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During a recent D&D 5e session, a Retriever picked up a player character and started to move, using this ability:

If the paralyzed creature is Medium or smaller, the retriever can pick it up as part of the retriever’s move and walk or climb with it at full speed. (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes)

Another player character then cast Disintegrate on the Retriever. The text of disintegrate includes:

A creature targeted by this spell must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the target takes 10d6 + 40 force damage. The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points. A disintegrated creature and everything it is wearing and carrying, except magic items, are reduced to a pile of fine gray dust. (Basic Rules, pg. 233)

If the Retriever was successfully disintegrated, would the character being carried also be disintegrated?

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RAW the second creature is disintegrated

I cannot see how picking someone up and moving around is not carrying. And disintegrate is very clear it disintegrates

and everything it is wearing and carrying

which the includes the unfortunate PC, but not their magic items because

except magic items

Now, 5e usually makes a clear distinction between creatures and objects, but disintegrate does not specify "all nonmagical objects" but "everything ... except magical items" which would include a carried creature.

However...

...this does look like an oversight (i.e. the possibility of carried creatures was probably not considered). Disintegrate says:

On a failed save, the target takes 10d6 + 40 force damage. The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points.

This seems to indicate, that the idea of disintegrate is not to ignore hit points which it would do if the carried creature was simply disintegrated.

Therefore...

...it seems very reasonable to rule otherwise. The ruling should take a form that allows the carried creature to be protected by their hit points.

This could be done by also dealing damage to the carried creature (partially or complete; with or without save). Discussing balance implications of these options is beyond the scope of this answer, however.

One very simple solution would be ruling that there is a frontier between both creatures and only the targeted creature is affected. This would make it so that disintegrate works as it would if the incapacitated character was close by but not being carried

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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae Disintegrate doesn't specify that it only affects objects so it seems that RAW it also affects creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Aug 1 at 8:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I should have specified, I wasn't referring to the targets allowed by the spell, I was referring to the effects of the spell. The effect in question reads: "and everything it is wearing and carrying," - you say that 'everything' "includes the unfortunate PC", which implies the PC is an object too. Does that make sense? \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Aug 1 at 8:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understood what you said, I'm just not sure if I agree with your understanding of the word 'everything'. It is true that effects usually define if they affect creatures or objects put this one doesn't. At least not with the actual clearly defined words. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Aug 1 at 8:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that is an acceptable thing to say, but it may be useful to say it in your post as comments can readily be deleted. I am a fairly average GM, so if I rule that creatures aren't included in "everything", I assume at least some others will to. Having even a small note as to why creatures are included would benefit your answer in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Aug 1 at 8:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae Added it in. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Aug 1 at 8:40
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Disintegrate destroys carried objects, but people aren't objects

Disintegrate destroys "everything" that is being worn or carried (except magic items).

Everything means: "all things". A "thing" is "an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to." or "an inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being."

Creatures do not fit this definition, what's more, in 5e there is a clear distinction between creatures and objects - creatures are not considered to be a kind of object and the terms are not used interchangeably.

While the creature is being carried, they are not a "thing" and so aren't part of "everything". It is clear that the "things" being referred to are swords, armor, shields, items, etc.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, a similar situation occurs with casting invisibility on mounts or creatures carrying other creatures where the spell is clearly meant to affect only one creature. Plus this avoids the strange result of disintegrate no longer being an option for Twinned Spell \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Aug 1 at 13:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the answer doesn't really cover that, either. But I'll delete comments as they aren't relevant to this answer. But I disagree with your connection between the two. Mounts are different and treat riders differently than something carried. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 1 at 14:29

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