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I was playing a 5 ft, 200lb dwarf, being attacked by 2 stirges (which are labeled Tiny). One was attached to the dwarf at the thigh, one was not. He attacked and killed the one that wasn’t attached and then I decided to get him to try to crush the one that was still attached to him by using his movement to fall prone on top of it. Without being encumbered or restricted, he had nothing to prevent control over his positioning, so I thought he could land such that stirge would take the full force of his 200 lbs (plus 45lbs of scale mail).

Would you allow such a maneuver? How would you resolve this or a similar maneuver? How might you improvise the damage? Would you give the stirge a saving throw to detach and move out of the space?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Please take the tour to get an idea of how things work here. Questions are expected to have a specific answer that you are looking for. From the way your question is worded, it is primarily opinion-based which is not a good fit for this site. If you want to know how "best" to handle this situation, we can certainly answer it though. See this section of the Help Center on what makes a good subjective question (as well as some other things to consider when asking). \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Sep 30 '18 at 7:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I think in this case one question can encompass both points. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 30 '18 at 18:15
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No, you're describing an Unarmed Attack

The game already has rules for attacking a creature using your body, rather than a weapon, and that's using an Unarmed Attack - for most characters, it deals 1+Str damage.

As the other answer points out, granting "free" unarmed attacks via body weight disrupts the intended action economy. Be careful what you wish for - a ruling in your favor would mean a dragon would get free crush attacks on your party, too!

Yes, this does have some realism concerns - having a much larger creature dropped on you should cause some damage - but the game, particularly in combat, is heavily abstracted, and trying to apply too much realism to it will end up with bad results, as it's not intended to model realistic combat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hit the nail on the head. Or the stirge with the thigh. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 30 '18 at 23:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you do end up houseruling that something like this works, make sure to have a Stone Giant sit on a PC at some point. :) Rulings cut both ways. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Oct 2 '18 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't fully answer the question. He playing a dwarf. In the virtual reality his mind created he can do a drop and crush that stirge after dispatching the first. Why don't the rules allow this to occur? It not because of the action economy as there are character that are able to dispatch two stirges in a single combat round. \$\endgroup\$ – RS Conley Oct 7 '18 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RSConley, If the dwarf cannot kill two stirges in a single round, then it is because they chose not to take a class that could. This means they traded that ability for something else, and are now trying to get it back for free. \$\endgroup\$ – Shem Oct 7 '18 at 19:40
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This ruling raises action economy, and other, problems.

For the action economy problem, you are giving the PC an additional attack that uses its Movement. Movement is not attack in the D&D 5e action economy, it is its own separate thing that is separate from attacks. The ruling that you propose significantly changes the action economy built into the game. I have outlined the action economy here.

To repeat for emphasis: in the D&D 5e action economy1 a move is not an attack. That's the rule you are suggesting be modified.

Players being subject to this option are too easily killed

Do you want your Medium-sized dwarf to be killed by a Huge creature, like a Frost Giant, who simply falls on the Dwarf after it has attacked something else with its two axe attacks? Probably not.

  • To illustrate the problem that this creates: you and your Paladin ally engage a Frost Giant in melee combat. If we used your "two size" differential as a guideline, the Giant could make two attacks on your Paladin ally and then just fall on you, the Dwarf, and crush you to death. That is what could happen if you change the action economy like that.

Recommendation

Deal with the stirge on the next turn, and don't stretch the action economy that hard.

Can the DM rule that you can try? Sure.

But avoid an "automatic" win. The automatic win opens the door for the giants killing your dwarf by falling on him. For a lot of things in this game, a saving throw is offered when something happens. Provide the stirge a saving throw (Dex makes sense) to account for the chances that the dwarf falls awkwardly, or the stirge squirms into a nook or crevice and softens the blow. Failed save = Splat.

Can the Dwarf make a second attack if he has not used a bonus action?

There might be a way around this that uses the action economy, if the dwarf is not wielding a shield (which takes an Action to doff (p. 64, Basic Rules)).

In Two Weapon Fighting (general case) if you have a light weapon in one hand, then you can use your second hand to make an attack with a bonus action. You don't get the damage bonus from your str/dex, but an attack on the stirge can be made.

