Friday, December 18, 2015

Replacing Lost Limbs With Magical Prosthetics in Pathfinder

Being an adventurer is dangerous. Between ravenous undead, hack-happy goblins, exploding evocation, and easily-tripped traps, no one gets out without a few scars. Not all adventurers get off so lightly, though. Some of them lose fingers, hands, legs, or eyes. Sometimes they decide to take the hint, and get cushy jobs as town guards or militia captains. Sometimes, though, they grin, and head right back into the storm, looking for riches, renown, and revenge, in no particular order.

Is what's in that chest really worth your life?
Some adventurers will gladly trade their gold, or their services, for powerful spellcasters to regrow their missing limbs. Others, though, will seek out alternative replacements. Replacements which, in many cases, are far deadlier than the limb that was lost in the first place.

How Do You Lose A Limb in Pathfinder?

Well there are a few ways, actually.

The most common way to lose a limb, mechanically, is to be the unfortunate victim of a debilitating blow on a Called Shot (assuming, of course, that these variant rules are in play), or under the Scars and Wounds rules (which are also optional). Most of the common ways people lose limbs, though, are due entirely to judgment calls on the DM, and obscure, extremely powerful, abilities. For example, if a character is turned to stone, and falls over, the DM might rule that a hand broke off, or an arm shattered. If someone was dragged away by a troll and not rescued soon enough, then perhaps they lost a leg to their captor's appetite. And, in rare circumstances, the PC might sever the limb on their own as a way to escape a trap.

What I'm saying is, if your character loses a limb, it's typically because your table agreed to play in Hardcore mode, rather than because of any rules found in the Core Rulebook.

A Normal Prosthesis (For The Low-Level Adventurer)

High-level adventurers are made of stern stuff, hardened by years of battle and trials, and possessing abilities far beyond those of average men and women. Low-level adventurers, by contrast, tend to be made of wet tissue paper, apt to get knocked unconscious if an owlbear so much as sneezes in their general direction. While your DM, and the dice, may be kind, chances are good you'll need a prosthetic limb long before you can afford the good stuff.

Masterwork stuff ain't bad, though.
You see that image? That's the iron hand of Gotz Von Berlichingen, a German sellsword and all-around badass who needed something to punch people with after he lost his right arm to a cannonball. The hand allowed him to wield a sword, hold his reins, grasp a goblet, and probably gave him a slam attack, too. Given the ratchet and spring mechanics of the hand, it would probably be considered a masterwork item.

So what options do you have as an adventurer who lacks a castle, and a small fortune made from fighting other people's battles? Well, you have the option of the hook hand (Pirates of the Inner Sea), or the peg leg trait (Skull and Shackles), which are both functional, though the latter is a creation requirement. You could get masterwork items, and enchant them, if you so desire. A transformative hook hand that could alter itself into other weapons might seem like an unnecessary expense, but ask yourself just how great it would be in the right circumstances.

Also, if you're a wizard, you might want to invest in a wizard hook, which can fulfill somatic components, and bolster the power of your touch spells.

Magical Prosthetics (For The Discerning/Crazy Badass)

In a world of magic, it's completely possible to regrow a lost limb, if you have the gold, and you can seek out a powerful practitioner of the mystical arts. You could even preemptively invest in a Trollblood Elixir, which allows you to re-attach severed limbs which are still relatively intact. No word on if you could use this to steal other people's limbs or not, though. Of course, if you're already missing something, you could find a replacement that is superior to your former limb. Stronger, tougher, and better able to hold up to the rigors of your adventuring life.

I have always wanted to crush a man's skull with one hand...
If you're that kind of adventurer, then you have a couple of options available to you.

The two most common, found in Dark Markets, are the clockwork prosthesis, and necrografts. Both of these options are permanent additions to a character's body, and both of them will do Con damage, and require a DC 18 Fortitude save in order to make sure the graft takes. Once the limb is in place, you have a handy piece of enchanted augmentation. Clockwork limbs can be enchanted with additional powers, and it's been rumored that many of them have the capacity to transform into weapons, should the owner need them to. Necrografts grant powers of their own, but they also make it more difficult for you to benefit from morale bonuses, and they reduce magical healing for the host. This makes them a difficult option, but it should be noted that not all necrograft recipients are willing ones.

If you want something that's functional, but not overly ostentatious, you could even invest in a Demon Talon, which simply replaces your hand with a demon's hand. Of course, just how under your command the scaly, gnarled limb is remains to be seen.

There is another option, as well. Something less permanent, and a little more customizable for heroes who want something very special. Page 115 of Ultimate Magic lists a modification that can be put on Small or Tiny constructs called Construct Limb. This allows you to pull the construct over your arm, and control its actions as part of your own. A construct limb uses all the special attacks of the construct, so if you make it out of something like an Iron Cobra, you could put a poison attack into it. What isn't said, however, is whether a construct limb can be used to replace missing pieces of an adventurer. However, if you're missing a hand and a lower arm, wouldn't you take the opportunity to replace it with a steel cobra, sectioned off into shimmering fingers, that provides you the bonuses of a heavy steel shield? Especially since you can, technically, use any sort of animated item or construct of the proper size, modified in this way.

Well, that's it for this week's Crunch topic! If you liked it, leave a comment, and share it with your friends! If you want to make sure you keep up-to-date on all my posts, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you're looking for some sweet swag, then visit my Patreon page, and become a patron! I'll send you two ebooks, no strings attached, as long as you make a pledge of any size before 2016.


  1. I've always wanted to make a character who specialized in crafting such prosthetics, and has one of his own he tinkers with as he adventures and finds good materials to upgrade it with.

  2. I treat my white haired witch/hexcrafter samsaran as having a congenitally missing left arm. Hexcrafters are an archetype of magus, which need to keep a hand free for spellcrafting for their spell combat feature.

    By flavor, I don't have an arm, but mechanically, I always have an arm free. Is that legit?

    1. If I were the DM in that situation, I would not let you consider yourself two-handed in terms of spell combat, but then only having one hand for flavor. Part of the challenge of playing a character who is missing a limb is that you need to find a way to overcome it, both in your story as well as in your mechanics.

      In a situation like that, I'd allow spellstrike only with weapons like a cestus or spiked gauntlet, where you can cast, and then strike, with the same hand. Otherwise, a feat like Still Spell would be a necessity.