- 1 How Basic Combat Works
- 2 Initiative
- 3 Maximum Encounter Length
- 4 Surprise
- 5 Types of Actions
- 6 Full-Round Action
- 7 Full Attack Action
- 8 Standard Action
- 9 Move Action
- 10 Part of a Move Action
- 11 Swift Action
- 12 Immediate Action
- 13 Attack of Opportunity
- 14 Free Action
- 15 Hierarchy of Actions
- 16 Attacking While Moving
- 17 Fighting Defensively
- 18 Total Defense
- 19 Stance
- 20 Holding Your Breath
- 21 Aid Another
- 22 How to Hit Things
- 22.1 Melee Attacks
- 22.2 Ranged Attacks
- 22.3 Attack Roll
- 22.4 Melee Attack Bonus
- 22.5 Ranged Attack Bonus
- 22.6 Touch Attacks
- 22.7 Critical Hits
- 23 Splash Weapons
- 24 Resolving Damage
- 25 Calculating Damage
- 26 Averaging Damage Rolls
- 27 Saving Throws
- 28 Time Taken
- 29 Holding Your Action
- 30 Readying an Action
- 31 Coup-de-Grace
- 32 Cover
- 33 Incorporeal
- 34 Ethereal
- 35 Concealment
- 36 Invisibility
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.
Now, to be fair, in Epic Path, there are actually TWO ways to fight. We encourage new players to get familiar with basic combat, as explained in fine detail on this page, first. Once you are comfortable with how fights work, the standard mechanics, we would direct your attention to the Combat Maneuvers page, for all the crazy, wacky, swashbuckling ways to ALSO fight.
But you should definitely be familiar with the basics, before you look at that stuff.
So how does Combat work? Read on!
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 (a Movement skill check). 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.
At the start of a battle, each combatant makes an initiative check, using their Movement skill as the basis for the check. Each character rolls a d20 and applies their Movement skill's total bonus to the roll. This number includes all modifiers from feats, spells, and other effects, but can sometimes be different for Initiative checks (i.e. a character may have a better bonus for initiative checks than the bonus available for a normal Movement check). Each player character and each creature (or group of similar creatures) acts in order, one at a time, 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.
Typically, once an initiative order is set, it remains static throughout the duration of the encounter. In some rare cases, however, a character or creature may have some means of altering their initiative after the encounter has already begun, in which case, the initiative order can be rearranged. Furthermore, characters or creatures that hold their actions are moved down in the initiative order until the point at which they act; once set, they act from that spot in the initiative order for the remainder of the encounter (unless they hold their action again). Characters or creatures that ready an action do NOT alter their position in the initiative order, even though the readied action may trigger at some point outside of their normal turn.
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. Barbarians and rogues of high enough level who have the Uncanny Dodge extraordinary ability are immune to flat-footed, 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 they have the Combat Reflexes feat.
Inaction: Even if you can’t take actions, you retain your initiative score for the duration of the encounter. This can be important, in the event you need to make saving throws, keep track of death checks, etc.
Monster Initiatives: It is possible for the GM to roll a separate initiative number for every monster, or, for groups of monsters. Either way works within these rules, BUT, we strongly recommend that the GM roll a single initiative and have all their monsters take their actions all at once at that initiative. That's the way our play testing has shown works better with the Epic Path rules.
Long experience behind the GM screen has shown that individual monster initiatives, while perhaps more 'realistic', can also have the effect of bogging down play during combat. We would encourage all GM's to use good practices to try and keep combats moving at a good pace. One of the biggest things the GM can do to speed up combat, is to resolve all their monsters all at once. Trust us, it works much better.
Now, even if you are using group initiatives for your monsters, it is possible to see various monsters move their initiative number, either voluntarily by holding an action, or involuntarily by suffering a status condition. In such cases, move that monster or monsters to their new number, and resolve their actions as a separate group.
If two or more combatants have the same initiative check result, ties are resolved as follows:
- The creature with the highest total Movement skill bonus 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.
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 in combat is not as simple a thing as "they know you're coming, but you don't know they are there". It is assumed that heroes wandering through unknown and dangerous lands are being at least somewhat vigilant, and maintaining a certain degree of situational awareness at all times. It is only when one side (either the monsters or the players) actually prepares an ambush that the element of surprise results in combat effects — namely, an ambush with a surprise round.
These rules attempt to create a fair way for the GM to set up and execute ambushes. Instead of getting to implement an ambush only after every PC fails a perception check (which is rare, and even worse with larger parties), or running ambushes with no agency for the players to notice it ahead of time, this system attempts to establish rules that maintain the danger of a successful ambush, but eliminate the need to either rely on bad luck among the PCs or play heavy-handed to force them to occur.
Setting Up An Ambush
It is generally a good idea to roll initiative before an ambush check is rolled. However, both the initiative rolls and the ambush check should both be made before any creatures are placed on the battle mat (assuming you are using a battle mat). These rolls can even be performed before the GM reveals the map and environment for the encounter, if the GM prefers.
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.
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, the encounter is resolved like a normal encounter, with no ambush and no surprise round.
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 ambushes or surprise rounds are possible.
However, attacking a creature from stealth does cause the target to be flat-footed against your attack. That's not nothing.
Modifiers to the 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 total 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.
Note that there is no way for the party about to be ambushed to try to penalize this check by spamming Active Perception (Spot) checks. This is primarily because this sort of play is needlessly tedious (rolling a spot check every round, fighting defensively, and then carefully shuffling forward, while tactically sensible, is not heroic and it can really bog down a game for very little gain. If players insist on playing this way, the GM should inflict the fatigued condition on them after a few minutes of this. You can only maintain hyper-vigilance for so long before you either make a mistake, or wear yourself out.).
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.
Triggering the Ambush
If an ambush check is successful, the ambushing party can dictate the starting positions of every creature on the battlefield before the battle begins, within certain limitations:
- No member of the ambushed party may be placed more than 30 feet from any other creature in the ambushed party (i.e. the victims always start at least somewhat together).
