We Are Stupid – Episode 136

Some people know all of the rules to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but many, many more do not. Here’s a list of the things we screwed up in our never-ending search for Pathfinder perfection…

Say goodbye to this handsome son of an orc. (Artwork by Robert Atkins. Full image available to Patreon subscribers at the Escape Artist tier.)

“Sometimes you can just smell a horrendously shitty day on the way, can’t you?”

I’ve always loved that line from the 1994 movie The Paper (a great one if you’ve never happened to see it), and I’m going to steal some of it today. Sometimes you can just smell a We Are Stupid coming, can’t you? Combine a spell with multiple paragraphs of descriptive text, and our dear friend Matthew (who notoriously reads about 50% of any spell description before casting it), with a monumentally important narrative moment, and one can be just about certain I’ll be writing a We Are Stupid within 48 hours.

Well, we did not disappoint, or rather, by disappointing, we did what was expected of the GCP crew. We inexcusably misread the rules on the reincarnate spell and in so doing, ended up with a very different interpretation of the story. I’ve said before that when we were unsure of a rule, we generally went with what makes sense. In this case, I would argue that we still did exactly that. In fact, I’d like to make a case that our interpretation of the spell, though conflicting with the text, is actually a far cooler way to play it. But first, the stupid part.

The reincarnate spell states that the subject’s “Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores depend partly on the new body.” No mention is made of the mental scores of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. In fact, included in the text of the spell is a chart that shows the adjustment you would make to your character’s physical ability scores based on each race. Again, no mention is made of making any changes to your mental scores. It makes sense that your mental state would remain fairly intact and equal with what your character had before the reincarnation since the spell’s text also states, “a reincarnated creature recalls the majority of its former life and form.” We spent the entire episode talking about the total change to all the statistics, including Lorc losing the mental benefits of his older age, all while this text was staring us right in the face. There’s no excuse for it. Frankly, I’m embarrassed…for Matthew and this enormous mistake for which he is solely to blame.

Now, for the cooler part.

Despite this clear and undisputed error, I think there’s an argument to be made for changing more than just a character’s physical attributes. I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t try to worm your way out of this one, O’Brien. You and your friends are stupid. Period. End of discush.” You’re not wrong, incredibly rude reader, but you are a little short-sighted. I can break this argument down into three parts: First, Lorc Irontusk, then a different angle on the text of the reincarnate spell, and finally the implications of reincarnation on min maxing and roleplay.

First, Lorc Irontusk was a man of great…well, nothing really. There’s nothing particularly “great” about Lorc. That’s sort of what makes him Lorc. He’s a half-orc, which is an enormous part of how his life began, where he ended up, and how he views the world. For Lorc, changing bodies isn’t exactly Freaky Friday, or any other of the dozens of body-swapping comedies we’ve seen over the years. This is a change that will have serious impact on the character. An impact that goes FAR beyond the physical attributes of him being a little less hearty and a little faster in the 40. I think it’s flawed thinking to assume that a character like Lorc could inhabit the body of an elf and not only have changes to his mental state, but mechanically to his Intelligence, Wisdom, and I think most obviously to his Charisma. I know the specific story of one character is not a good basis from which to argue that the spell isn’t as good as it could be. The spell needs to be crafted in such a way that it can apply across thousands and thousands of characters over years of game play. I don’t think there are major problems with the spell at all. I think there are hints of what I’m talking about right in the text itself!

So let’s look closer at the text of the spell. Reincarnate states that the subject’s “Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores depend partly on the new body.” Partly on the new body? Which part doesn’t depend on the new body? Does part of the scores depend on the old body? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. What else is contributing to those scores? Maybe they are talking about the ability points that you earn at 4th, 8th, 12th, etc. level. Those ability score points do transfer to the new body. So I guess that means that part of Dexterity is learned. Part of Strength is trained and can be present even in a new body, if not immediately, in a short while. Part of Constitution is how you eat, exercise, and sleep. So if the mental state of an individual can so impact the physical state of their body mechanically, why can’t the physical state of their body have some impact on the mental state of the individual? The hit points also remain unchanged as per the rules of the spell, implying that hit points are not simply the limits of one’s flesh, but to quote the core rulebook, how “robust and healthy” one is. Again, more evidence that mental is impacting the physical, but why is it only a one way street?

