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From what I can tell, it seems that "creature" and "object" are intended to be mutually exclusive categories in D&D 5e. The distinction is important in the targeting of many effects and spells.

Is there an example (possibly an edge case) of something that can be considered both at once?

Any kind of combination or mixture of effects/conditions is acceptable.

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Whereas nothing is yet explicitly well defined for creature and object I believe the intent at this time is:

No. Nothing is considered an object and a creature simultaneously.

As defined by various Tweets from Crawford:

  • Creature: Crawford indicates that a creature has a type as defined in the introduction to the Monster Manual.
  • A petrified creature is still a creature as well as no condition changes your type.
  • Intelligent magical items are also explicitly objects because they don't have a type, presumably from the first point.
  • Contrary to J Foster's claim on the verbiage of the resurrection spells. In English a group of words describing something almost always has a single word name. So when the text says it is targeting a "creature that has died", what that means is you are targeting a corpse/cadaver which has been repeatedly stated as an object. According to this tweet it was a creature which means it is not any longer such. Conversely, a construct is a creature that was an object.
  • Objects are defined as "discrete, inanimate objects" in the DMG on p246. This does allude that in game terms that a house plant would be considered an object.
  • Even the targeting for spells seem to allude that they are separate things on PHB 204 (emphasis mine).

A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect (described below).

  • True Polymorph seems to be an edge case, the fact that if you are polymorphed into an object you don't remember anything and that you gain all the statistics of the new form would, to me, indicate that for the duration you were in fact an object and not a creature.
  • Animate Object spell seems to use unfortunate and misleading verbiage as well. Although, the spell does explicitly state that the objects in question become creatures under your control until they are reduced to 0 hit points. The prolonged use of the word object is probably used for short hand as opposed to designating that it is an object. To me this seems to solidify that something can be one or the other but not both.

I assume your question is stemming from a question on targeting. Xanathar's guide has some of the clarifications indicated from the Jan 19, 2017 Podcast which concerns itself with Twin Spell and targeting, it is well worth the listen and might help you out with your game.

In the end if your DM rules that there can be something that fits both definitions regardless if I would personally disagree it is your table. You can argue it but ultimately the decision is theirs.

Clarification on the English portion of my argument in bullet 4: This was an attempt to take the wording from the spell "a creature that has died" and link it to a word that has game connotations "corpse" this is to make a transitive argument as follows:

  • "a creature that has died" = "corpse/cadaver" -English
  • "corpse" = "object" -Game Terms

Therefore

  • "a creature that has died" = "object" -Transitive association

Something with a creature type in its stat block per JC is a creature but objects don't have creature types therefore something cannot be both a creature and an object at the same time.

I think of this as a state. A spell, as an example, can change your state to that of an object for its duration or grant objects a creature state for its duration but once the duration expires your state reverts to its norm.

Another example...

Animate Dead grants a corpse (object) a creature type, it doesn't change an existing creature type from one thing to another.

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A dead creature

  • The spells Raise Dead and Resurrection both use the term 'dead creature'
  • True Ressurection targets "a creature that has been dead"
  • Revivify "a creature that has died"
  • Reincarnate "a dead humanoid" which it then qualifies with "provided the creature has been dead"
  • The section of the PHB on Healing uses the language "a creature that has died"

In each of these rules, a creature is still called a "creature" even after death.

On the other hand, there is this in the chapter on Equipment under the heading "Improvised Weapons" (page 49 in the Basic Rules, emphasis mine):

An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.

As written the rules support that a dead creature is both a creature and an object.


In addition, there is this statement from Jeremy Crawford that "a corpse is an object". Crawford's statements though are rulings and not official rules. Thank you to @jgn for pointing out that this is found in the rules themselves and not just in a designer statement.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This recently came up when one of my players asked if he could use Twin Spell on Revivify. Crawford has repeatedly indicated that a corpse is an object and not a creature. To me the wording in these spells is misleading and will hopefully be rectified in future printings. I believe the intent is that you are targeting an object based on context and Crawford's rulings. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Feb 2 '18 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Finally found Crawford's Tweet that may help put this to rest. A corpse was a creature, ergo it is no longer a creature. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Feb 21 '18 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm torn. This answer does usefully elucidate the question. However, "a dead creature" seems more semantically like "a blue sword" than "a creature/object." The language specifies the type of object, not an inclusion of one into the other's category. \$\endgroup\$ – noneuklid Feb 22 '18 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Big +1. If objects and creatures are mutually exclusive, then it is insanity to use the term "a creature" to describe "an object". This is the only reasonable explanation by RAW. A corpse is both "a creature that has died" and "an object", the two classes are not mutually exclusive. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Jan 10 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that in the rules (eg the section on improvised weapons) corpses are referred to as objects, so even without JC's twitter we still know that corpses are both objects and creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Jan 10 at 14:02
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Sentient Magic Items

