Coup De Grace . . . Do You?

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Simple question:

As a DM, how do you feel about the dreaded coup de grace? Do you use it? Ever? If you do, in what situations? Is a DM who never uses it being too soft? Is a DM who uses it a lot being a jerk? Is it inherently unfair to the players in an LFR context, for some reason?

Also, is there a difference between using coup de grace on a foe who is actually dropped and dying, and a foe who is merely temporarily helpless (such as the victim of a Sleep spell)? I mean, a philosophical difference, not a rules difference.


Discuss.


-Josiah
Simple question:

As a DM, how do you feel about the dreaded coup de grace? Do you use it? Ever? If you do, in what situations? Is a DM who never uses it being too soft? Is a DM who uses it a lot being a jerk? Is it inherently unfair to the players in an LFR context, for some reason?

Also, is there a difference between using coup de grace on a foe who is actually dropped and dying, and a foe who is merely temporarily helpless (such as the victim of a Sleep spell)? I mean, a philosophical difference, not a rules difference.


Discuss.


-Josiah

I have yet to use a coup de grace in 4e. I have, however, had a bugbear strangler take an unconscious PC hostage in order to escape (readying an action to coup de grace if any other PC took an action to attack him or heal the other PC). However, the party was wise enough to let him escape and he dropped the dying PC on his way out.

I think that I would only have an NPC use a coup de grace under dire circumstances, but it would certainly have to be something that the PCs bring onto themselves. I'm not that mean.
Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com
I have yet to use a coup de grace in 4e. I have, however, had a bugbear strangler take an unconscious PC hostage in order to escape (readying an action to coup de grace if any other PC took an action to attack him or heal the other PC). However, the party was wise enough to let him escape and he dropped the dying PC on his way out.

I think that I would only have an NPC use a coup de grace under dire circumstances, but it would certainly have to be something that the PCs bring onto themselves. I'm not that mean.

You know, I think I met that same annoying bugbear strangler in an LFR adventure I played the other day. He also took someone hostage and threatened to coup de grace him. That bugbear is a jerk. I am glad we killed him.

Out of curiosity, how was the readied action supposed to work off a heal? In 4e, readied actions happen AFTER the trigger action (even though you move to before them in the initiative). So, a coup de grace against a healed target would fail because the target would no longer be susceptible to a coup de grace.

-SYB
You know, I think I met that same annoying bugbear strangler in an LFR adventure I played the other day. He also took someone hostage and threatened to coup de grace him. That bugbear is a jerk. I am glad we killed him.

Out of curiosity, how was the readied action supposed to work off a heal? In 4e, readied actions happen AFTER the trigger action (even though you move to before them in the initiative). So, a coup de grace against a healed target would fail because the target would no longer be susceptible to a coup de grace.

-SYB

That IS pretty funny...Gotta make sure the party is completely out of healing before you try that.
I will Coup De Grace when using intelligent villains if they see the players do it to one of theirs. This hasn't happened yet, I doubt it will but I reserve the right to be as ruthless as the players are. Normally I go with the leave it alone if it is on the ground rule. Not always realistic, but this is a game filled with conventions for behavior that aren't all that realistic but are still accepted parts of the game.

In a home game I might use it with a Big Bad Guy type villain but I would cheat the damage to make sure it didn't finish the player off. ( Don't tell my players that last bit. ) Working up a good hate on the Big Bad Guy is part of the DM's job, makes his downfall all the more pleasant.
I will Coup De Grace when using intelligent villains if they see the players do it to one of theirs. This hasn't happened yet, I doubt it will but I reserve the right to be as ruthless as the players are. Normally I go with the leave it alone if it is on the ground rule. Not always realistic, but this is a game filled with conventions for behavior that aren't all that realistic but are still accepted parts of the game.

In a home game I might use it with a Big Bad Guy type villain but I would cheat the damage to make sure it didn't finish the player off. ( Don't tell my players that last bit. ) Working up a good hate on the Big Bad Guy is part of the DM's job, makes his downfall all the more pleasant.

Well given that unless players choose to leave an enemy knocked out when they hit 0, they are just dead, so a PC would never need to CDG an enemy unless they changed they're mind about wanting them dead or alive, and even then, a normal attack would do the same. So there's virtually no chance of villains ever seeing PC's CDG their guys.
Well given that unless players choose to leave an enemy knocked out when they hit 0, they are just dead, so a PC would never need to CDG an enemy unless they changed they're mind about wanting them dead or alive, and even then, a normal attack would do the same. So there's virtually no chance of villains ever seeing PC's CDG their guys.

