Garroting And Chokeholds

The following rules (garroting and applying a chokehold), are similar and use the following criteria:

The victim can be no more than two size categories larger than the attacker, unless it is sitting or lying down, or the attacker is in a position where he can reach the victim's neck. Constructs, elementals, oozes, plants, and undead are immune to garroting and chokeholds. Creatures with damage reduction are not immune to garroting or chokeholds, as such attacks do not pierce the skin.
While attempting any of these maneuvers, attacker and victim are considered to be in a grapple, with all the penalties attendant.

Strangling With a Garrote

In order to strangle someone with a garrote, the attacker must make a grapple check. The victim must be considered flat-footed, even if feats or class abilities prevent him from being caught flat-footed (it is nearly impossible to loop a garrote around the neck of someone who is fending you off). If the attack is successful, the attacker has looped the garrote around the victim's throat and is now strangling him. The victim can make a single Reflex save (DC = attacker's grapple check result) to get a hand under the garrote; if his hands are full, he cannot make this save.

Once the garrote is in place, attacker and victim must make opposed grapple checks each round (the victim can use his Acrobatics skill, if it is higher). If the attacker has any Weapon Focus feat, he adds that bonus to his opposed check; the victim also suffers a -1 penalty to either roll for each round the garrote is in place. If the attacker wins the opposed check, the victim takes damage according to the garrote type; if the victim wins by up to 4 points over the attacker's check, he gets the garrote loose enough to draw in some air, and the time until he suffocates is reset (see below), as is the penalty to his rolls. If he wins by 5 or more, he breaks free of the garrote entirely.

A victim can survive without air for 1 round per point of Con. After this time, it must make a DC 15 Con check, +1 per round, or begin to suffocate – the first round, he falls to 0 hit points; the second round, he goes to -1 and is dying. The third round, he dies.

If the attacker is using a locking garrote, the rules are slightly different. The victim can make a single Reflex save, after the garrote is in place, to keep the attacker from locking it – this is in addition to the Strength or grapple checks. Even if the save is successful, the attacker still has a hold and continues to deal damage.

In order to lock the garrote, the attacker must have control that round (he must win either the opposed Strength check or the opposed grapple check), and the victim must fail his Reflex save. Once the garrote is locked in place, the attacker can let go; the victim automatically takes damage each round and will suffocate unless freed. Unlocking a locked garrote requires a full-round action and a successful Int check (DC 15, +1 per round the garrote is locked) for the victim, or a standard action (no check required) for anyone else.

For example: Karvek the rogue (Rog 6/Asn 3, Str 14) finds his target, a prosperous merchant (Com 4). Said merchant hasn't been living very well – he's overweight and out of shape, and his Con score is only 9, but he's fairly strong (13) – he has to be, to haul all that bulk around. Karvek finds the merchant asleep at his desk, snoozing over the books. He steals up behind his victim and loops the garrote around his neck. Since the merchant was asleep (and thus taken by surprise), he doesn't get a chance to get a hand under the garrote – he awakens to find himself being strangled to death.

The first round begins with the garrote already in place. Karvek is above and behind the merchant, so he gains a +1 circumstance bonus to his grapple check for leverage. There is really no contest here – Karvek's +8 grapple bonus, plus his +1 circumstance bonus, far outweigh the merchant's puny +4 grapple bonus. Nine rounds later, the merchant (ever the unfortunate soul) fails his Fort save and lapses into unconsciousness; the next round, he falls to -1 hit points, and the round after that, he dies.


The occasion may come when the PCs need to subdue someone (possibly a fellow party member) without harming the person unnecessarily. They could easily beat the poor guy down with the butts of their weapons or their fists, but their friend probably won't appreciate waking up with a multitude of bruises and/or broken bones. In this case, one of the characters may wish to choke the person into submission, then tie him up.

At this point, it should be noted that "choking someone out" does not mean cutting off the air supply. The choke is used in martial arts, particularly judo, and is very safe if done properly (that is, by someone who knows what they're doing). When the choke is applied, the attacker cuts off the supply of blood to the victim's brain; the victim then passes out and wakes up some time later, depending how long the choke is maintained – fifteen seconds at minimum. This is more than enough time for the attacker to at least subdue the victim, and more likely truss him up. If properly done, the victim passes out in less than ten seconds, but it may take up to a minute, if the hold is not tight enough or put on properly.

While chokes in martial arts can be applied from the front or the back, applying a choke from the front assumes that the victim is wearing clothing that the attacker can use. The rules here, for simplicity's sake, will deal only with a "naked choke," or using the attacker's arms only.

Attempting to apply a choke requires a grapple check; unlike garroting someone, it can be applied to someone who knows an opponent is nearby. Once the hold has been applied, the victim must make a successful opposed Strength check or Acrobatics check to get free. Each round, he must make a Fort save (DC 10 + rounds choke has been held + attacker's Strength bonus). If the save fails, the victim passes out. A good rule of thumb is that the victim will be unconscious for twice the amount of time the attacker maintains the choke (remember, though, that the brain can only survive for 4-6 minutes without oxygen, so cutting off the blood flow for this long will kill a person). A victim in this state can only be woken by taking a full-round action, or by the application of magic.

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