There are also other lines in text that imply mental changes after the reincarnation. “A reincarnated creature recalls the majority of its former life and form.” The majority of its life and form. This suggests to me that the creature is mentally changed to some degree. The process must be so jarring that inevitably, beyond the glaring physical changes, mental changes take place as well. How the spell impacts an individual mentally would vary wildly from subject to subject, so while I think it should be considered, I would understand your hesitance on accepting that one as a good argument for the spell’s intention in general.

But there’s a larger question looming here with the rules. What does a race’s ability bonus or penalty to a mental score represent? To me it represents instinct. An elf has a natural instinct to expand its Intelligence by questioning the deeper mysteries of the universe and the world of magic. A dwarf has a natural instinct to have a grounded, more realistic view of the actual world and thus gains a bonus in Wisdom, and a halfling is just plain likable, so we give them a bump in Charisma. Why would we assume these instincts are not at all tied to the physiology of the body? Especially considering that there are racial traits that clearly come from mental faculties. “The reincarnated creature gains all abilities associated with its new form, including extraordinary abilities, and the like, but it doesn’t automatically speak the language of the new form.” So while there are certainly limits (Lorc doesn’t automatically speak Elf), the text of the spell does assume that Lorc Irontusk inherits an elf’s “Elf Magic” trait and would now get a +2 bonus to spellcraft checks to identify an item. Doesn’t that seem like Lorc is getting smarter? Or what about Elven Immunities? Lorc now acquires a +2 bonus to saves against enchantment effects. Enchantment effects are spells that specifically affect the mind. They are avoided by being strong of Will, which is directly tied to a character’s Wisdom score. These instincts that came with the body that now change Lorc’s mental makeup in some small way. I would argue that the rules allow for and expect this, so why not acknowledge the other mental changes that would inevitably take place if you were thrust into a new body?

I’ll wrap this up now with a quick min-maxing question and then the implications for all of these thoughts on roleplay in general.

Am I crazy or would this spell as written imply that making a character with the old template (-2 to all physical abilities, and +2 to all mental abilities), with the intention of leveling them to level 7 and then immediately having a druid cast reincarnate into a younger body, would be the best way to min max your character just from an ability point perspective? What am I missing here? Comment below because unless I’m crazy, my Ruins of Azlant character is 100% going to have the old template.

I think it’s possible by the spell’s text as written that someone could be reincarnated and then not really change the roleplay of their character at all. With all of the mental foundations and quirks of the character’s personality transitioning over, there would be no major need to roleplay different, with the exception of reactionary roleplay when you’re a troglodyte walking into Prancing Pony. I wouldn’t want to play reincarnation that way. I think that some part of the new body must affect your mind and that those changes could be represented by the mental bonuses or penalties of the new race that you become. More importantly, I think it’s just more challenging and more fun to play it that way.

In closing, I don’t believe that the spell should change or that there is an inconsistency in the rules, or anything like that. I think the rules are actually flexible enough to allow for my interpretation, which is one of the things that makes the rule a good one. I just got carried away thinking about all the comments we got that reincarnation was only a physical change and I just wanted to put an argument out there that the rules could be interpreted in such a way to allow more mental change to the character than perhaps one would deduce after just one reading of the spell’s text. Of course, we probably wouldn’t even be having this discussion if we had read the spell’s text. Just once.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please comment here and let me know how you’ve addressed reincarnate in your games. Did the character’s personality remain the same? Has anyone ever changed mental stats based on a purely physical change?

Happy New Year, everybody!

I remain,

Lorc the Elf

 

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Owen
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Owen

Ph*ck the rules, I want to know about the tusk!! Lorc the Elf better be sporting one long metal tooth. Think of all the ‘long in the tooth’ jokes to be made.

