Tuesday, September 9, 2014

MORE Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting

In late June I published a list of 5 Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting, and the response to it was amazing. Forums were exploding with a buzz, and everyone was clamoring about other rules that got left off of the list. I took careful notes, and I decided there were so many that I had to come back and write a continuation to the original list. In fact, this series has been going on so long I now need to include the full list of entries on rules players have been overlooking, forgetting, or just plain don't know.

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

So, that said, here's some more rules you likely forgot all about...

You Need Cover or Concealment to Use Stealth

You're going to need to do a little better than that...
I've lost track of the number of games I've played where a character is so specialized in stealth that a pin drop would seem like a gunshot compared to his footsteps. Hell, I've written a character build article for how to do this very thing right here on this blog. But even if you are silent as death and stealthy as a shadow, that doesn't change that you can't just roll a stealth check and become invisible.

Page 106 of the Core Rule Book outlines how the stealth skill works. Basically if anyone is observing you with any sense (sight, smell, hearing, etc.) then you cannot make a stealth check. Period. If you want to try and pull a Batman then you first need to make a bluff check, and then you can move to a place where you have cover and attempt a stealth check at a -10.

Short version; stealth is a skill, not a spell. Unless you have some class ability like hide in plain sight, or a feat like hellcat stealth (Cheliax, Empire of Devils) then you had better be able to move from rock to rock like a special ops soldier if you want to sneak up unseen.

Anyone Can Find Magic Traps

One of the strangest arguments I've come across from storytellers is that, in their games, rogues can't find or disable magical traps unless they have levels of some kind of spellcasting class. Despite the very clear language of the trapfinding ability these storytellers refuse to allow one of the signature abilities of the rogue class to come into play if they haven't dipped at least one level in wizard or sorcerer.

It must hurt to know they're double wrong.

Everybody chill out... I got this.
Page 417 of the Core Rule Book makes no bones about the fact that anyone can find traps both mechanical and magical. The basic DC for finding and disabling a mechanical trap is 20, and raising or lowering that DC changes the CR of the trap in question. When it comes to magical traps the base DC for both spotting and disabling the trap is a DC 25 + the level of the highest spell used in the trap. Only those with the trapfinding class feature can attempt to disable these traps using the disable device skill, but there's no word on whether or not wizards can disable these traps or not. Anyone, from the eagle-eyed barbarian to the overly-observant bard can perceive them, though.

Yes, You Can Take Multiple Archetypes For The Same Class

One of the best things that Pathfinder introduced starting with the Advanced Player's Guide was the idea of class archetypes. Rather than re-inventing the wheel by creating dozens of new base classes, or stuffing the world with prestige classes (a big complaint toward the end of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5), Pathfinder introduced archetypes that replace some of a class's old abilities with shiny new ones that allow them to be better at certain things. The Titan Mauler is good at fighting big enemies, and loses some signature barbarian abilities, the Holy Gun creates a black powder paladin, but strips away some of the raiment of a knight in shining armor... you get the idea.

Yes you can take more than one archetype for the same class.

It's the only way to explain this, really.
The caveat for this rule, found in the Advanced Player's Guide is that you cannot take two archetypes that replace the same ability. So you could take Thug and Bandit, two rogue archetypes, because they replace different abilities entirely. On the other hand you can't take an armor master and a brawler (the fighter variant, not the Advanced Class Guide class), because both of these archetypes replace weapon training 1.

Yes you can double dip. No you can't do it with the chip you've already finished eating.

Activating A Magic Item is a Standard Action

This is one of those sticky rules that players think they know, but often forget key pieces of. For instance, we all know that using a scroll or activating a wand is a standard action. But what about activating your flaming sword? Or sheathing your frost mace in arctic chill?

Yep, still a standard action.

Terrifying the locals remains, however, a free action.
Lots of players tend to forget that everything takes time. Yes it's cinematic for a fighter to growl a word in ancient celestial to light his burning sword, but it's good tactics to go into the stronghold of evil with your big guns cocked and locked. It also cuts down on grousing about wasted turns if you take care of all your command-word activations before the DM calls for initiative.

Combat Maneuvers

Combat maneuvers are those tricky things that most players eschew until they come up against a situation where they would be really useful (sundering the enemy's nearly impenetrable armor, hammering the poisoned knife out of the assassin's hand, grappling the escaped prisoner you want to take alive, etc.). While any character can attempt these maneuvers (though they draw attacks of opportunity if you don't have the improved name of combat maneuver feat), there's a lot of confusion about them.

