[RPG] stabilize an enethe we just defeated in combat


Spare the Dying

You touch a living creature that has 0 hit points. The creature
becomes stable. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.

Same scenario two different ways.

  1. The party fights five hobgoblins and a hobgoblin leader type, all
    six of which fall during combat. Can the party cleric, as soon as
    combat is over, touch the leader and cast Spare the Dying in an
    attempt to keep him from dying (potion, heal spell, etc)so that he can be interrogated?

  2. The party fights five bandits and a bandit leader type, all
    six of which fall during combat. Can the party cleric, as soon as
    combat is over, touch the leader and cast Spare the Dying in an
    attempt to keep him from dying (either medicine skill, potion, heal spell, etc) so that he can be interrogated?

The two example are the easiest case, since both enemy parties are humanoids. Since the spell says "creature" this could be extended to a Worg, which speaks goblin and could be interrogated, or any other talking creature … to include a dragon.

A related topic is use of either the medicine check or healer's kit to do the same thing without casting a cantrip. (Or not having it).

Page 3 Basic DMG

A monster usually dies or is destroyed when it drops to 0 hit points.

The bare bones of reading the rules suggests "no" as an answer … but I may not be looking in the right part of the book. The "zero hit points" threshold (but subject to death saves while "not dead yet") seems directed at player characters, and allows for recovery of a player who falls during a given combat without the final death amount of HP going past zero. If players usually just let the monster die, can't an unusual case overcome the general point in the "Hit Points" topic in the DMG?

Of interest, zombies get to recover in certain cases during combat when they go to 0 HP or less, as a specific feature of being a zombie. They aren't covered by this spell.

(Lore Reference: there were "strike to subdue" rules in OD&D, and even rules/guidance for how to handle a subdued dragon. The question is only for 5e.)

In answering this question, we will assume that the party in neither case attempted "Knocking a Creature Out" before the combat ended. (Basic rules p 76, PHB p. 98, thanks Gamer Josh for assistance in framing question).

Best Answer

The PHB (pg 198) has that section written as such:

Most DMs have a monster die the instant it drops to 0 hit points, rather than having it fall unconscious and make death saving throws.

Mighty villains and special nonplayer characters are common exceptions; the DM might have them fall unconscious and follow the same rules as player characters.

Note the use of most and common exceptions.

Additionally, PHB 197 has the following:

The best way to save a creature with 0 hit points is to heal it. If healing is unavailable, the creature can at least be stabilized so that it isn’t killed by a failed death saving throw.

You can use your action to administer first aid to an unconscious creature and attempt to stabilize it, which requires a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) check.

Note the use of creature here, not you or player character.

That makes it clear that having an enemy die instantly at 0 is an option that the DM may use. It's completely legal to rule that monsters use the same rules "Dropping to 0 Hit Points" as PCs. If you want to make sure that some of your enemies are alive after the battle to interrogate them, you should:

  • Make use of the "Knockout" rule, when able.
  • Otherwise, ask your GM to determine which enemies are still alive; (s)he can determine that by fiat, or by rolling death saving throws for each of the enemies.
  • At this point, you should know which enemies are alive but dieing, and which are at 0, but stable, and you can move on from there.
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