While I won't question my DM because it is his game and he is running it his own way, I was curious on one of the rulings that was made and wanted to see what the official rules on it were.

We are playing 5e and 2 players were downed. I have a +5 to my medicine check and was attempting to stabilize at least one of them so we wouldn't have a PC death. I was being required to roll a 15+ to get a success, and was told each success only counted as a single death save. Due to this, one of the players did die (ironically the one I rolled 2 successes on as he failed all 3 of his rolls).

What are the official rules on using medicine and stabilization in a typical game?


1 Answer 1


A successful DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) check will stabilize a dying creature.

The rules for stabilizing a creature state:

You can use your action to administer first aid to an unconscious creature and attempt to stabilize it, which requires a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) check.

A stable creature doesn’t make death saving throws, even though it has 0 hit points, but it does remain unconscious. The creature stops being stable, and must start making death saving throws again, if it takes any damage. A stable creature that isn’t healed regains 1 hit point after 1d4 hours.

Note, stabilizing a creature this way does not bring them to consciousness. They just stop dying. With a +5 to your Medicine skill, a die roll of 5 or more would have succeeded under the official rules.

Further, you can use a Healer’s Kit that makes this even easier:

Healer’s Kit. This kit is a leather pouch containing bandages, salves, and splints. The kit has ten uses. As an action, you can expend one use of the kit to stabilize a creature that has 0 hit points, without needing to make a Wisdom (Medicine) check.

Healer’s Kit is listed under “Other Adventuring Gear” in the Player’s Handbook (pg. 151) and only costs 5 gp. It eliminates the need to make any checks.

It seems likely that your DM is using a house rule for this. Personally, you not knowing about a house rule is a bit of a red flag. You should take the time to talk to the DM about other house rules they are using. Everyone needs to know the rules of the game. The rules are the primary tool the players have for managing expectations about the decisions they make, I write about this in this answer:

If I know my DM is going to apply the rules as written with a reasonable measure of consistency, I am equipped to think through the space of outcomes my actions might have - I am aware of all the possible rules that may apply, and what different outcomes might look like when I roll the dice. But if I know my DM is consistently inconsistent in their rulings, every situation becomes a two way lottery: I gamble on the whims of the DM, and the DM gambles on the players coming up with reasonable or unreasonable ideas.

Not knowing what rules are going to apply in a particular situation is a recipe for hurt feelings and disappointment.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is my first D&D campaign and I didn't know any rulings on skills or what not. He admittedly came up with the ruling on the fly as our healing spells were down and we needed someone stabilized, so that was the ruling he came up with. I will ask about this for future ruling and if he decides to keep it as a house rule then I have no issues with that. I am mostly just playing for fun and am not looking to make waves. \$\endgroup\$
    – Namquoron
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 22:00
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Namquoron Gotcha, when I say “red flag”, I mean “something isn’t right here”, in this case, it’s that the DM is not aware of all the rules either - which is okay every, has to learn the game. Just mention this rule from the PHB and talk about which to use moving forward. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 1:30

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