Power Word Kill is a 9th level spell that "compel[s] a creature to die" as long as it has less than 100 hit points.

If this is cast on a druid in wild-shape form with less than 100 HP, does the druid die or does he only revert to his normal state? Is the "creature" the druid himself? Is wild-shape a creature on top of the druid, or is he always the same creature?

I realize that a druid is only knocked out of wild-shape if he hits 0 hit points or is knocked unconscious, so my personal take is that he would simply just die due to the wording of the spell, but I was curious if I was perhaps missing something.


By RAW, the Druid dies.

Wild Shape protects you from a few specific things:

  • When you revert to your normal form, you revert to the number of hit points you had before you transformed (and then take overflow damage).

  • If you revert and have hitpoints remaining in caster form, you don't fall unconscious as a result of being reduced to 0 hit points.

Finger of death bypasses both of these restrictions by killing the Druid rather than dealing damage or reducing its hit points to zero. Returning the Druid to life (or preventing its death) is not one of the things that Wild Shape does.

This is basically the same argument as the one for massive damage, except that there's definitely no sequencing of events. The Druid dies, and Wild Shape doesn't protect you from dying. Game over.

House ruling options are slim here. Killing a druid for using a utility form is harsh. On the other hand, relegating a 9th level spell to "knock a druid out of wildshape once" is also pretty rough.

Does the druids combined HP matter or just the wild-shapes HP?

Just the Wild Shape's. Wild Shape says:

When you transform, you assume the beast's hit point and Hit Dice.

Like most of your other stats, your old hit point total "goes away" while you're in beast form. Your hit points are the beast's hit points.

With that said, adding beast hit points to caster hit points, or using the Druid's base hit points for spells such as Power Word Kill may be a useful house rule.

Jeremy Crawford

This has been confirmed by Jeremy Crawford:

If a druid wildshapes into a wolf and is then targeted with power word kill does the druid revert dead or alive?

If you have 100 hp or fewer, power word kill causes you to die. Notice that it doesn't say you drop to 0 hp.

So what is PHB pg. 66 "You automatically revert if.....drop to 0hp, *or Die* ." telling us? Form dies, Druid reverts, yes?

Beast form ends if the druid dies; things like power word kill can end you without reducing hit points.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Eh, Rules As technically Written, the Wild Shape creature dies, not the Druid. You would revert to your Druid form and assume the HP that you had before taking on Wild Shape: "You automatically revert if you fall unconscious, drop to 0 hit points, or die". Then, "When you revert to your normal form, you return to the number of hit points you had before you transformed". But I would obviously cede the argument to Jeremy Crawford's clarification and hope that in 6E or whatever version is next that they better clarify it. Otherwise Wild Shape is pretty OP. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH May 27 '18 at 14:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH All of those things happen, but you don't lose status effects. So if you were prone, you're still prone. If you were poisoned, you're still poisoned. If you were dead, you're still dead. If you're dead, and your hit points change, you're still dead. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon May 27 '18 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought about that but it uses the terminology "return to" the number of hit points you had. If you have 84 out of 84 hit points, for example, you aren't exactly dead... unfortunately it's all muddy because the PHB at least doesn't talk about death with regard to hit points. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH May 27 '18 at 23:08

By RAW, the Druid does not die

In my opinion, Rules as Written, the Druid would not die. This is supported by the actual text. Unlike the current top answer for this question, there is nothing in the text to support the idea that Power Word: Kill "bypasses" Wild Shape. There is no separation or distinction between the Druid and Wild Shape. You can't target one without affecting the other.

  1. The Druid under Wild Shape gains the effects of what's written in the text of the ability (same with Polymorph spell). This includes the effect that the Druid (or person under the effects of the polymorph spell) would revert back to their natural form with the same number of hit points they had BEFORE they were under the effects of Wild Shape or Polymorph. The trigger for this effect is if they would be reduced to 0hp or die.

  2. Since Power Word Kill specifies that they would cause someone to die, it would trigger the effect of Wild Shape or Polymorph and revert the druid (or person affected by Polymorph) to return to their original form with a number of hp they had before they were Wild Shaped or Polymorphed.

I understand that Jeremy Crawford Tweeted about this, however the actual text of the book does not support this statement. Perhaps that was the rules as intended, but it is not the rules as written.

In order to conform to what Jeremy wrote, the clause in Wild Shape and Polymorph that includes death as a trigger should be removed. That is the only way I can see that would support this interpretation.

Just going to re-post Jeremy Crawford's response on Twitter below:

*Bobby the Barbarian: If a druid wildshapes into a wolf and is then targeted with power word kill does the druid revert dead or alive?

