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A player would like to cast the 'Dream' spell on an ancient statue of a petrified hero. Thematically this is wonderful, sure - but does it work by RAW?

Here are possible answers we discussed / lacking backing:

  1. Rule of Cool: A creative and fun use of the spell! Advances the plot. Not abusable. Why not? Find out if statues dream of stone sheep

  2. Incapacitated people sleep... why not statues?: As 5e lists 'petrification' as being incapacitated ('no actions / reactions') and is 'not aware of the space around them'. Sleep = 'unaware of time's passage'. Thus all petrified creatures default to a place resembling sleep. Besides, the Dream spell is powerful magic - this isn't just shaping biological dreams, it is providing a telepathic uplink between 2-3 creatures for an eight hour span.

  3. Bricks Do Not Dream! One cannot attain REM-state nor entertain any neurobiological capacity whilst granite. As solid stone, one is not Han in carbonate! Just like an elf that can not sleep, neither can a statue. Even if you successfully cast a Sleep spell on such a person-statue, such a creature cannot even entertain this rest-state unless Greater Restoration is used.

We are sure that that the first answer is by FAR the most magical, thematic and/or fun (R.A.F.). As a DM, I also fear that the last answer is most logical and/or closest to 'R.A.W.' Still, we would like your collective perspective on this, with thanks.

Long story short:
Is there any ruling, be that a tweet from Mr. Crawford (or other such source), that might suggest that Dream can be used on petrified creatures?

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In general, this is not possible (RAW)

Dream only works on a creature that is asleep. Nothing in the petrified condition says that the petrified creature falls asleep - in fact, it is not even unconscious (the game condition).

Therefore, the petrified condition alone is not sufficient for the dream spell to contact a creature.

However, by RAW petrification also does not make the target immune to sleep. This means that Dream could still work if there were some additional effect that caused the (petrified) target to count as sleeping. This could be achieved in one of several ways:

  1. If the petrified creature was asleep at the moment it was petrified, one could argue that it should still be asleep and thus casting Dream on it should work as expected.
  2. You could also first target the petrified creature with the Sleep spell. If it is affected by the spell (depending on its hp), it explicitly falls asleep. The same holds for other spells causing a creature to fall asleep.
  3. In fact, the petrified condition does not even say that the creature stops needing sleep, so by one (very strict) reading of RAW, you could argue that the petrified creatures still follows the normal sleep cycle. Note: I would not recommend doing this in an actual game.

As a final note, the target of Dream does not have to be asleep - it only has to be a creature that can sleep. So you could target the petrified creature (unless it is e.g. an elf) in any case. However, if it is not currently sleeping, the only effect would be that you (or your messenger) falls into a trance until you decide to end the spell.


That said, the DM could allow it anyway

Petrified is a strange condition in 5e, in several ways less restrictive than one would expect and its mechanical effects seem incomplete to cover or model typical narrative aspects of "thousand-year-old statue of petrified hero". Personally (and independent of RAW), I probably would not allow Dream to work in this situation, at least not without some further complications (research, a personal item of the hero, an Arcana check, ...) and only if it makes sense for the story. In any case, I would certainly not allow the circumvention of such a house-rule via any of the arguments listed above.

If your DM rules that Dream does not work, you could also try Detect Thoughts instead, which seems more clear-cut in that it works on petrified creatures. The question of what the thoughts of a statue might look like after a thousand years is left to the reader.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Arguing against this RAW, you need to provide a mechanical statement for sleep, to support that a Petrified creature cannot be asleep. \$\endgroup\$ – Journer Oct 17 '19 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, there is nothing in the definition of the petrified condition to suggest that the creature falls asleep upon being petrified - in fact, it does not even fall unconscious, which might be the closest condition to sleep in the rules. Therefore, the burden of proof is on you to provide evidence that it actually does so. Besides that, I do list circumstances under which a petrified creature might reasonably be assumed to be asleep - you just cannot assume that this is generally the case due to the petrified condition itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Surpriser Oct 17 '19 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ There is also nothing in Unconscious that says the creature falls asleep, as there is no mechanical definition of sleep. The closest we get, is what in the Unconscious condition can indicate sleep (the lack of awareness is as close as we get). \$\endgroup\$ – Journer Oct 17 '19 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed there isn't - because the unconscious condition does not cause a creature to fall asleep. For example, a creature falls unconscious if it reaches 0hp. Such a creature is not asleep. \$\endgroup\$ – Surpriser Oct 17 '19 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Surpriser I disagree that Journer is the one who has to prove. In your answers title are claiming that according to RAW this is not possible. However you fail to provide any prove why a petrified creature could not sleep or dream by RAW. You are right that there is no prove that that creature is asleep, but that doesn't automatically make the opposite true. You mention this hidden in your point 2. However you say you would not do this, and again fail to provide any reasoning for this. \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Oct 18 '19 at 12:06
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It does appear to be RAW.

