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The Awaken spell adds sentience - granting 'intelligence' of 10 to either one beast or plant target (one that starts with an int score of 3 or less). It also adds mobility, ambulatory function, perceptions - and even capacity to grasp an entire bonus language. It can even talk. Yet inquiring minds want to know:

Under what conditions does Awaken grant &/or create a soul - if any?


Points of Interest & Confusion

  • This Awakened target ('huge or smaller') may be a beast. Beasts are both 'living' and 'creatures' - but does that mean they start with a soul?

  • Not everyone gets a life force! Animated creatures such as zombies, flesh golems and spell simulacra are specifically & expressly devoid of soul.

  • Are plants even creatures to begin with? Note: a single Mirage Arcane 'illusion' spell makes up to one mile square of plant-life.


Why this is of interest: Night hags, Liches, various raise-style spells, magic items and many other game-rulings pivot around this soul-spirit stuff. Even role-playing wise: should a dog require Awaken in order to get to heaven, many inquiring minds (& their characters) would like to know.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "should a dog require Awaken in order to get to heaven" Of course not, didn't you know that All Dogs go to Heaven? (yes, even Hell Hounds) On a serious note, have you seen anything indicating that these creatures don't have a soul by default? \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Jul 28 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ These later editions really steered away from the metaphysical argument of the "soul" in previous editions only humans had souls and the demihumans had "spirits" but we have even gotten away from "demihuman" for some reason over the years. The shying away from such arguments is likely not to exclude any society or religion or offend such while in game, which is sort of sad since it is just that... a game. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 28 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, we know, based on both game mechanics and actual setting lore, that in 3.5 all living creatures (and even most undead ones) have/are souls or soul equivalent (i.e. a "spirit" which is synonymous). AFAIK most of the lore in that regard hasn't changed with the transitions from 3.5>4e and from 4e>5e, except for the aforementioned "spirits" just being called "souls", because the distinction was meaningless to begin with. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Jul 29 at 14:22
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Awaken does not confer a soul, since spells do only what they say they do. Inferring from several things said in the rules, though, the game assumes living creatures already have a soul by default, which is why creatures like the ones you mention - zombies, golems and simulacra - must specifically be called out as not possessing a soul.

I base this on the fact that many important spells that interact with souls, like raise dead and clone, can target “a creature” - they are unrestricted by creature type or Intelligence score, and do not use a qualifier like “a creature with a soul”. (Some, like magic jar, do restrict some aspects of the spell to targeting humanoids or by creature size, but these match the constraints of many shape changing spells and can be assumed to be for other narrative and game balance reasons.) Some still require a “willing soul”, and so can be vetoed by a DM based on the cosmology of their campaign or the desires of a specific target, but they are written to be inclusive.

This implies most creatures do have a soul, except those explicitly determined not to, and perhaps those created entirely by magic, such as with animate objects or create homunculus.

Writing about what happens to creatures after death focuses on humanoids, but this does not mean dogs and mind flayers and owl bears do not have souls, only that humanoids don’t think much about what happens to them when they die.

To answer one of your sub questions: as defined in the introduction to the Monster Manual, regular plants are not creatures, but monsters with the plant type are:

Plants in this context are vegetable creatures, not ordinary flora.

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It doesn't say

Because the spell doesn't say, there really isn't a way to answer this either way and it becomes up to the table/DM to determine.

You can look at the argument of "it doesn't say it does, so it doesn't" or you can say "it makes sense to me that it does, so it will."

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