D&D 5E Hold Person/Monster vs. Undead?

The_Gneech

Explorer
This came up in the game session last night and my Google Fu has not turned up a meaningful answer. So I'm tossing it out here for discussion.

Would hold person work on a vampire (or more specifically, a vampire spawn)? The text of the spell specifies a humanoid, so I took that to mean explicitly of the humanoid type. But then looking at hold monster, it says "a creature," and calls out specifically that it has no effect on undead (which hold person doesn't specify).

At the table as a "decide now and revisit later to keep the game moving" I ruled that the caster could try it but that the vampire would have advantage on its saving throw, as a compromise. The caster eventually decided to do something else instead anyway.

Upon further reflection, I think I was right in my initial decision that the text specifically employs the keyword "humanoid," while vampires are of the undead type, and so it wouldn't work (especially since hold monster, the bigger-better version, doesn't work on undead at all). But I'm interested in what anyone else might have to say before I make my final ruling.

-The Gneech :cool:
 

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Zinnger

Explorer
I would rule the same way you did. Hold PERSON is designed for a normal humanoid person. When or if the type changes from humanoid to any other creature or type, then it is no longer a humanoid and is no longer able to be affected by the magic for humanoids. Hold Monster needs to specifically state that it does not affect undead because it is designed to affect most creatures, not just humanoids and it needs to clearly state that undead is not part of the creatures that this type of magic is useful on. I think you did good and I think you were more than fair to offer a quick resolution with advantage on the saves for the undead.
 

Unwise

Adventurer
Out of interest, why wouldn't it affect undead? The spell is pretty clear about who it does and doesn't affect. It is arbitrary, but pretty clear. What is the issue you are looking to fix by ruling that undead are not affected?

If it was a mindless undead, then I could see that you might decide you want them to be immune to some attacks vs Wis/Int/Cha, but why this one and not all? As the target was a vampire, it clearly has a psyche and will that can be attacked and overcome, so what makes it special to be immune?

The things that irk me a bit at my table is hold person being used on Draconians with tiny wings, or mutants with 3-4 arms. It kind of feels like having an extra limb should not make you immune to a spell, but if you allow that, then where do you draw the line?

P.S. Oh I had not read the word Humanoid as a Keyword, I just read it as a word, hence the rather different views on the topic.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Undead have always been immune to "charm, hold and sleep" spells from the dawn of the game. I would imagine that is why hold monster [or Person] doesn't work on undead.

Always made sense [to me]. Undead don't sleep. They are either mindless or have minds fueled by negative energies or consumed by evil emotions...not really a "normal mind" that would be susceptible to a basic enchantment type spells...with sleep, charm and hold, all, always have been.
 

jrowland

First Post
Well, technically, 5E does away with keywords and relies on DM rulings. So "Humanoid" is whatever whatever you rule it to be.

I think you made a fair table ruling. Personally, humanoid undead are still humanoid.
 

Wik

First Post
I think your initial reading was correct. "Humanoid" IS a creature type, after all. That's fairly clear. Hold Monster, which affects a broader spectrum of creatures, specifies that undead are not covered, whereas hold person doesn't need that ruling because it ONLY affects humanoids. Note that hold person, at no point, says "it doesn't affect undead, dragons, beasts, etc". It doesn't need to.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This came up in the game session last night and my Google Fu has not turned up a meaningful answer. So I'm tossing it out here for discussion.

Would hold person work on a vampire (or more specifically, a vampire spawn)?

No. Hold person affects humanoids. A vampire is not a humanoid in game terms - it is undead.
 

It almost certainly means "humanoid" the creature type and not "humanoid" the body shape, otherwise it would specify that it doesn't affect undead.
 

The_Gneech

Explorer
Out of interest, why wouldn't it affect undead? The spell is pretty clear about who it does and doesn't affect. It is arbitrary, but pretty clear. What is the issue you are looking to fix by ruling that undead are not affected?

If it was a mindless undead, then I could see that you might decide you want them to be immune to some attacks vs Wis/Int/Cha, but why this one and not all? As the target was a vampire, it clearly has a psyche and will that can be attacked and overcome, so what makes it special to be immune?

The things that irk me a bit at my table is hold person being used on Draconians with tiny wings, or mutants with 3-4 arms. It kind of feels like having an extra limb should not make you immune to a spell, but if you allow that, then where do you draw the line?

P.S. Oh I had not read the word Humanoid as a Keyword, I just read it as a word, hence the rather different views on the topic.

I'm not looking to fix anything, just looking to interpret the text at hand. Certainly not every intelligent creature is a "person," hence the existence of hold monster, but hold monster specifically doesn't work on undead in the spell description. So if we work on the assumption that hold monster is an extrapolation of the same magic of hold person, then it makes sense that the "lesser" spell has at least the same limitations of the greater one.

Thus...

"Hold Monster" = "Hold all creatures, except for undead."

"Hold Person" = "Hold all creatures, except for undead, aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fiends, fey, giants, monstrosities, oozes, and plants."

That's my reasoning, anyhow.

-The Gneech :cool:
 

Well, technically, 5E does away with keywords and relies on DM rulings. So "Humanoid" is whatever whatever you rule it to be.

Not correct. 5e does not do away with Keywords, All monsters have their type of written under their name. So a Humanoid is a Humanoid.

I don't know why you would think this.
 

jrowland

First Post
Not correct. 5e does not do away with Keywords, All monsters have their type of written under their name. So a Humanoid is a Humanoid.

I don't know why you would think this.

Keywords as a thing (ie mechanic) are not the same as creature type.

