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Damage and Dying
Whenever a creature takes damage, it subtracts that damage from its hit points. Creatures with more hit points are more durable and difficult to kill. Those with fewer hit points are more fragile.
Injuries typically have no effect in the game until you drop to 0 hit points or fewer. At that time, you are dying.
Your hit points represent a combination of several factors. They include your physical durability and overall health, your speed and agility to avoid harm, and your overall level of energy. They also account for luck, divine favor, and other mystic factors.
In short, hit points are an abstraction. While you are at or above half your maximum hit points, you show no signs of injury. At less than half your hit points, you have acquired a few cuts and bruises. An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points or fewerstrikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.
Dying (0 Hit Points or Fewer)
When your current hit points are 0 or fewer, you are dying. You become unconscious and fall prone to the ground. While you're unconscious, you cannot act or move, and you do not perceive your surroundings.
Death Saving Throws: On each of your turnsafter you begin dying, you make a special saving throw - called a death saving throw - to determine whether you creep closer to death or you hang onto life. Make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a success, you remain dying, yet your condition does not worsen. On a failure, you take 1d6 damage. This damage cannot be reduced in anyway.
If you succeed on three of these saving throws, you immediately become stabilized. These successes need not be consecutive.
Monsters and Dying: The DM rarely has a monster go through the process of dying. Instead, a monster that drops to 0 hit points typically just dies.
Mighty villains and special nonplayer characters are common exceptions; the DM might have them fall unconscious and follow the same rules as player characters.
You die when your hit points drop to a negative number that equals your Constitution score plus your character level. If you're 5th level and have a 14 Constitution, for example, you die when your hit points drop to -19.
While stabilized, you remain at your current hit point total and no longer need to make death saving throws. You remain unconscious while stabilized until you regain at least 1 hit point or until after 2d6 hours have passed, at which point you regain 1 hit point.
An attacking creature can deliver nonlethal strikes instead of lethal ones when making a melee weapon attack, such as with a sword, a mace, or a fist. An attacker who declares that he or she is making a nonlethal attack deals damage as normal. However, if the damage would reduce the target to 0 hit points or fewer, the target simply has 0 hit points and falls unconscious. If the unconscious creature takes any damage, it begins dying as normal.