9
\$\begingroup\$

Spare the Dying

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

Same scenario two different ways.

  1. The party fights five hobgoblins and a hobgoblin leader type, all six of which fall during combat. Can the party cleric, as soon as combat is over, touch the leader and cast Spare the Dying in an attempt to keep him from dying (potion, heal spell, etc)so that he can be interrogated?

  2. The party fights five bandits and a bandit leader type, all six of which fall during combat. Can the party cleric, as soon as combat is over, touch the leader and cast Spare the Dying in an attempt to keep him from dying (either medicine skill, potion, heal spell, etc) so that he can be interrogated?

The two example are the easiest case, since both enemy parties are humanoids. Since the spell says "creature" this could be extended to a Worg, which speaks goblin and could be interrogated, or any other talking creature ... to include a dragon.

A related topic is use of either the medicine check or healer's kit to do the same thing without casting a cantrip. (Or not having it).

Page 3 Basic DMG

A monster usually dies or is destroyed when it drops to 0 hit points.

The bare bones of reading the rules suggests "no" as an answer ... but I may not be looking in the right part of the book. The "zero hit points" threshold (but subject to death saves while "not dead yet") seems directed at player characters, and allows for recovery of a player who falls during a given combat without the final death amount of HP going past zero. If players usually just let the monster die, can't an unusual case overcome the general point in the "Hit Points" topic in the DMG?

Of interest, zombies get to recover in certain cases during combat when they go to 0 HP or less, as a specific feature of being a zombie. They aren't covered by this spell.

(Lore Reference: there were "strike to subdue" rules in OD&D, and even rules/guidance for how to handle a subdued dragon. The question is only for 5e.)

In answering this question, we will assume that the party in neither case attempted "Knocking a Creature Out" before the combat ended. (Basic rules p 76, PHB p. 98, thanks Gamer Josh for assistance in framing question).

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe you could have deleted the question then finished editting it,then undeleted it. If you accidentally post in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – Lyndon White Jun 3 '15 at 0:18
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you wanted to talk to them, why did you kill them? :) \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jun 3 '15 at 3:55
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The usual answer to that, Dale, is "because they attacked us" and so combat ensued. When someone has the idea after the last blow is landed -- "wait is one of them 'not dead yet' enough to stabilize, give one hp (paladin) and talk to?" isn't a bad idea. Had a preplanned mission statement been a choice between "kill 'em all" versus "kill or capture" versus "kill most but take a few prisoners" then the question doesn't arise. The other point is that someone may see, when the dust settles (and a tattoo is seen on his face) that this bandit leader is worth a reward, if brought back alive. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 4 '15 at 14:36
18
\$\begingroup\$

The PHB (pg 198) has that section written as such:

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.

Note the use of most and common exceptions.

Additionally, PHB 197 has the following:

The best way to save a creature with 0 hit points is to heal it. If healing is unavailable, the creature can at least be stabilized so that it isn’t killed by a failed death saving throw.

You can use your action to administer first aid to an unconscious creature and attempt to stabilize it, which requires a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) check.

Note the use of creature here, not you or player character.

That makes it clear that having an enemy die instantly at 0 is an option that the DM may use. It's completely legal to rule that monsters use the same rules "Dropping to 0 Hit Points" as PCs. If you want to make sure that some of your enemies are alive after the battle to interrogate them, you should:

  • Make use of the "Knockout" rule, when able.
  • Otherwise, ask your GM to determine which enemies are still alive; (s)he can determine that by fiat, or by rolling death saving throws for each of the enemies.
  • At this point, you should know which enemies are alive but dieing, and which are at 0, but stable, and you can move on from there.
\$\endgroup\$
13
\$\begingroup\$

From the Players Basic Rules 0.2 (page 76), the DM has the option of using death saves for NPCs.

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.

Tell your DM you want to question the hobgoblin - hopefully they will agree to use the rule for the hobgoblin leader, giving you the opportunity to stabilize it.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Any NPC can be "special" if the plot requires it. The main reason monsters just die at 0HP is because it's more to keep track of and is almost always unnecessary. In this case, that's not the case - there is a reason for the hobgoblin to not die immediately, so the whole death save/*Spare The Dying* mechanic has a point here. Declaring "I want to interrogate one of these enemies" makes that enemy "special". As a DM, I'd definitely allow it. In fact, even if they said it after combat, if it was immediately after, I'd say that one or two were not quite dead yet, just to give them the chance. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Jun 3 '15 at 9:19
4
\$\begingroup\$

The best way to save a creature with 0 hit points is to heal it. If healing is unavailable, the creature can at least be stabilized so that it isn’t killed by a failed death saving throw.
You can use your action to administer first aid to an unconscious creature and attempt to stabilize it, which requires a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) check

This is in the rules on damage, and makes no specification as to PCs or NPCs.

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.

This is stated as a recommendation/observation, not a rule that NPCs don't follow the same rules PCs do.

So yes, you can stabilize a near-dead creature, as long as it hasn't died (maybe ask the DM to keep track of instant-death damage, and try the last NPC to fall, so it hasn't had time to make death saves).

\$\endgroup\$
4
\$\begingroup\$

Korvin! It's nice to see a fellow Playgrounder. :)

All previous answers are correct, but I would like to point out that the following rule does exist (PHB, p. 198):

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.

As long as every killing blow is a melee attack, no creature must be killed.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi. :) This implies that if the killing blow was a spell attack, no such luck. Wonder if I should add that to the question, for clarification? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 11 '15 at 14:40
0
\$\begingroup\$

If I recall, there is a provision in 5e that will allow for subduing an opponent. That said, I'm under the impression that monsters have the same rules for dying at 0 HP that PCs have. When they reach 0 HP, they have to make 3 saving throws against death before they fail 3. Mechanically, this is normally ignored for a number of reasons, mostly, IMHO, for player moral. I don't think that most players would be happy if every time they killed an Evil McNasty, I rolled saving throws for him and a Cleric stepped through a gateway and healed him, then the fight started over.

After saying all that, it boils down to the classical "Ask the DM". Is it possible? Sure. After you do it, what are you going to do with the critter after you bring him back and he answers your questions? Is he a prisoner? Do you kill him? How does that sit with your deities? Will that affect your Paladin? Are you going to domesticate him like the "Domesticate Owlbears" quest in "Lords of Waterdeep" (FWIW, that card makes me laugh every time it comes up)?

To be nit-picky, actions should have consequences and reviving a hobgoblin to ask him a question, then rekill him should have consequences too.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ I never said we'd rekill him ... but you are right, in a game where alignment matters, consequences would surely follow. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 2 '15 at 20:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.