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BRC
2014-11-10, 04:57 PM
Combat in tabletop games is largely abstracted, and this is generally a good thing. It lets fights be exciting and dramatic, and various systems have various levels of success with their combat systems. Hit Points are an abstraction, a character that could survive six hits from a longsword isn't so tough that they could survive being stabbed through the chest six times. Instead, those six hits take the form of scratches, or exhaustion, or just running out of luck, rather than full-on strikes.

That said, things can fall apart when a combat system encounters situations where an attack should just be lethal, or crippling, when anything less than a direct, Organ-destroying strike makes no sense.


For example, in our DnD campaign we had captured an enemy. He was a half-dragon fighter. We had him tied to a chair, but he could break out of it, and he could use his breath weapon on us.

My character stood directly behind him, pointing a crossbow at the back of his head, ready to shoot if he tried anything.

I didn't end up pulling the trigger, but I discussed with my DM what would have happened if I had. If the Half-Dragon had broken free of his bonds and attacked us, my character, with a crossbow point-blank at the back of his neck...would have gotten a free attack. Just as if I'd taken a shot during a pitched melee. Sure it would have been an easy shot, but it wouldn't have dealt any extra damage.


There's plenty of other, similar scenarios that tabletop games model poorly. The classic "Sneaking up behind somebody and cutting their throat", or stabbing them in the back. Sure you can add on precision damage, or free crits, but even that dosn't always drop a character. And there isn't any room for Abstraction in that scenario. If the target was truly helpless and unaware, there is no reason for the attacker to not go for a killing blow.



On the other side of the equation, being willing to throw out Abstraction can be problematic in itself. It can cause a system to break down in normal combat as players start stretching the system with called shots. A player specifies that they are aiming for their target's unarmored head, and then proceeds to roll well enough to hit a head-shaped and sized object.
The enemy in question may have enough hitpoints to survive a critical hit, but if you acknowledge that yes, they were shot in the head, its hard to keep the fight going from there, assuming the target has roughly humanoid anatomy.

So yeah, what do people think? Should players be able to bypass abstracted combat systems?

Sartharina
2014-11-10, 05:15 PM
In a game like D&D, I'd say "Make an initiative check" for this sort of situation - Initiative determines reflexes to reacting to the situation. If the guy making the attack wins, it counts as a coup-de-grace in 3.5, and drop-to-0 in 5e or 4e. If the other guy wins, normal combat begins. I'd be tempted to call for a second initiative check to begin combat proper, though.

Honest Tiefling
2014-11-10, 05:16 PM
I go by the idea that if you have managed to get the enemy to being very helpless, then yes, you can just one-shot them, often with a minimum or a lack of rolling. A bit of dramatic flair, explained by the fact that the enemy cannot dodge ro shield vulnerable areas.

However, I don't know if this is the best solution for others as my players have a tendency to break limbs to achieve this. Those with odd anatomy (Half-Dragons included) are going to be harder to get into a helpless situation, hence the limb breaking.

I also do not roleplay that attacks that do not down enemies also do not strike areas like the head, eyes, chest, etc. A bit of rule of cool, but it works for me.

(Un)Inspired
2014-11-10, 05:21 PM
My table plays 3.P with called shot rules. Different body part have higher DCs to hit that the enemy's regular AC and if you do enough damage to a location then it's destroyed regardless of the targets total HP (we tend to rule limbs as having 1/4 of the targets total hp).

If someone takes too much head damage then they die. We find it makes combat more exciting and gives mundane a more options for crippling foes.

Morty
2014-11-10, 05:40 PM
D&D hit points are garbage, and they shouldn't be used as a benchmark for health systems except as a cautionary tale of what you really shouldn't do. However, even functional systems tend to require some handwaving and on-the-spot judgements. A good health and damage system is still an approximation, and should be bent or discarded if the mechanical results are completely at odds with reality or dramatic necessity. In the situation you described, I would definitely allow for a one-shot kill, unless the victim was preternaturally durable. The PCs already managed to capture him, bind him and render him helpless. If he tries to escape but isn't quick enough to move out of the way of the shot, he's in big trouble. If one of the PCs is in such a situation, it gets a bit trickier. No one wants their character to up and die if they roll poorly, but then again, the GM shouldn't just put them in a situation where their only options are compliance or death - that is, unless the character's choices or mistakes led them there, in which case it may be a fine consequence.

Vitruviansquid
2014-11-10, 05:45 PM
Hit point systems can break down in situations like you've described, and I'd be surprised if the game you're playing doesn't have an exception in the rules to deal with it. If it doesn't, I'd rule that someone who takes obviously lethal damage like this just dies.

That said, I'm told one should be surprised at peoples' and animals' ability to survive, at least temporarily, things media commonly depict as instantly lethal.

Urpriest
2014-11-10, 05:49 PM
In general, with a sufficiently abstract system you can find rationalizations for this sort of thing.

In D&D 3.5, I'd say that as soon as the half-dragon begins to try to escape you roll Initiative. If you win, you have a full-round action and can thus perform a coup de grace against a (still helpless) half-dragon. If the half-dragon wins, they escape before you can shoot, so they're not helpless and you can't coup de grace.

Galen
2014-11-10, 06:15 PM
If the half-dragon is tied to a chair and can still try to escape and use his breath weapon, he's not helpless and CDG doesn't apply. This is a condition akin to Entangled (with the caveat of preventing movement due to bonds anchored to an immobile object).


Entangled

The character is ensnared. Being entangled impedes movement, but does not entirely prevent it unless the bonds are anchored to an immobile object or tethered by an opposing force. An entangled creature moves at half speed, cannot run or charge, and takes a -2 penalty on all attack rolls and a -4 penalty to Dexterity. An entangled character who attempts to cast a spell must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + the spell’s level) or lose the spell.

Talakeal
2014-11-10, 06:23 PM
Personally I prefer systems with exploding damage dice and less extreme HP curves than D&D.

However, if I was running this system in D&D, I would count that attack as a Coup De Grace regardless of what the rules say. On the other hand, I would allow the prisoner an opposed initiative check to surprise the captor and dodge out of the way first.

Ettina
2014-11-10, 06:59 PM
That said, I'm told one should be surprised at peoples' and animals' ability to survive, at least temporarily, things media commonly depict as instantly lethal.

You mean like a bullet to the head (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_Giffords)?

Sartharina
2014-11-10, 07:03 PM
If the half-dragon is tied to a chair and can still try to escape and use his breath weapon, he's not helpless and CDG doesn't apply. This is a condition akin to Entangled (with the caveat of preventing movement due to bonds anchored to an immobile object).In case you didn't get the memo, this is a problem.

Galen
2014-11-10, 07:05 PM
Why? Would you like your PC auto-killed when he's trapped in a Web spell? Or even auto-critted?

Sartharina
2014-11-10, 07:06 PM
Why? Would you like your PC auto-killed when he's trapped in a Web spell? Or even auto-critted?


Web is not the same as being tied to a chair. Being tied to a chair is considered Bound.
Helpless Defenders
A helpless opponent is someone who is bound, sleeping, paralyzed, unconscious, or otherwise at your mercy. Emphasis added.

Galen
2014-11-10, 07:11 PM
The very fact he's rolling initiative indicates he's not helpless. "Otherwise at your mercy" doesn't apply.

Now, if the break DC on the rope was 25, and the maximum the prisoner could roll on his STR check was, let's say 24, that's another matter. But rolling initiative with an active opponent who can break free, I'd say no to CDG.

valadil
2014-11-10, 07:14 PM
You can come up with house rules to solve this sort of thing, but their lethality ends up being out of line with the rest of the game. If I want a game with hostages and executions I'd rather just run something that isn't D&D.

Boci
2014-11-10, 07:15 PM
The very fact he's rolling initiative indicates he's not helpless. "Otherwise at your mercy" doesn't apply.

Now, if the break DC on the rope was 25, and the maximum the prisoner could roll on his STR check was, let's say 24, that's another matter. But rolling initiative with an active opponent who can break free, I'd say no to CDG.

Can break free and break free are two different things. Until he succeeds on the strength check he is bound and helpless, hence the initiative to see if he can break free before the CDG.

Knaight
2014-11-10, 07:17 PM
Why? Would you like your PC auto-killed when he's trapped in a Web spell? Or even auto-critted?

I'd be good with an effect like this, provided that the system was a little lighter on immobility and entanglement in the first place.

Galen
2014-11-10, 07:20 PM
Can break free and break free are two different things. Until he succeeds on the strength check he is bound and helpless, hence the initiative to see if he can break free before the CDG.
Let me reiterate my opinion that the success or failure of his attempt to break free is not relevant. He is taking actions. Therefore CDG cannot apply, and I completely agree to disagree with everyone who thinks otherwise.

Boci
2014-11-10, 07:29 PM
Let me reiterate my opinion that the success or failure of his attempt to break free is not relevant. He is taking actions. Therefore CDG cannot apply, and I completely agree to disagree with everyone who thinks otherwise.

But what is the difference between someone with a +1 strength modifier rolling a 12 vs. DC 24 and someone with a +7 strength modifier rolling a 12 vs. DC 24. They both fail to escape and are still bound and helpless, yet one of them is immune to CDG. Why?

Galen
2014-11-10, 07:31 PM
Fluffwise? The ony with Str +7 moves a lot. All this thrashing makes it difficult to line up a good shot.

Boci
2014-11-10, 07:34 PM
Fluffwise? The ony with Str +7 moves a lot. All this thrashing makes it difficult to line up a good shot.

But, he doesn't. Neither fluff wise or mechanically. His Str+7 gives him no bonus to AC, and if he failed to escape his bonds he cannot be moving that much. He is just as helpless as the guy with 12 strength until he rolls a 17+..

Galen
2014-11-10, 07:44 PM
His +7 Strength changes his situation from unable to escape to able to escape. Therefore, he's not helpless.
Just because an attempt failed, doesn't make a character helpless. If he's making meaningful attempts that might alter the battlefield, he can't be helpless by definition. Mechanically wise, I can't justify a creature that might be able to escape at any moment being "completely at the opponent's mercy" (a requirement for CDG)

Sartharina
2014-11-10, 07:45 PM
Also - a guy being immune to crossbows-to-the-back-of-the-head violates the spirit of the rules. The half-dragon is at his opponent's mercy, and bound. Until such time he is not bound, he is helpless.
Just because an attempt failed, doesn't make a character helpless.He is bound, though, which does make him helpless. And he's at his opponent's mercy until he manages to successfully act against it - hence the initiative check.

Boci
2014-11-10, 07:49 PM
His +7 Strength changes his situation from unable to escape to able to escape. Therefore, he's not helpless.

