The Intellect Devourer's Body Thief specifies:

A protection from evil and good spell cast on the body drives the intellect devourer out

However, the protection from evil and good spell can only target a creature not the body in particular. How do I reconcile this difference? Can I assume that targeting a creature equates to targeting its body?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure I understand this. Is it possible to target a creature without targeting its body? \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Mar 12 '18 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis Certainly if the creature doesn't have a body, for example \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 12 '18 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Example? Ghosts and other incorporeal things have bodies. They are just insubstantial. I realize that "incorporeal" means "without body" in a literal sense, but in an illustrative sense, all entries in the monster manual have a body: a shape that indicates their position. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Mar 12 '18 at 20:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis body doesn't have a clear definition in 5e, so we use the plain English: "the physical structure of a person or an animal." An incorporeal entity does not have a physical structure. Using an illustrative sense seems meaningless when working with a ruling. I don't know why body would ever mean "a shape that indicates their position" \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 12 '18 at 20:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a matter of great subjectivity, given that they can often be damaged by physical objects or exist in a physical sense on other planes. In the specific case of your question, I would think that the intent of the text is clear, but that gets don into the realm of an answer. EDIT: Which I have now given. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Mar 12 '18 at 21:02

This is a case of specific beats general :

monster abilities, and other game elements break the general rules in some way, creating an exception to how the rest of the game works. (PHB 7)

The general rule here is the description of protection from good and evil that states that the spell has to target a creature. The rules in the stat block of the intellect devourer are more specific and allow the casting in a given circumstance even though it violates the general rule.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that while they technically don't actually provide an exception, 5e rules are not intended to be functional as written and this is clearly the intent of the passage. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Mar 12 '18 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ "not intended to be functional as written"? \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Mar 12 '18 at 21:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer You can actually cast a spell on an invalid target, but usually nothing happens. pfgae can be cast at the body and the specific rule here says that it even has an effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Mar 12 '18 at 21:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron "If you cast a spell on someone or something that can't be affected by the spell, nothing happens to that target, but if you used a spell slot to cast the spell, the slot is still expended." (XgtE 85-86) \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Mar 12 '18 at 21:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Read the entire section in the book. It includes casting at an illusion for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Mar 12 '18 at 22:23

In this case, the word "body" is likely used because otherwise, the sentence would be unclear. The word "creature" could be confusing as to whether it referred to the possessed body or the Intellect Devourer. Since the latter cannot be seen, it can be inferred that the text refers to casting the spell on the possessed creature, but using the word "body" removes doubt.

It's not standard usage of game terms, admittedly, but the intent seems pretty straightforward, given the lack of alternatives.


Perhaps I'm missing something in the original question, but this seems to all work as written as far as I can see. Examining the last paragraph of the Body Thief ability:

"If the host body drops to 0 hit points, the intellect devourer must leave it. A protection from evil and good spell cast on the body drives the intellect devourer out. The intellect devourer is also forced out if the target regains its devoured brain by means of a wish. By spending 5 feet of its movement, the intellect devourer can voluntarily leave the body, teleporting to the nearest unoccupied space within 5 feet of it. The body then dies, unless its brain is restored within 1 round"

The host body can be assumed to still be a living, breathing creature, since the text of the Body Thief ability states that it dies only after the Intellect Devourer leaves it's skull. That suggests it is a perfectly valid target for a touch-delivered spell- in this case, the spell is never being cast on the Intellect Devourer, but is instead cast on the host body, driving the Devourer out.

This does, however, bring up an interesting issue of how a brainless living shell can be "willing", as per the PFGaE spell description, but that's a different question...

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is fine if you assume casting it on the body counts as casting it on the creature (which is the target for the spell) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 13 '18 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahh, I see the confusion! PfGaE is not cast on the creature you want to be protected from- it's cast on a target you want to protect. Quoting the PHB: "Until the spell ends, one willing creature you touch is protected against certain types of creatures: aberrations, celestials,... Creatures of those types have disadvantage on attack rolls against the target. The target also can’t be charmed, frightened, or possessed by them. If the target is already charmed, frightened, or possessed by such a creature....". So you're not targeting the Devourer, you're targeting the poor sap it's in. \$\endgroup\$ – The Grumbleputty Mar 13 '18 at 21:14

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