Limb Dismemberment at low levels


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

Sovereign Court

From what I gather, the only way for a PC to chop off someones hand is through called shots. The system makes sense in some areas such as the penalty or the effects of each hit body part. However, to lob off a characters limb you need a debilitating blow which is where I think it gets weird.

According to UC this is how a debilitating blow works.

Debilitating Blow: A called shot that deals half the creature’s hit points of damage (minimum 50) or more (whether a critical hit or not) results in a debilitating blow that has extra effects. A debilitating blow inflicts major consequences and potentially permanent consequences.

Going off of these rules, does that mean the average level 1-4 PC is immune to dismemberment due to the 50 HP requirement? Even if they have Greater Called Shot (reduces the debilitating blow requirement to 40 hp) that would still mean that characters are immune to the effect of getting their hand chopped off.

I have an encounter for my hardcore party to try where the opposition tries to end fights as quickly as possible by just taking body parts off (think monty python)

Even if there is no official ruling on how to take off limbs at lower levels, as a gm how would you run it?

No, the objective is not to kill the PCs, I would just use a vorpal weapon for the same effect.


Limb removal is an effect that deliberately does not exist by default (called shots are an optional rule). Which makes Regenerate one of the most useless spells in the game, because it heals a condition that cannot happen in accordance with the written rules.

If you want it at all levels, then change the magic number from fifty hit points to X% of the target's HP, max fifty.


Like Omnius said, it's meant to be very rare and hard to do (at least in combat). Out of combat, maim and dismember prisoners all you want or have guillotine traps that sever limbs if triggered.

As a GM, to achieve a dismemberment I would definitely require a called shot, using a slashing weapon, that turns out to be a critical, and deals over half the target's max hit points in damage. I would then (again, if forced to make up a rule) reduce the damage actually taken to 1/4th, since I would say you can only do so much damage to a person by cutting off their hand or foot (obviously they could eventually bleed to death or go into shock, but for flat out damage, I'd say there's only so much you can deal by purposefully striking at non-vital areas).


Regular means just aren't meant to have this level of lethality or easy permanent damage to it. That's the realm of spells.

That aside, allowing for characters to easily lose limbs can be literally crippling to a character, especially at low levels.


RedHydra wrote:
Going off of these rules, does that mean the average level 1-4 PC is immune to dismemberment due to the 50 HP requirement? Even if they have Greater Called Shot (reduces the debilitating blow requirement to 40 hp) that would still mean that characters are immune to the effect of getting their hand chopped off.

If by "immune to dismemberment" you mean outright dying from damage then yes. If you want it to work for lower levels then just ignore 50HP requirement (i think it is made specifically to prevent lower level creatures from being mutilated), and maybe require it to be a critical.


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I had a Vorpal bastard sword once that we homebrewed to sever limbs on critical hits, decapitation on natural 20's.

You could have the captains carry vorpal swords, that will chop your arm off on any critical. Minions have to use called shots rules, and still critical to dismember.

Dismembering PC's is kinda twisted, it's right there with using the coup de grace against players.

People get pretty attached to their characters, if you make it impossible for someone to do what they wanted to do, you are subtracting from the fun, not just raising the stakes of the game.


Maybe you could modify some of the rules from Skull & Shackles to assign the penalties?

Sczarni

Skull and Shackles has optional limb removal and wounding rules. I think the players guide (which has them) is even a free download.

Yep: PZO09000-10E Skull & Shackles Player's Guide. It is under the Peg Leg and Eye Patches on page 4.

It is always up to the GM what rules to use (home games). I would also say that anyone working with debilitating rules should work on a PERCENT of HP rather than a flat number. 50% of HP at level 1 is like 4 or 5. You get a near deadly wound, roll fortitude check to see if they cut anything off. At higher levels it becomes harder to chop things off you. This makes the most sense. (rather than having to kill a 1st level person 3x over just to get a finger off them)

This has the added benefit of making every combat dangerous and memorable. Remember when we started out and that sword gutted you aboard the Revenge? And the time the Fire Ball burnt all the hair off your back? Remember it? My back hair still hasn't grown back! And poor old Lucky still looks like a hell hound! Good times!


I have no qualms about allowing dismemberment of helpless characters, especially unconscious or dead ones. Be careful where you get caught stealing.


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Remember how you REALLY wanted to be a TWF but you got your arm chopped off after taking the first three feats? Ah, good times, we all love it when you can't do what you want in a fantasy game. Because real life isn't debilitating enough.

