The next dungeon my party visits will contain some strange statues. Most of them are just Stone Golems, which will attack them. But near the end of the dungeon, the party will discover that one of the statues is no statue at all, but a petrified monk. He was petrified over 500 years ago (which is important for plot reasons) by a flesh to stone spell. The party cleric will (probably) cast Greater Restoration and turn the monk back to normal. I really like this idea, because it allows me to bring in an eyewitness who experienced firsthand what happened half a millennium ago.

I assumed that the monk would be thankful and glad to share some reliable knowledge with the party. Then I read through the petrified condition:

• A petrified creature is transformed, along with any nonmagical object it is wearing or carrying, into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone). Its weight increases by a factor of ten, and it ceases aging.

• The creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.

• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.

• The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity Saving Throws.

• The creature has Resistance to all damage.

• The creature is immune to poison and disease, although a poison or disease already in its system is suspended, not neutralized.

A petrified creature is also incapacitated:

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

But I cannot find the part where it says that the petrified creature is unconscious. Which means that this poor monk stood in the dungeon for 500 years without being able to see, hear or feel anything. Completely alone with his thoughts. As a consequence, he is probably insane after the cleric fixed him. Am I overlooking something?

Does a petrified creature stay conscious (and mentally sane)?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk Oct 12 at 1:21
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    Wow, that is some insanely heavy stone. Most stone is only 2–3× the density of water, and the human body is about the density of water (985kg/m³) … thus if one were turned to stone you'd weigh about 3× as much. The heaviest/densest stone is peridotite, weighing in at 3.4g/cm³ (i.e. 3,400 kg/m³) – Erics Oct 12 at 4:48
  • @Erics certain mantle rocks can get to around 5.4 g/cm3 - at that point, minerals are in alternative denser structures (polymorphs) that don't occur at the service as they are not stable at these pressures. Silicon dioxide's mantle polymorph stishovite more that double's its density. They also are 30% or more iron and nickel. Mantle petrology is not my specialty and it doesnt change the fact that rocks get nowhere near as dense as 10x flesh. – patternseeker Oct 12 at 18:30
  • For what it's worth, "A petrified creature is transformed ... into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone)" means the character becomes stone through and through, brain included. A brain made of stone can't conduct electricity, and a brain that can't conduct electricity can't think. They're not unconscious; they just have no consciousness anymore. – Lord Farquaad Oct 12 at 20:08
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Not-Unconscious does not necessarily mean awake and aware.

Sometimes the game just expects us to understand certain terms without giving explicit rules text about what they mean. Famously, 5e doesn't specify a 'dead' condition or give any rules about what it means to be dead. So there is a precedent for the game having certain game concepts left to the players' understanding of the world without giving specific rules text.

The Unconscious condition has specific effects that don't jibe with petrification: Unconscious creatures fall prone, drop their belongings, and take automatic critical hits, none of which makes a lot of sense with a creature being turned to stone. So there's a good reason not to bring those into a petrification situation.

Which is a all a rather long way to say 'the DM decides that', but:

What rules text even represents being mentally shut down?

Other than the actual name of the condition, the "incapacitated, can't move or speak, and unaware of surroundings" bullet point is as close as the Unconscious condition ever gets to specifying that your mind is shut off, and that text is present in Petrified as well.

So, for whatever it's worth, it seems like Petrified includes the mental component of unconsciousness, in as far as that state is represented in rules text at all.

Remains Sane and Conscious*

tl;dr The petrified monk is not unconscious, and remains sane as the duration of petrification passes quickly from their point of view.

This is About Narrative

Since the effects of the spell do not indicate the long term narrative effects, it is left up to the GM to fill in. The following is a narrative explanation supported by an interpretation of the mechanical description that supports a sane monk after being petrified.

Conscious

The spell does not indicate that the target becomes unconscious, so it does not become unconscious.

Passage of Time not Observed

While the petrified creature is not unconscious, it is not specified that it observes the passage of time in the same way as the rest of the non-petrified world. The conditions taken together seem to indicate that the petrified monk will not be observing the passage of time in the same way as the rest of the world.

  • ceases aging

  • The creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.

  • a poison or disease already in its system is suspended

The monk would have no way of knowing how long they were petrified. There is no wall clock, and the conditions above indicate a suspension of animation.

Sanity Preserved

Petrification Duration is Different from Perspective of Monk

500 years passes in the blink of an eye for the petrified monk. From their point of view, very little time has passed.

Insanity as a Disease

If you consider insanity to be a disease of the mind, then the spell text specifically forbids that.