- No member of the ambushing party may be placed more than 50 feet from any one member of the ambushed party.
- No more than two ambushing creatures can be placed such that they only threaten any one ambushed creature (i.e. the ambushing party cannot dogpile onto the healer, but they can certainly prioritize them).
- No creature may be placed into any blocked, occupied, or hazardous space, or any space in which they are forced to squeeze, unless there is no other valid space for that creature to begin.
Other than that, placement is wide open. This means the ambushing party has tremendous power over how the battle begins, and can place themselves and their victims into some truly precarious positions.
And, after placement is completed, the combat begins with a special Surprise Round instead of a normal round.
A surprise round consists of a single standard action for each creature that is aware of the encounter, resolved in initiative order. Any creature that failed to notice the approaching danger loses their standard action during the surprise round. As with any encounter, any creature that 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 maneuvers are a popular tactic. Note that charge maneuvers 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.
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.
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.
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. GMs 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 that 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 (which will happen at their initiative in the first actual round of combat). Creatures that 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 succeeds on their Perception check 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 now acted (even if they ready or hold their action), they are no longer flat-footed against attacks.
It is sometimes 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 stay pretty 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. This means the combat begins with a surprise round, but each side places their own characters (or monsters) normally for the encounter, rather than one side dictating where all creatures begin (as is the case with 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.
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:
As the name implies, a full-round action takes a character their entire round to perform. If a character declares they are using a full-round action, it uses up all of their actions until the start of their next turn. Any effects from the action being performed occur at the end of their current turn, however.
Once a full-round action is declared, a character may not perform any standard, move, swift, or immediate actions, nor may they perform any attacks of opportunity until the start of their next turn.
Some common uses for a full-round action include:
Full Attack Action
In order to perform more than one attack per round, even if you fight with two weapons or a double weapon, you must use a full-attack action. (There are rare exceptions to this, such as the Monk's Echoing Strike ability, which is specifically a standard action that grants two attacks.) Pure spellcasters (whether arcane or divine) gain little benefit from full attack actions since most spells cost a Standard Action to cast, and the additional attack actions of a full attack action are not the same as a Standard Action (only the first attack of a full attack action is treated as a Standard Action; see below). To benefit from a full attack action, spellcasters need to cast one or more spells that cost less than a Standard Action, or use feats (such as Quicken Spell) to reduce the action required, in order to cram multiple spells into a single round's worth of actions. Of course, the spellcaster could cast a spell with the first attack of their full attack action, and then use their remaining attack action to make a melee or ranged attack, if they don't have any spells that can be cast with less than a standard action. While the efficacy of those attacks may be debatable, it sure looks cool!
In order to perform a full attack action, a character must expend both their Standard Action and Move Action for the round. If you do not have both a standard action and a move action available to you in a given round, you cannot perform a full-attack action this round. Declaring a Full Attack 'uses up' your standard action and move action for the round.
Base Number of Attacks
The base number of attacks a character can make during a full attack action is determined by their character class. This base number is listed in the favored class table, under "Full Attack". If a character multi-classes or dual-classes into one or more other character classes, they use the highest base number available to them from any of the classes they have taken, instead, even if they later change to a class that gets fewer base attacks during a full attack.
The first attack made during a full attack action is always made at the character's highest attack value (sometimes referred to as your "highest Base Attack Bonus, or highest BAB"). The second attack made is made with a -5 penalty to that value (referred to as "BAB -5"). A third attack is made with a -10 penalty (if a third attack is possible with your character class; referred to as "BAB -10"), and a fourth attack is made at a -15 penalty (again, assuming a fourth attack is available with one or more of your classes; referred to as "BAB -15").
The first attack within a full attack action is the same as a Standard Action, and can be used to perform any action that requires a standard action. All remaining attacks in a full attack action are called attack actions, which suffer a BAB penalty (as described above), and do not allow actions requiring a Standard Action to be performed. In most cases, attack actions are used to perform a melee or ranged attack, but they can also be traded away for 5-foot steps or combat maneuvers, if the attacking character prefers.
As a character advances, they will gain bonuses to-hit with some or all of their base attacks, depending upon the class they have advanced. A single class character simply uses the values in the class table. Multi-class or dual class characters must instead 'add up' the various bonuses they have received for each of their attacks in a full attack action through their adventuring career in each column of their attacks. It is often found that, unless all character levels are taken from a full-BAB four-attack class, the last attacks in a full attack action have quite small to-hit numbers. This is working as designed. There are other things that can be done with such 'weaker' attacks.
For example, suppose a character begins by taking the courageous tier as a Fighter. They have four attacks per round in a full attack action, and as a Fighter, at fifth level, they have gotten a total of +4 to-hit in all those attacks. If they then switch to playing a Rogue, as they advance their Rogue levels they will receive more advancement bonuses to-hit, but only in their first three attacks made in a full attack action. Rogues do not gain bonuses to-hit with a fourth attack per round, since they do not HAVE a fourth attack per round. Players using this sort of advancement strategy will find their fourth attack in a full attack action soon begins to lag badly. In such cases, players will typically use that fourth attack as a resource to trade away for five foot steps (see below), or to perform a combat maneuver, or they will roll that attack anyway 'fishing for crits', since a natural 20 always hits, and a high-threat-range weapon with feat and magic item support can hit pretty well, no matter how bad the base attack number is.
Bonus attacks can be acquired beyond those offered by a character's base number of attacks. In many cases, an effect that grants a bonus attack only does so if you first perform a Full Attack Action (e.g. Haste). Some bonus attacks are granted by a specific class feature (such as a fighter's Challenge) and can only be used under specific circumstances. While bonus attacks grant additional attacks, they do not modify the character's base number of attacks.
Unless otherwise noted, a Bonus attack is a free action (NOT an attack action), made with the character's proficiently wielded weapon, at their highest normal chance to-hit.