Benu
Guest
Benu

Yeah, he should def. Keep the tusk. Even if it’s just as a necklace.

Lagnis
Guest
Lagnis

I think you made good use of the rule. Any game has rules that can be abused and it’s up to the group to make sure things don’t go off the rails.

Rob from Manchester
Guest
Rob from Manchester

I’m actually amazed how many veteran players don’t think about the aging rules at all.

Also, I’m glad my incessant shrieking about Reincarnate in your mailbox came in handy. You’re welcome, Joe.

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

The aging rules are terrible and ripe for abuse for someone wanting to cheese an optimized build; especially for a caster class – ignoring the logistics of doing so, a Magus could benefit quite a bit by starting the game as venerable and having a druid reincarnate her into a new body.

kahn265
Guest
kahn265

My only thought is he should have a name change. He is no longer “Lorc the Orc” he is “Lelf the Elf”

Leo Ibarrientos
Guest
Leo Ibarrientos

On a side note, considering how many times it was stated, I think it is now canon that L’orc ‘s new name is now L’elf

Eric
Guest
Eric

The most rules-lawyery answer for rules as written of the Reincarnate spell (coming from a former Herald GM) goes like this: Lorc previously had the race “half-orc”, and the creature type humanoid with the “orc” and “human” subtypes, and the “middle-aged” template. After his demise and subsequent reincarnation, he now has the race “elf”, and the creature type humanoid with subtypes “elf” and “reincarnated middle-aged half-orc” (and the “young adult” template). So, he should lose the physical penalties of the middle-aged template, but keep the mental bonuses. This means that when/if he becomes a middle-aged elf, he would re-gain the… Read more »

Dell
Guest
Dell

I’m with you on this one Joe. Lorc in particular SHOULD have mental changes, especially in light of the curse and his spirit quest, and those changes should accumulate over time as his new body influences his mind, viewpoint and perceptions. This rule should have a lot of GM flexibility and I liked the way Troy and the party played it.

EZartajuz
Guest
EZartajuz

When I listened to the episode, I was honestly hoping someone was aware of the expanded reincarnation table in Inner Sea Races and possibly roll up something really out there like a strix or aquatic elf. In any event, I don’t think there’s much I can add to this that hasn’t been said. In my home campaign, I rewrote the Reincarnate spell to effectively be a total race make-over because it did present the opportunity to min-max (albeit via a random roll) particularly to the already powerful caster classes. A wizard that comes back in the body of an orc… Read more »

Rakeleer
Guest
Rakeleer

OMG! Where is that table?!
Edit: A quick google turned up Page 193 of the Inner Sea Races Campaign Setting book. Totally bookmarked. Thanks EZartajuz!

Rakeleer
Guest
Rakeleer

I believe that little perk (mental stats shouldn’t change much and physical should be that of a young adult) is probably one reason the reincarnation spell is not PFS legal. I’m a big fan of the spell myself in home games, and the discussion that was had on the podcast is an incredibly accurate representation of the sort of thing that would happen in our games. So yes, “We” are stupid – if stupid is not being bound like steel to the rulebook and going with what is fun and narratively most interesting without ignoring the book entirely. A player… Read more »

WeaselII
Guest
WeaselII

Joe, I must correct you about your preception of age modifiers. You NEVER go above +1 for the mental abilities based on age. Middle age is -1 str/dex/con +1 int/Wis/Cha, old takes it to -2, and so on. Also I disagree with the mental stats changing. That would kill the “Reincarnated Druid” archtype, that once it hits level 4 it can reincarnate automatically when it dies once per week (I know this due to making a Samsaran one,with the hopes of finding a DM to A) play with and B) auto allow me to reincarnate into a different Samsaran due… Read more »

Deathsy
Guest
Deathsy

Copying from the PFSRD:

With age, a character’s physical ability scores decrease and his mental ability scores increase (see Table: Aging Effects). The effects of each aging step are cumulative. However, none of a character’s ability scores can be reduced below 1 in this way.

