I was creating some condition cards when I noticed that... (all quotes from the SRD)

  • You are dying if you have negative HP1, you have not stabilized and you are not conscious.

    A dying creature is unconscious and near death. [...] The character must make a DC 10 Constitution check to become stable

  • You are stable if you have negative HP1, you have stabilized and you are not conscious.

    A character who was dying but who has stopped losing hit points each round and still has negative hit points is stable. The character is no longer dying, but is still unconscious.

  • You are disabled if you have 0 HP or if you have Negative HP1, you have stabilized and you are conscious.

    A character with 0 hit points, or one who has negative hit points but has become stable and conscious, is disabled.

What happens to a character who ends up in negative HP and conscious without having stabilized?

A note on Ferocity: Ferocity happens when you would end up being Dying, and it prevents you from being unconscious while still being Dying, which means this situation exists, but it's not clear if the HP loss is the one of Dying (and can be stopped by stabilizing) or it's just a non-stabilizable form of the same. It even goes as far as to say that you're still Staggered, but you were never staggered to begin with. Anyway, it looks like it has special exception-based rules and it's not trying to explain a general case.

  1. But less than your Constitution score, otherwise you'd be dead
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ One fairly straightforward answer would be Ferocity. Are you looking for things like this or are you more interested in the general "state machine" of dying? \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Sep 22, 2019 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon I'm interested in the "state machine" and, given that you've now proven that it's an achievable status, I've removed that part of the question (it was there just to say "hey, maybe we don't need a status because it never happens") \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Sep 22, 2019 at 18:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "What happens to a character who ends up in negative HP and conscious without having stabilized?" Is this a cause-and-effect question, or are you looking for a game element that enables this state? That is, is the question Does a creature upon becoming stable lose the condition dying? or Is a creature that's still conscious at negative hp actually not dying? or something? Or is this a scavenger hunt to make conscious-but-dying an achievable state? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 22, 2019 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I guess the answer is that he can only take a single action and loses 1 HP per round, since Ferocity exist the question is answered ''YES but you still lose 1 HP per round and can only take one action''. The new question is ''Not including Ferocity Can you ever be conscious but not stabilized?'' Wich I couldn't answer, I don't know. Even DieHard makes you stable (but disabled). \$\endgroup\$
    – Maxpire
    Sep 23, 2019 at 7:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I want to know how to rule this situation at the table. It already matters to me despite not having happened yed because I'm creating a set of condition cards and I don't want a rule hole in them. Please note that I reformulated the question with the exact purpose of removing the achievable state part, since it is achievable (as MrLemon found out). \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Sep 23, 2019 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


That creature is still dying.

A dying creature is unconscious and near death. Creatures that have negative hit points and have not stabilized are dying. A dying creature can take no actions. On the character’s next turn, after being reduced to negative hit points (but not dead), and on all subsequent turns, the character must make a DC 10 Constitution check to become stable. The character takes a penalty on this roll equal to his negative hit point total. A character that is stable does not need to make this check. A natural 20 on this check is an automatic success. If the character fails this check, he loses 1 hit point. If a dying creature has an amount of negative hit points equal to its Constitution score, it dies.

-- Dying

The general rule seems pretty clear: if a creature has negative HP and isn't dead, they're dying, which means that they're unconscious and unstable.

Specific abilities can, of course, affect the "dying" state (eg., Ferocity removes the "unconscious" and "can take no actions" portions), but the default assumption about a live creature with negative HP is that they've either stabilized or need to do so before they bleed out.


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