I've been assuming that granting death saving throws was probably not a good thing, but this recent question got me thinking.

Death saving throws are a type of saving throw, so you should be able to grant saves versus the dying condition.

You can't take actions when you are dying, but I looked at several powers that grant saving throws, and none of them specify that the character rolling the save will need to use an action. Example:

Divine Aid, Cleric Utility 2
Encounter, Divine
Standard Action, Ranged 5
Target: You or one ally
Effect: The target makes a saving throw with a bonus equal to your Charisma modifier

However, the Dying and Death section of the Rules Compendium states that if you roll 9 or lower on a death saving throw, then "The adventurer slips one step closer to death. If this result comes up three times before the adventurer takes a short or extended rest, he or she dies."


Can you grant additional death saving throws to a dying character?

If so, would a failed saving throw granted by a power like Divine Aid count towards the failed death save total, potentially leading to the adventurer dying sooner?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What's the goal in granting dying people saving throws? Is it about the slim chance of them getting a 20+ on the result? Because by default, passing a saving throw against dying doeasn't do anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 6:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Yes. Note that the chance may not actually be that slim. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 6:22

1 Answer 1


Yes, Divine Aid will grant an additional death saving throw, and failing that saving throw will count against a character's 3 failure limit. This is because the saving throw granted acts just like any other save the character would make. That means that the target gets a bonus on the saving throw (even if it's a death saving throw) based on the caster's Charisma.

While this may seem like a good idea, this thread on the WoC forums points out that not only could you kill a character that fails the resulting save, but that if you can cast Divine Aid you probably have access to healing spells or the Heal skill. So unless you absolutely cannot get close enough to heal the target, but can still cast Divine Aid, this probably isn't a good idea unless the bonus given on the saving throw is significant and the target has a healing surge to spend.

If the target of the spell does not have any healing surges, the best outcome they can get is nothing happening, while the worst is still potentially slipping further to death. Casting Divine Aid on a dying target without healing surges grants no benefit and simply forces the target to make another death save.

WoC forums user jamesmcmurray, in the linked thread, gives the chance of a character rolling a 20+ on the resulting save:

It basically gives them a 5 + (Cha Mod * 5) % chance of waking up and healing on their own, assuming they have any surges left.

For example, a Cleric with 18 Charisma (+4 mod) would give a 25% chance of the target returning to the fight (20-24), a 50% chance of nothing happening (10-19), and a 25% chance of the target failing the save (5-9).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I want to accept this answer, but the advice and the formula are both ignoring the possibility of bonuses to saving throws in general and death saving throws in particular, so I don't feel like I can. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've elaborated more on the bonus. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. That formula would be 5 + ((Cha mod + static mod)*5)%, though. So if you have even a +2 to death saving throws and a +2 to saving throws that stack, and the character granting you the save has a +4 Cha mod, then the chance is actually 5 + ((4 + 2 + 2)*5)% = 45%, which ain't bad. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 18:05

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