Second sentence stats that they are Cumulative, so a Venerable Human has -6 physical scores, +3 mental.

Andrew B
Guest
Andrew B

There are plenty of grey areas in the Reincarnate spell description (whether you retain some/all of the middle aged template; whether you lose ferocity and/or gain elven immunities). You should resolve these with your GM (maybe buy Troy some fancy beer first, to get on his good side?). But it’s 100% clear from the spell description that Lorc should not gain a +2 bonus to Intelligence from his new elven body. The designers of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game would laugh in the face of your craven and weak sauce “real world” argument to bump Lorc’s brainpower.

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

Joe, in response to this: “Am I crazy or would this spell as written imply that making a character with the old template (-2 to all physical abilities, and +2 to all mental abilities), with the intention of leveling them to level 7 and then immediately having a druid cast reincarnate into a younger body, would be the best way to min max your character just from an ability point perspective? What am I missing here? Comment below because unless I’m crazy, my Ruins of Azlant character is 100% going to have the old template.” The age adjustments are not… Read more »

WeaselII
Guest
WeaselII

I agree with everything you said, minus the fact about starting age and the min/max. You can, by the rules be any starting age, but must reach the min age for that class/race/age range combo. As for the min/max you have to wait for a while to get it, and the 2 negative levels set it back, it helps even things out in the early game.

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

I did some re-reading and you are technically correct. So I’ll just say that GM’s shouldn’t allow age templates on level 1 characters and Paizo should have put this in the rules 🙂

Shane
Guest
Shane

A Cyclops Helm lets you choose the result of a single attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check. I don’t see the random table roll for Reincarnate fitting into this scenario at all.

Which is a pity – it gave me a fun idea for a campaign.

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

Yeah you’re right. You’d need pembrooke to charm monster on a cyclops and have the cyclops cast the spell somehow (UMD with a scroll maybe?). The Cyclops actual flash of insight, has no specifications on the dice roll…

“Once per day as an immediate action, a cyclops can peer into an occluded visual spectrum of possible futures, gaining insight that allows it to select the exact result of one die roll before the roll is made. This effect can alter an action taken by the cyclops only, and cannot be applied to the rolls of others.”

AdamD
Guest
AdamD

I think most people would use reincarnate because their character died, but they want to still keep playing them. They may not want to role play a different character, else they could just bring in any backup they have in reserve. If you want to role play Lorc as a fundamentally different personality, go for it, but shouldn’t need to twist the rules to make it happen or justify it. I’m sure Lorc will still Lorc. Love the show!

Leo Ibarrientos
Guest
Leo Ibarrientos

Besides needing 1k GP in spell components to cast Reincarnate and then another 1k GP in spell components again for each of the Restoration spells required to get rid of both negative levels you incur, there is nothing stopping you from maxing mental stats that way if your soul is willing to come back, you have someone to do the spell and your GM is willing to let you. However there is also the randomness factor of not knowing what your new body will be. You even had the chance of coming back as a half orc XD

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

Cyclops helm eliminates the risk. You can come back as whatever you want.

MrMostlyMediocre
Guest
MrMostlyMediocre

“… attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check.”

That reincarnate roll is a D100, it doesn’t qualify for the Cyclops Helm.

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

You’re right, the clever adventurer would need to find a cyclops with UMD, give it a scroll of reincarnate, and use charm monster to get it to use its flash of insight for the spell, which has no limitations…

“Once per day as an immediate action, a cyclops can peer into an occluded visual spectrum of possible futures, gaining insight that allows it to select the exact result of one die roll before the roll is made. This effect can alter an action taken by the cyclops only, and cannot be applied to the rolls of others.”

Shane
Guest
Shane

A Cyclops Helm lets you choose the result of a single attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check. I don’t see the random table roll for Reincarnate fitting into this scenario at all.

