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In D&D 5e, the Paladin feature Aura of Protection allows allies within 10 feet of you to add your charisma modifier as a bonus to their saving throws, as long as you are conscious. Certainly this bonus would not affect the Paladin's own death saves, as they are unconscious while they make them. However a death saving throw doesn't use any abilities or proficiencies and is determined as:

Roll a d20: If the roll is 10 or higher, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail.

The question is, would the bonus from Aura of Protection be added to the death saving throws of affected creatures? Or would the nature and specific phrasing of death saves dictating that the roll must be 10 or higher overrule Aura of Protection's general application to all saves?

If the bonus is added, would it be correct to state that is does not have any bearing on the results associated with rolling a 1 or 20 on a death save, meaning those would remain tied to the number on the die only?

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A Death Save is, in fact, a save so bonuses to "all saves" apply to them as well. Just like a Monk gaining proficiency in "all saves" means they also apply their proficiency bonus to Death Saves as well starting at Level 14.

The intent of the wording for Death Saves seems to make them special but it is only in the fact that your proficiency bonus is not added nor are they tied to a specific ability. No class starts at 1st level with proficiency in Death Saves. Monks gain it much later. Other bonuses applying to all saves such as the Paladin's ability and Rings/Cloaks of Protection will apply to them as normal.

PHB p. 197 says:

You are in the hands of fate now, aided only by spells and features that improve your chances of succeeding on a saving throw.

Normally, a natural 1 is not a failure for a saving throw however the more specific verbiage for Death Saves trumps this. So even if you somehow have a +9 to Death Saves you will still suffer 2 failures unless you have some other mitigating factor such as something that automatically stabilizes you.

All of this intent is substantiated by Jeremy Crawford (thanks @NautArch):

Aura of Protection benefits saving throws. A death saving throw is a saving throw.

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The D&D basic rules page. 76 states the following (emphasis added):

Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points, you must make a special saving throw, called a death saving throw, to determine whether you creep closer to death or hang onto life. Unlike other saving throws, this one isn’t tied to any ability score. You are in the hands of fate now, aided only by spells and features that improve your chances of succeeding on a saving throw.

The death saving throw is a saving throw, and the aura is a feature that applies to all saving throws. Thus, the aura applies to death saves as well.

As for a natural 1 or 20, the passage states:

When you make a death saving throw and roll a 1 on the d20, it counts as two failures. If you roll a 20 on the d20, you regain 1 hit point.

Thus, the special effects for a natural 1 or 20 relate only to the number shown on the die. Thus, it is correct to say that any bonuses from features or spells have no affect on these two results.

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Yes, it does, because death saving throws are saving throws

The Aura of Protection feature says:

Starting at 6th level, whenever you or a friendly creature within 10 feet of you must make a saving throw, the creature gains a bonus to the saving throw equal to your Charisma modifier (with a minimum bonus of +1). You must be conscious to grant this bonus.

The rules on death saving throws state:

Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points, you must make a special saving throw, called a death saving throw, to determine whether you creep closer to death or hang onto life. Unlike other saving throws, this one isn't tied to any ability score. You are in the hands of fate now, aided only by spells and features that improve your chances of succeeding on a saving throw.

As you can see, Aura of Protection simply benefits all saving throws by creatures within your aura while you are conscious. Death saving throws are indeed a type of saving throw. Thus, Aura of Protection benefits any death saving throws made by other creatures within your aura. (As you note, it can't normally apply to yourself, since you're unconscious while at 0 hit points.)


Rules designer Jeremy Crawford unofficially answered a series of questions on Twitter in May 2016 about whether features that benefit saving throws benefit death saving throws, including this response about Aura of Protection:

If an effect gives disadvantage to all saving throws, would this include death saves?

A death saving throw is indeed a saving throw. If all saves are affected by a thing, death saves are affected.

paladin aura works too?

Aura of Protection benefits saving throws. A death saving throw is a saving throw.

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The bonus from Aura of Protection can only be applied to saving throws made whilst conscious. Thus, it cannot be applied to your death saving throws. It can be added to your allies.

[...] whenever you or a friendly creature within 10 feet of you must make a saving throw, the creature gains a bonus to the saving throw equal to your Charisma mod (min of +1). You must be conscious to grant this bonus. PHB 85

If you are making death saving throws, you are at 0 HP, and are therefore by definition unconscious.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question already acknowledges this: "Certainly this bonus would not affect the Paladin's own death saves, as they are unconscious while they make them." The only part of your answer that seems to answer OP's question is the sentence, "It can be added to your allies." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 4 '18 at 18:51

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