How to instakill an Ogre at level 1

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In a playtest last night, the halfling rogue came upon a sleeping Ogre in his cave.  Rolling a 17 (total 23) on his sneak meant it was impossible for the Ogre to detect him, even if it'd been awake.  And Ambursher meant he could get all the way up to the Ogre and act without breaking that sneak.

Since the Ogre was asleep, all the rogue had to do was hit once (with advantage) to kill the Ogre, which he did.

While I have no problem rewarding the party for planning carefully and executing well, it means a creature of any strength and HP total could have been killed this way, provided the player can overcome the creature's perception and AC with advantage.

Is Coupe de Grace balanced as is?  Would an automatic crit or reduction to 1/2 HP make more sense in terms of balance?  Or is a successful sneak and hit enough to justify an instakill?
That's the reason to "make guard" while others sleep. If you're helpless and a guy try to cut your aorta (or stabs your heart)... you're dead.
It's sure that in the Caves of Chaos there's a lot of perils and the ogres never sleept alone.
Coup de Grace is fine as is. The whole Ogre thing -- that's what guards are for.

If I come upon a hapless foe I want the satisfaction of a sleek assassination.

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I love the rule now. We always house ruled it anyway. There have been numerous times where a player had an npc with blade at throat, then decide to kill them. Rules by the book said nope, even though you have a dagger at their throat you only do x damage. Made no sense.

So yes if you find a sleeping creature or person a line in the dark sleeping you should be able to kill them. Set up watch or noise traps.
Yeah, chalk this one up as a win on the rogue's part. Fight smarter not harder when you can. VERY old school. There are lots of ways to defeat a monster and this is one of them. The rogue exploited the ogre's weakness and made a bloody mess.

Similarly, I would award the monster's XP value to the rogue if he had simply stealthed in and walked out with the treasure without waking the ogre. The encounter, in that case, is defeated even if the ogre is still alive and happily snoring it up when it's over.
Yeah, chalk this one up as a win on the rogue's part. Fight smarter not harder when you can. VERY old school. There are lots of ways to defeat a monster and this is one of them. The rogue exploited the ogre's weakness and made a bloody mess.

Similarly, I would award the monster's XP value to the rogue if he had simply stealthed in and walked out with the treasure without waking the ogre. The encounter, in that case, is defeated even if the ogre is still alive and happily snoring it up when it's over.



I like this, although i would award the XP to the party, not just the Rogue- and it gives the opportunity for the Ogre to wake later and find them with his treasure, or not =)
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Yeah, chalk this one up as a win on the rogue's part. Fight smarter not harder when you can. VERY old school. There are lots of ways to defeat a monster and this is one of them. The rogue exploited the ogre's weakness and made a bloody mess.

Similarly, I would award the monster's XP value to the rogue if he had simply stealthed in and walked out with the treasure without waking the ogre. The encounter, in that case, is defeated even if the ogre is still alive and happily snoring it up when it's over.



I like this, although i would award the XP to the party, not just the Rogue- and it gives the opportunity for the Ogre to wake later and find them with his treasure, or not =)



Well, yes. Assign XP as normal (split up, one player, those who participated in the scheme, whichever works for ya). And the ogre waking up later becomes a returning villain and man is he pissed! But I digress.
I would not award XP to the rogue alone unless the party was so far away that the rogue was truly, entirely on his own (as in, if the ogre woke up and attacked him, the party would not possibly be close enough to help). Otherwise, the party is entitled to the XP - they're backup in case the ogre wakes up.

And yeah, it's a moment to shine for the rogue, why would you want to take that away from him? As a DM, I'd play it up - describe the sneaking, the ogre snorting and rolling over, the gurgling - might have the ogre actually stand up and stagger around aimlessly, scare the pants off the rogue before it falls over dead.

