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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.

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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\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 24 at 20:48
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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\$ 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
  • \$\begingroup\$ How did I not back up my claims? I literally quoted the text in the book. Previous answers seemed to ignore the part about WS stating that there’s also the death trigger on WS that reverts you to your original form & brings you back to a # of hp as you had before WS. Mr. Crawford (and Ace's response) only mentioned the 0hp trigger, which is why I bring this up as he ignored this second trigger. Also, Ace's response has at least one part in his answer that it outright wrong and not at all supported by the text he provided, which I state in my own answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse VanSpyker-Maillet Jun 4 '19 at 15:22
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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

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