Making things memorable is one thing, ruining someone's ability to be the character they want is outside the duties of the GM. It better make sense, and it better be necessary for the story, in my opinion.

Cut off the TWF's arm, give him a chance to retrain out of his now useless feats. Give him Possessed Hand for free, and it's the key to whatever part of the plot, something like that, maybe.

If you can be healed back to complete, then the dismemberment is just a complication and inconvenience, and doesn't seem to add to the story at all, just slows down the game.

Once again, just my opinion.

Silver Crusade

Under the vast majority of circumstances dismembered means character just retires. If that is what the players (not the GM, the PLAYERS) want, go for it.


In my experience, players get attached to characters and things that would force the character to retire aren't generally what players want.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

> If that is what the players (not the GM, the PLAYERS)

It's the GM's game. He can chop his players into bits if he wants. OP asked a technical question. No one cares if you don't want this in your game, or wouldn't run in a game with this.


RedHydra wrote:

From what I gather, the only way for a PC to chop off someones hand is through called shots. The system makes sense in some areas such as the penalty or the effects of each hit body part. However, to lob off a characters limb you need a debilitating blow which is where I think it gets weird.

According to UC this is how a debilitating blow works.

Debilitating Blow: A called shot that deals half the creature’s hit points of damage (minimum 50) or more (whether a critical hit or not) results in a debilitating blow that has extra effects. A debilitating blow inflicts major consequences and potentially permanent consequences.

Going off of these rules, does that mean the average level 1-4 PC is immune to dismemberment due to the 50 HP requirement? Even if they have Greater Called Shot (reduces the debilitating blow requirement to 40 hp) that would still mean that characters are immune to the effect of getting their hand chopped off.

I have an encounter for my hardcore party to try where the opposition tries to end fights as quickly as possible by just taking body parts off (think monty python)

Even if there is no official ruling on how to take off limbs at lower levels, as a gm how would you run it?

No, the objective is not to kill the PCs, I would just use a vorpal weapon for the same effect.

The 50 how requirement is the damage of the blow needs to be at least 50 and also be at least half of the HP. It has nothing to do with how much hp the victim has.

You must do 50 dmg or more to cause a debilitating blow, that amount must also equal at least half of the victims max HP.


pauljathome wrote:

Under the vast majority of circumstances dismembered means character just retires. If that is what the players (not the GM, the PLAYERS) want, go for it.

Or pays 910 gold to have a seventh-level spell cast.


cfalcon wrote:

> If that is what the players (not the GM, the PLAYERS)

It's the GM's game. He can chop his players into bits if he wants. OP asked a technical question. No one cares if you don't want this in your game, or wouldn't run in a game with this.

True, but this is also not the Rules forum but a General discussion forum. So yes it is the GM's game to run what ever way he wants, enjoys or desires, but as part of a discussion I and probably quite a few others are going to point out regardless of whether we are talking about whacking off body parts or critical fumble/hit tables or any number of other topics that a GM who does not consider what his players think of as enjoyable and an aspect they might want in their game he might just have trouble with the retention of his players.


A GM who upsets their players is just playing with himself.

Sovereign Court

No, the pcs wanted to cut a leg off a guard instead of just killing him for some reason (CE party for sure) I told the pc that he should do a called shot, he rolled a nat 20 and confirmed, did something like 37 points of damage (level 2) and I told him he cleaved it off. My party loved the encounter and talk about it all the time and I just wanted an official ruling as to how limb dismemberment works at low levels. I've got a good enough of an idea now on how to run it due to this thread so thank you for everyone who answered


RedHydra wrote:
No, the pcs wanted to cut a leg off a guard instead of just killing him for some reason (CE party for sure) I told the pc that he should do a called shot, he rolled a nat 20 and confirmed, did something like 37 points of damage (level 2) and I told him he cleaved it off. My party loved the encounter and talk about it all the time and I just wanted an official ruling as to how limb dismemberment works at low levels. I've got a good enough of an idea now on how to run it due to this thread so thank you for everyone who answered

I think you did it right, especially for low level NPCs, thats an easy way to do it. Also, there are a few critical hit tables that have dismemberment as an option.


If the enemy was already disabled or otherwise helpless then yeah, it just happens. If it's mid-combat...I don't have a great answer. Usually I would just kill an enemy or knock them out. I have captured enemies and then broken hands or things to that affect to prevent spell casting. But I've never been too worried about not being able to do it mid-combat.

They way you did it doesn't seem like a problem though.

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