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I was running White Plume Mountain for a group as a one shot. (5e, out of Tales from the Yawning Portal.) With the group starting at 8th level, I let them pick an uncommon magic item. Our Goliath Barb/Warlock chose a Ring of Mind Shielding. Then he got Blackrazor. Here are the relevant sections of the item descriptions:

Ring of Mind Shielding

If you die while wearing the ring, your soul enters it, unless it already houses a soul. You can remain in the ring or depart for the afterlife. As long as your soul is in the ring, you can telepathically communicate with any creature wearing it. A wearer can't prevent this telepathic Communication.

Blackrazor

When it devours a soul, Blackrazor grants you temporary hit points equal to the slain creature’s hit point maximum. These hit points fade after 24 hours. As long as these temporary hit points last and you keep Blackrazor in hand, you have advantage on attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks.

If you hit an undead with this weapon, you take 1d10 necrotic damage and the target regains 1d10 hit points. If this necrotic damage reduces you to 0 hit points, Blackrazor devours your soul.

If you die from the necrotic damage from the sword as described, which item gets the soul? (I ruled a tie goes to the item that you have had the longest.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome! (Take the tour if you haven't already.) We have a one-post, one-question design, so I've removed the two questions here that weren't about how the Ring and Blackrazor interact. You're welcome to post them each in their own question posts though, so that they can get their own personal attention free of distractions from other questions. (If you want to copy the removed text, it's saved in the revision history; just click "edited [time ago]" under the post and you'll see each version of this post.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 2 '17 at 15:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, sorry. I was excited to post and took the tour after. I appreciate the edit, rather than a deletion. Cheers! \$\endgroup\$ – tbones999 May 2 '17 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ No problem! Generally we don't delete though, just put something on hold until it can be sorted out. We get multiple related questions in one post often enough that it's usually pretty easy to sort them out quickly though without a hold. :) (I do see now how you meant the bit about telepathy to be about how the two items interact. In retrospect that's best in its own post still: they're touching on different sets of rules, so that would be a different question about the same two items. I look forward to your next questions!) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 2 '17 at 15:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Curious if having your soul devouered nessecarially makes you dead in this setting. \$\endgroup\$ – StarWeaver May 3 '17 at 23:34
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Blackrazor wins ... probably

Ring

If you die while wearing the ring, your soul enters it

Blackrazor

If this necrotic damage reduces you to 0 hit points, Blackrazor devours your soul.

Since being reduced to 0 hit points doesn't usually kill you, then Blackrazor would devour your soul.

PHB, p. 197:

When you drop to 0 hit points, you either die outright or fall Unconscious, as explained in the following sections.

Massive damage can kill you instantly. When damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if the remaining damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum.

If damage reduces you to 0 hit points and fails to kill you, you fall Unconscious.

Instant Death

It is unlikely, but technically possible that the necrotic damage from Blackrazor could instantly kill a character. I can think of a few conditions that might make this more likely:

  • Low level character might have fewer than 10 maximum hit points
  • A character might gain a vulnerability to necrotic damage
  • A character may have had his/her hit point maximum reduced by life draining attacks from a wraith or other source

In any case, the key part of the rules regarding dropping to 0 hit points is:

When damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if...

So, do you drop to 0 hit points, and then die? Does Blackrazor swallow your soul?

Your DM will have to resolve this question. To the best of my knowledge, this is not explicitly outlined in the rules, nor has it been officially answered.

For guidance, your DM might consider this answer found on page 13 or the Sage Advice compendium:

If the damage from disintegrate reduces a half-orc to 0 hit points, can Relentless Endurance prevent the orc from turning to ash?

If disintegrate reduces you to 0 hit points, you’re killed outright, as you turn to dust. If you’re a half-orc, Relentless Endurance can’t save you.

The Relentless Endurance racial feature, PHB p. 41:

When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead.

It is possible that this Sage Advice ruling indicates that even though Relentless Endurance would put you back to 1 HP, the effect of Disintegrate, triggered by being reduced to 0 hit points, is still resolved.

That would imply that, when a character is reduced to 0 hit points, you resolve all of the effects that would happen as a result. In our case, one of those is instant death, and one is from Blackrazor. After resolving both conditions, the character is dead, and his/her soul has been swallowed by Blackrazor.

The effect of the ring cannot not be resolved until after the character is dead. At that point Blackrazor has already swallowed his/her soul.

But in the absence of explicit rules or an official answer, the decision ultimately rests with the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk May 2 '17 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Completely agree with the currently accepted answer and reasoning from a rules perspective. Just wanted to add though, that in these "GM call" types of edge cases, the "rule" of Dramatic Necessity should be considered as well. Which result makes for a better story? That's why we are all playing in the first place. If the Irresistible Force encounters the Immovable Object, the Irresistible Force wins 90% of the time, because action is more interesting than non-action. \$\endgroup\$ – JesseM May 2 '17 at 22:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ The statement "When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead." makes me doubt your final assessment as it may imply that being reduced to 0 hit points is a different state then getting "killed outright" which I assume means dying as a result of massive damage \$\endgroup\$ – OganM May 2 '17 at 22:32
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Dropping to Zero HP vs. Character Death

There is a difference between the two. The ring says your soul enters it upon character death. The Blackrazor states that if you are reduced to 0 HP via necrotic damage, then it will devour your soul. The latter doesn't require death, just a reduction to 0 HP (no chance to roll for death saves) from the Blackrazor when you strike undead.

Undead Danger

Blackrazor will do it's thing before you die, so watch out for those undead - no death save if you are reduced to 0 HP! If you see undead, do NOT hit it with your Blackrazor when you're at 10 HP or less.

Instadeath Edge Case

The edge case on this is legitimate though. If they hit an undead with the Blackrazor and receive 1d10 necrotic damage that reduces their HP to zero with enough remaining damage to be greater or equal to their max HP value, then this would Instakill them. At this point, it is a DM decision whether the soul goes into the ring or is devoured by the Sword.

PHB, pp197

If damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if the remaining damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum.

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You do not necessarily die upon dropping to 0 hp. From the SRD

When you drop to 0 hit points, you either die outright or fall unconscious, as explained in the following sections.

Instant Death

Massive damage can kill you instantly. When damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if the remaining damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum.

...

Falling Unconscious

If damage reduces you to 0 hit points and fails to kill you, you fall unconscious

...

It follows that Blackrazor devours your soul if the special necrotic damage reduces you to 0 hp unless you die from massive damage.

In the event of death by massive damage the rules are unclear. In this (rare) case, I believe the only option is DM fiat.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That said - if you get hit hard enough that you skip over 0hp, then you're not devoured. The wording is very specific about 0hp, rather than 0hp or less. \$\endgroup\$ – UKMonkey May 2 '17 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Conduit Sorry about the multiple questions, I appreciate the response! \$\endgroup\$ – tbones999 May 2 '17 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @UKMonkey - There is no such thing as "less than 0 hp" in 5e. From the rules: "A creature’s current hit points can be any number from the creature’s hit point maximum down to 0". AFAIK the only time excess damage matters is in calculation of the massive damage rule mentioned above. \$\endgroup\$ – Conduit May 2 '17 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rock on, +1. 8^D \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 3 '17 at 2:28
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All else being equal, Blackrazor wins because an artifact trumps an uncommon item.

There is nothing in the rules to support this - I just feel that if two magic items try to do the same thing at the same time, the more powerful item would win (measuring "more powerful" by the item's rarity).

Artifacts are the pinnacle of magic-item creation. They should be powerful and impressive.

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