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A wizard casts Sending on a target creature who happens to be sleeping at the time.

You send a short message of twenty-five words or less to a creature with which you are familiar. The creature hears the message in its mind, recognizes you as the sender if it knows you, and can answer in a like manner immediately.

What happens? Some possibilities off the top of my head:

  1. The creature is asleep, and so does not hear and cannot respond to the message.
  2. The creature is awakened by the message in its mind, and once awake hears it and can respond to it.
  3. The creature is not awakened by the message, but hears and can respond to it perfectly lucidly despite still being asleep.
  4. The creature is not awakened by the message, does hear it, but is asleep so cannot process it lucidly. Thus they might not remember the message and might respond to it with the mutterings of a sleeping person ("Five more minutes Grandma Frog").
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This works normally by a strict reading of the spell

Sending (PHB, 274) doesn't actually require the creature to be conscious. It only requires that they have a certain intelligence.

Because there is no requirement for being conscious or awake, then we can read the spell to function as-is in terms of being able to send a message and allowing the recipient to respond.

How this actually works can be up to the DM. They can be woken, they can respond in their unconscious, or any other myriad of options the DM and table think is narratively fun and interesting.

But without a qualification that being unconscious prevents the mechanics of the spell from working, then they simply work.

Because magic.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ By the rules, are sleeping creatures normally aware of things that happen to them? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jun 19 at 22:48
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DM's choice

There is no specific rule for this, or it would say so in the spell description. All it says it that the creature hears the message in its mind, which for the purposes of being asleep wouldn't be that different from somebody speaking to you while sleeping.

Though there is an argument that the sleeping creature is more likely to remember and consciously register the words since the creature definitely "hears the message".

Whether this is enough to wake them... I think a DM would just have to either decide whether the creature is a light enough sleeper or possibly allow some kind of check (a Wisdom check?).

I would also say that they would have to be awake and conscious to reply "in a like manner" since you cannot take actions while asleep.*

*Unless replying "five more minutes, Grandma Frog" would be funnier, of course.

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There is no official answer

It would be up to each individual DM to decide how to handle this situation. Other possibilities include:

  • The spell fails as the recipient cannot receive the message.
  • The spell delivers the message, but the recipient only becomes aware of it when they properly awaken.
  • The spell delays delivery of the message until the recipient is capable of receiving it.
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