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I have a campaign that is running on dark matter (sci-fi DnD 5e conversion)

In this campaign there is a player with the race of Vect, which is a construct.

There is also a player who can create medical drones that have this action:

Revival Protocol (3/Day). The drone casts the cantrip Spare the Dying on a target it can reach, then restores 1d4 of the target's hit points.

Now Spare the Dying is defined like this (not modified by dark matter)

You touch a living creature that has 0 hit points. The creature becomes stable. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.

So there is one question, which is: Does sSpare the Dying have to succeed in order for the healing to apply?

i.e. can the drone "attempt" Spare the Dying on someone with 10HP, and fail, but then also restore 1d4 hp?

And what if there is a Vect at 0HP? can you cast spare the dying successfully (but it not having an effect) and then heal 1d4?

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3 Answers 3

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Revival Protocol is an example of poorly worded homebrew feature

Dark Matter is not an official source book. It wasn't thoroughly playtested and can miss details.

Revival Protocol is a typical example:

Revival Protocol (3/Day). The drone casts the cantrip Spare the Dying on a target it can reach, then restores 1d4 of the target's hit points.

If Spare the Dying and healing were unrelated, the cantrip makes no sense. Healing itself prevents the target from dying*:

Stabilizing a Creature
The best way to save a creature with 0 hit points is to heal it.

Which means authors probably meant one of the following:

  • You can use Revival Protocol only on targets with 0 HP
  • You can use Revival Protocol only if Spare the Dying can be cast on the target
  • Both are true

Unfortunately, the authors didn't specify this explicitly. As written, Revival Protocol is just a free healing 3 times per day, and Spare the Dying cantrip is irrelevant, which looks weird.

As a DM, you should make a ruling and stick to it. Based on the name, I'd say that Revival Protocol is meant to be improved Spare the Dying. So it should work only on 0 HP targets, and has no effect on undead or constructs.


* Healing stabilizes the target only when it adds hit points. If the target can't regain hit points (see chill touch), it can't be stabilized via healing. In this case Spare the Dying actually makes sense on its own. Kudos to @Mołot for pointing this in comments.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note, healing "stabilizes" the target only if the target is not under the effect that prevents healing HP, like a chill touch cantrip. So there is a specific situation when this makes a difference. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Mar 1 at 12:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer aside but when we get into the how to rule is advice I would let it work on constructs. There is a disconnect that spare the dying doesn't work on constructs, but a lot of healing does. I tend to side with helping players, and letting it work probably helps players, but who knows. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Mar 2 at 10:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri: Agreed when there's an actual PC whose creature-type is construct. If we broaden this to working on various constructs owned and controlled by PCs, like arcane cannons, that are supposed to be costly or time-consuming to heal and that aren't supposed to be "alive", then it's more questionable. Generally most D&D material is designed with the assumption that all PCs can be healed by any/all healing spells. For example, Warforged are not constructs so can be healed normally (and poisoned, etc.), although Autognomes from Astral Adventurer's Guide are constructs. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... Also, Autognomes from Astral Adventurer's Guide are constructs with a special exception that standard healing spells work on them: "In addition, your creator designed you to benefit from several spells that preserve life but that normally don't affect Constructs: cure wounds, healing word, mass cure wounds, mass healing word, and spare the dying." \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ (There are vanilla 5e healing spells that don't list any restrictions on creature-type, such as Aura of Vitality (3rd) from the PHB, and features like Balm of the Summer Court (XGE Circle of Dreams druid) or Stars druid's Chalice form. Also, correction, an Eldritch Cannon is an object, not a creature, so still can't be repaired this way, only with mending. But the battle smith's Steel Defender is a construct.) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2 at 22:22
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As written, there is no need Spare the Dying succeeding for the subsequent healing.

The Revival Protocol feature, in this version, does two things in this precise order:

  1. It allows the drone to cast Spare the dying
  2. It restores 1d4 HPs.

The second step has no requirement for the spell to be successful, the word "then" in the description refers to the order in terms of timing. Note that if the target is an invalid one for the spell, then nothing happens1, except for the spending of the slot (or the number of uses for features like this).

Moreover, the healing part of this feature seems to work also on constructs: indeed, official materials provides with features that heal creatures but do not work on constructs (and undead). For example, see the paladin's Lay on Hands:

Your blessed touch can heal wounds.

[...]

This feature has no effect on undead and constructs.

So, Spare the Dying does not work on constructs (and undead) as usual, but the healing works just fine.

As written, casting Spare the Dying has an impact only on particular cases.

Since the second part of the feature does not require the spell to succeed, restoring 1d4 HPs already saves a creature:

The best way to save a creature with 0 hit points is to heal it.

If you heal a creature that is at 0 HPs, then they are no more unconscious and they do not have to make saving throws.

There may be some situations in which healing has no effects, such as on targets of Chill Touch cantrip: in this case, the stabilization from Spare the Dying plays role for a creature with 0 HPs, but the healing does not work2.


As written, this feature can be used to restore 1d4 HPs to a wounded creature, and also to revitalize a dying creature, but Spare the Dying has no role at all.

1 Credits to Joakim that pointed it out in the comments.

2 Credits to Molot that pointed it out in the comments.

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No, you can't use Spare the Dying on Vect

I don't know Darkmatter, so I can answer only with my knowledge of DnD5e and what you cited.

First of all, Spare the Dying can be only applied to living beings. This is not changed by Darkmatter rulings as you say. From the full spell description: "Target: A living creature that has 0 HP".

So, the healing effect of Spare the Dying can't be used, because Vect, as being a construct, can't be the target of that spell at all.

You asked if the drone can target someone with 10 HP. No, it must have 0 HP.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, it can be the target, but there is no effect at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Mar 1 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Despite spare the dying starting with "you touch a living creature", there is no definition within 5e rules about what is a living creature and no rule that constructs as a type are not alive (although MPMoM does give all constructs 'Unusual Nature'). The fact that spare the dying does not work on constructs is specifically because it says that it does not work on constructs, not because constructs are categorically not alive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 1 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, you say that the spell description of StD says "Target: A living creature..." This is not in the spell description, because 5e spells do not state what their targets are in a categorical way. You may be looking at the spell description on a site such as Role20 which does list the target of the spell, but that is not official. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 1 at 15:55

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