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  1. #11

    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

    El Mahdi's Avatar

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    Jan 2008
    Greenacres, Florida ("Home" is Michigan)
    Quote Originally Posted by StreamOfTheSky View Post
    ... If someone kept jabbing me in the spine with a plastic knife, it wouldn't really hurt, but I wouldn't be able to just ignore it for long without turning around and strangling the little bastard. ...
    LOL! I loved this part.

    If it was me, I'd just poke him in the eye ... but strangling works too.

  2. #12

    Greater Elemental (Lvl 23)

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    Jun 2002
    Colombus, OH
    This isn't the first time the question has come up.

    Generally speaking, I side with those that say deliberately choosing to not defend yourself is the same as being helpless, and as such someone you've deliberately chosen to ignore can attempt a coup de grace.

    I should point out that in the extreme case of a 20th level fighter facing a 20th level thief with a 1st level ally that is providing flanking, the 20th level fighter probably has less to fear from the 1st level attackers coup de grace than he does from the 20th level rogue's sneak attacks.

    If I would make any concession to the 'you are just flat footed' crowd, it is that there is one difference between ignoring and being helpless and that is that the attacked character is actually moving (probably vigorously) at the time, albiet not moving to defend himself from the attack. The situation the character wants isn't actually described by the rules, so it should be surprising that the resolution isn't described by the rules either. I think it's reasonable to suggest that ignoring an attacker completely is somewhere between being flatfooted and helpless in terms of the vulnerability involved. So, eligible for a 'coup de grace', but perhaps a coup de grace that does not automatically hit because you've no time to 'line it up' and so must roll to hit as a normal attack on a 'helpless' target.

  3. #13

    Novice (Lvl 1)

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    Jun 2009
    One should think about what helpless and flat-footed really means in the context.
    A typical picture of a helpless fighter is one for example held, sleeping, or bound. To him, the ally could remove his helment (unless he wakes, but that's a whole different issue) and drive his knife through the eye of the fighter. That hurts, a lot.

    A flat-footed person is one who isn't immobile, but doesn't defend himself. Examples are when the fighter's facing an invisible backstabber when he is deaf and have a cold, and the backstabber hasn't been noticed in any way. He can't possibly defend from him by actions - the only thing protecting him is his armor, but it can protect him pretty good.

    I think ignoring someone is MUCH more like being flat-footed. Even if you're ignoring him, that doesn't mean he can remove your helmet without anything happening. You're not immobile, your constantly moving in your fight with the other person. A coup de grace represents slitting the throat or whatever - and you can't do that on a person engaged in anything, not without first grappling the person. And grappling is a whole different matter. Ignoring someone is "not performing any actions specifically to hinder them", not "laying very still and allowing them to do anything to you".

  4. #14

    Greater Elemental (Lvl 23)

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    Jun 2002
    Colombus, OH
    Stringburka: The basic problem here is the prohibition against coup de grace attacks except when the character is helpless is sacrificing realism for playability. Realistically speaking, if you are completely unable to detect my presence and I'm in any way compotent with my weapon, I ought to be able to make a killing stroke. In such a situation, a swung battle axe is no less effective than a .45 caliber pistol placed an inch or two from the back of the head. That one can't do so in the game has nothing to do with what is realistic and everthing to do with keeping down the overall lethality of the game by allowing character to have a reasonable chance of surviving.

    The challenge raised by a player unhappy with the fact that any creature that threatens him, regardless of how small the threat, grants the rogue a huge bonus on his attacks is essentially that "It's not realistic." But, appealing to realism isn't much of a help in this case, and appealing to the rules as if they offered realistic alternatives is missing the point entirely. The coup de grace rules exist to provide realism that would otherwise be missing, but they are unrealisticly narrowed to the most egregious situation.

  5. #15

    Novice (Lvl 1)

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    Jun 2009
    @Celebrim: Yes, that is a valid point of the invisible attacker. However, even punching someone with a battle axe wouldn't necessarily kill someone if that person had full plate armor.
    Rant from an amateur at medieval history
    Full armor gave enough protection to withstand nearly any attack except some missile weapons at short range as well as heavy piercing weapons such as picks and some piercing swords (particulary the estoc), and then it only didn't work some times.

