Some monsters have immunity to being Unconscious. Since monsters die when they hit 0 HP (barring a PC deliberately inflicting nonlethal damage), what's the impact of this? Do they fight on when they're reduced to 0 HP or less by nonlethal damage? Does the nonlethal damage automatically miss, or get insta-converted into lethal damage? What does it mean for a mob to be immune to unconsciousness? Does it not have anything to do with dying at all, but only an inflicted status effect such as a wizard's "Sleep"?

The monster I'm referring to is "Kalarel's Shadow Apparition" from the revised Keep on the Shadowfell.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Snowbody, rather than strike through can you just edit it out. It makes your question harder to read with the strikethrough \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Jul 21 '11 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ The immunitty to Unconscious would effectively infer an immunity to NonLethal Damage. The only creatures I can think of like this are immune to non magic attacks anyway which would make it hard to do non lethal damage in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – user2015 Jul 21 '11 at 19:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know for certain, but wouldn't "immune to Unconscious" affect the results of a sleep power as well? It seems to me that non-lethal damage isn't the only way to go unconscious. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 21 '11 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob - I was only addressing the non lethal damage part. I Can not think of any creatures that would be affected by sleep that are immuneto unconscious any way. I am sure there is one but all i can think of are undead and golems which are immune to sleep anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – user2015 Jul 21 '11 at 20:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @all - 4e has not RAW concept of non-lethal damage. It doesn't exist. When you kill a monster you can declare whether it is dead or whether another effect happens (there is a dragon mag article describing all sorts of ways to leave an enemy if you care to look). However, many groups (including mine) specify that the final damage must be "non-lethal" for you to be able to keep the character alive. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Jul 22 '11 at 19:09

I would say that it applies primarily or only to combat effects like Sleep. If the PCs really want to capture a monster alive, and they're willing to do its HP in nonlethal damage to achieve that, then let them.

If this actually happens, then remember that just because it went below 0 with nonlethal damage doesn't necessarily mean that the monster is unconscious in the usual sense. It could be stunned for several minutes, too weakened from blood loss to keep fighting, it could have lost too much essence to take actions, or whatever metaphysical explanation works for your group. At that point the PCs have overpowered it and it lacks the strength to keep fighting, so let them make that choice unless it's really important for your campaign. (What exactly are they going to do with a Shadowy Apparition once they've captured it? I don't know, but I'd like to find out.)

EDIT: For the sake of people who would like an answer based on RAW, I did some digging in the Rules Compendium:

  • If you're immune to unconsciousness, then it has no effect on you.
  • There's no such thing as lethal or nonlethal damage; the attacker chooses to either knock the target unconscious or kill it at the time that it drops.
  • Monsters die when their hit points drop to 0.

So if you're looking for pure RAW, then what would happen is this:

  1. The PCs would hit the unconsciousness-immune monster until it dropped to zero.
  2. They'd declare that they want to knock it out instead of kill it.
  3. The effort would fail because the monster is immune, leaving it at 0 HP but fully active.
  4. Further hits would do nothing because monsters can't go into negative HP, and you must drop a monster TO zero in order to trigger its death. (This is completely absurd, but certainly no DM would repeatedly let a player trigger something caused by a drop to 0 just because the player sat at 0 for multiple rounds.)
  5. Once the monster regained 1 HP by any means, the next strike would kill it.

This is an amusingly goofy sequence of events, but if you assigned a completely literal computer program to interpret the Rules Compendium for this event, this is what it would come up with.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Unless you can cite some source that says this I do not see how this could be correct. 4e is fairly specific about how this works. There is no state where the creature is alive but unable out of it. \$\endgroup\$ – user2015 Jul 22 '11 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chad: I was writing from a practical DMing perspective, not a RAW perspective. Your comment (and downvote) aroused my curiosity, so I dug up a RAW answer for you. \$\endgroup\$ – jprete Jul 22 '11 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ :) - There are spells like hold undead/monster (at least their used to be I dont have 4e) that handle the need to capture a ghost or other non corpreal creature. \$\endgroup\$ – user2015 Jul 22 '11 at 19:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would actually say, if the creature was immune to falling unconscious, and you dropped it to zero hit points, you wouldn't even have an option to try and make it unconscious - it would just die. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Jul 23 '11 at 13:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How about this interpretation: When a creature you've knocked out wakes up after a short rest, it has 1 HP. So, a creature immune to Unconscious wakes up instantly with 1HP -- that is, after the strike it is left at 1HP. \$\endgroup\$ – Snowbody Apr 16 '12 at 15:14

I've always just automatically assumed that enemies were dead when they reached 0 hp, unless noted otherwise, and that's how we've played it. I'm not sure what the book says, though.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Whaa? Monsters making death saving throws? At 0 HP I remove them from the playfield! \$\endgroup\$ – F. Randall Farmer Jul 21 '11 at 18:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I thought squares with corpses were supposed to be difficult terrain. \$\endgroup\$ – Snowbody Jul 21 '11 at 19:15
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Snowbody. I usually adopt this paradigm too (dead body = difficult terrain), but I think it's not stated in the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Burigo Jul 21 '11 at 21:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.