[RPG] Does Death Strike apply to unconscious creatures


A 17th level Assassin Rogue has an ability called Death Strike (PHB, pg. 97) which applies when you attack and hit a surprised creature.

An unconscious creature (PHB pg. 292, emphasis mine):

is incapacitated, can't move or speak and is unaware of its surroundings

Given that an unconscious creature is unaware of its surroundings, if an assassin were to attack the unconscious character before any combat technically begins (so no initiative rolls), is the unconscious creature surprised, such that the Death Strike effect will trigger?

For example, slipping into the target's room at night and slitting its throat in its sleep.

Best Answer


Surprise is defined on PHB 189 as

Any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter

Since, as the question notes, an unconscious creature is

unaware of its surroundings

it couldn't possibly notice any threats and is thus surprised and susceptible to the Death Attack.

As an added bonus, note that page 292 under Unconscious says

Attack rolls against the creature have advantage


Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature