Imagine an NPC is attempting to steal a PC’s weapon while he’s sleeping. The NPC fails the sleight of hand check to remove a player characters’s sword without the PC noticing. The PC is woken up. The PC might get a Dexterity save to stop the NPC from stealing his sword.

There's my question: Unconscious creatures automatically fail Strength and Dexterity saves. But if the player character was woken up by the NPC while his sword was being stolen, would the PC get a Dexterity saving throw?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome to Stack RPG! I edited your question just to specify it’s the PC and not the "player" who is being stolen from. We do get lots of questions about players so it's good to distinguish. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant May 2 '17 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ponggoleechee It might be better to specify an ability check, not a saving throw, as I expect that is what you were referring to. \$\endgroup\$ – Sh4d0wsPlyr May 2 '17 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The NPC fails the sleight of hand check" - how did it happen? What was the DC? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 22 '17 at 8:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suggest you edit the title to match the body. The title asks very general question about saving throws, which can't be answered. And the question body describes the situation, that doesn't require any saving throw at all. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 22 '17 at 9:06

This situation isn't possible

The described situation can't happen if the DM strictly follows the rules.

A typical pickpocket situation is described in the DMG, page 116:

Pickpocket. A thief tries to steal from a random character. Characters whose passive Wisdom (Perception) scores are equal to or greater than the thief's Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check total catch the theft in progress.

So it is a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) vs. Wisdom (Perception) contest, not a saving throw. And Unconscious creatures can't perceive anything, because

An unconscious creature is Incapacitated, can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings

So the Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check automatically succeed.

The DM can decide otherwise, of course.


It's fully up to the GM.

The PHB (pg 174) states,

The DM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure [or success].

The system gives significant leeway to DMs when calling for checks like this--the DM can decide whether the NPC failed in a way that allows the PC to react, or if the PC only wakes up to find the NPC fleeing. Maybe the NPC made a noise as it removed the sword from the sheath, or it made a noise as it tried to escape with the sword. Maybe the NPC managed to drop the sword onto the PC, and the PC takes damage!

As you can see, there are a number of ways for the NPC to fail, and some of them allow the PC to try to snatch the sword back (using DEX or otherwise), and some of them don't. While the system does define certain areas for ability checks, it leaves many situations like these open.

It would probably not be a saving throw

PHB 179 defines a saving throw as:

A saving throw—also called a save—represents an attempt to resist a spell, a trap, a poison, a disease, or a similar threat. You don’t normally decide to make a saving throw; you are forced to make one because your character or monster is at risk of harm.

A saving throw is fundamentally reactive, whereas an ability check is active. Because snatching the sword back is an action that the PC actively initiates, the play would probably roll an ability check instead of a saving throw. Of course, perception is a major exception to this general rule, but it would only apply to the PC noticing the NPC, and not to any action the PC might take in response.


I would not normally make the PC roll to prevent a failed check against them

Since the character trying to steal from the PC failed their roll, the PC wakes up. The DM gets to narrate how the would-be-thief fails. What I would consider to be the standard would be that the fumble-fingered filcher failing their roll means that they were not only unable to get the sword without waking the PC, but that they were not able to get the sword at all. I would not normally require a counter action from the PC for this, since their opponent failed their roll.

But if I decided to...

If I wanted to ratchet up the suspense, I would consider a Dexterity Save an appropriate way to allow the PC to react to the situation of being woken by the bungling burglar. I would also entertain other possibilities that my player might come up with, such as using an Initiative roll. Either way it shook out, it could lead to a potential pursuit of the pitiful pilferer, with the second roll determining weather the conniving cutpurse was escaping empty-handed or making off with the PC's belongings.


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