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Main / Non-LethalCombat

Chapter 3

Non-Lethal Combat


Weapons in defense

A character attempting to punch, wrestle, overbear, or use Martial Arts against an armed opponent can do so only by placing himself at great risk. Making matters worse, an armed defender is automatically allowed to strike first, regardless of initiative. Further, since his opponent must get very close, the defender gains a +4 to his attack and damage rolls. Those involved in a wrestling bout are limited to weapons of small size after the first round of combat.

Weapons in attack

It is possible to make an armed attack without causing serious damage. First it must be a weapon that allows control of the damage inflicted. This is impossible with an arrow or sling, or even a war hammer or mace. It can be done with swords and axes as long as the blade can be turned so it doesn't cut. Also there is a -4 to the attack roll, due to not using the weapon properly. Damage from these attacks is 50% normal, one half of which is temporary. See also the special attack of Subdual Damage.



A thief can attempt to knock out a victim under certain circumstances by striking from behind with a blunt instrument. In order to be eligible for a mugging attack, a target must be eligible for a backstab (see ph40). In addition to all restrictions governing a backstab, a thief cannot mug a victim more than twice as tall as the thief.

The eligible thief character simply makes a mugging attack instead of a normal backstab. The thief gains his +4 backstab bonus and the victim loses shield and dexterity bonuses. If helmets are detailed in the campaign, the victim has AC 10 unless the head is protected.

If the thief scores a hit, the victim must make a saving throw versus petrification or fall unconscious for 2d8 rnds. Modify the saving throw by the difference in level or hit dice between the mugger and the victim.

For example a thief (t9) sneaks up behind the ogre sentry (4hd). His blow is successful, so the ogre saves as a level 4 warrior. Normally he would need a 12 or better, but the difference in level and hit die modifies the save to 17.


Sapping is an attack used when knocking out an opponent is more important than doing damage. To do this attack it takes a called shot at an additional -4 to hit (that is a total of -8 penalty, plus announcing before initiative and a +1 to initiative!).

If the attack hits, the character rolls normal damage for the attack. He also gets a 5% chance of knockout for every point of damage he does, up to 40%. Only 25% of the damage is real, the rest is temporary and heals as noted elsewhere. When using a special or magical weapon, do not count bonuses, the weapon is not being used the way it was intended. When a sap attack is performed on a character who is asleep or magically held the attack automatically hits. The chance for knockout goes up to 10% per point of damage, up to 80% max. However if the knockout roll is 81% or higher then the victim is woken up by the attack.

The sap attack can only be used on small or medium creatures, not large or bigger; and the sap attack can only be performed with melee weapons or bare hands, never with missile weapons.


Grabbing an object

The grab is another type of called shot, which you must have at least one hand free to perform. The penalties are the same as for a normal called shot (announce before initiative, +1 to initiative, -4 to hit). If you get a hit you have grabbed the object desired, now control must be decided. In the same round that the grab is performed roll 1d20, your opponent will do the same. Compare your number to your strength score. Whichever one rolls better against his score wins control of the object. For purposes of a grab all 18 scores are just 18. However, in a tie, a high percentile beats a low percentile (ie 18/40 beats an 18/30). All tie rolls must be re-rolled during the same round. Treat this second attempt during secondaries. However, no matter how many rolls it takes, a grab only counts as one attack. A character would still get his second (or more) attack(s) later in the round.

Grabbing a person

If you are using two hands to grab a person use the wrestling rules to resolve the attack. If you are using only one hand then the attack is treated as a called shot (announce before initiative, +1 to initiative, -4 to hit), and your strength score is treated as three less. (i.e. 15 becomes 12, etc.) Strengths of 18 are dropped as follows: 18/00 to 18/51, 18/91-99 to 18/01, 18/76-90 to 18, 18/51-75 to 17, 18/01-50 to 16, and 18 to 15. If your opponent has any attacks left in the combat round he can respond with a wrestling, punching or other attack (such as using a short weapon). If your attack resulted in hold on the wrestling chart then he has a -4 to hit with any attack but a wrestling attack. However, he can use his attack to break your hold using the strength method listed above.

Grabbing a monster

When grabbing a monster the size difference is important. Treat a character's strength as 3 higher when he is grabbing a smaller monster and 6 lower when grabbing a larger monster. This bonus is halved when dealing with player-character races and demi-human NPCs.

To determine a monster's strength score start with the maximum damage in one attack (ie. 1-8 = 8). If the monster has multiple attacks add one per attack. Add 8 to this number if the monster is known for its carrying ability (horses, camels, etc.) or is made up of parts of such an animal (pegasi, hippogriffs, etc.) This total is a rough strength score usable in such cases. For example a nightmare (2-8/4-10/4-10) starts with 10, adds 2 for two attacks per round, and adds 8 for being a horse-like animal, giving it a rough score of 20.

Subdual Damage

In some cases the character may want to try and subdue a creature rather than kill it. The same game mechanic can be used as using a weapon in non-lethal combat as above. In some special cases there are additional rules that can be consulted.