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The Hostage Situation


Homebrew


I'm posting this here to get feedback on this house rule. Note: my table uses a Crit Deck.

Like many TV shows, movies, and books, there are situations Pathfinder characters can find themselves in where they hold another creature’s life in their hands – they’ve snuck up on an unaware creature and have their knife pressed against the victim’s back; a man has his victim in a tight embrace from behind with one arm, and the other points a pistol at the victim’s head – there are many versions of this scenario, which all have a common understanding: “one wrong move, and I kill you/them”.

The mechanic these scenarios are coming close to emulating is a Coup de Grace (auto crit; Fort save vs. dmg dealt or death), but such a maneuver requires the victim to have the Helpless condition. In these scenarios, though, the victim may be considered Flat-footed, or even Pinned, but they’re usually not considered helpless, which means the mechanical payoff to such a flavorful setup is almost always just a simple attack roll, followed by normal damage, which is almost never enough to warrant the tension such a scene should invoke.

At the same time, a full Coup de Grace is perhaps a bit too far in some of these cases, which aren’t always even incredibly hard to pull off; some sort of middle ground would be more appropriate. Introducing the Hostage Situation; it’s not a condition, so much as a series of circumstances that must be met in order to gain a special attack.

To create a Hostage Situation, the attacker must have their weapon drawn and be adjacent to the victim, or be no more than 10’ away if using a Bow, Crossbow, or Firearm. In addition, the victim must have one of the following conditions before a Hostage Situation can begin: Flat-footed, Helpless, Paralyzed, Pinned, Stunned, or Unconscious. In the case of Flat-footed, the victim must also be unaware of the attacker's presence. Finally, the attacker must have some way of seriously and immediately threatening the victim’s life. Once all of these circumstances have been met, the attacker prepares a Readied Action to Slay the Hostage. Once this Action has been readied, the victim remains subject to it, even if the condition they had when the Hostage Situation began has changed (such as losing their Flat-footed condition once they’re aware of the combat, or losing the Unconscious condition and gaining the Prone condition). The idea here is that the attacker has positioned themselves into an un-defendable position when the victim's defenses were down, and even if the victim is now able to defend themselves normally against other opponents, the attacker is still inside the victim's defenses, and able to strike with impunity, even if such a blow wouldn't be quite as devastating as if the victim were completely helpless.

Slaying the Hostage can be done as an Immediate action when the triggering condition is met, or else it is a Standard action to be taken on the attacker’s turn. A Pinned creature who is Slain is considered Grappled after the attack. When slaying the Hostage, the attack is automatically a crit, and the attacker draws two Crit Cards and chooses which one to apply to the crit.

Other circumstances could create a Hostage situation, and sometimes, meeting all the standard circumstances might not create one at all. The GM is the final arbiter of these instances.


First of all, I applaud any attempt to make this sort of situation workable--it's a longstanding issue with the chassis Paizo inherited from You Know Who.

Some thoughts, none of which are necessarily issues, just observations:


  • This would be highly dependent on how the GM adjudicates the surprise round, Perception and/or Sense Motive checks to perceive hostile action/intent, and so on.
  • It could create some rather silly situations in which a 1 HD kobold manages to take a 15th-level fighter "hostage" just because the kobold had a good stealth roll. This might be fine, though, since . . .
  • . . . a mere single critical hit isn't always enough to matter much to a creature with a few levels under their belt--hence the coup de grace rules inflicting more serious damage.
  • Some weapons are better for this sort of thing than others, and different weapons would likely be used differently, and the positioning would matter a lot. A greataxe or mace is a pretty clumsy weapon for hostage taking, while a knife works quite well.
  • Maybe an Escape Artist (or possibly a Bluff check for a more direct approach) could be used to attempt to escape the situation, similar to escaping a grapple?
  • Speaking of grapple, howsabout the stereotypical "human shield" configuration found in ever cop show/movie ever? Should there be specific coverage for such situations or is the above sufficient?