No, he is helpless until he manages to escape. Why wouldn't he be? Until he breaks his bonds he cannot move. I don't understands your logic. The potential to escape does not change the fact that you are trapped.

Galen
2014-11-10, 07:50 PM
He's not helpless. He's rolling initiative and taking meaningful actions. Using a breath weapon even. That's not helpless by any stretch of imagination.

Urpriest
2014-11-10, 07:50 PM
This is the full text for helpless:


Helpless

A helpless character is paralyzed, held, bound, sleeping, unconscious, or otherwise completely at an opponent’s mercy. A helpless target is treated as having a Dexterity of 0 (-5 modifier). Melee attacks against a helpless target get a +4 bonus (equivalent to attacking a prone target). Ranged attacks gets no special bonus against helpless targets. Rogues can sneak attack helpless targets.

As a full-round action, an enemy can use a melee weapon to deliver a coup de grace to a helpless foe. An enemy can also use a bow or crossbow, provided he is adjacent to the target. The attacker automatically hits and scores a critical hit. (A rogue also gets her sneak attack damage bonus against a helpless foe when delivering a coup de grace.) If the defender survives, he must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + damage dealt) or die.

Delivering a coup de grace provokes attacks of opportunity.

Creatures that are immune to critical hits do not take critical damage, nor do they need to make Fortitude saves to avoid being killed by a coup de grace.

Nothing in that text says that a helpless character is unable to take actions. Galen, you are simply mistaken.

Fiery Diamond
2014-11-10, 07:52 PM
Combat in tabletop games is largely abstracted, and this is generally a good thing. It lets fights be exciting and dramatic, and various systems have various levels of success with their combat systems. Hit Points are an abstraction, a character that could survive six hits from a longsword isn't so tough that they could survive being stabbed through the chest six times. Instead, those six hits take the form of scratches, or exhaustion, or just running out of luck, rather than full-on strikes.

That said, things can fall apart when a combat system encounters situations where an attack should just be lethal, or crippling, when anything less than a direct, Organ-destroying strike makes no sense.


For example, in our DnD campaign we had captured an enemy. He was a half-dragon fighter. We had him tied to a chair, but he could break out of it, and he could use his breath weapon on us.

My character stood directly behind him, pointing a crossbow at the back of his head, ready to shoot if he tried anything.

I didn't end up pulling the trigger, but I discussed with my DM what would have happened if I had. If the Half-Dragon had broken free of his bonds and attacked us, my character, with a crossbow point-blank at the back of his neck...would have gotten a free attack. Just as if I'd taken a shot during a pitched melee. Sure it would have been an easy shot, but it wouldn't have dealt any extra damage.


There's plenty of other, similar scenarios that tabletop games model poorly. The classic "Sneaking up behind somebody and cutting their throat", or stabbing them in the back. Sure you can add on precision damage, or free crits, but even that doesn't always drop a character. And there isn't any room for Abstraction in that scenario. If the target was truly helpless and unaware, there is no reason for the attacker to not go for a killing blow.



On the other side of the equation, being willing to throw out Abstraction can be problematic in itself. It can cause a system to break down in normal combat as players start stretching the system with called shots. A player specifies that they are aiming for their target's unarmored head, and then proceeds to roll well enough to hit a head-shaped and sized object.
The enemy in question may have enough hitpoints to survive a critical hit, but if you acknowledge that yes, they were shot in the head, its hard to keep the fight going from there, assuming the target has roughly humanoid anatomy.

So yeah, what do people think? Should players be able to bypass abstracted combat systems?

Several things, in order:

1) Why do people keep saying this? What it represents is entirely up to the people gaming at the table; you can't say anything absolute. Why not have it represent being able to be stabbed six times in the chest? It's a game of beyond-superheroic proportions. Why is this automatically a bad thing?

2) This scenario requires DM adjudication. Why not treat as CDG or use some manner of opposed roll, like initiative, to determine whether it gets counted as CDG? There's no reason to say "just free attack."

3) Er... yes there is. You're willing to abstract damage to mitigating blows already, which turns HP into another form of fighting prowess rather than just durability. You sneak up in the dark and cut his throat! Even though he didn't consciously register your presence, his instincts kicked in and he managed to jerk partially out of the way! He's now got a neck injury, but you failed to cut deep enough or to get the jugular - he'll survive (though he'll obviously want to get it treated ASAP). Bam, explanation.

4) Er... not really? You already gave yourself a method for this in the beginning. You hit his head, free crit/precision damage/whatever! (roll, he survives) Your arrow cuts across their cheek/temple/forehead/pick something - they're definitely impaired (damaged) but not dead yet! Or, the DM could be creative say you took off their ear or got their eye and apply penalty to sight and hearing. It's not like dead/not dead are the only choices you have.


Web is not the same as being tied to a chair. Being tied to a chair is considered Bound. Emphasis added.


The very fact he's rolling initiative indicates he's not helpless. "Otherwise at your mercy" doesn't apply.

Now, if the break DC on the rope was 25, and the maximum the prisoner could roll on his STR check was, let's say 24, that's another matter. But rolling initiative with an active opponent who can break free, I'd say no to CDG.

Galen: why not? He's bound at the captor's mercy, just not actionless. There's nothing in the definition of helpless that directly states you can't perform actions. You should, for example, be able to command word activate a worn item while helpless if you aren't paralyzed or unconscious (and are not gagged), and if that led to combat you'd make him roll initiative for that. Or are you seriously going to tell me that the EXACT same character with no such items in the EXACT same situation is considered helpless and can be CDGed but the EXACT same character with such items in the EXACT same situation isn't and can't be CDGed, even if his use of that item in no way alters the ability of his enemies to strike him with impunity? {scrubbed}

Edit: Darnit, ninja'd.

Ettina
2014-11-10, 07:56 PM
How about this for fluff - since he has enough Strength to potentially break free, he has enough strength to twist around to move his neck out of the way even though he's tied up (by stretching or possibly breaking the ropes). If he take damage but doesn't die, it's because it hit his shoulder or scratched up the side of his neck or something.

Galen
2014-11-10, 07:58 PM
He's bound at the captor's mercy, just not actionless.
There's a contradiction here. Ok, so first things first, I agree there is no rule definition for "at the captor's mercy". This is a fluffy phrase that we must interpret. My interpretation is: "at the captor's mercy" = "unable to take actions that will meaningfully change the situation", and I stick by it.



Nothing in that text says that a helpless character is unable to take actions. Galen, you are simply mistaken. I concede this is a strong point, however as noted above, I stand by my translation of "at the captor's mercy" from fluffspeak to rulespeak :smallwink:


How about this for fluff - since he has enough Strength to potentially break free, he has enough strength to twist around to move his neck out of the way even though he's tied up (by stretching or possibly breaking the ropes). If he take damage but doesn't die, it's because it hit his shoulder or scratched up the side of his neck or something.
Yes, this is what I was getting to!

Boci
2014-11-10, 08:00 PM
How about this for fluff - since he has enough Strength to potentially break free, he has enough strength to twist around to move his neck out of the way even though he's tied up (by stretching or possibly breaking the ropes). If he take damage but doesn't die, it's because it hit his shoulder or scratched up the side of his neck or something.

Flexibility is governed by dex, not strength. A captives head isn't typically tied, so he will have just as much mobility with it as the guy with 12 strength (assuming equal dex).


I concede this is a strong point, however as noted above, I stand by my translation of "at the captor's mercy" from fluffspeak to rulespeak :smallwink:

And would you also house rule that the guy is therefore immune to CDG even before he escapes?

Sartharina
2014-11-10, 08:02 PM
There's a contradiction here. Ok, so first things first, I agree there is no rule definition for "at the captor's mercy". This is a fluffy phrase that we must interpret. My interpretation is: "at the captor's mercy" = "unable to take actions that will meaningfully change the situation", and I stick by it. "Bound" is explicitly called out as a condition that renders you helpless, though. Just because you can become unbound doesn't mean you are unbound.

Galen
2014-11-10, 08:03 PM
And would you also house rule that the guy is therefore immune to CDG even before he escapes?The wording of the question automatically makes my answer being a house rule, and your version being correct, and therefore this wording ends all meaningful discussion between us.

Boci
2014-11-10, 08:06 PM
The wording of the question automatically makes my answer being a house rule, and your version being correct, and therefore this wording ends all meaningful discussion between us.

I'm just trying to understand why. How you imagine the ability to break bindings makes you able to do so automatically, for the purpose of being able to dodge an arrow to the head.

Erik Vale
2014-11-10, 08:09 PM
At all 3.5/other games I've been at, if you had the time or ability to reasonably kill them, and you choose to, you do. For example, in 5th, hitting sleeping/helpless is just a crit.
"Uhh... He's sleeping. I shove my blade in through his eye, into his brain, and wiggle."
Side effect is that it applies both ways. Yes, humans survive amazing things, and in 3.5 characters quickly reach super human, but some sense needs to be applied.

Galen
2014-11-10, 08:11 PM
Boci, this question was answered by both myself and Ettina above.

Boci
2014-11-10, 08:12 PM
Boci, this question was answered by both myself and Ettina above.

Right, but I explained why that doesn't mesh with the fluff or mechanics.

Galen
2014-11-10, 08:13 PM
Right, but I explained why that doesn't mesh with the fluff or mechanics.I can see why you'd think so, and you are definitely entitled to this opinion.

Fiery Diamond
2014-11-10, 08:14 PM
There's a contradiction here. Ok, so first things first, I agree there is no rule definition for "at the captor's mercy". This is a fluffy phrase that we must interpret. My interpretation is: "at the captor's mercy" = "unable to take actions that will meaningfully change the situation", and I stick by it.

Except that interpretation has 1) no basis in the rules and 2) doesn't even rely on common sense. For 1), that's because the rules completely leave out any mention of being unable to perform actions. For 2), that's because there's not way at all I'd define it like that in real life. The fact that you could do something that might affect the situation doesn't mean that you have already negated the current situation. Besides, being at someone's mercy doesn't mean you can't do anything about the situation - it just means that you can't avoid taking whatever they do to you - there's a common sense interpretation.

D&D doesn't care about potentiality: you are either free or not free, there is no change to your current status just because you can take an action to become free. Example: say a wizard was hit by a paralysis spell, but he has a stilled, silent spell prepared, and he has eschew materials. Casting that spell is, per the special abilities description of paralysis, which describes the "purely mental actions" exception, allowed. Paralyzed is directly called out as being helpless. Yet, you can perform an action! It could be offensive (fireball) or something to get free (freedom of movement). Doesn't matter. You're still helpless.

Boci
2014-11-10, 08:15 PM
I can see why you'd think so, and you are definitely entitled to this opinion.

