Hit point loss could be meat, OR condition of armor OR self-confidence, focus and resisting shock in combat OR ability to ignore nuisance effect like dirt in eyes or awkward stumbles OR lots of things…
Non-Lethal Damage: How Did The Target Get Knocked Out Instead Of Killed?
* Damage misses any vital organs, and while target blacks out from shock, wounds “look worse than they feel” later.
* Melee weapon attack hits target’s head with flat of blade.
* Melee weapon attack is parried by target’s weapon, which gets shoved back to hit target in the face.
* Missile attack hits high and something heavy (tree branch, piece of ceiling) is broken off, dropping onto the target’s head.
* Missile attack hits target’s helmet, spins it around to blind the target who immediately walks face-first into a wall or tree.
* Any attack causes target to stumble, trip, and hit head during fall.
* Any attack hits target’s shield, which bounces back against the target’s face.
* Falling, force or sonic/thunder damage knocks winds out of target, triggering an overwhelming blackout.
* Fire, frost or necrotic/negative energy damage removes breathable oxygen from air around target, causing brief asphyxiation.
* Electrical, acid or poison damage briefly stops target’s ability to breathe or induces non-fatal toxic shock.
* Psionic/mental/psychic or radiant/positive energy attacks cause fainting, blinding visions or crippling self-doubt.
* Magical attacks also disrupt the link between a target’s physical and spiritual connection, causing a “shutdown” of sorts.
CRITICAL MISS (“natural 1” on d20 roll)
* Automatic miss. As “Far Miss” below but two or more effects at once.
FAR MISS (attack roll total equals 9 or less)
* Enemy totally reads the attacker’s move and deftly steps aside.
* Attack lunges wild and off-balances attacker’s stance for a brief moment.
* Sweat or dirt gets into attacker’s eyes, waste round wiping vision clear.
* Lose track of enemy for a moment, never even make actual attack.
* Attack instead turns into a feint at last moment due to a distraction.
* Attack goes wide, weapon briefly stuck in nearby wall, tree, etc.
* Confusion of fight pushes target away at moment of strike.
* If missile attack, ammunition was not at the ready for attack.
* Shot caught by wind and sails too wide or too short.
NEAR MISS (more than 10 but less than roll needed “to-hit” Armor Class)
* Blow glances off enemy’s armor, causing only a superficial bruise.
* Enemy blocks or parries, briefly pushing attacker’s weapon to the ground.
* Both sides collide, locking arms that spoil any reaching attack.
* Enemy perfectly counters attacker’s move, clinching both together for a moment.
* Enemy feints and throws off attacks with a mocking move.
* Enemy exaggerates hurt to trick attacker into over-committing a blow.
* Shot lands right at target’s feet.
MINOR STRIKE (hit causes below average damage, or less than 25% hit points)
* Hit opens a nasty but non-fatal cut on enemy’s arm/leg/face/torso.
* Enemy parries blow but staggers, somewhat surprised by the hit.
* Blow causes small part of enemy’s armor to come loose, exposing vulnerability.
* Enemy’s armor absorbs most of the blow, but enemy clearly feels it.
* Enemy barely leans back in time to avoid what could have been a killing blow.
* Foes clinch tightly but attacker works in a short strikes while locked together.
* Enemy’s body rolls with otherwise powerful hit, minimizing attack impact.
* Weapon lodges in enemy for a brief moment before being wrenched free.
* Blow to enemy’s weapon causes it to almost bobble free before he recovers.
* Falling or force damage leaves enemy with sprained foot or hand.
* Fire, acid or electrical damage turns exposed skin red with blisters and burning pain.
* Frost damage leaves exposed skin hard and red with itchy pain.
* Necrotic/negative energy causes a numb wound that immediately shows signs of rot.
* Poison damage causes intense burning and itchy pain around wound.
* Psionic/mental/psychic attack causes enemy feel disorientation or overconfidence.
* Radiant/positive energy causes mortal cells to ceased to exist around the wound.
* Sonic/thunder damage causes intense ringing in the ears and dizziness.
* Magical attack also strips enemy of some natural luck.