Sentient magic items have minds like many creatures do, and can take a number of different actions, including the independent activation or suppression of their powers and attempts to possess their wielder. They do not, however, have Dex scores (which makes initiative unclear and possibly inapplicable) and furthermore are consistently referred to as characters rather than creatures. They are definitely objects, but they can do most of the things creatures can do, and potentially want most of the things PCs might want, and they might also be creatures as a result, depending on how your GM defines that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good find! Though, it looks like Jeremy Crawford at least says that they are definitely objects. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 2 '18 at 19:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but per usual his tweet fails to actually say they aren't creatures or give any real reason why they aren't (a sentient item can certainly also incidentally possess types in the MM; the type--creature link is a very bad delineation to make. For example 'plant' hardly seems like something an item can't be.). I agree it's clear he thinks he said that, though, and the tweet is a good find. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Feb 6 '18 at 5:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ As of the release of Ghosts of Saltmarsh (and, I think, Descent into Avernus?), ships/vehicles also have physical ability scores, and actions. I think we can all agree that this does not make them creatures. While sentient magic items may share some of the traits of creatures from a philosophical perspective, I don't think this makes them creatures from a mechanical perspective, and nothing in the game says they are creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 11 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Nothing in the game says practically anything is a creature. In fact, we have a question about that, the comments on which come full circle: What is the definition of “creature” and is it used consistently?. Instead, each DM must decide what counts as a creature in their games, and strange indeed would be the definition excluding Sentient Magic Items (at least imho), unless it should explicitly state that nothing which is an object can be a creature. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jan 11 at 21:54
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True Polymorph?

If you turn a creature into an object using True Polymorph, it's still a creature but has the properties of an object:

Creature into Object: If you turn a creature into an object, it transforms along with whatever it is wearing and carrying into that form. The creature's Statistics become those of the object, and the creature has no memory of time spent in this form, after the spell ends and it returns to its normal form.

The phrase "the creature's statistics become..." indicates that it's still a creature, but it has been turned into an object by the definition of the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There have been a number of questions and answers indicating what "statistics" means... to include type. I believe the intent for that spell is that for the duration you are, indeed, an object. I find this interpretation hard to swallow. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Feb 2 '18 at 21:15
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Yes, a creature can be both a creature and an object at the same time

There is at least one example in the rules of this: the Mimic.

The Mimic can take an action to use its Shapechanger feature to:

[...] polymorph into an object or back into its true, amorphous form. Its statistics are the same in each form.

By the text of that ability it has changed into an object, but is simultaneously also a creature!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 10 at 15:02
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Yes, Animate Objects.

According to Crawford, no longer being a valid target terminates an ongoing spell. However, Animate Objects requires an object as a target. Therefore, one of two things happens when the spell is cast. Either it:

  • Terminates immediately (because the object stops being an object and is no longer a valid target) or
  • Causes the target to count as both an object and as a creature of the construct type for the duration of the spell.

Since the spell's description very strongly indicates that the former is not the case (eg, it specifies how far the object can move in a round, which would be nonsensical if the spell weren't intended to do the latter).

It's possible that this is a case of a specific spell behaving in a way that trumps the general rule of spells terminating when their target is invalid. Even if that's the case, it creates an edge case where something is simultaneously treated in some respects as an object, and in other respects as a creature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Except that this spell grants the object a creature type for the duration of the spell. Initial cast has to be an object but during the spell's duration it is not according to how his tweets have stated. So I read this as object becomes creature then when the spell terminates it becomes an object again. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Feb 22 '18 at 21:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, animated objects are listed in the MM as creatures explicitly. I see where you are going with it though, I just think it is an unfortunate way to word that spell description. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Feb 22 '18 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth Nothing is listed in the MM except creature statistics. The object's statistics as an object are in the PHB, DMG, or left to the DM's discretion. Using either set of statistics alone would be insufficient to describe the animated object's properties. Consequently, it's either explicitly both an object and a creature, or an edge case where the distinction is more harmful than helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – noneuklid Feb 22 '18 at 22:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think any wording of the spell would eliminate the need to use both sets of stats (creature and object). \$\endgroup\$ – noneuklid Feb 23 '18 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correction to your first line: Crawford more recently has said that there is in fact, no hard rule on what happens when a target becomes invalid. "There's no rule governing what happens when a valid spell target temporarily becomes an invalid target. A good rule of thumb is that the spell is suppressed while the target is invalid." \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 26 '19 at 14:39
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Possibly

A PC who has died while wearing the Ring of Mind Shielding might be considered an object and a creature.

If you die while wearing the ring, your soul enters it, unless it already houses a soul. You can remain in the ring or depart for the afterlife. As long as your soul is in the ring, you can telepathically communicate with any creature wearing it. A wearer can't prevent this telepathic Communication.

A distinction from other sentient objects to be at least considered would be player agency. I fear my “answer” is just a similar question, but it would be a good candidate for a edge case.

The reason I believe the PC could be a creature is if the DM allowed you to have agency after entering the ring. I believe you would not be considered a Sentient Magic Item. DMG 214

Sentient magic items function as NPCs under the GM’s control.

So in this example you would not be functioning as an NPC and you would not be under the DMs control, so you would have to be something else.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How are you a creature in this case? The Ring of Mind Shielding is purely an object, and it also may contain a soul. But it's still an object. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 26 '19 at 18:13
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In addition to creatures polymorphed into objects, and intelligent magic items, constructs also bridge this gap in many aspects.

There's no single rule, but there are many aspects. Some of those are handled by immunities and resistances. Some of those are handled by specific rules in spells (e.g. extra damage from Shatter). Some are handled by good sense (e.g. constructs do not have souls or life force, and thus cannot be Raised, Resurrected, Reincarnated, turned into undead, etc.).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a rules reference for constructs being identified as objects? \$\endgroup\$ – AgentAquarius Feb 3 '18 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no single rule, but there are many aspects. Some of those are handled by immunities and resistances. Some of those are handled by specific rules in spells (e.g. extra damage from Shatter). Some are handled by good sense (e.g. constructs do not have souls or life force, and thus cannot be Raised, Resurrected, Reincarnated, turned into undead, etc.). Many aspects. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Feb 3 '18 at 20:01

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