I am wondering if there has been any thought at all at some effects for Non Lethal Damage other than "Last Hit" as it is in Starfinder.
My overall concern with this is that you have situations where a group has to take someone "alive" and there is only that one person that can do Non Lethal while others would take a penalty to do so. If someone happens to do Lethal Damage as the last hit, the target has the potential to die, or could end up dying from mass damage if the situation calls for it.
The dying rules in PF2, with changes and adjustments taken thus far as well as from the start of the playtest, have been better than what Starfinder has got. (Combats are lethal for the NPC in Starfinder)
I think either a Non Lethal pool that would be a gage for how much below 0 a hit could do before the target begins dying, or something that works like the hardness system with pips could be used. (Heal a Non-Lethal Pip once an hour)
I'll add that non-lethal damage doesn't really seem to do that much now, since it has to be the damage that takes you down.
While I'll admit on the other side of things, that someone getting chopped by a sword, not really having any risk dying because they got clubbed over the head with a sap ten minutes ago by the thief, gives me mixed feelings in retrospect.
Perhaps if someone is taken down to zero by non-lethal damage, they don't get they dying condition. If they are taken down by lethal damage but have taken non-lethal damage, allow them some kind of save to avoid gaining the dying condition, if the lethal damage wouldn't take them out without the help of the non-lethal damage. They might get a bonus to the save based on how much of the damage is non-lethal vs. lethal.
Or it could be a simpler rule, if the downing damage is non-lethal no dying condition, or if the total non-lethal damage exceeds the the lethal damage. (which would put pressure on the lethal attackers to potentially minimize their damage if they have been doing more damage than their non-lethal damaging ally)
But if you track non-lethal damage separately, you probably need to have it heal at different speeds. (which would probably seem to be a positive from most people in effect/story, except potentially save for there being more tracking/booking)
Honestly, non-lethal damage I could see coming back if conscious, after a rest of something like 10 minutes doing nothing strenuous recovering 1hp per minute, or 1xlvl hp per 10 minutes after a rest. That being the 'cost' of using a non-lethal attack. Subsequent encounters, even in the same day, they may be back at full health without use of special resources.
I personally think non-lethal damage as a type can quantity is worth tracking, but I could see it potentially (beyond current, downing blow) potentially being an optional rule to allow for more flexible storylines around more non-lethal storylines.
Ultimately, to fix non-lethal damage you first need to fix the dying rules, and separate the idea of a mortal wound (ie, something that will kill you) from being disabled (ie, something that means you're incapable of action). In RL, one can be dying through internal bleeding or organ failure while still being able to act, and vice verse.
I believe Non Lethal damage should be looked at no matter what the Dying rules are like. If having Non Lethal damage be relevant means changing the Dying rules to the point where the whole condition mechanic would be divorced from HP completely, I think it defeats the purpose the devs are trying to accomplish.
I would hope there would be a way to track how Non-Lethal damage would effect a target while still tracking HP Damage. The way PF1 does it is confusing a lot of people, those new to the game as well as some veterans to the game. What HP "0" is can be a point of contention, as well as if anyone can still be "Staggered" at 0 hp when effected with Non-Lethal damage.
I would hope that PF2 would get into some detail on how to track or effect a target with Non-Lethal further than the Starfinder "last hit."
Not much point as long as the dying rules get overwritten by hero points. All damage is nonlethal unless you’re an NPC.
Although I might miss-remembered it, I thought that I recalled reading that any attack that had the Death trait, if it took you to 0 HP it killed you irrespective of your Dying condition state? I think it was primarily from Negative energy spells.
I agree that having nonlethal only being relevant when it is the last hit seems like it would make non-lethal damage moot to the narrative of the stories unless the majority of all the characters choose to specialize in (or limit themselves to ) nonlethal damage.
If I ran a game for someone who wanted to play a character for whom non-lethal damage was important to them, I'd probably have to find a way to house-rule it to make it more relevant than, 'just determined by last hit'.
One simple change I think could make a world of difference is if they added "if a creature who takes non-lethal damage is not healed before reaching 0 HP, they instead go Unconscious for a number of rounds equal to the non-lethal damage taken. Set their HP to 1, after this time the creature regains consciousness."
This way you can plink the enemy for 1-999 non-lethal damage and it can serve its purpose without needing to make sure it is the last attack.