The creature is immune to poison and disease

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    You're claiming that they're in a suspended animation so they don't notice time, but they're also conscious? Those are mutually exclusive states. Beyond that, merely lacking a clock doesn't mean you don't experience the passage of time. Mere darkness and isolation begins breaking you down mentally in a matter of days; total sensory deprivation for years would presumably drive anyone mad unless consciousness ceased completely. I realize the RaW aren't clear here, but you seem to be trying to pretend they're fine. – ShadowRanger Oct 11 at 15:07
  • @ShadowRanger I would narratively attribute all the conscious speed of a stone the the petrified monk. You raise an interesting semantic point though. Is unconsciousness a necessary component of suspended animation? Is unconsciousness an inescapable consequence of it? – Grosscol Oct 11 at 15:21
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    @ShadowRanger even if RAW doesn't make much sense, it is not Grosscol's fault. This is a game, don't expect perfect simulation if niche cases. – András Oct 11 at 16:15
  • @ShadowRanger - Perhaps it's more that their perception of how fast time passes is drastically altered. – Obie 2.0 Oct 11 at 19:31
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    If you're going by "rules as written", then the condition expressly does not have the effect of driving the target insane, regardless, over any period of time, because there is nothing in the description which mentions doing so. Just like crafting checks don't come with the possibility of accidentally killing yourself by slipping with a tool. – Theo Brinkman Oct 11 at 20:40

It seems that the first bullet point is the one that answers your question:

A petrified creature is transformed, along with any nonmagical object it is wearing or carrying, into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone). Its weight increases by a factor of ten, and it ceases aging.

The highlighted section means that the result is not living. It has become a solid non-living statue. The remaining bullet points are mostly just reinforcing the rules you should use for the statue, and saying that reversing the condition will restore it in a condition that includes any poisons or diseases it was suffering before the initial transformation.

While no mention is made about mental saving throws it seems clear that this is due to the fact that a statue has no mind to affect.

It could be argued that the target's soul remains bound to the physical object and could be affected by anything that specifically targets souls, but while so bound it is unlikely that it would continue to process anything like conscious thought.

And since there is no mind it is trivially true that the target cannot go insane. Depending on how long it takes to fully petrify and to revert the petrification the target may never even have an awful experience to unbalance their minds after revival. They might wonder what happened to the world and why they're suddenly covered in all this dust, but if the transformations were practically instantaneous it would be like blinking and finding the world had changed around you.

All of the above assumes that memories and thoughts are something done by the brain during corporeal existence and that only souls that have been separated from their bodies - by death, astral projection, etc - are capable of thinking without a functional brain. Since you can render somebody unconscious by purely physical means it seems reasonable to assume that this is the case.

It is conscious.

The fact that the creature can make Wisdow and Intelligence saving throws means it can think. It can believe in some illusion, or be beguiled by some telepathic lie.

As per RAW, since nothing says it is not unconscious, then it is conscious.

Keep in mind that the creature can still sleep, even in that state. It is like a blind immovable prison, but 500 years of it might make you mad indeed.

  • As per RAW, since nothing says the target goes insane, then it doesn't. – Theo Brinkman Oct 11 at 20:41
  • @TheoBrinkman I think that statement is a stretch of the RAW criteria. Rules for insanity exist within the DMG as optional. It would not be appropriate for the base rules to detail the requirements of minutia for an optional DMG rule. 5e's about rulings, not rules, and it's not an unreasonable ruling to suggest that one might go insane when locked into conscious stasis for 500 years. – Pyrotechnical Oct 11 at 21:21
  • @Pyrotechnical, let me answer that with a simple question: By RAW, does the grease produced by the grease spell catch fire, or extinguish fires when cast into a burning area? The answer is neither, because the spell doesn't say anything about it doing either. If petrifaction were supposed to drive someone insane over some period of time, there would be a rule (perhaps in those optional insanity rules) indicating such. There is no such rule, therefore, by RAW, it does not. The 'Petrified' condition does exactly what it says, no more. Anything else is a house rule, not RAW. – Theo Brinkman Oct 12 at 18:59

Yes to both questions, by the rules. Keep in mind, however, that narrative aspects can modify this answer tremendously. But from a RAW point of view, your conciousness and sanity is unaffected.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    You should back up your answer with why the rules say so. – doppelspooker Oct 11 at 14:38
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    Welcome to the site! You may want to talk the tour to learn more about how we operate. I'd definitely recommend including the rules citations that support your "yes". Just saying "by the rules" doesn't really prove that it is and we look for more than just opinion. Adding in information that you have experience in (maybe you did have this at happen at your table and did something different) would also be a great addition. – NautArch Oct 11 at 14:38

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