My friend has a Turn Undead spell ability, being a paladin in 5e, and we entered a small room that had a skeleton in it. He was going to use Turn Undead to trap it in a corner, except the barbarian decided that smashing it was a better plan.

My question is, if Fear were to be cast on a creature and it can't get away, could it possibly die from it (assuming that its not undead)?

Example: A wizard casts Fear on a kobold. The kobold then runs from the wizard. The kobold gets caught in a small cave with only one entrance. The wizard continues to advance on the kobold even though its trapped in a corner. Can the kobold die from the sheer fear of the spell? Or does the kobold resort to fighting because it can no longer flee?

Example 2: A minotaur barbarian tries to intimidate the last bandit in a beaten raid party. Minotaur rolls natural 20 for intimidate, the bandit rolls natural 1 for resisting the intimidation. The bandit tries to run away but finds himself trapped in a copse of trees or vines. Can he die from the fear?

Main question: Can Fear kill someone in D&D 5e? I know it can kill someone in real life due to cardiac arrest or other life threatening issues, but can it kill in-game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ A natural 1 or 20 on an ability check is utterly irrelevant in dnd-5e. Only on an Attack does a roll does 1 or 20 matter at all. That's in the basic rules, and in the PHB. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 13 '18 at 5:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Er...what does your first paragraph have to do with the rest of the question? A "turned" creature is not necessarily suffering from "fear" or the "frightened" condition, which is a separate effect. (Also, for 5e Paladins, it appears that their ability, which is not a spell, is called "turn the unholy", not "turn undead".) \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Strand Mar 13 '18 at 17:46

The spell? No. The condition? No. The emotion? Maybe.

As has been stated elsewhere, the spell Fear (PHB, p. 239) and the condition Frightened (PHB, p. 290) never directly do damage. If they did, the text describing them would say so.

There is some support for the idea that a creature could feel sufficient fear that it actually damages them. Consider the spell Phantasmal Killer (PHB, p. 265):

PHANTASMAL KILLER You tap into the nightmares of a creature you can see within range and create an illusory manifestation of its deepest fears, visible only to that creature. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target becomes frightened for the duration. At the start of each of the target’s turns before the spell ends, the target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 4d10 psychic damage. On a successful save, the spell ends.

In this case, the spell is what does the damage: but the illusion is not described as attacking the character, nor is it necessarily an illusion of a dangerous entity that can do harm (contrast this with the spell Phantasmal Force, which states that the illusion does damage if it can reach/attack the creature, and if it is specifically an illusion of a thing that could realistically damage the creature). This could be seen as implying that it is the magical fear itself which does psychic damage to the target.

Similarly, consider the 14th level Fiend patron Warlock ability, Hurl Through Hell (PHB, p. 109)

HURL THROUGH HELL: ...The creature disappears and hurtles through a nightmare landscape. At the end of your next turn, the target returns to the space it previously occupied, or the nearest unoccupied space. If the target is not a fiend, it takes 10d10 psychic damage as it reels from its horrific experience.

The implication is that the experience is sufficiently horrifying that such horror does damage to the target.

Note that this should not imply that creatures which can cause the Frightened condition (such as older Dragons or an Androsphynx) automatically damage Frightened enemies. If a feature did damage through emotional trauma, then its written description would say so.

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Short answer: no

Nothing in the text states that fear kills.

Usually, fear creates the Frightened Condition (PHB. Appendix A)

• A frightened creature has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight.
• The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

Depending upon the skill, spell, or ability that inflicts fear the details vary somewhat. It is possible for a frightened creature to run away from the source of fear off of a cliff, but in the general sense fear itself cannot kill.

It's a side effect depending heavily upon the situation.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." (~Franklin D. Roosevelt, before D&D was invented)

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    \$\begingroup\$ While a creature could choose to jump off a cliff it is not obligated to do so by the frightened condition and since that is a terrible life choice it probably wouldn't. \$\endgroup\$ – nwp Mar 13 '18 at 7:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ In 3.5 fear could kill, but in 5e it does not. In 3.5 Phantasmal killer was a spell that killed by causing so much fear that the target creature's heart stopped. Back then fear could kill and was a save or die with the right spell, though of course the Fear spell was not this powerful. You could still homebrew it today, but it doesn't seem to be a thing anymore with the washed out PK and Weird in 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – Tyler S. Loeper Mar 13 '18 at 10:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nwp If running away from the source of fear into (for example) an obscured area near a cliff edge, it is possible that a creature may end up going over the cliff. Note that I did not say jump off a cliff. There are too many scenarios to try and figure them all out. So it might happen, and it might not. Likewise, if there is the illusion of a bridge over a crevasse, the feared creature might move away from you by the safest available route on each of its turns, unless there is nowhere to move ... if it believes the bridge, over the cliff it goes. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 13 '18 at 14:59

The Fear spell says that the creature becomes Frightened. The Frightened condition means:

•A frightened creature has disadvantage on Ability Checks and Attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight.

•The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

The Fear spell further says:

[...] While frightened by this spell, a creature must take the Dash action and move away from you by the safest available route on each of its turns, unless there is nowhere to move. [...]

So the Kobold backed into a corner in Example A would no longer be forced to dash away (there is "nowhere to move") but could not move out of the corner either ("can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear"). It is now trapped in the corner, but still able to perform any other actions which don't involve moving (it "has disadvantage on Ability Checks and Attack rolls" but it can still try). Nothing in the rules says that it would take any direct harm from this situation or even drop dead.

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