Is there a coup de grâce equivalent in Second Edition?


Rules Discussion


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

A PC murdered an inn keeper without provocation.

Being too weak and helpless for a direct confrontation, I was thinking that the inn keeper's spouse or child should attempt to slit his throat when next he sleeps.

Is coup de grâce, as a game mechanic, still a thing? How would such a scene play out by the rules?


Unconscious gives you -4 status to A.C. and flat footed (so -6 AC).
Makes it pretty easy to crit someone.

But it's probably good that you can't Insta-kill people that easily.


Also the PC is likely unarmored, if that matters for them.


Yeah, keep in mind that the player character has to sleep without their armour on if they want to avoid being fatigued.

I think that it is pretty unlikely that a child will do enough damage, even on a crit, to kill a PC though (but that is fairly accurate - children aren't really known for their ability to cut throats, and it actually takes some strength and training to reliably cut the throat of even a sleeping person).

The child making the attempt however, would be a good wakeup call for the PC without stepping into the excessively vindictive territory of outright killing a PC.


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Ravingdork wrote:

A PC murdered an inn keeper without provocation.

Being too weak and helpless for a direct confrontation, I was thinking that the inn keeper's spouse or child should attempt to slit his throat when next he sleeps.

Is coup de grâce, as a game mechanic, still a thing? How would such a scene play out by the rules?

Sorry to have to derail here, but this is a clear candidate of a situation likely best handled by an out-of-game discussion. (If I'm wrong, please see the PS below!)

That is, answering your rules questions would only take the focus away from the real issue:

Either the NPC succeeds, and the player is likely pissed.
Or (more likely) he fails, and you have a second murdered NPC on your hands.

Before you discuss rules further, you need to ask yourself "am I pissed by how the player had his PC act?"

If you are, the correct response is to discuss with the player out-of-game between sessions that you find murderous behavior unacceptable, and that you will need the player to play less evil characters from this point onwards. (Either he retires his current character, or he changes the way he plays that character, or, I guess, he leaves the group).

Trying to use in-game correctional behavior is passive-aggressive, it easily backfires, and essentially never works.

Best Regards
Zapp

PS. Of course, if you're not pissed, and everybody around the table is quite okay with realistic NPC responses and that you're playing a grim immoral game, then there's no problem, and you should go on discussing the rules! :)


Ravingdork wrote:
Is coup de grâce, as a game mechanic, still a thing? How would such a scene play out by the rules?

So, to present an alternative reply:

No, there's no way to kill someone off faster than by critting all your hit points. There's no "a knife through the eye is a knife through the eye" language as there is in 5th Edition, that essentially empowers the DM to bypass the rules whenever the story demands it.

If you can't or won't bypass the rules (which, again, you totally should consider, if you're not comfortable by an escalating situation that might lead to the PCs murderhoboing everyone at the inn) you're down to using attacks to cause damage.

Of course, as soon as the PCs are off the lowest levels a level -1 critter (such as a Commoner) is likely to miss even an unarmored character fast asleep. (Not to speak of the slim chance of sneaking up on said character. Remember sleeping only gives a -4 penalty to Perception. If you want to use the rules for the actual attack, it stands to reason you must use rules for the sneaking-into-the-PCs-room part too!)

Again, I can't emphasize enough how ill-advised I think the simulationist approach is to a case like this.


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I am of similar thought to Zapp on this one.

In general, games that don't have a coup de grace type rule do so deliberately. Usually because it is an action that rarely if ever comes up during what the game views as "standard play." That's the case in Pathfinder, where an inn-room ambush encounter is meant as a thing that could happen and while the PCs would be at severe disadvantage (Initiative penalties, most characters in non-ideal armor configuration, weapons more actions from ready than normal) they would not be at threat of immediate and unavoidable (because they couldn't just not sleep) party death.

And if the group wants for sneaking into where a creature is sleeping and slitting their throat to be an instant kill, it's the easiest house-rule to make.


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Trying to make justice themselves would be a comprehensible reaction by the relatives of the murdered innkeeper.
Looking for help is another: the local authorities, or a paladin, could be asked to intervene. Being hunted by a paladin should make the PC (and the player) think about what they have done, regardless of the outcome of the hunt.

Back to the rule, no, there's no coup-de-grace, unless you rule otherwise. You surely know well how to run a game, but I have to quote Zapp and say that killing a PC outright with no rolls may not be the best move in your repertoire.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So, on a case by case basis I don't mind handwaving that players can finish off helpless opponents in combat without needing to roll damage. For example, if a monster is paralyzed for a minute, and the players are free to act, there's no point in drawing out the gruesome details.

In the case of the players sneaking up on a sleeping target, they really only have the one chance, and in that case a coup de grace type activity is called for. I would argue, however, that three (or more) attacks against an unconscious, prone enemy without armor does the job. I would let all three attacks resolve as though the target is asleep.

Unconscious: -4 status to AC
Prone: -2 circumstance to AC
Without armor: -0 to -6 item bonus to AC

Now, an NPC doing this to a player with a significant level difference will definitely not kill the player. They might not even hit.

I would argue that this is okay, since 1. It's not fun for a player to be killed by a 0 level NPC who picked up a dagger for the first time today and 2. HP accounts for luck, last second reflexes, magically enhanced vitality, and whatever else you can pull out of your ear.

The stories told by this system tend to not include living in fear of low level enemies. If any Joe Random off the street can have a credible chance of killing your level 12 fighter in their sleep, I would argue the power fantasy isn't being fulfilled. If you want that type of style, maybe an E6 game with higher leveled NPCs would be appropriate.

The other question is whether the NPC could have snuck up on the player. No one is untrained in Perception, and unconscious only imposes a -4.

That all being said, if the story calls for someone getting killed in their sleep, and the rules for combat aren't backing it up, I would potentially allow a hand-wave and a roll for instant death. That's a rare occurrence though.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

Group of peasants set fire to the inn and nail the windows and doors shut. They might be able to escape if they make their perception DCs to hear the noise and smell the smoke before it is too late.

Even better if they ply them with booze or drugged food before hand.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

Player wakes up to discover his sheets are stained. On further investigation they were taken from a nearby leper colony. Note left by grieving window telling him to enjoy the slow death he has earned.


I do miss the coupe de gras rules, and I would like to see them return. I think this is a case where you could use the 4 degrees system well.

For example:
The attacker hits automatically for normal damage. If this doesn't take the target out, they make a Fort save against DC equal to the damage taken (this works out to a reasonably easy DC assuming average damage for an equal level subject). On a failure, they're dying 1 (so can hero point out of it). On a crit failure, they die completely.

In the given scenario, the innkeeper's son probably deals 3 or 4 damage, so the player only fails on a nat 1 and likely can't critically fail.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Tangential : if an enemy is completely at your mercy, how long does it take to kill them in PF2 ?


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Ravingdork wrote:

A PC murdered an inn keeper without provocation.

Being too weak and helpless for a direct confrontation, I was thinking that the inn keeper's spouse or child should attempt to slit his throat when next he sleeps.

Is coup de grâce, as a game mechanic, still a thing? How would such a scene play out by the rules?

There is nothing against the rules that says that initiative cant start while one of the persons is unconscious. That effectively means the NPC goes first, since if the PC is first they "take their turn sleeping" and then the NPC goes.

Then the NPC, as others have pointed out, has three attacks against a FF (presumably prone), Unconscious opponent that likely isn't wearing their armor.

Also what kind of lunatics kill the person of patronage and then still stay there? That's bizarre.

May I ask why the PC killed them?

EDIT: Also someone else has the perfect solution, burning the inn down with the PCs inside.

1. It allows the PCs an attempt at escaping with still high risk they end up dead

2. It makes thematic sense from both the survivors who can't bear to live in their old establishment anymore due to the loss

3. Persistent damage is one of the nastiest damages in the game and does not care about anything but resistance (and even then, most everyone level 7 or below would probably die in a house that was locked shut

4. As the patron, giving them sleep inducing poisons to combo with this allows more safety nets while still putting them in a bad spot

5. Theoretically, this could allow the survivors of the loss to claim accident. Possibly even get an insurance pay off so that they can live happily ever after

6. The PCs are out a tavern and will likely be resented by anywhere else that serves in town (if not as murderers as those that bring bad luck). Can't stay at a pile of ash.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Zapp wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

A PC murdered an inn keeper without provocation.

Being too weak and helpless for a direct confrontation, I was thinking that the inn keeper's spouse or child should attempt to slit his throat when next he sleeps.

Is coup de grâce, as a game mechanic, still a thing? How would such a scene play out by the rules?

Sorry to have to derail here, but this is a clear candidate of a situation likely best handled by an out-of-game discussion. (If I'm wrong, please see the PS below!)

I mean I would--and have given similar advice before--but it's not my PC, or even my game. It's just something I read about in someone else's game on these forums that got me thinking about possible scenarios and the coup de grâce rules.

Note that I only said that a PC murdered an inn keeper, and that I was thinking a certain outcome would likely result.

Never said it was my game or that I had any involvement on the outcome at all.

I was just asking about the state of the coup de grâce rules in Second Edition.


The Raven Black wrote:
Tangential : if an enemy is completely at your mercy, how long does it take to kill them in PF2 ?

A few rounds of crits with 6 seconds per round. So maybe 12 seconds for a barbarian, 30 for a wizard.

If they are lower level, a single hit can finish them off.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

As written once an unconscious character who is not dying takes damage they automatically wake up.


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Zapp wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

A PC murdered an inn keeper without provocation.

Being too weak and helpless for a direct confrontation, I was thinking that the inn keeper's spouse or child should attempt to slit his throat when next he sleeps.

Is coup de grâce, as a game mechanic, still a thing? How would such a scene play out by the rules?

Sorry to have to derail here, but this is a clear candidate of a situation likely best handled by an out-of-game discussion. (If I'm wrong, please see the PS below!)

That is, answering your rules questions would only take the focus away from the real issue:

Either the NPC succeeds, and the player is likely pissed.
Or (more likely) he fails, and you have a second murdered NPC on your hands.

Before you discuss rules further, you need to ask yourself "am I pissed by how the player had his PC act?"

If you are, the correct response is to discuss with the player out-of-game between sessions that you find murderous behavior unacceptable, and that you will need the player to play less evil characters from this point onwards. (Either he retires his current character, or he changes the way he plays that character, or, I guess, he leaves the group).

Trying to use in-game correctional behavior is passive-aggressive, it easily backfires, and essentially never works.

Best Regards
Zapp

PS. Of course, if you're not pissed, and everybody around the table is quite okay with realistic NPC responses and that you're playing a grim immoral game, then there's no problem, and you should go on discussing the rules! :)

I don't take this as RavingDork being upset, but striving to have a realistic game world.

It is reasonable that a wife or spouse would be angry and attempt to get revenge for the murder of their loved one.

But, I agree that it's still a problem that outright killing the PC even if backed by the rules probably isn't fun for the game.

So a better thing to do would be to create a situation where the PC can fight.

Perhaps the child rallies his uncle and their friends to teach the PC a lesson, and the PC must now fight several NPCs by themselves and potentially murder several more people. Perhaps they choose mercy, but that makes the fighter harder.

I'm not sure, but killing them in their sleep (or attempting) probably isn't a fun way to handle it.

Edit: Perhaps the child prays to Norgorber to kill the PC in exchange for their soul, and Norgorber sends assassins after them. A little like Grellod the Kind in Skyrim.


Claxon wrote:
Zapp wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

A PC murdered an inn keeper without provocation.

Being too weak and helpless for a direct confrontation, I was thinking that the inn keeper's spouse or child should attempt to slit his throat when next he sleeps.

Is coup de grâce, as a game mechanic, still a thing? How would such a scene play out by the rules?

Sorry to have to derail here, but this is a clear candidate of a situation likely best handled by an out-of-game discussion. (If I'm wrong, please see the PS below!)

That is, answering your rules questions would only take the focus away from the real issue:

Either the NPC succeeds, and the player is likely pissed.
Or (more likely) he fails, and you have a second murdered NPC on your hands.

Before you discuss rules further, you need to ask yourself "am I pissed by how the player had his PC act?"

If you are, the correct response is to discuss with the player out-of-game between sessions that you find murderous behavior unacceptable, and that you will need the player to play less evil characters from this point onwards. (Either he retires his current character, or he changes the way he plays that character, or, I guess, he leaves the group).

Trying to use in-game correctional behavior is passive-aggressive, it easily backfires, and essentially never works.

Best Regards
Zapp

PS. Of course, if you're not pissed, and everybody around the table is quite okay with realistic NPC responses and that you're playing a grim immoral game, then there's no problem, and you should go on discussing the rules! :)

I don't take this as RavingDork being upset, but striving to have a realistic game world.

It is reasonable that a wife or spouse would be angry and attempt to get revenge for the murder of their loved one.

But, I agree that it's still a problem that outright killing the PC even if backed by the rules probably isn't fun for the game.

So a better thing to do would be to create a situation where the PC can fight....

I think my favorite resolution to this problem is the family member attempts to slip in and kill in the night but isn't a trained assassin, so the PCs wake up just before the knife comes down and a normal encounter begins.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I think the super-penalized AC values and far higher chance of opening an encounter with a crit and a prone, unarmored, possibly un-equipped, PC represents the lethality of the situation quite enough for me.

Sounds like it would be more fun than simply killing off the PC too.

As an aside, I dont really see myself as the type to auto kill PCs.

Paizo Employee Designer

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I agree with folks here about the lethality of the situation with armor off, sleeping, prone and unconscious being quite dangerous enough without a coup de grace (but more fun to play out than just have your character killed instantly). And as far as realism goes, in real life someone close to members of my college gaming group was stabbed seven times starting off asleep before the first stab, and managed to survive, pin the assailant, and take the knife away, so sometimes the real world doesn't work exactly like we might imagine.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
And as far as realism goes, in real life someone close to members of my college gaming group was stabbed seven times starting off asleep before the first stab, and managed to survive, pin the assailant, and take the knife away, so sometimes the real world doesn't work exactly like we might imagine.

WTF?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber
Mark Seifter wrote:
I agree with folks here about the lethality of the situation with armor off, sleeping, prone and unconscious being quite dangerous enough without a coup de grace (but more fun to play out than just have your character killed instantly). And as far as realism goes, in real life someone close to members of my college gaming group was stabbed seven times starting off asleep before the first stab, and managed to survive, pin the assailant, and take the knife away, so sometimes the real world doesn't work exactly like we might imagine.

Woah!

True enough though. Lots of people survived duels after getting a sword through the head and body, sometimes multiple times!

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