    The primary way to kill someone in plate armor wouldn't ever be to try to chop of his head with an axe - it's going for the weak spots with a piercing weapon such as an estoc or a warhammer (which is a piercing weapon, not a blunt one thankyouverymuch D&D designers) or simply denting the armor enough to crush the person below. This was done either with again - a warhammer, or any really heavy weapon. There the battleaxe MIGHT work, however, it wasn't usually "one hit kills" then, but rather bashing the hell out of them when they had been beaten to the ground.

    And with a +3 magical armor, I think you could safely say that he's decently protected even at these "weak spots" where a piercing weapon might work.

    While a naked person standing like that would indeed be very vulnerable to a battle axe chop, he'll still be staggering back as soon as he gets hit whether he likes it or not, lessening the damage compared to someone held or tied up.

    So yes, in general you might be right that there are cases where a coup de grace should be possible when it's currently not, but in this case where we're talking about a guy wearing armor making him almost immune to slashing and light piercing weapons being threatened by some goon with a dagger, I think allowing a coup de grace (even if the goon was invisible) would be at least as wrong as not allowing it when he's naked.
    Last edited by Ilja; Thursday, 3rd September, 2009 at 09:24 PM.

  6. #16

    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

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    Jul 2008
    Seems to me the rules on invisibility would be appropriate. I mean, what's the difference between not being able to see a guy, and simply not looking at him (rhetorical - don't answer that).

    In essence, it would mean the ignored critter gets +2 on attack rolls, and treats the PC as flat-footed (no Dex bonus). Unfortunately, adapting the invisibility rules doesn't quite answer the question of flanking.

    Coup de race doesn't quite cut (pun intended) it here. there are, after all, several degrees of helplessness.

    * knife to the throat - RAW coup de grace fails to work here; this should be an instant kill, albeit one that takes times to prepare in order to expose a weak spot.
    * execution - coup de grace; you're standing over a motionless body and swing your weapon down. RAW Coup de grace works ok for this, a grittier variant would be to grant sneak attack damage to all classes (and rogues get to apply SA damage twice).
    * flat-footed - he knows you are there, but is too caught by surprise. Reflected in RAW by loss of ability to make attacks of opportunity, and loss of Dexterity bonus.

    So, we need something between "execution" and "flat-footed"

    How about the fighter makes his attack roll normally, but can apply sneak attack damage as if he were a rogue (and a rogue would get to apply SA damage twice). Plus of course, he should be treated as invisible (+2 on attack roll), since the hero is intentionally not watching him. I liken this to a crazy axe maniac entering a dance hall and swinging at people who are dancing and carry on dancing despite him - they are moving about, but not in a fashion intended to avoid the attacks.
    Last edited by Ashtagon; Thursday, 3rd September, 2009 at 11:09 PM.

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Stringburka: The basic problem here is the prohibition against coup de grace attacks except when the character is helpless is sacrificing realism for playability. Realistically speaking, if you are completely unable to detect my presence and I'm in any way compotent with my weapon, I ought to be able to make a killing stroke.
    That's called a sneak attack. At most, I'd let the attacker get an auto-crit, if he can't SA/DA, but not have the target make a Fort save.

    For "flanking" to be effective, the defender must be distracted by something opposite the attacker. The rogue/follower is a good example - the fighter knows the rogue is there and is defending against him. Whether or not he knows about the follower, the follower is still flanking him. Therefore, it makes no difference if he's ignoring the follower. Let's say the follower snuck up invisibly - would he get to make a coup de grace just because the fighter doesn't know he's there? The fighter is ignorant of the threat, not completely helpless.

    Stream: Your point about the guy poking you with a plastic knife is valid, but it doesn't count as a coup de grace. Sure, the fighter will eventually get annoyed and turn around to bash the guy, giving the rogue a free sneak attack. At best, I'd rule it a distraction, which gives the follower a +4 to hit and the rogue a +2 (since the fighter's full attention is not on the rogue).

    In the case of the invisible rogues, I'd say that the direction of the last attack, or the direction in which the target made his last attack (whichever comes last in the round) is where the target would be "facing" - any attacks from the opposite direction are therefore made from a flanking position.

  8. #18

    Greater Elemental (Lvl 23)

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    Colombus, OH
    Quote Originally Posted by Kerrick View Post
    That's called a sneak attack.
    Are you saying that everyone is a high level rogue?

    The basis of the objection is, "This isn't realistic." Of course it isn't realistic. Sneak attacks, coup de grace, and flanking are all unrealistic abstractions.

    If you are going to make the objection, "This isn't realistic", you can't appeal to which of them is less realistic as if one of them somehow captured a realistic standard and one didn't. They are all abstractions used for ease of play.

