D&D 5E Death Saves & Pop-Up Healing

You enter the death spiral with the first level of exhaustion, unless you never make ability checks in combat. Worse, it carries over from one battle to the next, unless you get a high-level healing spell or a long rest. Worse still, it's not even simply a death spiral so much as a suck spiral, as it makes you worse at everything out of combat as well.
There really aren't a lot of common ability checks made in combat that I can think of. Rogues doing Dexterity checks for things like hiding, wizards and other casters making Constitution checks for concentration spells, maybe a few others. Attack roles and saving throws are specifically not considered ability checks for this, as they are covered in Exhaustion Level 3; if they were considered to be part of Level 1, then Level 3 is meaningless as Disadvantage doesn't stack.
 

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There really aren't a lot of common ability checks made in combat that I can think of. Rogues doing Dexterity checks for things like hiding, wizards and other casters making Constitution checks for concentration spells, maybe a few others. Attack roles and saving throws are specifically not considered ability checks for this, as they are covered in Exhaustion Level 3; if they were considered to be part of Level 1, then Level 3 is meaningless as Disadvantage doesn't stack.
Hiding, Perception, grappling/shoving, escaping are the main ones. Concentration is a save. It's not a harsh death spiral, but it still counts.
 

OptionalRule

Adventurer
1. A lot of enemies will intentionally attack unconscious PCs causing them to fail a death save for each hit.
I see this discussed in various places. I don't see how this enhances a game. Between spells that do multiple hits like magic missile or scorching ray, and the number of foes with multi-attack. I don't see how DMs don't kill players in almost every fight someone goes down. Everyone should run the game how they want but I don't see the excitement in that. Killing players isn't the goal here, it's creating fun and challenging encounters.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I do like the rule someone mentioned where failed death saves carry over and only clear on a long rest, it's one I've considered implementing but ultimately decided not to, at least for the current game. If I want to run a game where death is a greater threat I'd use this rule and, to make it even scarier, each time you hit 0 you automatically gain a failed death save.

I think currently we're using a scar system which has 0 effect on gameplay and is really only up to the player to keep track of for fun. Each time you hit 0, you gain a scar and make a note about how you almost died. If we were going to go all in on this system, then I might make a system where scars grant bonuses and penalties to certain checks.
 


OptionalRule

Adventurer
Personally, I would love to have some official variants to dramatically increase the game's lethality. I believe it's a pretty effective way to create a fun and challenging game: one in which you can actually die.
By all means do that if you like it and can maintain players for it. Even then, the goal isn't to kill the players but to challenge them against very lethal dangers.
 

Nefermandias

Adventurer
By all means do that if you like it and can maintain players for it. Even then, the goal isn't to kill the players but to challenge them against very lethal dangers.
Yes, I know I could use death at zero HP in my home game. I just said it would be cool to have an official optional rule like that.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
I wouldn't make every monster do it the same way every time, but would factor in the intelligence/viciousness of the monster.
This is pretty much my take on it as well. Not every creature, but very intelligent ones may do so. Also, some creatures that are just hungry will carry off their kill, leaving their fellows to get their own happy meal. This leads to a different problem for the players, as their downed comrade gets dragged off the field of battle, making it harder to reach them with any healing/aid! :devilish:

(Also, if monsters got death saves I bet players would hit the ones who were down.)
Only if they demonstrate some way to heal/get back up. A kobold shaman with healing word and they will start double-tapping! :)
 

This is pretty much my take on it as well. Not every creature, but very intelligent ones may do so. Also, some creatures that are just hungry will carry off their kill, leaving their fellows to get their own happy meal. This leads to a different problem for the players, as their downed comrade gets dragged off the field of battle, making it harder to reach them with any healing/aid! :devilish:

This reminds me of "The Monsters Know What They Are Doing," which is a great resource.

Only if they demonstrate some way to heal/get back up. A kobold shaman with healing word and they will start double-tapping! :)

Yes, excellent point.
 

Dungeon Delver's Guide

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