Leo Ibarrientos
Guest
Leo Ibarrientos

Unfortunately the helm does not apply to anything other than your next attack roll, saving throw, skill/ability check

Dragonwraith907
Guest
Dragonwraith907

So the way I look at Racial stats for mental abilities is it’s a racial development from youth to young adult. The schooling and mental training is different for an elf than it would be for a half-orc which affects how the stats are laid out for a new character. In terms of reincarnation, Lorc hasn’t ACTUALLY experienced the rigorous schooling a young elf would have to gain that +2 to INT so he retains the bonuses he had previously. Roleplaying I could totally see an argument for allowing Lorc to spend downtime to take advantage of that natural elf… Read more »

Doug Becker
Guest
Doug Becker

Ok, so a couple of things here Joe. First, the new body is using your old body’s stats and then partially modifying them via the chart in the spell. So your new elf body only gets the +2 to Dex and take a -2 to Con. You maintain your mental scores because it is your soul that is moving into the new body. Second, building on that, you don’t get the mental boosts because you’re a half- orc in an elf’s body. You’re still middle aged Lorc, just in a different young adult body. All your mental abilities would stay… Read more »

Joby
Guest
Joby

Hey! While I was finishing up the episode, I wrote out a HUGE email to let you all know how stupid you were, haha. Fortunately, I decided to drop in here first. I would hate to waste your time since you have already addressed it. In any case, I tend to agree with most of what you wrote here, and I honestly think, especially given how you all presented the spell’s effects in the episode, it should indeed be a thing that is house-ruled to accommodate the particular situation. It makes sense to use the new race’s adjustments, but I… Read more »

Brundi
Guest
Brundi

Great article, I also didn’t know the specifics of the spell as written when I listened to the episode. I thought the way that you interpreted it was really great within the story you all are crafting. I love the the way L’Elf has been affected by the spell both mentally and physically, a lot more interesting if you ask me. I see why people get upset by “not following the rules” but the story and roleplay is such an important aspect for your group… Especially due to producing such a high quality pod for us all to enjoy… Enough… Read more »

gpapadakis
Guest
gpapadakis

While I think you got the letter of the spell wrong, I agree on the min-max abuse that would be enabled with a strict reading of the spell, as well as a player that wanted to exploit it. I respect the roleplay rationale for losing the old template, but, some of Lorc’s personality can remain and make for interesting conflicts within himself and with those he knew in his past life. Maybe you can split the difference and keep one point of Wisdom as a house rule while still removing the template. This can represent the carried over life lessons,… Read more »

Aaron
Guest

One of the first rules in the book all rule nazis pretend to be ignorant and ignore is to have fun, and not to let the rules get in the way of that. Most copies of table top rpg’s including pathfinder have that as their prime directive rule. Hearing the joy in your voices as you try to figure this out, from r me, means you went above and beyond including the rules in your game. Bravo

Reid
Guest
Reid

The question I have, would this rule that mental abilities don’t change affect your decision to go elf instead of full orc?

Doug Becker
Guest
Doug Becker

I agree… I personally would have gone for the full orc option since the elf’s +2 int would not come into play. That +4 to str in huge especially if you get the adaptable quality added to the bow to get that additional +2 to damage. But the +2 bump to dex is also good for the bow to hit rolls (even though we know Joe is going to roll a 1…).

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

That’s why Orc is such a low percentage!

Chris
Guest
Chris

Don’t know this for sure but looking at Lorc’s stats there it seems fairly likely that Joe put his +2 at character creation time into Strength. Wouldn’t that mean that if he went Orc he would only be getting another +2 rather than a +4

Doug Becker
Guest
Doug Becker

Yes, if he put the +2 in Str, then he would lose that and then gain a +4 from the Orc (thus a net +2).

Jared
Guest
Jared

I’d like to know as well. My knee jerk reaction to Joe choosing elf was that he was choosing it over orc for purely statistical reasons and ignoring the wonderful role-play of Lorc the actual orc. I don’t think that’s so much the case now and see how this Lorc the elf could be an awesome 180 for the character. Although I still love to dream about the potential story of Lorc the full blown orc.