Bonus 5-Foot Steps
A character may "trade away" one or more of their attack actions during a full attack to instead perform a bonus 5-foot step (per attack traded away). Bonus 5-foot steps gained in this way are not considered movement, just like a regular 5-foot step, and can be used in addition to a character's normal 5-Foot Step action. As a result, playing a character class that gets four attacks during a full attack action can allow you to be much more maneuverable than a character whose class only grants two attacks during a full attack action.
- Any attacks traded away in this fashion always use up the character's worst to-hit first, then their second-worst, etc. As you trade away attacks for 5-foot steps, any bonus attacks that would normally be performed at the same attack bonus are also lost. Any attacks you have left after your 5-foot steps may still be used as normal, of course, and these will always be your highest-bonus attacks, since those are used up last. Trading away attack actions from your full attack can be done at any point during your full attack action, and doesn't have to be done in the order of your remaining attacks.
- Example: A fighter (who gets a base of 4 attacks during a full attack action, at BAB, BAB-5, BAB-10, and BAB-15) performs a full attack action. They perform a free 5-foot step because they do not plan to move this round (this does not require them to trade away any attack actions). They make their first attack at their highest attack bonus, then trade away their worst remaining attack (at BAB-15) to make a bonus 5-foot step. They then make their second attack (the one based on BAB-5), and could either make a third attack, or trade their remaining (BAB-10) attack to make yet another bonus 5-foot step.
- If you have bonus attacks that are associated with a specific attack within your full attack action (i.e. that share the same BAB penalty), these bonus attacks are lost when the associated attack action is traded away. These are most often granted by the Two-Weapon Fighting feats, but other examples may also exist.
- Example: A high level Rogue (who gets a base of 3 attacks during a full attack action, at BAB, BAB-5, and BAB-10), who has three of the Two-Weapon Fighting feats (regular, improved, and greater) gets 3 bonus attacks from using two weapons and granted by these feats, also at BAB, BAB-5, and BAB-10, respectively. If this rogue trades an attack away for a bonus 5-foot step, they lose the use of their base BAB-10 attack (their worst attack), but they also lose the bonus attack they would normally get at BAB-10 (gained from Greater Two-Weapon Fighting). The rogue may still perform their 4 remaining attacks (two at highest BAB, and two at BAB-5), all as part of this same full attack action.
Many combat maneuvers can be performed with an attack action. As a result, they can either be performed with a Standard Action, or by "trading away" one of your attack actions during a full attack action. Just like Bonus 5-Foot Steps, when you trade away an attack action of your Full Attack to perform a Combat Maneuver, you may always use up your worst remaining attack action first. In addition, this can be done at any time during your full attack action (also like the bonus 5-foot steps rule). That is, you can perform a combat maneuver (with your worst remaining attack action) even before you make your first regular attack of your full attack action, if you wish. Obviously, combat maneuvers that require an action type other than an attack action to perform cannot be performed using an attack action.
Unlike bonus 5-foot steps, only one combat maneuver can ever be performed per round (the exception to this rule being when you spend an action point to gain an action type sufficient to perform the maneuver again, or you have some ability that specifically lets you break this rule).
The standard action portion of a full-attack action is always your first attack at your highest bonus. Note that actions which require a 'standard action' to perform MAY be used during a Full Attack action, but can only be used during the first attack (i.e. at your highest bonus) of a full attack action.
You only need to declare the target of your attack before each attack, and you can change targets (as long as they are in range / in reach) between attacks, as you like. You do not need to determine each target of each attack until you are actually making each attack. 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 has been performed, and recover their move action to use for other purposes (instead of completing the full attack action). The character must not have performed any actions beyond those they would normally be able to perform with a standard action, in order to sever the full attack action. If the character has already traded away one or more lower attacks (for bonus 5-foot step(s) or a combat maneuver), those attacks are used up, and could only have been performed with a full attack action. In such a case, the full attack action could not be 'severed'.
Even if you recover your move action by severing your full attack action, be aware that any (normal) 5-foot step you may have already performed this round would prevent you from using the recovered move action to actually move; the move action would need to be used for some other purpose instead, in that case.
A full attack action doesn't usually end a character's turn, unless the action performed with the full attack action specifically states it does. As a result, most characters may still perform a swift action during the same turn as the full attack action. Swift actions can be used before or after the full attack, as the character prefers.
Full attack actions do not include any movement, unless you trade away attacks for bonus 5-foot steps. If you do not trade away any of your attacks for bonus 5-foot steps, you may perform a normal 5-foot step, instead.
Some common uses for a full-attack action include:
- Perform multiple attacks against one or more targets within range
- Perform multiple 5-foot steps to move safely around the battlefield
- Attacking and taking 5-foot steps in a mobile attack style
- Perform a combination of attacks, 5-foot steps, and a combat maneuver
- Make a Double Move
- Use a class feature or feat which requires a full attack action, such as Whirlwind Attack (Feat)
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 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
- Make a Maneuver Offense roll to perform a Combat Maneuver
- Activating a magic item
- Aid Another
- Cast a spell
- Drink a potion
- Using Might to escape a grapple
- Lowering Spell Resistance
- Reading a scroll
- Readying an action
- Stabilize a dying creature
- Total Defense
- Draw a concealed weapon
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.
If you choose to move with your move action, you select the movement type you want to use (usually Walk, but it can be any movement type you possess, note the speed of that movement type, and move a number of squares up to that speed. You can always move less than your full speed. Movement typically provokes attacks of opportunity, if you pass through a square that one or more enemies threaten. If you are playing on a battlemat, or using miniatures on a map with squares, each square is considered to be 5 feet of movement, so your speed/5 is the maximum number of squares you can move with a normal move action.
You can move in any direction, as long as the square you wish to move into is not blocked, though difficult or impeded terrain may alter the cost to move into a square. Moving diagonally does not cost any more than moving orthogonally (up, down, left, right).
- Why Don't Diagonals Cost More?
