Death saving throws are made on each turn where you are dying and not stable. However, the rules specifically talk about making saves during combat rounds - so what about after combat? Two PCs are up, three are dying, and the lich is defeated. For the three that are dying:

  1. Do combat turns continue as normal until all are either stable are dead?
  2. Since combat is over, do the dying PCs make their saves consecutively until they are dead/stable without interference from other PCs? (a combat round in which a save is normally made is only 6 seconds)
  3. Do the PCs automatically stabilize?

I think the closest interpretation is option 1, but at my home game we've house-ruled to work with option 3 (barring exigent circumstances like a PC dying alone somewhere in a trap) because we assume that in the majority of cases a party can easily stabilize their companion or the PC will make their save.

I'm looking for a rule stating explicitly how death saves work outside of combat, or a wiser interpretation than my own.


3 Answers 3


If you think about dying in terms of rounds and what that means for time, a death saving roll happens every 6 seconds. This means that a character knocked out has a minimum of 12 seconds (one roll of 1 for the double fail, and then a roll below 10) and a maximum of 30 seconds (2 successful rolls and 3 failed rolls) before they die (assuming no additional attacks and such).

Because this happens pretty quickly, I would keep turn order going after the combat is resolved. Your party might only have 6 or so seconds to get to each player and stabilize them. This can pose a challenge for the long ranged magic user to make it to the front to stabilize the fallen fighter, or vice versa. It's always possible they fail the stabilization check too, making for those 6-30 seconds to be pretty intense.

I find a bonus is that this additional last chance to die prevents some players from using kamikaze tactics where they think "who cares if I get knocked out? I'll still be stabilized right away." Not necessarily in my games.


Until any effects from the combat, spell, poison, death etc. are resolved, I usually continue the turn order until resolved. If there were enough healthy, unoccupied PCs that they would be able to stabilize any one facing death, you could just rule that this is done as soon as the combat is resolved however.


My gaming group does something similar to what's suggested in Krager's answer. Anytime when there's uncertainty about things we'd do it using combat turns. Anytime when there's no uncertainty, we'd do it without combat turns. This speeds up the game so we can focus on playing the game rather than mechanics.

In death saving throw situations, usually when the last enemy falls, one of the standing PC would say they go over to stabilize the other PC. If the PCs forgot, sometimes the GM even uses one of the NPC allies to do this, and/or do a potion / heal.


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