Obviously you don't have to justify your opinion, it doesn't require my seal of approval. I'm just puzzled why you feel so strongly about this house rule. What do you think it adds to the game?

Calen
2014-11-10, 08:44 PM
Another option…
I typically designate outside of combat damage as being more lethal, or realistic. If a feel a roll is called for I will deal the damage dealt against one of the creatures defenses, (typically fortitude) If your damage dealt exceeds the targets Fort you kill/knock-out the target. I find this works well as a stealth kill mechanic. (Some of my players are Splinter Cell fans). This may not be completely helpful but is something to think about for the situation you described.

Raimun
2014-11-11, 12:30 AM
I should note that there are lots of (non-D20) systems that make such damaging attacks possible.

However, D&D and other D20-games work from a different assumption. Someone with 1 HD is the closest in terms of endurance and durability to real world humans. Any more HD and real world rules cease to work... and that is exactly as it is supposed to be in D&D.

Legendary heroes and monsters don't work with "real world rules" and neither they should. None of us is a tough as a Fighter with over 100 hp (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0951.html).

That said, I do need to remind you of Coup de Grace. If you can catch your opponent helpless, you are adjacent to them and you can take a full action, that should be in most cases lethal enough for your purposes. Heck, I once played a Barbarian who Coup de Graced some sleeping brute (full hp) who had about 5 HD over my HD and all I had at hand was a piece of wood torn from a furniture that was agreed to count as club. Yes. The "damage d6, critical X2, cost -" Simple Weapon. It was a foregone conclusion that he died and all I needed was one (Coup de Grace) strike.

However, had I waited for him to wake up before striking, it would have made sense that it would be a normal hit, even if my STR 20 warrior had been training his club to strike him at the back of the head for the last minute or two. When someone is unhelpless, they are able to react to danger and avoid damage to vital areas... at least for some time. That's how it works in all stories, be they comics, movies, tv-series, literature or video games... or RPGs.

jedipotter
2014-11-11, 12:43 AM
So yeah, what do people think? Should players be able to bypass abstracted combat systems?


No. If you want a system that has a non abstract combat system, then you should play a game that has one.


D&D works horrible with a ''bypass'' for the combat rules. As with the simple: if you can bypass combat, why not just do it all the time and always avoid the normal combat rules.

The trick is, for games like D&D, you just need to break the low magic ''Lord of the Rings'' mold. A dinky normal crossbow put to the neck of a half dragon is just a joke. But he won't be laughing if it's a rod of distengrtion or any of the other hundred ways that would be deadly.

Sartharina
2014-11-11, 12:51 AM
D&D works horrible with a ''bypass'' for the combat rules. As with the simple: if you can bypass combat, why not just do it all the time and always avoid the normal combat rules.Suddenly, bypassing combat to use insta-kill situations becomes the challenge, instead of meat-grinding foes to death! It's like trapfinding in A&D - you can be a chump and try to rely on the rogue to find traps, or you can bust out the 10' poles, weighted disks, crescent staves, bags of marbles, pouches of dust, pieces of chalk, more rope than anyone could ever need, and proceed with caution, having your tools take the worst of the wear.

Similarly, you can engage in HP-to-HP slogfests in D&D, or try to find ways to bypass the fight (In often risky ways).

NichG
2014-11-11, 12:58 AM
The last (non-D&D) campaign I ran used a system which explicitly gave characters pools of points (morally equivalent to HP) which they would spend to avoid attacks. The system was such that, if you let someone stab you in the heart with a longsword, you've got a good chance of dying - but as long as you have hitpoints to spare, you can always choose to spend them in order to not be hit in that way. The situation of someone bound in a chair would then be such that they could no longer choose to dodge. At the same time, in that system things like 'web' use the same mechanics, and can also be resisted by spending hitpoints. So a character who got webbed and then coup-de-gras'd was either already out of hitpoints, or made a bad choice to not pay to resist the web.

DeadMech
2014-11-11, 01:34 AM
From my perspective I wouldn't much like the idea of playing a character and having the dm sneak up behind me with someone and put me under the threat of an autokill dagger to the throat. I would argue that as a supposedly highly skilled individual in this narrative that I would either notice it at the last moment or have the option of throwing the back of my skull into their nose to break away or something.

People have been known to survive some rather traumatic injuries. Other times people succumb to things you wouldn't think they would. You can punch a guy in the head once, causing a weakened and bulging blood vessel in the brain to rupture. On the other hand sometimes a person survives a gunshot wound removing nearly a quarter of their brain.

The situation with one character tied up and the other watching them though is a bit more nuanced. I don't believe you are allowed to ready actions out of combat. Out of combat you don't know when to expect the prisoner to try to break free. It could be right now! Or it could be in two hours. It might be a sudden burst of strength or it could be an escape artist check. So realistically the idea of a barbarian standing there constantly ready to cut the throat or sink an axe into the back of the prisoner's head is a bit unlikely. So you might have to make some sort of perception roll to notice in time to stop them. Sense motive, or spot or something. Maybe a concentration check instead. And then initiative to swing the sword faster than they can break the rope. Probably with the escapee suffering a penalty of some significance.

jedipotter
2014-11-11, 01:48 AM
Suddenly, bypassing combat to use insta-kill situations becomes the challenge,

But D&D is not made for this type of ''challenge''. When you kill a high CR foe with a single attack, that is not ''defeating a foe'' per the encounter rules. In fact, if an encounter is too easy, the PC's get less experience. And to really ruins the flavor and the fun of the game too.

Just take the Assassin......sigh:The horrible problem player with an assassin character will say something annoying like this ''I study every single person I meet for three rounds so i can death attack everyone all the time.''

It's only worse by the ''weakness obsessed player'', who played a video game where every for had a ''weakness'', and somehow thinks D&D is like that. So they are always looking for the ''weakness auto fight win easy button''.

Milo v3
2014-11-11, 03:21 AM
Just take the Assassin......sigh:The horrible problem player with an assassin character will say something annoying like this ''I study every single person I meet for three rounds so i can death attack everyone all the time.''
Well the answer to that is to tell them to reread the class feature :smallconfused:

mister__joshua
2014-11-11, 07:01 AM
This is a problem that only seems to affect people when it comes to humanoid creatures, because humanoids have a human anatomy and that's something we, as humans, understand.

If you drive a pike through someone's skull, they die. There are a number of monsters for which this isn't the case though, and things like natural armour, regeneration, unusual anatomy all change the situation.

In my/our group games, anything related to out of combat is dealt with without dice and in this situation detailed would be an instant kill on the bound man if that was the player's desire. I don't think a DM should ever auto-kill a player though except in very unusual circumstances, and I don't think most would.

On the topic of helpless or at mercy, I don't even think a person needs to be bound. If a guy is kneeling on the floor in front of you and not fighting (subdued, surrendered, concussed, just given up the will to fight) then he is also 'at your mercy' for me.

Sartharina
2014-11-11, 09:49 AM
But D&D is not made for this type of ''challenge''. When you kill a high CR foe with a single attack, that is not ''defeating a foe'' per the encounter rules. In fact, if an encounter is too easy, the PC's get less experience. And to really ruins the flavor and the fun of the game too.Getting an enemy in a situation where you can instant-kill it is often just as difficult/challenging as killing them in straight up combat.


Just take the Assassin......sigh:The horrible problem player with an assassin character will say something annoying like this ''I study every single person I meet for three rounds so i can death attack everyone all the time.''Your problem with the assassin is that the Death Attack can be used at any time on any one after the appropriate amount of time studying it.

Morty
2014-11-11, 10:02 AM
Just take the Assassin......sigh:The horrible problem player with an assassin character will say something annoying like this ''I study every single person I meet for three rounds so i can death attack everyone all the time.''

Because callous assassins who scan everyone they meet for weaknesses and size them up as potential targets don't exist in media at all. Nope.

As far as the larger issue goes, I think it exemplifies the problems with making hit points and their attrition so important. If active defences were more important, then the problem would by and large solve itself.

Kelb_Panthera
2014-11-11, 10:03 AM
Heck no. When I run a game the only things that autokill a target are things, like power word kill, that explicitly say that's what they do and even then only under the limited circumstances each of those things specifies.

For the OP's situation it's a fairly simple matter. The target is bound and, thus, helpless and both he and the PC are outside of combat so no ready action. When the target tries to escape initiative is called. If the target loses the initiative or fails to break free the PC gets to make a coup de grace which will -probably- kill the target (CdG is nasty that way). If, however, the target survives then he gets to keep making attempts until the PC does succeed in killing him or he succeeds in breaking lose and normal combat commences properly.

Any circumstance other than the target being helpless defaults to the normal combat rules because, and this is important, there are no called shots in D&D 3e. You don't get to say, "I sneak up on him and slit his throat." Instead you get "I try to sneak up on him and attack him," and that attack is only as damaging as whatever abilities you have that trigger when an enemy is caught by surprise over and above your normal weapon damage -if- it hits the target's AC.

BRC
2014-11-11, 10:10 AM
From my perspective I wouldn't much like the idea of playing a character and having the dm sneak up behind me with someone and put me under the threat of an autokill dagger to the throat. I would argue that as a supposedly highly skilled individual in this narrative that I would either notice it at the last moment or have the option of throwing the back of my skull into their nose to break away or something.

The thing is, the PCs are always at the DM's mercy. If the DM wants you dead, you will die. He'll just do it with a high-level spellcaster riding a dragon rather than a rogue with a knife.

That said, in the course of the narrative, the chances of players encountering somebody sneaking up behind them to slit their throats is a lot higher. Even a well-meaning DM could create a situation where it wouldn't make sense for NPC's to NOT try to instakill the PCs with a well placed dagger to the neck.


The situation with one character tied up and the other watching them though is a bit more nuanced. I don't believe you are allowed to ready actions out of combat. Out of combat you don't know when to expect the prisoner to try to break free. It could be right now! Or it could be in two hours. It might be a sudden burst of strength or it could be an escape artist check. So realistically the idea of a barbarian standing there constantly ready to cut the throat or sink an axe into the back of the prisoner's head is a bit unlikely. So you might have to make some sort of perception roll to notice in time to stop them. Sense motive, or spot or something. Maybe a concentration check instead. And then initiative to swing the sword faster than they can break the rope. Probably with the escapee suffering a penalty of some significance.

In that situation I was watching him for the duration of a single conversation. We had been keeping him unconcious before then.

Valefor Rathan
2014-11-11, 10:11 AM
For example, in our DnD campaign we had captured an enemy. He was a half-dragon fighter. We had him tied to a chair, but he could break out of it, and he could use his breath weapon on us.

My character stood directly behind him, pointing a crossbow at the back of his head, ready to shoot if he tried anything.

