Combat

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Never back down.

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Combat is the process of getting into a fight with bad guys, and resolving how that fight turns out.

While we hesitate to say that combat is the main "fun" in Epic Path, in truth, getting into and winning fights is the source of a lot of fun in the game.

After all, who doesn't like slaying the dragon and rescuing the maiden? This is the stuff of epic songs, legends, and mythology world wide, and has been for thousands of years. So, fighting the bad guys is a big part of playing Epic Path. Yes, role playing encounters with the other elements in the game world can be huge fun, and every referee should strive to make all aspects of the game enjoyable, but combat is the place where many of the most 'white-knuckle' moments come from. Many of the player character classes and races have many elements which relate to combat as well.

So how does it work?

How Basic Combat Works

Combat in Epic Path, and indeed in all D20 system games, is taken one person at a time in a step-wise fashion. At the beginning of the combat, each person rolls an initiative number by rolling a D20 and adding their initiative modifier. The person (or monster) with the highest initiative number goes first, then the person with the next highest number goes next, etc. This process repeats until every person and monster and other creature in a given conflict has had a turn. (It is HIGHLY recommended to have a whiteboard, display monitor, or even a plain old sheet of paper where all the initiative numbers for each creature can be kept track of.)

The Game Master may keep track of the initiative count, or, the players may keep track of it, depending upon the work load of the game master.

When all creatures involved in a combat have had one turn to take their actions, IE, all the initiative numbers have been counted off in order from highest to lowest, the first round of combat is finished.

At the bottom of the round the game master will announce that the first round is over and then reset the initiative count to the highest number again, and once more, each person and monster gets their turn to act.

In this step-wise fashion, each player, monster, and other creature acts, one at a time, moving around the battlefield, making attacks, casting spells, etc. Each character and creature accrues damage in this process. If any creature loses all their hit points, they are either unconscious or dead and are then skipped in the initiative order. This process continues until all the monsters are dead or defeated, or in the case of disaster, all of the players are dead or defeated.

And that's it! The basic process of combat in a D20 game is very simple and fast moving...in its basic form. Of course, as you gain experience with the game and the game master adds more complex challenges, things get much more complicated.

Initiative

At the start of a battle, each combatant makes an initiative check. An initiative check is not a Dexterity check, although it is based off Dexterity. Each character rolls a d20 and applies their Dexterity modifier to the roll, as well as other modifiers from feats, spells, and other effects. Characters act in order, counting down from the highest result to the lowest. After all creatures in the encounter have taken their turn, the round is considered over, and a new round begins, granting each creature a new turn resolved in the same order (unless a character takes an action that results in his or her initiative changing).

If two or more combatants have the same initiative check result, ties are resolved as follows:

  • The creature with the highest initiative modifier acts first
  • if still tied, the creature with the highest dexterity modifier acts first
  • if still tied, both creatures roll a tie-breaking d20. This die roll only determines which of these tied creatures goes first; it does not alter their initiative in relation to all of the other creatures in the encounter.

Flat-Footed: At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are Flat-Footed. You can’t use your Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) while flat-footed. Barbarians and rogues of high enough level have the uncanny dodge extraordinary ability, which means that they cannot be caught flat-footed. Characters with uncanny dodge retain their Dexterity bonus to their AC and can make attacks of opportunity before they have acted in the first round of combat. A flat-footed character can’t make attacks of opportunity, unless he has the Combat Reflexes feat.

Inaction: Even if you can’t take actions, you retain your initiative score for the duration of the encounter.

Maximum Encounter Length

If any combat ever manages to last ten rounds in a row, the current combat ends, and a new combat immediately begins. All surviving participants must re-roll initiative, and may gain a fresh new action point, as though entering a new combat. Any buffs, special abilities or feats which last until the end of the encounter are ended. Any special abilities which may only be used once per encounter are renewed, and may be used again. Any creature slain in the previous encounter remains dead. Treasure and XP should not be distributed until all combat is completely resolved. Characters only receive XP and treasure for enemies they have defeated, so no creature will provide its XP and treasure rewards more than once, regardless of how slowly the PC's manage to kill it.

The first round of the renewed combat is treated as the 1st round of combat for purposes of how you may use your action point.

Surprise

When a combat starts, if you are not aware of your opponents and they are aware of you, you are surprised. In most cases, this is due to one side having the time to set up an ambush against the other side. However, sometimes one side will stumble into an encounter with the other side and are simply too distracted to notice that an encounter has begun.

Setting Up An Ambush

Setting up an ambush, whether you are the GM running a group of monsters, or the player characters, requires at least 1 minute of preparation. It is also generally best if you know with some certainty that the other group (monsters or PC's) will pass through the area in which you are setting up an ambush. This is best accomplished by setting up where the environment naturally converges into a choke point, or playing upon the routines of the other party.
The ambushing party (the attackers) must choose a square on the battlefield that is the focal point of their ambush. All members of the ambushing side must set up within a 50 foot spread of all other ambushing members (no two ambushers can be more than fifty feet apart), and that spread must also include the focal square of the ambush.
At the point the ambush is sprung, each creature in the group being ambushed may roll a Perception check to notice the ambush at the last second. (See "Determining Awareness", below.)
Assuming the ambushing party has sufficient time to prepare, one member of that party rolls a d20. On a result of 10 or greater, the ambush preparations are good enough to cause a surprise round to occur. A roll of 9 or less means that some aspect of the preparations were inadequate to disguise the ambush from casual view, and the approaching targets will see through the attempt without a need for perception checks. In such a case, no surprise round occurs.
Modifiers to Ambush Check:
  • More Prep Time: For each additional minute of preparation, the ambushing party gains a +1 circumstance bonus to the d20 check, to a maximum of +4, if you have 5 or more full minutes to prepare.
  • Skilled Ambushers: Some monsters and character classes are better at preparing ambushes, and receive a bonus to the check. This bonus is usually only +1, but can sometimes be higher. Refer to the specific monster entries or character classes for details.
  • Some creatures are also capable of setting up an ambush in less than 1 full minute of preparation time, while others are capable of increasing the base DC of a successfully prepared ambush. However, these abilities do not influence the ambush check result.
  • Good Hiding Places: If the ambushing area has sufficient hiding places for all creatures such that each creature has cover from the approaching prey, and all ambushing creatures are remaining as still as possible, and taking no actions other than watching for the approaching victims, they gain a +1 bonus to the check. If any creature has half or more of their body exposed (partial cover), or if any creature is required to squeeze to have cover, this bonus does not apply.
  • Invisibility: If all creatures in the ambushing party are invisible, they gain a +1 bonus to the check.
This ambush check is made in place of individual stealth checks for each creature. Players and monsters may still make stealth checks if they wish, but their degree of success is irrelevant to whether or not a surprise round occurs.
Ruining the Ambush
If any creature in the ambushing party speaks out loud, or moves from their space, the ambush is ruined and must be set up again, requiring an additional minute of preparation. Successful ambushes require discipline, and can prove quite difficult for highly chaotic creatures.
Why can't we all just run around a corner and hide?
It is easy to think that, by running around a corner, and having all members of the group enter a Stealth stance, or hide behind cover, you might be able to surprise enemy creatures who are following you, or are approaching the area. However, such creatures would be aware not only that the hiding creatures must be nearby, but would be on their guard against the rather obvious ambush to follow. As a result, no surprise round is possible.
However, attacking a creature from stealth does cause that creature to be Flat-Footed against your attack. That's not nothing.

Accidental Encounters

It is also possible to surprise creatures when they are so distracted by something else that they stumble into an encounter without the proper awareness that a fight is occurring. This is quite rare, since most monsters and heroes are hyper-aware of their surroundings, and are on the lookout for danger. However, some activities require so much attention that making Passive Perception checks are not possible. If no members of a group are capable of making Passive Perception checks, they are always surprised by an encounter with enemy creatures, even if the enemy creatures made no preparations for an ambush.
If even one member of a distracted group is keeping an eye out, and not participating in the distracting action, they can warn their allies prior to any accidental encounters occurring. As a result, such a group would only be surprised if they encounter enemy creatures who have set up a proper ambush.

