outrage! rules on suffocating or drowning a monster?

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In DMG1, there are rules for suffocating a PC.  Do the same rules apply to a monster?  If so, those are some awfully generous rules!

The situation:  a monster was trussed up with rope, immobilized and restrained.  Further, cloth was stuffed in his mouth so he was gagged as well.  What's more, said monster was UNCONSCIOUS --under the effect of a sleep spell.

A player said "I hold his nose" in an attempt to suffocate him to death.

DM ruled that the monster was entitled to the same "consitutional rights" as a PC.  In other words, he has three minutes, then he must fail a save, etc.

But 3 minutes is like 30 rounds!  That's ridiculous!

Additionally, those rules for PCs assume the characters are able to draw in a deep breath first, which isn't the case if you're unconscious.

Does anybody have a house rule on this, or some guidance? 
I would rule for the PC to take a standard action every turn to sustain the suffocation.

The monster would have to role a saving throw to wake up (from the sleep spell) as well as a save against suffocating. If it fails the suffocation saving throw, I'd have it take damage equal to 1/4 (ie the healing surge value).
The rules also say that the monster must make an extra save if it takes damage, if I'm not mistaken. Also, suffocation is not exactly an easy way to kill someone. It's easier to stab them in the face.

Last, choke-holds are far more effective then holding the nose because they disrupt the flow of blood to the brain instead of waiting for the opponent to run out of breath. That's why you sometimes see martial artists pin someone and them going out in seconds.

So I'm kinda with the DM. People have a lot of oxygen in their blood and can go on quite a while without breathing (although much shorter during combat; I believe it's only one and a half minute before saves)
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The 3-minute rule is explicitly out-of-combat / out-of-(otherwise)-danger.  If you're capable of taking damage, things get much worse, very quickly.

If nothing else, a simple punch to the gut (improvised basic attack, still likely to hit a helpless foe) will force Endurance checks.  Most monsters have neither Endurance training nor Healing Surges, so they will die much, much faster using this method.

A reasonable DM would rule that a player actively attempting to drown an unconscious monster would make it subject to the same rules as if it was taking actual damage, I think.  By RAW, the best method to attempt to drown it is just to hit it.
Personally I am more curious on why the characters went for such an alternative tactic, or why it really mattered all that much whether it took 3.5 minutes or 6 seconds. Mind you, as a DM I would likely not stick to the RAW in a situation like this and either give a quick auto-kill if outside of combat or treat it as a coupe-de-grace each round with the characters best at-will melee attack power refluffed as stranglation. Of course, I would also roll my eyes at the players for using such an odd method of dispossing of an opponent ;)
Actually, not such a corny ending given the circumstances.

The trussee, a high-level wizard, had been put to sleep, tied up, and gagged.

But the battle with his minions had only just begun and was raging all around.

One character figured that this would be the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp as he had a ton of hp, and if you had to damage him with round by round a coup de grace, it could still take a long time, during which he might get free.

Hence it was theorized that the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp was suffocation.
Guess it turned out their theorizing was wrong, then.
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A faster way might have been taking advantage of the Coup de Grace rules.  The wizard would count as helpless, so all attacks against him would be critical hits.  No matter how many hit points he has, that will take care of him pretty fast.


Hence it was theorized that the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp was suffocation.



Myth busted.
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Here's what's in the compendium:


Starvation, Thirst and Suffocation

When deprived of food, water, or air, the rule of three applies. An adventurer can handle three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air outside of strenuous situations.

After that, such deprivation is a significant test of a PCs’ stamina. At the end of the time period (three weeks, three days, or three minutes), the character must succeed on a DC 20 Endurance check.

Success buys the character another day (if hungry or thirsty), or round (if unable to breathe). Then the check is repeated at DC 25, then at DC 30, and so on. When a character fails the check, he loses one healing surge and must continue to make checks. A character without healing surges who fails a check takes damage equal to his level.

In strenuous situations, such as combat, going without air is much harder. A character holding his breath during underwater combat, for example, must make a DC 20 Endurance check at the end of his turn in a round where he takes damage.