I didn't end up pulling the trigger, but I discussed with my DM what would have happened if I had. If the Half-Dragon had broken free of his bonds and attacked us, my character, with a crossbow point-blank at the back of his neck...would have gotten a free attack. Just as if I'd taken a shot during a pitched melee. Sure it would have been an easy shot, but it wouldn't have dealt any extra damage.


There's plenty of other, similar scenarios that tabletop games model poorly. The classic "Sneaking up behind somebody and cutting their throat", or stabbing them in the back. Sure you can add on precision damage, or free crits, but even that dosn't always drop a character. And there isn't any room for Abstraction in that scenario. If the target was truly helpless and unaware, there is no reason for the attacker to not go for a killing blow.

I think this point flows well into the "monster/NPC death saving throw" thread

In our group, across games and DMs/GMs, we understand that there are times when "instant-death" is going to happen. There were a lot of heated discussions about it but in the end the agreement is that it goes both ways - whatever we can do to the NPCs they can do to us. Luckily none of us while on the ruling side of the screen have used it too much on players unless is story-appropriately-AWESOME.

I'd say ask the DM and see if they let it fly.

Spiryt
2014-11-11, 10:24 AM
Any circumstance other than the target being helpless defaults to the normal combat rules because, and this is important, there are no called shots in D&D 3e. You don't get to say, "I sneak up on him and slit his throat." Instead you get "I try to sneak up on him and attack him," and that attack is only as damaging as whatever abilities you have that trigger when an enemy is caught by surprise over and above your normal weapon damage -if- it hits the target's AC.

I don't see a problem with saying that.

If one succedds, someone (GM or player) get's to describe successful throat cut on poor victim.

If there's no success, or only partial success, the description is appropriately different.

And yeah, as far as situation in OP goes, I would rule it as CtG without a doubt.

If someone wants to think it's trickier in this case, or whatever, one easily can use some modified CtG rules.

Fortunately 3.5 rules are actually pretty fun and flexible here.

Fire Lord Pi
2014-11-11, 12:27 PM
I remedy this problem easily.

With the Star Wars hit point system of Wound and Vitality, this problem disappears.

In my campaign, WOUND POINTS represent your body. Damage is real physical damage. You have few wounds points, only half your con's worth, so a 20 Level can easily be felled by a cut throat.

VITALITY POINTS are fatigue, luck, and abstract stuff. As the fight goes on you are tired, low on luck, and have other disadvantages. These are gained by level, as usual.

I also make clerics choose either Vitality Cures or Wound Cures. Vitality is normal, but wounds only cures equal to the spell's level.

20's are automatic critical hits, doing double damage. But if you confirm the crit it goes directly to wounds (not doubled). If you roll a second twenty it can confirm again to do double to wounds.

This allows even the greatest men to be killed. Some might not like it, because it does lead to high fatalities (I lose A LOT of PCs), but I am primarily focused on realism and gritty games are more fun to me and mine.

Kelb_Panthera
2014-11-11, 12:48 PM
I don't see a problem with saying that.

If one succedds, someone (GM or player) get's to describe successful throat cut on poor victim.

If there's no success, or only partial success, the description is appropriately different.

And yeah, as far as situation in OP goes, I would rule it as CtG without a doubt.

If someone wants to think it's trickier in this case, or whatever, one easily can use some modified CtG rules.

Fortunately 3.5 rules are actually pretty fun and flexible here.

The two lines in quotes are declarations of action. Once the action is resolved mechanically the player can describe it however they want.

If the player declares that they sneak up on the enemy and slit his throat and the dice say he doesn't then he looks like a dink. Alternately, if the dice do make for a successful surprise attack, then the player says that should be an instant kill because "slit throat," with all the game balance pitfalls and arguments that accompany that.

mephnick
2014-11-11, 01:05 PM
I agree with a bound CDG, but I'm not sure how you solve the 'sneak up and slit throat' problem without letting a rogue insta-kill someone with any sneak attack.

If I can sneak up on some guy on the street and slit his throat, why can't I sneak up on some guy focused on the fighter and slit his throat?

Spiryt
2014-11-11, 01:09 PM
I honestly can't see a problem.




If the player declares that they sneak up on the enemy and slit his throat and the dice say he doesn't then he looks like a dink.

He does, at least in the sense that his character had failed, so it's more accurate to say that his character looks like a dink.



Alternately, if the dice do make for a successful surprise attack, then the player says that should be an instant kill because "slit throat," with all the game balance pitfalls and arguments that accompany that.

If the rolls decide that the victim is indeed dropped well beyond 0, the player can go forth with 'instant kill'.

If not, DM describes as his attempt to slit throat was only partially successful - guard had managed to tuck his chin, raise his arms etc. leaving him with awful bloody gash, but very much alive.

If player wants to do Semantics Optimizing, he's not very good player, honestly.

Knaight
2014-11-11, 01:09 PM
I agree with a bound CDG, but I'm not sure how you solve the 'sneak up and slit throat' problem without letting a rogue insta-kill someone with any sneak attack.

If I can sneak up on some guy on the street and slit his throat, why can't I sneak up on some guy focused on the fighter and slit his throat?

Once someone is in active combat, sneaking up on them to the same degree gets way harder, and they're moving less predictably to boot. Thus, easy throat slitting doesn't make all that much sense - though I will say that sometimes one does get a pretty good shot at the back, particularly against those less good at keeping an eye on their surroundings (or those currently fighting someone who demands a particularly high level of attention).

Sartharina
2014-11-11, 01:48 PM
The average rogue's sneak attack deals more damage than a non-sneak attack critical/cdg.

DeadMech
2014-11-11, 02:00 PM
If the DM wants you dead, you will die.
True, however, clearly a sign of a dm that fairly few people would want to play with. What's the point of even having players if you are just going to steal their agency away from them?

Oh hoho. You forgot to say that you were looking behind you as you walked down the street, so the thug hired by the bbeg that you don't know about snuck up and slit your throat. Go roll a new character.

Something occurs to me though. If the captive were unconscious, was it because you used non-lethal damage to knock him out originally? In which case he woke up one hit point, lethal or nonlethal, away from being knocked out again. So the attack of opportunity when he tries is most likely ending his threat.

(edit) Or maybe not... I'm assuming the game system for some reason.

Knaight
2014-11-11, 02:36 PM
True, however, clearly a sign of a dm that fairly few people would want to play with. What's the point of even having players if you are just going to steal their agency away from them?

Oh hoho. You forgot to say that you were looking behind you as you walked down the street, so the thug hired by the bbeg that you don't know about snuck up and slit your throat. Go roll a new character.

Most systems traditional enough for this to apply at the very least feature some sort of perception check, so there's that at least.

Sartharina
2014-11-11, 03:03 PM
True, however, clearly a sign of a dm that fairly few people would want to play with. What's the point of even having players if you are just going to steal their agency away from them?

Oh hoho. You forgot to say that you were looking behind you as you walked down the street, so the thug hired by the bbeg that you don't know about snuck up and slit your throat. Go roll a new character.More like, "As you go to investigate the shining light in the dark alley, *cough* alone" (DM makes perception check for the player, player fails to notice the rogues hiding) ".... a thief stands up from behind the clutter by the coin, and you feel a strong hand grab your shoulder, and the press of cold steel against your throat. The thief in front of you growls, "Your coin, or your life..."

There are three options you have here - You can try to fight back, which requires you to make an initiative check - if the rogues win, you die. If you win, combat starts as normal, and you're considered grappling the rogue flanking you (But get to act first).

Or, you can hand over your money, in which case you live, but lose your money.

The third option is to quickly make the Thief Sign (Put your right hand in front of your face, thumb against your nose and wiggle your fingers, while patting your belly with the other hand), frustrating the thieves, but getting access to the town's local thieves' guild.

of course, you could have avoided the whole shebang by:
1. Passing the perception check.
or.
2. Bringing a buddy to watch your back.

SiuiS
2014-11-11, 03:49 PM
For example, in our DnD campaign we had captured an enemy. He was a half-dragon fighter. We had him tied to a chair, but he could break out of it, and he could use his breath weapon on us.

My character stood directly behind him, pointing a crossbow at the back of his head, ready to shoot if he tried anything.

I didn't end up pulling the trigger, but I discussed with my DM what would have happened if I had. If the Half-Dragon had broken free of his bonds and attacked us, my character, with a crossbow point-blank at the back of his neck...would have gotten a free attack. Just as if I'd taken a shot during a pitched melee. Sure it would have been an easy shot, but it wouldn't have dealt any extra damage.

It's an admittedly weak section of most rules, especially the high grain ones, but each game usually makes a good go at handling the exact issues that arise in their ruleset. D&D for example; the crossbow effect. You had a readied action to attack a weak point, D&D handles that as a coup de grace, using the "begin full round action" action. You start to fire on your turn and roll initiative. If you win initiative you finish the action begin in the surprise round before he gets his action, becomes non-flatfooted and has a chance to escape from being helpless.

Other rules have similar methods. Yes, they are often contrived, but they do work. If this sort of thing is an issue – if the DM won't just say "You slot his throat and he dies", then look for rulesets that do make it work.

Although personally, if your DM won't just say "you slit his throat and he dies" then your DM misses the point of having a DM instead of just using the books and players.

jedipotter
2014-11-11, 05:08 PM
The fun Twist of the Cut Throat Problem: It's a pure Player Complaint. Players think that their character should be able to kill things in all sorts of ways that go around the rules. Like ''I put my dagger to his throat, so if he moves it is auto death for him''.

But then ask the Player, would they want this type of non-combat for the whole game world. And suddenly they won't be all for it.

After all the whole point of hit points is so the PC can live more then a couple minutes and play the game. This is why so many PC's demand things like maximum hit points per level.

But just think how different a game it would be if hit points did not matter. What if every NPC, creature and monster automatically made called shots when they attacked. Then a PC could have 20 hit points, but the character still dies ''when the wolf rips out the character's throat''.

And the story set up is worse. When an NPC or monster gets behind the PC to to the auto kill. And once past 5th level or so this gets very hard, if not impossible, to detect and stop, with the more high level abilities, powers, spells and magic.

And it does go back around to resting. PC's need to rest 8 hours out of every 24. And the DM ''nicely'' has no attack happen during that time. And that is for the simple reason as it disrupts the game. If the group was attacked, say three times a rest period, then they would never heal or rest. And that is if the foe just does not attack them while they are 'helpless' and sleeping.

So that is why D&D has hit points.

If you want Cut Throat D&D, it is easy to do. Just give ALL things One Hit Dice. Forever. Then death will be easy to do and very common...''like real life''.

Knaight
2014-11-11, 05:32 PM
The fun Twist of the Cut Throat Problem: It's a pure Player Complaint. Players think that their character should be able to kill things in all sorts of ways that go around the rules. Like ''I put my dagger to his throat, so if he moves it is auto death for him''.


