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A big problem I've seen with the D&D 5E system,is that throwing death throws are not fun, not engaging, and very boring.

I am playing the cleric in a party with no other healers. I get knocked out a lot (mostly just out of probability). This means that until the encounter is cleared I'm either rolling death saves, or doing nothing. This is terribly boring, especially when encounters are an hour long.

Is D&D 5E supposed to be like this?

What am I supposed to do when I'm down and can't do anything to get up?

Aside from avoiding damage, what can I (as a player) do to make this less boring and time-wasting? This is for both myself and other downed players.

NOTE: I'm asking for in-game solutions. An answer containing the phrase "Talk to your DM" or similar is not an answer that I'm looking for. Answers can however, include social role playing with the DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What is the composition of the of the rest of the party? \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Oct 28 at 7:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ How often you actually become dead in the end of an average encounter? Like, 50% of them? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 28 at 8:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ What level is your character at? Is this the same level as the rest of the party? \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Oct 28 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this question is a bit of an XY problem: especially when encounters are an hour long - Is D&D 5E supposed to be like this? This appears to be the problem at your table; pace of play. (besides the screamingly obvious teamwork problem your party has - that's a player problem, not a DM problem) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 28 at 14:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think we need more information to put the problem in context before it can be fully understood and solved in the best way. I’ve voted to hold meanwhile. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 28 at 14:34
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Don't get knocked unconscious

While this is not the answer you're looking for, it's about the best one we can give. An unconscious character can, by the plain English definition of the word, not act. Both in the reality of the game world as well as the rules, that not bleeding out is the only thing your character can do.

If your character keeps getting nearly killed in every combat, then that character is doing something wrong. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how that would affect them. They would probably try to adjust their behaviour to get out of harm's way. Buy thicker armor. Stop rushing in, mace lifted, but hang back and let the fighter do the work. Ask the teammates to watch out for them. Maybe even invest into a wand or potion for those teammates to they can revive the character in combat.

So the in-character answer I can give you is: Talk to your teammates beforehand. Consider ways to prevent the cleric from keeling over constantly. And your teammates should be very willing to consider options, because for them, having a cleric function for an entire fight, instead of only the first quarter takes a lot of pressure off them, too.

You say that your cleric getting knocked out is just down to probability. By good roleplay and strategy beforehand, you can skew that probability in your favour.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What if, as above, the knockouts are purely circumstantial? \$\endgroup\$ – tuskiomi Oct 28 at 6:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Half of those aren't overly circumstantial. Close quarters combat requires you to engage in the situation, same as healing other players that are in combat. Strategic thinking can help you avoid these situations \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Oct 28 at 6:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ambushes and traps can be avoided by cautious scouting ahead. Breath attacks, AoEs and Zerg rushes can be avoided by clever positioning. When to heal and whether to engage in close combat is your character's choice, not a circumstance. And if you try those things and the GM ignores them to spring more unavoidable ambushes and breath attacks on your party, then it's time to talk to them, because that's railroading. \$\endgroup\$ – AlienAtSystem Oct 28 at 6:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to consider adding advice on certain spells this character should always have prepared as well such as Heroism (temp HP at the start of each of your turns acts as effective damage reduction) and Sanctuary (which forces the enemy to make a Wisdom save if they want to try to attack you, giving you plenty of time to drink potions.) \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Oct 28 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tuskiomi: "Circumstantial" is not as relevant here as "consistently". If you are consistently knocked out, regardless of whether it's down to a random or deliberate event (which is simply irrelevant, the outcome is the same), then you need to act on the fact that you are so easy to knock out. If I were to faint in real life every time I heard a loud sound, I would be buying earplugs regardless of whether someone made a loud sound with the intention to make me faint or whether it's just random loud noises in my environment. \$\endgroup\$ – Flater Oct 28 at 15:04
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Talk about teamwork

I've had dozens of parties where there's only one cleric with healing magic, but I've never seen that Cleric make more than two death saving throws in a combat, generally not even a single one. If you are constantly going down and nobody is helping you back up, your team is doing a pretty bad job at..well... being a team.

Ask the beefier characters to help you out by preventing enemies from getting closer. Chokepoints and opportunity attacks will do a lot to prevent enemies from simply running over to you and hitting you.

As a party, invest in health potions. Once you're down on the ground, somebody can use their action to feed you a health potion and you'll be back in the game. If there's a thief in the party, they can even do it with a bonus action.

There should never be a point where you are "making death saving throws until you are stable" unless your party doesn't particularly care about you living or dying, because relying on death saving throws to stabilize and then spending several hours unconscious is a terrible strategy.

