It is an age-old struggle in a role-playing game… How do the players, or their enemies for that matter, subdue someone rather than simply kill them. It is a struggle because the act of subdual cannot be so easy that it becomes a better tactical option than normal combat. If you can just knock someone on the head, why go to the trouble of getting in a fight. Similarly, it cannot be so difficult that it is not a reasonable option. Herein, we go over the options specific to the Adventure System.
An effective technique would be to pin the victim using Grapple (page 40) and then secure them by tying them up or handcuffing them. Handcuffs were built for this purpose, but tying their hands up while they resist would impose Disadvantage on the attacker’s Grapple check. While assisted checks (Page 26) rarely apply to combat, it is reasonable that a second character could assist in the subdual granting Advantage or, in the case of tying up the victim, neutralizing Disadvantage.
The attacker can use Maim (page 41) to Cripple (page 38) the target’s Quickness or Athletics rendering them non-functional. This risky affair could result in killing the target unintentionally.
While all damage is typically considered lethal in the Adventure System to keep things simple, an unarmed character could declare their intent to subdue their target and beat them into submission. When the target reaches zero Wounds, they are knocked unconscious. Treat a quarter of the Wounds inflicted as lethal. The choke option of Grapple (page 40) could also be used this way, but only one Wound would be considered lethal.
When available, both Glamour (the Charm effect) and Control are highly effective alternatives to compel and opponent to surrender themselves.
For a game world to “make sense” it is important to have non-player characters behave in a plausible manner. Most living creatures have a strong innate sense of survival and are not suicidal nut jobs. In our campaigns, any adversary that is Devastated (page 39) is usually out of the fight. They will try to skulk away if they can or surrender if given the chance. Consistently using this approach makes an opponent like an orc stand out when they opt to fight to the death. Even if an opponent is not Devastated, a character can use Intimidate (page 29) to get them to surrender if they are in a sufficiently superior position compared to their opponent. Grant Advantage to the intimidator if appropriate. As stated in the Referee’s Guide under Managing Checks (page 153), only make a check if the outcome is in question. A wounded goblin, surrounded by three armed aggressors, is simply going to surrender. If the referee decides a check is needed, the results should make sense. If a grizzled mercenary was similarly wounded and surrounded, they might still surrender even if the Intimidate check fails. They are simply still defiant as they allow themselves to be captured. If the Intimidate check was a Critical Failure, maybe the mercenary decides their time has come…
Weapons & Toxins
In a futuristic setting, stunners are a solid choice. If the target is Devastated, they are rendered unconscious (page 61). Remember, by way of the Shocking (page 57) trait, the target is Stunned and then Devastated (page 39) if they suffer a second Stunned result. The sedative (Toxicity 8; Potency d10; Fortitude) toxin used by needle weapons (page 61) has a similar effect, but will apply itself for three turns (page 127) increasing the likelihood the target will be rendered unconscious. It would also be reasonable for the characters to acquire the same sedative in liquid form to either poison someone’s drink or soak a rag in the sedative. On a successful Grapple (page 40), the attacker could use the pin option to cover their victim’s mouth with the rag applying the sedative effects. Based upon the high Toxicity presume a victim with Fortitude d6 fails to resist each turn. The Potency d10 will have an average damage check of 5 or 6 which is enough to get a Stunned result each turn. The attacker would simply need to maintain the Grapple for two turns before the victim was unconscious.