If a PC is at wounded 3 and is brought to 0 HP, they fall unconscious and gain dying 4. Most PCs die when they reach dying 4, so the player would like to avoid this by spending all of their hero points.

The hero point rules say that you can (emphasis added)

[s]pend all your Hero Points (minimum 1) to avoid death. You can do this when your dying condition would increase. You lose the dying condition entirely and stabilize with 0 Hit Points. You don't gain the wounded condition or increase its value from losing the dying condition in this way, but if you already had that condition, you don't lose it or decrease its value.

Is "gaining" the dying condition the same thing as "increasing" the dying condition for this purpose?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This probably reads like nitpicking, but the question did come up at a table where I'm not the GM last week. \$\endgroup\$
    – darch
    Feb 14, 2023 at 23:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/195921/… \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 14, 2023 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


Yes, but...

A PC doesn't gain the dying 4 condition directly, but drops to 0 and gains the dying condition 1 and then increases the condition by the wounded value. As the wounded condition states:

If you gain the dying condition while wounded, increase your dying condition value by your wounded value.

That being said, there are still the doomed condition and instant death effects that kill the character when it drops to 0 (for example finger of death) to take notice of. Those are technically rare but deadlier effects. Also, a reminder: you are still wounded 3 and unconscious when using a hero point that way, so any more damage will kill your character.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, that's a really good find! That strongly suggests that we can trigger the hero point expenditure without having to parse "gaining" and "increasing" at all! \$\endgroup\$
    – darch
    Feb 15, 2023 at 0:37


Gaining a condition is not an increase. The Player was not previously dying 0; they were simply not dying at all! This may feel like a pedantic difference, but it's important; if you have the dying condition, you're unconscious:

While you have this condition, you are unconscious.

The rule doesn't say "if your dying value is greater than 0...". So a distinction between gaining a condition (or "becoming ") and increasing a condition is necessary! This is important for other conditions too, like stunned.

The wounded condition illustrates this well, contrasting "become" and "increase":

Anytime you lose the dying condition, you become wounded 1 if you didn’t already have the wounded condition. If you already have the wounded condition, your wounded condition value instead increases by 1.

The Fighter's Bravery ability gives us an example of Paizo using the gaining language:

... In addition, anytime you gain the frightened condition, reduce its value by 1.

For a potentially helpful analog, if you're a programmer, think of the difference between declaring and assigning a variable, and incrementing a variable.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ But don't you technically drop to dying 1 and then increase that value by the wounded condition? The wounded condition states "If you gain the dying condition while wounded, increase your dying condition value by your wounded value." So you never really go to dying 4 directly, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Feb 14, 2023 at 23:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Snakehelm I could see an argument being made for that; feel free to post that as a separate answer. It's very different reasoning that the other current yes answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 15, 2023 at 0:01

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