Some spells and abilities specify that the target must be able to hear you. Is an unconscious PC (0 HP) considered a valid target?

Unconscious ... An unconscious creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can't move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings...

For example, the Oath of the Crown Paladin has the following ability:

Turn the Tide

As a bonus action, you can bolster injured creatures with your Channel Divinity. Each creature of your choice that can hear you within 30 feet of you regains hit points equal to 1d6 + your Charisma modifier (minimum of 1) if it has no more than half of its hit points.

Can the Paladin grant hp to unconscious party members using this ability?


2 Answers 2


No. (Unless they are asleep and you are using optional rules from XGtE)

From your quote:

Unconscious ... An unconscious creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can't move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings...

Emphasis mine.

A related question (Can a bard grant bardic inspiration to an unconscious creature?) has an answer that says (paraphrased) "Maybe. DM Call". Their reasoning is that Hearing is not specifically ruled out.

I would argue that '... unaware ...' would cover Hearing, and does not need to be singled out. A creature that is unaware of their surroundings is unaware of any sounds, and therefore cannot benefit from Effects that require them to hear something.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything has extra (Optional) rules for being Asleep, which include that Sleeping subjects a creature to the Unconscious condition, but also that they may be woken by sounds. (https://www.dndbeyond.com/compendium/rules/xgte/dungeon-masters-tools#WakingSomeone)

"Specific overrules General" applies here. If a creature is (only) Unconscious, they cannot hear ("... are unaware ..."). If they are Asleep (and therefore also Unconscious), they would fall under the Specific 'Waking Someone' rules (if you are choosing to use the optional XGtE rules), where sounds can awaken the creature. This would imply that the Sleeping creature can Hear, and therefore be affected by Spells/Abilities that require the target(s) to Hear them (such as the OP's example). It may be appropriate to use the Passive Wisdom (Perception) ratings in XGtE's rules to check if the sleeping creature does, actually, hear the Spell/Power.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 What rule says that noise can wake up a sleeping character? Sleep from the spell of the same name only ends when the spell does, the sleeping character takes damage or they are shaken awake. The alarm spell only wakes up a sleeping character if you set to "ping" in your mind. The audible alarm doesn't say it wakes you up. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2019 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills I do not have XGtE, but Medix2's linked answer references the 'waking a sleeper' rules, which include noises. I believe those rules are only for 'normal' Sleep, rather than magically-induced \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2019 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlackSpike That would be an optional rule if it's from Xanathar's. Anyway I think it comes down to a difference between hearing and understanding. If you yell next to a sleeping person they will wake up, but they won't know what you yelled since they were asleep at the time. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2019 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills If you wanted to write an answer that when something requires that a "creature hear you" it requires them to understand you may do so. But know that that would mean they would have to share a language which is not the case. I also did address the fact that Xanathar's is optional, and thus could be completely ignored if Black Spike so chose. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2019 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Destruktor That's what Multiple Edits do to an answer! :D Thank you, I shall add another edit! \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2019 at 22:09

Your answer is in the PHB description of unconscious, "[the creature] is unaware of its surroundings."

Unaware means "you have no knowledge of [whatever spell is being cast]"

Using your example of Bolstering someone, it would be impossible to encourage them with words if they have no knowledge of the words you're using.

While the encompassing answer is that a DM can rule differently, the most direct answer would seem to indicate merely adhering to the simple definition of the words used:
Unconscious = can't be affected by spells or abilities that require the target to hear/understand (or be encouraged) by what the caster is saying.


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