I want more stealth and knockouts in my games.
I like Odysseus better than Achilles. Tricksters, spies, and con men are far more interesting than thugs, assassins, and warlords. Of course, what I like even better is when you can mix them together for characters who can choose a path. Slip through quietly if you can, it gets bloody if you are caught; or, go in hard but if you can’t get through, revert to stealth or guile.
I am still working through a stealth/surprise/detection system I like, but in the meantime, I have decided I want to have better knockout mechanics.
My first thought was how to handle it for people, but as I thought further, I realized that this could be a key to adding more flavor to monsters and using statistics and rules to reshape how players think about their environment and their options.
Here is the basic: if you attack as though casting a spell (declare in the beginning of the round and go last) and inflict 3 points per hit die in a single attack of the appropriate kind, the target is knocked out. You can move up to 1/2 your normal move and do this, allowing attack in ambush and from surprise for a knockout. (Combat experts could drop that to 2 hit points per hit die.)
Next is defining the “appropriate kind.” For humans and humanoids, that would entail a blunt attack or a choking grapple attack. The difference is blunt attack would get a weapon bonus for the hit points, and a grapple attack would just be combat bonus and stance advantage. Poison attacks could count as the appropriate kind and roll “damage” to try and overcome the threshold. An enchanted sap could reduce the threshold by 1 per hit die. A sleep spell could be a magical assault generating points to be applied against the threshold.
Where this becomes interesting to me is when the DM acknowledges “appropriate kind” for monsters! Here you could have tuning attacks on crystalline creatures, water “attacks” for earthen or fire creatures, silver “attacks” to kill werewolves outright based on this mechanic, and so on. What if you had to address the question of what was an “appropriate kind” of attack to KO your monster when you were making it?
This is not written in stone, but it is an idea that is getting traction in my mind. I like the idea of adventurers loading up on equipment to “knock out” defenses in a setting, and having tools and inclination to render foes unconscious instead of killing everyone who gets in the way.