You could thus take the position that, if the Dwarf was not wielding a shield and had no other weapons to hand, that a bonus attack a la two weapon fighting is permitted on the second stirge. It's not hard to argue that an attack with "unarmed strike" less difficult than an attack with a light weapon.

Two-Weapon Fighting (Basic Rules, p. 74)

When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand. You don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative. If either weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon, instead of making a melee attack with it.

If the Dwarf is a Ranger, Monk, Paladin, Barbarian, or Fighter of 5th level or higher, or a Valor Bard of 6th level or higher, there is already a second attack available to deal with the stirge.

If the Dwarf is a Fighter, Action Surge, if not already used, will also allow for another attack/stirge removal option.


1 Action Economy: the five elements of the action economy are Move (not an attack), Action (can be an attack), Reaction (might be an attack), Bonus Action (might be an attack) Interact with an object (not an attack). This is all found in the PHB, Chapter 9.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Right. But having that as an option and having a dragon think of that as an option are two different things. And this is a very special setup where the thing the character is crushing is clinging to him. What if I walked into a roaring flame? That definitey seems permissable despite breaking action economy. In any case, the only thing I’ve found that comes close to giving a suggestion on how to resolve this is an example in the DMG of improvised damage which includes suggestions for damage in unusual/specific situations.Having a bookcase fall on a character resonates with the idea of crushing. \$\endgroup\$ – TorboTenThumbs Oct 1 '18 at 4:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TorboTenThumbs If you walk into roaring flames, just treat it like a wall of fire. That's a simple improvisation that does not mess with the action economy. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '18 at 10:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ But if you have a creature attached to you (or any scenario in which you are dragging a creature), the movement into a flame area would result in damage to the enemy/enemies despite not constituting an attack. This would also seem to be a counterexample for @V2Blast who indicates that Damage=Attack. Again, if I’m taking your point correctly, allowing for movement in this scenario to result in damage, messes up action economy? But damage from movement in another scenario (the fire scenario) doesn’t? This makes me confused by the appeal to action economy. \$\endgroup\$ – TorboTenThumbs Oct 1 '18 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TorboTenThumbs You are not understanding my point. A variety of spells cause damage when movement puts you into their area of effect. (Moonbeam, etc) What I am telling you is that transforming Movement into an Attack Action is inconsistent with the action economy. Movement is not something that you trade for an attack (be it spell attack or melee or ranged attack). It is its own thing, mechanically, in this edition. In some older editions, you either attacked or moved, not both. Let's not go there. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '18 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right. I think the disagreement is that I’m thinking of the movement as resulting in damage without constituting an attack. Like, if you had a bug on the sole of your foot and began walking, it would be smashed. That’s how physics works. So I’m equating this maneuver more to transferred falling damage (which doesn’t have a standard rule and doesn’t fit here because damage doesn’t happen unless there’s 10ft of drop, minimum) or improvised environmental damage. In any case, it sounds like a houseruling. As others stated, D&D isn’t a physics simulator, so I’m probably thinking about it wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – TorboTenThumbs Oct 1 '18 at 18:33
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No, houseruling this is not a good idea

I would not allow it. And that I do on three bases:

Damage = Attack

In 5e, there are no movement actions that let you1 deal damage. NONE. Throwing yourself to the ground is simply counted as movement, so it doesn't deal damage unless you also spend an attack.

1 - environment can do damage, but that is not you doing damage.

Same rules for everything

Just as Korvin elaborated, if you have a rule, then it has to be universal. There are quite more enemies that are 2 or more classes larger than the heroes than there are targets the heroes will use that on. So don't do it unless you want to end entire parties under giants and dragons just letting themselves falling upon them after slashing at them and before eating them.

Body mechanics

I know, nobody asked for realism, but the creature clung to the thigh of the dwarf. Unless it clung to between the thighs, that is pretty much one of the worst parts of the body to apply a crush with. Lower legs, hips, chest, lower arms, shoulder, that are the parts one can easily align to slam into the floor or wall, while upper arms or thighs not only give coordination problems but also don't apply the same force due to this. Unless you do Headscissors I wouldn't allow crushing with the thighs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess the edge case of "movement = damage" (or results in damage) would be falling off of a cliff and landing on someone, but I think we have a different question on that somewhere. I like this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '18 at 0:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, movement isn't an action, nor a move action, it is just movement. I like your description of it "in world" that way. :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 2 '18 at 12:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish - Gravity is not magic, or you could negate falling damage with an Antimagic field or counterspell. \$\endgroup\$ – user47897 Oct 2 '18 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dragging a grappled creature into a fire is a movement that deals damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Oct 5 '18 at 9:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Not you do damage then, the Environment does \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Oct 5 '18 at 11:10
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Off-Ruling can be fun. I encourage it and you should do it.