Jeremy Crawford: If you have 100 hp or fewer, power word kill causes you to die. Notice that it doesn't say you drop to 0 hp.

Airatome118: So what is PHB pg. 66 "You automatically revert if.....drop to 0hp, or Die ." telling us? Form dies, Druid reverts, yes?

Jeremy Crawford: Beast form ends if the druid dies; things like power word kill can end you without reducing hit points."*

The problem with this exchange is that Jeremy seemingly makes no indication he remembered/realized that Wild Shape and Polymorph triggers on when the Druid dies as well as if they would reach 0hp. He only mentions the 0hp trigger.

Though I appreciate Jeremy's answer, I would have to very much disagree that this is a correct ruling as the text within the book does not support this statement and I have reason to think he simply forgot or wasn't paying attention to the fact that Wild Shape and Polymorph have a second trigger, not just from reaching 0hp.

So, again, the only way to support the idea that the Druid would die as a result of Power Word Death or would be if the clause where you automatically revert if you die is removed. Because that is literally the only kind of stuff that the clause of the power CAN affect. Not a whole lot of things out there just outright kill you. Wild Shape and Polymorph specifically address this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ changed response to more directly answer the op question while not also asking unnecessary questions at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse VanSpyker-Maillet Jun 2 '19 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your effort in this answer, but I'm afraid your claims are not backed up by the wording of PWK, WS or by Sage Advice—as the currently accepted answer clearly points out. Nothing in WS states that it can resurrect a creature from death when it reverts back. So after dying instantly to PWK, it reverts back from WS to a still dead body. \$\endgroup\$ – Vadruk Jun 4 '19 at 7:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s not backed up by the wording of Wild Shape, because the feature doesn’t say it can “ressurect a creature from death”: only that it “reverts back when dead”. Even though you explain what you mean, there seems to be a misconception in your conclusion: that a dead creature can turn back alive by simply gaining hit points (or reverting to a prior amount of HP). AFAIK, that is not how death works in 5e. Your point 2 is therefore incorrect and not backed up by the wording of WS or PWK: when reverting back, the dead creature stays dead (because PWK omits HP and kills outright). \$\endgroup\$ – Vadruk Jun 4 '19 at 16:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also see text of Wild Shape. It only covers how a druid doesn’t necessarily falls unconscious when reaching 0HP in WS. Although I agree it should be emphasized for more clarity, but as of now nothing in WS states anything about ressurection from death when reverting to normal. \$\endgroup\$ – Vadruk Jun 4 '19 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem with the interpretation is, as Vadruk pointed out, that gaining HP does not bring someone back from the dead. If that was the case, Cure Wounds could be used to revive dead characters. \$\endgroup\$ – Joakim M. H. Sep 19 '19 at 11:38

As the form is written, I completely disagree that the druid dies.

Wild shape is in every other instance irrelevant to your actual body. That's why it has its own stats including health.

Now there's also the problem of whose HP do you have to look at? If you are saying the druid straight up dies, to be fair you'd have to look okay a combination of health, because he has buffer health.

But I think that's ridiculous, because again in all other situations, the two forms are separate. So you can kill the wild shape OR normal form, whatever he is currently in.

And since kill doesn't reduce hp, there is no overflow damage to the druid.

I could see an argument for either, but I'd definitely l strongly lean towards all it does is rip a druid out of wild shape.

Since a writer intended for it to mean otherwise, I hope he'll update it in 6E to be explicit in this case. Plus if he makes it explicit on the druid side, maybe he'll as a side effect make druids less excessively over powered.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! You can take the tour when you get the chance for a quick site introduction. This seems to me like a reasonable answer. Perhaps quoting some rules would help make your case as well. Thank you for the contribution! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Oct 2 '18 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Since a writer intended for it to mean otherwise" Do you have any sources for this claim? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Oct 3 '18 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi again! So, my friend and I actually did an (overly deep) analysis of how wild shape works in general; because we realized that there are a lot of very ambiguous interactions. I'm not going to post all that, what am I going to post, is that I disagree with what I had initially stated. The druid will die, if the wild shape s/he is in has less than 100 hit points. Also, @PremierBromanov ; I believe you misread what I said. The writer intended it to mean something different than my original interpretation. That source would be the tweet he sent. \$\endgroup\$ – ngin Oct 7 '18 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you have a different answer, you can edit this one. In fact, we encourage a collaborative and iterative process in posting answers. In general, we try to avoid long discussions in the comments (this here is fine for now). If you have good reasoning as to why it would or would not kill the druid, please post it :) \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Oct 8 '18 at 14:34

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