My question: Can unconscious characters be unwilling? recieved a bit of debate on its status as a duplicate of a couple different questions:

This debate eventually led to most voters allowing the non-duplicate to stand, but then another user came in ex post facto and closed the question.

Is this question a duplicate of either of the other questions mentioned?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry I opened this again before I noticed the comments bringing this to meta. I do strongly agree with it not being a duplicate though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 14:04

3 Answers 3


They aren't the same question and none of them provide an answer

Can unconscious creatures be unwilling? Is willing the opposite of unwilling? What is the definition of unwilling? The other questions don't ask any of these questions explicitly. They also don't answer the question unless you assume a dichotomy between the terms. That assumption is the core and focus of this question.

Even if there was a simple dichotomy, it would be the job of an answer to show that since it is not obvious from reading the other answers. Thus, this fails on all accounts to be a duplicate.

Full disclosure: I have an answer on this question, but it is content of the answer (in part) that convinced me that this is not a duplicate (which was my original thought).


Let me start by addressing all the arguments I've seen suggesting it is a duplicate.

Unwilling vs Willing

The most common argument I've seen is that unwilling is the opposite of willing. While this is sometimes the case, Rubiksmoose's answer shows that there are at least two ways to interpret "unwilling", only one of which treats them as a true dichotomy.

In the "opposed; offering resistance; stubborn or obstinate; refractory" definition of "unwilling", indifferent would be a satisfatory "middle ground", as someone who is not opposed, but not "ready, eager, or prepared" to do something.

Even if it was a dichotomy, the other questions have no hope of covering mine for all situations

Firstly, the current duplicate target: Can you make unwilling creatures willing? In other words what defines willing? is utterly disconnected from my question. Defining "willing" in no way tells me whether unconsciousness affects willingness or unwillingness. Unconsciousness may be an answer to the question "how do you make unwilling creatures willing" (in a game sense, I'm not making a statement about consent), but they are definitely not the same question.

Can unconscious creatures be willing? is an easier sell, but there is still a problem. If they are dichotomous1, "Is X willing?" would be a duplicate of "Is X unwilling?" since any answer to one would answer the other. However, that says nothing to the questions at hand. The qualifications for an unconscious creature towards willingness or unwillingness may be different, especially in a game of exceptions like 5th edition D&D. Unconsciousness (the game term) could easily say something about willingness while saying nothing about unwillingness.

This is illustrated well by @Sdjz's comment:

I'm not sure this is a duplicate because after reading the other question I can get 2 answers for this one 1: "An unconscious character can't make the decision to be willing so an unconscious character can't make the decision to be unwilling either". or 2: "An unconscious character can't be willing so that must mean that it is always unwilling". By the definition of a duplicate the answer should be obvious

Marking it as a duplicate is ambiguous no matter how you answer it.

1: I've already addressed they aren't necessarily, so what follows is just for demonstration purposes


Here's an analogy to illustrate my point. Take the questions...

Can a legless person be standing
Can a legless person be prone

As with my questions, standing and prone are not truly dichotomous, as prone could be understood to be "not standing" or "lying down" (which offers some middle ground).

Additionally, answering one question does not necessarily even begin to address the other. The qualifier "legless" affects standing-ness and prone-ness differently.

In conclusion, they are not duplicates

Since the questions are neither dichotomous, nor would either potential duplicate target be equivalent given the context as a 5e question, the question should be reopened as a non-duplicate.


It is a duplicate because both your question and the second link are asking "What is the definition of 'willing'?". Just because you frame the question asking about the negative does not mean the question is not a duplicate.

The "Can you make unwilling creatures willing? In other words what defines willing?" is a duplicate of your question

Both your question and that second hinge on what the definition of willing is. The meaning of the prefix un is:

  1. (added to adjectives, participles, and their derivatives) denoting the absence of a quality or state; not.

    1.1 The reverse of (usually with an implication of approval or disapproval, or with another special connotation)

  2. (added to nouns) a lack of.


The prefixes un- and non- both mean ‘not’, but there is often a distinction in terms of emphasis. un- tends to be stronger and less neutral than non-: consider the differences between unacademic and non-academic, for example (his language was refreshingly unacademic; a non-academic life suits him)

So the definition of unwilling is directly derived from the definition of willing. It means precisely "not willing".

The definition of willing is:

  1. Ready, eager, or prepared to do something.

    1.1 Given or done readily.

By contrast the definition of unwilling is:

  1. Not ready, eager, or prepared to do something.

As you can see they are precise opposites in definition.

The dichotomy you reference is probably more appropriately applied to "non-willing" as opposed to "unwilling" (which carries with it a stronger negation).

To put it another way, do you consider the questions "What does 'seen' mean?" and "What does 'unseen' mean?" to be the same question for the purposes of the rules?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer, and the proving of that assumption is exactly what is not stated in the other questions and exactly what the question is trying to achieve an understanding of. If you believe this than it makes for a valid answer to the question, but does not prove that it is a duplicate. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even if the answer to a question could answer another, that doesn't not mean the questions are duplicates. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I am not stating anything about the answers of the question. I am saying that both questions are essentially asking the same thing "what does 'willing' mean?". Consider this, are the questions "What does 'seen' mean?" and "What does 'unseen' mean?" the same question? \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 14:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro No. Because they are game terms. "Unseen" attackers have completely different rules to the "see"ing rules of spellcasting for example. Their "game" definitions could be different than their real world ones \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 14:42

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