- While it may look unrealistic that a creature can move diagonally without it costing additional movement to do so, it greatly simplifies the accounting for movement. The same 'diagonals are treated the same' principle is applied to areas of effect, for the same reason — it's easy to visualize, without the need for templates or math. It is very easy to visualize a square area of effect that is 4x4 squares in size (a 10-foot radius effect, which is centered on the intersection of four squares). It is much harder to visualize that when diagonals are treated differently (such as the Pathfinder method of making them cost 1.5:1). While that leads to prettier circles, it makes it harder to figure out which squares are included or excluded. This is even more complicated by feats or effects which double an area of effect. You might end up wasting 10 minutes debating whether a creature is in or out of an effect, because the rules chose realism over simplicity. Epic Path chooses simplicity. While the GM can always choose which of Epic Path's rules should apply in their campaign, be aware that changing this rule affects a LOT of systems beyond just movement (anything with a range or an area of effect, reach weapons, 3D movement, etc.).
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 as a free action. Note that any move action which involves movement, such as standing up from Prone, disallows your free 5-foot step for the round (though you may still trade away attack actions to perform bonus 5-foot steps, if you wish).
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
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.
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 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 their 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)
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
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:
- Using a spell with an Immediate Casting time, such as Feather Fall, or Bungle
- Using a class or racial ability that allows immediate actions
Attack of Opportunity
Sometimes a combatant in a melee lets their guard down or takes a reckless action. In this case, combatants near them can take advantage of their lapse in defense to attack them for free. These free Bonus Attacks are called attacks 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 that 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 that 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.
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.
- 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
- performing a provoking action
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 maneuver. Note that moving into a threatened square does not provoke an attack of opportunity, only leaving a threatened square.
Performing a Provoking Action
- There are a number of actions that, when performed during combat, are too distracting or too reckless to allow the acting creature to also simultaneously act to defend themselves. These are considered 'provoking actions'. Broadly speaking, if the action you are taking forces you to take your eyes off the battlefield for long enough that doing the action requires at least a move action to perform, it is likely a provoking action.
- Another way to think of it is this: If it isn't a melee attack or an action that could be considered some form of defending yourself (such as drawing a weapon, donning a shield, escaping a net or grapple, taking the full defense action) is likely to be considered a provocative action.
- Any action performed that requires only a swift action, immediate action, free action, or "part of a move action" rarely, if ever, provokes an attack of opportunity. This includes casting spells that have an immediate action casting time, or spells that have been augmented with the Quicken Spell metamagic feat.
- Forced movement never provokes attacks of opportunity.
- Touch attack spells are an odd case. While touching an opponent in combat is a melee attack, and therefore does not provoke, casting a spell while threatened does provoke. Despite the fact that most touch spells allow you to cast the spell and touch an opponent as part of the same action, the act provokes attacks of opportunity. If however, you cast the spell outside of any threatened area, move to a space adjacent to a foe, and then make your touch attack, you do not provoke.
- Every skill use explicitly states on their respective skill pages whether or not they provoke attacks of opportunity when used in combat. Generally, most skill uses provoke attacks of opportunity when used in combat. This is even true of combat maneuvers, despite the fact that these actions are largely melee-oriented. Because of their non-traditional nature, it takes practice and skill to perform combat maneuvers without provoking attacks of opportunity, which is to say, you need to take the appropriate combat maneuver feat to overcome this weakness. In all cases, refer to the skill pages for details.
- The table below provides some examples on the sorts of actions that might provoke attacks of opportunity, and some examples of actions that do not. The GM is the final arbiter, in all cases. Furthermore, there are many exceptions to these general rules. Any feat, class feature, racial trait, or other ability that specifically states it doesn't provoke an attack of opportunity should take precedence over these general rules.
Standard Actions Provokes? Attack (melee) No Attack (ranged) Yes Attack (improvised melee) No Attack (improvised range) Yes Aid another No Cast a spell (w/ standard action casting time) Yes Channel divinity No Charge Yes Draw a hidden weapon (w/ Sleight of Hand skill) No Drink a potion or apply an oil Yes Escape a grapple No Feint No Light a torch Yes Lower spell resistance No Perform a combat maneuver No Read a scroll Yes Ready an action No Stabilize a dying creature (w/ Heal skill) Yes Total defense No Trigger command word on a magic item No Use extraordinary ability No Use feat Varies Use skill that takes a standard action Usually Use spell-like ability Yes Use supernatural ability No
Move Actions Provokes? Move Yes Direct or redirect an active spell No Don a shield No Mount/dismount a steed No Move a heavy object (w/ Might skill) Yes Sheathe a weapon Yes Stand up from prone Yes Retrieve a stored item Yes
Part of a Move Action Provokes? Draw a weapon No Open or close a door No Pick up an item No
Full-Round Actions / Full-Attack Actions Provokes? Full attack No Deliver coup de grace Yes Escape from a net Yes Extinguish flames No Load a siege weapon Yes Donning or doffing a weapon/shield with the Attached quality Yes Run Yes Use skill that takes a full round Usually Use a touch spell on up to six friends Yes Withdraw No
Free Actions Provokes? 5-foot step No Cease concentration on a spell No Delay your action No Drop an item No Drop prone No Prepare spell components to cast a spell No Speak No
Swift Actions Provokes? Cast a quickened spell No Perform many class features Varies
Immediate Actions Provokes? Cast spell (w/ immediate action casting time) No
- 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 that 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.
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, 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 an increased miss chance), you cannot even attempt it if the attack includes a movement component.
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 10 + double 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 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.
You can defend yourself as a full-round action. You get a +4 dodge bonus to your AC until the start of your next turn. Note that once a full-round action is declared, a character may not perform any standard, move, swift, or immediate actions, nor may they perform any attacks of opportunity until the start of their next turn. 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.
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.
Holding Your Breath
You may declare you are holding your breath at the start your turn, or as an immediate action, in order to attempt to avoid the effects of an environmental hazard or creature ability which is triggered by being inhaled. The first round you hold your breath, it costs only a swift action to maintain (this is in addition to any immediate action you may have already spent). The second consecutive round of holding your breath requires a move action to maintain. The third consecutive round you hold your breath requires a standard action to maintain. The fourth consecutive round, and all additional rounds after that, holding your breath requires a full-round action to maintain. During any round in which you expend the appropriate action, you are not subject to the inhaled effect, and may otherwise act normally with your remaining actions.