The Surprise Round

Assuming an ambush check is successful, or an accidental encounter has occurred, a surprise round happens, regardless of how many creatures are aware of the encounter.
A surprise round consists of a single standard action for each creature which is aware of the encounter, resolved in initiative order. Any creature which failed to notice that the encounter is occurring loses their standard action during the surprise round. As with any encounter, any creature which has not yet acted during the encounter (including those who cannot act during the surprise round) are Flat-Footed until they take their first action.
Creatures may use this standard action however they wish, though Charge actions are the most common tactic. Note that charge actions always break stealth before the charge attack is resolved. Assuming your target hasn't yet acted, they are still Flat-Footed to the attack, so this is usually no great loss.
Creatures may also use their standard action during a surprise round to take the Total Defense action, even though this normally a full-round action.
Surprise rounds count as a special round for purposes of how action points may be used. The round immediately following a surprise round is still considered "round 1". Action points used during the surprise round may use any ability that is normally available in the first round of combat, even though it isn't technically round 1 yet.

Determining Awareness

Each creature in the group being ambushed must roll a Perception check to notice the ambush at the last second. This is a free action that is made against a Challenging DC for the CR (or level) of the ambushing creatures. Note that some creatures (or character classes) may possess a special ability that increases this DC to a Hard DC or (rarely) even an Impossible DC for their CR (or level).
If any creature among the group being ambushed was making Spot checks (active perception) each round (requiring a move action), they reduce the required DC by one step (typically from Challenging to Average for the CR or level of the ambushing creatures).
All creatures in the group that set up the ambush automatically succeed on the perception check to notice when the surprise round begins. In addition, they are assumed to be making Spot checks each round, once the ambush has been set up. This may allow them to spot any invisible and/or stealthed creatures among their targets prior to the encounter beginning. GM's may wish to make a single such Spot check for all of the creatures in the ambushing group, rather than one per creature, to simplify things, though they may roll for each creature, if they prefer.
Creatures which fail this check are surprised, and lose the standard action normally gained during the surprise round. They remain Flat-Footed until they are able to act in the encounter. Creatures which succeed on the check are not surprised, and may take their standard action during the surprise round, resolved in initiative order.
Note that, just because a creature is aware that an ambush is occurring does not mean that they penetrate any stealth checks, or notice any invisible creatures. They are simply aware that enemy creatures are present. However, in most cases, the ambushing creatures will break their stealth (and/or invisibility) very soon after the ambush is triggered, so it may not be relevant.
In the event that a creature among the group being ambushed notices the ambush and is higher in the initiative order than all of the ambushing creatures, they are in the peculiar position of not having any targets to attack. Such creatures may take the Total Defense action (as a standard action instead of a full-round action, due to it being a surprise round), ready an action, or hold their action. They may also declare they are Fighting Defensively and also hold or ready an action, gaining the bonus for fighting defensively immediately, though they must remember to apply the penalty for doing so when their action comes up. They may also wish to use their standard action to make an active perception check, to attempt to penetrate any stealth or invisibility among the ambushing creatures. They could then relay any information they learn to their allies. In any case, because they have no acted (even if they ready or hold their action), they are no longer Flat-Footed against attacks.

Types of Actions

Each round during combat, a character gets a single standard action, a move action and a swift action, as well as one or more free actions. In addition, some characters can use immediate actions to perform a limited action outside of their own turn. These basic action types can be combined or used as described below, leading to a total of eight basic action types:

Full-Round Action

As the name implies, a full-round action takes a character her entire round to perform. If a character declares she is using a full-round action, it uses up all of her actions until the start of her next turn. Any effects from the action being performed occur at the end of her current turn, however.

Once a full-round action is declared, a character may not perform any standard, move, swift, or immediate actions, nor may she perform any attacks of opportunity until the start of her next turn.

Some common uses for a full-round action include:

  • Delivering a coup-de-grace
  • Run
  • Withdraw
  • Escape from a net
  • Loading a heavy crossbow or hand onager
  • Using a touch spell on up to six adjacent allies

Full Attack Action

If you get more than one attack per round because your base attack bonus is high enough, because you fight with two weapons or a double weapon, etc, you must use a full-attack action to get your additional attacks. (There are rare exceptions to this, such as the Monk's Echoing Strike ability, which is specifically a standard action that grants two attacks.)

A full attack action uses a combined standard action and move action. If you do not have both a standard action and a move action available to you, you cannot perform a full-attack action this round.

The standard action portion of a full-attack action is always your first attack at your highest BAB. If you are using two weapons or a double-weapon, you can strike with either weapon (or either end) first. Note that actions which require a 'standard action' (such as cleave, or many combat maneuvers) can only be used during the first attack of a full attack action.

You do not need to specify the targets of your attacks ahead of time. You can see how the earlier attacks turn out before assigning the later ones.

A full attack action is 'severable', meaning that a character can abort the full attack after the standard action portion of it to take a move action instead. If you've already taken a 5-foot step, you can't use your move action to move any distance, but you could still use a different kind of move action.

The only movement you can take during a full attack is a 5-foot step. You may take the step before, after, or between your attacks.

You may still take a swift action before or after a full attack unless the full attack action specifically disallows it.

Some common uses for a full-attack action include:

Standard Action

A standard action allows you to do something, most commonly to make an attack or cast a spell. Using a standard action to attack is sometimes also called an attack action. Standard actions may only be performed during your turn.

Some combat options (such as using Cleave (Feat)) are standard actions that allow you to make an attack. These options can't be combined with other actions requiring a standard action, such as most combat maneuvers (e.g. trip or dirty trick). This rule even applies to full-attack and full-round actions, since you never get more than one standard action in a round.

A standard action can be degraded to a move action or a swift action. However, a standard action is the most time-consuming of these three action types, so neither move actions nor swift actions can be converted up to a standard action. Even combining your move and swift actions together is not enough to perform an additional standard action during your turn.

Common uses for standard actions include:

  • Melee, ranged or unarmed attacks
  • Activating a magic item
  • Aid Another
  • Cast a spell
  • Drink a potion
  • Using Maneuver Defense to escape a grapple
  • Feint
  • Lowering Spell Resistance
  • Reading a scroll
  • Readying an action
  • Stabilize a dying creature
  • Total Defense
  • Draw a concealed weapon

Move Action

A move action allows you to move up to your speed with one or more movement types, or perform an action that takes a similar amount of time. Move actions may only be performed during your turn.

A move action requires less time to perform than a standard action, but more time to perform than a swift action. As a result, a standard action can be degraded to a move action (or a swift action), and a move action can be degraded to a swift action. However, neither move actions nor swift actions can be converted up to a standard action. Even combining your move and swift actions together is not enough to perform an additional standard action during your turn.

When a move action and a standard action are combined, they become a Full Attack Action.

If you move no actual distance in a round (commonly because you have used your move action to perform an action other than moving), you are permitted to take one 5-Foot Step either before, during, or after the action. Note that any move action which involves movement, such as standing up from Prone, disallows 5-foot steps for the round.

Common uses for move actions include:

  • Moving up to your speed
  • Open or close a door
  • Mount/dismount a steed
  • Stand up from prone
  • Ready or drop a shield
  • Retrieve a stored item

Difficult Terrain

Some terrain is too tricky to move through at normal speed. Such terrain is called "difficult" though this can encompass many scenarios: obstacles, slippery or unstable footing, steep slopes, etc. When moving through difficult terrain, each square moved into counts as two squares (10 feet), effectively reducing the distance that a character can cover in a move. Characters cannot run or charge through difficult terrain, nor can they take 5-foot steps.

Impeded Terrain

Sometimes the terrain is so difficult that you must clamber over it on hands and knees, rather than just carefully navigating it. Examples include junk-strewn rooms, vine-choked jungles, or waist-deep bogs. A creature wishing to move through such terrain must use a full-round action to move 5 feet. This is not treated as a 5-foot step and does provoke attacks of opportunity. Creatures attempting to move through impeded terrain cannot run or charge through such terrain, nor can they maintain any stances, including stealth.

