[RPG] Do PCs roll saves for pre-existing effects while Unconscious


Inspired by this question about Frightened.

According to Appendix A: Conditions (SRD p. 192),

A condition lasts either until it is countered (the prone condition is countered by standing up, for example) or for a duration specified by the effect that imposed the condition.

While a character is Unconscious (SRD p. 193) it

  • Can't move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings
  • Automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws

If a PC under the effect of a persistent effect (such as the Sea Hag's Horrific Appearance) that allows for a save to be made each turn and then becomes unconscious, does the character continue to save against the effect?

Related: A similar question, but in Pathfinder

Best Answer

Yes, unconscious creatures still roll saving throws.

"Automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws" implies that other saving throws do not automatically fail. The phrasing would be different if they intended all saves to automatically fail.

PHB p.179 states "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..."

The ability to resist diseases, poisons and mental attacks does not stop when unconscious, and unconscious saving throws have historically been part of D&D. Also: the Dream spell's saving throw implicitly has to be done while unconscious. Same for Death Saving throws.

Your Sea Hag example though might have other considerations outside of your question. Example: Horrific Appearance says "A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns", implying that the save might be optional (and a DM might rule that an unconscious creature cannot make decisions). Also, the description continues with "with disadvantage if the hag is within line of sight". A DM might feel that an unconscious creature is not subject to this disadvantage.