Creatures may only voluntarily hold their breath a maximum number of rounds equal to their CON modifier (minimum 1), after which point, they must take a breath or gain the Asphyxiating condition. If you elect to gain the Asphyxiating condition, you continue to avoid the effects of the environmental hazard or creature ability which is triggered by being inhaled, at least until you fall unconscious or die.
You can only voluntarily hold your breath if you are aware of the effect and are not surprised. If the effect occurs outside of your turn, and you are unable (or unwilling) to expend the immediate action to initiate holding your breath, you can't voluntarily hold your breath. In such a case, you resolve the inhaled effect against you as normal. The same is true if you are unable (or unwilling) to expend the action to maintain holding your breath in a given round.
Creatures which do not need to breathe are not subject to these rules. They probably can't enjoy the smell of freshly-baked bread any more, but at least they have this going for them.
Out of combat: The above rules only apply to in-combat situations. Out of combat, character can hold their breath for a couple of minutes (subject to GM discretion) as long as they take only move actions or free actions. As soon as they attempt to take any standard actions or full-round actions (such as making an attack, or taking the run action), the remainder of the duration they can hold their breath is measured as though they are in combat, following the rules above.
In melee combat, you can help an ally attack or defend by distracting or interfering with an opponent. If you are in a position to make a melee attack on an enemy creature that is engaging your ally in melee combat, you can attempt to aid your ally as a standard action.
You make a melee touch attack against the enemy creature. If you hit, instead of dealing any damage, your ally gains one of the following bonuses:
- a +2 Circumstance Bonus on their next attack roll against that opponent, OR
- 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.
Aiding another does not provoke attacks of opportunity, since it is considered a melee attack action.
See also Assist (for assisting with skill checks).
You can help someone achieve success on a skill check by making the same kind of skill check in a cooperative effort. After providing a flanking bonus, assisting on a skill is probably the second most-common co-operative bonus in Epic Path. It is not unusual to see a group of players chatting among themselves to see who will roll the main skill roll for a difficult task, and who will stand close by to help out. This is a great thing, and assists can make a big difference in how your table succeeds or fails at various tasks and challenges, so be sure to be offering assistance, or asking for it, every chance you get!
NOTE: Assist requires you to be adjacent! If the party's lock-picker is working on something very cataclysmic, be sure you understand just how close you are to the point of maximum risk!
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 (challenge rating) 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 and combat maneuvers, such as the Cleave combat maneuver 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.
A Melee Attack is an attack made with a weapon that remains attached to the creature making the attack at all times. The target of a melee attack must be within reach of the creature performing the attack, which is nearly always an adjacent space to the attacking creature's own space (unless their weapon has some form of reach). The classic example is a swung sword. At no point does the sword leave the firm grip of the attacker. Note that bare hands and gauntlets are defined as weapons for this reason.
Melee attacks can be made with any melee weapon, including thrown or ranged weapons that feature the Melee Capable or Poor Melee qualities, and also any attack defined as a melee attack in a monster write-up. There are hundreds of ways to make a melee attack, and if there is ever any confusion about some weird circumstance, the GM adjudicates as they see fit. Melee attacks obviously do not require ammunition or any other special accoutrements to make, except that you have to be able to reach the bad guy to hit them.
Reach is a weapon quality that allows you to hit things further away than adjacent to your space. All melee weapons are assumed to have 5-feet of reach unless they specifically list a quality that states that their reach is greater than 5 feet. Five feat of reach is the minimum required reach to attack a creature in an adjacent space. If a weapon or creature has less than 5-feet of reach, they must be in the same space as the creature they are attacking in order to perform a melee attack against them (as in the case of Swarms). Some melee weapons (such as the great whip) have quite a bit of reach as a weapon quality, that is baked right into the weapon. You can also get reach from feats (like Monkey Lunge), or from weapon properties (like Shadowy). If you add up a lot of sources of reach, you can reach quite a long way (maybe as much as fifty feet if you really lean into it). No matter how much reach you stack up, that is always considered a melee attack, and follows all rules for melee attacks, and is not a ranged attack, and never takes range penalties, penalties from soft cover (see ranged attacks, below).
A Ranged Attack is an attack made with a thrown or projectile weapon that you let go of in order to make the attack. They are sorted into thrown weapon attacks (like a throwing axe) in which case you throw the entire weapon at the bad guys, or projectile weapon attacks (like a bow that you hold that shoots arrows, the projectiles). In both cases, once the weapon has left your hands, you have no further control over it. The good news is, ranged weapons can be used to make attacks a long way away (see range penalties and range increments below). The bad news is, you have to get the weapon back somehow, or, have more weapons, or have more ammunition, if you want to keep attacking. There are magic items and properties which can alleviate all of these problems...for money.
Ranged attacks can reach a long way. How far is defined by range bands and range increments, detailed in the weapon or ammunition write-ups. With very high-end weapons and good magical properties and lots of feats, it is entirely possible to shoot an arrow a thousand feet and hit the bullseye every time...but you have to be very good to do that. Thrown weapons tend to have much shorter ranges than projectile weapons, but projectile weapons usually need both hands to use and require ammunition to-boot, so there are tradeoffs for everything.
Since a ranged attack is uncontrolled for at least a portion of its attack path, ranged attacks must deal with obstacles in the way. These obstacles are abstracted in the rules as 'cover', and are detailed elsewhere in these rules. In general, anything that exists between you and your target, that does not completely break line of effect (like a solid wall), can instead inflict a cover penalty. Cover comes in various flavors, ranging from total cover to soft cover. Soft cover is when there are friends of yours in between you and your target, partial cover is where there's a low wall or a corner, etc.
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:
Ranged Attack Bonus
- Your attack bonus with a ranged weapon is:
Base Attack Bonus
- A base attack bonus is an attack roll bonus derived from a character's level in their class, or as defined in a monster's blueprint. Base attack bonuses increase at different rates for different character classes and creature types.