Nonsense. People want the game to model weapons as actually being dangerous, as is indicated by the tons of non D&D games which do this. Take GURPS - it still has hit points, and even if you specifically go out of your way to make a character really high HP they're still in a lot of danger from a surprise attack. REIGN has hit points by body part and every shot hits a particular spot. A sword to the unhelmeted head will generally knock a character out at minimum, if it's a good hit they instantly die. Then there are the games which have actual wound systems in lieu of HP.

The complaint isn't people wanting their characters to easily kill things. It's people having a problem with a whole bunch of what should be dangerous situations becoming a non issue because of the rules. Having a crossbow up to the head of someone tied to a chair really should threaten them pretty dramatically.

Sith_Happens
2014-11-11, 05:41 PM
"Bound" is explicitly called out as a condition that renders you helpless, though. Just because you can become unbound doesn't mean you are unbound.

Paralysis is also a condition that renders you helpless, despite the fact that it does nothing to stop you from manifesting powers or using most supernatural or spell-like abilities.

BRC
2014-11-11, 05:43 PM
The fun Twist of the Cut Throat Problem: It's a pure Player Complaint. Players think that their character should be able to kill things in all sorts of ways that go around the rules. Like ''I put my dagger to his throat, so if he moves it is auto death for him''.

But then ask the Player, would they want this type of non-combat for the whole game world. And suddenly they won't be all for it.

After all the whole point of hit points is so the PC can live more then a couple minutes and play the game. This is why so many PC's demand things like maximum hit points per level.

But just think how different a game it would be if hit points did not matter. What if every NPC, creature and monster automatically made called shots when they attacked. Then a PC could have 20 hit points, but the character still dies ''when the wolf rips out the character's throat''.

And the story set up is worse. When an NPC or monster gets behind the PC to to the auto kill. And once past 5th level or so this gets very hard, if not impossible, to detect and stop, with the more high level abilities, powers, spells and magic.

And it does go back around to resting. PC's need to rest 8 hours out of every 24. And the DM ''nicely'' has no attack happen during that time. And that is for the simple reason as it disrupts the game. If the group was attacked, say three times a rest period, then they would never heal or rest. And that is if the foe just does not attack them while they are 'helpless' and sleeping.

So that is why D&D has hit points.

If you want Cut Throat D&D, it is easy to do. Just give ALL things One Hit Dice. Forever. Then death will be easy to do and very common...''like real life''.

Hit points do matter. Using Cut Throat Rules introduces a way to get around Hit Points, but it's a way that still involves a challenge.

Rather than the challenge being knocking down the enemy's hit points, the challenge becomes putting the enemy in a situation where the PC can "Cut their throat" or whatever. Whether it's sneaking up behind them, or infiltrating their camp at night to kill them in their sleep. It's a new avenue of approach, but the challenge is still there.

And whose to say that Players are the only ones who might possibly want to use these rolls. Consider, the players lose a fight and get captured. One of them got Paralyzed during the fight, so they're still at high HP.

The PC's are tied up and brought to the enemy captain for interrogation. An enemy guard holds a knife to the Paralyzed PC's throat before the paralysis effect wears off, and the enemy captain starts to question the PC's.

From a narrative standpoint, this should be a tense moment. The PC's need to bluff or talk their way out of this situation. They lost the fight, so dealing with this is the consequence of that.

However, the paralyzed PC says "These soldiers don't have rogue levels, which means that knife can deal, at most, fourteen damage" I've got forty five hit points, so I'll be fine".

Now, the tension of the scene is broken. The enemy soldier with the knife, rather than being a deadly threat to the helpless party, is just an attack the PC may have to soak.

It's not about just wanting to kill things easier. It's about wanting to be able to create those tense "Knife to the Neck" moments without the rules getting in the way.

Palegreenpants
2014-11-11, 06:01 PM
From my perspective (someone who enjoys very mortal characters) I feel that 5E's "drop to 0" mechanic is best for throat-slashing, helpless-shooting, etc.

I'd even go a bit farther with this, and introduce one of my yet-to-implement-into-my-campaign house-rules. Say, if a creature is reduced to 0 HP, they sustain a wound (a la Dragon Age,) that reduces their max HP by a total equal to the damage of the attack that reduced them to 0. This means that, if someone was insta-gibbed in a throat-slashing manor, they would be instantly, unhealabley dead (or you could choose to do non-lethal damage.) Anyway, there's my two cents.

SiuiS
2014-11-11, 09:51 PM
The fun Twist of the Cut Throat Problem: It's a pure Player Complaint. Players think that their character should be able to kill things in all sorts of ways that go around the rules. Like ''I put my dagger to his throat, so if he moves it is auto death for him''.

But then ask the Player, would they want this type of non-combat for the whole game world. And suddenly they won't be all for it.

After all the whole point of hit points is so the PC can live more then a couple minutes and play the game. This is why so many PC's demand things like maximum hit points per level.

But just think how different a game it would be if hit points did not matter. What if every NPC, creature and monster automatically made called shots when they attacked. Then a PC could have 20 hit points, but the character still dies ''when the wolf rips out the character's throat''.

And the story set up is worse. When an NPC or monster gets behind the PC to to the auto kill. And once past 5th level or so this gets very hard, if not impossible, to detect and stop, with the more high level abilities, powers, spells and magic.

And it does go back around to resting. PC's need to rest 8 hours out of every 24. And the DM ''nicely'' has no attack happen during that time. And that is for the simple reason as it disrupts the game. If the group was attacked, say three times a rest period, then they would never heal or rest. And that is if the foe just does not attack them while they are 'helpless' and sleeping.

So that is why D&D has hit points.

If you want Cut Throat D&D, it is easy to do. Just give ALL things One Hit Dice. Forever. Then death will be easy to do and very common...''like real life''.

I've played like that. I don't know why you think people only want what's good for themselves, time and again we see that people will actively punish themselves to provide verisimilitude to avoid cognitive dissonance.

But yeah. I've played that game. It's not much different from regular D&D. In fact, regular high OP has it – scry and fry. The wizard version of I sneak up on you and slit your throat.


D&D hit points are garbage, and they shouldn't be used as a benchmark for health systems except as a cautionary tale of what you really shouldn't do.


Clarify? I see this a lot but rarely get an explanation. Hit points do exactly what they were supposed to. How are they garbage?


Why? Would you like your PC auto-killed when he's trapped in a Web spell? Or even auto-critted?

Yes. The trick is to avoid web spells and the like. There's a reason any character at level 2+ is so paranoid.


His +7 Strength changes his situation from unable to escape to able to escape. Therefore, he's not helpless.
Just because an attempt failed, doesn't make a character helpless.

Then unconscious people are not helpless and the elf less condition never applies, ever. Sleepers can roll listen checks to possibly wake up, so they're never actually helpless. Paralyzed characters can still use purely mental actions to activate de-paralyzers so they're never truly helpless.

This falls apart logically.



The trick is, for games like D&D, you just need to break the low magic ''Lord of the Rings'' mold. A dinky normal crossbow put to the neck of a half dragon is just a joke. But he won't be laughing if it's a rod of distengrtion or any of the other hundred ways that would be deadly.

http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/12/120865/3218306-2955101-hellsing-surrounded.jpg


Suddenly, bypassing combat to use insta-kill situations becomes the challenge, instead of meat-grinding foes to death! It's like trapfinding in A&D - you can be a chump and try to rely on the rogue to find traps, or you can bust out the 10' poles, weighted disks, crescent staves, bags of marbles, pouches of dust, pieces of chalk, more rope than anyone could ever need, and proceed with caution, having your tools take the worst of the wear.

Similarly, you can engage in HP-to-HP slogfests in D&D, or try to find ways to bypass the fight (In often risky ways).

That's basically how we play it, yeah. Low level can be really gritty if you're stupid or play like you are high level.


The last (non-D&D) campaign I ran used a system which explicitly gave characters pools of points (morally equivalent to HP) which they would spend to avoid attacks. The system was such that, if you let someone stab you in the heart with a longsword, you've got a good chance of dying - but as long as you have hitpoints to spare, you can always choose to spend them in order to not be hit in that way. The situation of someone bound in a chair would then be such that they could no longer choose to dodge. At the same time, in that system things like 'web' use the same mechanics, and can also be resisted by spending hitpoints. So a character who got webbed and then coup-de-gras'd was either already out of hitpoints, or made a bad choice to not pay to resist the web.

That's cool!


But D&D is not made for this type of ''challenge''. When you kill a high CR foe with a single attack, that is not ''defeating a foe'' per the encounter rules. In fact, if an encounter is too easy, the PC's get less experience. And to really ruins the flavor and the fun of the game too.

This is wrong. How easy or hard the situation is does not change the enemy challenge rating, only the level of the encounter; an encounter set up to be very easy that uses high CR monsters yields full experience per monster at that challenge rating.

Similarly, a well-entrenched death squad of orcs and kobolds who lead players into a kill box can decimate high level troupes, and still only be with a few hundred XPs.


The average rogue's sneak attack deals more damage than a non-sneak attack critical/cdg.

The average rogue's sneak attack is not a save or die, however.

DeadMech
2014-11-12, 12:31 AM
There are three options you have here - You can try to fight back, which requires you to make an initiative check - if the rogues win, you die.

Assuming the rule system lacks facing this rogue better have been invisible otherwise he lost concealment the moment he moved out from cover. Never mind that my character isn't helpless. There should be a grapple check in order to grab a hold. So my character get's an attack of opportunity barring specialization. Since he declared an attack making the grapple the moment he talks instead of stabbing it's my character's turn to try to break the hold or attack back with a dagger or an unarmed strike.

Or you know... my high level front line character suffers a sneak attack instead of an instant kill hit. Considering this is probably a lower level rogue it's not that deadly. even if if it's a relatively balanced level sneak attack damage scales slower than the typical front liner's hp. In 3.5 even if you are pinned you aren't helpless so a coup de grace is out of the question.

The whole point I'm trying to make is it's bad taste to start the instant death arms race by demanding auto kills from your dm. It doesn't matter if you're walking through market, into an alley, resting at an inn or pulling watch shift while camping. At some point your character is going to be alone or otherwise vulnerable. It's not an arms race you are going to win in the long run. Most games have combat rules so it's better to use them than to start making things up that turn a game that's already too much rocket tag into even faster rocket tag.

It might just be personal preference but I like a game with a slower more grinding combat. You get to adjust and play with strategy along the way rather than have the outcome decided before combat even begins.

NichG
2014-11-12, 01:13 AM
The PC's are tied up and brought to the enemy captain for interrogation. An enemy guard holds a knife to the Paralyzed PC's throat before the paralysis effect wears off, and the enemy captain starts to question the PC's.

