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I like to ground my games with a cinematic scope and my players may come up against a dragon pretty soon. The dragons are very much feral and evil and so I am looking to show their feral nature.

If a player was knocked to making death saving throws, could the dragon (using D&D 5e Mechanics) pick up the player and use them as some form of improvised thrown weapon, and throw their barely living body at another PC?

An Improvised Weapon would require the person to be dead and thus classed as an object (RAW) but is there anything else that would stop me from doing this in the books? It's a cool moment but I don't want to do something unfair.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi there, welcome to the RPG Stack Exchange. It's great to see a creative question and you're surely excited to get some responses but please remember that it's common courtesy here to wait around a day before accepting an answer. This helps us as answerers so that more thorough information can be sourced for an answer. Accepting an answer early can discourage other answers that may be more complete. But thank you for your question and again, welcome! \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14, 2023 at 16:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JBH Friendly reminder that answers, even partial answers and/or frame challenges, belong in answers rather than in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Mar 15, 2023 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course! :-) :-) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2023 at 14:49

2 Answers 2

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Certainly

First of all, when you say it's a cool moment and you are the DM trying to design a compelling encounter, that is all you need. If it is cool, do it. The monsters don't have to play by the same rules as the PCs, and can typically be more compelling without those limitations.

When looking at the rules as written, even PCs can throw their party members. A dead goblin is specifically listed as an option for improvised weapons:

An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.

The basic rules clarify that:

An improvised thrown weapon has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.

...meaning a dragon can certainly throw a dead or dying PC and would use the improvised weapon rules to do so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you think that doing so would likely cause damage to the unconscious PC and a failed death save? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 14, 2023 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ "The monsters don't have to play by the same rules as the PCs..." Right up until the PCs polymorph into monsters. If you give an ability to monsters, be prepared for the PCs to use that same ability if they change into the same monster. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Mar 14, 2023 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're big enough and strong enough to physically throw an enemy and you've succeeded on a grapple, I'd certainly allow it at my table. For example, if you're normal human-scale PCs fighting sprites -- or rats -- and you've managed to grab one, I'd let you throw it as an improvised weapon, dealing half damage each to the target and the projectile. (Or you can throw them against a solid object for full damage to the projectile.) I mean, as as on-the-fly ruling that seems totally fine to me. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14, 2023 at 22:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Newton's Third Law certainly implies that. \$\endgroup\$
    – chepner
    Mar 15, 2023 at 13:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seems like there's no reason to limit it to just "dead or dying" or even paralyzed or otherwise incapacitated PCs . If the dragon can successfully pick you up, they should be able to throw you regardless of your condition. Being conscious and mobile would obviously give you a chance to struggle and possibly escape, but it wouldn't necessarily prevent a sufficiently strong enemy from throwing you anyhow. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15, 2023 at 20:48
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Yes, it could.

Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon Attack, you can use an Unarmed strike: a punch, kick, head--butt, or similar forceful blow (none of which count as weapons). On a hit, an Unarmed strike deals bludgeoning damage equal to 1 + your modifier. You are proficient with your Unarmed strikes.

I'd certainly say that throwing someone counts as a "similar forceful blow". This wouldn't be an effective strategy due to the very low damage, and the DM (you) would need to decide how exactly would the dragon roll against two PCs (one thrown, one being thrown at). You would also need to consider the fact that the attack against the unconscious character, if it hits and the attacker is within 5 feet, is an automatic critical hit, and a critical hit equals two failed death saving throws. Thus, by doing what you described, you may kill your PC without giving his comrades a chance to heal him.

Personally as a DM I would rule that being grabbed by a dragon is not yet an attack, so no crit and no double death fail for a thrown character. If the dragon succeeds against the AC of the character he is throwing the body at, I would count both to be hit. If not, I'd rule that the character being thrown just tumbled relatively harmlessly. I'd rule that way because the player whose character is down probably is having a bad day now anyway, and finishing his character off wouldn't add "cinematic scope", just frustration.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "If not, I'd rule that the character being thrown just tumbled relatively harmlessly." I disagree. I actually think quite the opposite. Getting thrown into another person is not going to hurt as bad as the dragon missing and you hitting a wall or the ground \$\endgroup\$
    – Kevin
    Mar 15, 2023 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unarmed Strike rules are for melee attacks, not ranged. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15, 2023 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kevin that's sensible point of view. On the other hand, tumbling on soft grass would be less hurtful than hitting armored paladin. A lots of things we can't know, to make the best ruling possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Mar 15, 2023 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot It's in the quote in your post: "Instead of using a weapon to make a melee weapon Attack, you can use an Unarmed strike" \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15, 2023 at 20:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Totally noticed that. Was just a bit worried that the answer did so in a diplomatic enough manner that a person exited about their desired course of action may not have gotten the message as fully as they should. So I added a comment to emphasize the point. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 16, 2023 at 15:20

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