- 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.
- Disambiguation: Touch AC does not exist in Epic Path. Touch attacks are resolved against normal Armor Class, but with the bonuses described below.
Some attacks need only touch a foe for such an attack to take full effect, largely ignoring many of the mundane defenses that adventurers use to protect themselves from attacks. Examples include attacks made by an incorporeal foe whose claws can pass harmlessly through armor but shred the flesh beneath, or a spell effect that electrocutes the target, using their metal armor as a conduit for the attack. There are two kinds of touch attacks: melee touch attacks and ranged touch attacks:
Melee Touch AttackA melee touch attack is resolved against the target's Armor Class (AC), just like a regular attack. In fact, the to-hit for a melee touch attack is calculated the same as a Melee Attack except that it receives a +4 bonus. In addition, touch attacks always hit the target if the roll on the die is a 17 or better. If the touch attack is capable of critically hitting, it only threatens a critical hit on a natural die result of 20 or better (or whatever the critical threat range of the weapon, spell, or ability normally uses). Since the critical confirmation roll simply has to hit again, the 'always hits on a 17+ on the die' would help with confirming a critical hit. As a result of these bonuses, touch attacks tend to hit, and critically hit, much more frequently than standard attacks.
Ranged Touch AttackA ranged touch attack is resolved against the target's Armor Class (AC), just like a regular ranged attack. In fact, the to-hit for a ranged touch attack is calculated the same as a Ranged Attack except that it receives a +4 bonus to-hit. In addition, touch attacks always hit the target if the roll on the die is a 17 or better. If the touch attack is capable of critically hitting, it only threatens a critical hit on a natural die result of 20 or better (or whatever the critical threat range of the weapon, spell, or ability normally uses). Since the critical confirmation roll simply has to hit again, the 'always hits on a 17+ on the die' would help with confirming a critical hit. As a result of these bonuses, touch attacks tend to hit, and critically hit, much more frequently than standard attacks.
When you make an attack roll and get a natural 20 (the d20 shows 20 before any adders or bonuses are applied to it), you hit regardless of your target’s Armor Class, and you have scored a “critical threat,” meaning the hit might be a critical hit (or “crit”). To find out if it is a critical hit or not, you immediately make an attempt to “confirm” the critical hit by rolling another to-hit roll with all the same modifiers as the attack roll you just made. If this 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, including all of your usual bonuses (except for any precision damage or bonus damage), and then sum up the results. In most cases, a critical hit deals double damage, which is resolved by rolling your damage and all applicable adders twice and adding up all the results.
Some important terminology:
Natural Die Result
When something calls for a natural die result, it is referring to the actual number showing on the die face after it is rolled, without any modifiers.
A critical threat is a normal to-hit roll where the natural die result was greater than or equal to your attack's Critical Threat Range. This attack is always resolved as a hit, even if the critical confirmation roll fails. Prior to rolling the confirmation roll, the die result is called a 'critical threat', since it is threatening a critical hit, but hasn't yet confirmed it.
Critical Confirmation Roll
A critical confirmation roll is a second to-hit roll, meant to determine whether the critical threat is a critical hit indeed, or merely a hit. If this confirmation roll equals or exceeds the target's AC, or if the natural die result is once again greater than or equal to the attack's critical threat range, it confirms the critical hit. If this roll misses, the first roll (that resulted in a critical threat) is resolved as a hit.
Critical Threat Range
Unless otherwise stated, the critical threat range for any attack is 20. However, some weapons, spells, or attacks have a critical threat range that is greater than 20. That is, you can score a critical threat on a lower number. If you roll a natural die result on your d20 attack roll that equals or exceeds your attack's critical threat range, it is always treated as a critical threat (and therefore it is always a hit, even if the confirmation roll fails), regardless of the target's Armor Class.
A number of feats exist that can increase your critical threat range, such as Improved Critical and Epic Critical. In addition, some racial traits, class features, and magic weapon properties can also increase critical threat range. Unless the ability states otherwise, these generally stack additively with each other. In no cases does an improvement to a critical threat range multiply the existing critical threat range; it is always additive, and nearly always only increases the range by an additional +1.
Critical Hit Multiplier
Unless otherwise stated, the critical multiplier for any attack is x2 (double). However, some weapons or attacks can inflict greater than double damage on a critical hit. For example, a Longsword has a critical threat range of 19-20, and a critical multiplier of x3. This means it inflicts triple damage on a confirmed critical hit, rather than merely double damage. Some weapons even have a x4 critical multiplier (such as the Heavy Pick).
There are very few feats, racial traits, or class features that increase a weapon's critical hit multiplier, but they do exist.
There is a standard format for describing a weapon's critical threat range and its critical hit multiplier. Some examples of this format are:
x2 The attack scores a critical threat on a natural roll of 20 (only), and deals double damage on a confirmed critical hit. This is the default crit range and multiplier for any attack that doesn't explicitly list a different one. 19–20 / ×2 The attack scores a critical threat on a natural roll of 19 or 20 (instead of just 20) and deals double damage on a confirmed critical hit. 18–20 / ×2 The attack scores a critical threat on a natural roll of 18, 19, or 20 (instead of just 20) and deals double damage on a confirmed critical hit. 19-20 / x3 The attack scores a critical threat on a natural roll of 19 or 20 (instead of just 20) and deals triple damage on a confirmed critical hit. x4 The attack scores a critical threat on a natural roll of 20 (only), and deals quadruple damage on a confirmed critical hit.
Spells and Critical Hits
A spell that requires an attack roll can score a critical hit. Any offensive spell that does not require an attack roll cannot score a critical hit. By default, spells only critically threaten on a natural 20, and only deal double damage on a confirmed critical hit. However, feats, traits, class features, and even some spells, may be able to modify this.
If a spell causes ability damage or drain (see Status Conditions), the damage or drain is doubled on a critical hit.