From a narrative standpoint, this should be a tense moment. The PC's need to bluff or talk their way out of this situation. They lost the fight, so dealing with this is the consequence of that.

However, the paralyzed PC says "These soldiers don't have rogue levels, which means that knife can deal, at most, fourteen damage" I've got forty five hit points, so I'll be fine".

Now, the tension of the scene is broken. The enemy soldier with the knife, rather than being a deadly threat to the helpless party, is just an attack the PC may have to soak.

The real problem is even not just this, but that if the enemies/PCs do actually perform the correct rules-based steps to retain the tension, the resulting scene ends up being very strange from a narrative point of view. If I'm a group of Lv1 soldiers who want to interrogate a Lv20 Fighter who happened to be captured and delivered into my care, and I want use the threat of death like this, I have to do the following steps:

- Do a bunch of nonlethal damage to keep the guy unconscious
- Use a wand of Inflict Minor Wounds and a wand of Cure Minor Wounds to adjust his hitpoints until he's precisely at 0hp plus whatever non-lethal.
- Use very careful timing such that I keep him at this point until the last point of non-lethal goes away, since non-lethal damage heals at a different rate than lethal damage.
- Bind him in such a way that breaking his bindings will do at least 10hp of damage (in case he has Diehard) - for example, there are a few weapons/monster attacks which embed into a target and do damage if not removed with a heal check. The Harpoon is probably the cheapest source of this effect.
- Interrogate him without the bother of the knife, because if he takes an action while Disabled he'll knock himself out anyhow (1hp damage), and if he has Diehard and could still act at that point, he'll kill himself if he breaks his bindings anyhow.

So I can still do the interrogation, but now it comes with a bunch of weird nonsensical rituals demanded by the game mechanics to make it actually work by the rules. Nothing in this pattern is really outside of the means of a group of Lv1 characters to do, it just requires a very particular finicky pattern of actions to pull off.

jedipotter
2014-11-12, 01:23 AM
The complaint isn't people wanting their characters to easily kill things. It's people having a problem with a whole bunch of what should be dangerous situations becoming a non issue because of the rules. Having a crossbow up to the head of someone tied to a chair really should threaten them pretty dramatically.

I don't know about all them ''other'' games...so on comment.

But, as has been said, the D&D system is not made for ''shooting someone in the head with a crossbow for an auto kill''. But you could do it, just give everyone five hit points. Then any attack is deadly.


Hit points do matter. Using Cut Throat Rules introduces a way to get around Hit Points, but it's a way that still involves a challenge.

Getting around hit points changes the whole game though...that is the point. High power = high level = lots of hit points. If you go around that, your really changing things.



It's not about just wanting to kill things easier. It's about wanting to be able to create those tense "Knife to the Neck" moments without the rules getting in the way.

Or the bad guys can beat the PC's down to just a couple hit points. then when they all have less then five hit points, a knife to the throat is a big danger. And this works great.


I've played like that. I don't know why you think people only want what's good for themselves, time and again we see that people will actively punish themselves to provide verisimilitude to avoid cognitive dissonance.

Well, i run a deadly game and I can tell you lots of players complain about PC death. The Hit Point thing is another way some players like to have things in the game. They demand to have maximum hit points per level....for the player characters. But do they also want everything else in the world to have max HP?



This is wrong. How easy or hard the situation is does not change the enemy challenge rating, only the level of the encounter; an encounter set up to be very easy that uses high CR monsters yields full experience per monster at that challenge rating.

Well....my DMG has a couple of paragraphs about how the DM can alter the experience gained in an encounter if the encounter was too hard or too easy.

Lanaya
2014-11-12, 01:26 AM
The PC's are tied up and brought to the enemy captain for interrogation. An enemy guard holds a knife to the Paralyzed PC's throat before the paralysis effect wears off, and the enemy captain starts to question the PC's.

From a narrative standpoint, this should be a tense moment. The PC's need to bluff or talk their way out of this situation. They lost the fight, so dealing with this is the consequence of that.

However, the paralyzed PC says "These soldiers don't have rogue levels, which means that knife can deal, at most, fourteen damage" I've got forty five hit points, so I'll be fine".

Now, the tension of the scene is broken. The enemy soldier with the knife, rather than being a deadly threat to the helpless party, is just an attack the PC may have to soak.

It's not about just wanting to kill things easier. It's about wanting to be able to create those tense "Knife to the Neck" moments without the rules getting in the way.

A group of common criminals figure out Superman's secret identity, creep into his house at night and put a knife to Clark Kent's throat. When he awakens, they demand that he swears to stop fighting evildoers or else. Superman beats up the crooks with his super headbutt and chuckles to himself about how silly these people were. There's obviously no narrative tension in this situation, but that's because there shouldn't be. If someone's so superhumanly mighty that they can take a knife to the throat and laugh it off (and assuming we're talking D&D 3.5, a 45 hp character can take an average of 4 greatswords to the throat before going down) then obviously there's no tension in a scene where a bunch of mere mortals threaten them with a knife. It's like expecting dramatic tension when the guard captain threatens you with a vicious pillow-beating. If you want to threaten characters then either scale up your threats appropriately or don't play games that give people crazily superhuman levels of toughness.

Sartharina
2014-11-12, 01:29 AM
-snip-Or... maybe I'm making a reference to "Quest for Glory: So You Want to be a Hero"

D&D's hitpoints are great for protracted, cinematic battles, and for quick, hectic ambushes in a dungeon. It breaks down hard when it tries to model more urban encounters.
(and assuming we're talking D&D 3.5, a 45 hp character can take an average of 4 greatswords to the throat before going down)No, they can't. Re-read what hitpoints measure. It's NOT raw durability.

They're an abstract system allowing protracted combat to have an ablative resource to determine victory, instead of having to rely on pure chance of a deadly blow.

Lanaya
2014-11-12, 01:37 AM
No, they can't. Re-read what hitpoints measure. It's NOT raw durability.

Except for when it is. HP is raw durability when you fall into a deep pit and take damage from the impact. It's raw durability when you swim through a pool of acid or run through a burning building. It's definitely raw durability when the purple worm shrugs off a storm of puny arrows thanks to its sheer size and bulk. And it's hard to explain it as anything but raw durability when someone shoves a knife through your throat while you're completely bound and helpless but only manages to tickle you.

DeadMech
2014-11-12, 01:51 AM
D&D's hitpoints are great for protracted, cinematic battles, and for quick, hectic ambushes in a dungeon. It breaks down hard when it tries to model more urban encounters.No, they can't. Re-read what hitpoints measure. It's NOT raw durability.

No hp are an abstraction. Like the ability to somehow mitigate a long sword through the chest to something more along the lines of a scratch or a bad bruise. Like say, seeing the theif's dagger a split second before contact and darting away. You know, that barbarian who walks around shrugging off mountains falling on him by just being tough, lucky, and frankly better at what it is he does than any person who's ever lived in our world.

TheCountAlucard
2014-11-12, 06:48 AM
morally equivalent to HPThis is what confuses me. :smallconfused:

NichG
2014-11-12, 06:56 AM
This is what confuses me. :smallconfused:

The phrase or the details of the mechanics?

TheCountAlucard
2014-11-12, 07:00 AM
The phrasing, yes; what's moral about hit-points?

NichG
2014-11-12, 07:07 AM
The phrasing, yes; what's moral about hit-points?

It's an idiom that has broadened a bit over the last century, but the basic structure is that 'action A is morally equivalent to action B because the big picture consequences of A and B are equal even if A and B differ in detail'. So in this case, 'body points' which can be spent to power special attacks or add to defenses are morally equivalent to 'hit points' because even though the details of presentation between the systems differ, in both cases they functionally act as an attrition mechanic for controlling the pacing of combat.

prufock
2014-11-12, 08:21 AM
There's a contradiction here. Ok, so first things first, I agree there is no rule definition for "at the captor's mercy". This is a fluffy phrase that we must interpret. My interpretation is: "at the captor's mercy" = "unable to take actions that will meaningfully change the situation", and I stick by it.
This actually doesn't matter. The fact that the NPC is bound is enough to make him helpless. Note that the helpless definition indicates "A helpless character is paralyzed, held, bound, sleeping, unconscious, or otherwise completely at an opponent’s mercy." The OR (bolded for emphasis) means that only one of the listed conditions needs to apply. The interpretive, undefined clause at the end isn't necessary if any of the other conditions are met.

Additionally, standard accepted dictionary definitions of "at your mercy" or "at mercy of" don't support your interpretation. It doesn't mean that you're unable to do anything, but that you're unable to defend yourself against your captor.


The wording of the question automatically makes my answer being a house rule, and your version being correct, and therefore this wording ends all meaningful discussion between us.
"House rule" being anything that isn't supported by the RAW, this would make yours a house rule by definition, even without the above argument. House rules aren't necessarily bad, but should be identified as such.

Strigon
2014-11-12, 08:53 AM
I find this very simple.
Treat it as a crit.

"But then it wouldn't necessarily kill him!", I hear you cry.
And my response to that is, "GOOD!"
A crit from any weapon is enough to kill, or wound to the point of death, a commoner. Commoners are average people. A crossbow bolt to the head would kill an average person, or (if they were very lucky), make them require serious medical attention.
By the time you have even one PC class level, you are nigh-superhuman, compared to this world, in your field.
For example, an average (level 1) dwarf barbarian is pretty likely to shrug off arsenic. A human Barbarian probably has a 50/50 shot. By level five, your martial classes are staring down basilisks and medusas, and using aforementioned arsenic to give their tea a bit of kick!
For these people, a crit from a crossbow or a sword poses danger, but they probably won't die from it, unless it's wielded by a very strong person and is enchanted.

Consider this: a basilisk has an average of 45 hp. A level 5 human barbarian, assuming +2 constitution modifier (which is rather conservative), will have 12+2, + 4D12 + 8, or an average of 14 + 34 = 48hp.
Assuming no other modifiers. So, at level five, they can take as much punishment as a basilisk.
Now, you all have a monster manual, or you can find a PDF. Take a look at a basilisk. Just look.
Does it look like it cares about your crossbows? A headshot will tick it off; nothing more! It would probably take at least 3-4 well-placed shots to take that thing down.

In short, it works perfectly, as long as you're taking on average people.
The issue is, you don't deal with average people for long.

Mark Hall
2014-11-12, 01:58 PM
In D&D 3.5, I'd say that as soon as the half-dragon begins to try to escape you roll Initiative. If you win, you have a full-round action and can thus perform a coup de grace against a (still helpless) half-dragon. If the half-dragon wins, they escape before you can shoot, so they're not helpless and you can't coup de grace.