The problem (and the fun) of house rules, or off-ruling as we call it, is accounting for all the what-ifs, how-comes and precisely-sos. Deciding to house rule is basically you and the DM agreeing (or the DM deciding) that sorting out all the details will be more entertaining and the results more appealing than reading a quick paragraph in the DMG / PHB or other tome and rolling a die or two. Granted, off-ruling can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, but it can also be an exercise in futility. In the end, death has a way of finding us all.

Allow me to break this down.

A Stirge. Tiny. 2 HP (4 max). Basically a small balloon with wings and a big, fat hypodermic needle. The legs? Yeah, they're not too important to this discussion, but they're clamped on to your thigh flesh. What does a stirge do? It stabs you with its face and sucks your blood until its bulging frame can take no more.

In fact it sucks so much blood, it causes anywhere from 4 - 7 HP of damage per 6 second interval! In as little as twelve seconds it fills up with blood and retires to its devious little stirge den to relax and digest your iron smoothie.

Ok. I'm assuming the little sucker is on your outer thigh. Anywhere else and there is no way this is even remotely working. Lie down on the floor and roll around on your thigh.

  • Firstly, it's not easy to fall on your thigh. Try it (but don't hurt yourself).

  • Secondly, there is a very small and limited part of your thigh that you can place sufficient pressure on to pop that clingy little blood bag. It's right there at the top of your femur.

  • Thirdly, you're a 5-foot dwarf, ok that's big, for a dwarf. But we're not talking about a Hill Giant here, that top part of your thigh is maybe 2 feet off the ground, this is not going to be an earth shattering event. That blood balloon has got to pop or you're just going to piss it off.

  • Not to mention once you even start to drop, that blood-balloon is squirming around like all get out.

    So assuming the Stirge is precisely at the top of your femur, in that small area where you can apply pressure from your upper body should you fall. Assuming you drop precisely on the Stirge. Assuming the Stirge does not squirm out of the way. Assuming the force of the drop is strong enough so that the body of the Stirge explodes in a burst of bloody gore.

Yeah, it could work:

  • D20 for location of Stirge, 15+ and you're good to go (actually I'd probably just call it, yeah it's in the right spot)
  • D20 to fall just so. This is a DEX roll vs a DEX roll for the Stirge to squirm out of the way (Stirge is 16 DEX / +3, but you probably don't know this in-game). The highest roll is successful.
  • If you fail: 1d4 damage for the fall. Trust me, falling on your hip as hard as you can is no fun. And your thigh still has company.
  • If you succeed: The Stirge ruptures in a glorious eruption of Dwarf blood. Also the Stirge head is still embedded in your thigh, the gigantic-hypodermic-needle-face of the creature still spewing 4 - 7 hp worth of blood every 6 seconds. You better hope you got some hands and action free to pull that out, cuz you're running pretty low on actions at this point. If you've got other creatures to fight you're now losing an extra 4 - 7 hp of blood per round. I'd probably drop it to 1d4 since there's no balloon actively sucking the blood, but it's still gushing, so I'd meet you in the middle.

This is the risk of off-ruling. It can be glorious, and it can also be disastrous. If you want assurance of known outcomes, follow the rules. Once you start dealing in details that the rules tend to gloss over, like falling on a stirge as a movement, you open up the narrative to all the details, most of which, most of the time, should just be left well enough alone.

