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This is a direct follow-up to this other question of mine and assumes that, indeed, one may wield a Talisman of Pure Good (or a Talisman of Ultimate Evil) as an improvised weapon and apply both the regular melee damage from an improvised weapon plus the Talisman's radiant/necrotic damage if the creature is not of the right alignment.

The Player's Handbook states the following about Knocking a Creature Out:

Sometimes an attacker wants to incapacitate a foe, rather than deal a killing blow. When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant the damage is dealt. The creature falls unconscious and is stable.

Can one decide to strike a maligned foe non-lethally (and therefore knock them out instead of killing them) with a Talisman of Pure Good (or Ultimate Evil)?

My hesitation relies on the fact that the radiant/necrotic damage from the Talisman does not directly come from the melee attack, but rather from the item. I think it might still work, but I am unsure.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your first paragraph reads like you've already made your decision. Your final paragraph seems a bit more shaky. My answer is based on the more confident first paragraph. This would be a better question, if you can bring the two into closer alignment. If you've decided "yes, it adds to the attack's damage" this question has one answer. If you've decided "no, it is separate damage" this question has a different answer. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 14 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Uhh, well I mean, I based it off the answer to the linked question, uhh, should I be more nuanced ? \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Mar 15 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ The other question is a good reference, but this one shouldn't assume reading the other question or knowing the answer over there. Declare the chosen parameters here. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 15 at 12:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Uhh, sorry, uhh... I uhh... I don’t know if editing one way or another will screw up the existing answers. I’ll... try ? Uhh \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Mar 15 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've covered both possibilities in my answer, so it doesn't matter to me. I only mention it because others saw uncertainty where I didn't really. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 15 at 13:03
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No

Your quote specifically states a "melee attack," but the damage from the Talisman occurs after (when they touch it), so it isn't an attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You're ignoring the parameters supplied before the quote. In the context of this question, the Talisman itself is being used as a weapon and the damage does apply to the attack. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 14 at 19:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. what I'm trying into the I say here is that the damage comes after the attack. \$\endgroup\$ – NoOneIsHere Mar 14 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ And the querent is saying they have already decided that is not the case. They have decided it is part of the attack. This answer might be viable for the linked question, but here it is ignoring the explicitly provided context. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 14 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. I see. I still think the answer is fine. \$\endgroup\$ – NoOneIsHere Mar 14 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. OP said "My hesitation relies on the fact that the radiant/necrotic damage from the Talisman does not directly come from the melee attack, but rather from the item." Which to me makes it sound like it is not a foregone conclusion. This answer clearly addresses that concern. \$\endgroup\$ – D.Spetz Mar 14 at 20:27
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Any melee attack can be a knock-out blow.

You've quoted the complete rules on the matter. The type of damage is not relevant, only the source of the attack - melee or ranged. Both a melee weapon attack and a melee spell attack are melee attacks.

Another user asked What is "Force" Damage? In that case, they were asking how to describe wounds, but I made a key point in my answer:

Until a source of damage interacts with something with resistance, immunity, vulnerability, or some other ability that cites an interaction with a type of damage, the damage type is functionally meaningless.

In D&D5E, you can just as easily fire-damage somebody into unconsciousness (via Flame Blade, a melee spell attack) or shock them into submission (via Shocking Grasp), as you can beat them within an inch of their life. You cannot Lightning Bolt or Fire Bolt somebody without the risk of killing them, because neither of those two spells involves a melee attack (one is a save, the other is a ranged spell attack).

The Talisman may not be an attack at all.

While it isn't written that way, I suspect the intention of that passage is when an unworthy character touches the talisman willingly. If you're allowing that feature to be used offensively, by pressing it against the unworthy, you're dipping into homebrew territory anyway.

If you're allowing a character to make a melee attack with a Talisman and you are considering the damage part of the attack (as your initial paragraph indicates), then yes, it would work as you describe. A melee attack is a melee attack, and by the rules can be used as a knock-out blow.

If you're allowing a character to make a melee attack with a Talisman, but are not considering the damage part of the attack (your final paragraph hints at some uncertainty), then the extra damage is not a melee attack and cannot be a knock-out blow.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk I don't see the need. The querent has already declared (in the question) that using the amulet as an attack deals the damage. That last paragraph reiterates that declaration. The paragraph before indicates it may be wrong, but I'm not going to argue strongly against something the querent has already indicated as fact. There is a linked question that discusses whether it is, or is not, which makes that part of the debate out-of-scope on this question. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 14 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ A melee attack with the talisman would deal damage appropriate to the corresponding type of improvised weapon. That is the damage which could be made non-lethal. Like the poison on a poisoned weapon, the talisman's 'on touch' effect is not the melee attack itself. The reasoning in this answer is not bad, it is simply incomplete. Yakk's answer below fills in the missing pieces. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Mar 14 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheoBrinkman The querent's parameters indicate he has already decided otherwise. Once again, I'm not going to refute or argue the querent's declarations. There is a separate question that covers that debate. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 14 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ no the querent's parameters indicate he has already decided that the object can be an improvised weapon, not that the damage dealt by touching it is 'melee weapon damage'. If that had been decided that already, the question would have been completely unnecessary. In fact, the final paragraph of the question indicates the question has not made that assumption yet. "My hesitation relies on the fact that the radiant/necrotic damage from the Talisman does not directly come from the melee attack, but rather from the item. I think it might still work, but I am unsure." \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Mar 14 at 20:00
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No

If touching someone with the amulet causes damage, using it as an improvised attack will also cause the damage.

However, the damage from the touch is not melee attack damage. If you crit, the damage dice aren't doubled. It is damage that happens as a consequence of the hit, not melee attack damage.

You can no more make a decision to knock a target out by touching them with the amulet than you can make a decision to knock someone out from the fall damage your melee+push 10 attack did as they fell off a cliff.

Only melee attack damage has the property that you can knock someone out with it.

Another similar case where this doesn't happen is poison damage -- the poison damage is caused by taking the melee hit, but it isn't part of the melee attack damage. Its damage dice aren't doubled on a crit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 For mentioning crits and poison. There is a difference between making a melee attack with an object which does damage, and the object having an inherent property that also does damage. Can you hit someone with the Talisman? Sure, it acts like a tiny flail and does 1d4 damage. That can be as non-lethal as you want, but the big radiant burst that comes after has nothing to do with it. \$\endgroup\$ – D.Spetz Mar 14 at 20:25

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