Note that impeded terrain is not the same as blocked terrain, such as walls, locked doors or closed portcullises.

Some impeded terrain may allow an Acrobatics (if obstacles), Might (if climbing) or Movement (if swimming or flying) check to move more than 5 feet per full-round action, at the GM's discretion. As a general rule, however, spending a full round to move 5 feet does not require any sort of skill check.

Blocked Terrain

Blocked terrain is terrain it is impossible to move into without such things as incorporeal powers, burrowing, earth glide, extremely small size, extremely large size, etc. Note that teleport can move through blocked terrain as long as line of sight and line of effect rules are satisfied. Further note that many types of blocked terrain also block line of sight and/or line of effect. The GM adjudicates any unusual cases. Examples of blocked terrain include solid walls, natural stone or dirt, doors, shutters, gates, and portcullises, roofs and roads, pillars, columns, and statues, etc.

Note that weapons with the Unwieldy quality, such as the Long Whip, cannot be used while adjacent to blocked terrain. Weapons with the Cumbersome quality, such as the Great Whip, suffer a -4 penalty to attack rolls made while adjacent to blocked terrain.

Part of a Move Action

Type of Action: Special (see below)

When something can be performed as "part of a move action," it requires a move action to perform. However, this type of action specifically allows the user to use the move action to both perform the action and move up to their speed. For example, a character can walk up to his speed, and while doing so, also draw a weapon.

Nearly any action you perform with a move action (such as standing up from Prone) can also include an action which is "part of a move action".

However, if you degrade your move action to a Swift Action, take a Full Attack Action, or a Full-Round Action, you cannot perform a "part of a move action" action this round. That is, you must take an actual move action (though not necessarily to move) to include a "part of a move action" activity with it.

Some examples of actions which are "part of a move action":

  • Drawing a weapon
  • Sheathing a weapon
  • Drawing a potion or item from a bandoleer or other easy-access location
  • Pick up an item from the ground (in your space or in a space you are moving through)

Swift Action

A swift action consumes a very small amount of time, but represents a larger expenditure of effort and energy than a free action. Swift actions can only be taken during your turn.

You can normally perform only a single swift action per turn. However, you may degrade either your standard action or your move action to swift actions, potentially performing as many as 3 swift actions in your turn (by degrading both your standard and move actions each to swift actions, plus the one you normally get each turn). A swift action cannot be converted up to a move action or a standard action.

Common uses for swift actions include:

  • Cast a Quickened Spell
  • Castigate (Cleric class ability)
  • Wolf Pack Tactics (Ranger class ability)
  • Smite Enemy (Paladin class ability)
  • Rage (Barbarian class ability)
  • Enter a stance

Immediate Action

Much like a swift action, an immediate action consumes a very small amount of time but represents a larger expenditure of effort and energy than a free action. However, unlike a swift action, an immediate action can be performed at any time—even if it's not your turn.

Immediate actions tend to be somewhat rare, as they can be very powerful. Often, these are spells or class abilities which allow a character to do something special outside of their turn.

You may never take more than one immediate action per round.

You cannot use an immediate action if you are flat-footed.

As a note, immediate actions are different from attacks of opportunity. Making one or more attacks of opportunity does not use up your immediate action for the round.

Common uses for immediate actions include:

  • Casting Feather Fall

Attack of Opportunity

Sometimes a combatant in a melee lets her guard down or takes a reckless action. In this case, combatants near her can take advantage of her lapse in defense to attack her for free. These free attacks are called attacks of opportunity.

Threatened Squares

You threaten all squares into which you can make a melee attack, even when it is not your turn. Generally, that means everything in all squares adjacent to your space (including diagonally). An enemy that takes certain actions while in a threatened square provokes an attack of opportunity from you. If you're unarmed, you don't normally threaten any squares and thus can't make attacks of opportunity.

Reach Weapons
Most creatures of Medium or smaller size have a reach of only 5 feet. This means that they can make melee attacks only against creatures up to 5 feet (1 square) away. However, Small and Medium creatures wielding reach weapons threaten more squares than a typical creature. In addition, many creatures that are sized-large or larger have a natural reach of 10 feet or more.

Provoking an Attack of Opportunity

Two kinds of actions can provoke attacks of opportunity: moving out of a threatened square and performing certain actions within a threatened square.

Leaving a Threatened Square
Moving out of a threatened square usually provokes attacks of opportunity from threatening opponents. There are two common methods of avoiding such an attack — the 5-foot step and the withdraw action. Note that moving into a threatened square does not provoke an attack of opportunity, only leaving a threatened square.
Performing a Provokative Act
Some actions, when performed in a threatened square, provoke attacks of opportunity as you divert your attention from the battle.

Remember that even actions that normally provoke attacks of opportunity may have exceptions to this rule.

Note that a single action, such as a move action, can never provoke more than one attack of opportunity per enemy creature provoked, even if that creature is capable of making more than one attack of opportunity per round. For example, if you move in such a way that you are leaving more than one square threatened by the same enemy, you only provoke from that enemy a single time, because you only took one move action. Note that this "one attack of opportunity per action performed" rule applies per enemy, meaning that multiple enemies can each perform an attack of opportunity on you, if provoked, per action you perform which provokes. A full attack action is also considered a single action, for purposes of provoking an attack of opportunity, even though it could technically be severed.

Making an Attack of Opportunity

An attack of opportunity is a single melee attack, and most characters can only make one per round.

You don't have to make an attack of opportunity if you don't want to.

The to-hit roll of an attack of opportunity is always made at your highest attack bonus, even if you've already attacked this round.

An attack of opportunity "interrupts" the action of the creature which provokes the attack, meaning it is resolved immediately. Only if the provoking creature survives the attack can it finish performing its action. In most cases, actions which are interrupted by an attack of opportunity can only be stopped by reducing the acting creature to 0 or fewer hit points. The attack of opportunity itself does not prevent the action from occurring, nor does it (usually) inflict any penalties on the action.

Attacks of opportunity are only basic melee attacks. You cannot use a combat maneuver, cast a spell, or make a ranged attack as your attack of opportunity, unless you have an ability which specifically allows you to do so.

Free Action

Free actions consume a very small amount of time and effort. You can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally. However, there are reasonable limits on what you can really do for free, as decided by the GM. Free actions may only be performed during your turn, unless a specific ability states otherwise.

Some combat options are free actions meant to be combined with an attack. Often, these are feats with specific limitations defined within the feat — for example, Cleaving Finish gives you an extra melee attack, but only after you make an attack that drops a foe.

A 5-Foot Step is a special kind of free action, which allows you to move 5 feet without provoking an attack of opportunity. However, you may not use a 5-foot step in any round in which you have used a move action to move. Note that attacks which include movement, such as a Charge, count as movement that prevents a 5-foot step, unless the ability specifically states otherwise.

A character may also delay his action until later in the initiative order, as a free action. Doing so lowers the character's initiative until they declare they want to take their turn. However, a delayed action can never interrupt another creature's turn. It must be taken either before or after other creatures in the initiative order. A character who wishes to react to specific events before they happen should instead use a standard action to 'ready an action'.

Most dialogue is considered a free action during combat. This is not because talking takes no time, but because monologues, taunts and exclamations about how despicable your foe is add flavor to an encounter, and should be encouraged. GM's may even wish to grant the occasional circumstance bonus as a reward for particularly inspired or entertaining dialogue. However, GM's should require the use of the Feint (Bluff) or Demoralize (Intimidate) actions if players want to gain significant advantages from dialogue. Outside of combat, conversations take at least a few minutes or more.

Hierarchy of Actions

  • A standard action may be converted down to a single move action or a single swift action.
  • A move action may be converted down to a single swift action, but it cannot be converted up to a standard action (even if combined with another action, like a swift).
  • Swift actions, free actions, immediate actions, and attacks of opportunity cannot be converted into any other type of action.

An easy way to remember this is that a standard action is greater than a move action, which is greater than a swift action. You can trade down, but you can't trade up.

Attacking While Moving

Some attacks occur as a component of movement, either your own or someone else's, and the rules for targeting creatures during these attacks are different from normal attacks.

