In the PHB, it says that three death saving throw failures means you die; taking any damage causes 1 failure, and a critical hit causes 2 failures. But the unconscious condition says that attacks against an unconscious character have advantage and auto-crit if they're within 5 feet.

That seems really tough -- it almost guarantees that you'll die if hit twice if one is melee, and on top of that if you're hit once and not stabilized on your next turn you have a 45% chance of getting your third failure from the saving throw.

Am I correctly reading the rules? If you're unconscious and making death saving throws, and an attack from within 5 feet of you hits you, does it cause 2 failed death saves?


1 Answer 1


Yes. This is a correct interpretation.

As Tuggy points out, without calling it such, this is the coup de grace mechanic in 5e.

If you're unconscious and you get hit from 5' away it's a critical hit, being a critical hit means it's two failed death saves (And a chance to kill you outright if it does your max hp damage).

This seems very much to be the rules working as intended.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm guessing the "As Tuggy points out" is referring to a now-deleted comment, since I don't see a non-deleted comment (or any answer, deleted or not) on this page by the linked user. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 5 at 21:51

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