To be clear, this is one of the better attempts I've seen at this problem, so nice work!


Thanks for the compliment and feedback!

blaphers wrote:
This would be highly dependent on how the GM adjudicates the surprise round, Perception and/or Sense Motive checks to perceive hostile action/intent, and so on.

Naturally, subjective rules like this one will vary in mileage based on the GM.

Blaphers wrote:
. . . a mere single critical hit isn't always enough to matter much to a creature with a few levels under their belt--hence the coup de grace rules inflicting more serious damage.

Good point. I don't know if you're familiar with what a Crit Deck is, but the added effects could potentially turn a normal "harmless" crit into a much bigger deal. Otherwise, what if they confirmed a Critical Called Shot? Based on the circumstances, they'd likely land a Critical Called Shot to the head, heart, neck, or vitals. These are all very serious, and most any creature would want to avoid one if they can help it, no matter how many class levels or HD.

Blaphers wrote:
Some weapons are better for this sort of thing than others, and different weapons would likely be used differently, and the positioning would matter a lot. A greataxe or mace is a pretty clumsy weapon for hostage taking, while a knife works quite well.

I had considered granting a bonus of some kind to light weapons and/or slashing/piercing weapons, due to their close-quarters advantages and/or ability to deal damage without lots of kinetic force, but wasn't sure how to incorporate that element without making a half-dozen different rules for just as many lists of specific weapons.

Blaphers wrote:
Maybe an Escape Artist (or possibly a Bluff check for a more direct approach) could be used to attempt to escape the situation, similar to escaping a grapple?

I hadn't considered an exit option for the victim, but that definitely should be available. I will think of something!

Blaphers wrote:
Speaking of grapple, howsabout the stereotypical "human shield" configuration found in ever cop show/movie ever? Should there be specific coverage for such situations or is the above sufficient?

Unfortunately, there are already options to let someone create a meat shield (whether they're feats, Rogue Talents, or some other class ability, I can't remember), so this wasn't something I wanted to cover too thoroughly. However, I think the Pinned condition has some potential when it comes to this. I've always felt that "Pinned" shouldn't just mean pinned to the floor. I think Pinned should allow the grappler to be able to do stuff like this as well, which would let the above rules play out more or less as intended if somemone wanted to take that route.


Cool stuff, and it sounds like you're already thinking about implications and such. Nothing else to add, but I'm interested in how this playtests. : D


For my campaign, I just use automatic crit+debilitating blow.

Exemple : I aim at his head with my bow+arrow.

What happen is : Called shot head + Auto crit + Debilating blow + Auto fail save.

Let's get the basic :
A normal longbow 1d8 damage x 3.
+
1d6 damage INT CHA WIS
+
Auto fortitude fail save = Severe head trauma (Feeblemind)
+
uncouncious for 1d10 round.


I've used grapple checks on a flat-footed hostage-to-be to set up this situation. This limits the hostage-taker to light or one-handed weapons. You're right that something like an auto-crit seems more appropriate than a coup de grace in that situation, and I'll think about the rest.


What your houserule is missing is a way for a clever Rogue to use trickery to escape the Hostage Situation - using skills like Bluff, Escape Artist, and/or Sleight of Hand or break the advantage it confers.

How can this be integrated?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

OK, here's version 1.1:

Setting up the Hostage Situation: All of the following conditions must be met in order for the initiator to create a Hostage Situation:

  • The initiator must have a Light or One-handed piercing or slashing weapon, or one-handed firearm drawn. Other weapons could potentially be used at the GM's discretion.
  • The initiator must be adjacent to the victim. Other positionings could be possible at the GM's discretion.
  • The victim must have at least one of the following conditions: Flat-footed, Helpless, Paralyzed, Pinned, Stunned, or Unconscious. In the case of Flat-footed, the victim must also be unaware of the initiator's presence. In the case of Pinned, and the initiator was the one who performed the Pin, they can choose a prone OR standing position (with a designated forward-facing side of the square) to keep the victim in. If the Initiator wasn't the one who performed the Pin, they need the consent of whoever did in order for it to count.
  • The attacker must have some way of seriously and immediately threatening the victim's life (having a dagger pulled while adjacent to a Flat-footed/unaware Tyrannosaurus would not be considered a serious and immediate threat the to dinosaur's life).