There are a few opportunities, such as sleeping or unconscious enemies. You are correct of course about zero hit points, but that isn't the only way for a player to encounter a helpless enemy.
You know, I think I met that same annoying bugbear strangler in an LFR adventure I played the other day. He also took someone hostage and threatened to coup de grace him. That bugbear is a jerk. I am glad we killed him

I think I met him and got strangled repeatedly by him as well...BALD1-1, right?
I have to say, I have never specificaly used a Coup de Grace on a character, although I have hit downed characters with an AoE, because I wanted to hit other characters.

I don't subscribe to the "I'm safe on the ground" mentality, but I also don't look for a reason to hit those on the ground, unless there are no other available targets... and then it's usually only a basic attack.

Most players in our groups are experienced enough to know that it's better to be safe than sorry, so downed allies are healed as soon as possible and defenders know to force enemies away from any vulnerable allies to give the healers room to work.

However, there is one particular local DM who thinks it's fun to try to kill characters... usually because his get killed, because he was being stupid... and he wants revenge!

Not very fun... but then he needs to get his DM reward points somehow... and sometimes beggars can't be choosers when it comes to getting a game.
I figure that since the vast majority of characters that monsters encounter are NPCs, who will die at zero HP, it simply won't occur to them that a downed opponent might still be a threat. Even after the first Healing Word brings them back up, the monster will probably just figure it was a fluke occurrance. Maybe after the third time he knocks the defender down, and they get back up a round or two later to clobber him again, he might try something more permanent.
I think I met him and got strangled repeatedly by him as well...BALD1-1, right?

*shudder*

That adventure took my group nearly 7 hours. Not Joking.

BALD1-1 spoilers
Show
But my Halfling Bravura Warlord is now nicknamed "Him with brass ones bigger than himself" after the sewer fight, when, after being taken to -4 in about two rounds, He was healed, ran out of the one pool, charging the other Otuygh with Luring Focus, to bring the other Otuygh, which he had just escaped from, out of the water next to him so he was being flanked.

At level 1. (Thankfully, the Ranger had a readied action to hit that one when it left the water, and killed it.)


The last fight was a cakewalk, by comparison. (even though I went into it with no surges left. full HP, but no surges.)

After his death at the final battle of Waterdeep 1-1, he has a very simple rule for fights: Take out the controller first. Then the Gnomes. EVERYTHING else is secondary. (Took her out in about 2 rounds.)
Ahh, so THIS is where I can add a sig. Remember: Killing an ancient God inside of a pyramid IS a Special Occasion, and thus, ladies should be dipping into their Special Occasions underwear drawer.
unless the NPC writeup in a mod or tactics section says they do it I feel a GM that does it is just being a jerk. I really don't understand why so many GM's feel their job at a table is to try and kill the PC's. Challenge them, yes, beat them up with a realistic chance of failure at their objective, yes. Kill them outright when they are helpless, not really. The DM is supposed to be facilitating fun for everyone, not just setting out to slaughter the party.

This is my view at least, it has no place being used in a Living campaign really against the players. Most players are not likely to do the targets blooded value in a single hit if the target is of any importance or significance at all, so it's just a hit becomes a crit vs an unconscious foe when players use it.
Blah blah blah
While I'd almost never coup de grace myself (I'd basically require the module to say to do so), I'll note that for most modules the chance of defeating the entire party is almost zero, so the danger is more whether a single person might die. In those situations, the DM might view themselves as providing the only possible outlet of risk (perceived or otherwise) by making attacks that might kill someone, anyone.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
I would only do it in the case of a cleric with Consecrated Ground up, simply because there is no other way to keep them down.
I would only do it in the case of a cleric with Consecrated Ground up, simply because there is no other way to keep them down.

This. Very much this. Personally, I consider CTG deaths poor sportsmanship for a DM. It makes the whole game too much DM vs Players and less a collaborative experience.

But if an enemy can;t keep you down any other way, they WILL put you down. There have been a couple times when I have been running games with players that could effectively auto-heal like this. The third time the player went down, and before they could come back up, I gave them the choice between being down for the battle, or having the BBEG get annoyed with their jack-in-the-box routine and put them down for good. it was a little OOC, but I didn't really want to kill them and they didn't really want to die, so it all worked out.
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Before I start the game I mention to the players that I will not go out of the way to coup de grace a downed character, but that they should not count on it not happening. There must be other targets within range, which is especially important with free attacks or attack sequences that include multiple attacks without movement or when opponents simply cannot move due to a condition. I also would certainly not purposely avoid a downed PC with area attacks. In 4E characters rarely, if ever, drop in the first round, so by the time it becomes an issue the players are aware of what the opponents can do and whether or not care should be taken.