    The real question not being answered by the people who don't think this is worthy of a coup de grace is, "If you maintain that the penalty for ignoring a flanker is not really that much worse than being flanked to begin with, what's to stop this from becoming in effect, 'Everyone is immune to flanking'."

    You better believe every monster you face is now going to 'ignore' the fighter and face the rogue from here on out if you think the only penalty should be 'he's flatfooted with respect to the fighter but not flanked by anyone', because what the fighter can do with the tiny edge involved there is nothing compared to what the monster gains by not taking sneak attack damage.

    All the arguments about what is realistic - all these attempts at resolving which is more realistic based on the power of imagination - completely miss the point. Unless you want to rebuild the rules from the ground up, allowing someone to ignore the rules must carry a hefty penalty or else they'll do it all the time.

    Let's say the follower snuck up invisibly - would he get to make a coup de grace just because the fighter doesn't know he's there?
    Realisticly, yes he would. Being completely ignorant of a threat is realisticly in many if not most cases the same as being helpless. If Bruce Lee doesn't know that I'm there and can't hear me coming, all his reflexes won't help him because by the time his nerves know about the attack, he's already taken a mortal wound. That it is not that way in the game is purely to avoid frequently having 'die no save' situations, and not because it is actually realistic to assume that characters somehow defend themselves from attacks they are unaware of at the moment that they are made.

    Hense, all the appeals to realism here are pointless.

  9. #19
    Thanks, Celerium, you stated that much better than I could. My preference is to just not allow such a houserule. BUT, if you were determined to realistically portray the ability to completely ignore an opponent as a threat, then I would insist on not only accepting the good parts. You want to pay no attention to him? Cool. Every single round he's lining up a stab to your jugular.

    Which makes me want to create a little theater script, enjoy:

    Player: Ok, so no way that warrior guy can hurt me much, I want to ignore him and focus completely on the rogue so he can't sneak attack me. You told me that's acceptable, right?
    DM: Alright, if you insist. It's really not a good idea to do that...
    Player: Surely nowhere near as bad as getting sneak attacked constantly.
    DM: As you turn your back to the village guard, he takes careful aim and slits your throat with his short sword. *rolls crit damage* Fort save to avoid instant death, please.
    Player: ....What?!!!
    DM: You're letting him attack you at his leisure, what did you expect? He can do a tiger claw grab to your groin and see what souveniers he can take home, if you prefer.
    Player: No....I'd rather choose option c) none of the above...
    DM: Ooh! I know! He'll grab you, locking both his arms under your armpits, hands on your shoulders, to keep your motion nice and restricted.
    Player: If he grapples me, the Rogue can sneak attack anyway!
    DM: That is true...
    Player: No way! I fight him off! *rolls grapple check*
    DM: *rolls* Yeah, your 38 beats his...7. You easily manage to throw him off of you. *rolls* As you do so, the opportunistic Rogue attacks your weak spot for massive damage!
    Player: Wait, what? he can't sneak attack me, I'm completely focused on him!
    DM: How are you both ignoring the other guy AND throwing him off of you? The rogue's just taking advantage of your momentary lapse of guard. That's...what sneak attack IS.
    Player: This isn't what I had in mind when I suggested the houserule...
    DM: Oh, then what? You wanted some minor penalty to completely deny the rogue his primary class ability?
    Player: It's not that bad... The rogue can still try to catch me flatfooted. Granted, that's hard to do and often requires set up rounds after combat's begun, but it's not like I'm completely taking away his main ability. Besides, he's still high level, with his magic items and skills and such.
    DM: You know're absolutely right. I had my doubts, but you've convinced me it's not as bad as I thought. I've seen the light, thank you. You can feel free to ignore the other guy. He'll be invisible to you, but not like he can do much to you anyway, so whatever.
    Player: Halleluyah!
    DM: Amen! Thank you, I never looked at it like that before. Ok, you've gone. Rogue's turn. He 5 ft steps back, pulls out a scroll, and uses his skill with magic items to cast it.
    Player: Hmm, what'd he cast?
    DM: You don't have spellcraft, you wouldn't know.
    Player: Yeah, but I'm just curious. Can't you tell me? I wont metagame, I just want to know.
    DM: Ok. It's a spell called "Pen is mightier than the sword."
    Player: ...what's that?
    DM: It's a spell i just made up now, inspired by your superior reasoning.
    Player: ....
    DM: It's a 20 ft radius emanation from the caster. Within the emanation, creatures, including the caster, lose access to all of their feats.
    Player: That's not fair! I'm a Fighter! Feats are my main class feature!
    DM: But you're still high level. You've got a full BAB, and I'd hope a backup ranged weapon, not to mention all your magic gear and hit points. You're not completely gimped....
    Player: power attack! My weapon suprememacy! My attacks are almost nothing without them!
    DM: Come on now. You still have a giant sword. You can always hang back at range and take shots with your bow. You're about as well off as the Rogue is without reliable sneak attack. Fear the d4 +2 damage!
    Player: ...Screw it. I spend the first of my 4 iterative attacks to kill the stupid henchman. Full power attack. *rolls* 35 to hit, 46 damage.
    DM: He dies! Congratulations, the Rogue can no longer flank you now!

