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Pathfinder Basics

The Core Mechanic: Whenever you attempt an action that has some chance of failure, you roll a twenty-sided die (d20). To determine if your character succeeds at a task you do this:

  • Roll a d20.
  • Add any relevant modifiers.
  • Compare the result to a target number (usually a “difficulty check” [DC], the opponent’s armor class in the case of attacking another person, or another skill check roll provided by your DM)

If the result equals or exceeds the target number, your character succeeds. If the result is lower than the target number, you fail.

Dice

Dice rolls are described with expressions such as “3d4+3,” which means “roll three four-sided dice and add 3” (resulting in a number between 6 and 15). The first number tells you how many dice to roll (adding the results together). The number immediately after the “d” tells you the type of die to use. Any number after that indicates a quantity that is added or subtracted from the result.

d%: Percentile dice work a little differently. You generate a number between 1 and 100 by rolling two different ten-sided dice. One (designated before you roll) is the tens digit. The other is the ones digit. Two 0s represent 100.

Rounding Fractions

In general, if you wind up with a fraction, round down, even if the fraction is one-half or larger.

Exception: Certain rolls, such as damage and hit points, have a minimum of 1.

Multiplying

Sometimes a rule makes you multiply a number or a die roll. As long as you’re applying a single multiplier, multiply the number normally. When two or more multipliers apply to any abstract value (such as a modifier or a die roll), however, combine them into a single multiple, with each extra multiple adding 1 less than its value to the first multiple. Thus, a double (×2) and a double (×2) applied to the same number results in a triple (×3, because 2 + 1 = 3).

When applying multipliers to real-world values (such as weight or distance), normal rules of math apply instead. A creature whose size doubles (thus multiplying its weight by 8) and then is turned to stone (which would multiply its weight by a factor of roughly 3) now weighs about 24 times normal, not 10 times normal. Similarly, a blinded creature attempting to negotiate difficult terrain would count each square as 4 squares (doubling the cost twice, for a total multiplier of ×4), rather than as 3 squares (adding 100% twice).

Ability Scores

As per the ruleset of Pathfinder, your character is made up of six ability scores–Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma. Each ability partially describes your character and affects some of his or her actions. These numbers are generated via dice rolls or a point buy system (determined by your DM) at character creation and are considered permanent attributes of your character.

Strength (Str)

Strength measures muscle and physical power. This ability is important for those who engage in hand-to-hand (or “melee”) combat, such as beastmasters, dark knights, fighters, holy knights, knights, monks, and some red mages. Strength also sets the maximum amount of weight your character can carry. A character with a Strength score of 0 is too weak to move in any way and is unconscious. Some creatures do not possess a Strength score and have no modifier at all to Strength-based skills or checks.

You apply your character’s Strength modifier to:

  • Melee attack rolls.
  • Damage rolls when using a melee weapon or a thrown weapon, including a sling. (Exceptions: Off-hand attacks receive only half the character’s Strength bonus, while two-handed attacks receive 1–1/2 times the Strength bonus. A Strength penalty, but not a bonus, applies to attacks made with a bow that is not a composite bow.)
  • Climb and Swim skill checks.
  • Strength checks (for breaking down doors and the like).

Your Strength score determines your characters carrying capacity.

Dexterity (Dex)

Dexterity measures agility, reflexes, and balance. This ability is the most important one for archers, gunners, and thieves, but it’s also useful for characters who wear light or medium armor or no armor at all. This ability is vital for characters seeking to excel with ranged weapons, such as the bow or sling. A character with a Dexterity score of 0 is incapable of moving and is effectively immobile (but not unconscious).

You apply your character’s Dexterity modifier to:

  • Ranged attack rolls, including those for attacks made with bows, crossbows, throwing axes, and many ranged spell attacks like searing light.
  • Armor Class (AC), provided that the character can react to the attack.
  • Reflex saving throws, for avoiding fireballs and other attacks that you can escape by moving quickly.
  • Acrobatics, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth skill checks.

Constitution (Con)

Constitution represents your character’s health and stamina. A Constitution bonus increases a character’s hit points, so the ability is important for all classes. Some creatures, such as undead and constructs, do not have a Constitution score. Their modifier is +0 for any Constitution-based checks. A character with a Constitution score of 0 is dead.

You apply your character’s Constitution modifier to:

  • Each roll of a Hit Die (though a penalty can never drop a result below 1—that is, a character always gains at least 1 hit point each time he advances in level).
  • Fortitude saving throws, for resisting poison, disease, and similar threats.

If a character’s Constitution score changes enough to alter his or her Constitution modifier, the character’s hit points also increase or decrease accordingly.

Intelligence (Int)

Intelligence determines how well your character learns and reasons. This ability is important for black mages, blue mages, and time amges because it affects their spellcasting ability in many ways. Creatures of animal-level instinct have Intelligence scores of 1 or 2. Any creature capable of understanding speech has a score of at least 3. A character with an Intelligence score of 0 is comatose. Some creatures do not possess an Intelligence score. Their modifier is +0 for any Intelligence-based skills or checks.

You apply your character’s Intelligence modifier to:

  • The number of bonus languages your character knows at the start of the game. These are in addition to any starting racial languages and Common. If you have a penalty, you can still read and speak your racial languages unless your Intelligence is lower than 3.
  • The number of skill points gained each level, though your character always gets at least 1 skill point per level.
  • Appraise, Craft, Knowledge, Linguistics, and Spellcraft skill checks.

A black mage, blue mage, and time mage gains bonus MP based on his Intelligence score. The minimum Intelligence score needed to cast a black mage, blue mage, or time mage spell is 10 + the spell’s level.

Wisdom (Wis)

Wisdom describes a character’s willpower, common sense, awareness, and intuition. Wisdom is the most important ability for astrologians, clerics, geomancers and white mages, and it is also important for monks and red mages. If you want your character to have acute senses, put a high score in Wisdom. Every creature has a Wisdom score. A character with a Wisdom score of 0 is incapable of rational thought and is unconscious.

You apply your character’s Wisdom modifier to:

  • Will saving throws (for negating the effects of charm person and other spells).
  • Heal, Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, and Survival skill checks.

Astrologians, clerics, geomancers and white mages get bonus MP based on their Wisdom scores. The minimum Wisdom score needed to cast an asrtrologiuan, cleric, geomancer or white mage spell is 10 + the spell’s level.

Charisma (Cha)

Charisma measures a character’s personality, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and appearance. It is the most important ability for bards, dark knights, holy knights, illusionists, necromancers, and summoners. For undead creatures, Charisma is a measure of their unnatural “lifeforce.” Every creature has a Charisma score. A character with a Charisma score of 0 is not able to exert himself in any way and is unconscious.

You apply your character’s Charisma modifier to:

  • Checks that represent attempts to influence others.
  • Channel energy DCs for clerics attempting to harm undead foes.
  • Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Perform, and Use Magic Device skill checks.

Bards, dark knights, holy knights, illusionists, necromancers, and summoners gain a number of bonus MP based on their Charisma scores. The minimum Charisma score needed to cast a dark knight, holy knight, illusionist, necromancer, or summoner spell is 10 + the spell’s level. The minimum Charisma score needed to perform a bard song is 10 + the song’s level.