That's what I say in 3.x and similar systems; I tend to go with Gygax's idea that HP damage doesn't represent a real wound unless it brings you under 14 HP (the most a 1st level human can have in AD&D).

Kelb_Panthera
2014-11-12, 02:39 PM
The average rogue's sneak attack deals more damage than a non-sneak attack critical/cdg.

Irrelevant; a coup de grace is more than just an auto-crit it's also a fort save vs death, usually with an obscenely high DC and, even then, a coup de grace is also a sneak attack since a helpless defender is denied his dex to ac even if he has uncanny dodge.



Take the OP's situation: crossbow to the back of the target's head.

I'll presume a heavy crossbow as that's a decent ranged backup weapon. The bound and helpless half-dragon, if he's coup de graced, takes approximately 11 damage, on average. At that point he has to immediately make a DC 21~ish fort save vs instant death, which is pretty stiff. If the player is fairly unlucky then the DC could be as low as 12 on a damage roll of 2. Luck could swing the other way too, however, and go as high as DC30, high enough that even a raging, high level barbarian would have poor odds of survival.

And that's if the weapon is, indeed, a simple backup weapon for when he can't reach the enemy; one which he's put no resources into improving upon.

BRC
2014-11-12, 02:48 PM
I was hoping to use the Half-Dragon situation as an example to prompt debate about the general nature of abstracted HP in such situations. If you want to keep debating the mechanical nuances of that situation, it should be noted that this was in 5e, my character had crossbow expert. To my knowledge, 5e does not have CDG rules, hence my DM's ruling that I basically had a readied action to make an attack if I saw him doing anything.

Sartharina
2014-11-12, 02:58 PM
I always liked 3.0's "A dagger in the eye is still a dagger in the eye" line.
Irrelevant; a coup de grace is more than just an auto-crit it's also a fort save vs death, usually with an obscenely high DC and, even then, a coup de grace is also a sneak attack since a helpless defender is denied his dex to ac even if he has uncanny dodge.The point I was making was that a rogue in combat who gets an opening to stab someone in the back gets significant damage. However, in such a situation as I was responding to, the person is not helpless, so still has all his luck/skill/divine favor protecting him.

Kelb_Panthera
2014-11-12, 03:03 PM
I always liked 3.0's "A dagger in the eye is still a dagger in the eye" line.The point I was making was that a rogue in combat who gets an opening to stab someone in the back gets significant damage. However, in such a situation as I was responding to, the person is not helpless, so still has all his luck/skill/divine favor protecting him.

Ah. Miscommunication then.

@BRC;

I'm not familiar with 5e's mechanics for such circumstances or much of any of the rest of its mechanics. I am rather surprised that they removed something like CdG. It was a very solid rule.

BRC
2014-11-12, 03:41 PM
Ah. Miscommunication then.

@BRC;

I'm not familiar with 5e's mechanics for such circumstances or much of any of the rest of its mechanics. I am rather surprised that they removed something like CdG. It was a very solid rule.

5e has a general theme of making DM's more empowered. It's possible that they got rid of CdG rules to make room for a DM to use whatever ruling they felt was appropriate for the situation. That or they considered it an edge case and wanted to keep the PhB Streamlined.

icefractal
2014-11-12, 04:31 PM
Personally, I'm not in favor of insta-kills. Mainly because of the effect on PCs - as a DM, it's not like I'm going to run out of monsters if they get stabbed too fast. But yeah, I basically do want things to go like Lanaya's Clark Kent scenario. A bunch of ordinary bandits surround Bob with crossbows, but Bob is in fact a veteran demon slayer? Bad day to be a bandit. Because the alternative is "the PCs are dead as soon as their foes take off the kid gloves".

Which I'll explain. You notice that in most of the examples given, where somebody has a knife to their throat, the knife-holder isn't immediately using it. They're asking for money, or information, or surrender - something where the insta-kill doesn't actually happen because the PC has the option to give in, trick them, bargain, whatever. Now what if instead of a mugger in the alley, it was a serial killer instead? No chance to flash a thief sign, nothing you can give them, just win in initiative or you die. What if the tyrant's guards capture you - and then kill you immediately, as they were ordered to. Because the tyrant prefer results more than chances to boast about his evil plan.

In a more narrative system, you could put this right in the rules. As long as the PC has hero points, the guards aren't allowed to just kill him, they're narratively compelled to put him in a cell he can make a daring escape from. And that would be fine - for that kind of system.

To me, D&D isn't that kind of system. IMC, things don't go at the speed of plot, they happen as they happen, and sometimes that means that people who have the opportunity to kill the PCs ... will take that opportunity. So I don't want the system selling the PCs short. If they die, it should be because they were up against legitimately more than they could handle, not because they walked down an alley after dark.

jedipotter
2014-11-12, 05:05 PM
I was hoping to use the Half-Dragon situation as an example to prompt debate about the general nature of abstracted HP in such situations.

But how? Are there not only two choices? Abstract HP or instant death? How else can you do it?

Sartharina
2014-11-12, 06:17 PM
But how? Are there not only two choices? Abstract HP or instant death? How else can you do it?An abstract HP system with a more brutal system underneath comes to mind, such as Vitality/Wounds systems.

warty goblin
2014-11-12, 07:04 PM
Alternatively, use HP as a useful representation of combat durability, but disassociate it pretty much entirely from actual physical injury. Ergo when tied to a chair with a knife to your throat, you are not in combat and therefore your HP count for precisely squat.

This could also allow one to have multiple types of 'HP', each measuring longevity or endurance in different areas. So a ranger may have very high wilderness HP to represent their ability to survive in the wilds, while a more urban class may have very few. A failed wilderness survival roll would then cost you some number of wilderness HP, with appropriately unpleasant consequences for coming up short.

jedipotter
2014-11-12, 08:23 PM
An abstract HP system with a more brutal system underneath comes to mind, such as Vitality/Wounds systems.

Though a detailed ''vitality/wounds'' system does not solve the basic issue: How to auto kill something regardless of hit points. And if you just add ''when a weapon to placed right next to a target, you can auto kill them'', then you don't need pages and pages of rules listing ''who slow your movement is per wound''.

Like in a ''wound'' system, where you can to cool things like ''wound'' the spellcaster jaw for no more spells from them....how do they deal with the ''auto kill instant death?''

Milo v3
2014-11-12, 08:29 PM
Though a detailed ''vitality/wounds'' system does not solve the basic issue: How to auto kill something regardless of hit points. And if you just add ''when a weapon to placed right next to a target, you can auto kill them'', then you don't need pages and pages of rules listing ''who slow your movement is per wound''.

Like in a ''wound'' system, where you can to cool things like ''wound'' the spellcaster jaw for no more spells from them....how do they deal with the ''auto kill instant death?''

The Vitality/Wounds system isn't based around doing things like "wound the spellcaster jaw for no more spells from them", it makes it so attacks that are the deadly auto-kill type would damage the characters Wound amount rather than their thematic Vitality amount. Wound hitpoints are tiny, and being dealt more than 15 damage is deadly.

icefractal
2014-11-12, 11:27 PM
Whether it's literally an auto-kill or only probably an auto-kill with wound points, the message I'm hearing is "short PC life expectancy" and "ambushes and movement/sight hindering spells are king". Because when you consider the wide variety of foes you face in D&D, having a chance to talk your way out is not something you can count on - at all.

SiuiS
2014-11-13, 02:06 AM
Whether it's literally an auto-kill or only probably an auto-kill with wound points, the message I'm hearing is "short PC life expectancy" and "ambushes and movement/sight hindering spells are king". Because when you consider the wide variety of foes you face in D&D, having a chance to talk your way out is not something you can count on - at all.

You know, just like the reality we are trying to model. Sounds perfect!

Although I agree. My biggest issue with the Star Wars D20 system was that one guy with all the books knew exactly how to go for wound points without breaking a sweat. Not by having you at his mercy or anything, just the right skills/feats/powers/actions taken. That sucked. It sucked even more when he tried to DM, because everything that was supposed to be scary was always "this hits your wound points", which is no better than "the town guard captian is a level 20 fighter and also an ogre".

gom jabbarwocky
2014-11-13, 02:25 AM
My biggest issue with the Star Wars D20 system was that one guy with all the books knew exactly how to go for wound points without breaking a sweat. Not by having you at his mercy or anything, just the right skills/feats/powers/actions taken. That sucked.

I ran SWd20 revised once back in the day, and, let me tell you, it's pretty sobering when you can throw platoons of stormtroopers at the party and they mow them down by the dozens before the second combat round is over. And shoot TIE fighters out of the sky with pistols.

Aedilred
2014-11-13, 04:21 AM
The Vitality/Wounds system isn't based around doing things like "wound the spellcaster jaw for no more spells from them", it makes it so attacks that are the deadly auto-kill type would damage the characters Wound amount rather than their thematic Vitality amount. Wound hitpoints are tiny, and being dealt more than 15 damage is deadly.

This is the thing, isn't it: D&D hitpoints are terrible at representing/simulating injury. You're either at full effectiveness or you're incapacitated, and that's the only measure of vitality a character has: a critical hit is just an attack that removes a lot of them.

Compare with something like WFRP, where hit points and critical hits etc. are partially decoupled: critical hits have an effect over and above just removing HP. It's therefore relatively straightforward to introduce a rule that says the knife to the throat/crossbow to the head scenario is an automatic critical hit - which is bad for the recipient, though not necessarily an autokill for those squeamish about such things - without having to faff around with damage calculation, HP and so on. Of course, WFRP aims to be a "grittier" game anyway where injury is more commonplace, although I'm sceptical at the claim that D&D doesn't want to simulate such scenarios and isn't just very bad at it.

As for the argument that it's problematic to introduce such rules because they can be used against the PCs and that's not fair, I'm not entirely sold, because that sort of thing is why you have a DM. The DM has hundreds of ways at his disposal to kill the PCs off trivially if he wants to; introducing another one is only going to be a problem if your DM is already a jerk.

Milo v3
2014-11-13, 05:11 AM
This is the thing, isn't it: D&D hitpoints are terrible at representing/simulating injury. You're either at full effectiveness or you're incapacitated, and that's the only measure of vitality a character has: a critical hit is just an attack that removes a lot of them.

You do realise I'm talking about the Vitality/Wounds alternate health system right.... not the default hitpoints system? :smallconfused:

If you take a single point of wound damage you get fatigued and additional damage past that does things like stunning you.

Aedilred
2014-11-13, 08:07 AM
You do realise I'm talking about the Vitality/Wounds alternate health system right.... not the default hitpoints system? :smallconfused:

If you take a single point of wound damage you get fatigued and additional damage past that does things like stunning you.

