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The rules state:

Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can’t willingly end your move in its space.

What happens if that creature has either been knocked unconscious or has been killed? Are you still blocked from ending your turn in their space willingly?

I seem to recall a Sage Advice ruling stating that dead creatures are no longer creatures. Common sense suggests a dead dragon is still an obstacle though.

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Yes.

The context of that rule is key. It's a limitation on the previous paragraph, which is titled "Moving Around Other Creatures" and says you can move through the space occupied by another creature, if that creature isn't hostile. (Or if it's much larger or smaller than you, but I'll ignore that for now.)

Further context comes from this very important paragraph further down:

A creature's space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat, not an expression of its physical dimensions. A typical Medium creature isn't 5 feet wide, for example, but it does control a space that wide. If a Medium hobgoblin stands in a 5‐foot-wide doorway, other creatures can't get through unless the hobgoblin lets them.

So, the existence of a creature's space (which you are excluded from ending your turn in) is tied to its control of the space. Its space is the area that can choose to let you through or not.*

If Bob and Carol (both Medium humanoids) are in a 5-foot wide hallway and Carol wants to move past Bob, that's physically possible. Bob doesn't block the whole hallway. But he controls the hallway, so he can block Carol if he wants to.* Or he can let her enter his space, but when she stops moving, she has to have her own controlled space that's not on top of his.

(Yes, you can cram Bob and Carol and several of their friends into an elevator in such a way that nobody will get to control a whole 5-foot-wide** space. The abstraction can only be pushed so far.)

The rules don't generally consider a dead creature to be a creature, so it controls no space. It's an inert obstacle. If Carol wants to step over a dead body, she can do that (though it may be difficult terrain). If it's a dead frost giant or dragon or something, she might have to climb on top of it. But she isn't excluded from its space.

Now, what if it's unconscious? Here's a sanity check: If you don't know if a creature is unconscious or dead, and you want to find out, can you try to step into its space and see if the DM lets you do it? Is this a viable way to determine if the creature is dead?

No. No, it is not. An unconscious creature doesn't do anything to block anyone from entering its space; therefore they can enter. And it doesn't control any space, so you can control space right on top of it.


*It's kind of unfortunate that they say "a nonhostile creature" instead of "a creature that permits you to pass", because there are cases where a hostile creature might well permit you to pass. For example, if it's invisible.

**Note that the shape of your "space" is not defined, only the width. The paragraph I cited contains the mathematically absurd phrase "area in feet", and that's the level of precision we're dealing with here.

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A dead or unconscious creature is not defending its space

Dead creatures are considered objects under the rules, not creatures, so the rule that you cannot end your move in the space of a creature does not apply to a dead creature.

The reason that you cannot enter the space controlled by a creature (at least not without succeeding in some kind of combat maneuver or unless the creature is 2 size categories larger or smaller than you), is given on page 191 PHB under "Space":

A creature's space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat, not an expression of its physical dimensions. (...) If a Medium hobgoblin stands in a 5-foot-wide doorway, other creatures can’t get through unless the hobgoblin lets them. A creature’s space also reflects the area it needs to fight effectively.

So typically, the reason you cannot move through or end movement in a hostile creature's space is that it is actively opposing you doing so, not that it's bulk is in the way. Once it is dead, it can not do so anymore, and you can move in. (Technically, an unconscious creature would block you, see this question, which is clearly nonsense, and up to the DM to fix.)

I can emphasize with you, that especially in the case of very large creatures like a dragon or giant, it feels wrong that this large bulk has no effect whatsoever on your ability to move through the space or fight there.

This is an effect of keeping the rules simple. Otherwise, one would have one more rule to remember, and would need to memorize size cutoffs and effects, slowing down the game. You'll always have this trade-off between realism and playability.

Your DM is at liberty to rule that the dead creature turns the area into difficult terrain; or that it gives you disadvantage to fight in the space due to the floor being slippery from blood and you needing to avoid tripping over the carcass; or that it constiutes an real obstacle, provides cover, needs to be climbed upon, or whatever else they deem appropriate.

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