Combat Maneuvers and Critical Hits
Combat maneuvers cannot critically hit, since they are skill rolls, not attack rolls. However, skill checks can critically succeed, granting a bonus (usually +5) to the skill check result. This can be helpful, since an exceptionally high Maneuver Offense result will often provide a greater effect than one that merely equals the target creature's Maneuver Defense value. However, in no case does a combat maneuver deal multiplied damage due to a critical result.
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 the attack equals or exceeds the target's 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 (half) to all creatures within 5 feet of the space of the targeted creature. Splash damage does not inflict additional damage to the target of the direct hit damage, even if the creature targeted is large enough to be in both the directly-hit square and one or more 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 automatically take only half damage from the weapon, just as though they had succeeded on a Reflex save for half. No actual saving throw is rolled; they just succeed. However, any creature that has an ability that further reduces damage on a successful reflex save, such as the Evasion class feature, may apply that ability, since they are treated as having succeeded on the saving throw.
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 (except by GM 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 against. In 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?
The GM adjudicates all thrown splash weapons that are not targeted at a creature's 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 thorny 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 (half damage, no save). 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.
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.
Now on to the next enemy, an adventurer's job is never finished!
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, 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 their 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.
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 on 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.
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. Also see Timescales for more information.
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 Until end of combat, or skill challenge. "About a minute". Until end of next combat or skill challenge. "About an hour or two" 1 day (until next full rest) or multiples. The longest time typically used in adventuring. 1 week or multiples 1 month (until next full moon) or multiples 1 season (3 or 4 months, or so) or multiples 1 year(4 seasons and a day), or multiples. 1 decade(10 years and a day), or multiples. Ten years or so. The longest time typically used in settlements or large-scale combat. 1 century(100 years and a day), or multiples 1 millennium (1000 years and a day) or multiples 1 Epoch (a time sufficient for all things to turn a full cycle, as long as the GM says it needs to be) 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.
Also see Readying An 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 requires only a move action or a swift action (but not both).
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 creature's 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 (as long as your turn occurs after your readied action triggers). 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 you lose the readied action is if your initiative comes up again before the trigger is met.
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 simple way to implement this is to record the amount of damage done by the coup-de-grace and if that creature is ever subject to a raise dead or similar effect, the re-animator must make a Caster Check against that target, or the attempt fails. Of course, that means those killed by very high level foes are effectively perma-dead, and those killed by an NPC executioner may have an arbitrarily decided difficulty. 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 indicates that a target is behind something which partially or completely blocks your line of effect, though not necessarily line of sight. For example, a wall of force is transparent — you can see targets on the other side of one. However, most attacks cannot target a creature on the other side of a wall of force since there is no line of effect to that target. Such a creature has total cover.
There are varying degrees of cover, depending on how completely your line of effect is blocked to a target. This can range from a target standing up behind a low coffee table, which makes their feet and lower legs untargetable, but leaves the rest of them exposed, to a target peering through a small peephole, who could only be hit by the most unlikely of attacks, to a target completely behind a solid obstacle, which cannot be targeted at all (at least, by an attack which requires line of effect).
The term "partial cover" is interchangeable with the more general term, "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).
Cover also grants you a +1 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.
When making a melee attack against an adjacent target, your target only 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.
If you attempt to make a ranged attack against a creature, and there are one or more creatures in the path between you and your target (whether those intervening creatures are enemies or allies) they are said to be "soft cover" for your target. If your target has soft cover, you suffer a -2 penalty to-hit. This penalty is always -2, even if there are multiple creatures in the way. Note that this penalty can be stacked with the AC bonus from partial cover, if your target also has partial cover, which would make them quite difficult to hit. Some feats, such as Weapon Focus, allow you to ignore the soft cover penalty when making ranged attacks under certain circumstances.
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 also ignore the cover if they within 10 feet of the low obstacle, and they are closer to the obstacle than their target (i.e. their target is at least 15 feet away from the obstacle).
Cover and Attacks of Opportunity
You can't execute an attack of opportunity against an opponent with cover relative to you.
Cover and Stealth Checks
You can use cover to initiate a Stealth stance. Without cover, you usually need concealment (see below) to make a Stealth check.
Big Creatures and Cover
Any creature of size Large or larger determines cover against melee attacks slightly differently than sized-Medium and 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.
If a creature has cover, but more than half the creature is visible, it provides no benefit to the creature's AC or Reflex saves. Exactly what constitutes minimal cover is subject to the GM's discretion.
When attacking a target that is behind a source of cover that was designed for that very purpose, it may provide a greater cover bonus to AC and Reflex saves. In such situations, the normal bonuses increase to +6 and +2, respectively, or even go as high as +8 and +3, respectively, depending on just how little of the attacker is exposed when they attack. Examples of improved cover are the merlons on top of a castle wall (+6 cover bonus), or attacking through an arrow-slit or murder hole (+8 cover bonus). The GM is the final arbiter of what constitutes improved cover, and just how good that cover is.
Improved cover counts the same as total cover for purposes of initiating a Stealth stance.
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), they are considered to have total cover from you. You can't make an attack against a target that has total cover.
Creatures with the incorporeal condition do not have a physical body, but they are still within the Material Plane. Some ethereal creatures may be able to manifest an Incorporeal effect from the Ethereal plane to the material plane, but such things are rare and potent.
An incorporeal creature 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 or Ghost Touch weapon, affect an incorporeal creature normally.
An incorporeal creature's attacks are nearly always resolved as touch attacks, when made against 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 (automatically miss on a natural result of a 12 or less on the d20, and you must be attacking the square your target actually occupies) 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 partial cover until the start of its next turn.
- 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.
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, all deal full damage. Note that nebulous creatures deal only half damage to incorporeal creatures, as they are more corporeal than not.
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. On any effect which normally inflicts half damage on a successful save, a phased creature takes only one quarter damage if they succeed on that save. Note that this applies to any such attacks, spells, or effects, regardless of which saving throw (FORT, REFL, or WILL) they target.
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.
