In my adventurer a vampire wants to free a prisoner from a prison. And maybe kill the guard of the city watch, whose office is right above the prison in the same building.

Can the prisoner invite the vampire into the prison, if there is a window in his cell?

Forbiddance: The vampire can't enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.

Is the prisoner an occupant of the prison? I am not a native english speaker and not sure if occupant means more than "person who lives in a building".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please don't use code syntax for non-code content. It messes with search engines and screen readers used by visially impaired. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Sep 18, 2021 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you the player or the dungeon master? Is either of the prisoner or vampire a PC? As it's currently phrased this is more of a ELL question, but knowing those details will allow us to answer for your game specifically. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 10:23

6 Answers 6


I would say "yes". If the prohibition was that the vampire had to be invited in by an owner of the residence, then that would not work. But it only says "occupant", so anyone who lives there, even temporarily -- renter, houseguest, child, prisoner -- would be able to make the invitation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for answering the question that the OP actually asked. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Sep 18, 2021 at 22:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you could question whether a prison counts as a residence at all. It's not an actual home. But if it does, I'd say people who merely work there and don't live and sleep there would not count as occupant (the guards, probably, unless they do live and sleep in the prison). The reason why a prisoner might not count could be that he's only a temporary occupant. But any long term prisoner in need of freeing would definitely be the occupant of their own cell. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Sep 20, 2021 at 10:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mcv: Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" urban fantasy novels provide an interesting narrative explanation for the "invited in" requirement. A true home that a family lives in and loves builds up a threshold that you don't get with institutional buildings. (In that fantasy world, it might not only be vampires that feel some effect of that; like some resistance to other magical energy IIRC. Been a while since I read them, but anyway, a DM wanting to rule based on that would have to consider the fact that D&D doesn't specify any other magical defence for the threshold of a home.) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2021 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes That is a lovely explanation. I will definitely try to use it if I ever do something with vampires again. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Sep 20, 2021 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ A DM, of course, can build his world as he likes, and interpret and rationalize his choices how he wishes. The text of the rule, however, says "one of the occupants", and does not specify duration, or permanence, or whether they are there voluntarily. A temporary occupant is still an occupant. A creature who is occupying the building at that moment is an "occupant". A prisoner qualifies -- indeed has no choice but to qualify. Indeed, "anyone who lives there" may be too restrictive. Anyone who happens to BE there -- dinner guest, burglar, housepet -- is occupying it at the moment. \$\endgroup\$
    – PhilB
    Sep 20, 2021 at 23:45

It Depends. Probably not usefully.


As stated, the rule requires an invitation from an occupant before the vampire may enter a residence. (It says nothing about entering other spaces.) So we need to decide what these words mean in the context of the question.

An occupant of any given space is someone physically present in that space at that time. We all occupy Earth. Some of us occupy North America. And so on, down to the volume enclosed by your skin.

A residence is a space where specific people predictably sleep and keep personal items, distinguished from other spaces by social conventions. Here are a few examples from which to extrapolate:

  • A free-standing house is one residence, even if three dozen undocumented construction workers sleep in shifts therein.
  • An apartment building or row-house is one structure with multiple distinct residences.
  • A cave may be a residence if someone makes a habit of sleeping in it, but not otherwise.
  • A hotel room is a transient residence: it's a secure place to sleep and keep personal things unattended, but different people use it each night.
  • The tent-city underneath the H1 freeway in Honolulu is not a residence, but it contains many residences, because the poor people who live there have divided it up into distinct areas each continually used by corresponding family groups.
  • The common spaces in an apartment building are not a residence: nobody may live in the lobby or beside the swimming pool.


Residency: I would argue the prison works like an apartment complex: each cell is a distinct residence with a specific subgroup of prisoners who typically sleep there. In the common spaces, prisoners mingle and nobody sleeps.

Occupancy: Assuming you and I lived at opposite ends of an apartment building, it makes no sense for me to stand at my front door and invite the vampire to enter your living room, for I do not then occupy your residence.

Other Spaces: Presumably the vampire can enter workshops, stores, and the like without an invitation, so long as those spaces do not also constitute part of someone's residence. In particular, if there's so much as a cot or a blanket in the warden's office, it may be considered a distinct (if transient) residence rather than merely a work space.

Conclusion: The prisoner can invite the vampire to enter his own cell, but that is not relevant to any other part of the prison. The guard's dorm is off-limits in any case.


The nature of the building doesn’t determine if it is a residence or not

Its usage does

The word has various definitions but, in context, the most applicable is:

a building used as a home

You can use the subjective test - does the player consider it the PC's home? Or the objective test - would a reasonable person, aware of the facts, consider it the PC’s home? Given that players can indulge in motivated reasoning about their PCs, I prefer the objective approach.

A prison would not normally be considered “a building used as a home” - most of the prisoners would not think of it as their home, and neither would most other people. A case could be made that it is home to someone who has been fully institutionalised and has no desire or ability to leave, but that doesn’t sound like your typical D&D PC. Even if guards live in the prison, the cells are not their residence- they will have barracks or other housing as their home.

