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I'm kind of confused as to the usage of coup de grace. Is the usage of a coup de grace basically limited to when a power, such as the wizard's sleep spell or a non-lethal hit (the player declares the creature was knocked unconscious)has rendered the target helpless?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Lots of situations for a coup de grace in D&D...

  1. A spell or power has rendered the target unconscious.
  2. The target is out of hit points but isn't (sufficiently) negative and so isn't dead. Yet.
  3. the target is held tightly bound by chains, ropes, strangle vines, webs or some other form of binding.
  4. the target is asleep. (Can we say, "Assassination"?)
  5. the target is deeply engrossed in some other activity that isn't physical (perhaps due to a spell, perhaps not)
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Good comprehensive answer. About point 2... It applies to player characters only, because monsters and NPC never go "negative" as soon as they reach 0 hp they are either killed/destroyed or made senseless if the last blow is pulled. – Erik Burigo Apr 14 '12 at 10:33
"made senseless" could still be grounds for a 0HP remaining monster to get hit with a coup de grace, at least when PC A disagrees with PC B about "Capture them all"... – aramis Apr 14 '12 at 20:02

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