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This question already has an answer here:

The sleep spell description says:

Starting with the creature that has the lowest current hit points, each creature affected by this spell falls unconscious until the spell ends [...]

So an unconscious creature has penalties, and these two in particular are why I am confused:

  • The creature drops whatever it’s holding and falls prone.

[...]

  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.

But when you look at the rules for the prone condition:

An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.

The unconscious condition says that attack rolls against my target have advantage, but the prone condition says that if I'm not within 5 feet I have disadvantage on my attack. Do these cancel out?

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marked as duplicate by DuckTapeAl, András dnd-5e May 23 at 6:16

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Yes, they cancel out

If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa. In such a situation, you have neither advantage nor disadvantage. (Basic Rules)

A creature who is affected by sleep is both unconscious and prone.

As you say, attacking a prone creature from more than 5 feet away causes disadvantage.1 However, all attack rolls also get advantage from being unconscious.

Since you can't have both on the same roll, they cancel out and you instead have neither.

Of course, if you can get within 5 feet of the unconscious creature, you do have advantage (twice) which reduces to a simple advantage on the roll.


1 - As pointed out by @NautArch this interestingly still applies to melee weapons with reach being used to attack a creature from more than 5 feet away. That attack will still have disadvantage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The basic rules also state: "If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa. In such a situation, you have neither advantage nor disadvantage." Might be easier to reference that. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 23 at 4:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Very good thinking. The XGE reference was the first one that came to mind. I'll use that instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 23 at 4:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is meaningful for melee attacks with reach weapons, though :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 23 at 12:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch ohhhhh! Good point! \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 23 at 12:36
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They cancel out.

Just to add to Rubiksmoose's answer, per Jeremy Crawford via Sage Advice:

@JeremyECrawford Does the unconscious condition merely cancel out the disadvantage on a ranged attack regarding a target being prone?

That's correct. Advantage and disadvantage nullify each other. #DnD

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