I'm adamantly against the whole concept, the very idea, that the only 'fair' way to defeat monsters is by fighting them toe to toe. My players have been deeply ingrained with the notion that if the monsters are hitting back, the party is doing it wrong.
Kaldric, that's almost verbatim how it did go, gurgling and staggering (and him almost getting crushed), and yes the entire party got XP for the reasons you mention.  I actually love this old school style of play; I was just feeling a bit guilty about letting them do it since I've been brow-beaten by 4E power balancing for the last several years.  I'm glad to see so many people think this is the "right" way for the game.
I don't know that I think it's 'right' as such. It's just how I prefer to play, and I'd like others to know that yes - you can have fun this way, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. If the DM is strongly attached to encounters being overcome in specific ways (through several rounds of combat, for instance, but this applies to other methods as well), then the party's choices have less effect on the outcome, which is a style I'm not as fond of.
NOrmally there would be guards in a situation like this. HOwever if ran raw, what the party did was good given the situation. In this situation the thief was a classic "Assassin". 

He crept uopn his sleeping target with skill, thus taking advantage of the situation. On XP, using 4e awards I would give this to the whole party. Maintaining the idea that the party levels equally. There may be some who will go for the killing award but, we know what this can lead to. 

The fighter sweeps in and kills targets or the party levels unevenly so encounters become difficult to scale. This will depend on how easy encounters are to scale and the advancement shceme they give us.

I think it would be possible to do both but, the DM would need to champion the "Social Contract" on the final kill award.  
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I'm not sure Players would like this rule if they were on the receiving end:
E.g. a low-level invisibility spell/potion would make an assassin almost undetectable.  Even with a few PCs on guard at a camp or sleeping at an Inn, an assassin could kill even high-level players quickly.
While realistic, its not much fun for a player to get insta-killed with absolutely no roll (saving throw) allowed.
I'm not sure Players would like this rule if they were on the receiving end:
E.g. a low-level invisibility spell/potion would make an assassin almost undetectable.  Even with a few PCs on guard at a camp or sleeping at an Inn, an assassin could kill even high-level players quickly.
While realistic, its not much fun for a player to get insta-killed with absolutely no roll (saving throw) allowed.

PCs would not be killed instantly.  When you are unconscious and subject to a Coup de Grace attack, you are reduced to 0 hp if the attack hits.  If you are already at 0 or below, you are killed.

So monsters can be killed instantly if they are asleep (because they die at 0), but a hero would have 1 round to be saved by his friends.

But ultimately this falls into the camp of, "Just because you (the DM) CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD."  You can have a meteor strike the party and kill them.  And you can have a dozen invisible assassins sneak in and kill all the sleeping PCs.  But why would you?

My only questions on this one is -- does "sleeping" count as "unconscious"?  It may be subtle, but there is a difference (both in game and in reality). Coup de Grace reads, "When a foe has fallen unconscious, you have a chance to slay the helpless creature outright."

Now, playing Devil's Advocate, there is a little wiggle room for interpretation here. The dictionary definition of unconscoius reads, "without awareness, sensation, or cognition." This is not true of a sleeping person. Their awareness is lessened, but they can still be awakened and have sensations in form of hearing, taste, smell, and touch. An unconscious person, on the other hand, can't be awakened with a simple shake or loud noise. 

Now, I understand that a sleeping person is very susceptible to having a cut throat. But D&D has never been a simulationist game. What if, upon feeling the knife agaist the throat, the creature flinches enough to deflect the attack from a killing blow to a just an extremely damaging blow (i.e. - the PC goes to cut the throat, but the knife catches on the collar bone instead... a terrible and painful injury, but not instant death). Since hit points also represent "luck, agility to avoid harm and divine favor", it's quite possible that an attack on a sleeping opponent would not necessarily kill immediately due to any number of minor circumstances.

I'm not advocating one play style over the other, but it's worth bringing up for discussion. I'd consider an automatic critical a much better result for this situation. After, even if you thrust your sword into a sleeping dragon's eye, that doesn't mean you successfully penetrate the brain. Circumstances could alter the outcome, such as the creature rolling over in its sleep, or otherwise moving just as a PC strikes. 

An idea I had to change Coup de Grace for sleeping (not unconscious) opponents:

1) PC has advantage on the attack.
2) A normal hit is elevated to a critical hit (max damage).
3) A critical hit results in the creature being reduced to 0 hit points (or less if the critical damage is more than the remaining HP).

This still creates the opportunity for high lethality for those old schoolers who want the extra danger, but does not mean that sleeping is equivalent to unconsciousness. Alternatively, option 3 could even allow a reduction down to 1 hit point, allowing the defending creature a last ditch effort at survival.


