The Spell Resistance (Ex) ability reads, in part:

The possessor does not have to do anything special to use spell resistance. The creature need not even be aware of the threat for its spell resistance to operate.

My PC fell unconscious in the middle of a fight; when the cleric approached me to use Cure Serious Wounds (Player's Handbook v.3.5, p. 215), I stated that I had Spell Resistance, and I didn't lower it in order to protect myself while I was on the ground. Our DM ruled that being unconscious implies that my spell resistance isn't active.

This was certainly helpful — my PC would be already dead if it wasn't for that Cure Serious Wounds — but this takes me to the point: was it all legal?

Does a harmless spell have to pass the caster level check in order to affect a creature with Spell Resistance?

Does an unconscious creature have Spell Resistance equal to zero?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting question. Never realized, that spell resistance can become a real problem in such a situation ... \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


Unless a creature's lowered its spell resistance prior to being rendered unconscious, a healing spell's caster checks that creature's spell resistance

According to the rules, a spell noted as harmless in its Saving Throw entry does not automatically overcome spell resistance. Further, a creature that's unconscious does not automatically lower its spell resistance.

A typical creature must take a standard action to lower its spell resistance (Player's Handbook 141 and here). No description of spell resistance (PH 177 and here, Dungeon Master's Guide 298–9 and here, Monster Manual 315 and here) says that a creature automatically and without taking an action lowers its spell resistance against spells labeled as harmless or when the creature loses consciousness. (It is a point of some contention whether or not spell resistance (and other usually continually active special abilities) end or are removed when a creature dies, though. Ask the DM.)

Even when the DMG says, "A creature’s spell resistance never interferes with its own spells, items, or abilities" (298 and emphasis mine), it does not follow that up with anything resembling what happened in the session that the question describes.

According to the rules, the caster of the cure serious wounds spell should have checked your PC's spell resistance, and, if the caster failed to overcome your spell resistance the cure spell should've failed.

What you may want to do

I suggest raising this issue privately with the DM. Explain that while you're happy that your PC's alive, according to the rules SR doesn't work the way that it was played during that session. It's possible that the DM will institute the way it was played as a house rule. While this DM has never experimented with such a house rule—I've never tried a house rule like Harmless spells overcome SR automatically, and unconscious creatures automatically lower their SR, for instance—, this seems a reasonable house rule in the abstract, especially as a modification to an ability that the game, in my opinion, tends to overvalue in its current form, especially when it's in the hands of a PC. Such a house rule, though, will cut both ways.

For example, a drow priestess can now heal a drow comrade who lacked the foresight to lower his SR before she cast cure serious wounds… without the risk that her efforts will go to waste. On the other hand, the drow priestess's flame strike spell will also automatically overcome the SR of her unconscious comrades caught in the spell's cylinder. So it goes.

However, what this DM would do were this brought to his attention is explain to the players how he made a mistake and that from now on we'd play by the rules. The Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rules are clumsy, particular, scattered, and fill multiple bookshelves. No DM can be expected to know them all, and mistakes will be made.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth noting that the rules tend to value SR very highly (read: make it cost a lot), but this drawback often makes SR a negative overall. That could give a good impetus for such a houserule. (I have not personally tried this, though.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ O, heavens, yes, the game overvalues SR in the hands of PCs. PCs often want their buddies to cast spells on them, and that can make SR quite inconvenient in the heat of battle… and may leave the PC that possesses SR without its benefit, as it resumes 1 round after being lowered (albeit automatically). I tried to make the answer's assessment of SR as a double-edged sword a bit sharper, but I think addressing that properly would be better as an answer to another not-yet-posed question like What are the pros and cons of SR? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 19, 2020 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Without a house rule like this, pray that nobody ever tries to play straight Monk. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 16:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .