Critical effects and nonlethal damage


Rules Discussion


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

Got a crit with my Tiger claw feat against a bugbear tonight while inflicting nonlethal damage. The question arose as to whether the bugbear would take the bleed damage or not, and whether or not it would be nonlethal bleed damage.

The attack also knocked out the bugbear, and we were wondering how persistent damage interacts with being unconscious at 0 hit points.


There is no "nonlethal damage". There are nonlethal attacks. If the damage was dealt by a nonlethal attack or nonlethal effect, you don’t gain the dying condition; you are instead unconscious with 0 Hit Points.

If you are unconscious at 0 hit points, and you are not dying, and you receive damage, such as persistent damage (bleed damage), you gain the dying 1 condition.


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

Well it sounds like the GM made the correct ruling even if we got the terminology wrong.

Still, would the Tiger Claw bleed effect trigger on a nonlethal attack?


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

As near as I can tell, the CRB doesn't specify whether nonlethal attacks still inflict riders like the bleed effect.

Logically, if an attack is nonlethal in nature, it's not going to inflict bleed damage, since that would be lethal. Indeed, persistent damage is one of the quickest ways to progress a victim through the stages of the dying condition to death.

IMHO this is an intrinsic contradiction in the description of the Tiger Stance and Tiger Claw attacks. In fact, all the special attacks of the monk have the nonlethal trait, but the Powerful Fist ability allows monks to make any of these attacks lethal with no penalty.

As DM I would rule that the persistent bleed damage is only activated if you choose for the attack to be lethal. Pity the CRB doesn't specify this.


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

Yeah, when I asked my GM if I could forgo the crit effect, he said no.

My wouldbe prisoner bled out.


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Ravingdork wrote:

Yeah, when I asked my GM if I could forgo the crit effect, he said no.

My wouldbe prisoner bled out.

Critical Specialization Effects wrote:


Source Core Rulebook pg. 283
Certain feats, class features, weapon runes, and other effects can grant you additional benefits when you make an attack with certain weapons and get a critical success. This is called a critical specialization effect. The exact effect depends on which weapon group your weapon belongs to, as listed below. You can always decide not to add the critical specialization effect of your weapon.

Bolding mine but that was ruled incorrectly


Talonhawke wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

Yeah, when I asked my GM if I could forgo the crit effect, he said no.

My wouldbe prisoner bled out.

Critical Specialization Effects wrote:


Source Core Rulebook pg. 283
Certain feats, class features, weapon runes, and other effects can grant you additional benefits when you make an attack with certain weapons and get a critical success. This is called a critical specialization effect. The exact effect depends on which weapon group your weapon belongs to, as listed below. You can always decide not to add the critical specialization effect of your weapon.
Bolding mine but that was ruled incorrectly

The critical effect of tiger stance (which I am assuming is being referenced here) is unrelated to critical specialization effects.

Although it does set a good example for potential RAI when it comes to rulings.


Yep thanks for pointing that out. I would find it odd if you couldn't stop it from happening but who knows.


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

Not sure I follow. The first sentence clearly stipulates that critical specialization effects can come from just about anywhere, including class feats like Tiger Stance. The last sentence says we can decide not to add them.

What am I missing?


Ravingdork wrote:

Not sure I follow. The first sentence clearly stipulates that critical specialization effects can come from just about anywhere, including class feats like Tiger Stance. The last sentence says we can decide not to add them.

What am I missing?

The way I read it nothing but some GMs might say that whats happening isn't the weapons Crit Specialization but a different effect on a critical. I personally don't see them as different and would rule that you could forgo the effect if you wanted.


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Quote:
The exact effect depends on which weapon group your weapon belongs to, as listed below.

This means that "critical specialization effects" are not just any effect that gets added to a critical, but this specific list of weapon group-based effects.

The first sentence is referring to the fact that there are multiple ways to get access to crit spec effects. Some classes get them, some don't. Some ancestries grant them, some don't.


I would personally rule that for all intents and purposes the crit effect added by Tiger claw would count as one that you can forgo. It makes sense in context and doesnt directly contradict the rules. It is simply using an existing rule that does not specifically apply in this circumstance, even if it makes sense.


Logically, one should be able to decline the effects of any crit they have rolled. I think of it as pulling one's punches. For example, if I were to fight Mike Tyson, he would effectively roll a crit with every punch and could kill me easily. But he could certainly opt not to do that, either by missing entirely, by only applying a tiny fraction of his strength, by choosing to hit me in a less lethal area, or some combination of those. I suspect that at some point Mr Tyson has had playful matches with his kids/nieces/nephews and has not killed any of them yet.


Ravingdork wrote:

Not sure I follow. The first sentence clearly stipulates that critical specialization effects can come from just about anywhere, including class feats like Tiger Stance. The last sentence says we can decide not to add them.

What am I missing?

Critical specializations are called out as such and add the effect of the weapon group from the equipment section. Again, I think there is a solid argument for RAI and critical effects of martial attacks but the tiger strike critical effect isn't a critical specialization effect.

mrspaghetti wrote:
Logically, one should be able to decline the effects of any crit they have rolled. I think of it as pulling one's punches. For example, if I were to fight Mike Tyson, he would effectively roll a crit with every punch and could kill me easily. But he could certainly opt not to do that, either by missing entirely, by only applying a tiny fraction of his strength, by choosing to hit me in a less lethal area, or some combination of those. I suspect that at some point Mr Tyson has had playful matches with his kids/nieces/nephews and has not killed any of them yet.

Pulling your punches would probably have involved you not using tiger stance in the first place though.


Logically I don't think there should really be such a thing as nonlethal slashing damage, but clearly the rules allow for it. So I don't think we can really try to use realism too much on this particular point. You can stab someone with a spear "nonlethally" in these games, so.

Realistically, nonlethal damage from at LEAST slashing and piercing damage that knocks you out should logically kill people eventually if left untreated. So if I was going to justify it in fiction, I'd say nonlethal damage is simply wounds that are easy enough to treat that you can handwave it afterwards. And any significant slashing or piercing damage should result in persistent bleed, especially if it knocks you out.

So I'd definitely try to stick what the rules say you can do as best you can on this one and avoid thinking too hard at what hit points represent in this scenario.


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Generally I think any scenario where critting is bad for the player, or when a rule not counting as an effect only works in a very specific way that makes things worse for the player without enhancing gameplay any is probably a bad take on the rule.

As for whether or not nonlethal slashing damage makes sense. It's a little bit out there, but the whole 'intentionally avoiding hitting vital spots' trope is common enough that I don't think it's a really big deal. If we were worried about realism, the whole implementation of nonlethal combat in general is pretty wonky, so I don't really see a point in singling out this specific case.

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