Thursday, August 15, 2013

Insta-kill Rulings

As this stuff seems to come up again and again in our games, here are some official rulings on "coup de gras" attacks in conjunction with various spell effects. In general, I'm deferring to OSRIC where the intent is clear, and trying to use fair judgment otherwise:

Hold Person

The OSRIC spell description says this:

Persons held by this spell may be killed or bound at a rate of one per round, or, if the attacker chooses, may be attacked at twice the normal rate with an automatic hit, for maximum damage.
From all I can gather, hold person completely immobilizes the opponent. They have no ability to react whatsoever, therefore automatic kills are allowed. In fact, I think it's probably correct to rule that held individuals aren't even able to speak.


Sourcing OSRIC again:
[If] the saving throw fails, the creature is so securely held in the plants that it cannot move, attack, or cast spells for the duration of the spell.
This is a little more gray, however I don't interpret this as the degree of helplessness indicated by hold person. First off, the individual is only "held" as securely as the foliage can wrap them (as opposed to being outright frozen in place). Secondly, it's reasonable to think that the entangling plants themselves may obstruct the target area for an insta-kill attempt (like the throat). Third, anyone engaging in melee with an entangled foe obviously needs to make a conscious attempt to not succumb to the entanglement themselves.

I think a fair ruling on this spell is that magically entangled opponents are considered prone:
Prone Opponent: Attacks against a prone opponent negate the benefit of a shield, negate dexterity bonuses, and are made at +4 to hit.
Lastly, I was able to dig up a decent thread on this subject on Dragonsfoot. The responses are a little varied, but there's a pretty solid consensus that being entangled is not as severe as hold person with regards to mobility.

Sleep and Command

I'm grouping these two together since relevant command words for the command spell generally result in the same sort of effect as sleep. Again, OSRIC spells this out pretty clearly:
Magically sleeping creatures may be killed or tied up at a rate of one per round by a single person, or can be attacked at twice the normal rate with an automatic hit for maximum damage, if the attacker chooses not to kill or bind them.
This is effectively the same as hold person. So, when casting command, words like "die," "hold," and "sleep" all result in the same degree of vulnerability - the main difference is whether or not the opponent falls to the ground first.

One last thing: it's also important to note that magical sleep and natural sleep are not the same. The OSRIC entry for natural sleep is:
Sleeping Opponent: Sleeping opponents (natural sleep, not magical sleep) may be attacked with the same chance to kill as if the attacker were an assassin. The effect of magical sleep is described under the entry for the sleep spell.
All for now.

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