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A quick read over the suffocation rules for 5E (see p.183 in the PHB) gives this snippet of text:

When a creature runs out of breath, it can survive for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier (minimum 1 round). At the start of its next turn, it drops to 0 hit points and is dying.

So, after dropping to 0HP, the creature begins making Death Saving Throws as normal. But here's my question...can they stabilize? Per the RAW, it seems like they should be able to stabilize and stop dying, despite the fact that they did not reacquire access to oxygen...but that doesn't make sense. Am I missing something?

The way I'd personally rule it is that 3 'successful' saving throws resets the Death Save, clearing your failures back to zero, allowing you to stay alive longer...but you can't stabilize while you are still suffocating. But I'd like to know if there's anything like an official interpretation that makes sense.

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up vote 21 down vote accepted

This has been addressed in the PHB errata:

Suffocating (p. 183). If you run out of breath or are choking, you can’t regain hit points or be stabilized until you can breathe again.

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+1 - I didn't realize there was an errata, but I would have thought this was obviously a condition where the character is not just knocked out, but actively in distress, similar to drowning. You aren't exactly resting while suffocating which is pretty much what is needed to stabilize. – Escoce Jan 7 at 17:23
Thanks, I completely forgot to check the errata. Any comment on what three successful DST do? Or is it just 'don't roll three failures'? – guildsbounty Jan 7 at 17:28
3 successful DST would do absolutely nothing, because specific beats general; and in this case specific is : "you can't.... be stabilized until you can breathe again." So 3 successful DST would normally stabilize you; this rule prevents that from happening. – Airatome Jan 7 at 17:51

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