44

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