This is the first installment in what has become an occasional, ongoing series. The full list of installments, calling attention to more than 25 often-overlooked rules, includes:
- Playing By The Book: Some Pathfinder Rules That Players Keep Forgetting
- MORE Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting
- Even MORE Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting
- Still More Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting
- 5 More Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting
Also, I've recently begun a new series of character conversions entitled Gotham Knights. If you're interested you can check out my Batman character build right here, and the accompanying Robin character build right here.
Stay tuned for more!
#1: Natural 20s Aren't Always Automatic Successes
|A natural Mu on the other hand trumps everything.|
Or do they?
Not according to the rules. A natural 20 is always a hit in combat, and it's always a critical threat. A natural 20 is also an automatic save on any saving throw. The opposite is true of a natural 1 in both of these cases. Those are the only two incidents where the rule of automatic success and automatic failure are mentioned; this 5% chance to succeed or fail despite the rules and all logic doesn't apply to initiative, skill checks, or any other use of a 20-sided die (even though a storyteller may decree that they do).
The logic here is pretty sensical, really. A gunslinger or ranger who has tuned his or her nerves to a fever pitch to sense ambushes should logically go before the wizard who always has his nose in a book, even if by chance he happened to notice a sound or a flash of metal. A bard who's spent a lifetime mastering the art of song can have a bad day, but under no circumstances should random chance decree that the singer's voice just cracks and falls apart like an apprentice song-smith.
Also, critical fumbles are not a part of Pathfinder; they're a relic from the days of 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons. Once again if a DM decrees that a natural 1 gives players penalties then that is his or her call. However, there is nowhere in the book that says players have to roll a second time to confirm a natural 1, and that if the character fails to hit the weapon breaks, the character cuts herself, etc., etc. A natural 1 in combat is simply a miss, and the round goes on.
#2: Unless It Says So, You Can't Stack It
|Competence bonus connected to the morale bonus, connected to the...|
Here's a good example: shadow armor provides a +5 competence bonus to the wearer's stealth, and so does the cloak of the bat. Even if a character wears both of these items, because they each offer a competence bonus the player can only apply the highest.
While that might sound limiting, it often isn't. For instance, a barbarian's rage gives him a +4 morale bonus to strength and constitution. The spell bless grants a +1 morale bonus to attack. Because the one is specifically for a stat, and the other is to attacking, both still apply, even though said barbarian is likely attacking using his strength. As someone who has seen what happens when stacking rules are ignored, I can fully support this one being remembered.
As a side note, untyped bonuses and dodge bonuses are the only ones that stack without express permission. Lastly, concealment percentages don't stack. If you're in pitch blackness in a smoke cloud, you still have only a single 50% miss chance according to page 197 in the Core Rulebook.
#3: You Can Hold a Spell Charge
|You can hold it until you touch something... well, anything, really.|
It's important to remember that you can only hold one charge at a time, and that if you touch anyone or anything that it goes off. Remember that in the event that someone grapples you while you have shocking grasp ready to go off.
#4: You Can Punch People in The Face With Spells
|An accurate representation of what it looks like before you're punched by a wizard.|
I hate to burst your bubble, but you always could. Provided you had the ability to deliver an unarmed attack.
Page 186 of the Core Rulebook states that a caster may choose to make an unarmed strike against an opponent to deliver a touch spell. The strike follows all of the same rules for punching an opponent (it's no longer a touch attack), and if you land the blow you deal unarmed strike damage plus the spell. If you miss, the spell is still held. Sure it's not that impressive... unless your spellcaster has the ability to stack other types of damage onto an unarmed attack. Multi-class monks never looked so appealing, and now you have a definite use for the draconic sorcerer's claws.
#5: 'Aid Another' Saves Parties
|Seriously, you need a +2 just to open your frigging canteen?|
Players seem to forget that this rule exists a lot, and thus keep banging their heads against the wall by taking actions that simply won't work. In short if you and an ally are engaged in melee with a single opponent you can take a standard action and attack an AC of 10. If you succeed you are hampering the opponent in some way which provides a bonus to your ally in the form of either a +2 to hit or a +2 to armor class against the opponent's next attack against them (provided it comes before your next turn).
There are two main reasons players don't use this action. The first is that they don't know it exists. The second, and this is really more prevalent in my experience, is that most players want to be the hero. They want to cast the spell or swing the sword that brings down the foe so they can revel in the glory that follows. It's important to remember that the party who stays together slays together, and that if concerted effort is made to use strategic moves, rather than hoping for that 5% chance of a natural 20, combats are going to end a lot more quickly a lot more often.
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