Variant Rule: Death & Dying

All death saves are rolled in secret to the GM.
Each round you are unconscious and not stabilized you add 1 death save roll to your tally. These dice are not rolled until an ally checks on you. As soon as an ally checks on you, you roll all death saves at once. These are rolled in secret to the GM.

There are no longer any resurrection spells in the game except for Revivify.

Players have three lives. A player who would normally die may instead miraculously survive. A player may miraculously survive twice. Using a miraculous survival reduces a player’s life count down by one and leaves the character feeling exhausted (1 level) for 24 hours which cannot be removed.

As long as a player has one miraculous survival left, they are not officially dead.

A character who is resurrected by Revivify does not lose one of their lives.

I’d like to expand on these rules with an additional change.

  1. Being reduced to 0 HP and restored to consciousness or 1 HP bestows two levels of exhaustion (but no more than five). A player suffering from such exhaustion must take a long rest to remove them. Only powerful magic such as wish can remove these levels of exhaustion otherwise.

This represents the lethality of combat in general, and that those who suffer at its hands need rest. The players, and intelligent monsters, should think twice before engaging in combat. This should make things feel less like a game and help players to roleplay the effects of damage, combat, and dying.

Healing Word is a first level spell cast as a bonus action at range, which can make dropping to 0 seem not so intimidating. Paladins have Lay On Hands and there is the Spare the Dying Cantrip. This should help remove the fear of death while invoke fear of 0 HP, causing players to think more defensively, lest they should have to slow down or be hamstrung in a future fight.

This can also make unique role-playing scenarios and help to not slow down the pace completely instead of taking the combatant out of combat altogether or removing all their actions.

A variant thought was to limit the player’s actions to only specific options, perhaps removing their reactions and bonus actions until they finish the rest.