Is it possible to do subdual damage on an elemental?

Rules Questions

Hello players,

Running a group through Legacy of Fire here, and we came across an Elder Fire Elemental. The fighter wanted to subdue the fire elemental, rather than kill it, because it had an INT of 10 and was reportedly very rare by its' size and age.

The problem is, I can not find anywhere in the elemental subtype or PRD where it says you can do subdual damage on an elemental. Any elemental. The traits say "cannot be stunned" and "does not sleep", but as another player pointed out, elves and dragons do not sleep, but you can knock them unconscious.

So what's a mundane fighter to do? Kill or be killed? The various summoning rules state that a fire elemental only cowers around, or is afraid of, or cannot cross, open water. So barring a specialist spellcaster making a new spell called water chains of binding or somesuch, or using decanters of endless water all round the fire elemental, I'm at a loss as to how to stop a fire elemental but not kill it.

Of course, even if you could subdue a fire elemental, would you then use Handle Animal or Diplomacy on it?

Elementals are immune to non-lethal damage, though it should still be able to be knocked unconscious if it is dropped to -1 health.

Handle Animal only works on animals, or on non-animals with an intelligence of 1 or 2. Though the DC increases by 5 when using Handle Animal on non-animals. Diplomacy should work. Elementals are intelligent, and can speak, so if anyone knows how to speak Ignan, or has a way to communicate with others who don't share a language, you could try to talk with it. I haven't played Legacy of Fire, so I don't know if this elemental can be reasoned with.

Silver Crusade

LeMoineNoir wrote:
Elementals are immune to non-lethal damage,

Where is this stated?

Elemental Subtype wrote:

An elemental is a being composed entirely from one of the four classical elements: air, earth, fire, or water.

An elemental has the following features.

Immunity to bleed, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, and stunning.
Not subject to critical hits or flanking. Does not take additional damage from precision-based attacks, such as sneak attack.
Proficient with natural weapons only, unless generally humanoid in form, in which case proficient with all simple weapons and any weapons mentioned in its entry.
Proficient with whatever type of armor (light, medium, or heavy) it is described as wearing, as well as all lighter types. Elementals not indicated as wearing armor are not proficient with armor. Elementals are proficient with shields if they are proficient with any form of armor.
Elementals do not breathe, eat, or sleep.

The Creature Types/Subtypes that are immune to NL actually spell it out in the Type (Undead, Constructs) and Subtype (Inevitables, Swarms).

IIRC, elemental were immune to non-lethal in 3.5, but they didn't retain that immunity in Pathfinder.

That said, this seems like a perfect situation wherein the party would try diplomacy to persuade the intelligent (for an elemental) and if it doesn't respond...well you'll have done nothing wrong by ending it rightly.

It's definitely not an animal though, so Handle Animal wouldn't ever be appropriate.

I thought if it was immune to crits it was immune to NL? This would mean an elemental is immune to NL, but I am not sure on that.

I don't think crit immunity conveys immunity to nonlethal, but I don't have a source to confirm or refute either way.

In the description of nonlethal damage, they do not indicate any traits/abilities that automatically convey immunity to nonlethal damage. I'd say, unless someone finds somewhere that it does say that, RAW would be that they have to be specifically immune to nonlethal damage (or all damage) to be immune (as Rysky indicated); thus it should work on elementals.

However, dimpomamancy should also work on elementals, and may even be considered the first option.

Also; elves and dragons do sleep; they are just immune to sleep effects.

I may have been mixing up nonlethal and precision, it seems. It looks like they were not immune to it in 3.5 either.

I'll have to speak with my DM then. Were they immune to nonlethal in AD&D? He runs off of a lot of rules from that system still.

LeMoineNoir wrote:
I may have been mixing up nonlethal and precision, it seems.

I was speculating that, but I couldn't find an explicit "sneak attacks don't work on target immune to crits" rule, just

Rogue wrote:
The rogue must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot.

Most things immune to crits are immune to sneak attack, but there is no rule that says it's always true.

wraithstrike wrote:
Most things immune to crits are immune to sneak attack, but there is no rule that says it's always true.

Aeons and swarms, for instance, are immune to the former but not the latter.

Glad to see all the replies!

I'm still confused to the mechanics of nonlethal attacks & damage. What's the difference between using a sword edge for lethal and using the flat of the sword for nonlethal? Especially on a fire elemental, water elemental, air elemental, etc. (It's a little easier to see it on an earth elemental.)

Rather than rely on memory again, here's a link to the combat section of the PRD, as close as I could manage to link to the relevant section.

The text for non-lethal is as follows:


Nonlethal Damage

Nonlethal damage represents harm to a character that is not life-threatening. Unlike normal damage, nonlethal damage is healed quickly with rest.

Dealing Nonlethal Damage: Certain attacks deal nonlethal damage. Other effects, such as heat or being exhausted, also deal nonlethal damage. When you take nonlethal damage, keep a running total of how much you've accumulated. Do not deduct the nonlethal damage number from your current hit points. It is not "real" damage. Instead, when your nonlethal damage equals your current hit points, you're staggered (see below), and when it exceeds your current hit points, you fall unconscious.

Nonlethal Damage with a Weapon that Deals Lethal Damage: You can use a melee weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage instead, but you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll.

Lethal Damage with a Weapon that Deals Nonlethal Damage: You can use a weapon that deals nonlethal damage, including an unarmed strike, to deal lethal damage instead, but you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll.

Staggered and Unconscious: When your nonlethal damage equals your current hit points, you're staggered. You can only take a standard action or a move action in each round (in addition to free, immediate, and swift actions). You cease being staggered when your current hit points once again exceed your nonlethal damage.

When your nonlethal damage exceeds your current hit points, you fall unconscious. While unconscious, you are helpless.

Spellcasters who fall unconscious retain any spellcasting ability they had before going unconscious.

If a creature's nonlethal damage is equal to his total maximum hit points (not his current hit points), all further nonlethal damage is treated as lethal damage. This does not apply to creatures with regeneration. Such creatures simply accrue additional nonlethal damage, increasing the amount of time they remain unconscious.

Healing Nonlethal Damage: You heal nonlethal damage at the rate of 1 hit point per hour per character level. When a spell or ability cures hit point damage, it also removes an equal amount of nonlethal damage.

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From the above: the RAW difference is that you take a -4 to hit with a lethal weapon if you are trying to deal non-lethal damage with it (ex. using the flat of the blade to deal nonlethal damage).

Explaining how it works is an exercise for the GM and will encounter infinite table variation; it isn't a matter of rules, it is a matter of fluff.

If you'd like an example of how it could be explained away for creatures that are non-solid; pushing the substance of their bodies around (and the subsequent reforming of that substance) is exhuasting for those creatures, thus it can eventually knock them unconcious, even though it generally does no lasting harm.

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