We Are Stupid – Episode 14

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…

Perhaps you noticed that there was no We Are Stupid article last week. We’re pretty sure we got it right in Episode 13. Except for one thing. A pretty big thing. There’s a good reason for not publishing an article on it yet, which will come to light later, but, in the meantime, if you can guess the major rules error in Episode 13, email us at glasscannonpodcast@gmail.com. If you guess it right, you’ll get a mention on the show for being a pain in the ass rules lawyer. Just kidding. You’ll get a mention for being awesome!

This week, though…this week is particularly tough. This week’s epic error, while subtle and honest, could have mistakenly saved the life of our half-orc ranger Lorc Irontusk.

It was obvious to all listening that Lorc’s confirmed critical hit against himself with his new masterwork greataxe was not only embarrassing, but straight up deadly. With a relatively low roll of five on his d12, Joe got lucky and Lorc simply went to -1 (-12 is permanent death for Lorc). Unlike his allies though, Lorc has a special ability called orc ferocity, which we discussed in We Are Stupid – Episode 12, that allows him to act for one more round after going below 0 hit points (anyone else would have fallen unconscious on the spot and started dying). As Troy pointed out, a good example of what orc ferocity looks like is the scene in LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring when the Uruk-hai, after receiving a mortal wound through the gut from Strider’s sword, simply pulls the blade deeper in and fearlessly attempts to intimidate his attacker.

Injury and death rules in Pathfinder can be complicated to understand as is, and throwing orc ferocity into the mix can only muddy the waters. Here’s what happened in the show: Lorc was in his ferocity zone at -1. Gelabrous healed the party by channeling positive energy, but he only rolled a one on the d6 to heal, bringing Lorc from -1 to 0, thus, it was decided, ending his orc ferocity. That’s an interpretation of orc ferocity that we think is totally justified. However, what was incorrect was having Lorc fall unconscious but “stable” because he was at 0 hit points. In fact, when ANY character is at exactly 0 hit points they do not fall unconscious and begin dying. They are “disabled” and, while disabled, can either take a single move action or a standard action. If they take a standard action (like an attack), they automatically lose 1 hit point, pushing your body beyond what it can handle, but if they only move, they can actually stay at 0 and remain alive until they can get some much needed medical or magical attention.

Why is this one particularly tough? Because by dropping Lorc to the ground and making him “unconscious,” even though by the rules he should have been standing in the fight, he was removed from the battle as a viable target. If he was still up, at 0 hit points, a single successful attack from a spiked chain or, Desna forbid, a critical hit with a falchion would have almost certainly have killed Lorc (or put him in the -8 to -9 range). That deep below zero is tough to come out of while in combat, because you lose hit points every round as you bleed out, and your healer might be under attack.

So, the lesson learned here is that Lorc is on borrowed time. In his next brush with death, he may not be so lucky. Unless we continue to be stupid, in which case he’ll be fine!

EDIT:

This was supposed to be the end of the post. I fleshed it out, thought through the consequences, and laid it out for you to the best of my ability. Joe here, by the way. I finished this article and had it queued for publication today and this morning, well after finishing the article, something occurred to me. I’m not sure where it came from, but the thought came into my head as clear as day.

I didn’t come close to accurately portraying exactly how much we (correction) I cheated the mechanics to keep my beloved half-orc alive. Sorry for the long build, but instead of rewriting the whole article, I wanted to show that even in writing the article, I was blind to my real mistake. I have to admit that this realization shook me. I suspected something this morning and went straight to the rulebook again. I didn’t go to Injury and Death this time. This time, I went to weapon descriptions.

The critical damage multiplier for a two-handed greataxe is x3.

Most slashing weapons do double damage on a critical hit, but the greataxe is a particularly vicious weapon when it strikes a weak spot. I only doubled the damage I rolled on that Critical Mistake, I didn’t triple it. It was an honest mistake that stemmed from the fact that I’ve never played with a character that used a greataxe before. But the bottom line is that Lorc should have taken 27 points of damage in that hit!

The only thing that gives me solace right now is that the hit would not have permanently killed him. It would have brought him to -10. Two hit points from permanent death. The problem, however, is that, as described above, Lorc would have stayed up on orc ferocity and, even with Gelabrous’s healing to -9, he would have either taken a final swing and fallen to ground with -10, ready to bleed out and die, or been subject to an enemy attack. Any successful attack against him, regardless of Troy’s damage roll, would have resulted in the permanent loss of Lorc from the story.

So, a few weeks ago, when I said in the Episode 12 intro that our mistakes can completely change the narrative, I wasn’t foreshadowing this. I had no idea this would happen. But now we know that somewhere, in some alternate universe, Lorc died that night, in that house, next to that poor, defenseless woman, and left his friends, and his son, to fend for themselves against the ferocity of Skreed’s army.

Borrowed time indeed.

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