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In Out of the Abyss, Orcus has a number of Lair actions. One of those Lair actions has a confusing point:

Orcus's voice booms throughout the lair. His utterance causes one creature of his choice to be subjected to power word kill (save DC 23)

It is stated that there is a save with a DC of 23 but no specific type of saving throw. The spell it references doesn't have a saving throw either. Another of his Lair actions is properly specified as a strength saving throw, but not this one. What kind of saving throw is needed and how are we supposed to know?

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As you said, the spell doesn't require a saving throw - it's entirely dependent on remaining HP. So I'm pretty sure this is a mistake.

Possibly either someone forgot, while writing the adventure, that the spell mimicked by the "voice" doesn't call for a saving throw, or development on this adventure was begun before that detail was finalized, and that slipped through editing. Regardless, there's no logical way to apply a saving throw to this effect without substantially rewriting it. You could, if you wanted, rule that "one PC is subjected to its effects unless they make a DC 23 Constitution save" or something like that, but it's tough to imagine they wouldn't have said that if that's what they meant.

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This issue was addressed by JC recently in April 2018, where he confirmed it's a typo and will be corrected in errata that has yet to be issued:

JC: "Whenever we discover an error in our books, we put the correction into the reprint queue. We make corrections from that queue—usually a batch of them—when the printer's schedule allows it. After that, we publish an errata document describing the changes."

Twitter user: "Power Word Kill has no saving throw. It's been years now, has there been no time to fix this?"

JC: "That's now in the queue!"

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The spell save DC was mentioned in case it is relevant. As you have already noted, it is not relevant to the spell since there is no save possible. While @SirTechSpec asserts that it is there by mistake, it is also possible that they put it there on purpose, in case it is needed for a future spell or ability.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "In case it is needed for a future spell or ability" doesn't make any sense. The text of one ability has no bearing on other abilities, nor on future abilities. It's not like the text of the book is some sort of structure where you have to build it now or you won't be able to build it in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jul 25 '18 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. There was a spell in a previous RPG I played which would cause any spell with a DC below 6 to automatically fail. In that case, knowing the DC was important. If a similar spell or ability was added to DND 5e then this spell is already written for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Trisped Jul 25 '18 at 17:55

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