    Last edited by StreamOfTheSky; Friday, 4th September, 2009 at 11:44 PM.

  10. #20

    Novice (Lvl 1)

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    Jun 2009
    Well, grabbing someone for the rogue to sneak attack isn't a coup de grace, it's a grapple. And as said before, slitting someone's throat when that person is wearing full plate, or even a helmet, or is moving to combat someone else, is definately not an auto-success. Sure, if he's lightly armored you CAN, but since he's moving it shouldn't be an automatic success. Also, he can still distract the character via the Aid action, so the rogue gets a higher attack bonus.

    You can do a coup de grace against a person who is adjacent to you with a bow, but you don't automatically hit an inanimate objects (you get a +5 to hit bonus, and can still roll natural one). It feels weird to give the ignoring fighter less chance than the wooden door of "avoiding" the attack.

    And grappling and all those examples still work. And how are you supposed to slit someones throat if he wears plate armor AND has his back to you?

    One simple fix could be to state that when you're flat-footed, you don't get your strength modifier to opposed rolls for the same reason you don't get your dex modifier; you don't have time to brace yourself/dodge. This would, game balance-wise, make someone in full plate ignoring a 1-st level commoner VERY vulnerable to what would probably be the most effective tactic IRL; Throwing yourself at the person, or attempting to hold him still. While a first level commoner can actually be seen as a no-threat-situation to the fighter in full plate, we could use a 1st level warrior with 13 strength as an example instead, as he's much more likely to actually be in the situation (as a town guard or whatever). He has a 35% chance of tripping the fighter on the first try. And, quite frankly, I would see it as slight rule abuse of a 19-th level rogue to carry along a first level fighter as flanker. If he's evil, I might accept it once or twice, but anyone non-evil wouldn't be allowed at all to bring a baby into the mouth of a dragon.

    While you can't reach a hundred percent realism, it's pretty good to favor the kind of action that would be the best IRL, at least not since it makes it easier for players to know how to combat a certain situation.

    And about monsters: Yes, it's a bigger problem there, because you can't grapple or trip a Gargantuan dragon. However, I don't really like it either that if the rogue faces of alone vs. the dragon, summoning a fiendish hawk on the other side is enough to give the rogue five times his regular damage.

    So, my suggestion is:
    When you're flat-footed, you loose your strength bonus to opposing rolls in cases like trip, grapple etc. This is always the case, not only when ignoring flankers.

    Ignoring a flanker makes you flat-footed, and of course the ignored combatant gains the flanking bonus as well.
    The ignored combatant gets an attack of opportunity each turn against the ignoring each turn.
    Once an ignoring combatant has suffered at least 1 point of damage or another negative effect from the ignored combatant, he can't ignore him anymore due to simple survival instinct.

    So yes, if you're in a full plate armor and a commoner is threatening you with a knife, you CAN ignore him for a turn or two and focus on the real threat. A dragon CAN ignore the hawk since it probably can't even get through it's scales. However, it can still be disruptive - via the Aid action. Also, once the commoner or hawk has done some harm, you can't ignore it anymore because of the pain.


    If we look at what situations might actually come up that closely resembles this, what we have seen when actually playing and such, the closest I can think of is when our 9th level rogue faced off with a 10th level blackguard, and the rogues 7th level barbarian/fighter cohort flanked. And I can tell you, if the blackguard had ignored the cohort, he'd been on the ground in two seconds.

    On the other hand, more than once I've seen a rogue gain his sneak attack versus a huge or larger opponent due to the caster summoning a tiny animal on the other side of the demon/purple worm/whatever.

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