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Feign Death

put[s the target] into a cataleptic state that is indistinguishable from death.

For that purpose,

the target is blinded and incapacitated, and its speed drops to 0.

However, the spell Lesser Restoration can end a number of conditions on a target, including the blinded condition. Similarly, the spell Freedom of Movement prevents "spells and other magical effects" from "reduc[ing] the target's speed".


Now, I'm wondering how these two spells interact with Feign Death. Does one benefit/suffer from the remaining effects? I.e.:

  • "a cataleptic state that is indistinguishable from death"
  • "the target appears dead to all outward inspection and to spells used to determine the target’s status"
  • "The target is [...] incapacitated, [...]
  • "The target has resistance to all damage except psychic damage. If the target is diseased or poisoned when you cast the spell, or becomes diseased or poisoned while under the spell’s effect, the disease and poison have no effect until the spell ends."

Effectively, you would appear to others as if you were a corpse, but you can still walk and look around if you so desire (although you can't take actions of any kind). This "ability" could allow for interesting infiltration attempts, etc.

Either way, this doesn't quite seem like it's the intent of the spell - but, as far as I can tell, this is what would happen according to RAW.


Is my reading correct? If it is, has anyone encountered players attempting to abuse this combination and if so, how did you handle it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Its infiltration uses seem very limited as you can’t even take the Hide action \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2019 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlakeSteel Still get your free object interaction, though, so you can open doors and stuff. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2019 at 21:35

3 Answers 3

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Your RAW interpretation is correct

The interaction with lesser restoration

When casting lesser restoration on a target affected by feign death, the RAW result would be the same as casting it on a target affected by the likes of blindness/deafness, contagion, sunbeam, or any other spell imposing the blinded condition: the blindness is ended.

This is odd, though, because with feign death the target is in a state of blind and immobile catalepsy verging on death because they opted into it, not because they were harmed. My guess is that the designers didn't consider that anybody would bother to cast lesser restoration on the same target (or didn't care). The RAW leads to some narrative dissonance that I suspect isn't intended, which I'll address in a later section.

The interaction with freedom of movement

When casting freedom of movement on a target affected by feign death, there's no condition being ended. Rather, freedom of movement effectively suspends one of the effects of feign death.

Here's the relevant text from freedom of movement:

For the duration, ...spells and other magical effects [can't] reduce the target's speed...

And from feign death:

For the spell’s duration... [the target's] speed drops to 0.

In this case, we need to consult the rule for overlapping spell effects to figure out how they should interact (see Combining Magical Effects from the Spellcasting section of the Basic Rules):

The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap.

So the RAW result is that the effects add together. But what does it mean to "add together" two directly contradictory effects? Since they're mutually exclusive, one spell has to supersede the other (or they have to cancel out, thereby imposing no movement adjustments on the target, which in this case is equivalent to freedom of movement's benefit anyway). So which one should the DM choose? Well, the entire point of freedom of movement is exactly to counteract effects like this!

Once again, by RAW, the result is that the effect of feign death should be superseded. Yet again the RAW leads to some narrative dissonance that I suspect isn't intended, so let's address that now.

How to resolve the dissonance

I have no evidence that the RAW result isn't intended. However, you're asking the question because, like me, it just feels like it shouldn't work this way. As you said in your question, "this doesn't quite seem like it's the intent of the spell." So let's operate under that assumption: that there's some dissonance to work through.

At my table, feign death would supersede the other spells, because my gut tells me that when you opt into its effects you don't get to have your cake and eat it too. At your table, you're free to use the RAW if you think it promotes more interesting gameplay or narrative (magical espionage action: "huh? what's that? it's just a body"), or you're free to share my gut feeling and declare that feign death supersedes. In any case, it's always up to the DM to run the game in a way that makes sense for them and their table, so you should do that.

My suggestion is to err on the side of the ruling that seems most consistent in your game's world and for the tone of the story you're trying to create. What works better for you: that a cataleptic creature indistinguishable from dead can see and move or that it can't? Your answer to that question will solve your problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "that a cataleptic creature indistinguishable from dead can see and move" - Now that could explain Zombies if you wanted to... \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    Feb 21, 2022 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't move you're indisguinshable from being dead. If you start moving you'd look like a previously dead person who began moving again for some reason, which may attract the attention of certain holy inquisitions \$\endgroup\$
    – Curl
    Jun 29, 2022 at 6:04
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No

At least, not if we accept Jeremy Crawford's answer here on Twitter:

A non-undead corpse isn't considered a creature. It's effectively an object.

Lesser Restoration and Freedom of Movement each explicitly target a creature. That means neither one can be cast on a corpse. However, Feign Death says:

the target appears dead to all outward inspection and to spells used to determine the target’s status

If you could cast either of those spells on someone under the effects of Feign Death, that would mean that those spells could effectively be used to determine whether or not a person was actually dead (by seeing whether or not they were a valid target for the spell). Since Feign Death explicitly says you can't use a spell to do that, anyone under the effects of the Feign Death spell must be a valid target of a spell that targets a creature.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Where does it state that Feign Death turns the target creature into a corpse? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 21, 2019 at 21:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't. It says that the target "appears dead [...] to spells". So for the purposes of spellcasting, the target is indistinguishable from a corpse. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2019 at 22:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ The full text of "to spells used to determine the target’s status" seems important, as that makes that text specifically apply to only spells that can determine the target's status, not all spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – CTWind
    Feb 21, 2019 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Appears to be dead doesn't change it's type any more than believing an illusion is a creature makes it a valid target \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 21, 2019 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't say it did. I'm not saying that it changes the type. I'm saying that according to the description of Feign Death, you can't use spells that would determine its status, and being able to use those spells would reveal the target's status, so you can't use them. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2019 at 20:28
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I would like to say that the RAW is definitely not a contradiction. I imagine if you asked a spell about whether something is alive whether an undead is alive, the answer is clearly no. Zombies aren't alive. So, if you physically inspected someone with freedom of movement and feign death, they would be a cold sallow lifeless corpse fully capable of walking and attacking under its own power. It would be immune to spells that target or locate creatures, and wouldn't trigger wards related to the presence of a creature.

So, Feign death and FoM/lesser restoration result in an aware and ambulatory corpse which has all the weird restrictions of triggers, effects and target of a something that isn't a creature, but can nonetheless weird swords.

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    \$\begingroup\$ WHy would it be immune to spells that target or locate creatures? It's still a creature. The target remains a creature unless you've got some rule to quote that says otherwise. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 15, 2023 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because according to developers a corpse is not considered a creature unless the corpse is undead. Whether you want to extend the idea of undeath to "any corpse animated by some force" then I suppose it could be a creature and that's probably an even more correct ruling, but according WoTV corpses aren't creatures unless they're undead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Azeranth
    May 17, 2023 at 21:13

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