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The ability comes from the Fighter Samurai subclass.

Strength Before Death

Starting at 18th level, your fighting spirit can delay the grasp of death. If you take damage that reduces you to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, and you can immediately take an extra turn. While you have 0 hit points during that extra turn, taking damage causes death saving throw failures as normal, and three death saving throw failures can still kill you. When the extra turn ends, you fall unconscious if you still have 0 hit points. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

If I'm Wild Shaped or Polymorphed and reduced to 0 hit points, can I use Strength Before Death as a reaction to take an extra turn?

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Yes if you're Wild Shaped, No if you're Polymorphed

The nature of this question strictly comes down to whether you have access to your class features while transformed.

The Wild Shape feature says the following (emphasis mine):

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores.

and also says:

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so. However, you can’t use any of your special senses, such as darkvision, unless your new form also has that sense.

For comparison, the Polymorph spell says:

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

Notably, the Polymorph spell does not include any clause which allows you retain access to your class features the way Wild Shape does. Because the Strength Before Death feature is from your class and I cannot see any specific reason why the Wild Shaped creature would be physically incapable of using that feature, it is accessible.

With regards to what form you would be in for the extra turn, that is a matter of DM adjudication because you're in a scenario where 2 specific rules are in conflict. The Wild Shape rules specifically state that you revert to your normal form upon reaching 0 hit points, while the rules for Strength Before Death simply indicate that you take an extra turn when reduced to 0 hit points.

This DM would consider that the player has multiclassed in a fashion to give them 18 levels in Fighter and 2 in Druid, thus the Wild Shape forms available to them are not very powerful. Given the player is attempting to creatively use their 18th level class feature, I would rule that they would transform back to their normal form pursuant to the Wild Shape rules, take their extra turn, and then have the feature be unusable until the end of their next long rest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on exactly what happens with Wild Shape? Are you your normal form or beast form? How many hit points do you have? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2023 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Added a section to address. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2023 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think there is no conflict, you both revert and can take an extra turn. Nothing in the extra turn feature stops you from reverting. There are cases where order of timing matters (like when triggering mythic replacement effects), but here you just can have both. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2023 at 15:59
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You most probably can if you were wildshaped

This answer differs depending on if you are polymorphed, or if you are wildshaped. If you are polymorphed, you don't get to keep your class features, you only keep your alignment and personality:

The target’s game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

Game statistics includes your class features, so these are overwritten. When you get 0 to zero, you revert to your original form. There is no conflict. Once you are back to your original form, you get your hit points back, and you get the feature back. Only if you took enough damage to reduce also your original form to 0 from spillover you could then use the feature to take an extra turn. Otherwise, your have more than 0 hp, and at no point had both the feature and 0 hp.

If you are wildshaped, you retain the use of your class features (p. 67, PHB). Wild Shape says:

You automatically revert if you fall unconscious, drop to 0 hit points, or die. (...) You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so

The feature says:

If you take damage that reduces you to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, and you can immediately take an extra turn

Both are not exclusive. You briefly fall to zero hit points, and automatically revert to your normal form. Since you fell to 0 hit points, you also can take your reaction to take an extra turn.

Timing of simultaneous effects

Technically, as both these effects would want to happen at the same time, the DM resolves the order, or the active player, if you use the optional rule in Xanathar's Guide to Everything for simultaneous effects.

But it really does not matter -- they resolve both in an instant, and then you are in your normal shape, if you first take the extra turn, then revert, or if you first revert then take the extra turn: you end up in your normal form either way with however hit points it has after spillover, and then take the extra turn in your normal form. The features says "If damage reduces you to 0 hit points", not "If you are at 0 hit points", and damage did reduce you to 0 hit points while you had the feature, even if after reverting first, you then are not at 0 any more.

Not falling unconscious

This answer observes that the feature can be read to substitute falling unconsious, and when you revert form you would not be falling unconsious unless spillover damage took you all the way to 0 in your native form, so there would be nothing to replace. However, the delay is not in response to falling unconsious, it is in response to the trigger of "when you take damage that reduces you to 0 hit points", so you do not need to fall unconsious first. Further more, the way it is written, it is gramatically not clear if you even need your reaction to take an extra turn. The two things that happen when damage reduces you to 0 hit points are:

you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, and you can immediately take an extra turn

They are listed independently, separated as two subclauses by a comma. This does not say "you can use your reaction to delay falling unconsious and to immediately take an extra turn". While I personally think that is probably what is meant, that is not what is written. So this in the end must be decided by the DM. Overall, this objection carries enough weight that a DM could use it to rule this does not work. (I personally think that would be a bit cheap for a character using a level 18 class feature, but that is a matter of taste).