Note that coup de grace on unconscious opponents is not necessarily all that bad. It is just an automatic critical, and unless it deals bloodied score of damage in one go the PC will survive. I know Mike Mearls used it regularly against our group in the 18th level adventure when an opponent attack knocked us unconscious. Nobody died because of it.

In any event, I only did it twice. One time was with a consecrated ground, and my players understood completely. The other time was when the opponent was immobilized and downed the PC on the first attack of the 2 attack routine. The follow up was not a coupe de grace, but the damage itself was enough to get that PC pretty close to - bloodied. Again, my players had been warned, and they realized it was their own tactical mistake.

Pieter Sleijpen
RPGA LFR Global Administrator
I generally play the 1d6 CDG rule, what this is is If the players leave a fallen next to a villian, i will check to see how many spaces away the other players are from the fallen, i take that number and i roll a d6, If i roll less than the number of squares the closest player is from the fallen then I reserve the righ to be able to use CDG, Now my other rule of thumb is that any intelligent villian will (most likely) take one prisoner (if even just to let live to be a witness to his power) but after that one prisoner/witness all else are expendable in thier eyes. but i never do CDG if the players show a good effort in rescuing the fallen.
I'm surprised no one has brought up the idea of a subdual coup de grace yet.

PCs have the option of knocking a creature unconscious instead of killing them; there's no reason why creatures couldn't be treated as having the same option.

Just CdG a PC and, if that makes him hit negative bloodied, explain that the PC is still unconscious but now so dazed that he's unable to be revived until after a short rest. Have him keep making death saves to see if he dies, but any healing just stabilizes him at 0.

This achieves the same effect on that particular combat as a normal CdG, but without having too much of a negative impact on the players. It's unlikely that a player will argue that the DM can't do this, since winning that argument means that the PC is dead. Since most intelligent foes would find it useful to have a PC around to question, I'd consider this a reasonable action to take.

-- Brian Gibbons.
Just CdG a PC and, if that makes him hit negative bloodied, explain that the PC is still unconscious but now so dazed that he's unable to be revived until after a short rest. Have him keep making death saves to see if he dies, but any healing just stabilizes him at 0.

*Snipped*

-- Brian Gibbons.

That is a clever idea but I suspect it would have the rules lawyers howling. Another option might be to give intelligent creatures who are likely to have them manacles. Minor action to slap them on a PC and the pin the hands and feet.
Heh, then to the rules lawyers you say "okay, your character can take the CDG as normal and die. anyone else?"

I haven't as a DM CDG'd yet, but it doesn't mean I won't. Sometimes, the bad guys play for keeps. Especially given how mindlessly murderous PCs can be ("the pickpocket is down, do you KO or kill?" "I KILL!") then I can't feel much sympathy when their enemies are just as lethal.
What about the Mindless flesh eating zombies in the open grave (for example) who are required to do CDG when someone is prone next to them because it simulates them feeding on the helpless? CDG regardless is a mechanic in this game just as flanking and charging, I wouldnt hold back a charge or a flank bonus to make it easier to my players. the intent of the modules it to present a challenge, if the player play wisely they wont have to worry about a CDG but its there and it has to remain there if anything more than a threat for them to consider so they dont start disregarding it and making decisions that are unrealistic to the threats that are present in the situation. I want to present an HONEST CHALLENGE to my players not a walkthrough tour, and not a hopeless end either. so common sence and rules mechanics must be considered when determining the use of CDG, as i mentioned before "generally" ill have "intelligent" villians take one hostage everyone else is expendable so after the first one then the CDG may come out, the trick for the players is not to be in the position to be a target of a CDG and there are many ways to prevent that. The players all should understand that they make the bed (or graves) that they lie in. (i may hold back for younger players but only if i felt the age of the player didnt justify the actions of the character he played)
Simple question:

As a DM, how do you feel about the dreaded coup de grace? Do you use it? Ever?

No.

Never have, never will.
I've used it several times. I LOVE the look on player faces when I announce it--especially when they don't know beforehand it's a minion.

I have used it once or twice with "real" monsters, when the rest of the party retreated back down a hallway, leaving their party members lying helpless at the feet of ghouls and a gravehound or whatever it was.
No.