Sauron
Guest
Sauron

Honestly I really like it the way you guys did it. Even if it’s not “by the book” so to speak. They probably wrote it the way they did so it’s less changing things around. How you guys did it makes narrative sense. Lorc was a cursed man. Perhaps the gods saw fit to give him a new lease on life. Lorc’s former wisdom came as the result of growing with the curse afterall.

Chris M
Guest
Chris M

The spell leaves some ambiguity especially with age templates but on personality – I don’t believe a characters personality is a reflection of their stats in that fine of a control as a point or two. Paizo has placed a reincarnated NPC in an AP that is causing genocide on the race he was turned into because he hates his new form so much. For the new traits, in most home brew games (non-AP – level from 1-20 in a few months of game time), the character can go off for a time to ‘learn’ their new body and potentially… Read more »

Leo Ibarrientos
Guest
Leo Ibarrientos

Oh yeah, now it is a given that all Lorc’s friends will die before him. The curse lives!
^^ I love it haha great point

Trey
Guest
Trey

I am a fairly new player, only being in my first adventure path right now. We are in book 5 of the AP now, that AP being Rise of the Runelords, naturally. I was initially playing a human cleric and focused primarily on being a healer to the group. By book 3, I had actually brought about half of the party back from the dead at least once. That was, until a certain fateful encounter with a gargantuan river legend left my poor cleric, Tanrov, unconscious and face down in the shallow waters of the river. It didn’t take long… Read more »

Marten Dollinger
Guest
Marten Dollinger

the inherent connection between mind and body is a legit argument for how you played the spell, I think. however, if you knew the rules as written, would you still have chosen elf instead of orc, since it would just be +4 strength and full ferocity with no downside?

Wedgiey1
Guest
Wedgiey1

>would you still have chosen elf instead of orc, since it would just be +4 strength and full ferocity with no downside?

This is what I want to know too!

Travis Ortlip
Guest
Travis Ortlip

I feel that the bonus for old age to your mental stats is due to experiences that you have gone through. The mistakes that you made and have learned from. Even though Lorc is now physically older, I think he should be able to keep his bonuses as the spell did not make him a blank slate. My two Copper.

Matt shepherd
Guest
Matt shepherd

You should change your name to Lelf notusks

Oskar Lorentzi Wall
Guest
Oskar Lorentzi Wall

> What am I missing here?
I don’t think you’re missing anything! I think this will soon be the new fad among wizards in Golarion, after necromancy becomes a thing of the past. Go: study, live your life, defeat monstrous golems that your masters create… Then, when you’re old and powerful… Instead of transforming yourself into a thing of rotting flesh, indulge in a brand new, beautiful* body! Live another whole lifetime!

*result may vary

Foxworx
Guest
Foxworx

The spell description is for the basic/norm, but just like any drug commercial there is going to be a list of possible side effects and unintended outcomes that may or may not happen. As with anything in RP what makes for better/more interesting story (without breaking the game) should be paramount

Alterna
Guest
Alterna

I don’t have too much to add really; I’ve sent my mail and you’ve heard my thoughts on what Reincarnate should do, and while I don’t agree with your interpretation it’s nonetheless a totally valid one. As always the #1 rule of Pathfinder applies: do whatever the hell you think is more fun. I mostly wanted to comment on the ‘age template as a minmaxing tool’ thing. I found that little sidenote kind of amusing because the vast majority of players/GMs I know already consider them such, even without throwing Reincarnate in the mix, because so many full casting classes… Read more »

Kialas
Guest
Kialas

You guys aren’t stupid. What the GM allows goes. Especially in a narrative driven game. I enjoyed the twist and it is wild that Lorc is an elf now. I thought you were going to take orc!

Aero
Guest
Aero

You’re not missing anything; Reincarnation us easily abusable. That’s exactly why I don’t use the age templates in my games. They’re just an easy way for casters to get better at being the best. Now that’s not to say I don’t allow older characters, as I totally do. But rather than use the silly aging rules I just let the players spend their point buy in a way that represents their age. Or not. I may be the GM, but I’m not gonna be the aging police. If you want to play a 90 year old mean with 14 con… Read more »