MAJOR STRIKE (“natural 20,” or hit causes average to high damage or 25% to 100% hit points)
* Enemy badly misreads attack and leans into a strike.
* Blow crushes/slices/impales enemy’s foot/hand, howl of pain.
* Blow opens a vicious wound that spurts out blood, damages organs.
* A sickening “snap” sound indicates a broken bone (rib, arm, hip).
* Armor straps cut, causing large vulnerable opening to appear.
* Blow to the head causes enemy brief blackout before refocusing.
* Glancing hit to the throat causes enemy to suddenly gasp for air.
* Blow to enemy’s hand removes a finger, or hit to foot removes toes.
* Trauma of attack triggers onset of shock (fear, irregular heartbeat, shallow breathing).
* Cracked vertebrae pinches nerves along spine, sending numbness down body.
* Blow dislocates shoulder for a few seconds until foe snaps it back in place.
* Slash above eyes causes distracting flow of blood over enemy’s vision.
* Falling or force damage leaves enemy with broken arm or leg.
* Fire, acid or electrical damage ignites clothing, leaves skin horribly scarred over much of body.
* Frost damage hardens muscles and tendons; fingers and toes may develop gangrene.
* Necrotic/negative energy creates a festering wound filled with hungry undead flesh.
* Poison damage hinders breathing and makes arms and legs numb as wound blackens.
* Psionic/mental/psychic attack floods enemy’s mind with nightmare visions and dread.
* Radiant/positive energy triggers enemy to experience mixed feelings of joy, regret and disgust about the state of imperfect mortality.
* Sonic/thunder damage ruptures ears and causes bruises all over exposed skin.
* Magical attack also weakens the connection between enemy’s body and soul.
KILLING STRIKE (hit causes death, dropping hit points below 0 or causing more than 100% hit points)
* Blow crushes/punctures enemy’s chest, bloody last breath wheezes out.
* Enemy’s head rolls off shoulders or is perfectly split in half.
* Attack opens enemy’s chest, exposing heart and vitals to open air.
* Attack disembowels foe.
* Attack messily removes foe’s limb; shocked enemy lingers for brief instant.
* Shattered vertebrae instantly and permanently paralyzes foe.
* Enemy drops weapons, clutches wound and screams before falling into a heap.
* Enemy’s eyes roll back as overwhelming pain buckles the foe.
* Enemy shudders violently for a moment and then falls still.
* Enemy mistakenly blocks high, allowing attacker to duck, strike and disembowel.
* Falling or force damage leaves enemy with broken neck or cracked skull.
* Fire, acid or electrical damage leaves a body charred and numb to pain.
* Frost damage stops the flow of blood throughout the body and destroys nerves.
* Necrotic/negative energy extinguishes all spark of living animation in the body.
* Poison damage stops breathing, seizes up the heart and thickens blood into ooze.
* Psionic/mental/psychic attack triggers massive brain aneurysm.
* Radiant/positive energy forces enemy’s soul to immediately flee its physical prison and seek divine grace with its deity or remorsefully wander the spirit void of shadows.
* Sonic/thunder damage forces enemy’s lungs to collapse and seize up.
* Magical attack causes minimal physical damage but rips enemy’s soul from body.
RIDICULOUS STRIKE (hit destroys enemy, no death saves allowed, more than 200% hit points)
* Enemy’s head flies off shoulders, landing 2d6 x 10 feet away.
* Enemy vanishes in a cloud of wet red mist.
* Bloody smear only thing left where enemy once stood.
* Chunks of enemy’s body rain down in 10-foot area.
* Falling or force damage crushes every bone in enemy’s body.
* Fire, acid or electrical damage leaves muscle and bone turned to ash or fully dissolved.
* Frost damage solidifies body into a brittle husk that easily shatters.
* Necrotic/negative energy rots enemy’s entire body into fine dust in one second.
* Poison damage blackens body, liquefies organs and triggers vomits of clotted blood.
* Psionic/mental/psychic attack makes enemy’s brain violently explode.
* Radiant/positive energy transforms enemy’s body into pure light while the soul implodes from shame.
* Sonic/thunder damage bursts open all of enemy’s living cells.
* Magical attack shatters enemy’s body into pieces spread across multiple planes/dimensions.