Never have, never will.

Why this adament? Except for low levels you are very unlikely to kill PCs with it, especially when unconscious due to a special attack.
Why this adament? Except for low levels you are very unlikely to kill PCs with it, especially when unconscious due to a special attack.

Mostly for the feeling. I feel like I can target anything I like at the PCs and have it be "Monsters vs. PCs", but I feel like CDG is "DM vs. Players". Can't explain it in any more reasonable/logical terms. Just a feeling.
Mostly for the feeling. I feel like I can target anything I like at the PCs and have it be "Monsters vs. PCs", but I feel like CDG is "DM vs. Players". Can't explain it in any more reasonable/logical terms. Just a feeling.

It does seem to have this stigma. So does hitting downed PCs.

My goal as a DM is to try to play off the NPCs as I would when playing a PC. Be true to their motivation, nature and situation. If a PC in that position would CDG then the NPC will do so.

The goal is to represent the bad guys.

Being DM vs. Players is bad and should be avoided, but so is contorting NPC actions for out of game reasons.

-James
It does seem to have this stigma. So does hitting downed PCs.

My goal as a DM is to try to play off the NPCs as I would when playing a PC. Be true to their motivation, nature and situation. If a PC in that position would CDG then the NPC will do so.

The goal is to represent the bad guys.

Being DM vs. Players is bad and should be avoided, but so is contorting NPC actions for out of game reasons.

-James

I don't believe that to be bad. CDG is cheap. Playing cut-throat in that the players must honestly out perform the enemy isn't.

I personally believe that unless the characters are bouncing up and down left and right, the Monsters should be focused on the standing, they are the ones whom's blades are still swinging.

Now if the entire party is TPK'ed. Then ok. The monsters will probably finish them, if they are particularly mad at this bunch, or leave them to die.

CDGing will invariably create a DM conundrum whereas the DM is ultimately choosing when the players die.
In a home game, only if the players are attacking other players (interparty conflict-I hate it!). I use it as a deterent to player v player conflict. I have only used it twice since 1978. Both times were "store games" and one ended in a TPK. Party members killed off 5 of 7 members, monsters got the other 2, last one was a Coup De Grace by me.

Never would use it in a "Living" campaign of any type.


Ian
Well given that unless players choose to leave an enemy knocked out when they hit 0, they are just dead, so a PC would never need to CDG an enemy unless they changed they're mind about wanting them dead or alive, and even then, a normal attack would do the same. So there's virtually no chance of villains ever seeing PC's CDG their guys.

We've had the chance to CDG several times through use of sleep spell as well as one time a minion was knocked unconscious by a trap. However, we did not take the chance to do the CDG though because we were more interested in taking out the ring leader, and by the time we were done with the leader they were back up. Not to mention the Pally in the group may have taken issue with the CDG.
At the Winter War Con last weekend we had a DM nearly CDG our wizard who was grappled by a monster and dropped to -2 HP. Luckily for that PC the DM confered with the Senior DM and they decided the monster was dumb enough to think he was already dead and just dropped him to the ground.
Very seldom it does make sense as a good tactic to CDG a single enemy, which is already helpless. Exceptions, for sure, but I as a DM wouldn't want to upset my players with sucha behavior. I once played a Living game with a DM who CDGes on EVERY opportunity, even with the dumbest monsters. Id never play with this guy again, in no way.
Mmm... just noted the zombie template in Open Grave that gives the monster the ability that if it is next to an unconscious character it is dazed and must perform coup de grace (something to do with eating brains)...
Mmm... just noted the zombie template in Open Grave that gives the monster the ability that if it is next to an unconscious character it is dazed and must perform coup de grace (something to do with eating brains)...

So now it is Designers versus players as well! Where will this end?

(note to self.. If DM=="Pieter" && enemy=="Any kind of Zombie" then RUN)
To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
So now it is Designers versus players as well! Where will this end?

(note to self.. If DM=="Pieter" && enemy=="Any kind of Zombie" then RUN)

You run.

I'll kill it with My sheer Power of Awesome.
Ahh, so THIS is where I can add a sig. Remember: Killing an ancient God inside of a pyramid IS a Special Occasion, and thus, ladies should be dipping into their Special Occasions underwear drawer.
So now it is Designers versus players as well! Where will this end?

Can you believe it? And, from what I hear, they have a whole manual devoted to monsters that, for the most part, want to kill your character. This unchecked aggression will not stand, man!