An ethereal creature is out of the Material Plane they started from and are wholly within the Ethereal Plane. While within the ethereal plane, they do not interact with the true material plane: They are in a reflection of the material plane that may, or may not, correctly match "reality".
Ethereal creatures are usually completely divorced from the Material Plane. Some ethereal creatures may have powerful abilities that allow them to pierce the veil between the Ethereal and Material in a more exact way.
Ethereal creatures are normally gone completely from the Material Plane, but one of the very few constants of the Ethereal is that movement within the Ethereal is analogous with its Material Plane. If an Ethereal creature moves 50 feet through a door on the Ethereal Plane and then returns to the Material Plane, they seem to disappear from the Material, than reappear in their new location. This can be considered as a form of slow, information-rich teleportation, as the Ethereal Plane frequently has at least some similarity to the material.
The Ethereal Plane may reflect the Material in a fairly accurate fashion, or it may reflect the material as it was in the past, or will be in the future, or an alternate history, such that creatures, objects, even terrain, may be totally different.
Ethereal creatures are capable of moving in any direction in the Ethereal Plane, even up or down, albeit at half normal Walk speed. An ethereal creature can move through solid objects that are reflections of the Material plane, including living creatures. Note that it is possible for there to be Ethereal terrain features, such as walls and ground, that 'exist' in the Ethereal but not in the Material, and such Ethereal terrain is impassable to an Ethereal creature. An ethereal creature cannot see and hear directly onto the Material Plane, but they certainly can see and hear the reflection of their material plane, with wildly varying degrees of accuracy. While on the Ethereal Plane everything looks gray and ephemeral. Sight and hearing on the Ethereal Plane are limited to 60 feet, as the very structure of space tends to 'fog out' any perception beyond that distance.
Force effects (such as Ghost Touch weapons and Force-based spells) and abjuration-based spells and effects on the material Plane almost always affect an ethereal creature normally. Their effects usually 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.
Note that the incorporeal condition reflects a creature that has no physical body, but is still within the Material Plane. It may be possible for some Ethereal creatures to project an incorporeal effect into the Material plane.
Concealment means you are having trouble getting a clear line of sight to your target. This can be caused by fog effects, darkness, or other effects which hamper your senses in some way. Concealment is different from cover because there is nothing interrupting your line of effect, only your line of sight.
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 their 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.
Partial Concealment: Any to-hit roll in which the d20 result is 6 or less on the die is treated as an automatic miss.
A creature is considered to have partial concealment when the environment or circumstances make it difficult, but not impossible, to perceive the creature. This can occur because the creature is within a dimly-lit area, and the enemy creatures use standard vision as their primary targeting sense, for example. Another common occurrence of partial concealment is fog or some other Obscuring effect that interferes with line of sight.
When a creature has partial concealment, any to-hit roll in which the d20 result is 6 or less on the die is treated as an automatic miss. This is treated as though the natural die result was a 1.
There is no separate roll for partial concealment — it is the same roll as the to-hit roll. This means that creatures with particularly high armor classes (ACs) rarely gain any benefit from partial concealment, since a natural 6 on the die will nearly always miss them, even without partial concealment.
Total Concealment: Any to-hit roll in which the d20 result is 12 or less on the die is treated as an automatic miss, and you must be attacking the square your target actually occupies.
If you have line of effect to a target but not line of sight, your target has total concealment from you. You can't attack a target that has total concealment, though you can attack into a square that you believe they occupy. A successful attack into a square occupied by an enemy with total concealment is treated as a miss if the die result of the d20 roll is an 12 or less (instead of the automatic miss on a 6 or less for an opponent with Partial 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. In addition, you cannot inflict precision damage on a target with total concealment, unless you have an ability which specifically states otherwise.
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.
If a creature possesses a sense that can bypass the concealment, such as blindsense or tremorsense, which do not require line of sight to target creatures in combat, can ignore the effects of that concealment. In many cases, sources of concealment only apply to visual-based senses, and non-visual-based senses can bypass them. However, certain effects, such as a silence spell, can create concealment against creatures that use non-visual-based senses as their primary targeting sense. GMs and players should be aware of these circumstances, and decide whether the effect in question is bypassed by a particular sense, or whether a particular sense is partially or completely blinded by each form of sensory-obscuring effect.
Obviously, if a creature's senses are unaffected by the effect that is creating the concealment, that creature does not suffer any issues with its to-hit rolls against the (not-actually-)concealed creature in question. Its to-hit rolls are resolved normally.
Varying Degrees of Concealment
Certain situations may provide more or less than standard partial concealment, and modify the minimum natural die result required to successfully hit, accordingly. In general, no amount of concealment can force the minimum above a 12, since total concealment is total (and you still have to make an attack into the appropriate square/space to have any chance to hit the creature, in any case).
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 target is treated as flat-footed versus the attack.
- 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 (challenge rating) 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 (automatically miss on a natural result of a 12 or less on the d20, and you must be attacking the square your target actually occupies).
- 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, the touch attack may land as long as the Natural Result on the attack die is 12 or higher, assuming the final number hits the target's Armor Class. 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 (automatically miss on a natural result of a 12 or less on the d20, and you must be attacking the square your target actually occupies). A particularly large and slow invisible creature might get a smaller miss chance at the GM's discretion.
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. Whether or not the invisible creature is present in that square, conduct the attack normally. If the roll is below the Natural result needed, the player is informed they missed due to a poor roll. If the square is empty, and the player rolls well (above a natural 12, regardless of hit or miss), inform the player the square is empty. if the square is occupied, and the roll is above a 12 but still misses the creatures AC, inform the player the creature is present, but they do no damage. If the roll is sufficient to hit the monster, then it is resolved as a normal attack, and the player knows where the creature is.
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 (automatically miss on a natural result of a 12 or less on the d20, and you must be attacking the square your target actually occupies).
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 (challenge rating) 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.
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 (Sorcerer/Wizard 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 (Sorcerer/Wizard Spell), Tremorsense, etc.), the creature can be targeted only on those rounds in which a successful save against the Faded status was made.