In general, a creature type is a "keyword" (no caps, common english) but it is NOT a "Keyword" (caps, game rule). There are also damage types and the associated resistance/vulnerabilities to those damage types, but that is a far cry from a Keyword-Based mechanic we've seen in prior editions that were a mechanic in and of themselves.

Missing are things like "Rattling" or "Brutal", and mechanics that say "Fire" keyword ignites things (although that is in there as a "up to DM" example) or that "Light" or "positive" keywords cancels "darkness" or "nragtive" keywords and visa versa.

In short, there is no mechanic for Keywords. They are, thankfully, gone, and while there are "types", its up to the DM to adjudicate any effects beyond the limited role there.

Under Damage Type (PHB) and Creature Type (MM) it specifically calls out there are no rules for "type" but there are specific instances where they might come into play (such as Hold Monster/Person).

It's more than just semantics of "keyword" being gone and "type" replacing it.
 

the Jester

Legend
Keywords as a thing (ie mechanic) are not the same as creature type....

>snip<

It's more than just semantics of "keyword" being gone and "type" replacing it.

You seem to be contradicting yourself a bit here. I agree that keywords and creature type aren't the same and disagree that creature type isn't a mechanic.

Creatures have had a "type" since 3e (in 3e, you might have a Magical Beast or a Monstrous Humanoid; in 4e, you'd have a Humanoid, Animate, etc). Some have also had keywords (in 3e, you'd have subtypes such as Extraplanar or Goblin; in 4e, you'd have tags like Goblinoid).

And creature types do sometimes have rules attached, but they're attached via specific game elements such as hold person (which specifies that a "humanoid" is affected). Just because they aren't as obvious and aren't spelled out under the creature type doesn't mean that the mechanics don't exist.
 

jrowland

First Post
You seem to be contradicting yourself a bit here. I agree that keywords and creature type aren't the same and disagree that creature type isn't a mechanic.

From MM (pg 6): "The game includes the following monster types, which have no rules of their own."

Hmm...not a very good start for a mechanic. Certain specific effects might "...interact in special ways with creatures of a specific type." But that is the mechanic of the effect (such as a spell or magic item) not the mechanic of the type.

Creatures have had a "type" since 3e (in 3e, you might have a Magical Beast or a Monstrous Humanoid; in 4e, you'd have a Humanoid, Animate, etc). Some have also had keywords (in 3e, you'd have subtypes such as Extraplanar or Goblin; in 4e, you'd have tags like Goblinoid).

And creature types do sometimes have rules attached, but they're attached via specific game elements such as hold person (which specifies that a "humanoid" is affected). Just because they aren't as obvious and aren't spelled out under the creature type doesn't mean that the mechanics don't exist.

Again, the type does not have a rule, it is the game element that interacts with type that has the rule (and even that is under DM adjudication due the use of common language - i.e. sans keywords). There are no rules for type. The rules very clearly specify there are no rules for type. And there certainly isn't any rules for "Keywords".
 

Zinnger

Explorer
From MM (pg 6): "The game includes the following monster types, which have no rules of their own."

Hmm...not a very good start for a mechanic. Certain specific effects might "...interact in special ways with creatures of a specific type." But that is the mechanic of the effect (such as a spell or magic item) not the mechanic of the type.



Again, the type does not have a rule, it is the game element that interacts with type that has the rule (and even that is under DM adjudication due the use of common language - i.e. sans keywords). There are no rules for type. The rules very clearly specify there are no rules for type. And there certainly isn't any rules for "Keywords".

I am not sure that I understand all that is being said about the type and keyword and tags or whatever. But the OP asks about a spell (Hold Person) having an effect on undead. So... if we are going to quote the MM P.6 then lets quote more of it... "A monster's type speaks to its fundamental nature. Certain SPELLS (what we are talking about here), magic items... interact in special ways with creatures of a particular type. For example, an arrow of dragon slaying deals extra damage not only to dragons but also other creatures of the dragon type, such as dragon turtles and wyverns." It then gives a long list of "types". This list has Humanoids and also has Undead. Having separate listings under "type" clearly indicates that they are NOT the same for SPELL purposes. Hold Person has an effect on Humanoid Type and NOT the Undead Type. A Fey may walk on two legs and be basically a humanoid in many aspects but the spell would not work on them either because while Fey have many things in common with Humanoid it is of a different Type and therefore unaffected by the spell.

So, the simple answer to the OP is that Hold Person DOES NOT have any affect on Undead as they are NOT of the Humanoid Type (as per MM P. 6&7) and thus cannot be "chosen" for purposes of this spell. Seems simple enough for me.
 

jrowland

First Post
So, the simple answer to the OP is that Hold Person DOES NOT have any affect on Undead as they are NOT of the Humanoid Type (as per MM P. 6&7) and thus cannot be "chosen" for purposes of this spell. Seems simple enough for me.

The spell does NOT say it effects only creatures of the humanoid type, only that it effects humanoids. This "english normal" language is on purpose. For those who care, they can use the creature types and say just as you do in the above quote.

However, and this is important, for those who find such things limiting to their campaign and play-style, they can ignore the types and use their own judgement. Not to resurrect any edition war, but the straight-jacket of certain previous editions were offensive to many. This plain language approach is a nice compromise.

No ruling is BADWRONGFUN.

The OP made a GOOD ruling. Its not one I would make nor you would make, but it was a good ruling, and the "rules" allow for it in the plain english of the spell. You are not bound by types. They are there, certainly, and if suits your game, use them. Otherwise, the plain english is good enough.
 

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