An idea I had to change Coup de Grace for sleeping (not unconscious) opponents:

1) PC had advantage on the attack.
2) A normal hit is elevated to a critical hit.
3) A critical hit results in the creature being reduced to 0 hit points (or less if the critical damage is more).

Thanks for this one, a very nice option/mod.
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For a long time, I have had this creeping feeling that the DM was there to recite descriptive passages to players and move monsters around on the grid. And yes, that is only a misperception on my part, but seeing these sorts of discussions pop up with increasing frequency makes me feel like the DM is back! It's like spending a decade working a job only to be replaced by a computer. And then someone decides they want the living employee back, but learning from some of the computer's innovations at the same time.

So. @Banesfinger
Ambusing the PCs with assassins is cool if it's part of the story and used very sparingly. It should be tense and dangerous, but don't murder the PCs. That's just mean. But if the players do it to a particularly unpleasant monster? That's cool. The players feel rewarded for smart play. You can feel safer including tougher monsters in your adventures than would normally be acceptable (within reason) knowing that your players will approach these situations with an eye for their own survival rather than rush into the fight like SUPERHEROES expecting you, as DM, to bail them out if they get in too deep.

I personally dislike the distilled feel of more recent adventures where everything falls into a certain power level window and you can't deviate much from that due to the threat of the TPK.

My third level party wanders around the dungeon and sees a dragon nesting somewhere in there? There should be a soiling of armor and a hasty retreat while they consider whether or not they can actually get away with something (such as an ambush, trickery, or a stealth run on the treasure hoard). It adds a deeper uncertainty back to gameplay.
I agree wholeheartedly - yay for the Rogue.  I do though think that certain types of monsters could not be coup de grace.  But they are the exception and not the rule.  Creatures without a vulnerable spot should not be killable this way.   Think ooze or slime.  Think fire elemental.  etc...
I agree wholeheartedly - yay for the Rogue.  I do though think that certain types of monsters could not be coup de grace.  But they are the exception and not the rule.  Creatures without a vulnerable spot should not be killable this way.   Think ooze or slime.  Think fire elemental.  etc...



OR even a sleeping creature who has "tremor sense".
MY DM COMMITMENT To insure that those who participate in any game that I adjudicate are having fun, staying engaged, maintaining focus, contributing to the story and becoming legendary. "The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gary Gygax Thanks for that Gary, so now stop playing RAW games. Member of the Progressive Front of Grognardia Suicide Squad
Awesome for the rogue!  I'm all for the brutal coup-de-grace, but I would probably have given the Ogre a tiny chance to detect the rogue, a natural "20" on his perception check.

 

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I agree wholeheartedly - yay for the Rogue.  I do though think that certain types of monsters could not be coup de grace.  But they are the exception and not the rule.  Creatures without a vulnerable spot should not be killable this way.   Think ooze or slime.  Think fire elemental.  etc...



OR even a sleeping creature who has "tremor sense".



Hmm. It appears unconscious does not confer a penalty to perception checks. Seems like most checks should be at disadvantage in this situation. Might be good input to add to this.

Tremorsense is still a sense. If a creature that is unconscious might not be using its sense to its full effect (I think this would differ by creature, honestly) then there should be some penalty. Disadvantage would give that nicely and fit the theme of the system.
I agree wholeheartedly - yay for the Rogue.  I do though think that certain types of monsters could not be coup de grace.  But they are the exception and not the rule.  Creatures without a vulnerable spot should not be killable this way.   Think ooze or slime.  Think fire elemental.  etc...



Oozes and slimes can have a nucleous that is susceptible to crits, fire elementals still have organs, though they are made of fire, interupting the flow of magma through the system could be just as deadly to a fire elemental as to a pierced organ to a humanoid, golems have moving parts, etc...etc...
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I think context is important for coup de grace. Your player didn't "defeat" or "beat" the ogre in the normal sense. He assassinated or murdered the ogre in its sleep by slitting its throat. Now, I'm not sure what else one does with an ogre, but I think the context makes it more clear that it isn't overpowered. What was more silly was the 3e version where having someone helpless and slitting their throat was just a scratch to start the battle.
Although I'm not a fan of save-or-die effects in general (I'd rather see them be limited somewhat to only work on bloodied opponents or require two or three failed saves to work, etc), I'm ok with Coup De Grace being autokill since it requires the opponent to be already unconcious to perform it. In the case of the ogre above it's more of an issue of adventure design where the adventure is designed around the idea that the ogre is asleep unguarded in his cave. I'm sure that ogres sleep like everyone else but from the perspective of being a challenging encounter it's probably a bit easy for the rogue to pull off sneaking in and ramming his dagger through the ogre's throat.