As with environmental dangers, a character cannot regain healing surges lost to starvation, thirst, or suffocation until he eats a meal, drinks, or gains access to air again, respectively.

A character with 0 or fewer hit points who continues to suffer from one of these effects keeps taking damage as described above until he dies or is rescued.


Published in Dungeon Master's Guide, page(s) 159.




I've bolded the relevant paragraph for the situation.  This is for creatures voluntarily holding their breath.  Here's what I would rule:  forcing a creature to suffocate would bring in the coup de gras rules and the damage done would be the same as an unarmed attack with no strength bonus (i.e 4 hit points of damage).  At that point the Endurance checks would start.  I would also rule that the creature would get a saving throw vs the sleep condition immediately.

If the creature is high enough level that their Endurance skill is +19 or better, it is really difficult suffocate because they cannot fail the check (at least in the first round), but they still would take damage (from the coup de gras attack).  The following rounds the DC goes up by 5, etc.  Until the creature fails the Endurance check, the creature won't take suffocation damage.  So the creature is taking maximum damage from an unarmed attack (4 hp) every round and when the creature fails the Endurance check, it takes damage equal to its level.

There are better ways to kill a helpless creature than by suffocation.

You have the free will to agree or disagree.
You have the ability to act freely on the above choice regardless of the consequences.

This is where common sense needs to be brought into play.  If he is helpless then simply slit his throat and he is dead.

 Any Edition

Hence it was theorized that the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp was suffocation.


Well then someone theorized wrong. Suffocation takes a long time. It is not the quick-fix movies make it out to be.
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Advice for DMs: Always dangle a lot of plot hooks in front of you players. Anything they do not bite you can bring back and bite them later. When considering a new house rule ask yourself the question "Will this make the game more fun?" Unless the answer is a resounding yes don't do it. Advice for Players: Always tell the DM not just what you want to do but also what you are hoping to accomplish. No matter how logical the result is it will never happen if it simply never occurred to the DM. "That's what my character would do" is not a valid excuse for being a disruptive ass at the table. Your right to have fun only extends to the point where it impedes the ability of others to do likewise.
In reality suffocating people isn't all that easy. A living body is going to try to survive, which means when deprived of a source of oxygen the body directs blood supply to the parts that are most important (brain, heart, lungs basically). As long as the brain stem manages to keep going and sending 'breathe' signals a person/creature/animal is going to start breathing again on its own as soon as it is possible. This could go on for 3 minutes or much longer depending on the situation. So I would think the actual rules are for once reasonably accurate.

The players just miscalculated. Stabbing someone kills them faster than suffocating them does. Ah well. In any case it is sort of an odd situation. I'd have just given someone a heal check to realize it was a slow way to kill.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
This is where common sense needs to be brought into play.  If he is helpless then simply slit his throat and he is dead.



I bet all the level 1 and higher Wizards with the Sleep spell would love that little rules change.
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Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

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Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
This is where common sense needs to be brought into play.  If he is helpless then simply slit his throat and he is dead.



See: Coup De Grace.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
In reality suffocating people isn't all that easy. A living body is going to try to survive, which means when deprived of a source of oxygen the body directs blood supply to the parts that are most important (brain, heart, lungs basically). As long as the brain stem manages to keep going and sending 'breathe' signals a person/creature/animal is going to start breathing again on its own as soon as it is possible. This could go on for 3 minutes or much longer depending on the situation. So I would think the actual rules are for once reasonably accurate.

The players just miscalculated. Stabbing someone kills them faster than suffocating them does. Ah well. In any case it is sort of an odd situation. I'd have just given someone a heal check to realize it was a slow way to kill.



Actually it is.  Yes your body does respond just like you said, but if a person is deprived of oxygen they will succumb to unconsciousness and then death very quickly.  Now the brain can go 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen before damage sets in but once that person is unconscious from lack of oxygen you can't just shake them and they wake up.

