How do you GM the mechanics of a knife-to-throat situation?


I've had this happen before and puzzled over it, but it happened again tonight when I played, and I'd like to know how other GM's handle it. It could be a situation where the bad guys manage to capture a PC or NPC and put a knife to his throat, or reversed, so the PC's have a knife to the throat of someone they've captured. If it comes to the point where either the captive wants to break free or the captor decides to slit the throat of the captive, how do you handle the mechanics?

Does it matter whether the captor or captive tries to act first? Is an initiative check in order, with any modifiers applied? If the captor can go first, does he roll a normal attack, or should it be considered a coup-de-grace? What if he decides to do non-lethal damage, any changes? How do the grapple rules fit in here? I can imagine multiple ways of doing this, and I'd like to hear what other people would do. Thanks!

Might I suggest Garrot? te

How I'd do it:

If the one with a knife to his throat (Bob) tries to escape from the knife wielding guy (Jim), both Jim and Bob must roll for initiative (reaction time). If Bob gets any lower than Jim's initiative +5 (might change), then it works like a coup de grace.

If in normal combat, I'd say a pin is needed first.

The Exchange

Do a search for more discussion. I know this has come up.

I would allow the Villian/pc an auto kill unless the people reacting stealth/slight of hand their attack vs perception. If the perception is passed they can stop or see if the Villian is bluffing.

If the victim should have a chance I would make it a coudegras.

Edit: cannot be done in combat,

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder mechanics really don't gel well for this. If you're both level 10, the victim might have 80hp, and a coup de grace with a 1d4 dagger isn't going to be realistic.

Normal initiative/readied actions should be in play, and presumably the target is already grappled, but the target should go straight from healthy to a Diehard-like dying state (as per the feat).

The person with the knife has a readied action to attack
The person with the knife to their throat has the pinned condition.
If pinned for more than 1 round (ie. long enough for the first player to ready an action) then they will lose all armor bonuses except natural armor. Regular penalties to AC from pinned.

Breaking out of the pin will (1) trigger the readied action to attack : slice, (2) provoke an attack of opportunity for another attack : slice

So two attacks at basically super easy AC.

The balance is getting the situation calmed down for 6 seconds to set up the situation. If they continue to struggle every round then regular combat rules should apply.

Grand Lodge

I run it with initiative as normal. There's no surprise round. Whether it's a normal melee attack or a CDG depends on how the captor has the captive subdued. There are a few options for this:

Grappled: The captive is being grappled by one or more captors. The captive can attempt to escape normally via escape artist or a CMB check. The captors can make normal melee attacks (not CDGs). They will probably have dealt a fair amount of lethal damage to the captive already to ensure that the throat-cutting has the desired effect.

Tied up: The captor has tied up or manacled the captive so that they have the helpless condition. The captive can attempt to escape. The captors can make CDGs against the captive.

Helpless: The captive has been rendered unconscious or paralyzed or otherwise helpless and unable to act. The captive cannot attempt to escape. The captor can make a CDG.

Yes, this is all about readied actions.
Depends on if you want the super-lethal 'realistic' version or the way that follows the game rules.

For the latter, if they are tied up or pinned, they are flat-footed and the 'assailant' will likely have a readied action to attack. If they aren't on the Initiative count, they will have to be rolled. If the assailant rolls high, that's a 2nd attack. Then the captive will have to try and struggle free with Escape Artist or Strength check and the like, and will likely provoke (2nd or 3rd attack) from the attempt and then again if they move away (assuming they have actions left, and assuming the Assailant has combat reflexes, 3rd or 4th attack).

Now, for the more 'realistic' approach, you have to bend the rules a bit. Either you have an ability to Coup De Gras with a Standard action, or you have to go with "splitting up a Full-Round action into two Standard action over two separate rounds" rule. Now, normally you can't do that with a Readied action, but here's how you twist it: The Assailant spends a round 'prepping' (describe it as placing the knife to the throat, etc, etc) and spends a Standard action to start the CDG on the first round. The second round he starts the 'second half' as a readied-action. (The reason this WON'T work according to the rules is that you simply aren't allowed to ready anything more than a Standard.)
Now, when the action triggers, instant CDG. Likely, captive dies horribly. Even if not (Assailant botched it and missed the windpipe or the vital artery, whatever), it goes above with Attacks of Opportunity. Captive is extremely likely to die, but that's the more hardcore 'realistic' approach.

The problem is, this situation is generally one that comes up out of combat. Actions can't be readied out of combat.

I would say, the captor starts out grappling the captive, and they roll initiative. If the captor goes first, he can coup de grace. If the captive goes first, he can try and break the grapple. And they'll both take penalties on their initiative due to the grappled condition, so hopefully someone else can help out as well.

Shadow Lodge

Doomed Hero wrote:
The problem is, this situation is generally one that comes up out of combat. Actions can't be readied out of combat.

The whole thing starts combat. Remember 'combat' is just a convenient name given to the process that starts round-by-round timing - it doesn't have to be swords swinging at all.

Surprise round: victim is unaware. attacker breaks stealth with dagger out, begins grapple
Round 1: attacker successfully pins
Round 1: victim attempts escape and fails
Round 2: attacker readies action to slit if conditions are/aren't met

Silver Crusade Contributor

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I don't have my books on me, so I'll post again later once I can double check. However, I believe Racing to Ruin has this happen at the very start, where an enemy has an NPC with a knife to her throat. If I recall, he can slit her throat, immediately sending her to -1 and dying. I'll report back when I've had the chance to look it up.

CDC is probably the way to go. Add in bleeding damage. Make Bleeding damage go to Constitution for extra deadly, but that is totally House Rule material.

At my table I would probably go with CDG with variant Crit Rules found in Laying Waste: The Guidebook to Critical Combat

Under these rules it would still get the CDG effect, but also critical effects in place of the normal critical multiplier. In the case of a cut throat it would do max damage plus a few dice of bonus damage plus a few dice of bleeding damage. If the crit does more than half their HP in damage they instead suffer constitution bleed which in this case is very hard to stop.

As always with variant/house rules adjust to taste.

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