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I know there a couple of second level save-or-die spells, like Aboleth's Lung and Blood of the Martyr, but are there any first level ones? I'm interested in any spell which, on a failed save, guarantees the death of a valid target barring action on the part of that target, not just spells which explicitly kill the target on a failed save.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel Nope, I am specifically interested in Save or Die spells, not Save or Suck, in this question. I'm fairly familiar with level 0/1 save or sucks, and I'm very certain there isn't a level 0 save-or-die spell (not that you can't kill people with 0-level spells, just that usually it takes a large number of castings and they don't really get a save). \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Sep 5 '15 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Uh oh, my mind placed an "or" in front of "barring" \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Sep 6 '15 at 13:47
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I do not believe there are any first level spells that actually kill the target outright. There are, however, two first level spells which, on a failed save against a valid target, immediately take an enemy combatant out of the fight as if they had died, and opens them to coup-de-grace.

Sleep

It's very limited in its application (4 HD maximum, living creatures only), but meets the criteria for a Save or Lose: Those who can be affected must make a saving throw or guaranteed death by coup-de-grace, unless woken up by an ally.

Color Spray

Like Sleep, Color Spray's save-or-lose portion is limited by HD, but the effect is similar, and falls off gracefully to an AoE stun at later levels. Unlike Sleep, an unconscious character cannot be woken by an ally.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But these are save or suck, not save or die. If the spell takes effect the caster (or his or her allies) can kill the targets, probably, but the spells do not themselves do that. Consider a Glyph of Warding storing a sleep spell. Triggering the glyph and failing the save merely knocks one out for a bit; additional factors would have to be present to result in death. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Sep 6 '15 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see. I'll amend my answer to clarify that these are "Save or Lose." If you're looking for spells that actually kill the target, I do not believe there are any at first level. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim C Sep 7 '15 at 17:31
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To my knowledge, no. Save or die spells are extremely niche and there are none at a level earlier than two or as effective as Glitterdust. First level spells aren't meant to have a level of power capable of killing anyone, so unless it was a homebrew spell or some imbalanced 3PP material I doubt you'd see such a spell at first level.

And while Aboleth's Lung certainly can kill someone if they fail the save due to suffocation, its limited to the Gillmen race without DM permission. Blood of the Martyr has a conditional statement that allows the person bleeding to reduce their wounds by one half. They can also just drink a healing potion of any type to end the spell effect. It's quite a weak choice for a spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question was about Save-Or-Die spells, I've since edited my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Sep 5 '15 at 3:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...Glitterdust isn't Save or Die \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Sep 5 '15 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might as well be for things that don't have Blindsense, Blindsight, Tremorsense, or Blind Fight. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Sep 5 '15 at 18:44

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