So I make an opposed strength check now... right?
Firstly it's important to remember that some combat maneuvers can be done as a standard action, and some combat maneuvers simply replace an attack. Disarm, sunder, and trip can replace attacks (including those in a flurry of blows, or those being used by a two-weapon fighter), whereas bull rush, overrun, grapple, dirty trick, steal, and reposition all take a standard action. Of these standard actions, only a bull rush or an overrun may be used as part of a charge. You will roll a 20 and add your CMB (combat maneuver bonus), and if you beat the CMD (combat maneuver defense) of the enemy then congratulations you have successfully pulled off the maneuver.

Secondly you don't need to charge to use the bull rush combat maneuver. You can charge (Core Rule Book 198), and if you do you get a +2 to your bull rush maneuver, but you can perform the maneuver while standing entirely still.

Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate Are Not Mind Control

The bonus 6th rule of this set, at the risk of repeating myself, is that lots of players tend to forget skills are not more powerful than spells. Any character can have a skill and build it up to a robust number; only certain classes get spells. It's for that reason that yes a bard can talk a mean game with her silver tongue to try and sweeten up a guard to let the party past, but if he she really wants to make the guard do something then it's going to take a command spell or a similar effect to force the guard's hand.

Why? Because you can have the most reasoned, appealing argument in the world, but some people won't care because they're bigoted, prejudiced, distrustful, or they just don't like you.

Sorry honey, I only listen when men are talking.
According to the descriptions of these skills (all of which are found in the skills chapter of the Core Rule Book) bluff can be used to convince people of the truth of a believable lie, diplomacy can be used to increase a creature's attitude toward you by up to two steps, and intimidate can be used to force a character to act as if it were friendly toward you for a few minutes before reverting to unfriendly.

What can't you do with these skills? You can't convince the goblin that he's actually an ogre, you can't suddenly persuade the paladin that his oaths don't matter, and you can't intimidate someone into betraying a sworn ruler if that person has ironclad loyalty. You most certainly cannot just get into someone's pants because you rolled a really high number on a social check. Basically you can't just roll a die and then take control of another character's decisions and responses, no matter how many levels you beat the DC by.

For those who have rules that are constantly forgotten at your table please leave them in the comments, or email them! Thanks again for dropping by Improved Initiative, and if you'd like to follow me then type your email into the box on the right, or stop by my Facebook and Tumblr pages. If you'd like to support this blog, and by extension me, then like this post on FB by clicking the box on the upper right, leave a tip in my "Bribe the DM" button on the right hand side, or stop by my Patreon page and become a patron today!


  1. Stealth should be explained a bit more. You can make a stealth check as long as you start your turn in cover or concealment. If you end your turn without those, you attack or run then you're stealth is immediately broken. But you don't have to remain in concealment 100% of the time to successfully make a stealth check. However I usually give a hefty penalty to stealth based on the circumstance, such as trying to sneak up on a guard with his back to the wall. The rules are really vague regarding line of sight and active observation. Paizo has also added that you can begin stealth behind soft cover, i.e. a creature one size larger than you, with a -10 penalty or -20 if the creature is actively trying to avoid providing you with cover.

    Stealth also brings up another rule that's commonly forgotten, at least at my table, because it's commonly tacked on at the end of skills or abilities. That's movement limitations like moving at half speed when you stealth, acrobatics or move inside difficult terrain.

  2. Not all magic item activation requires a standard action. That's nowhere in the rules. Certain magic items require activation, some are always active. Unless a weapon says it requires a command to activate, it is use activated; i.e. the activation is subsumed in its use. A good example is a flaming burst weapon: On a critical hit, the weapon still does the bonus fire damage even if the wielder hasn't activated the flaming ability.

  3. "bluff can be used to convince people of the truth of a believable lie"

    Well that's not quite correct, is it? Rather, "Bluff checks are modified depending upon the believability of the lie." A believable lie just doesn't modify the check any, while an "impossible" lie decreases your bluff score by 20. Convincing a goblin that he's an ogre seems like an impossible lie to me. Certainly a -20 makes it difficult without magic, but it's well within the rules.

  4. Imagine being so illiterate that you don't know what a use activated magic item is so you think you need to spend a standard action to make a flaming sword work.

  5. Actually, the rules state you can make an impossible lie at a -20 penalty, so RAW, Bluff can act as a form of mind control. The example given in the book is walking into a throne room and declaring that you are the true king and the one on the throne is an imposter. An amusing one to cripple a wizard is to tell him he cannot use magic, bit has suffered from a brain injury, his memories are all screwed up, and he hallucinates so what he believes is magic is all in his head. If you can get your bluff check high enough (which is super easy), only Inquisitors even stand a chance to resist this effect.