[RPG] Does Finger of Death turn you into a zombie if it drops you to 0hp


Finger of Death says:

A humanoid killed by this spell rises at the start of your next turn as a zombie that is permanently under your command

If a player is hit by finger of death and dropped to 0hp, do they turn into a zombie immediately? If they subsequently fail death saves and die, do they then turn into a zombie?

Best Answer

I've always seen it ruled that Finger of Death dropping you to 0 hp would turn you into a zombie. However, a recent Q&A tweet by Jeremy Crawford and a subsequent re-reading of the spell has clarified how this spell works.

Question (@DanDanFielding)

For Finger of Death: if the spell brings the target to 0hp and the target subsequently dies due to failed death saves, dies that count as FoD killing the target? Will it rise as a zombie?

Answer (@JeremyECrawford)

A spell kills you if its damage or other effects slay you. If it reduces to you 0 hit points but leaves you alive, it didn't kill you. #DnD

Let's take a closer look at how dropping to 0 hitpoints works in 5e:

Dropping to 0 hitpoints: When you drop to 0 hit points, you either die outright or fall unconscious [...]

The rules go on to explain that dropping to zero hitpoints knocks you unconscious and causes you to start making death saving throws. Dropping to zero only kills you outright if the remaining damage exceeds your maximum hitpoint total. For example:

[...] a cleric with a maximum of 12 hit points currently has 6 hit points. If she takes 18 damage from an attack, she is reduced to 0 hit points, but 12 damage remains. Because the remaining damage equals her hit point maximum, the cleric dies.

To apply this to our example, let's say a player has a maximum of 30 hit points and currently has 20 hit points left. If that player is hit by a Finger of Death for 62 damage, they'll be dropped to 0 hit points with 42 damage remaining. Since that damage exceeds their hit point total, they will die outright and rise on the caster's next turn as a zombie under the caster's control.

Another common scenario that could lead to Finger of Death turning a player into a zombie would be if that player has already failed two death saving throws before the spell hits them. When they take damage from the spell, that would count as failing a third saving throw, which would kill them outright and raise them as a zombie on the caster's next turn.

However, if the player hit by the spell is not currently dying, and is dropped to 0 hit points without dying outright, the spell does not raise them as a zombie if or when they die. It simply does a very large amount of necrotic damage.