 The human body needs oxygen to sustain itself. The decrease of oxygen to at least one body part is known as hypoxia. The total lack of oxygen is known as anoxia. Brain cells are destroyed after 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen. When the flow of oxygen to the brain is completely cut off, a person will lose consciousness within 10 seconds. Extended hypoxia leads to brain damage and ultimately death.

The wizard would have been toast in pretty much two rounds realistically.  This is one of those moments where 4th editions rules keep you from essentially "one shot" an enemy.

Remember David Carradine and Michael Hutchence.  




One character figured that this would be the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp as he had a ton of hp, and if you had to damage him with round by round a coup de grace, it could still take a long time, during which he might get free.

Hence it was theorized that the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp was suffocation.

Uh.  A properly applied choke takes 6-10 seconds to reach unconsciousness.  Killing someone takes far longer.  As described, this was closer to putting a pillow over someone's face, which ought to take a long time.

Also, I'm going to echo others and wonder why, exactly, the idea of a coup de grace rules was set aside.  It's auto-critical damage, at minimum, and if you deal enough damage with one attack the target dies outright.  (This is where someone busts out a 3[W] power with a greataxe.) Either he was more vulnerable to coup de grace than you thought, or he's so far above your level that you shouldn't have been facing him in combat.

EDIT: Responding to Xun.

Actually it is.  Yes your body does respond just like you said, but if a person is deprived of oxygen they will succumb to unconsciousness and then death very quickly.  Now the brain can go 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen before damage sets in but once that person is unconscious from lack of oxygen you can't just shake them and they wake up.

 The human body needs oxygen to sustain itself. The decrease of oxygen to at least one body part is known as hypoxia. The total lack of oxygen is known as anoxia. Brain cells are destroyed after 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen. When the flow of oxygen to the brain is completely cut off, a person will lose consciousness within 10 seconds. Extended hypoxia leads to brain damage and ultimately death.

The wizard would have been toast in pretty much two rounds realistically.  This is one of those moments where 4th editions rules keep you from essentially "one shot" an enemy.

I'm amazed that you even went out and found actual facts, and then drew exactly the opposite of the conclusion they indicate.  As I mentioned above, cutting off blood flow to the brain does indeed result in unconsciousness very quickly.  However, recovery time can actually be pretty fast, depending on the target/patient: I've seen someone be choked out and then get back up (somewhat dazed, to be sure) in about ten seconds.

Actually killing someone by suffocation takes much, much longer--four to six minutes, even according to whatever source you used.  Three minutes, as the rules require, is actually shorter than the required time for brain death according to your own quote.

Remember David Carradine and Michael Hutchence.

Those situations differed from this one in some... important ways, and they most certainly didn't happen in ten seconds.


One character figured that this would be the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp as he had a ton of hp, and if you had to damage him with round by round a coup de grace, it could still take a long time, during which he might get free.

Hence it was theorized that the fastest way of reducing him to 0 hp was suffocation.

Uh.  A properly applied choke takes 6-10 seconds to reach unconsciousness.  Killing someone takes far longer.  As described, this was closer to putting a pillow over someone's face, which ought to take a long time.

Also, I'm going to echo others and wonder why, exactly, the idea of a coup de grace rules was set aside.  It's auto-critical damage, at minimum, and if you deal enough damage with one attack the target dies outright.  (This is where someone busts out a 3[W] power with a greataxe.) Either he was more vulnerable to coup de grace, or he's so far above your level that you shouldn't have been facing him in combat.

EDIT: Responding to Xun.

Actually it is.  Yes your body does respond just like you said, but if a person is deprived of oxygen they will succumb to unconsciousness and then death very quickly.  Now the brain can go 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen before damage sets in but once that person is unconscious from lack of oxygen you can't just shake them and they wake up.

 The human body needs oxygen to sustain itself. The decrease of oxygen to at least one body part is known as hypoxia. The total lack of oxygen is known as anoxia. Brain cells are destroyed after 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen. When the flow of oxygen to the brain is completely cut off, a person will lose consciousness within 10 seconds. Extended hypoxia leads to brain damage and ultimately death.

