We Are Stupid – Episode 16

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…

Episode 15 was a pretty by-the-numbers affair. I have my doubts about the concentration check the skald failed that aborted his attempt to cast a scroll of Summon Monster I, but I know we did it mostly right. The idea of how his orc ferocity would be affected by being taken below 0 HP during the middle of his action by way of an attack of opportunity didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t find anything to specifically refute the way we chose to play it, so I’ll have to think we’re good on that one for now. Moving on.

In Episode 16, we had a discussion about the complexities of nonlethal damage. At one point I believe I said something about how I’ve never been in a game where a character actually fell unconscious due to taking too much nonlethal damage. Believe it or not, that’s not because I’ve just been really, really lucky for years. It’s because I’m STUPID.

I did some research and I actually think I finally understand nonlethal damage, and, unsurprisingly, it’s awesome and makes perfect sense. So, in general, nonlethal damage “represents harm to a character that is not life-threatening.” As discussed in the episode, nonlethal damage is often used by PCs against their enemies to subdue them so that they may be interrogated (since killing them outright makes talking difficult for them). It is also used as a game mechanic against the PCs to represent those things that take a toll on the body that are not necessarily axe wounds. Things like terrible weather conditions can deal nonlethal damage (fighting in a blizzard or walking 50 miles in the desert), or, like we saw in Episode 16 – severe nausea. Anyone that’s gone through a 24 hour bout with a stomach flu knows all about nonlethal damage. You’re not going to die, but you sure as shit think you might.

So here’s how it works in my words: normally when you reach exactly zero hit points, you’re “disabled.” We’ve covered this before. You can only move OR take a standard action. If you take a standard action, you lose one HP, thus making you fall unconscious. What nonlethal damage does, essentially, is extends the range of the number zero in this situation. So, say Lorc has 25 hit points (he does), and takes eight points of nonlethal damage (he did). Now, when Lorc takes another hit and is taken down to eight hit points or lower, he experiences nearly the same effect as already being at zero – he becomes “staggered.” He may only take a move action OR a standard action, giving a game mechanic to the idea that he’s worn out and can’t stand and fight in top form due to his body failing him. If Lorc took 24 points of nonlethal damage, and was then hit for just one hit point of damage, it would be enough to make him “staggered” for a long time. I think it’s a really cool mechanic and I’m sorry I didn’t understand it better until now. Hopefully it comes up in future sessions and we can take it out for a spin.

Side note: Troy said that if you took nonlethal damage that took you down to below negative your Constitution score (-12 in Lorc’s case), you could die. We scoffed. “Ha!” we said. “Troy, you fool! It can never kill you. It is, by definition, NON LETHAL damage.” Well, turns out we were wrong.  Straight from the Core Rulebook:

If a creature’s nonlethal damage is equal to his total maximum hit points (not his current hit points), all further nonlethal damage is treated as lethal damage.

So, Troy was right. Score one for the GM!  For more on how nonlethal damage can suddenly, and without warning, turn into lethal damage, see the motion picture Everest, in theaters and IMAX 3D September 18th.

A few more small things before I’m done for the week. Barron went well below zero hit points after taking back to back hits from the incredible hulk orc. In his first round unconscious and dying, he should have rolled a fortitude save. If he failed, he would have lost a hit point. Would it have been his last? We’ll never know.

The issue of “bracing” came up when Lorc attacked the charging Pomeranians. This is a readied action. In retrospect, I don’t believe we played it properly. As a “readied action,” it should have counted as an attack and been subject to concealment (which we ruled it was not), and furthermore, as a readied action, it should have pushed Lorc to after the dogs in initiative order for all further rounds. Not a big deal, but a mistake nonetheless, and here at the GCP, we own up to our mistakes.

That’s it for this week!  Tune in tomorrow to find out how Lorc reacts to the horror that unfolded in the final seconds of Episode 16!


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I realise I’m coming in really late on this, and hopefully it will be addressed in a future episode (making this comment moot), but: A five-foot step is not a move action. It occurs completely outside the normal action economy. You can’t take a five-foot step and also move any distance in the same round, but you can take a five-foot step AND a move action (that doesn’t involve movement, like drawing a weapon or reloading a light crossbow) AND a standard action, or a five-foot step AND a full-round action. So a caster can take a five-foot step and… Read more »