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Can a mindless construct (let's say it was given motion by Animate Objects) or other mindless creature count as a willing creature for the purpose of spell effects and targeting?

Let's say, for example, a wizard animated a block of limestone. Can he then target said animated block with a spell that requires a willing target, like Telekinetic Charge?

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In my opinion, no. Willing implies consent. However, a mindless creature, by definition, does not have the ability to make a decision. It is driven purely by instinct, and cannot do anything that requires thought or choice. For instance, mindless undead are specifically mentioned to be unable to take skills or feats. So, being unable to make choices, mindless creatures cannot consent to anything.

The corollary to this would be that it is equally incapable of withholding consent. Once again, this would require it to make a choice, which it is incapable of doing. This is an important distinction. It means that while a mindless creature could not be a willing subject for any spell that requires it, it also gains none of the benefits that might be afforded it for being an unwilling target. Mechanically, mindless creatures just don't care, and may not even be aware that the spell is being cast.


However, with that said, any ruling on this matter will be heavily dependant on Rule 0, even more than most. People's definitions of what it means to be mindless, and more importantly whether consent is assumed given or denied by default, vary widely. While I take the neutral stance of assuming that both consent and the refusal of same require an active choice to be made, some will assume consent unless it is specifically refused, and others will assume no consent unless expressly given. Still others will assume that any creature, mindless or not, automatically and instinctively accepts anything that helps it, and rejects anything that harms it, unless specifically stated otherwise or when "help" and "harm" are subjective. It doesn't really matter which is used, as long as they are used consistently. I simply offer what would be the most strict interpretation of both mindlessness and willingness.

This question offers more information on what it means to be willing, though I'll note that it still leaves the subject of a creature unable to give consent unclear.

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Looking at the descriptions associated with different ability scores in Intelligence and Wisdom, the creature would be almost incapable of forming an opinion, thus would have no reason to be unwilling. So, unless the DM specifically states that the Mindless construct or creature has a specific resistance to the kind of spell you are trying to use (for example: being controlled by another spellcaster), you are able to cast consent spells on that mindless construct without a will-save.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with everything you've said, but I wish you had stronger justification for it than just "the creature has no reason to be unwilling". \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    May 5 '16 at 0:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ While a creature may have no reason to be unwilling (and without capacity to form an opinion may be unable to be unwilling), I'm not sure this is the same as being willing. Surely being willing requires some kind of intent. Being either willing or unwilling requires the exercise of will - there must be some middle state of 'uncaring' where inanimate objects reside? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kaine
    May 5 '16 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kaine I'm thinking such a middle ground might be occupied in Pathfinder by the metagame concept of certain creatures being allies and others not allies, yet I believe the rules are unclear if the creature or the GM picks a creature's allies and, inevitably, exactly when such picking occurs. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 '16 at 17:15
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I would have to say that this strongly depends on how magic and minds work.

Let's make the assumption that magic is simply a crude force guided and shaped by a mind. With this assumption it makes most sense to presume that the resulting spell doesn't 'ask' permission to see if the target is 'willing' so much as it is trivially easy to resist by any mind that cares to try.

First in this scenario we consider the default as a mind with resistant barriers down.

Considering Animated Objects we see that animated objects have a Wisdom score of 1, the lowest amount to determine existence of a mind yet weakest in ability to resist. Yet has no Intelligence score. With our current assumptions we would have to consider that, since, by default, a creature doesn't resist and deliberately raising those mental barriers requires the intelligence to recognise the need to resist.

Unfortunately, by this argument you can also similarly influence such creatures as Gelatinous Cubes

Now let's consider the opposite, that minds resist all influence naturally.

Then, naturally our thoughtless Animated mind would simply resist out of nature.

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This depends on one thing : if someone has control over the creature or not.

  • If it is an independent mindless creature, it will always resist any kind of potentially harmful effect at the best of its ability by default.
  • In the case of a controlled mindless creature (like a necromancer's zombie), its master can always order it to not resist a spell (or any other procedure requiring consent), it's an order simple enough to be understood even by a mindless creature.

NB : any kind of resistance that doesn't require a check or a saving throw cannot be willingly disabled.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I know that a creature can voluntarily forego a saving throw against a spell, but where does the game say that a creature can voluntarily forego its saving throw against other effects? \$\endgroup\$ May 13 '16 at 10:17

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