The wizard would have been toast in pretty much two rounds realistically.  This is one of those moments where 4th editions rules keep you from essentially "one shot" an enemy.

I'm amazed that you even went out and found actual facts, and then drew exactly the opposite of the conclusion they indicate.  As I mentioned above, cutting off blood flow to the brain does indeed result in unconsciousness very quickly.  However, recovery time can actually be pretty fast, depending on the target/patient: I've seen someone be choked out and then get back up (somewhat dazed, to be sure) in about ten seconds.

Actually killing someone by suffocation takes much, much longer--four to six minutes, even according to whatever source you used.  Three minutes, as the rules require, is actually shorter than the required time for brain death according to your own quote.

Remember David Carradine and Michael Hutchence.

Those situations differed from this one in some... important ways, and they most certainly didn't happen in ten seconds.




Their brain may take that long to die but nobody just springs back up from being choked for a while.  Recovery time is not as easy as you think.  Squeezing someone's neck to knock them out for fun is a whole different ballgame.

When someone doesn't have oxygen , say a small child from choking, and they have gone unconscious it usually takes CPR to bring them around.

PC's don't run around with the knowledge of CPR.  If the Wizard is gagged and hit nose held he will succumb a lot faster, and with your friend he was allowed to breathe, that's why he was able to come back as quickly as you say.  Keeping the wizard from oxygen is a lot more serious.

In reality suffocating people isn't all that easy. A living body is going to try to survive, which means when deprived of a source of oxygen the body directs blood supply to the parts that are most important (brain, heart, lungs basically). As long as the brain stem manages to keep going and sending 'breathe' signals a person/creature/animal is going to start breathing again on its own as soon as it is possible. This could go on for 3 minutes or much longer depending on the situation. So I would think the actual rules are for once reasonably accurate.

The players just miscalculated. Stabbing someone kills them faster than suffocating them does. Ah well. In any case it is sort of an odd situation. I'd have just given someone a heal check to realize it was a slow way to kill.



Actually it is.  Yes your body does respond just like you said, but if a person is deprived of oxygen they will succumb to unconsciousness and then death very quickly.  Now the brain can go 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen before damage sets in but once that person is unconscious from lack of oxygen you can't just shake them and they wake up.

 The human body needs oxygen to sustain itself. The decrease of oxygen to at least one body part is known as hypoxia. The total lack of oxygen is known as anoxia. Brain cells are destroyed after 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen. When the flow of oxygen to the brain is completely cut off, a person will lose consciousness within 10 seconds. Extended hypoxia leads to brain damage and ultimately death.

The wizard would have been toast in pretty much two rounds realistically.  This is one of those moments where 4th editions rules keep you from essentially "one shot" an enemy.

Remember David Carradine and Michael Hutchence.  







Yeah, I don't know where you get your misinformation. Having had a fairly extensive course in emergency first aid etc, I could easily qualify as an EMT with minimal extra training, I can tell you that an unconscious person with a blocked airway, the situation described by the OP, is very unlikely to kill someone in 30 seconds, or even 2 minutes. Once you go beyond the 2 minute mark you're starting to get into dangerous territory, but it is quite likely that an otherwise healthy person not suffering from trauma of some kind will spontaneously begin breathing again, probably even after 3-5 minutes. This is not certain by any means, but it is pretty likely and the person certainly is not DEAD at that point. Now, D&D rules are a bit abstract in this case, which is no surprise, but they aren't exactly radically unrealistic. The first couple minutes probably won't injure the victim in a serious way. After that another couple minutes and they'll be in serious trouble (IE making death saves). At 3 minutes calling them dead seems fairly reasonable. Note that applying a 'sleeper' hold is a whole other thing and is MUCH more dangerous. The entire blood flow between brain and body is disrupted in that case and death is likely to happen sooner, or at least serious brain damage which would necessitate active CPR or other measures, but that is NOT suffocation/asphixiation.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Keep in mind that the victim was not your run-of-the-mill person -- he was a "high-level wizard" with a lot of hit points (i.e., plot armor).  He's a lot hardier than your local cobbler.
Keep in mind that the victim was not your run-of-the-mill person -- he was a "high-level wizard" with a lot of hit points (i.e., plot armor).  He's a lot hardier than your local cobbler.

