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Say the creature rolled a 1 on the d20, and would have 2 failed death saves, but uses their pre-given bardic inspiration and rolls a total of 10+.

Would the creature be saved from the consequences of rolling a 1 on the d20, since it says that when you roll a 10 or higher, it counts as a success?

I know about the "specific beats general" rule, so in this case, which is the more specific rule?

If the roll is 10 or higher, you succeed.

or

When you make a death saving throw and roll a 1 on the d20, it counts as two failures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related Q&A on death saves is here: How else can I get Advantage on Death Saving Throws? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2019 at 12:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @1600hp Upon consideration of your comment on my answer to this question, I have decided it is likely incorrect and have deleted it. Unfortunately I can't comment on a deleted post and thereby ping you, so I am doing so here. Please respond, or flag this comment for deletion, after you have read it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 5 at 19:24

1 Answer 1

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No, a 1 on the d20 for a death saving throw is still 2 failures

As you've pointed out, the specific rules for death saving throws state (PHB, p. 197; emphasis mine):

When you make a death saving throw and roll a 1 on the d20, it counts as two failures.

It specifically mentions the number on the die, not the total, which implies that even if you somehow managed to get a +19 through various buffs and such, it would still count as a 1.

This is similar to how natural 1s on attack rolls work (PHB, p. 194; emphasis mine):

If the d20 roll for an attack is a 1, the attack misses regardless of any modifiers or the target's AC.

Now, you could argue that because the rules on death saving throws doesn't explicitly mention modifiers, that modifiers should therefore work. However, I believe that the important distinction is that both rules specifically call out a 1 on the d20 and states the result of that outcome, and that both are more specific than the general case where attack rolls and saving throws make use of modifiers to get higher (or lower) results.

Hence, my conclusion is that the "roll a 1 on the d20" is the more specific case, and any sources of any modifiers cannot help you to avoid that. Rerolls, though, that's a different matter entirely (I'm looking at you, Halflings...).

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you take into consideration how many ways there is to get at least +1 to death saving throw, the natural 1 clause wouldn't matter in many cases. Also, monks would not be able to die unless poked with a sharp stick while down. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2019 at 9:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Revolver_Ocelot: Which is how monks should always be treated :) \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Sep 18, 2019 at 10:22

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