The term "soul", despite being widely used, isn't well defined in 5e. Do all living creatures have souls, or having a soul is a characteristic of specific types of creatures?

The only hint I've found so far was from the Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes:

A nabassu can eat the soul of a creature it has killed within the last hour, provided that creature is neither a construct nor an undead.

This implies constructs and undead either do not have souls, or have a specific kind of "unedible" soul.

Related question: Does an intelligent undead have a soul in 5e D&D?

Also inspired by this question: Where does an unaligned creature's soul go after death?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related search for 5e and soul: here (brings up many related questions) \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 19 '19 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Heck there used to be a difference between Souls and Spirits: iirc way back in 1E and 2E, humans had souls and demihumans had spirits. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Sep 19 '19 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related for dnd-3.5: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/51564/do-animals-have-souls \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Sep 19 '19 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seeing this question on the Hot Network Questions list, I realized it was appropriate to several stacks... \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Sep 20 '19 at 2:18

All living creatures appear to have a soul.

According to Dungeon Master's Guide p.24, "Bringing Back the Dead":

When a creature dies, its soul departs its body, leaves the Material Plane, travels through the Astral Plane, and goes to abide on the plane where the creature's deity resides. If the creature didn't worship a deity, its soul departs to the plane corresponding to its alignment.

This strongly suggests that all living creatures, at least, have a soul.

It's more ambiguous for non-living creatures, at least in 5e lore. Undead are the only creature type who cannot be raised with raise dead, a spell which restores the soul to its body. However, as mentioned in Does an intelligent undead have a soul in 5e D&D?, it varies by type of undead whether they have souls.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Strictly speaking, "when a creature dies, its soul departs its body" doesn't mean that all creatures have souls. It's like "when a person dies, their heritage goes to their heirs" doesn't mean that everybody have heritage and heirs. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 19 '19 at 16:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is at least one official exception: the residents of Barovia are mostly soulless. (ref Curse of Strahd) \$\endgroup\$ – Destruktor Sep 19 '19 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I have never seen the word "heritage" used that way... \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Sep 20 '19 at 2:18

So long as the creature is mortal it has a soul

In the Monster Manual, the Devil section has this to say:

Dark Dealers and Soul Mongers. [...]Any mortal creature that breaks such a contract instantly forfeits its soul, which is spirited away to the Nine Hells.

Similarly the Ghost entry in the Monster Manual describes ghosts as:

A ghost is the soul of a once-living creature, bound to haunt a specific location, creature, or object that held significance to it in its life.


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