Good point. Now don't you wish this forum had XP? Hmmm, actually it should have negative XP, and a filter... ;)
That is not dead which may eternal lie
This was Paldemar . . . it was the final battle of "Thunderspire Labyrinth."
Keep in mind that the victim was not your run-of-the-mill person -- he was a "high-level wizard" with a lot of hit points (i.e., plot armor).  He's a lot hardier than your local cobbler.

Distinguishing a choke (like a sleeper hold) from lack of breath is important. Chokes that knock people out rapidly cut off blood supply directly to the brain. In contrast, choking on food the brain can still get some residual oxygen and it takes longer to go unconscious.

Either way, it doesn't kill immediately, but it does affect a knockout and you can run into trouble with both scenarios (it can rapidly become lethal). 
Suffocating a helpless enemy to death is just plain creepy and pretending to suffocate a helpless enemy to death might even be more creepy in a way.

Don't encourage creepy roleplay.

A coup de grace would have been less disturbing, faster and easier to referee since it's in the rules.  Plus, if I were in this situation and used a coup de grace, I wouldn't feel somehow dirty afterwards.

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This was Paldemar . . . it was the final battle of "Thunderspire Labyrinth."



Were the characters at level 6?  Or at least level 5?

I know what my players would do: Barbarian would rage so he could rage strike the guy for 4d12 maxed out at 48 plus 5 (execution axe plus Str Mod using his 5th level power as the rage strike), +1d12 (high crit property) + 1 or 2d8 (common crit dice on a magic item) +1 or 2 (from said magic item).  It's 53 damage + a possible 3-30 damage (high end is if he has a level 6+ weapon and hits max on each dice, low end with a level 5 or lower weapon and only rolls a 1 on each dice).

However even at max damage with rage strike he'd need another 6 points of damage (83 highest possible damage at current) to outright slay him via coup de grace.  Then again, I seem to remember Headsman's Chop does 5 extra points of damage if the target is prone, so that makes it all of 1 damage difference.  However, he would also trigger his rampage feature (crit hitting with a barbarian power), thus also giving him a coup de grace attack (i.e. auto crit) on the melee basic attack granted from rampage.  The lowest damage he would deal in a round would be 56 with rage strike plus 20 from the free MBA (assuming that all the crit damage dice only rolled 1s, on both the rage strike and the MBA).  The highest, including headsman's chop would be 88 for the rage strike plus 43 from the MBA (assuming this time that the target remains helpless for both attacks, is prone, and that he rolls max for all crit dice involved).  At the least, he would be dealing 76 damage in one round, nearly the target's bloodied damage.  At absolute max, he would deal 131 damage, just 47 points shy of outright killing the guy in one round.  given, he'd have to rage for a round prior, but that would give him a chance, again, provided the target was going to be down for both rounds and constantly open to coup de grace, to being hit with the rage power prior (at least 48 damage) and again a rampage strike (MBA, at least 20).  Two rounds, one barbarian, and at least damage, he'd still bring the guy to 34 hp.  At highest or even average damage, that wizard has two turns if he's unlucky enough to be helpless for two rounds.

My point being that suffocation is a way longer route than just outright dogpiling the guy, or hell, just letting a striker or two deal with him.
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Having actually witnessed someone die from suffocation/asphixiation, I can tell you that even in the best of circumstances where the doctors are pulling the plug and trying to make it as quick and painless as possible, it still takes about 4 to 6 minutes. Defintiely not 10 seconds. Anyone who would have you believe otherwise is wrong. Those were the most traumatic 5 minutes of my life.

 

 

not to be insensitive to your traumatic experience, but please don't necro 3 year old threads...

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