Helpless vs Pinned


Rules Questions

Grand Lodge

If someone is pinned, are they considered helpless?

If someone is tied up after being pinned, are they considered helpless?


Being pinned does not make you helpless, no. If you look in the Glossary under pinned it does not say that it makes you helpless. It is a more severe form of grappled. You still have options available to you if you are pinned (i.e., not helpless).

By my reading of the helpless condition (which includes being "bound") I would say a tied up (bound) character is indeed helpless. I hope that helps.

Grand Lodge

Except pinned says:

Pinned: A pinned creature is tightly bound and can take few actions. A pinned creature cannot move and is denied its Dexterity bonus.. A pinned character also takes an additional –4 penalty to his Armor Class. A pinned creature is limited in the actions that it can take. A pinned creature can always attempt to free itself, usually through a combat maneuver check or Escape Artist check. A pinned creature can take verbal and mental actions, but cannot cast any spells that require a somatic or material component. A pinned character who attempts to cast a spell or use a spell-like ability must make a concentration check (DC 10 + grappler's CMB + spell level) or lose the spell. Pinned is a more severe version of grappled, and their effects do not stack.

Tightly bound. No dex bonus. -4 AC on top of that.

Sound qualified to me?


Nuku has a point. Helpless states "A helpless character is paralyzed, held, bound, sleeping, unconscious, or otherwise completely at an opponent's mercy." Pinning uses the term "tightly bound".

It is a question of whether or not being pinned means you are completely at the grappler's mercy or not.


But pinned still allows you to take actions (albeit just a few) and does not make you defenseless. Also, helpless means you have an effective Dex of 0 and pinned does not inflict that upon you (you're just denied your Dex bonus, if any).

I guess to that point just tying someone up around the hands and feet does not make them helpless either. If you completely hogtie someone (which is what I envisioned in my previous post) to the point that they are immobilized, I would consider them helpless.

Take the paralyzed condition for example. It specifically calls out that you are helpless. Unconscious is another example.

Even being dazed or stunned aren't sufficient to make someone helpless. You have to be completely defenseless in order to be helpless. Pinned does not make you completely helpless.

Dark Archive

Helpless means you couldn't do jack squat...this includes Paralysis and Unconscious conditions. Just being tied up doesn't even make you helpless because you can just flounder out of their grip.

In order to be truly helpless, you must have to completely skip your turn with no defenses (stunned/dazed doesn't count either). In all, your AC should be a total of 5 (0 DEX). Even being bound doesn't remove all of your Dexterity (it just prevents you from benefiting from Dexterity bonuses).

Grand Lodge

Except trying to break out is the -only- thing you can do, and until you do that, you're helpless, especially vs everyone else in the world.

I mean, even cinematically, if one guy grabs someone and holds them still and another guy marches up with a sword and rams it into the now held still person. That sure feels like more than '+4 to hit for being prone!' and more into the CdG area.


Yes, cinema is full of people being held against their will and beaten. But how many times have you seen someone (cinematically) being grappled by several people manage to twist and wriggle out at the last minute, causing the person attempting to hit them to actually hit the person who was holding them? So it works both ways.

Insofar as rules go, pinned doesn't make one helpless in and of itself. That's not to say that you couldn't rule someone was helpless who was grappled under extenuating circumstances. I would tread carefully in that case, though, as being helpless should be a rare condition imho. Good luck!


3 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

They aren't identical, Pin denying you your DEX bonus (max modifier +0) doesn't logically make sense in combo with Helpless giving you an effective DEX score of 0 (-5 modifier). Likewise, even though Helpless says being 'Held' qualifies, Grappled shouldn't count as Helpless, either, for similar reasons (DEX penalty).

That said, Helpless isn't exactly what people think it is. It DOESN'T mean you can't take any actions. That is a feature of Paralysis which ALSO qualifies as Helpless, but all forms of Helpless don't need to bar all (non-mental) actions.

Helpless says being 'Bound' qualifies, and being Tied Up (progression from Grapple/Pin) does indeed allow the victim to try to escape via CMB/Escape Artist. Actually, that really is something that should be cleared up, since the rules for being Tied Up say they work like being Pinned (which isn't Helpless).

It's plausible for Tied Up to work like Pinned EXCEPT that it counts as Helpless, but that really needs to be stated directly (in the Tie Up rules, as well as Helpless being more specific about the Bound/Held bit). The entire mention of 'Held' should probably be removed, or clarified, because that term isn't otherwise used in the rules, but by English definition applies to Pin AND Grapple, yet we know thru the differing treatments of DEX that it just doesn't make sense to do so.

Hit FAQ if you want it cleared up.

Grand Lodge

Faq button smacked.

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