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This situation came up last week during our session. The party was facing a pretty difficult mob of enemies and one of the party members was knocked unconscious. Seeing the situation worsening, one of the players decided to use the Rod of Security (DMG p. 197). In the text, it says:

The rod then instantly transports you and up to 199 other willing creatures you can see to a paradise that exists in an extraplanar space.

At first glance I thought this was actually a pretty good time to use the rod. The question came up though, what about the party member who is unconscious? In the end I made the call that the character went with them to keep things moving and more fun.

However, I'm feeling like back pedaling a bit and notifying my players that for future uses, the line "... willing creatures..." will be more strictly enforced as I don't feel like an unconscious creature could be willing.

Did I handle this the right way?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related, possible duplicate: Can you make an unwilling creature willing? In other words, what defines “willing”? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 19 '16 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the subtle difference between "willing" (awake and willing) and "not unwilling" (unconscious, so not actively either willing or unwilling) matter enough that you need a concrete answer rather than a ruling? Your last sentence suggests that you are looking for a ruling/rationale. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 19 '16 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ With Critical hits and as swingy as combat can get in D&D 5e, I think you overestimate the judging bit on "before people start falling unconscious." I don't see a problem with using the rod as an "expeditious retreat" tool. That (seems to me) to be sort of what it's built for. I have no further clarification needs, I get the drift of your Q. I'll ponder it a bit before deciding to answer or not. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 19 '16 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ there's a thing i wonder, i don't have the rules with me right now... aren't the people you're running from also willing to follow you in paradise to finish the job? because the rod is clearly meant to transport masses of people. \$\endgroup\$ – Mouhgouda May 20 '16 at 11:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ The way it's written (last phrase) is now a bad flag for us. It's written as asking for opinions/ideas. The answers are also showing this, with many "this is how I WOULD rule it" instead of "this is how it was ruled and how it worked out". \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 7 '18 at 22:52
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I guess this question has been answered previously via Twitter by Jeremy Crawford.

Can you take a unconscious target with you using dimension door?

@JeremyCrawford:

Only a willing creature can travel with you via dimension door. You can't give consent when you're unconscious.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "You can't give consent when you're unconscious." - But what if you previously give consent whilst conscious and clearly state that you want that consent to continue if you become unconscious? \$\endgroup\$ – SeanR May 20 '16 at 9:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeanR no means no \$\endgroup\$ – Raystafarian May 20 '16 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ How many other issues of life should this answer also be given to... \$\endgroup\$ – eimyr May 20 '16 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ My willingness/unwillingness to do something exists independently of whether or not I have verbally expressed that will. My will exists in the subconscious. A magical creature doesn't appear to ask about your willingness. The information is gathered directly from the mind by magical means. As the information is extracted directly from your subconscious when you are conscious, why wouldn't it also extract it directly from your subconscious when you are unconscious? IOW, Consent is the outward expression of willingness. The spell talks of willingness, not consent. Verbal expression is unneeded \$\endgroup\$ – Shane May 20 '16 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another way to look at it: He was likely wishing and hoping to be saved by his party mates while falling unconscious. The spell would assuredly pick up on that. ( I hope this isn't extended discussion) \$\endgroup\$ – Shane May 20 '16 at 17:10
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In my opinion, you handled it right. About future use of "willing creatures" here is a simple-stupid way to pass around wording of that rule: if you read it RAW, it can mean 2 things:

  1. Character is in his right mind and is actively wiling to go to paradise... (Present Continuous). He wants to go there NOW.

  2. Character wants to go to that paradise. I mean exactly "wants to go to that paradise" (Present Simple). He ALWAYS wants to.

(Oxford Dictionary gives examples of using willing with infinite time, for example - He's eager and willing to please and follows my instructions without a fault.)

Players can conform to 2 if their characters sign a pact before adventuring that yes - they WANT to be saved by those rods.

So you can see that here we have a funny situation where following rules as written, you can interpret this case both ways, and although I feel that developers of DnD 5e intended (1), the wording is much more encouraging for (2).

So basically - it's your call. What taste do you think your game should have? Should unconscious characters be a hindrance for fleeing?

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Since your question didn't ask for RAW but others thoughts on how it was handled and how others would rule (maybe a RAI answer) I'd like to offer a comparative answer.

While it is a completely different game, 3.5 has a rule that states, spells with the "(Harmless)" tag can affect unconscious characters. I would use this same rule here since 1) transporting to paradise is about as harmless as you can get & 2) if the PC was conscious they would obviously be willing to go to paradise & even more so to save their life!

Now I see your own answer quotes Jeremy Crawford, who according to Wikipedia is the "Codesigner & Managing Editor of 5e". Obviously with these credentials you can't argue with his understanding of the rules, but by a strictly legalistic view I will say that "a tweet is NOT an errata", and this was not mentioned in the errata so I'd say Rule-0 is even more justified in ruling the way that works best for your game. (Ofcourse Rule-0 never needs justification anyway)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, 3.5 had a blanket rule that unconcious characters were always considered willing. Needless to say some people took moral issue with this. \$\endgroup\$ – Weckar E. Nov 10 '16 at 9:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a more accurate way of putting it is that an unconscious creature is always incapable of being unwilling, not that they are always willing. It seems like 3.5's way of seeing it is that your willingness doesn't matter if you are incapable of resisting any effects. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Koning May 24 '17 at 3:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ It would make me feel better were this answer's inaccuracies corrected. Seriously, that's not what the harmless designation means, and the rule is actually, "Unconscious creatures are automatically considered willing" for the purposes of spells that can target only willing creatures (PH 175). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 8 '18 at 12:19
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How about another work-around: a conscious and willing character has to pick up or touch an unconscious character in order to transport them with him/her to the paradise?

At your discretion, you could make your conscious characters spend an action picking up or touching the unconscious characters in order for the rod to bring them along too. It would allow you to follow the spirit of Option 1 (present continuous), but not make it too easy for your players (by adding a 1-turn cost).

They would also probably have to still have at least half the party conscious for it to save all of them. (Unless they all fell close enough that one or a few remaining characters could touch them all at the same time?) If there weren't enough conscious characters left to pick up or touch all of the remaining characters, there would be an interesting dilemma to solve: Who do you leave behind?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you implemented this house rule in your own games? How has it worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 8 '18 at 17:22

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