If a character is knocked unconscious with 0HP with a source of automatically dealt damage, for example, into a fire, and takes damage from it each turn, does the automatic Death Saving Throw failure from taking damage at 0hp happen before or after the player's regular Death Saving Throw roll?

If the unconscious PC takes the auto-fail first then they effectively only get 1 Death Saving Throw to survive, because they'd autofail and roll a failure the first turn, then autofail again and die the next turn.

If they get to roll first, then they only effectively get two death saving throws before they die.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related, with respect to simultaneous effects: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/116463/42386 \$\endgroup\$
    – Xirema
    Dec 7, 2018 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that specific example used in the linked question is the same as the question here (start of turn damage & death save), I think this one should be marked as a duplicate. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7, 2018 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree that this is a duplicate because people who want to know about death saves aren't going to search for ''start of turn triggers" they're going to search for death saves. \$\endgroup\$
    – user47897
    Dec 7, 2018 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkTO: Well then, it's a good thing those people will find this post, which rightly points them to the question it's a duplicate of. That's why we don't delete duplicate questions and encourage others to leave them up even if closed :) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 8, 2018 at 6:40

1 Answer 1


By Default, this is DM Fiat

Death Saving Throws and damage from being in a fire both occur at the start of the player's turn, effectively simultaneously. The standard rules for D&D 5th edition does not specify a strict ordering of effects like this that occur simultaneously.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything has an Optional Rule that says the player chooses the order of these effects

This optional rule is found on page 77:

In rare cases, effects can happen at the same time, especially at the start or end of a creature's turn. If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster's turn, the person at the game table - whether player or DM - who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen.

If your table uses this optional rule, then the player affected by their imminient death has the choice of whether to trigger the Death Saving Throw or the Fire Damage first, and therefore, they can choose the way to resolve these two effects that is least harmful to them.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd say you should let the player decide regardless of the optional rule being active or not. This way you avoid a rules debate. (Character death is something most players won't be happy about which is all the more reason to argue about the outcome.) \$\endgroup\$
    – fabian
    Dec 7, 2018 at 16:03