Going through the spells, I see the phrase "Willing creature" used to determine who you can cast some spells on. I don't ever see a proper definition of what a willing creature is, but I would assume that it would go something like if you asked them "Can I perform this spell on you" they would answer yes. Is there a more formal definition of what makes a target willing in 5e?

What are the ways I could make an otherwise unwilling creature willing? Suggestion spells, for instance, should probably work but what other options do I have?


2 Answers 2



Willing means:

  1. Disposed or inclined; prepared: I am willing to overlook your mistakes.
  2. Acting or ready to act gladly; eagerly compliant: a willing worker.
  3. Done, given, or accepted voluntarily or ungrudgingly.

Definition 1 is effectively motiveless, in this sense "willing" means that you are prepared to do something; your motivation for doing so is irrelevant.

Definitions 2 & 3 expand on definition 1 to incorporate a motive, you are "willing" if you are "acting gladly", "eagerly", "voluntary" or "ungrudgingly".

My personal preference for a "willing creature" is to adopt definition 1 - if they consent to the spell then their motives are irrelevant. The other definitions are problematic as the motive must always be a matter of degree.

For example, if you were to agree in a negotiation to do something then you are clearly willing by definition 1 but you may or may not be willing by definition 2 and 3. When you ride a roller coaster in spite of your fears, are you willing? Or are you unwilling because you harbour doubts or are submitting to peer pressure?

Are you a "willing worker" because you derive deep satisfaction from the job you do or because you have a mortgage to pay? If the latter, are you in fact willing for definition 2?

What is willing

Prima facie, for all definitions, if you ask, and they say "yes" then when you cast the spell, it will work.

Further, the target of a "willing" spell must knowingly consent to be a target (PHB p.201):

Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature’s thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise.

If you were to simply cast the spell on a creature it would not know that it was the target of a spell. In general, it would be fair to assume that a creature would be unwilling as a default state as being willing would expose them to anything any spell caster wanted to do to them.

Making the unwilling willing

So, if they are unwilling, what can make them willing?

  1. Persuasion you can use your golden tongue to convince them. This is a negotiated agreement so it works for definition 1 and probably 2 & 3.
  2. Deception you can tell them you are casting spell X and then cast spell Y. It would be a DM call if willing is a general condition or specific to spell X. My personal feeling is that it should be general.
  3. Intimidation if you really scared the c**p out of them they would probably be willing to do what you want by definition 1. This leaves you more open to the "bait and switch"; they agree to teleport away with you and go "unwilling" at the last second. This would not make them willing under definitions 2 & 3.
  4. Charm makes it easier to do any or all of the above but would not of itself be sufficient:

    The charmer has advantage on any ability check to interact socially with the creature.

  5. Suggestion seems perfectly feasible (for all definitions), if you can word the suggestion to make subjecting themselves to the spell seem reasonable, it says:

    You suggest a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two) and magically influence a creature you can see within range that can hear and understand you. Creatures that can’t be charmed are immune to this effect. The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the course of action sound reasonable.

  6. Dominate again problematical (under definition 2 & 3). The command "be willing for this spell" may be sufficient to overcome this but the DM would need to decide.

    You can use this telepathic link to issue commands to the creature while you are conscious (no action required), which it does its best to obey.

    Personally, I think "which it does its best to obey" makes it willing for definition 1 and I think that is the threshold but others may disagree.

    I would think that using this part of the Dominate spells would make the creature willing:

    You can use your action to take total and precise control of the target. Until the end of your next turn, the creature takes only the actions you choose, and doesn’t do anything that you don’t allow it to do.

  7. Conditions What are the effects of various conditions on a creatures willingness?

    • I believe the following would make no difference: Blinded, Deafened, Frightened, Grappled, Incapacitated, Invisible (though it may make them an invalid target; Hidden would be similar although not a condition), Paralysed, Exhausted, Poisoned, Prone, Restrained and Stunned.

    • Charmed has been dealt with above.

    • So that leaves Petrified, Unconscious and Dead (technically not a condition but close enough). For the first two (and presumably dead) the creature "is unaware of its surroundings" so, can it be willing or unwilling or even treated as an object rather than a creature? Clearly a DMs call but I think that it should depend on the particular spell. I will only give one example but there are some imponderables here.

Consider Teleporting with an unconscious creature; if the creature were an ally of the caster then they would (but for their unconsciousness) be willing to be teleported (e.g. away from the ravening dragon), conversely, an enemy would be unwilling (e.g. to prison). To my mind it makes more sense to treat them as an object i.e. their willingness or otherwise is irrelevant and they count against the weight limit rather than the creature limit. However, it is equally valid to say all unconscious creatures are willing or unwilling or as they would be but for their unconsciousness. Your call.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a great answer and wish it had been selected as such. \$\endgroup\$
    – Taejang
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 17:52
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ Historical note: Some earlier editions did in fact specify that an unconscious creature counted as willing. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 23:27
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ I believe Crawford has issued a ruling that an unconscious creature <i>cannot</i> be treated as willing, nor can it be treated as an object. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 22:44
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe And we were wondering why gamers were often perceived as creeps... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 13:38
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The Crawford tweet @PurpleVermont mentioned: "Only a willing creature can travel with you via dimension door. You can't give consent when you're unconscious." And here's a pair of Crawford tweets where he reiterates that unconscious creatures aren't objects. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 1:20

The issue I have with dominate person/monster making someone willing is the monk feature Stillness of Mind, whose description states:

[...] you can use your action to end one effect on yourself that is causing you to be charmed or frightened.

This implies you have some awareness you are charmed. Further it implies if you have the ability to remove or end a charm in effect on you you can do so. So let's say you are charmed by dominate person, you are aware you are charmed, Can someone cast ceremony on you to change your alignment back to a good neutral or evil state? You are not willing, someone may tell you to allow it or, outright take control of you to make you willing, but you yourself aware of being charmed are not willing, the person charming you is willing.

I'd say the only way to make someone willing is with their consent, whether you cast what you claimed to be casting is up to you. Persuasion, and or deception. I'd say charming a person into being more persuadable works but has dubious moral value and may or at least should effect your alignment if that is a thing in your campaign.

Were I the DM, and if we took the ability of stillness of mind to mean people are aware of being charmed then I would rule it is impossible to make someone willing to have a spell cast on them whether it is beneficial or not if they would be unwilling to have it cast were charm never cast on them. Moreover, the effect of the spell is what should matter, rather than the name of the spell.

Getting affirmative consent to "I'm going to protect you with some magic, ok?" should gain you the ability to cast any magic that would in fact protect them, but would not shift their alignment through atonement/ceremony, nor would it preclude them from resisting being dimension door/teleported over a vast chasm any more than "I'm going to cast haste on you." would. How do the metaphysics of magic work? in whatever ways that the DM decides they do of course, so it's really up to you/your DM, but this is how it makes most sense to me.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 22:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I like this answer, it's also possible that this is just another instance of the rules incorporating metagaming — how else would the Lucky feat work? The player, as a teller of The Story, is allowed some leeway in influencing that story from outside the PC's perspective. \$\endgroup\$
    – AmitaiB
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 18:47

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