Also, take a look at your own strategies. You mention that it's all down to "probability", but then mention the following reasons:

Ambushes, traps, breath attacks, AOEs, pure zerg rush, distractions healing other players, close quarters combat, etc etc

Only a few of these are actually out of your control. Pay closer attention to where you're standing to avoid being caught in AoEs and Breath Attacks, don't walk in a single line 5 feet apart to avoid triggering traps that damage the entire party in that fashion, and start talking with your party about proper scouting and situational awareness.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe that this is the most correct answer due to the question striking me as including a bit of an XY problem. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 28 at 14:26
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To add to AlienAtSystem's answer, you can also boost your resilience by way of stat increases (ASIs) and Feats (if your GM allows them).

Some useful ones might be:

Tough: Your hit point maximum increases by an amount equal to twice your level when you gain This feat. Whenever you gain a level thereafter, your hit point maximum increases by an additional 2 hit points.

Lucky: You have inexplicable luck that seems to kick in at just the right moment.
You have 3 luck points. Whenever you make an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, you can spend one luck point to roll an additional d20. You can choose to spend one of your luck points after you roll the die, but before the outcome is determined. You choose which of the d20s is used for the attack roll, ability check, or saving throw.
You can also spend one luck point when an attack roll is made against you. Roll a d20, and then choose whether the attack uses the attacker's roll or yours.
If more than one creature spends a luck point to influence the outcome of a roll, the points cancel each other out; no additional dice are rolled.
You regain your expended luck points when you finish a long rest.

Additionally, other members of the party can also help out, in the same way, by taking the Healer feat:

You are an able physician, allowing you to mend wounds quickly and get your allies back in the fight. You gain the following benefits:

  • When you use a healer's kit to stabilize a dying creature, that creature also regains 1 hit point.
  • As an action, you can spend one use of a healer's kit to tend to a creature and restore 1d6 + 4 hit points to it, plus additional hit points equal to the creature's maximum number of Hit Dice. The creature can't regain hit points from this feat again until it finishes a short or long rest.

While it might not stop you from reaching the point of needing to make the death saves, it can help you recover from them more quickly, allowing you to rethink/reposition yourself out of the way.

Of course, the simplest option would be purchasing potions, which achieves the same thing, with less effort.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In the "helping out" category, I would suggest Healing Potions before the Healer feat. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Oct 28 at 6:29
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Others have answered what you cannot do, or how you can prevent this from happening. What you can do is describe your moans in agony, your blood pooling around you, and your casual conversation with the God of Death, Boatman, or whoever Shepherds the Dead into their Final Resting Place. Tell them that you're not ready to go yet, and someone will be along to heal you up "real soon now."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this. Spend your time casually hinting to the other players to come and help! \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 28 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very great idea!!! +1 from me \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Oct 28 at 17:35
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Death saves are not supposed to be fun

What level is this character? I understand levels 1-3 are difficult, a nasty crit from anything and you're all done. But 4th+ you should be able to eat a hit and gauge how many more your character can take. If one hit takes half your life, get out of close combat.

Your party should pick up some slack and let you have a round to heal and restrategize when you need it. If you find yourself always running into battle, I recommend changing your class or taking the tough feat.

5e is far more forgiving in my opinion than 2e. More often than not when I watch characters drop it's because of poor decisions and not playing the character they have built. Bottomline and I hate to be blunt, but being in death saves isn't supposed to be fun. It is usually a consequence of poor planning and rash decisions. I've had plenty of my own characters drop in combat, it happens to everyone. Just remember you're not invincible.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out 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 Oct 28 at 14:22
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Ask your teammates to administer a potion of healing

A Potion of Healing can be administered to an unconscious creature by any other character, although it takes an action:

administering a potion takes an action

Talk to other players in advance, let some of them carry a healing potion and help your cleric when he is down, instead of just watching him dying. This will also increase the whole team survivability.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast fair enough, edited the title \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 28 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fits like a glove. :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 28 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ As part of the survivability, having one character in the party lose all actions every turn for the remainder of combat should be a significant impact in the action economy. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Oct 28 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelRichardson you're talking about the knocked out one, aren't you \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 28 at 17:00
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As a DM I roll (most) die in the open - death is a real possibility. This was discussed in session zero, and we all prefer that excitement in our game.

This means party plays a lot more cautiously, scouting, planning, and running away (I told them in session zero there are things that can kill them without breaking a sweat, and it is their job to know when to run).

Because of this, if the cleric goes down, the odds of one or more character deaths of the cleric or another downed party member is vastly increased. This means party is VERY protective of the cleric who heals them and saves them when they are death-saving. When the cleric is down the party goes into emergency mode and all focus is on getting cleric back on his feet - who else will save the other characters?

Why is your party not concerned about the medic dying? They are next.

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