All this being said, It's a Stirge! With 2 lumpin' HP! Just swat it!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest very briefly addressing the official answer to the question (whether it's "yes", "no", or "up to the DM; the rules don't address it either way") before you recommend your house rule. Also, have you tried such a house rule in your own game? How has it worked in your experience? (...Though even if you haven't, the answer does a good job of explaining the logic behind the houserule.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 6 '18 at 0:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, tweaked it a bit. The body of the answer is not so much suggesting this is exactly what you should do, but rather here's an example of the factors to consider and to illustrate the possible pitfalls of going into house rule territory. We call it off-ruling as in off-roading. You know where you start but you're never quite sure where you're going to end up. And it could be a rocky ride. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Oct 6 '18 at 4:09
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I would suggest resolving this as follows:

  1. Let them try (I try to follow this rule whenever possible).

  2. Since they're trying to get around the action economy rules and not make an attack, then you can make realism apply over the rules. (if they did want to make an attack then the normal attack rules apply)

  3. If the player wants to land with a lot of force, not just gently lay themselves down (as purposely falling prone would allow), then that can limit somewhat the control they have over how and where on their body they land. Additionally the player would need to take damage as well for purposely landing hard. The same forces are applied to himself as the tiny creature after all, as well as the force that is taken by the ground and not the creature.

  4. The tiny creature should get a Dexterity saving throw against this non attack situation, and should get advantage for its small size. And by virtue of being on the lower half of the player's thigh, would not be subject to the full weight of the player falling on it, probably less than 1/3 of the players mass should be applied to it.

  5. If the player is lucky, this could work to deal damage to the creature, it would also be an effective way to attempt to get the creature off of their thigh (as would be assumed if the creature made their save). However, the player would take the full damage from the fall rather than the 1/3 that the creature would take.

This should be enough to allow the player to take such an action, but dissuade them from using the tactic in most situations, while maintaining the spirit of the action economy rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ and then univerality of rules kicks in: a huge dragon or giant throwing themselves upon them the next time... \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Oct 2 '18 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reflex saves are from a previous edition. Do you mean Dexterity save? Constitution save? On point 4, the 5e mechanic of disadvantage, or advantage, would fit pretty well. Do you want to add that in? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 2 '18 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ But the fact that the huge dragon or giant has self preservation instincts preventing it from hurting itself would keep them from trying to employ that tactic against the heroes. I mean dexterity save, yes, sorry old habits die hard. I don't see how advantage would fit this situation, but I'd be open to it. I'm considering this as a more outside the rules DM ruling on how doing this would work if you decided to allow it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mathaddict Oct 2 '18 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please edit in the correction for dexterity save. Comments are temporary, and are used to clarify and help to update an answer or question. Since you raise the point on the reduced player mass being applied, that is a perfect situation for a DM to apply disadvantage according to the rules on advantage/disadvantage, Basic Rules, P. 5. Up to you if you want to fold that into your answer. That would also fit with your tone or implication of success being unlikely. 5.If the player is lucky, this could work to deal damage to the creature \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 '18 at 12:04
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The monster description states clearly what it takes to detach a stirge on MM page 284:

A creature, including the target, can use its action to detach the stirge.

It's neutral in tone regarding exactly what form the detachment takes, whether it is grabbing it by the hand or attempting to roll around the ground. Regardless it takes a long enough time to require an action to do it per the monster description.

An exception would be if you used your movement to cause yourself harm like throwing yourself off a cliff, or jumping into a vat of boiling oil. Simply throwing yourself to the ground will cause no damage as that is just dropping prone as outlined on PHB page 190 (or here in the basic rules).

But one may think crushing the tiny blood sucking stirge makes sense however since your action was occupied attacking the flying stirge. Your dwarf's experience isn't quite there to allow the control needed to turn dropping prone into an attack. You would just drop prone.

While your proposal sounds reasonable, keep in mind that D&D combat is an abstraction of a six-second time period. During that time you are doing a bunch of things all at once. However to keep it playable the authors of D&D 5e broke up combat rounds and turns into several elements: initiative order, an action, movement, interaction, a bonus attack, etc.

While not a perfect abstraction, the way to visual what's happening to your character is that the dwarf was fully occupied for six seconds taking out the first stirge while the second stirge was busy sucking your character's blood. While he tried to drop prone to squash the other stirge, the dwarf wasn't experienced enough to angle his body in a way to do damage. The Dwarf was busy for those six seconds with whacking that pesky little biter. Probably cussing and cursing the whole time.

If you had a bonus action or a second attack as as result of training (your class) or experience (your level), then the result would have been different - with the first stirge dead, the bonus action or 2nd attack is used to give that 2nd stirge a nice little pop off your body.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a few typos and a few missing words for the edit: nice, concise answer. (as usual) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 8 '18 at 12:50

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