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

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
If player characters don't know what saving throws are, how can they cast spells like resistance on allies? I can cast a spell to give my ally a bonus on a death save, right?*

*Ignoring the fact that helping to stabilize them is a way better use of my action.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
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.
On a slight tangent, I agree but am curious.

How would we get to a situation in the fiction (popular in books/movies) where its:

"Oh my gods he's bleeding out"
"Can you save him?"
"I don't know let me try"
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
If players don't know what saving throws are, how can they cast spells like resistance on allies? I can cast a spell to give my ally a bonus on a death save, right?*
In fiction they don't need to know what a saving throw is. They know that the spell is a blessing offering some additional protection from danger.

On a slight tangent, I agree but am curious.

How would we get to a situation in the fiction (popular in books/movies) where its:

"Oh my gods he's bleeding out"
"Can you save him?"
"I don't know let me try"
Well, I think that's a different, grittier, type of fiction than D&D is generally trying to simulate. But I think you could get there with a house rule.

Perhaps to simulate that kind of setting/world, instead of Death Saves working the way they do, and a Medicine check to stabilize being a single Action, we could do something like this: Death Saves are on a 15+, and each Medicine check to stabilize someone is also at DC 15, and takes the place of the Death Save. So it'd be a multi-round process to save someone, and their odds would be much worse of stabilizing on their own.

Maybe we'd introduce further granularity to wounding in that case, to be more simulationist. Maybe the above rules only apply if someone is dropped with a Critical Hit, or if the damage is sufficient that it would have put them to -10HP or below. And we add another rule- in such circumstances the wound is considered to be more serious than the indeterminate injury represented by the baseline rules, and the "get up with 1HP on a 20+" rule, which normally simulates that the person was merely dazed/momentarily out, does not apply.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Setting the contingency for "when I am unconscious and dying" if you must have an in-fiction explanation seems the simplest to me, and as a gameplay mechanic unconscious and dying=0 HP and failed a death save. Why are we fighting so hard to not let the player do something that seems like it is in the spirit of the spell? I'm not seeing a big exploit here or anything.
 

Stalker0

Legend
That's because unlike death saves, shape changers and attacking are things that are happening in the fiction. Shape changers are a group that includes vampires, werewolves, changelings, dopplegangers and more.
Is a polymorphed person a "shapechanger"?

Fictionally, sure I mean its looks functionally the same as any other. But a symbol keyed to "shapechangers" wouldn't go off, because game mechanics wise they are not a shapechanger.

Shapechanger is a game mechanic term, as is a death save. We simply apply a fictional justification for it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
In other words, you can create a fictional explanation for what the death save "means" in game, and therefore use it as a trigger for contigency.

You could. You could say, "in this world, after every six seconds, for all individuals, no matter their biology (or lack thereof), some specific physical in-world thing happens to someone who is wounded into unconsciousness, there's basically a 45/55 chance of that thing going wrong, and if it goes wrong three times before it goes right three times, you die." Those could be in-world facts.

It must be a pretty arbitrary thing, because it must be the same no matter character biology or how you lost your hit points. If you are dying from what we have narrated as a stab to the gut on a human that is bleeding out, or dying from damage from what we have narrated as a neurotoxin to a warforged, the result must be the exact same, for the narrative cue to be absolutely sure to exist for the Contingency to be set with no knowledge of how you are going to die....

Maybe it is the literal Tolling of the Bell of the Death God, or something. Then you could set a Contingency for the case of, "If the Bell of the Death God tolls for me twice..."

You could, theoretically, do that. It makes the narrative of death in the world... a little weird, but you could to that. But that's not currently in the rules.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Setting the contingency for "when I am unconscious and dying" if you must have an in-fiction explanation seems the simplest to me, and as a gameplay mechanic unconscious and dying=0 HP and failed a death save. Why are we fighting so hard to not let the player do something that seems like it is in the spirit of the spell? I'm not seeing a big exploit here or anything.

We aren't. I mean, I already said that kind of contingency would work fine, at least. It reads more like that's still not specific enough for those who want to key off of mechanics.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Setting the contingency for "when I am unconscious and dying" if you must have an in-fiction explanation seems the simplest to me, and as a gameplay mechanic unconscious and dying=0 HP and failed a death save. Why are we fighting so hard to not let the player do something that seems like it is in the spirit of the spell? I'm not seeing a big exploit here or anything.
"When I am unconscious and dying" seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for a character to articulate. I think it would trigger before a death save was taken, though.

I don't see it as "a big exploit". I guess our personal feelings about the spirit of the spell are just slightly different.
 


James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Depends on your medicine skill level and if there is a Paladin nearby.
I mean I can see a reason to do something like that, but generally it wouldn't be a great idea. I had a player do that once and I just gave him a funny look, lol. Now a better example would be casting resistance on the Barbarian who just failed his save against Hold Person; the player characters obviously know that saving throws happen and when- as loathed as it is by many, silvery barbs is absolute evidence of this fact.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top