In fact the module as a whole isn't my favorite module. But hey, it's not so bad I can't make do with it.
I agree wholeheartedly - yay for the Rogue.  I do though think that certain types of monsters could not be coup de grace.  But they are the exception and not the rule.  Creatures without a vulnerable spot should not be killable this way.   Think ooze or slime.  Think fire elemental.  etc...



OR even a sleeping creature who has "tremor sense".



Hmm. It appears unconscious does not confer a penalty to perception checks. Seems like most checks should be at disadvantage in this situation. Might be good input to add to this.

Tremorsense is still a sense. If a creature that is unconscious might not be using its sense to its full effect (I think this would differ by creature, honestly) then there should be some penalty. Disadvantage would give that nicely and fit the theme of the system.


From the definition of the unconscious condition (How to Play file, page 15):
"•    The creature cannot move, take actions, or
perceive its surroundings."

But even if the DM decides that you can use Coup de Grace on a sleeping creature, it still is nothing more than a plot device.  You only find a sleeping creature if the DM lets you.  So essentially the DM is saying, "Here is a sleeping creature.  You could either wake it up or just have the rogue sneak up and kill it."


From the definition of the unconscious condition (How to Play file, page 15):
"•    The creature cannot move, take actions, or
perceive its surroundings."

But even if the DM decides that you can use Coup de Grace on a sleeping creature, it still is nothing more than a plot device.  You only find a sleeping creature if the DM lets you.  So essentially the DM is saying, "Here is a sleeping creature.  You could either wake it up or just have the rogue sneak up and kill it."



I agree with this take.  The players bothered to take the time to do the research and figure out when the ogre would be asleep.  In my idea of the game, encounters and experience should not purely revolve around traditional combat and so I was happy to reward them with this success.

Regarding the definition of sleep, I referenced the Sleep spell which causes creatures which fail their save to fall unconscious (but be woken by violent shaking or damage).  While that's magical sleep, I felt it was a close enough analog to justify normal sleep resulting in the unconscious condition.


Regarding the definition of sleep, I referenced the Sleep spell which causes creatures which fail their save to fall unconscious (but be woken by violent shaking or damage).  While that's magical sleep, I felt it was a close enough analog to justify normal sleep resulting in the unconscious condition.



I disagree with the interpretation given that magical sleep is much more hindering effect than just someone napping... but I can respect the judgement call. I'll probably end up using my advantage-crit variant at my table.


My party's rogue did the same thing, but I ruled that if the attack missed, the ogre is now awake and no longer helpless.  Fortunately the rogue succeeded.  It was my wife's first instakill and she was thrilled.

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

I'm not sure Players would like this rule if they were on the receiving end:
E.g. a low-level invisibility spell/potion would make an assassin almost undetectable.  Even with a few PCs on guard at a camp or sleeping at an Inn, an assassin could kill even high-level players quickly.
While realistic, its not much fun for a player to get insta-killed with absolutely no roll (saving throw) allowed.



The DM can kill the characters at any time, and he doesn't need a coup-de-grace to do it.  Massively lethal traps, polymorphed dragons, invisible wizards with fireballs that are far above party level, or just put some poison in the beer at the bar.  You have to trust the DM to do things that are good for the story, not restrain the DM with rules to try to always make it a "fair fight".

Second, the fact that the Ogre was alone and asleep means the DM was ok with a stealth kill.  He is setting it up.  A DM who doesn't want the players to have a chance at this would have the Ogre be awake when they got there, or have some goblin slaves on guard, or have the floor covered with traps that make noise, etc.  This opportunity doesn't ever have to come up if the DM doesn't think it fits the story,