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Can death saves 5e heal someone in dnd?
Suppose healing is unavailable. In that case, the creature can be stabilized so that a failed death-saving throw doesn’t kill it. To put it slightly differently, you don’t have to stabilize someone before you can heal them; it’s a backup option if you haven’t got any healing handy. Let us discuss how death saves 5e work.
How does death saves work 5e?
Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points, you must make a particular saving throw, called a death saving throw, to determine whether you creep closer to death or hang onto life. Unlike other saving throws, this one isn’t tied to any ability score.
A stable creature doesn’t make death-saving throws, even though it has 0 hit points, but it does remain unconscious. The creature stops being stable and must start making death saving throws again if it takes any damage. A sturdy creature that isn’t healed regains one hit point after 1d4 hours.
Death Saving Throws
Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points, you must make a unique saving throw, called a death saving throw, to determine whether you creep closer to death or hang onto life. Unlike other saving throws, this one isn’t tied to any ability score. You are in the hands of fate now, aided only by spells and features that improve your chances of succeeding on a saving throw.
Roll a d20. If the roll is ten or higher, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. Success or failure does not affect itself. On your third success, you become stable (see below). On your third failure, you die. The successes and failures don’t need to be consecutive; keep track of both until you collect three of a kind. The number of both is reset to zero when you regain any hit points or become stable.
Rolling 1 or 20. When you make a death-saving throw and roll a one on the d20, it counts as two failures. If you roll a 20 on the d20, you regain one hit point.
Damage at 0 Hit Points. If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death-saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two losses instead. If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death.
Does Bane Affect Death Saving Throws?
Bane is a 1st-level spell that reads (PHB, p. 216):
“Whenever a target that fails [the save to resist this spell] makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target must roll a d4 and subtract the number rolled from the attack roll or saving throw.”
Again, since they are saving throws, Bane does affect death saving throws. Conversely, the same goes for the Bless spell. But, in the opposite. The target creatures add a d4 to their attack rolls and saving throws. Both spells require concentration. So, they’re only active so long as the spellcaster who applies them maintains concentration.
Does Lucky Work on Death Saves 5e?
Lucky is a mighty feat you can take in D&D 5e. And, yes, it does work on death-saving throws. From page 167 of the PHB:
“Whenever you make an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, you can spend one luck point to roll an additional d20.” In a nutshell, with Lucky, you’ll have a hard time failing a death save.
Does spare the dying reset death saves in 5e dnd?
The spare the dying spell will set a character’s number of failed and succeeded 5e death saves to zero, even a Barbarian that is Raging Beyond Death; a character will start making new death holds if they take damage.
The Rage Beyond Death feature (XGtE, p. 11) states:
While you’re raging, having 0 hit points doesn’t knock you unconscious. It would be best if you still made death-saving throws, and you suffer the usual effects of taking damage while at 0 hit points. However, if you would die due to failing death saving throws, you don’t die until your rage ends, and you die then only if you still have 0 hit points.
The spare the dying spell states:
- You touch a living creature that has 0 Hit Points. The creature becomes stable.
- It only requires that a creature be living, not necessarily unconscious.
The section on “Death Saving Throws” states:
Roll a d20. If the roll is ten or higher, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. A success or failure does not affect itself. On your third success, you become stable (see below). On your third failure, you die. The successes and failures don’t need to be consecutive; keep track of both until you collect three of a kind. The number of both is reset to zero when you regain any hit points or become stable.
Thus we know that stabilizing the Barbarian would change their number of successes and failures on death saves to zero. Note that a stable creature stops making death saving throws, but if they retake damage, the process of making death saving throws will resume:
Effect on Creatures
A stable creature doesn’t make death-saving throws, even though it has 0 hit points. The creature stops being stable and must start making death-saving throws again if it takes any damage.
There is an odd effect of the rules, though, due to the following phrase:
If you would die due to failing death saving throws, you don’t die until your rage ends, and you die then only if you still have 0 hit points.
What would happen if a Barbarian got to three failed death saves and then spare the dying was cast on them. Their number of failed (and succeeded) death-saving throws would reset to 0 as they are still a valid target of the spell, but what would happen when their rage finally ends?
If they have more than zero hit points, the clause can’t apply at all, so they would not die and would not fall unconscious either. However, if they have zero hit points when their rage ends, there are two outcomes one might reasonably imagine:
- They die because, at one point, they had three failed death saves?
- They die only if they have three failed death saves when their rage ends?
RAW only the first is correct because the feature states, “if you would die… you don’t die until your rage ends,” which is (nearly) equivalent to “if you would die… you die when your rage ends” and because there was a time where they would die, they automatically die when their rage ends. Your GM would use the second, saying you need to have three failed saves when your rage ends.
Death Saving Throws with Advantage & Disadvantage
Since they’re considered a saving throw, if some spell or other feature grants advantage or disadvantage on saving throws, it also applies to your death saves.
Jeremy Crawford confirmed that have the advantage of saving throws applies to 5e death saves back in 2016.
And, having an advantage on your death-saving throws is vast. While the chances of success start at 55%, with advantage, it jumps to 75%.
But remember, since death saves in dnd 5e don’t have a corresponding Ability Score, having an advantage on a particular type of saving throw or ability check won’t apply to them. It would be best to have the benefit (or disadvantage) on saving throws as a blanket statement. Or, in some very niche situation, have it for death saves specifically.
Is a Death Saving Throw an Action?
Again, no. 5e death saves are not an action. Technically, they aren’t any action. Listen to this; when you fall unconscious due to reaching 0 hit points, your character is Incapacitated. This 5e condition states (PHB, p. 290):
“An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions.”
Weirdly, it doesn’t explicitly state you can’t use bonus actions. But, Jeremy Crawford cleared this up on his Twitter, pointing to a tiny section of the PHB (p. 189):
“…anything that deprives you of your ability to take actions also prevents you from taking a bonus action.”
So, what does this mean for death-saving throws?
Well, it’s pretty clear at this point since you can’t take action while Incapacitated, death-saving throws are not an action. If you have a feature that lets you bring extra action, it won’t work for death saves. That clears any questions you might’ve had on 5e’s death-saving throws.
- Death saves in dnd 5e are a particular type of saving throw
- They aren’t an ability check as they don’t use an Ability Score Modifier
- It is not an action
- They reset when your character stabilizes or regains hit points (but not temporary hit points)
- And, there are a myriad of ways to sway the odds in your favor (or disfavor)
Here’s the thing, death is a part of Dungeons and Dragons. Characters die. You’ll have a lousy night rolling and can’t make death saves too well, save your life. Just remember it’s part of the game. And, it’s nothing to dwell on. A character dying often makes for a great story.
What are some stories of your characters and death saves 5e? Have you had a heroic resurgence at a critical point in combat? Or have you faced the crushing weight of watching that final failure roll across the table?