[RPG] Can the versatility of Feign Death be increased by combining it with Lesser Restoration and/or Freedom of Movement


Feign Death

put[s the target] into a cataleptic state that is indistinguishable from death.

For that purpose,

the target is blinded and incapacitated, and its speed drops to 0.

However, the spell Lesser Restoration can end a number of conditions on a target, including the blinded condition. Similarly, the spell Freedom of Movement prevents "spells and other magical effects" from "reduc[ing] the target's speed".

Now, I'm wondering how these two spells interact with Feign Death. Does one benefit/suffer from the remaining effects? I.e.:

  • "a cataleptic state that is indistinguishable from death"
  • "the target appears dead to all outward inspection and to spells used to determine the target’s status"
  • "The target is […] incapacitated, […]
  • "The target has resistance to all damage except psychic damage. If the target is diseased or poisoned when you cast the spell, or becomes diseased or poisoned while under the spell’s effect, the disease and poison have no effect until the spell ends."

Effectively, you would appear to others as if you were a corpse, but you can still walk and look around if you so desire (although you can't take actions of any kind). This "ability" could allow for interesting infiltration attempts, etc.

Either way, this doesn't quite seem like it's the intent of the spell – but, as far as I can tell, this is what would happen according to RAW.

Is my reading correct? If it is, has anyone encountered players attempting to abuse this combination and if so, how did you handle it?

Best Answer

Your RAW interpretation is correct

The interaction with lesser restoration

When casting lesser restoration on a target affected by feign death, the RAW result would be the same as casting it on a target affected by the likes of blindness/deafness, contagion, sunbeam, or any other spell imposing the blinded condition: the blindness is ended.

This is odd, though, because with feign death the target is in a state of blind and immobile catalepsy verging on death because they opted into it, not because they were harmed. My guess is that the designers didn't consider that anybody would bother to cast lesser restoration on the same target (or didn't care). The RAW leads to some narrative dissonance that I suspect isn't intended, which I'll address in a later section.

The interaction with freedom of movement

When casting freedom of movement on a target affected by feign death, there's no condition being ended. Rather, freedom of movement effectively suspends one of the effects of feign death.

Here's the relevant text from freedom of movement:

For the duration, ...spells and other magical effects [can't] reduce the target's speed...

And from feign death:

For the spell’s duration... [the target's] speed drops to 0.

In this case, we need to consult the rule for overlapping spell effects to figure out how they should interact (see Combining Magical Effects from the Spellcasting section of the Basic Rules):

The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap.

So the RAW result is that the effects add together. But what does it mean to "add together" two directly contradictory effects? Since they're mutually exclusive, one spell has to supersede the other (or they have to cancel out, thereby imposing no movement adjustments on the target, which in this case is equivalent to freedom of movement's benefit anyway). So which one should the DM choose? Well, the entire point of freedom of movement is exactly to counteract effects like this!

Once again, by RAW, the result is that the effect of feign death should be superseded. Yet again the RAW leads to some narrative dissonance that I suspect isn't intended, so let's address that now.

How to resolve the dissonance

I have no evidence that the RAW result isn't intended. However, you're asking the question because, like me, it just feels like it shouldn't work this way. As you said in your question, "this doesn't quite seem like it's the intent of the spell." So let's operate under that assumption: that there's some dissonance to work through.

At my table, feign death would supersede the other spells, because my gut tells me that when you opt into its effects you don't get to have your cake and eat it too. At your table, you're free to use the RAW if you think it promotes more interesting gameplay or narrative (magical espionage action: "huh? what's that? it's just a body"), or you're free to share my gut feeling and declare that feign death supersedes. In any case, it's always up to the DM to run the game in a way that makes sense for them and their table, so you should do that.

My suggestion is to err on the side of the ruling that seems most consistent in your game's world and for the tone of the story you're trying to create. What works better for you: that a cataleptic creature indistinguishable from dead can see and move or that it can't? Your answer to that question will solve your problem.