Basic question: what are the ways in which a mundane character can cause coup de grace? Are there any ways that haven't been listed here? Sure, coup de grace is a really low level technique, save for making doubly sure something is dead, and if you use the Torn Asunder book, but I want to know.

the rules for a helpless character A helpless character is paralyzed, held, bound, sleeping, unconscious, or otherwise completely at an opponent’s mercy. A helpless target is treated as having a Dexterity of 0 (–5 modifier). Melee attacks against a helpless target get a +4 bonus (equivalent to attacking a prone target). Ranged attacks gets no special bonus against helpless targets. Rogues can sneak attack helpless targets.

As a full-round action, an enemy can use a melee weapon to deliver a coup de grace to a helpless foe. An enemy can also use a bow or crossbow, provided he is adjacent to the target. The attacker automatically hits and scores a critical hit. (A rogue also gets her sneak attack damage bonus against a helpless foe when delivering a coup de grace.) If the defender survives, he must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + damage dealt) or die.

Paralyzed: some poisons can paralyze, but if you have enough money at a low enough level to attempt to use these...well, why are you even adventuring at this point?

"held": this is italicized in the book, so I would assume it's referencing a spell. But the spell already says it paralyzes the target, already fulfilling the condition. Is this really what is means, or do grappled opponents become helpless?

bound: How "bound" does this mean? Can you slap manacles on the hands and legs (presumably while grappling) and call it bound? Would having another manacle linking those manacles together count as bound? No real description was given.

unconcious: wait until they are asleep, or poisons, or just beating the daylight out of them. I'm not sure a non spell caster has many options here, except in how they beat them up.


1 Answer 1


A grappled opponent is nowhere near helpless. A pinned opponent is nearly helpless, but pinning specifies that they are not considered helpless (don't forget to throw away his weapon while you have him pinned!). However, if you're not alone, everyone but the one person with the highest Use Rope check can pile onto a guy and pin him while the best Use Rope character binds him completely (which takes ten rounds, quite a bit more than just manacles - though those can help).

Drow poison is reasonably inexpensive and can render an opponent unconscious.

Rogues can sneak attack with a sap or other non-lethal weapon for their SA damage to be non-lethal.

Use Magic Device can operate a wand of hold person.

Sleeping foes are helpless.

A monk can choose to do non-lethal damage with his unarmed attacks.

I'm sure there are other ways, but these are probably the most likely ways you're going to get someone helpless as a non-magic user. Honestly, most ways of setting up a coup de grace besides "hitting them until they're in negative hp" or "casting a spell" are going to be less effective than those options, save maybe drow poison or catching them asleep.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So manacles can't be used to "bind" a person? Within 10 rounds you could have already killed an army. This is quite useless. The Drow Poison is interesting. Meh. Well, the rest I kinda knew. Thanks for the help. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SangoProductions I think the idea here is that simply having manacles around your hands is not going to make it impossible to prevent somebody from slitting your throat, you still have a fair degree of movement, something you don't have while bound tightly with a rope. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 11:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SangoProductions FYI, I believe manacles do bind unless y'all are reading something I'm not. From SRD (desc of manacles) "Manacles can bind a Medium creature." Since there's no definition of bound in the condition summary, my guess is there are multiple ways and it'll say when it happens (like manacles and use rope). \$\endgroup\$
    – joedragons
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @joedragons I'll take a look at the 3.5 SRD tonight, sounds like you're probably right so this answer may need correcting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 18, 2015 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 I actually didn't think your answer said you 'couldn't bind/manacle' just the comments, so you may be good. Just wanted to addon to help=) But thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – joedragons
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 23:06

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