NPC monster creature tries to tear apart character after successfully grabbing him. Just like it can tear apart objects with brute force completing strength check.

What mechanics should be used to determine outcome of this attempt?

Yes, It is simple "I can break object and I want to break a person in the same way" Or may be tearing his right arm apart would be sufficient.

I'm interested in how difficult for monster is to break person and what are intermediate states of person if monster have not fully complete breaking. Something like performing rack torturing manually.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you talking about a specific NPC monster, or an ability by some name? Or is this just simply "I can break objects, and I want to break a person in the same way?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Oct 20, 2013 at 21:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the person still alive or has the person been defeated? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Oct 20, 2013 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm tempted to suggest you ask this at biology.stackexchange.com or physics.stackexchange.com... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2013 at 8:29

3 Answers 3


Characters don't break in D&D 3.5

With some very few exceptions (involving special attacks), living characters don't get mangled in ways like the one you describe. This is because 3.5 largely doesn't deal with specific wounds - it is abstracted away by the hit point system. There are no "called shots", there are no hindering wounds, it's all hit points.

But this is how I would handle it:

If you want to tear apart a character as if it were an object, you just have to make them an object (a corpse). Meaning, you have to reduce them to -10 HP.

This would mean that for a strong monster to "break" a character, it would first make normal attacks (natural attacks and/or grappling/snatching/grabbing/rending) until the character reaches -10 HP. Once the character is a corpse, the corpse can be smashed or literally broken. A monster with an impressive enough full attack would be able to accomplish this in one turn.

I'll leave figuring out how difficult a corpse should be to break as an exercise to the reader. Personally, I'd use the hardness and hit points of leather (2 and 5/inch of thickness, respectively) as a starting point.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've had this happen in a game before that I was GM'ing. Not on a PC, in that particular case, but a Grey Render caught an NPC with both claws on the same turn, triggering it's rend (Ex) ability. When the rend damage brought the character to -15 or so, I described the scene to the players as the NPC being torn in half. Bottom line, to justify tearing in half, the character usually has to be dead, but that's about it. The condition of a corpse after death is way below the abstraction threshold, so fluff it as whatever you like. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 26, 2013 at 21:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing I have always been curious about: the spell Regenerate allows characters to grow back members and organs. However, nothing in the rules allow a character to lose members or organs in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2014 at 19:50

Technically, this is the rend ability posessed by some monsters (like the Troll):

Rend (Ex)
If a troll hits with both claw attacks, it latches onto the opponent’s body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an additional 2d6+9 points of damage.

For monsters without the Rend ability, the other route to take is grappling. Grapple your opponent, and then use the "Damage your opponent" option until the victim stops moving.

Of course, reducing a creature's hitpoints to below zero takes much longer than breaking an object. This plays in to the abstract nature of the hitpoint system... It takes time to get someone to stop wriggling long enough to get a good grip on their arm and pull it from the socket.


If you want to tear a creature in half, I would suggest a challenge. Each creature makes a strength check, with the defending creature having a +5 or +10 , or even Con +1/2 lvl bonus since ripping a person in half is a near impossible feat. That would make the combat more interactive.

The challenge is there simply because everyone will automatically try to undo the action.

If the defender wins this challenge, they are no longer grabbed, and they are (obviously) no ripped apart.

If the attacker succeeds the creature takes damage equal to half its max HP value. If this turns it into a corpse, the creature is ripped apart, otherwise the attacker can make a second attack next turn, and the defender no longer gets their bonus for defense.

Here is an example:

A troll with +5 STR, tries to rip a halfling(at full HP) with +1 STR, and +2 CON in half.

Turn 1:

Troll rolls 20 (15 + 5)

Halfling rolls 18 (15 + 1 + 2)

The halfling now no longer gets a bonus to his save.

Turn 2

Troll rolls 8 (3 + 5)

Halfling rolls 19 (18 + 1)

The halfling is no longer grabbed, but doesn't get a bonus to being ripped until healed, and takes 1d4 bleeding every turn (save ends)... If the troll had won, the halfling would now be ripped in half and incapacitated, taking 2d6 bleed every turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This appears to be an answer for 4e ("challenges", "bloodied") when this is a question about 3.5e. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 22, 2013 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thanks, I fixed the issue... \$\endgroup\$
    – Flotolk
    Oct 25, 2013 at 0:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're still describing a skill challenge structure, which isn't part of 3.5e. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 25, 2013 at 2:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure it is. What about grappling? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 25, 2013 at 3:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ even if skill challenges aren't part of 3.5e, I still house rule this part in, it allows for the most realistic way toand interactive way for this combat move to be handled, at least as far as I can see. the ability ro add rules is what makes this game so much fun in the first place... \$\endgroup\$
    – Flotolk
    Oct 25, 2013 at 21:06

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