The vampire needs no one’s permission to enter the cell in most circumstances.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Counter: the nature of a building often determines its usage \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 10:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage For example, say a section of an abandoned prison were being being used as a home for Rick, a zombie-hunting sheriff, and his wife. The vampire could be inside the prison but be stopped when coming to those particular doors. But the vampire could approach intruders kept tied-up in another part, awaiting a decision on joining the group. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 14:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it's a matter of usage, people do sleep, eat, piss, exercise, and generally live 24/7 in a prison. I'd argue it's the whole point of it. Objectively, it's a "place where a person lives" for the duration of their sentence. Which would also makes prisoners its occupants, by virtue of being physically there all the time. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2021 at 7:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AmiralPatate where you live is not necessarily your home. When I’m camping, I live in the wilderness but it’s not my home. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Sep 20, 2021 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage: Right, but correlation is not causation. This answer is specifying which way the causation actually works. (Like in Jim Butcher's urban fantasy series The Dresden Files, where a well-loved home builds up a threshold.) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2021 at 14:39

RAW: yes. The inmates are "occupants" of the prison since they are there at the moment.

I would say that this is also the design intent. D&D vampires come almost straight from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, and many of their abilities and restrictions (including this one) are an effort to model what that story established.

In the book, the titular vampire is let into a sanitarium by one of the patients that is forcibly being kept in, which is very close to the situation of a prison.

As for why I think Dracula in particular is relevant in the context of D&D rules, @ShadowRanger's comment below expresses it perfectly:

Basically all the "basic literary tropes about vampires" funneled through Dracula; they didn't originate there, but most post-Dracula literature starts with Dracula as the touchstone, not directly drawing on the oral folklore from Central and Eastern Europe that Dracula itself is based on. There are a million different strengths, weaknesses and behaviors of vampires in folklore, but D&D vampires are basically Dracula clones.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I dont think the original Dracula novel is a canonical D&D lore source, so I don’t think it is relevant. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 13:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ technically true, but D&D vampires come from there and are the result of an effort to represent them in universe. I believe the example is still relevant in a discussion about RAI. I'll amend the answer to make it clearer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rad80
    Sep 19, 2021 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn’t say anything about rules as intended, unless you can demonstrate a concrete connection between the developer’s stated intention and this particular obscure detail from the Dracula novel. I find it much more likely that the authors of D&D just dropped the basic literary tropes about vampires into the lore without considering any of the specific mechanical details, such as “what constitutes a residence, let’s ask ole Bram”. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov: Basically all the "basic literary tropes about vampires" funneled through Dracula; they didn't originate there, but most post-Dracula literature starts with Dracula as the touchstone, not directly drawing on the oral folklore from Central and Eastern Europe that Dracula itself is based on. There are a million different strengths, weaknesses and behaviors of vampires in folklore, but D&D vampires are basically Dracula clones. They probably didn't try to phrase it to exactly match the Seward/Renfield connection, but it's an obvious parallel. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant meta: Please avoid using the RAI acronym, or use it carefully & be clear in context. You should edit your answer to expand the acronym, or rephrase to avoid it entirely. Also: Don't signal your edits in text. Instead, you should edit your answer to read as if it were always the best version of itself; anyone interested in older versions can view the revision history. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 21, 2021 at 15:35

There are 2 key words here, in bold:

Forbiddance: The vampire can't enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.

So the limitation for vampires only affects "residences", and also there is no limitation if invited by an "occupant".

  1. It is ambiguous whether a prison is a "residence" for a prisoner. It's certainly where they temporarily, forcibly, stay and reside, but its not their "home", as such.
  2. However that doesn't matter because they would certainly be an "occupant" (they occupy the cell, or they are one of the people occupying the prison). So if there was such a limitation, they can issue an invitation anyway.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Either the prison is a residence, then the prisoner is an occupant and can invite the vampire, or the prison is not a residence and the vampire can enter without an invitation. Is that what you meant to say? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nobody
    Sep 20, 2021 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I meant kinda that, but more emphasising, its unclear if it counts as a residence or not, but in the end it doesn't matter. Id slightly reword the last part of your comment to change the emphasis a little: "....or the prison is not a residence in which case the rule, and any limitation it imposes, doesnt apply anyway" \$\endgroup\$
    – Stilez
    Sep 20, 2021 at 8:23

No, an invitation from the inmate does not matter.

It comes down to that the cell is not a dwelling. No one truly is living there. People are forced to be there.

So on that note, the vampire can go whenever they want and not be bothered by needing an invitation to the cell.

The key to the vampire is that it must be a home (renting is fine). Prisons are not generally homes.

Note: This only works in larger places like cities. Looking at a western style where the sheriff would live and sleep in the same building, then the sheriff would prevent the vampire from entering, but the prison would still be unable to issue the invite.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to disagree with your final note; I agree if it's the sheriff's residence, then it would require an invitation, but the prisoner can almost certainly issue one; the requirement is that an occupant issue the invitation, not a resident. Literally anyone that is within a residence can issue an invitation. Heck, in Dracula, the inspiration for this rule (in turn inspired by similar folklore rules), Dracula gains entrance to Seward's residence by coercing an invitation out of Renfield, an inmate in Seward's asylum, not someone who owns or regularly resides in his house. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I really have a hard time buying that a prison is not a residence. People live there for years, decades. That is very much where they reside. There are forces that affect where everyone lives, so that distinction doesn’t really seem all that... distinct, to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 19, 2021 at 0:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Living there" isn't the issue. I'd accept that you could argue over whether prisoners are people who "live in" a prison, but I'd find it pretty hard to swallow any argument that they are not occupants of the prison. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2021 at 12:37

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