If your attack includes a movement component (e.g., Charge, the Brawler's Jab, or Spring Attack (Feat), etc.), you must have line of sight to your target from your initial square, before you begin the action. These actions cannot be initiated unless you have a valid target before you begin the action. You cannot initiate a spring attack against a creature around a corner and out of sight, unless you have some means sensing the creature through the intervening walls.

If your attack is triggered by someone else's movement (e.g., attacks of opportunity, a fighter's Challenge, etc.), you only have to have line of sight to your target when they are in the square into which you wish to make your attack. To continue the above analogy, a rogue could make an attack of opportunity after the troll comes around the corner and leaves a threatened square.

This means that a creature with total cover or total concealment cannot be targeted with an attack that contains a movement component, or an attack caused by movement (unless you have a specific ability which allows otherwise). While you are allowed to attack into a square where you think a totally concealed creature might be (albeit with a 50% miss chance), you even attempt it if the attack includes a movement component.

Fighting Defensively

At the start of your turn, you may declare that you are fighting defensively. If you do so, you take a -4 penalty on all attacks until the start of your next turn, in order to gain a +2 dodge bonus to AC until the start of your next turn.

If you use any offensive ability (any spell, spell-like, supernatural or extraordinary which either deals damage or inflicts a condition) that requires an action to use but does not require an attack roll, you must make a Maneuver Offense check, or a Caster Check (your choice), versus a DC of 15 + your character's level, to use that ability. This means using something like the Ifrit's Aura of Fire stance or the Bard's Harmony ability would require one of these rolls to use while fighting defensively. Only one Maneuver Offense check is ever required per action taken, even if multiple abilities occur during that action, and the Maneuver Offense check is ONLY necessary if no attack roll is being made during that action. Abilities which are free actions to use do not require a check. If the Maneuver Offense check is failed, you are still defensive, gaining the bonus to AC, but the action you attempted cannot be used this round, and the action required to attempt it is wasted. This is also true of spells — if you fail your Caster Check, you lose the the spell, and the action used to cast it.

Fighting defensively can also be used in a round in which you make a full attack action, but must always be declared before the first attack of the full attack, and applies all bonuses and penalties to all actions made until the start of the character's next turn.

  • Special: If you have at least 5 ranks of acrobatics, the dodge bonus to AC while fighting defensively is +3 instead of +2.

Total Defense

You can defend yourself as a full round action. You get a +4 dodge bonus to your AC for 1 round. Your AC improves at the start of this action. You can't combine total defense with fighting defensively or with the benefit of the Combat Expertise feat. You can't make any attacks, including attacks of opportunity, while using total defense. Using total defense immediately ends your turn.

  • Special: If you have at least 5 ranks of acrobatics, the dodge bonus to AC while taking the total defense action is +6 instead of +4.

Charge

Charging is a special standard action that allows you to move up to your speed and attack during the action. Charging, however, carries tight restrictions on how you can move.

Movement During a Charge

  • You must move before your attack, not after.
  • You must move at least 10 feet (2 squares) and may move up to your speed directly toward the designated opponent.
  • You can also draw a weapon during a charge attack if your base attack bonus is at least +1.
  • You provoke opportunity attacks as normal during the movement portion of the charge.
  • You must have a clear path toward the opponent, and nothing can hinder your movement (such as difficult terrain or obstacles).
  • You must move to the closest space from which you can attack the opponent. If this space is occupied or otherwise blocked, you can't charge. You must be able to draw a straight line from the center of your starting space to the center of the ending space, without passing through any object that blocks movement, slows movement, or contains a creature (even an ally) in order to charge.
  • If you don't have line of sight to the opponent prior to charging, you can't charge that opponent.
  • Charging ends your turn. You may take no further actions on your turn after a charge - not even a free action! The exception to this is if you spend your action point, which grants you a standard action. Note that any unused swift or move actions are gone, even if you spend an action point.

Attacking on a Charge

  • After moving, you may make a single melee attack. Even if you have extra attacks, such as from having a high enough BAB or from using multiple weapons, you only get to make one attack during a charge.
  • You take a -2 penalty to your AC until the start of your next turn.
  • A charging character gets a +2 bonus on combat maneuver attack rolls (Maneuver Offense) made to bull rush an opponent.
  • Lances and Charge Attacks: A lance deals double damage if employed by a mounted character in a charge. The weapon's base damage dice are doubled, and any adders due to high strength, feats, and weapon enhancement bonuses are doubled. If the charge attack critically hits, the critical hit is treated as if the crit multiplier were one higher than normal for the weapon.
  • Weapons Readied against a Charge: Spears, tridents, and other weapons with the brace feature deal double damage when readied (set) and used against a charging character. The weapon's base damage dice are doubled, and any adders due to high strength, feats, and weapon enhancement bonuses are doubled. If the Braced attack critically hits, the critical damage is resolved as if the crit multiplier were one higher than normal for the Braced weapon.

Stance

Stances are class abilities which generally take a swift action to initiate, can be sustained for free, but are broken when knocked prone or subjected to a condition which reduces your number of available actions for the round. For example, Rattled prevents you from using either a standard or a move action, and thus would end a character's active stance immediately upon being afflicted with it. You can restart the stance with another swift action once the condition has been cleared.

A player character can only have one stance-type ability active at a time.

Stances can only be maintained continuously for 1 minute, though it may be restarted with a new swift action after the duration expires, assuming the character meets any other requirements to re-initiate the stance.

Dropping a stance voluntarily usually costs a swift action. Refer to the stance ability's description for details.

Aid Another

In melee combat, you can help an allied creature attack or defend by distracting or interfering with an opponent. If you're in position to make a melee attack on an opponent that is engaging your ally in melee combat, you can attempt to aid your ally as a standard action.

You make an attack roll against the target's Touch AC. If you succeed, your ally gains one of the following bonuses:

  • a +2 bonus on his next attack roll against that opponent
  • a +2 bonus to AC against that opponent's next attack

The chosen bonus only lasts until the start of your next turn, regardless of whether your ally is able to make use of it. Multiple characters can aid the same ally, and similar bonuses stack.

See also Assist (for assisting with skill checks).

Assist

You can help someone achieve success on a skill check by making the same kind of skill check in a cooperative effort.

As a standard action, you can assist an adjacent ally on a skill check by rolling at least an Easy DC on the same skill, versus the same CR as the main check.

  • If successful, the ally you are assisting gets a +2 circumstance bonus on his or her check.
  • If you roll less than an Easy DC result, you instead inflict a -1 circumstance penalty to the check being made by the ally you are assisting.

You can't take 10 on a skill check to assist. In many cases, assists are not possible or only a limited number of characters can help at once. In all cases, no more than 5 characters can ever assist with a skill check. Note that circumstance bonuses stack with all other bonuses including other circumstance bonuses.

If a skill is trained only, or requires a particular specialization (such as Perform, Piloting, or Profession), you must have at least one rank in the same skill or specialization to assist. GM's may adjudicate that some skills or specializations are complementary enough to also allow assistance.

If you wish to assist an ally with an epic skill use of a skill (a skill use which requires at least 21 ranks to attempt), you must also have at least 21 ranks in the skill in question.

Assisting an ally with a skill use that provokes attacks of opportunity also provokes attacks of opportunity.

Note: to provide combat bonuses to an ally, refer to Aid Another.

How to Hit Things

When it is your turn in a combat, you can only attack a creature which is within the reach, or within range, of your weapon, ability, spell, or other attack. Most melee weapons (like a sword) can only attack figures you are adjacent to. Reach weapons are melee weapons that grant the ability to attack creatures two or more squares away, though often at the cost of not being able to attack adjacent creatures (unless it has inclusive reach). Most ranged weapons, either thrown weapons (like a spear) or projectile weapons (like a bow) have a range increment listed. You can attack enemies far away with a ranged weapon, but the further you are, the harder it is to hit. Melee weapons never take a penalty to-hit due to range, even if they have a lot of reach.