Dream states

If the target is asleep, the messenger appears in the target's dreams and can converse with the target as long as it remains asleep [...] If the target is awake when you cast the spell, the messenger knows it, and can either end the trance (and the spell) or wait for the target to fall asleep, at which point the messenger appears in the target's dreams.

so the target needs to be asleep to use the spell; but within 5e, there is no mechanical definition for sleep, so we have to look for mechanics where sleep is mentioned.

The Sleep spell states

This spell sends creatures into a magical slumber. [...] each creature affected by this spell falls unconscious [...]

so, given that the Sleep spell makes a creature sleep, and that causes the Unconscious condition, we can state that sleep in general causes the Unconscious condition.

Which means we need to compare the Unconscious condition and the Petrified condition to see if their effects are comparable, and if so, if they are similar enough for a Petrified creature to be asleep.

Unconscious states

An unconscious creature is incapacitated, can't move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.
The creature drops whatever it's holding and falls prone.
The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.
Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.

Petrified states

A petrified creature is transformed, along with any nonmagical object it is wearing or carrying, into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone). Its weight increases by a factor of ten, and it ceases aging.
The creature is incapacitated, can't move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.
Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.
The creature has resistance to all damage.
The creature is immune to poison and disease, although a poison or disease > already in its system is suspended, not neutralized.

Looking at these conditions, there are obvious differences, and also identical parts. With a little careful looking, it becomes clear that the parts which differ (unbolded) all refer to the physical state of the creature; But, the parts that are identical (bolded) refer to its mental state (awareness).

This tells us that while the cause of a loss of awareness is physically different, the mental state in both cases is identical.

Since sleep has no definition, only requiring the Unconscious condition; and the mental traits of the Unconscious condition are present within the Petrified condition; mechanically, what is needed for the Dream spell is met by the Petrified condition. So a Petrified creature is a valid target, mechanically (RAW) for the Dream spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The issue here is saying that just because two conditions have similar text, they must be one and the same condition or inherit from one another somehow. \$\endgroup\$ – L0neGamer Oct 16 '19 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @L0neGamer That is the reason why I say this 'appears' RAW. That section of both conditions refers to awareness and physical state, so it appears that being Petrified is being Unconscious. If you have a suggested wording to convey this more properly, I would appreciate it. \$\endgroup\$ – Journer Oct 16 '19 at 22:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that you can necessarily construe that they are related, really. From the snippets you've posted, at least, unconscious could be the same as petrified, as opposed to the other way around \$\endgroup\$ – L0neGamer Oct 16 '19 at 22:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is not correct. Sleep =/= Unconscious =/= Petrified. These (at least the last two) are game terms with specific mechanical effects - just because they have similar descriptions does not mean they are equivalent. In fact, you can be unconscious without sleeping, for example by dropping to 0hp. To be affected by dream, the target needs to be asleep - any other conditions are completely irrelevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Surpriser Oct 17 '19 at 7:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ According to XGtE, sleeping creatures gain the unconscious condition (this is consistent with those spells that put a creature to sleep). These is the mechanical effect of being asleep, according to RAW. However, the reverse does not hold - you are not automatically asleep if you are unconscious and even then, the petrified condition makes you neither asleep nor unconscious anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Surpriser Oct 17 '19 at 16:00
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You cannot answer this based on RAW. As described in the other answers the petrified condition by rules, neither prevents nor requires a person to sleep.

What happens if we try to apply real world physiology? Since the person can awake again if a spell breaks the petrification, I think assuming the person is in deep sleep while petrified is acceptable. However dreaming happens during a sleep phase called REM, which stands for rapid eye movement. I think it pretty clear that a statue cannot move its eyes, even less move them rapidly. So based on that I would argue the spell should not work, because the person cannot enter the REM phase required for dreaming. It would have a dreamless sleep.

(I am a big fan of rule for cool, so if that is what you feel like, go for it)

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