Some spells like enlarge/reduce and polymorph specify that only an unwilling creature makes a saving throw:

If the target is unwilling, it can make a Constitution saving throw.


An unwilling creature must make a Wisdom saving throw to avoid the effect.

... but is an unconscious character able to make this judgment (and therefore be eligible to make a saving throw)?

Mind you, I've seen this related question on opting in to certain spells, but I'm specifically asking about opting out so as to be eligible for the saving throws.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The default position is neither unwilling nor willing. Selecting either is its own choice. It is not overwhelmingly clear that being (un)able to choose one is equivalent to being (un)able to choose another \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14, 2019 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure this is a duplicate because after reading the other question I can get 2 answers for this one 1: "An unconscious character can't make the decision to be willing so an unconscious character can't make the decision to be unwilling either". or 2: "An unconscious character can't be willing so that must mean that it is always unwilling". By the definition of a duplicate the answer should be obvious \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro I care in no way about willing. "Unwilling" is a completely different term. They are not a direct dichotomy and proving something about willingness says nothing about unwillingness. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14, 2019 at 17:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Joshua an unconscious character automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saves, but not Constitution saves. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14, 2019 at 22:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ A discussion about whether this is a duplicate of a couple related questions can be found on the Meta site for RPG.SE \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15, 2019 at 14:05

3 Answers 3


It is up to the DM

"Willing" and "unwilling" are not game terms and are not defined anywhere in the rules and thus we are stuck with generic definitions.


  1. not willing; reluctant; loath; averse:
  2. opposed; offering resistance; stubborn or obstinate; refractory:

"Willing" at least is pretty clearly a choice, you are mentally choosing to consent to something. "Unwilling" is much less clear.

Unwilling has at least two opposed ways to interpret it

As per the above definition, "unwilling" can mean, in broad strokes, "the absence of willingness" (thus an unconscious person would be by default unwilling) or it can mean "opposed" (which requires a conscious decision and thus an unconscious creature would not be considered unwilling).

Depending on what definition you are using either

  1. you must choose to be (un)willing and thus you can be in a neutral state where you are neither.


  2. you are always one or the other thus not choosing to be willing means you are automatically unwilling.

Both are valid definitions.

DM decides ambiguities

The term is ambiguous, in other words, and the person who decides that at your table will be the DM. There is simply no way to magic away the ambiguity of the English language in this case.

At my table

For what it is worth, in my games, I treat all characters as being unwilling unless they are explicitly willing and have had no issues, confusion, or complaints.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd agree with your interpretation/ruling. Anyone that's not actually willing is unwilling. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 14, 2019 at 19:18

A magical spell doesn't actually ask about your willingness. The information is always gathered directly from the mind by magical means. As the information is extracted directly from your subconscious when you are conscious, why wouldn't it also extract it directly from your subconscious when you are unconscious?

Moreover, both Resurrection and True Resurrection have the caveat that:

If the creature’s soul is free and willing, the creature is restored to life with all its hit points.

It is up to the DM to determine if being able to query the soul is an extra power that other spells do not have, or if the spell's text is simply pointing out the obvious limit of only being able to ask souls.

In either case, if a creature that is dead can -- at some level -- decide if they are willing or unwilling and magic spells always takes the answer directly from the mind anyways, I don't see why a spell wouldn't be able to get the information from an unconscious creature.

The spell doesn't doesn't give an option of "if unable to determine willingness treat it as unwilling".

Spells only do what they say they do. Does it say that it doesn't affect unconscious creatures, or that unconscious creatures automatically get a saving throw, or they automatically pass the saving throw, or automatically fail it, or does it specify how to interact with the unconscious in any way? No. Does it say that it can determine willingness? Yes.

Therefore the spell can determine the willingness of an unconscious creature.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Resurrection/True Resurrection are high-level spells with the power to bring a dead soul back, so it's not surprising that they can communicate with the soul. It's less clear that lower-level spells that aren't specifically geared to do so would have this same power. Note that Speak with Dead is a 3rd-level necromancy spell whose only capability is to get info from the deceased, which suggests that this is not a standard spell capability. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2020 at 1:38

Given the fact that willing and unwilling are not defined in the rules, and that both can be read in multiple ways, it will generally be the DM's call on these cases. It is one of those questions that perhaps players should check with their DM when they are considering taking a spell that has a willing/not unwilling condition to it.

However, there is one spell that might give a little guidance on this matter: Enlarge/Reduce. Unlike other spells that have the "not unwilling" condition for automatic success, this one is also able to target objects. It seems reasonable to assume that the spell would always work on objects (do objects even have constitution scores for a saving throw?), which would perhaps imply that objects (for the purposes of this spell at least) can be considered "not unwilling".

It would also seem reasonable to extend this principle to interpreting whether an unconscious creature is "unwilling" for other spells.


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