Abuse of Subduing Damage

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leon
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Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Fri Sep 30, 2022 4:28 pm

The players in my campaign have recently become fascinated with Subduing Damage [page 48].
If a character is reduced to zero hit points who has taken at least some subduing damage, the character becomes unconscious rather than dying. (Any further subduing damage is then considered killing damage, allowing the possibility that someone might be beaten to death.)
They are attacking once for subduing damage and then switching to lethal damage, which means the foe is automatically kept alive but unconscious. The ratio of subduing damage to lethal damage can be low, such as 4 out of 40 HP. That doesn't strike me as the intent of the rules.

I'm inclined to make a house rule to change "at least some subduing damage" to be "subduing damage greater than half maximum hit points". Alternatively, I'm considering requiring the final blow be subduing damage, else it's a kill.

Nine years ago, there was a brief conversation on the forums about a "rule lawyer loop-hole". Fortunately, my players have not yet schemed to use subduing damage on themselves as a protection against death.

Is this a problem to be fixed, or should I just let them go on trying to knock everyone out?
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Dimirag
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Fri Sep 30, 2022 6:13 pm

Alternatively, I'm considering requiring the final blow be subduing damage, else it's a kill.
This is the best option.
1/2HP is not bad, its a GM's interpretation of the "at least some subduing damage", this option may end up lengthening combat as more attacks at -4 with 1/2 damage may be used.
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lars_alexander
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Sat Oct 01, 2022 4:33 am

The final blow need not be a killing blow: the game master, or players (or a saving throw vs. death ;) ) may decide differently. Combat is abstract enough, so that characters and creatures could have that split-second for decision-making. Nonetheless, accidents happen in non-lethal matches, and all damage subdues, eventually.
There's no need to penalize players and player characters for using non-lethal attacks. I compiled some ideas regarding hit points in the Tiny Hit Point Companion: https://www.basicfantasy.org/showcase.cgi?sid=52.
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FakeHealer
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Sun Oct 02, 2022 7:50 am

you could also (using the 4 subdue damage of 40 hp total) let excess damage spill into lethal damage...so if the baddie is down to 2 hp left and the final blow does 8hp, 2hp knocks him out while the other 6 damage exceeds the 4 subdual damage and "accidentally" kills him. It would make sure the party tries to do enough SD damage that they wouldn't accidentally beat the dude to death.
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Solomoriah
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Sun Oct 02, 2022 8:06 pm

leon wrote: Fri Sep 30, 2022 4:28 pmAlternatively, I'm considering requiring the final blow be subduing damage, else it's a kill.
This is what I'd do.
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lars_alexander
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Mon Oct 03, 2022 8:29 am

Do you give players information on how low their opponents are on hit points, so they can deliver player character attacks as either lethal or non-lethal, accordingly? Or do players get their choice of damage, after the characters delivered the final blow to their opponents?
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leon
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Mon Oct 03, 2022 11:23 am

Thanks for all the responses. My group agreed to go with the last-blow rule as endorsed by Dimirag and Solo. This solution should achieve the same effect of requiring a majority of subduing damage with less calculation.

I do not reveal HP totals to players, but they often keep track of damage done and expected HD. Last night, Player 1 said "that lion took a lot of damage" followed by Player 2 saying "at 5 HD they should have 22.5 HP." I expect not knowing the exact number of HP remaining presents an interesting choice of when to switch to subduing damage. Want to be sure? Only do subduing damage. It will take more than twice as long. Switch from lethal to subduing too late and you accidentally kill that lion.

Making excess HP spill over to lethal would require a perfect 0 HP to do a knockout, which isn't what I'd want. It could work using Lars' Tiny rules, especially if they knew the exact HP totals. Those rules are intriguing but not the kind of game I aim for.

One other constraint in my game is a house rule on fatigue. Characters can only fight for a number of rounds equal to double their CON. It doesn't come into play often, but would be more likely if they try pulling their punches in every fight.
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lars_alexander
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Mon Oct 03, 2022 3:42 pm

How do you handle fatigue for opponents, and monsters for which no constitution score is given in the stats? What happens if fatigue sets in?
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leon
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Re: Abuse of Subduing Damage

Post Mon Oct 03, 2022 6:26 pm

How do you handle fatigue for opponents, and monsters for which no constitution score is given in the stats? What happens if fatigue sets in?
Default 10 CON for living monsters. No fatigue for undead.

If fatigued, characters can move but not fight, run or take other strenuous action. 1 turn to recover.

I think I added this two years ago. It has only triggered once or twice, and it didn't matter much to the battle as it happened right at the end. 20 rounds of battle is a lot! Since it has yet to make much impact, I can't say it's well tested. I should design an encounter that will necessarily take longer, perhaps with reinforcements arriving after 10 rounds...
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