Each square on the combat board is considered to be five feet across. it is pretty much interchangeable to talk about distance in terms of feet or squares, at five to one. So a thirty foot range is the exact same as a six square range.

Once you have determined that your target is within your reach or range, or you have moved to a position where this is true, you may use a standard action to make a single attack, or you may use a standard action plus a move action to make a 'full' attack. IE, you stand there and just go nuts on the guy. The higher level you are, the more attacks you get in a full attack action, so this is a good way to do more damage, assuming you can get your target to stand still for you.

When fighting size Large or larger foes, you can choose which square of their space within your reach to target once per round. This usually doesn't matter, but it is important for some feats, such as Cleave (Feat) or Darting Viper (Feat), when it is important to determine what foes, if any, are adjacent to the foe you are attacking. Which space you attack within a foe never has any impact on whether or not you are threatening a space, that depends solely upon your weapon and your reach.

Attack Roll

An attack roll represents your attempt to strike your opponent on your turn in a round. When you make an attack roll, you roll a d20 and add your attack bonus. (Other modifiers may also apply to this roll.) If your attack roll is greater than or equal to the Armor Class of the enemy you are attacking, you have scored a hit, and it's time to resolve your damage.

Automatic Misses and Hits

A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on an attack roll is always a miss. A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a hit. A natural 20 is also a threat - a possible critical hit.

Melee Attack Bonus

Your attack bonus with a melee weapon is:
Base attack bonus + Strength modifier + size modifier

Ranged Attack Bonus

Your attack bonus with a ranged weapon is:
Base attack bonus + Dexterity modifier + size modifier + range penalty

Base Attack Bonus

A base attack bonus is an attack roll bonus derived from character class and level or creature type and Hit Dice (or combination’s thereof). Base attack bonuses increase at different rates for different character classes and creature types. A second attack (at -5 attack bonus) is gained when a base attack bonus reaches +6, a third (at -10 attack bonus) with a base attack bonus of +11 or higher, and a fourth (at -15 attack bonus) with a base attack bonus of +16 or higher. Base attack bonuses gained from different sources, such as when a character is a multiclass character, stack.

Range Penalty

With a ranged weapon, you can shoot or throw at any target that is within the weapon’s maximum range and in line of sight. The maximum range for a thrown weapon is five range increments. For projectile weapons, it is 10 range increments. Some ranged weapons have shorter maximum ranges, as specified in their descriptions.
Range Increment: Any attack at more than this distance is penalized for range. Beyond this range, the attack takes a cumulative –2 penalty for each full range increment (or fraction thereof) of distance to the target. For example, a dagger (with a range of 10 feet) thrown at a target that is 25 feet away would incur a –4 penalty. A thrown weapon has a maximum range of five range increments. A projectile weapon can shoot to 10 range increments.

Touch Attacks

Some attacks completely disregard armor, including shields and natural armor—the aggressor need only touch a foe for such an attack to take full effect. In these cases, the attacker makes a touch attack roll. When you are the target of a touch attack, your AC doesn’t include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. All other modifiers, such as your size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) apply normally (see Touch AC). The to-hit for a melee touch attack is calculated the same as a Melee Attack.

Ranged Touch Attacks

An attack which goes against the target's Touch AC, bypassing mundane armor, but made as a ranged attack. The to-hit for a ranged touch attack is calculated the same as a Ranged Attack.

Critical Hits

When you make an attack roll and get a natural 20 (the d20 shows 20), you hit regardless of your target’s Armor Class, and you have scored a “threat,” meaning the hit might be a critical hit (or “crit”). To find out if it’s a critical hit, you immediately make an attempt to “confirm” the critical hit—another attack roll with all the same modifiers as the attack roll you just made. If the confirmation roll also results in a hit against the target’s AC, your original hit is a critical hit. (The critical roll just needs to hit to give you a crit, it doesn’t need to come up 20 again.) If the confirmation roll is a miss, then your hit is just a regular hit.

A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together. Unless otherwise specified, the threat range for a critical hit on an attack roll is 20, and the multiplier is ×2.

Exception: Precision damage (such as from a rogue’s sneak attack class feature) and additional damage dice from special weapon qualities (such as flaming) are not multiplied when you score a critical hit.

Increased Threat Range

Sometimes your threat range is greater than 20. That is, you can score a threat on a lower number. In such cases, a roll of lower than 20 is not an automatic hit. For example:
19–20/×2: The weapon scores a threat on a natural roll of 19 or 20 (instead of just 20) and deals double damage on a critical hit.
18–20/×2: The weapon scores a threat on a natural roll of 18, 19, or 20 (instead of just 20) and deals double damage on a critical hit.
Any attack roll that doesn’t result in a hit is not a threat.

Increased Critical Multiplier

Some weapons deal better than double damage on a critical hit (see also, Equipment). For example:
×2: The weapon deals double damage on a critical hit.
×3: The weapon deals triple damage on a critical hit.
×3/×4: One head of this double weapon deals triple damage on a critical hit. The other head deals quadruple damage on a critical hit.
×4: The weapon deals quadruple damage on a critical hit.
If a spell, ability, or effect increases your existing critical multiplier, it is always additive to the multiplier, increasing it by 1 step. It is never multiplicative (e.g. if an effect says it doubles your x3 multiplier, the multiplier is simply increased to x4; it is NOT increased to x6).

Spells and Critical Hits

A spell that requires an attack roll can score a critical hit. A spell attack that requires no attack roll cannot score a critical hit. If a spell causes ability damage or drain (see Special Abilities), the damage or drain is doubled on a critical hit.

Combat Maneuvers and Critical Hits

Combat maneuvers cannot critically hit. However, in many cases, an exceptionally high Maneuver Offense result will provide greater effect than one that merely equals the target creature's Maneuver Defense value.

Splash Weapons

A splash weapon is a ranged weapon that breaks on impact, splashing or scattering its contents over its target and nearby creatures or objects. These include such classic favorites as hornet's nests and bottles of alchemical fire, which is basically magic napalm and the best friend of people fighting trolls.

To attack a creature with a splash weapon, make a ranged touch attack against the target creature. Thrown splash weapons require no weapon proficiency, so you don’t take the –4 non-proficiency penalty, which makes alchemical splash weapons a great choice for starting spell-casters to use in a pinch. If you hit the creature's touch AC, the splash weapon deals direct hit damage to the target as described in the item. It also bursts messily and inflicts a lower amount of splash damage to all creatures within 5 feet of the space of the targeted creature. Splash damage cannot affect the target of the direct hit damage, even if the creature targeted is large enough to be in both the directly-hit square and the splashed squares.

Creatures hit with the direct damage of a splash weapon do not get a saving throw to attempt to reduce its damage. However, any creatures affected by the splash damage of a splash weapon may make a Reflex save to reduce the damage by half. The DC of this save is typically listed in the item description of the splash weapon.

If the target creature is sized-large or larger, you choose one of its squares and the splash damage affects creatures within 5 feet of that square. In no cases (unless by DM fiat) can splash weapons deal precision-based damage (such as the damage from the rogue’s sneak attack class feature).

Now, if you do not wish to attack a creature, splash weapons allow you to attack an area, instead. You can choose your target to be a specific square. Treat this as a ranged attack against AC 5. When you target an area in this way, you must have some sort of a solid object to break your splash weapon. For most cases, the ground is just about as solid as you can get, and works fine, but what if you are throwing a flask of alchemical fire up into the branches of a tree to burn up that nasty group of stirges? The branches of a tree constitute difficult terrain that is not on the ground, so does the flask break, or not?

Scatter result of 2

The GM adjudicates all thrown splash weapons that are not targeted at a creature's touch AC or blindingly obvious area targets such as floors or walls. Such attacks are always against difficult, impeded, or blocked squares. Blocked squares are as solid as the ground, and break flasks reliably, unless they are made of things like flesh or rubber. As a rough rule of thumb, impeded squares are usually sufficient to break a thrown splash weapon, and squares of difficult terrain are often good as well. The exact character of the obstacle is left up to the GM. A flask of acid thrown into dense spider webs is unlikely to break, but that same flask thrown into a tangle of melted sword-blades is almost certain to break, while a tangle of brush falls somewhere in between.

