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I am playing in a 5E campaign as a player and after a first few encounters there is something I don't quite get.

Do monsters/enemies follow the same death rules that are used for PCs (i.e. not dropping below 0, making death saving throws etc.) or does hitting zero hit points mean instant death for them?

The reason I ask is because our last fight was against a group of humans in a tavern (bandits, not regular patrons). It was short due to players rolling high damage, basically dispatching a group of enemies in two rounds.

Do we get to make Medicine ability rolls to stabilize the adversaries to be handed to the authorities or are they already finely chopped and reduced to ashes?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ He! He! This one got me too. All you had to do is turn the page... 8-) \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Feb 11 '15 at 2:21
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From Player's Basic pg 76

Most DMs have a monster die the instant it drops to 0 hit points, rather than having it fall unconscious and make death saving throws.

Mighty villains and special nonplayer characters are common exceptions; the DM might have them fall unconscious and follow the same rules as player characters.

Also, next section:

Sometimes an attacker wants to incapacitate a foe, rather than deal a killing blow. When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant the damage is dealt. The creature falls unconscious and is stable

So in general enemies die when you drop them to 0. Occasionally, a DM might want a villain that has the potential to pop back up and thus give them death saves (I'd recommend DMs tip this off somehow).

If you have need of an enemy after they are out, you can choose to drop them to 0 and have them be unconscious (technically, this only works with melee attacks, but really there's no reason to not allow it to work with all forms of attack).

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are also a few super villains such as the Mummy Lord and Liches that will regenerate... \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Feb 11 '15 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ This rule also gives the DM a chance to use the "not quite dead" trope. Where after the heroes think everything is in the clear, the monster suddenly gets up and attacks again. \$\endgroup\$ – Sindri Traustason Feb 11 '15 at 14:25
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According to the rules normal NPC's you can just kill without any death rolls but named ones can get death rolls if it suits your adventure/campaign. There really is not much point to giving everyone death saving rolls since it just makes every encounter take twice as long.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's usually a good idea to quote the relevant parts of the rules you're mentioning in your answer or at least the book(s) and page number(s) where the rules can be found. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Feb 9 '15 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Damn that edit time limit... To tag onto the end of my previous comment; this provides a quick reference so that people don't have to go pouring through, potentially dozens, of books to find something they obviously couldn't find before and/or so that people can confirm the information you've given them. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Feb 9 '15 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh thanks, I'm new here so I'll remember to quote in the future! ^^ \$\endgroup\$ – nicksgen Feb 9 '15 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nicksgen: You can (and should) still edit the citation into your existing answer. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 15 '18 at 19:46

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