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    \$\begingroup\$ This feels incomplete without explaining the order of how things will play out and I personally believe what shape you will take your extra turn in to be a fairly important detail in this matter, especially considering you could use that turn to heal yourself. Would you still end up in your normal form in that case? Even if not, your wild shaped stats can be wildly different than your own and thus it's worth considering. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kryomaani
    Nov 9, 2023 at 18:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kryomaani You always will spend the extra turn in your normal shape. Both things happen at the same time (reaction instead of falling unconscious, reverse transformation). There are rules about ordering simultaneous effects in XGE (the active player decides the order), but it does not matter here: either way, they happen one after the other immediately, and then you spend the turn in your normal form. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2023 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could someone argue that if the reversion happens first, you are now in your normal form with non-zero hitpoints and so cannot use the feature? For example, if I'm playing a blood hunter with Fallen Puppet blood maledict, which can make a creature who drops to 0 HP to make one last attack, would the wildshape form be able to do one last attack before reverting? \$\endgroup\$
    – justhalf
    Nov 10, 2023 at 5:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @justhalf I don't think so, because it just says "If damage reduces you to 0 hit points" -- even if you now are at, say 20 hits, an instant ago you were at 0, so damage did reduce you to 0, and you still can take a reaction in your turn. It does not say "If you are at 0 hit points", so you do not need to still be at 0, you just need to have been reduced to 0 before you take the reaction. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2023 at 5:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin good point! \$\endgroup\$
    – justhalf
    Nov 10, 2023 at 6:32
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You can't delay something that isn't about to happen

If you take damage that reduces you to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, and you can immediately take an extra turn.

If you are Polymorphed or Wild Shaped and reduced to 0 hit points, you aren't about to fall unconscious. Before the "fall unconscious" effect of going to 0 hit points, polymorph or wild shape kicks in, and you lose your form and are no longer at or going to 0 hit points.

The ability is clearly referring to being reduced to 0 hp and falling unconscious, and replacing the falling unconscious with the extra turn. As this is also what Wild Shape and Polymorph do, and you cannot prevent them from doing it, having both happen doesn't make much sense.

Now, you could treat the parts of the ability that you don't want as "just flavour text" and get a different interpretation or play with order of evaluation. But the result of doing either still doesn't make all that much sense as it leaves more questions than it provides answers.

I'd strongly advise against pretending that the "just flavour text" or order of evaluation interpretation is "the only reasonable reading" or similar, or even that it is unreasonable. We got ourselves an ambiguous case here.

Also, not while polymorphed

In addition to this, having Strength Before Death available while polymophed is difficult, as you lose access to your class features while polymorphed. By the time you have your class features, you are no longer polymorphed and your HP (probably) isn't 0 and you aren't falling unconscious.

Maybe while Wild Shaped

That being said, while Wild Shaped you have this feature. And maybe you can convince your DM that this feature "kicks in" before the Wild Shape "when reduced to 0 HP" kicks in, and replaces going unconscious.

Talk to your DM

It is an 18th level feature, so it being a bit gonzo would be perfectly reasonable.

I'd talk to your DM about what happens. I'd honestly do so before you take 2 Druid levels go get Wild Shape. And almost anything reasonable would work here.

But I definitely wouldn't try to pretend that the only reasonable reading was "it works", or even "it doesn't work". The Samurai ability is presuming you are falling unconscious when going to 0 HP, so it isn't written to interact with Wild Shape and Polymorph.

You are going to be an 18th level in one class and 2nd in another before this could possibly impact a PC.

Personally, I advise against making a build centered around being thrown as a hamster of unusual size, dieing from the impact, transforming into a Samurai and taking a turn without first clearing it with your DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you are right, this is a possible reading, too and upvoted it. I started with this, but in the end thought since it is not the trigger, it should still work. But you convinced me that there is enough ambiguity to at least make this not a clear-cut yes. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2023 at 16:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin On the other hand, hamster of unusual size ballistic samurai. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Nov 10, 2023 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can't argue with that :-) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2023 at 16:24
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If you take damage that reduces you to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, and you can immediately take an extra turn.

There are two possible interpretations of this.

  1. you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, and you then can immediately take an extra turn
  2. you can use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, and you also can immediately take an extra turn

The 1st interpretation seems more natural to me, linguistically or grammatically, but I am not a native English speaker so I could be wrong. It also seems more sensible, as the 2nd interpretation seems a bit silly to me in context. Why would reaction be needed to avoid falling unconscious, but the extra turn is "free"?

The 2nd interpretation clearly allows you to take extra turn for free whenever you fall to 0 hitpoints, which arguably would apply to Shape Change and other similar features, including being True Polymorphed to a creature who has this feature. Reaction is needed only if you want avoid falling unconscious. In some cases this is useful even without any extra features. If you drop to 0 hit points on your turn, or your ally's turn, you or you ally can simply choose you taking the extra turn happens before falling unconscious. So your Druid-Samurai at 1 HP could nuke the environment with a Wand of Fireballs, drop to 0 HP, and use the immediate extra turn to heal themselves.


If you want cheesy shenanigans in your game, or feel like Samurai needs buffing at level 18 (probably not entirely unreasonable, if comparing to magic users...), then the DM can choose the 2nd option. But 1st option is probably RAI, as well as more natural meaning of the RAW.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the issue is that in the common case of dropping to zero hit points in your normal form, the two interpretations are essentially equivalent, because if you don't use your reaction to delay falling unconscious, there would be little point in choosing to take the extra turn while unconscious (I guess it would let you roll an extra death save?). Since there's (almost) no practical difference between the two interpretations, the writer made no attempt to distinguish between them grammatically. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 11, 2023 at 15:41

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