... Yes. I was pretty much agreeing with you.

Heliomance
2014-11-13, 10:20 AM
This is the full text for helpless:



Nothing in that text says that a helpless character is unable to take actions. Galen, you are simply mistaken.

Actually, he's not. Being helpless means you're treated as having 0 Dexterity, which in turn means you're paralysed, and can thus only take purely mental actions.

Knaight
2014-11-13, 10:42 AM
Though a detailed ''vitality/wounds'' system does not solve the basic issue: How to auto kill something regardless of hit points. And if you just add ''when a weapon to placed right next to a target, you can auto kill them'', then you don't need pages and pages of rules listing ''who slow your movement is per wound''.

Like in a ''wound'' system, where you can to cool things like ''wound'' the spellcaster jaw for no more spells from them....how do they deal with the ''auto kill instant death?''

The wound system applies in combat - instead of taking 10 damage, someone might take a Hurt wound, which gives some penalty to everything. It's also pretty common for the amount of damage to be based on how well one beats the defenses of the enemy, which are generally pathetic for unaware targets. It's also common for there to be some sort of action one can take to steady a blow for later use.

All of this combined leads to strikes against unaware/bound targets made with ample time tending to land in the highest wound category if it doesn't outright kill them.

Morty
2014-11-13, 10:46 AM
An abstract HP system with a more brutal system underneath comes to mind, such as Vitality/Wounds systems.


Alternatively, use HP as a useful representation of combat durability, but disassociate it pretty much entirely from actual physical injury. Ergo when tied to a chair with a knife to your throat, you are not in combat and therefore your HP count for precisely squat.

This could also allow one to have multiple types of 'HP', each measuring longevity or endurance in different areas. So a ranger may have very high wilderness HP to represent their ability to survive in the wilds, while a more urban class may have very few. A failed wilderness survival roll would then cost you some number of wilderness HP, with appropriately unpleasant consequences for coming up short.

There could also be a system where your HP is a small pool that only gets damaged if someone successfully beats your defences. So if you're immobilized and wearing no protection, an attack will go straight to your HP and probably kill you outright.

Sartharina
2014-11-13, 10:48 AM
Actually, he's not. Being helpless means you're treated as having 0 Dexterity, which in turn means you're paralysed, and can thus only take purely mental actions.Being helpless negates your ability to take actions. It doesn't require you to be deprived of your ability to take actions from some other source.

TheIronGolem
2014-11-13, 02:29 PM
I ran SWd20 revised once back in the day, and, let me tell you, it's pretty sobering when you can throw platoons of stormtroopers at the party and they mow them down by the dozens before the second combat round is over. And shoot TIE fighters out of the sky with pistols.
You have seen Star Wars, right? Imperial Stormtroopers make Star Trek's redshirts look like Rasputin on angel dust.

hamishspence
2014-11-13, 02:39 PM
And shoot TIE fighters out of the sky with pistols.

That actually happened in the Crimson Empire comic as well - Royal Guardman Kir Kanos shoots a TIE Interceptor down - a well placed shot through the window fatally wounds the pilot.

BrokenChord
2014-11-13, 04:18 PM
I don't believe in the "HP doesn't mean durability" thing. Falling damage can't kill you past a certain point, you can survive being Disintegrated, and you can make a Fortitude Save to avoid death by CdG and instead take some damage. It's not that you reflexively dodge in your sleep or something, a strong and hearty enough Barbarian just has muscles on his muscles so you knife can't bury itself in far enough and his natural fortitude (related to but distinct from Fortitude) is so far beyond human that his wound stops bleeding quickly and/or he can lose enough blood to entirely drain a normal person's body and his body will replace it fast enough that he'll only suffer minor lightheadedness and a sudden desire for cookies and orange juice.

That human Fighter you pushed off the mountain simply hit the ground hard enough to splat a regular person and didn't splat because his body can hold itself together better. The Elf Cleric you hit with fire and lightning is either suffering weaker burns from the exact same stimulus because he's resistant to that stuff, or more likely, the burns are just as severe from a medical standpoint but his body can cope with them totally fine. For that matter...

The Half-Dragon who you buried a crossbow bolt in the neck of had a crossbow bolt puncture his skin and promptly fail to bury through the wall of muscle, or it just pierced straight through him and he promptly flexed his neck and closed the rupture in his windpipe because being so incredibly superhuman already invalidates anatomy as a valid reason to get free kills.

That's my thought, anyway.

Sartharina
2014-11-13, 04:25 PM
.. You do know there have been real people to survive 1000'+ falls, right?

hamishspence
2014-11-13, 04:30 PM
Not usually onto hard ground though - most of those cases involve soft snow among other things.

Knaight
2014-11-13, 04:31 PM
.. You do know there have been real people to survive 1000'+ falls, right?

Sure, but there haven't been real people who can be confident that they can jump 1000'+ down without serious injury.

Urpriest
2014-11-13, 06:00 PM
Actually, he's not. Being helpless means you're treated as having 0 Dexterity, which in turn means you're paralysed, and can thus only take purely mental actions.

Which in turn means that Escape Artist checks are purely mental actions, which makes sense: if you fail, you weren't actually able to move, so the check only represents trying to move.

Milodiah
2014-11-13, 08:46 PM
Before I start my answer, I'll share the conclusion I've come to over the years...there are several issues that are more or less embedded in the D&D system and style which are almost impossible to separate from the game without making it not be D&D anymore. HP is one of them, class levels are another, both of which are apparent here. If you're frustrated that a level 5 fighter can take a knife to the neck but not a level 1, or if you're frustrated that a level 5 fighter can take a knife to the neck held by a Commoner but not by a Rogue, then, even though it sounds rude, go play another game. I don't mean this as a "love it or leave it" statement- I mean it as a "there are other options, guys" statement. Different systems have different feels, and it's not just setting/fluff. Running an identical scenario after having been translated as faithfully as possible between D20/3.5, BRP, ST, WHFRP, Dungeon World, {continue filling this list out as you want} will have extremely different results, even though you've written the scenario as close to the original draft as possible, even down to the armaments of the individual enemies.

Example:

D&D 3.5: A 5th level fighter with 18 STR attacks another level 5 fighter, whose HP we'll say ended up as being 38. An attack with a short sword, whose base damage is 1d6, is critted, making it 2d6. Adding strength bonus makes it 2d6+8, and max damage is 20. You've cut his health in half with one attack, but there was literally zero mathematical chance that anything Stabby-Man could do with his weapon to Pincushion-Man would kill him.

Cthulhu Invictus (BRP): I use this example because it happened in an actual-play I'm listening to at the moment.
A Roman centurion attacks a gladiator (there are no classes, they're both just human beings.). Centurion's STR is also 18, which happens to mean the same thing in BRP, with a gladius dealing 1d6+1 damage with a damage bonus that ends up as +1d6 due to strength and size. He crits his attack on the gladiator, which makes the doubled damage 4d6+2. Max damage is 26. This is enough to kill the man one and a half times over, since the max health for a regular human being is 18 and that number is almost never reached.

Same thing. A man attacked a man of similar/identical build with a shortsword, and got a critical hit. In one system the man cannot die, and in the other the man will probably die.

Heliomance
2014-11-14, 03:46 AM
Being helpless negates your ability to take actions. It doesn't require you to be deprived of your ability to take actions from some other source.

Not by the rules it doesn't. That Dex 0 thing is the only RAW reason why you can't act while helpless. Nothing else in the description of Helpless prevents taking actions. RAMS, you're absolutely right. RAW, not so much.

Sartharina
2014-11-14, 07:58 AM
Not by the rules it doesn't. That Dex 0 thing is the only RAW reason why you can't act while helpless. Nothing else in the description of Helpless prevents taking actions. RAMS, you're absolutely right. RAW, not so much.What I'm saying is "if you become helpless, you get treated as DEX 0 and can't take actions", as opposed to "If you don't have DEX 0, or would otherwise be able to take actions, you can't become Helpless"

Heliomance
2014-11-14, 08:15 AM
What I'm saying is "if you become helpless, you get treated as DEX 0 and can't take actions", as opposed to "If you don't have DEX 0, or would otherwise be able to take actions, you can't become Helpless"

...yes, that's exactly what I said. Urpriest said that being helpless didn't prevent you from taking actions by the rules. I was pointing out that it did.

hamishspence
2014-11-14, 08:45 AM
Given that a paralysed person is A: Helpless, and B: Can take (purely mental) actions - that would suggest that purely mental actions are available in general, unless there's some separate thing forbidding them.

I think sleeping and unconscious people can't take those actions.

CowardlyPaladin
2014-11-14, 06:09 PM
Combat in tabletop games is largely abstracted, and this is generally a good thing. It lets fights be exciting and dramatic, and various systems have various levels of success with their combat systems. Hit Points are an abstraction, a character that could survive six hits from a longsword isn't so tough that they could survive being stabbed through the chest six times. Instead, those six hits take the form of scratches, or exhaustion, or just running out of luck, rather than full-on strikes.

That said, things can fall apart when a combat system encounters situations where an attack should just be lethal, or crippling, when anything less than a direct, Organ-destroying strike makes no sense.


For example, in our DnD campaign we had captured an enemy. He was a half-dragon fighter. We had him tied to a chair, but he could break out of it, and he could use his breath weapon on us.

My character stood directly behind him, pointing a crossbow at the back of his head, ready to shoot if he tried anything.

I didn't end up pulling the trigger, but I discussed with my DM what would have happened if I had. If the Half-Dragon had broken free of his bonds and attacked us, my character, with a crossbow point-blank at the back of his neck...would have gotten a free attack. Just as if I'd taken a shot during a pitched melee. Sure it would have been an easy shot, but it wouldn't have dealt any extra damage.


There's plenty of other, similar scenarios that tabletop games model poorly. The classic "Sneaking up behind somebody and cutting their throat", or stabbing them in the back. Sure you can add on precision damage, or free crits, but even that dosn't always drop a character. And there isn't any room for Abstraction in that scenario. If the target was truly helpless and unaware, there is no reason for the attacker to not go for a killing blow.



On the other side of the equation, being willing to throw out Abstraction can be problematic in itself. It can cause a system to break down in normal combat as players start stretching the system with called shots. A player specifies that they are aiming for their target's unarmored head, and then proceeds to roll well enough to hit a head-shaped and sized object.
The enemy in question may have enough hitpoints to survive a critical hit, but if you acknowledge that yes, they were shot in the head, its hard to keep the fight going from there, assuming the target has roughly humanoid anatomy.

So yeah, what do people think? Should players be able to bypass abstracted combat systems?

Didn't Pathfinder have a called shot system?

mephnick
2014-11-14, 06:16 PM
It was an optional rule, yeah.