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In an AL game recently, I was playing my Wild Magic Sorcerer (PHB p. 103-104) and our group was suddenly surrounded by cultists.

In light of the bad situation, I threw caution to the wind and triggered my Wild Magic as often as possible. One of my early rolls was 01, which means I roll on the table every round for the next minute, which turned me into a volatile walking time bomb.

One of the enemy leaders whom I had recently annoyed made it a point to pummel me into the dirt shortly thereafter, including throat-punching me while I was down to give me 2 failed death saving throws.

To my knowledge, this does not terminate the Wild Magic effects from occurring, and we continued to play on with that assumption.

Several similar, but related questions:

  • Is the assumption that the Wild Magic continues after being knocked unconscious accurate?
  • Does the Wild Magic continue if the enemy leader had opted to continue punching me to death?
  • If it is accurate, how much control can I exert over it? For example, if my Sorcerer is unconscious and I roll a 10, which is magic missile as a 5th-level spell, can I choose to have it target enemies?
  • Does the answer change if I'm dead?
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Yes, your wild magic continues while unconscious

According to this answer, you can continue to use Tides of Chaos while unconscious. The "unconscious" condition states the following:

Unconscious (Appendix A, p. 292)

  • An unconscious creature is incapacitated (see the condition),
  • can’t move or speak,
  • and is unaware of its surroundings.
  • The creature drops whatever it’s holding and falls prone.
  • The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.

Incapacitated (Appendix A p. 291)

  • An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions.

Since the wild magic effect does not state any end condition other than "after one minute", it continues and does not itself end because of your lack of consciousness. Additionally, since this is not an action or movement and doesn't require any action on the part of the user, it continues as the Incapacitated and Unconscious conditions do not mechanically affect it.

I would say that from a lore/narrative standpoint this holds up as well. The PHB states on page 103:

However it came to be, this chaotic magic churns within you, waiting for any outlet.

To me, this perfectly fits the magic continuing to function while the user is unconscious, as they're still alive and the magic within them is now free to be released as the user is no longer conscious to control it.

No, magic missile would not work while unconscious.

The entry for the Wild Magic magic missile states:

You cast magic missile as a 5th level spell.

As stated by Szega, you cannot select targets for the spell while unconscious, as you're "unaware of your surroundings". Your 5 senses are not functioning whatsoever (no sight, smell, sounds, touch, or taste).

So as per DM discretion the targets may be randomly selected or the spell may fizzle outright. The PHB states that Wild Magic "creates a random magical effect". I would personally rule that in the specific case of magic missile that it targets random creatures (including the players and the caster) as this is more exciting and in my opinion it is in line with the intended lore and narrative of Wild Magic, but I'm no Adventure League DM.

Death

While I was unable to find any official source for this information, I also couldn't find one that conflicted with what I'm about to say.

This section is my interpretation of the rules. You and your DM may interpret them differently, I would suggest talking with your DM to see what you can work out. The rules for 5e seem to assume that once death occurs, the DM will handle the specific mechanics of it.

I would rule that your character's Wild Magic ceases to function when you die as whatever within you that was powering it (your life force, your soul, some amount of raw magical energy contained within your body) is no longer present.

I would rule that you no longer have a turn when dead, so that Wild Magic (as well as any other effect that does not specifically state that it continues when dead) ceases to function. Death is death. Once your character dies, it's removed from the initiative order and cannot affect anything else in the game (barring some homebrew classes and mechanics).

As I've said, this is my opinion so feel free to discuss with your DM and come to a different conclusion.

Conclusion

Wild magic continues to function while unconscious but you cannot do anything that requires your character to take any action or use any component to cast the spell. While dead, your character is effectively removed from the game and cannot affect it further. So, to answer your four questions:

  • Yes, Wild Magic continues to function while unconscious.
  • No, it would not continue if the enemy leader had chosen to kill you outright (subject to DM interpretation).
  • You cannot do anything that requires spell components or any sort of action economy while unconscious, nor can you select targets for things such as magic missile. The same applies if you're dead (subject to DM interpretation).

As I said, if any of this information is incorrect, feel free to correct me with a comment and I'll edit the answer appropriately! I hope this was helpful!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can expound further on your statement regarding performing the components of the spell? As written now, it suggests that a WMS has control over their wild magic effects, but that doesn't seem to be the case in other examples I've seen. For example, I would rule that if the dice rolled "hit yourself with a fireball" and you were inside a Silence effect, then you hit yourself with a fireball and no one hears you scream. The fireball isn't cancelled because you can't speak. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 24 '18 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Casting a spell as the result of a Surge does not require an action, it is an additional effect. It also should not need components (although I'm not 100% on that). What would that look like? The magic surging in you forcing your hand to write intricate runes in the air? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 24 '18 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your last statement on death seems to be self-conflicting. You said you could not find any official data source, but exempt certain game mechanics to continue affecting the world. Doesn't Wild Magic fulfill that requirement? Could it not be reasonably construed that the body of a WMS is a vessel that flows with magic readily and though you killed the person therein, the body is still surging with magic? Similar to an out of control magical pentagram that the adventurers interrupted the ritual of? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 24 '18 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ "You cast" means only that you are the source of the spell and you make any choices as necessary. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 24 '18 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please provide a citation that dead creatures do not have a turn. As I commented for Szega, that logic means that certain effects would have no end. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 24 '18 at 13:43
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Not when dead, with limitations when unconscious

The exact wording of the effect starts with:

Roll on this table at the start of each of your turns for the next minute ..

This rules out continuing after you are dead, as a dead creature has no turn.

However a Wild Magic Surge requires no action on the part of the sorcerer and thus can happen when he is incapacitated. Other parts of the unconscious condition do not prohibit it either.

What may limit your options is that:

An unconscious creature [..] is unaware of its surroundings (PHB 292)

This makes targeting spells impossible. Thus casting fog cloud on yourself is still okay as the target is given by the effect, but there are problems with a magic missile or similar. This will come down to a DM ruling, but I see two options: choosing random targets within range or the spell failing. I personally would go with the latter.

There are also some other limitations (eg. polymorph fails on 0 HP creatures), but listing everything is outside of the scope of this answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide a citation on a dead creature not having a turn? By that logic, being hit by a Monk's stunning fist, which lasts until the end of the Monk's next turn, would result in the creature being stunned forever if the Monk was subsequently killed before their next turn came around. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 24 '18 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical A dead creature is no longer a creature. Its body is now an object and objects do not have turns. Certain objects (like traps) may do something on a certain initiative count, but they never even have an initiative score. Sadly the 5e rules are not worded with enough attention to detail to cover such edge cases and the DM is supposed to mend the situation. I think ruling that a monk-stun ends on a certain initiative count is a smaller perturbation than ruling that dead creatures have a turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 24 '18 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, but at that point, is it not reasonable to assume this body is more or less an active magical trap? To my knowledge, there are no stipulations that Wild Magic ends just because you died. Were a confusion spell cast by Wild Magic, it does not necessarily end simply because the WMS was killed. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 24 '18 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Spells already cast will not end and I have not said so. While the question could stand being edited to make it clearer, it is about a roll of 01 only. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 24 '18 at 14:41

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