In the DMG on page 272, there are rules of injuries if you take a critical hit, drop to 0 hp, or fail a death saving throw by 5 or more. The table that is used gives different things that could happen and in the game that I am running, an NPC attacked a PC and got a critical hit on him. I rolled on the table and rolled a 2. It states

Lose an Arm or a Hand. You can no longer hold anything with two hands, and you can hold only a single object at a time. Magic such as the regenerate spell can restore the lost appendage.

The problem I'm facing is that the NPC was actually an ally that was only insulted by the PC and was only doing subdual damage to knock him out and didn't want to knock off the hand, he wasn't even aiming for the hand. He was also only using his fist and isn't a monk and doesn't have the Tavern Brawler feat. His strength is also a 14. Is the hand still punched off or is it just broken?


6 Answers 6


It is up to the DM.

The rule for injuries in the Dungeon Master's Guide states the following:

It's up to you to decide when to check for a lingering injury. A creature might sustain a lingering injury under the following circumstances: (DMG, 272)

Emphasis mine.

The DM, and the DM alone, makes the decision whether or not the attack caused a lasting injury. I believe that most reasonable people would think that punching someone's hand off would be rather silly, and you can safely rule that the player's hand has remained attached to his body.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ As a middleground, you can argue that you hit the poor guy's funny bone really hard, and the NPC won't be using his hand for a bit until it stops smarting! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ From memory - normal damage isn't broken or missing limbs, both of which require regeneration of some form to repair it (unlike bruises and minor cuts for healing potions) - so "losing" doesn't have to be the amputation kind - just an injury making it unusable. If anyone has access to the books and can confirm that etc... \$\endgroup\$
    – Rycochet
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rycochet there is no such language in the DMG that states this. The Injuries section in the DMG states that receiving a critical hit of any kind can result in a roll on the injury table. Furthermore, the section for "lose an arm or a hand" specifically states Regeneration is needed to restore it, so it is definitely actually having it removed from your body and not simply damaged. \$\endgroup\$
    – Baron
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 22:42

At Worst, Broken

This is a perfect case of "the Rules submit to your Game, your Game does not submit to the Rules". D&D is a game where you can do literally anything. Since we cannot have a rulebook that encompasses "literally anything", the rules we do have are general and imperfect. They are not meant to be universally applied by the letter of the law. This is a prime example of that - don't allow an ally dealing subdual damage to punch off the arm of a PC.

  • \$\begingroup\$ subdual damage, not subduel. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 10:41
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic unless said damage was inflicted during a duel that began in the middle of another duel... It could happen! ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve-O
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 13:26

In the real world, I was once on jury service for a punch-up in a pub car park. One of them fell over and suffered a spiral fracture of his leg, which took months to heal with full modern medical assistance. (The jury was needed because the other guy put the boot in while he was down, but that's not relevant here.)

The point is that your dice rolls are just a window onto a messy fight. One person throws a punch, something happens, and the other guy gets a broken hand. If the attacker wasn't a skilled fighter, the something happens will just be plain bad luck, but that's why fights are messy.

If you're playing the kind of game where you feed the players interpretation of the dice rolls, perhaps the victim stumbles and puts their hand on a broken bottle on the next table, slicing into their tendons. Maybe they just fall badly and have multiple fractures - there's a reason martial artists are drilled for breakfalls so that they don't put their hand out to catch themselves.


You are not required, especially as DM, to hold strictly to every roll if they don't fit the fiction. A person punching off someone's hand doesn't really make sense in the first place. Since the person was only trying to knock their opponent out, I'd say negating the injury completely is perfectly reasonable. If you'd like to still impose some sort of effect for the critical hit, merely breaking the hand makes sense as well.


It's up to you.

The rules are a tool for the DM, not the other way around. The DM is under no compulsion to follow the injury table in a situation where it doesn't make sense or ruins the fun for the group. You're well within your rights to say that no injury happened and move on.


Since it's subdual damage, I would forego the rule here. However if it was meant to do damage and that's what happened, I would simply rule a bad dislocation, causing nerve damage to the player and making his hand useless unless proper medical care (which doesn't exist in D&D, at least not at that level, so regenerate is your best bet).

All it takes is a slightly different reading of "lose". See it as "lose the use of", and you're golden. Again, I wouldn't rule that way in a subdual damage hand to hand fight...


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .