Many times in literature and cinema an aristocrat will have his footmen beat an uppity wretch with their canes to teach them to respect their betters; sometime a bunch of rough labourers decide to teach some hoity toity type slumming in their tavern a lesson in class-hatred with chair legs and axe handles.
In bog-standard OD&D that presents a conumdrum; obviously the intent of such actions aren't to kill the victim, but mechanically that's how things would play out. As well, in actuality beating someone unconcious often results in the unintentional death of the beatee.
Here follows a houserule I came up with to respresent such hilarious brutality:
- When a not-entirely-lethal bludgening intrument is used to attack, the damage dice are used to represent "subdual damage" (temporary damage that only renders the target unconcious at 0 or less hit points); however if the damage die results in a natural six result the die is thrown again and the resultant roll is applied as actual real damage.
Obviously it is no great feat to use this houserule with non-OD&D versions of the game; I just came up with it while musing about OD&D and Small But Vicious Dog.
(Somewhat inspired by sundry posts on The Vaults of Naogh and the atrocious movie Sweeny Todd)