I thought D&D was all about the love...
Can you believe it? And, from what I hear, they have a whole manual devoted to monsters that, for the most part, want to kill your character. This unchecked aggression will not stand, man!

I thought D&D was all about the love...



In any event, people, you should really not worry too much about killing 1 PC. One PC died yesterday when I ran CORE1-4. He forgot to spend his second wind, and was caught between two monsters. To get the most benefit out of the attacks, I needed to ready when flank type of action. As a DM I was caught off-guard that the PC dropped with the first attack. The ready action was still triggered, causing the PC to actually die (I rolled a crit). The PC died. It costed the PCs 100 gp and that was it. It was somewhat irritating for the player, since his PC could not fight in the end fight (well, he could, but he did not get xp for it - did not want to send one player home 1.5 hours earlier). Hardly the same problem as in 3E. At epic the destinies actually assume PCs will die.
Looks like you did it right. A similar situations came up in my game on Saturday--the same thing happened to another player. The important thing in this case is that the readied action actually has to roll the crit because coup de grace is its own standard action--and was not the action that was readied.

That actually saved the character at our table--after we looked up the rule and the DM went back and rolled damage, the character wound up surviving.

One PC died yesterday when I ran CORE1-4. He forgot to spend his second wind, and was caught between two monsters. To get the most benefit out of the attacks, I needed to ready when flank type of action. As a DM I was caught off-guard that the PC dropped with the first attack. The ready action was still triggered, causing the PC to actually die (I rolled a crit).

The only time I have coup de graced a player is when I had shadowhounds and the entire party was down and the rogue was hiding in the forest. The shadowhounds could not percieve the rogue and proceeded to beging 'feeding' (they were hunting, after all).

The rogue tried to pop the warlock's second wind and the 'lock bled out so the rogue ran away.


In any event, people, you should really not worry too much about killing 1 PC. One PC died yesterday when I ran CORE1-4. He forgot to spend his second wind, and was caught between two monsters. To get the most benefit out of the attacks, I needed to ready when flank type of action. As a DM I was caught off-guard that the PC dropped with the first attack. The ready action was still triggered, causing the PC to actually die (I rolled a crit). The PC died. It costed the PCs 100 gp and that was it. It was somewhat irritating for the player, since his PC could not fight in the end fight (well, he could, but he did not get xp for it - did not want to send one player home 1.5 hours earlier). Hardly the same problem as in 3E. At epic the destinies actually assume PCs will die.

He dropped on the first attack and then the ready went off killing him? The readied action should have gone off first to begin with, then the action that triggered the ready would finish and then the rest of that creatures turn. And if the readied action dropped the PC there was no reason for the one who's action triggered it to continue hitting the PC, and even then a readied action doesn't actually have to occur. When the trigger comes up the action can be taken or skipped if it's not needed as well. I'm not saying that the situation wasn't fair, players die and all that, but the order of your actions seems off there.

We've had this happen, where a mob will ready for a flank from his buddy next in initiative, the buddy comes up to flank, ready goes off and if it drops the pc in question the buddy can finish his move if he has movement left, or charge another PC or just do something else. If you feel you must attack an already downed PC for whatever reason go for it, I wouldn't unless I had a really good reason to.
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The order of actions did not matter, and I am well aware of how the rules work (and I did roll the attack roll as well). Both opponents had to move and the opponent that actually had no ready action had no other target then the now unconscious and downed character. It also had no range weapon at hand. The only reason the PC even died was because the player had a blackout and completely forgot he still had second wind. Had he spend that instead of making a double move into a still threatening and threatened position he might not even have dropped and certainly not on the first attack.

The death though was just an example that I provided to show that in the end death did not had all that much of an impact beyond that of a minor irritation because the PCs could not wait 8 hours for the ritual to be performed (and hence that PC missed the last encounter) and a relatively small reduction in treasure.
Sorry but the original post wasn't very clear on the order of actions, your better described scenario makes a lot more sense. And I didn't really bother to look who I was responding to or I'd have just assumed there was more to it than what you said.. But your original post indicated the readied action went off after the hit that dropped him, that was what I was responding to, since had the readied action been the one that dropped him, there could very well have been plenty of other valid options for the NPC other than finishing him off. But as you clarified there wasn't. Anyway, I was just pointing out that a readied action alone isn't really a reason to whack a PC when there are plenty of other reasons for it to occur. For example being unconscious next to an immobile creature that has no other valid target, that is sort of like begging to be eaten =P
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