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Actually, this is a more general form of the question. Can something that cannot be tripped still be knocked prone from an effect which causes it?

So, in the Gelatinous Cube Stat block, we have:

CMD 9 (can't be tripped)

Now, there are tons of abilities which can knock a creature prone without the Trip Maneuver. For example, here's one of them:

Knockdown (Ex): Once per rage, the barbarian can make a trip attack against one target in place of a melee attack. If successful, the target takes damage equal to the barbarian's Strength modifier and is knocked prone. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

Emphasis mine.

So it doesn't seem to make sense that a Gelatinous cube can be knocked prone, because it's an ooze and doesn't seem to care about those kinds of things. However, for some other creatures that can't be tripped it would make sense that they could still be knocked on their butts.

Is there any specific rule that states (can't be tripped) == immune to being knocked prone? If not, is there something that prevents being knocked prone?

Edit

To clarify, I'm only using that power as an example, does this also apply to things that don't say "Make a trip attack" such as the Alchemist's Force Bomb?

Force bomb*: When the alchemist creates a bomb, he can choose to have it inflict force damage. Force bombs deal 1d4 points of force damage, plus 1d4 points of force damage for every odd-numbered level, instead of 1d6. Creatures that take a direct hit from a force bomb are knocked prone unless they succeed on a Reflex save. An alchemist must be at least 8th level before selecting this discovery.

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I agree with @okeefe. It seems, to me, that the knocked prone condition applied by the ability is simply a reminder for what a trip attack does, and it is there because - differently from a normal trip attack - Knockdown also causes damage. –  Erik Burigo Dec 4 '11 at 2:26
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The rage power that you quoted includes the phrase "make a trip attack", so it stands to reason that something immune to trip can't be affected by that power. –  RMorrisey Dec 4 '11 at 4:44
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3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The effect of a trip is to be knocked prone. Oozes can't be tripped. Given the definition of prone, a gelatinous cube can't be prone as that is its default state.

Trip

Some creatures—such as oozes, creatures without legs, and flying creatures—cannot be tripped.

Prone

The character is lying on the ground.

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3  
It's a gelatinous cube. Technically, it's always lying down. –  Jonathan Drain Dec 4 '11 at 9:37
    
I tend to agree with this interpretation, but my players (Especially the Alchemist with the force bomb) argue that "Trip" and "Knocked Prone" are different things. –  Cthos Dec 4 '11 at 19:54
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That's because they're cheese-weaseling. Your job as GM to tell them to quit it. –  mxyzplk Dec 4 '11 at 19:57
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@Cthos, ask your players to describe what a prone gelatinous cube looks like and why and how it gets disadvantaged when “prone”. If they can describe it in a way that makes sense, then you may assume that they earned the game-mechanical benefits. –  edgerunner Dec 4 '11 at 23:09
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I've decided to go with treating them as the same, since the effect is described as "lying on the ground". Making a snake "prone" doesn't make much sense, nor does making the cube prone. The primary argument is that "prone is a condition, and trip is a maneuver, and things that don't trip can apply the condition". However, I have ruled this as "cheese-weaseling" as mxyzplk so elegently put it. –  Cthos Dec 5 '11 at 15:31
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I'd take the unorthodox approach and say that the Knockdown effect translates to something like splattering the gelatinous cube. It would lose its cubical form, therefore its effectiveness temporarily, until it reshapes, the GC equivalent of standing back up.

Same mechanism, different story. Less rules, more fun.

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Much like most rules questions I see there being two primary ways of approaching this question depending on how you or your group play.

The Rules Lawyer Approach

Whatever the intent of the developers, the language of Prone and Tripped are different, thus making them two different entities. From this viewpoint one could say that being tripped is a way to be knocked prone, but is not necessarily the only way. This also has the additional problem of requiring judgments on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of the barbarian I would probably argue something more in the middle. Let's take a look at your quoted text again:

Knockdown (Ex): Once per rage, the barbarian can make a trip attack against one target in place of a melee attack. If successful, the target takes damage equal to the barbarian's Strength modifier and is knocked prone. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

So in this case, both the damage and being knocked prone seems to be an effect of being tripped. Since an Ooze cannot be tripped, then one cannot make a successful trip attack against it.

The Force Bomb, however, never makes such distinctions. It simply does damage and knocks them prone. By treating the condition "Prone" separately from the action "Tripping" this ability would knock the Cube prone.

Play Quick and Apply Logic

To me it makes no sense that a Gelatinous Cube could ever be made prone. Either they are permanently prone, in which case the creature stats should already account for it, or they cannot become prone. In this case I would let the effects play themselves out accordingly. As such:

  1. Much as above, the Barbarian couldn't use Knockdown since the Cube cannot be tripped. An attempt to use this ability would simply fail.
  2. The Alchemist can use Force Bomb, however it would only deal Force damage. The additional benefit of knocking a creature prone would simply fail.
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FWIW, I also think Force Bomb is broken already, since it does damage that nothing can mitigate in the least, and knocks you prone... –  Cthos Dec 6 '11 at 22:35
    
@Cthos I'd disagree with Force Bomb being broken. It's a touch attack, so your touch AC is your save. It deals the same damage as a Magic Missile until at least level 11. The splash damage grants a save and deals an irrelevant amount of damage anyhow. Even if you're hit, you get a save to avoid being knocked prone. If this were a spell, it would be 2nd level tops, and you can't get it until 8th level. –  Bacon Bits Feb 9 '13 at 0:18
    
@BaconBits - Except your Int modifies the damage, which with a well-optimized Alchemist is hardly irrelevant. –  Cthos Feb 9 '13 at 5:09
    
@BaconBits Also there's no cap on the number of d4s of damage it can do, and if you've got an Alchemist who is using cognitogens (for more damage) and the fast bombs mod, he can throw as many bombs as his BaB allows, while hitting touch AC. Way better than magic missile. –  Cthos Feb 9 '13 at 5:14
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