If you target a non-creature square (such as the ground) with a splash weapon and it breaks on impact, creatures in the target square or any adjacent squares are dealt only the splash damage. The direct hit damage is not dealt to ANY creature.

If you miss the target (whether aiming at a creature or a non-creature square), roll 1d8, to determine how the missed splash weapon scatters from its intended target. The d8 roll, called a 'scatter die', moves the target square of the splash weapon by 1 square in a random direction away from its intended target. A roll of a 1 falls short by one square in a straight line toward the thrower, while results of 2 through 8 are counted clockwise, circling around the originally-intended target square, from the 'falls short' point of a 1 result. After you determine where the weapon landed, it deals splash damage to all creatures in that square and in all adjacent squares. Missed splash weapons never deal direct-hit damage, even if there is a creature in the square that the splash weapon actually hit.

In the example to the right, a splash weapon was thrown (by the thrower), and missed its intended target. A d8 scatter die was rolled, with a result of a 2. The second square, counting clockwise from the "falls short" result of 1, is the new target of the splash weapon. All creatures in square 2's square and its adjacent squares take the splash damage from the splash weapon. None of the creatures take the direct-hit damage, since the splash weapon failed to directly hit anything.

Resolving Damage

All attacks do some random amount of damage. The amount is the weapon damage dice, plus any bonuses and penalties. This is all added together, then applied to the monster. Players and enemies alike can have resistance to this damage, either physical damage reduction or energy damage reduction. Each type of damage reduction is applied to damage in its own way.

Once you hit your enemy, calculate your damage, and subtract from it any applicable resistance, the remaining damage is subtracted from the enemies hit points. When the total reaches zero or less, the enemy is defeated.

Yay you!

Now on to the next enemy, an adventurer's job is never finished!


Calculating Damage

In general, "damage" falls into "weapon damage", inflicted by the weapons your character has, "spell damage", which can vary widely and is always described in the exact spell you've just cast, and "other damage". Other damage is such things as bonuses from class or racial abilities, bonuses from magical weapon properties, bonuses from feats, and other bonuses.

As a general rule of thumb, melee weapons do the damage defined for the weapon in the weapon blueprint, plus bonuses to-hit and damage for having a high Strength score. Thrown weapons do the damage defined in the weapon blueprint, plus bonuses to-hit for having a high Dexterity score and bonuses to damage for having a high Strength score. (Yes, thrown weapons require two stats to use well, that's the price you pay for attacking at range.) Projectile weapons do damage as defined by the ammunition they use, as defined by the ammunition blueprint. Projectile weapons gain bonuses to-hit from high Dexterity, and do not add bonuses to damage unless their is some weapon quality that allows such things. Crossbows, for example, can be bought such that they add a certain amount of Strength damage to their ammunition attacks.

Note that there are MANY exceptions to the base rules, so check the race, class, weapon, and feats you picked to see exactly what it all does. Many weapons do all sorts of cool and interesting things, and many class abilities, racial abilities, and feats can be 'stacked up' to give your character that extra "edge", so be sure to explore!

There are also many extra adders to the above base rules, so be sure you carefully read over all the effects that are working on each attack. Combat is a fluid, complex environment, with your own carefully designed tricks and abilities, the environment doing crazy stuff, allies helping you, and your enemies working to slow you down. Don't worry if it seems confusing, the rules are designed to be complete, but there's no real penalty for forgetting something...aside from the cold grasp of death....


Averaging Damage Rolls

The Epic Path rules make it pretty common for high level characters to have damage rolls involving a LOT of dice. In order to prevent 5-minute lulls in combat while the rogue adds up all thirty of her d6's, we offer the following optional rule:

Players can always take average on as many damage dice as they wish.

You may not take average on other rolls, such as d20 rolls (except where the "take 10" rule is available), though this rule can be used with precision damage, bonus damage, or any other kind of damage you roll.

We suggest that an even number of dice be selected for averaging, so that rounding (down) doesn't penalize the player's potential damage. For example, if you are rolling 21d6 damage, you could roll 10 dice and average 11 dice, for a roll of 10d6+38 (38.5 round down). Or you could roll 9 dice and take average on 12 dice, for a roll of 9d6+42. Of course, you could also just take the average of 73 (73.5 round down) for all 21d6, but most people like to roll at least some dice.

Players using weapons with the brutal quality add +1 to the normal damage for their die size, not to exceed maximum. Thus, a cruciate mace, dealing a d10 with the brutal quality, has an average of 6.0 on the die, instead of 5.5. There are three feats which modify the brutal quality, Improved Brutality, Greater Brutality and Epic Brutality. The first two add another .5 to the average result of the die. Thus, a Cruciate Mace with Greater Brutality deals an average of 5.5 + .5 (Brutal) + .5 (Improved Brutality) + .5 (Greater Brutality) for a whopping average of 7.0 on each damage die rolled. Epic Brutality always maximizes all your brutal dice.


Saving Throws

Many bad things can happen to you during an Epic Path combat, but many of them will allow you a chance to mitigate just how bad it really is. This is where 'saving throws' come into play. A saving throw means your character is taking a last ditch 'thing' to avoid the worst of the badness. This might involve dodging and ducking furiously to escape a blast of fire (a Reflex save), mustering your determination and steely resolve to struggle no matter what (a Will save), or just being THAT TOUGH that you just grit your teeth and tank the daylights out of that bad thing (a Fortitude save.)

Saving throws are developed during character creation, and you can get all sorts of buffs and adders to them. In all cases, a saving throw lets you make a last-ditch D20 roll, with your modifiers added, against a Difficulty Class (DC). The saving throw DC's are defined for all effects that grant a save, and the general numbers are all listed at this page.


Time Taken

The amount of time that passes in a combat doesn't really matter in most cases, but it can be of importance for things like burning fuses, ticking death machines, spell duration, and the like. As a rule of thumb, each round of a combat takes six seconds.

Wait, WHAT?? There's been five or six people take their actions in polite order, along with all the monsters, and all that stuff only takes six seconds?!

Yes, this is the way it's been done for decades, and believe it or not, it's actually pretty close to realistic. The reasoning is, ALL the people in a combat are acting at once in a big frantic mess. In the real world we resolve things in a nice, polite, one-at-a-time order, but it's all a big scrambling mess "in-game".

Fights are over FAST in Epic Path. And, if you've ever watched some videos on the internet of people competing with Historic European Martial Arts, this is accurate: The telling blow in most sword fights takes only a split second!

So, each round takes six seconds, and there are ten rounds per minute.

As a rule of thumb, most timescales out of combat are left to the GM to define and resolve, while most timescales within combat are laid out in terms of the actions that can be accomplished within them. For purposes of the game rules, there are no 'seconds' or 'pulses' or any other odd thing.

For clarity, all such timescales that are possible within Epic Path are laid out in the table below:


Free action
Swift or Immediate action
Move action
Standard action
Full attack action
Full-round action or multiples
Less than 1 minute (10 rounds)
1 minute (10 rounds) or multiples
10 minutes or multiples
1 hour or multiples
1 day or multiples
1 week or multiples
1 month or multiples
1 year or multiples

Holding Your Action

Just because you have rolled a number on the initiative order does not mean that you HAVE to act when it is your turn.

If a player character or a monster wishes too, they may declare that they are 'holding their action.' This means, simply, that they are waiting before they act. When a creature declares that they are holding their action, they are marked on the initiative list, they do nothing, and the Game Master moves to the next creature on the initiative order.

From that point forward, the holding creature may declare, after any creature has finished their action, that they wish to act then. This interrupts the normal progression of the initiative order. The person who was holding their action takes their turn immediately after the person or monster who just finished their action, and before the next person or creature who was scheduled to act. Even more importantly, this resets their initiative number for the rest of the combat! If they had initiative twenty-five, and wait until right after a monster with initiative seventeen to act, then their initiative changes to become sixteen. (See Initiative Tiebreakers for how to resolve ties.)