The Hostage Situation begins if all four of the above conditions are met at the same time. The victim is now considered the Hostage. The victim remains the hostage, even if the condition it had changes, such as from unconscious to awake and prone, or losing the Flat-footed condition after the first round of the combat. The idea here is that the attacker has positioned themselves into an un-defendable position when the victim's defenses were down, and even if the victim is now able to defend themselves normally against other opponents, the attacker is still inside the victim's defenses, and able to strike with impunity, even if such a blow wouldn't be quite as devastating as if the victim were completely helpless.

Slay the Hostage is an action the Initiator can choose to make, using the weapon he used to begin the Hostage Situation. This is a special attack, which is considered a confirmed Critical Called Shot - usually to one of the following areas on the Hostage: Head, Heart, Neck, or Vitals, appropriate to how the Hostage Situation was set up. If the initiator has 11 or more HD, the special attack is instead considered a Debilitating Called Shot. If the Called Shot effect calls for a saving throw, treat the Initiator's attack roll as if they had rolled a natural 20. This attack is usually made quickly with little to no wind up or kinetic force involved - special damage-boosting options like Power Attack or Piranha Strike usually can't be used.

The Initiator:
The Initiator has several options for when he can Slay the Hostage. He can do this as a Standard action, in place of an attack of opportunity, or as a Readied action he can prepare when the Hostage Situation begins. If the Initiator takes damage during a Hostage Situation (besides residual damage from effects like Bleed), the Hostage can, as an Immediate action, attempt a Bluff or Escape Artist check at a +5 bonus to end the Hostage situation (see below). Failing this check provokes an attack of opportunity. Slaying the Hostage ends the Hostage Situation, though if all four conditions above are still in place, the Initiator can immediately begin a new Hostage Situation on the same turn.

The Hostage:
In addition to the normal rules for attacks of opportunity, the following actions will also provoke from the initiator: Taking a Withdraw action, taking a 5' step, drawing a weapon or other object (though making a Sleight of Hand check vs. either the initiator's Perception check or Sense Motive check - whichever is higher - doesn't provoke), defensively casting a spell (though defensively casting a Quickened spell doesn't provoke - in addition to any other Concentration checks they might need to make, like from being Grappled), or making an attack roll (though making a Bluff check vs. a DC equal to EITHER 10 + [initiator's BAB] + [initiator's Wis mod], OR 10 + [initiator's bonus to Sense Motive] - whichever is higher - doesn't provoke).

As a Standard action (or Immediate action in response to the Initiator taking damage), the Hostage can attempt to end the Hostage Situation by making EITHER a Bluff check with a DC equal to 20 + [Initiator's BAB] + [Initiator's Wis mod], OR an Escape Artist check with a DC equal to the Initiator's CMD + 10. The Hostage gets a +5 bonus on the check if it's in response to the initiator taking damage. The chosen method must be appropriate to the means with which the Initiator began the hostage situation (being pinned to the ground does not allow the use of Bluff to escape). Other methods could exist, but the GM has the final say on what is allowed. In any case, failing such an attempt provokes an attack of opportunity from the Initiator.

On a success, the Hostage Situation ends, but the victim isn't necessarily out of danger. a Pinned creature might simply instead be Grappled again (with the initiator still in control of the Grapple). On the other hand, if the Initiator simply had a knife to the Hostage's back, making a Bluff check allows the victim to take a 5' step out of danger and face the Initiator as a true combatant.

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