Four 1st level PCs fall into a pit. One of them is magically possessed (i.e. such as with a Crown of Madness) and begins attacking the other party members.

Ideally, the party would like to restrain the PC without damaging them so that when they escape they have enough hit points to survive the rest of the dungeon.

In real life, we might use a headlock or some other restraining moves like one sees commonly in wrestling matches. (Our emergency department security team regularly restrained aggressive or psychotic patients with one person taking the head and thorax and others each taking a limb.)

But there seems to be few moves that restrict actions in 5e like we would see in wrestling commonly. Grappling still allows a PC to attack or cast spells. Use the Shove action to push someone Prone and they still can attack or cast spells.

In the absence of ropes, manacles, or magic - what can first level PCs do to restrain a possessed character without damaging them significantly? Is there anything in-game that matches what we see in wrestling matches today?

(To clarify: By "restrain", we mean the layperson definition as in “to prevent from attacking” (like in wrestling) and otherwise restrict their actions - not the in-game "Restrained" condition, which still allows attacking and casting spells.)


closed as too broad by Rubiksmoose, YogoZuno, KorvinStarmast, Oblivious Sage, JP Chapleau Apr 12 '18 at 13:16

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What is the party's composition, class-wise? Is there a spellcaster in the group? Also, being Restrained still allows a PC to attack and cast spells, just FYI. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Apr 5 '18 at 9:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you consider low-level? What is the maximum character level allowed? Do you want to limit answers to solutions that can be performed by any group? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 5 '18 at 9:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Along with others I'm also going to vote to put this on-hold as unclear since it seems like a bit of an X/Y issue. From what I can understand it seems like you're trying to ask is something along the lines of "how can we restrict a possessed PC's actions?" instead of "how to restrain a PC". If the question you have asked is the question your wanted to ask please let us know. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Apr 5 '18 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Praxiteles probably best to try and avoid using in-game terminology (especially in the title) if you don't mean it as the in-game definition then as it's likely to cause confusion. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Apr 5 '18 at 10:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the specific effect in question Crown of Madness? There are solutions that work extremely well for that spell that don't work, necessarily, for other forms of 'possession'. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Apr 5 '18 at 16:58

This is one of those times the DM needs to ignore the rules.

A DM has huge leeway to ignore the rules and do whatever feels right. In this case you would tell the DM what you want to do "I grab his arms, player B grabs his legs and player C sits on top of him as we pull him to the ground" and the DM decides if it works and what checks are needed (I would rule some kind of strength contest with advantage to the party for teamwork).

Just because there isn't a specific rule doesn't mean that it cannot be accomplished and the rules generally are not written for PvP so situations such as this are not fully covered.

Similarly I would let this kind of thing happen in real combat, but using the rule of cool it would only happen when appropriate, and only once. It wouldn't be something I would let you get away with very often.

Using the fully defined rules (If you don't count rule zero as a real rule) I am not sure there is anything that specifically covers this, so your DM could say it is not possible and grappled is your best bet without magic.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wish this site wouldn't allow down-votes with no comments. Really not helpful for making a more constructive answer. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Apr 5 '18 at 14:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's expressed often enough that it's been made into a FAQ: Why is an answer being downvoted without any comments?. The feature request at Can we require comments on downvotes? may also be informative. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 5 '18 at 17:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri An up vote means "this answer is useful" by default, and a down vote means "this answer is not useful" by default. The system already provides a minimal logical reason. If you want down vote comments you really ought to be equally demanding of up vote comments. Just because one makes you feel better doesn't mean it's any more sound. And demanding extra action on downvotes discourages downvotes (by being a bully about them), which defeats the whole site's purpose. Other than that, read Seven's links, they're quite informative. \$\endgroup\$ – zibadawa timmy Apr 5 '18 at 23:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @zibadawatimmy on my way to read those links but that wasn't quite my intention. Constructive criticism leads to improvement, hidden criticism leads to nowhere. Positive votes speak for themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Apr 9 '18 at 6:57

When restraining spellcasters, look at the list of spells available to them. You'll see a lot of spells list components like 'V, S, M' - meaning they need Vocal (speaking), Somatic (moving hands) and Material (actual things like dust and feathers) to cast the spell.

Gag the spellcaster and they can't cast spells with a vocal component, stop them moving their hands and they can't can't cast spells with a somatic component, take their component pouch / arcane focus and they can't cast spells with a material component.

Exception: Sorcerers can use 'Subtle Spell' - but only at level 3, so not relevant if your characters are all level 1.

Just because you don't have rope, doesn't stop you using a belt or piece of clothing to attempt to tie someone up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the suggestion of belts/clothing as makeshift rope. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Apr 5 '18 at 12:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Gag the magic user, you say? \$\endgroup\$ – Engineer Toast Apr 5 '18 at 19:19

Generally, you can't do this without damaging them; you must knock them out

Given that the Grappled and Restrained conditions still allow the possessed PC to take actions to attack (albeit with disadvantage in the latter case) and cast spells, the only way, RAW to reliably stop them is to knock them out, which is to say, reduce them to 0 HP whilst declaring non-lethal damage (See "Knocking a Creature Out", PHB pg. 198).

Unfortunately, this will involve dealing them damage and reducing them down to 0 HP, which you are probably trying to avoid.

Although in a comment you mentioned "no magic" in your party composition, for completeness I will mention that if you have any (non-possessed) spellcasters in the party, casting Sleep or a similar spell that imposes the Incapacitated condition would also work (although with Sleep, you'd need to somehow ensure that it affects them first - and only then if they're not an elf).

One final suggestion is to see if your DM is willing to allow some non-RAW approaches, such as saying that you all grapple the possessed PC, which renders them unable to take actions (unless he can cast spells with only Verbal components). However, as I said, this is no longer RAW.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to answer the same thing, but the question specifically says "without damaging them". Conserving hit points is an important requirement for the querent. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Apr 5 '18 at 10:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri Ah good point, I'll at least update my answer to point that out... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 5 '18 at 10:08

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