When a character is knocked unconscious (and about to begin making death saving throws) in a square covered by healing spirit, how does their next turn work?

Healing spirit will spare them from having to make death saving throws (assuming it is still in place), but does it also allow them to take other actions (similar to other healing spells such as healing word, cure wounds, etc)?


1 Answer 1


Timing is Everything

Let's take a look at the two abilities, and see what they say about timing.

Death Saving Throws: Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points, you must make a special saving throw, called a death saving throw,[...]

Healing Spirit: [...] Until the spell ends, whenever you or a creature you can see moves into the spirit’s space for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, [...]

Okay, so they both trigger at the start of the turn. We can look to Xanathar's Guide to Everything for guidance (in the form of an optional rule) for exactly this situation:

Simultaneous Effects: 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.

So, in this case the player should probably choose to have Healing Spirit trigger first, because recovering HP makes the Death Saving Throw moot. The character is still likely to be prone, so they will have to spend movement to get up, but can otherwise act normally.

If the character has no failed Death Saving Throws so far, the player could cross their fingers and hope for the 5% chance to get one extra HP out of a natural 20 Death Saving Throw. If the character does have a failed Death Saving Throw, however, there's also a 5% chance of dying instantly, so it isn't worth the risk. Besides, one HP isn't likely to make a difference against the next attack either way. Might as well save time at the table and just take the Healing Spirit's benefit and then move on with the rest of the turn.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ barring them being worried about accidentally rolling their final death save, wouldn't the better course of action be to roll their death save first, for that 5% chance of regaining 1hp? \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Jan 11, 2019 at 19:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 If you're that close to zero, one HP isn't likely to make a difference against the next attack either way. Save everybody time at the table and just take the spell's HP and the rest of the turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Jan 11, 2019 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Death saving throws states that "Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points...". The order of Healing Spirit doesn't change the fact that you had 0 hit points when your turn started. The idea of rolling a death save when you have more than 0 hit points seems odd, but by a strict reading, it seems that even though you might have healed above 0 after your turn started, the condition for the death save roll is still true. Unless there is an additional rule that states that you must presently be at 0 hit points to roll. However, since the pass/fail count resents upon gaining HP, the roll... \$\endgroup\$
    – cpcodes
    Jan 14, 2019 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... may be superfluous. \$\endgroup\$
    – cpcodes
    Jan 14, 2019 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @cpcodes So... "because recovering HP makes the Death Saving Throw moot" \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Jan 14, 2019 at 18:20

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