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What happens if the spare the dying cantrip is cast on a Zealot barbarian using Rage Beyond Death?

Would being stabilized mean he doesn't need to make death saves until he is attacked again?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. Take the tour. This is an interesting question, but some of the abilities’ text would be good to add. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrHiTech
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! I thing you would be well served by explaining the situation you are imagining in more detail, right now I'm not sure what you are asking. Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 16:43

2 Answers 2

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The spare the dying spell will set a character's number of failed and succeeded death saves to zero, even a Barbarian that is Raging Beyond Death; a character will start making new death saves if they take damage

The Rage Beyond Death feature (XGtE, p. 11) states:

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.

The spare the dying spell states:

You touch a living creature that has 0 Hit Points. The creature becomes stable. 

It only requires that a creature be living, not necessarily unconscious.

The section on "Death Saving Throws" states:

Roll a d20. If the roll is 10 or higher, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. A success or failure has no effect by itself. On your third success, you become stable (see below). On your third failure, you die. The successes and failures don’t need to be consecutive; keep track of both until you collect three of a kind. The number of both is reset to zero when you regain any hit points or become stable.

Thus we know that stabalizing the Barbarian would change their number of successes and failures on death saves to zero. Note that a stable creature stops making death saving throws, but if they take damage again the process of making death saving throws will resume:

A stable creature doesn't make death saving throws, even though it has 0 hit points [...] The creature stops being stable, and must start making death saving throws again, if it takes any damage.


There is an odd effect of the rules though due to the following phrase:

[...] 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.

What would happen if a Barbarian got to three failed death saves and then spare the dying was cast on them. Clearly their number of failed (and succeeded) death saving throws would reset to 0 as they are still a valid target of the spell, but what would happen when their rage finally ends?

If they have more than zero hit points, the clause can't apply at all so they would not die and would not fall unconscious either.
However, if they have zero hit points when their rage ends there are two outcomes one might reasonably imagine:

  1. They die because at one point they had three failed death saves?
  2. They die only if they have three failed death saves when their rage actually ends?

RAW only the first is correct because the feature states "if you would die... you don't die until your rage ends" which is (nearly) equivalent to "if you would die... you die when your rage ends" and because there was a time where they would die, they automatically die when their rage ends.
As a GM I would use the second, saying you need to have three failed saves when your rage actually ends.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Spare the Dying works after 3 failed saves because they are still living and still a valid target for the spell - “you don’t die until your rage ends”. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 4:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer might be confusing "falling unconscious" and "dying" a bit. I agree that Spare the Dying will reset death saves, but I think (1) having 0 HP at the end of a Zealot's Rage = unconscious, regardless of whether they are stable or not, and (2) 3 failed death saves = die, which for a Zealot is delayed until the end of their rage and conditional on them still having 0 HP, but not conditional on stability or whether or not death saves were reset. (If you disagree, I'll write an answer to expand on my reasoning.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Vigil
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 7:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ RAW, I don't think the ability is unclear : it seems to indicate that once the Barbarian failed 3 Death Saving Throw (DST), they would die at the end of the rage if they are at 0 HP, since there is no mention of their DST. But as a DM, I agree with your ruling : that would be weird to have the Barbarian, raging with 3 failed DST, alive and then dead at the end of their rage, "stabilized" with 0 failed DST. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NahynOklauq I don't think it'd be weird for the barbarian to die. This is a cantrip. Cantrip not being able to reverse rage gone beyond 3 failed DST is quite reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 10:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @corvec RAW getting healed does nothing more than getting stabalized, so yes they would still die \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 19:20
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The Zealot that received Spare the Dying (STD) is stable and doesn't have to make death saving throws (DST) again until he takes damage.

Specific beats general. The most specific rule regarding the barbarian and death is his ability text:

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.

That's the conditions for the zealot barbarian dying. All three must apply at the same time:

  1. Barbarian has three failed saves.
  2. Rage ended.
  3. Current HP amount is 0 when rage ends.

The barbarian won't die until rage ends, no matter how many of either DST he has. He still only dies with three fails.

When you inflict STD on the barbarian, two things happen:

  1. The spell stabilizes the a) still-living b) at 0 HP character (regardless of other conditions)
  2. The death saving throw tallies (both successes and failures) are reset to zero because stabilization happened.

There is also a matter of suspending further death saving throws.

A stable creature doesn’t make death saving throws, even though it has 0 hit points, but it does remain unconscious

The "remain unconscious" part is overrulled by the more specific rule of the barbarian's ability. However, while combat lasts, he might accrue more failed DST if he is damaged:

If you take damage at 0 hp, you suffer a death saving throw failure. A critical hit counts as two failures.

This will remove the "stable" (non-)condition from the barbarian, since

The creature stops being stable, and must start making death saving throws again, if it takes any damage.

Thus STD is only a temporary fix. As you said, "until he is attacked again"

The best strategy is to give the barbarian STD right before rage ends.

Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked Unconscious or if Your Turn ends and you haven't attacked a Hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can also end your rage on Your Turn as a Bonus Action.

After rage ends the barbarian will suffer the "unconscious" portion of the 0 HP + stable rule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also a small note, you may wish to avoid the acronym STD, not only is it similar to DST but it also already has a well known meaning, Sexually Transmitted Disease, which may make for confusion \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ ^ especially when you use phrasing like "inflict STD". Spare The Dying is a helpful effect; you don't "inflict" it on someone, unlike a Sexually Transmitted Disease. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 3:29

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