I've seen in the rules for the Paralyzed condition that you can't move or speak while affected. Since it doesn't say "nor," I assume that you are either unable to speak or unable to move.

So I wanted to know the best way the DM could choose either that the affected player won't be able to move or to speak.


In the English language, "Or" can be inclusive or exclusive. While an exclusive "Or" would read as you do, an inclusive "Or" (which is most likely the intention of the developers) would read the restriction on both as occurring.

Exclusive or: "Are you going via the interstate or the back roads?" If you take the interstate, you are probably not taking the back roads. I suppose it is possibly to create a composite path that travels both, but that is not the default assumption.

Inclusive or: "Would you like any trees or bushes from our nursery?" A sales representative probably does not intend that you are locked into buying one or the other, but not both (unless it is a bad employee). The representative is asking whether you would like one, the other, or both.

In this case, I would say the inclusive "or" more clearly reflects the intentions of the developers.


Nor is slowly falling out of use in English negative phrases. In almost every negative phrase where nor “should” be used, or can be used just as well without making the sentence ambiguous to native English speakers — therefore the trend is to use or for these sentences. Some today even consider using nor to be excessively formal or “old-fashioned”.

In the description of the Paralyzed condition…

A paralyzed creature is incapacitated (see the condition) and can’t move or speak.

… the phrase “can't move or speak” means “can't move and can't speak”.

As further support: for purely practical reasons, if it was meant that the creature was prohibited only from either moving or speaking but not both, it would have said how to decide which. Since it doesn't, and since or is very commonly used this way to mean both, it is even more evident that being Paralyzed prevents both movement and speech.

And that's not to overlook a third piece of support, which is obvious enough that I overlooked it until I was reminded: being unable to move and speak is the meaning that naturally corresponds to the word paralyzed itself.


Think of it in Boolean Logic:

  • AND (true if a and b are both true; true if both are false)
  • OR (true if either a or b or [both a and b] are true)
  • NOT (true if the input is false)

Derived from those there are two more:

  • NAND (true if one is true and the other false; true if both are false)
  • NOR (true if neither a nor b are true)
  • XOR (true if one is true and the other false; false if both are false)

If you read the paralyzed condition carefully, it does contain the nor as a logical Boolean statement, hidden in the can't (cannot ~ can NOT):

A paralyzed creature is incapacitated (see the condition) AND can NOT (move OR speak).

Or to make it stand out better:

paralyzed = incapacitated AND (move NOR speak)

Nothing here indicates that it would be XOR - it is not a list of conditions that might lead to something like

  • Choose if you want to go left or (XOR) right

You can clearly do only one of these in the case of the XOR.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Trish, there were a bunch of little errors, a format inconsistency, and I added clarity for how to get from can't to can NOT (since not all readers are grammar tyrants nor native English speakers). If you like the edit, good, if not feel free to revert. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 22 '16 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast It's fine - I am not a native english either, so the help is very much apprechiated. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Jul 22 '16 at 14:18

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