A Zealot Barbarian gets the feature Rage beyond Death at Level 14 which reads

Beginning at 14th level, the divine power that fuels your rage allows you to shrug off fatal blows. While you’re raging, having 0 hit points doesn’t knock you unconscious. You still must make death saving throws, and you suffer the normal 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.

My question is, if a Zealot Barbarian is already a 0 hit points and gets hit by a Disintegrate Spell, does it turn him to dust? Since the Disintegrate spell reads

A creature targeted by this spell must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the target takes 10d6+40 force damage. If this damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, it is disintegrated.

Since the Barbarian is already a 0 hit points his hit points aren't being reduced to 0 hit points. Does that mean the Spell won't disintegrate the Barbarian or is my reading of the Spell incorrect?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me this question could apply to any creature at 0 hp and that the barbarian part doesn't seem to be necessary. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 1 '18 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose true, but most casters have something better to do with their slots than disintegrate a creature at 0hp. The Zealot, though, provides their own, unique incentive to do so. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 1 '18 at 23:44

RAW: the barbarian will be disintegrated

The rules now say this explictly per the 2018 PHB errata to close what was previously a loophole.

The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points.

Since, the barbarian would be at 0 HP after taking the disintegrate damage they would be disintegrated.

The loophole was never intended

Jeremy Crawford, lead rules designer for 5e, confirms this loophole while also confirming that it was unintentional in this tweet (made before the 2018 errata):

The disintegrate spell has a loophole in it. RAI: The spell disintegrates you whether it deals damage to you when you're at 0 hit points or it reduces you to 0 hit points. RAW: You aren't disintegrated if the spell deals damage to you when you're already at 0 hit points.


Yes, the Barbarian will be disintegrated.

While 5e lacks negative HP tracking and instead simply issues failures on damage taken when unconcious, this doesn't matter in the slightest.

The Disintegrate spell will deal combat damage to the Barbarian. Since the Barbarian is at 0 HP, the effect of Disintegrate turns the Barbarian into a pile of ash. Being unconscious does not make you immune to spell effects. See the Unconscious Condition in the PHB pg. 292 for more details on what it does to your character.

Incidentally, if being unconscious made you immune to Disintegrate it wouldn't be able to trigger in the first place. Dropping to 0 HP means you fall unconscious, and that's the trigger for the disintegration effect. This is backed up further by Disintegrates ability to bypass features and what not that trigger on the 0 HP effect. It's the designer's intent that if you hit 0 HP thanks to this spell, you are toast.

Q: If the damage from disintegrate reduces a half-orc to 0 hit points, can Relentless Endurance prevent the orc from turning to ash?

A: If disintegrate reduces you to 0 hit points, you’re killed outright, as you turn to dust. If you’re a half-orc, Relentless Endurance can’t save you.

That's the errata answer. If Relentless Endurance, a racial feature that prevents you from hitting 0 HP, can't save you then neither can taking an unscheduled nap.

Further to this, Crawford weighed in on this being the intent as well (though disagrees with my RAW):

The disintegrate spell has a loophole in it. RAI: The spell disintegrates you whether it deals damage to you when you're at 0 hit points or it reduces you to 0 hit points. RAW: You aren't disintegrated if the spell deals damage to you when you're already at 0 hit points.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this answers the question, the question is if you are at 0 hps and take damage are you still considered to be 'reduced' to 0 hps. The meaning of the word reduce would say no, going from 0 to 0 is not a reduction, but the logical intent of the effect says yes. The answer for Relentless Endurance does not help, that is a timing question, the half-orc went from some positive number of HPs to 0 and would go back to 1 if not turned to dust by Disintegrate. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Bauer Mar 1 '18 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I heavily disagree with this logic, an effect cannot reduce you below 0 hp in 5e. If you are already at 0 hp, the effect does not reduce you by any hit points (instead you fail a death saving throw or are killed outright if the damage is immense). The question isn't asking about the unconscious condition; it's asking about your HP total. Dying is not a "unscheduled nap" \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 2 '18 at 1:47
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not really sure you've answered the question here. You seem to have understood it given your comments, but why have you not written them into the answer itself? For example, you never address, in your answer, why you think that disintegrate counts as reducing a creature to 0 HP while it is already at 0 HP. This is the core of the question. Also, you talk at length about the unconscious condition, but why is that even relevant? The creature in the question is not unconscious at all and the question is explicitly about 0 HP which is not the same as the unconscious condition. -1 until fixed \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 12 '18 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you not think it a bit disingenuous to just say that Crawford agrees with your RAI without addressing the fact that he completely disagrees with your interpretation of RAW? You should at least mention that, otherwise it looks like you are cherry picking and selectively quoting to only support your opinion. I have updated your wording to accurately characterize the source. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 13 '18 at 14:29

As of the November 2018 PHB Errata, the Barbarian Dies

The new wording from the errata is as follows:

“The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points.”

My original answer will remain below, despite being disputed by other answers as well as by Crawford.


In the rules for taking damage it says:

When damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if the remaining damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum...

The book consistently refers to damage reducing to 0, even when it surpasses current HP. We know that being reduced from 1 HP to -1 is being reduced to 0. Logically that means all HP below 0 is equal to 0.

Therefore, effects that trigger when a target is reduced to 0 hit points should trigger any time that it reduces them past 0 hit points.

If this wasn't true, that would mean any unconscious person would be immune to the disintegrate aspect of the spell. It makes no sense that because you are already at 0 HP you become able to resist spell effects like this, and the Zealot Barbarian offers no specific override for this, therefor the special effect applies.

In a related matter, here is the relevant Sage Advice pertaining to disintegrate vs Wild Shape, Half-Orc racials and the definition of "Dying Outright".


No, a zealot barbarian's lv 14 feature Rage Beyond Death does not protect it from disintegration. However, the barbarian's lv 11 feature, Relentless Rage, can prevent its HP from dropping to 0, which does prevent the barbarian from being disintegrated as long as it continues to pass a constitution saving throw to instead be conscious with 1 HP.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you possibly include citations to back this up? \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Aug 29 '18 at 4:41

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