D&D 5E Is rolling a death save a valid trigger for contingency?

Stalker0

Legend
What kind of things are you thinking of, specifically, which trigger on hit points?

The Contingency spell requires the character in the game world to specify the circumstance. This necessitates that the circumstance be a thing happening within the fiction. I don't think I'd let them specify a trigger based on a certain number of hit points any more than I'd say they could specify "when a person with the character class Ranger attacks me" or "when the Dungeon Master rolls initiative".
Power word spells
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Good question: in fiction, what is a death save?

Offhand, I would guess it's the body's attempt to deal with extreme injury - could be a shock response, some clotting, a burst of adrenaline or other hormones... and that assumes a human or otherwise same-as-human biology. A dragonborn might have a very different biological response.

The die roll is because the body's response is a desperate gambit that might or might not work. The one roll doesn't represent a discreet event.
Death saves, as far as I have been able to conceptualize them, represent a range of possible injury levels, and the uncertainty experienced by the players and characters as to which has happened.

If I roll a 20+ on your Death Save, clearly it's not possible that my character's carotid was bleeding out but suddenly re-knit itself. I think regaining consciousness spontaneously represents having been dazed and knocked out momentarily, but it not being that serious an injury.

If I roll 3 successful death saves my character stabilizes- again this must mean that the injury wasn't actually critical/mortal, but was enough for shock and pain to knock him out. But he's not bleeding out. He'll wake up on his own like an action movie hero knocked over the head and left for dead, and be able to get back on his feet after 1d4 hours.

If I roll 3 fails my character turns out to have been badly injured, and bled out without anyone coming to save them.

There are a large variety of possible injuries which could constitute the second or third situations, and I don't know if it'd be feasible to specify all of them with contingency spells.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
In the case of contingency, the first sentence is "Choose a spell of 5th level or lower that you can cast, that has a casting time of 1 action, and that can target you." I would say in this case you is clearly meant to be the character. Players don't cast spells and aren't targeted by them, characters are.

But in the end, I'm a big fan of "It's your table, run it your way."

OTOH, does a character know what a 5th level spell, 1 action, or a spell slot (mentioned in the next sentence) is? More importantly, does it take anything away from the narrative if they do?
I don't think there's any way they could know what "an action" is in mechanical game terms. That's clearly meaningless to a PC in the fiction. A spell level seems like it could definitely exist in the fiction, or some similar technical term for grading the relative power of spells. A spell slot is a little more abstract- maybe? Either way, this is a list of criteria setting clear boundaries for the player. The character is limited by them, but their comprehension may be more black box- they know that spells up to a certain power level will work with Contingency, but not a Wish, say. They know that it has to be a "normal", quick spell, not something that takes a more extended casting, like Leomund's Secure Shelter.

Power word spells
Mm. Those are an interesting question. I think the in-character take on those would be "I know these automatically affect almost any ordinary person and most monsters automatically, but that they are ineffective against certain more massive monsters or heroic individuals with extraordinary willpower or vitality. However, those tougher targets can be made susceptible through wounding and exhaustion."
 

MarkB

Legend
The spell's description is remarkably unhelpful. Only a single example, and it doesn't even specify whether the event has to be something the character can perceive, or if the spell itself somehow detects the occurrence.

I'd tend towards it having to be something that you can describe in in-character terms, and that not including something as subtly distinguished as the effect of failing a death save.
 

Stormonu

Legend
My first impression was "no, that's too metagamey". However, I would allow a wording of "if I start dying, trigger this spell", causing it to trigger on the first failed death saving throw.

I'm not sure I'd put the trigger on unconsciousness, that could conceivably also be triggered by falling asleep...
 

MarkB

Legend
My first impression was "no, that's too metagamey". However, I would allow a wording of "if I start dying, trigger this spell", causing it to trigger on the first failed death saving throw.

I'm not sure I'd put the trigger on unconsciousness, that could conceivably also be triggered by falling asleep...
Dropping to zero HP causes you to become unconscious and dying, how do you distinguish that from failing a death save?
 


Stormonu

Legend
Dropping to zero HP causes you to become unconscious and dying, how do you distinguish that from failing a death save?
Well, as long as you haven't failed any yet, you're not really at risk of dying. Make all three without failing and your stable and just unconscious. I know some players who'd use that as a strategy to conserve resources (I mean, if you got to make all three rolls without failing one, your characters probably not in a directly dire situation. That orc comes over and stabs you while your down? Heck yeah, get that cure wounds rolling. At 0 hp at the bottom of a pit and made all three saves successfully? Likely I can wait until the group gets down there and administers healing or waits until I'm back up so I can save the contingency for a fight later on.

I wouldn't have a problem with triggering it on the first death save whether it fails or saves, but I just wouldn't let the player word it in terms of death saves, but as "dying" - I'll figure out the mechanics when it kicks off.
 

nevin

Hero
I'm playing a Bladesinger with a Death Cleric dip. I'm thinking of putting Cure Wounds at 5th level on a Contingency and have it trigger if I roll a death save.

This would give me something like 25hps at the start of my turn if I am down at the start of my turn.

Usually with a Bladesinger I use a 5th level False life (or if I have it Armor of Agathys) with contingency and have it go off if I get to 25% of max hit points, but this would seem to be more efficient.

I am debating whether or not this is viable
I'd call that over the top metagaming. going unconcious or some other pc identifiable event would have to occur. as someone else posted would make more sense
 


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