There is no limit to how long you may hold your action, with the very important caveat that you can only ever take one action per round. If you hold your action 'all the way around' to your old initiative number, then the action you were holding is lost and you may now use your new action instead.

Note that the use of action points and their effects are based upon the round of combat, not the number of rounds your character has taken. It is possible (although possibly foolish) to hold your action all the way until the third round and use your action point for the third round benefit, even though it is your personally first action.

Readying an Action

When it is your initiative, you may want to do something that depends upon what another creature is going to do. Of course, you can do that! It is called readying an action.

To ready an action, you declare to the Game Master that you are spending a standard action getting ready to do something. You can ready any action that can be completed as a standard action. Since you can reduce a standard action to a move action or a swift action, you can also ready any action that require move actions and swift actions.

At the time you Ready, you state to the Game Master the conditions that will cause you to take your Readied action. This condition must be something clear and unambiguous, and that your character can sense, having line of sight or line of effect to undertake. If the condition you declare is met, you take your Readied action immediately, resolving it as an interrupt even in the middle of another creatures turn.

Readied actions must be used with caution! If you Ready an action, aiming your bow at a doorway, and set the condition that you will shoot the next creature to move through the door, then you will shoot the next creature who moves through the door, even if it is an ally or an innocent! It is much better to tightly define all Readied actions, such as stating you will fire on the next ENEMY to move through the door, or better yet, that you will shoot a specific creature if they move at all. The details are left to the players and referees to define.

If you have Readied an Action and the initiative count reaches your turn in the order again without the trigger condition being satisfied, then you have lost your Readied action. Note that Readying an Action does NOT change your initiative number, and thus is very different than Holding your action. Note further that you can meet your trigger conditions even in a different round than when you Readied, and still take you normal action that turn. This is not a violation of the 'only one action per round' rule, because technically, when you Ready and Action, you are taking your entire turn immediately to set up the triggered action. The only time yo lose the readied action is if your initiative comes up again before the trigger is met.

Coup-de-Grace

When you have a foe completely at your mercy, you can choose to show it the cruelest mercy of all, namely, by killing it. A coup-de-grace can only be performed against creatures that are Helpless against you. Note that several other status conditions include the Helpless condition.

To perform a coup de grace, you must spend a full round action, and declare your intent to perform a coup-de-grace upon a Helpless victim within your reach. If these conditions are met, the attack automatically hits and is resolved as a confirmed critical hit. Resolve your damage for the critical normally, and then the victim must make a Fortitude save with the DC equal to the damage you just rolled. If they fail, they are slain.

It is possible that the simple damage alone will kill them. But even in such a case, the victim must still make a Fortitude save. Why? Because the murderous intent of the coup-de-grace makes it more difficult to raise a coup-de-grace'd foe back to life. The exact details of such things are left to the GM, but it certainly makes for great plot hooks, and explains why, in a magical world, public executions of terrible people are meaningful.

Generous use of the coup-de-grace action can shorten fights tremendously, but has the potential to impact your alignment and reputation. This impact may not be toward evil, however. Performing a coup-de-grace on the evil tyrant king you just overthrew in a public square is likely a 'good' act, for example, not to mention making you really popular with the tyrant king's former victims.

Cover

To determine whether your target has cover from your ranged attack, choose a corner of your square. If any line from this corner to any corner of the target's square passes through a square or border that blocks line of effect or provides cover, or through a square occupied by a creature, the target has cover (+4 to AC).

When making a melee attack against an adjacent target, your target has cover if any line from any corner of your square to the target's square goes through a wall (including a low wall). When making a melee attack against a target that isn't adjacent to you (such as with a reach weapon), use the rules for determining cover from ranged attacks.

Low Obstacles and Cover

A low obstacle (such as a wall no higher than half your height) provides cover, but only to creatures within 30 feet (6 squares) of it. The attacker can ignore the cover if he's closer to the obstacle than his target.

Cover and Attacks of Opportunity

You can't execute an attack of opportunity against an opponent with cover relative to you.

Cover and Reflex Saves

Cover grants you a +2 bonus on Reflex saves against attacks that originate or burst out from a point on the other side of the cover from you. Note that spread effects can extend around corners and thus negate this cover bonus.

Cover and Stealth Checks

You can use cover to make a Stealth check. Without cover, you usually need concealment (see below) to make a Stealth check.

Soft Cover

Creatures, even your enemies, can provide you with cover against ranged attacks, giving you a +4 bonus to AC. However, such soft cover provides no bonus on Reflex saves, nor does soft cover allow you to make a Stealth check.

Big Creatures and Cover

Any creature with a space larger than 5 feet (1 square) determines cover against melee attacks slightly differently than smaller creatures do. Such a creature can choose any square that it occupies to determine if an opponent has cover against its melee attacks. Similarly, when making a melee attack against such a creature, you can pick any of the squares it occupies to determine if it has cover against you.

Partial Cover

If a creature has cover, but more than half the creature is visible, its cover bonus is reduced to a +2 to AC and a +1 bonus on Reflex saving throws. This partial cover is subject to the GM's discretion.

Total Cover

If you don't have line of effect to your target (that is, you cannot draw any line from your square to your target's square without crossing a solid barrier), he is considered to have total cover from you. You can't make an attack against a target that has total cover.

Improved Cover

In some cases, such as attacking a target hiding behind an arrow slit, cover may provide a greater bonus to AC and Reflex saves. In such situations, the normal cover bonuses to AC and Reflex saves can be doubled (to +8 and +4, respectively). A creature with this improved cover effectively gains improved evasion against any attack to which the Reflex save bonus applies. Furthermore, improved cover provides a +10 bonus on Stealth checks.

Incorporeal

Creatures with the incorporeal condition do not have a physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all non-magical attack forms.

Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source.

Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead. Incorporeal undead also take full damage from Channel Divinity.

Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature.

Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.

An incorporeal creature's attacks nearly always target the Touch AC of corporeal creatures, as they pass straight through an enemy's natural and non-magical protections.

An incorporeal creature can enter or pass through solid objects, but must remain adjacent to the object's exterior, and so cannot pass entirely through an object whose space is larger than its own.

  • It can sense the presence of creatures or objects within a square adjacent to its current location, but enemies have total concealment (50% miss chance) from an incorporeal creature that is inside an object.
  • In order to see beyond the object it is in and attack normally, the incorporeal creature must emerge.
  • An incorporeal creature inside an object has total cover, but when it attacks a creature outside the object it only has cover, so a creature outside with a readied action could strike at it as it attacks.
  • An incorporeal creature cannot pass through a force effect.

Incorporeal creatures pass through and operate in water as easily as they do in air.

Incorporeal creatures cannot fall or take falling damage.

Incorporeal creatures cannot take any physical action that would move or manipulate an opponent or its equipment, nor are they subject to such actions. This includes nearly all combat maneuvers.

Incorporeal creatures have no weight and do not set off traps that are triggered by weight.

An incorporeal creature moves silently and cannot be heard with Perception checks if it doesn't wish to be.

Non-visual senses, such as scent and Blindsense, suffer a -10 penalty when attempting to perceive incorporeal creatures.

Incorporeal creatures have an innate sense of direction and can move at full speed even when they cannot see.

Nebulous

Some creatures, tied to shadow and darkness, have a lesser form of incorporeality, called nebulous.

Nebulous creatures take half damage from all attacks, including non-magical attacks, but only while the creature is not in an area of bright light. Furthermore, as with incorporeal, ghost-touch attacks, attacks by other nebulous or incorporeal creatures, and force effects, deal full damage. Note that nebulous creatures deal only half damage to incorporeal creatures, as they are more corporeal than not.

Phased

Phased is a stronger form of incorporeality.

Creatures which are phased can only be hit 50% of the time with magic weapons, spells or supernatural abilities, and cannot be hit at all with mundane weapons or extraordinary abilities (unless the extraordinary ability is performed with a magic weapon).

Furthermore, a phased creature takes only half damage from all damage sources.

Phased creatures take no damage from spells or effects which deal half damage on a successful save. This behaves like the Evasion special ability but applies to effects allowing Fort, Reflex or Will saves.

Spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting a Phased creature.

As with Incorporeal creatures, force effects, other incorporeal creatures, and ghost touch weapons deal full damage against a Phased creature, but only if they successfully hit.

Ethereal

An ethereal creature is invisible, incorporeal, and capable of moving in any direction, even up or down, albeit at half normal speed. An ethereal creature can move through solid objects, including living creatures. An ethereal creature can see and hear on the Material Plane, but everything looks gray and ephemeral. Sight and hearing onto the Material Plane are limited to 60 feet.

Force effects and abjurations affect an ethereal creature normally. Their effects extend onto the Ethereal Plane from the Material Plane, but not vice versa. An ethereal creature can’t attack material creatures, and spells you cast while ethereal affect only other ethereal things (even force and abjuration effects). Certain material creatures or objects have attacks or effects that work on the Ethereal Plane.

An ethereal creature treats other ethereal creatures and ethereal objects as if they were material.

Concealment

To determine whether your target has concealment from your ranged attack, choose a corner of your square. If any line from this corner to any corner of the target's square passes through a square or border that provides concealment, the target has concealment.

When making a melee attack against an adjacent target, your target has concealment if his space is entirely within an effect that grants concealment. When making a melee attack against a target that isn't adjacent to you, use the rules for determining concealment from ranged attacks.

In addition, some magical effects provide concealment against all attacks, regardless of whether any intervening concealment exists.

Concealment Miss Chance

Concealment gives the subject of a successful attack a 20% chance that the attacker missed because of the concealment. Make the attack normally—if the attacker hits, the defender must make a miss chance d% roll to avoid being struck. Multiple concealment conditions do not stack.

Total Concealment

If you have line of effect to a target but not line of sight, he is considered to have total concealment from you. You can't attack an opponent that has total concealment, though you can attack into a square that you think he occupies. A successful attack into a square occupied by an enemy with total concealment has a 50% miss chance (instead of the normal 20% miss chance for an opponent with concealment).

You can't execute an attack of opportunity against an opponent with total concealment, even if you know what square or squares the opponent occupies.

Total Concealment and Stealth

You can use total concealment to initiate a Stealth stance. Without total concealment, you usually need total cover to initiate a Stealth stance.

Ignoring Concealment

Any creature which possesses a sense that does not require line of sight and can be used for combat targeting (such as blindsense or tremorsense) can ignore the miss chance from Concealment and Total Concealment.

Varying Degrees of Concealment

Certain situations may provide more or less than typical concealment, and modify the miss chance accordingly.

Invisibility

An invisible creature is visually undetectable. Invisibility makes a creature undetectable by senses which require line of sight, including Darkvision, but most non-visual senses completely negate the benefits of invisibility. While they can't be seen, invisible creatures can be heard, smelled, or felt.

Against creatures which rely on visual senses, invisibility provides the following benefits:

  • While invisible, if you are also using stealth, you can only be revealed by a creature that makes an active Spot check against you. Passive Perception checks may not be used against a stealthed creature which is also invisible.
  • Your Stealth checks while invisible are made with a +2 circumstance bonus (+4 if you are standing still).
  • Attacks made while invisible, against enemies who can't see you, are made with a +2 circumstance bonus to the attack roll, and the attack is made against that creature's flat-footed AC.
  • While invisible, you are not subject to precision damage (e.g. sneak attacks) unless the attacker has a targeting sense which pierces your invisibility and provides no miss chance.

Finding Invisible Creatures

If a creature has reason to be making active perception checks (Spot checks) against a stealthed, invisible creature (such as an alert guard), then the perception roll, within 30 feet, is resolved as normal against the creature's stealth result (with a bonus for being invisible).

A creature can seek to actively notice the presence of a non-stealthed, invisible creature within 30 feet, by making an Average DC Perception check (based on the invisible creature's CR or level). A creature must make a Spot check to actively look for an invisible creature (which usually requires a move action to perform) — they will never perceive them with Passive Perception. There is normally no reason to look for invisible things, unless some other clue of their existence suggests that you look for them.

  • A successful perception check reveals the square in which the invisible creature is located, but the creature still benefits from total concealment (50% miss chance).
  • There are a number of modifiers that can be applied to this DC if the invisible creature is moving or engaged in a noisy activity.

A creature can also grope about to find an invisible creature using its sense of touch. A character can make a touch attack with his hands or a weapon into two adjacent 5-foot squares using a standard action. If an invisible target is in the designated area, there is a 50% miss chance on the touch attack. If successful, the groping character deals no damage but has successfully pinpointed the invisible creature's current location. If the invisible creature moves, its location, obviously, is once again unknown.

If an invisible creature strikes a character, the character struck knows the location of the creature that struck him (until, of course, the invisible creature moves).

If a character tries to attack an invisible creature whose location he has pinpointed, he attacks normally, but the invisible creature still benefits from total concealment (50% miss chance). A particularly large and slow invisible creature might get a smaller miss chance.

If a character tries to attack an invisible creature whose location he has not pinpointed, have the player choose the space where the character will direct the attack. If the invisible creature is there, conduct the attack normally. If the enemy is not there, roll the miss chance as if it were there and tell him that the character has missed, regardless of the result. That way the player doesn't know whether the attack missed because the enemy is not there, or because you successfully rolled the miss chance.

Limitations of Invisibility

If an invisible character picks up a visible object, the object remains visible. An invisible creature can pick up a small visible item and hide it on his person (tucked in a pocket or behind a cloak) and render it effectively invisible. One could coat an invisible object with flour to at least keep track of its position (until the flour falls off or blows away).

Invisible creatures leave tracks. They can be tracked normally. Footprints in sand, mud, or other soft surfaces can give enemies clues to an invisible creature's location, assuming they can make the appropriate skill checks.

An invisible creature in the water displaces water, revealing its location. The invisible creature, however, is still hard to see and benefits from total concealment (50% miss chance).

An invisible burning torch still gives off light, as does an invisible object with a light or similar spell cast upon it. An invisible creature carrying an exposed source of bright light may still make a stealth check to mask both himself and the exact location of the light source. The light source is diffuse and difficult to pinpoint, but a pretty potent clue as to the creature's whereabouts. That is, a light source, even an invisible one, is passively noticeable by anyone with sight-based senses, and is automatically noticed. Most creatures will then wonder where the light is coming from, and make an active check to look for its source, triggering the opposed Perception vs. Stealth roll. If the invisible creature hasn't made a Stealth check, the opposed Perception check is against an Average DC (based on the invisible creature's CR or level).

Invisible creatures cannot use gaze attacks.

Invisibility does not thwart divination spells.

Invisibility with Ethereal and Incorporeal

Ethereal creatures are invisible. Since ethereal creatures are not materially present, such creatures gain the bonus to Stealth checks even against some extraordinary senses, such as Tremorsense, since they are no longer interacting with the material plane like a normal invisible creature would. GM's are the final arbiter of which senses can ignore invisibility caused by being ethereal.

Faded

An even more extreme version of invisibility, faded creatures are difficult to remember in addition to being invisible.

Creatures wishing to attack a faded target must make a will save (DC 10 + creature's level or CR) to even remember that the target exists. If they succeed on the saving throw, they must still attempt to target the creature through its invisibility: determining its location, and dealing with the total concealment miss chance. If they fail the save, the faded creature is treated as out of range for that creature's attacks this round, even though they might otherwise be able to attack. They've forgotten about the faded creature entirely (for this round), and won't even try to attack them or include them in an area of effect.

Assuming that enemy creatures can continue to bypass or somehow target through the faded creature's invisibility (e.g. they have Tremorsense, etc.), the enemy creatures may make a new saving throw each round to attempt to pierce the Faded status as well.

When a save is failed, Faded also suppresses invisibility-bypassing effects and senses such as Glitterdust (Spell), a barbarian's doodlebug, Blindsense, and other effects which allow targeting of invisible creatures (but only with regard to the Faded creature). If these effects are ongoing (as with Glitterdust (Spell), Tremorsense, etc.), the creature can be targeted only on those rounds in which a successful save against the Faded status was made.