We Are Stupid – Episode 42

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…

When we here at the Glass Cannon get into complicated combat mechanics which stem from unusual situations like getting stuck in a Jell-O mold, training a wolverine to be a reasonable pet, or a 6′4″260 lb half-orc getting loaded in a trebuchet, we generally fall back on what makes sense. Since we consider ourselves to be recording live (we honestly do very little editing of episodes), we try to come up with a mechanic that makes sense, and just go with it. Most of the time we are pretty close, but sometimes we realize in retrospect that we were way off. It’s in those cases, that we get a We Are Stupid. Of all the many things we’ve been idiots about so far, this one may take the cake.

When the freshwater merrow successfully grappled Halrex and fell overboard with her, Raag dove in to save the life of his first mate. During that combat there was a feeling in the room that there must be some change in the rules of combat when you’re underwater. We even mention at one point that there must be something different, but instead of making up a mechanic on the fly, we lazily decided that you can just fight as normal underwater. Full disclosure: this is not the first time we’ve completely ignored the rules of underwater combat. We’ve done it in other games as well through the years.

Even with these other instances of underwater combat, and even knowing that we were playing a recorded show that takes places on a riverboat, none of us looked into whether or not Pathfinder published rules for underwater combat. “Why wouldn’t the GM do that before running a riverboat adventure that takes place over a dozen or more episodes?” you may ask. Sigh. I have no idea. I have no idea.

Well, it turns out that Pathfinder did their job and wrote very specific rules governing underwater combat. Of course they did! I’ve had the chance to look into it and permit me to blow your mind by how much they make sense.

First of all, any creature that doesn’t have the ability to swim by its very nature (like say a celestial dolphin) has to roll a swim check at the start of its round to be able to attack at all. If it succeeds, then it is able to make an attack roll. If it’s attacking with a slashing or bludgeoning weapon, however, it takes a -2 to the attack roll and only does half damage. If you’re using a piercing weapon, however, (dagger, rapier, stiletto) and you pass your swim check, you take no penalty to attack or damage. Makes sense.

What about making a ranged attack from the ship’s edge at a target that’s in, or even worse, under the water. Barron stepped up to the edge and took a shot at the merrow that was in melee combat with Raag. Troy said that the two were 10 feet below the surface of the water. He probably didn’t mean that, because he’s probably not considering that 10 feet beneath the water is pretty significantly deep, but regardless, he said it. He then allowed Barron to take the shot at a -4 to hit (since his ally Raag was in melee combat). The only penalty he took, besides shooting into melee, was that the attack would have to resolve against regular AC (rather than touch AC for the bullet).

Here’s the actual rule: Barron couldn’t even take that shot! Of course he couldn’t. He’s 25 feet up, shooting into the water at a 10 foot depth at a creature that’s tangled with his ally. Absurd! First, by the rules, creatures that are submerged have Total Cover from creatures on land (or a boat) meaning that you can’t even take the shot. But let’s say, just for fun, Baron wants to take the shot anyway, he’s a daring fellow, right? Eff it. Here’s how it should probably break down:

First we’ll give the merrow improved cover since that’s what creatures in water have against creatures NOT in the water (+8 to AC), then -4 for Baron’s attack role since his target is in melee with Raag, then -2 to attack for every 5 feet of water the ranged attack has to pass through (total of -4). So Baron takes -8 to the shot, and the merrow gets +8 to AC, that’s essentially a -16 penalty to the attack roll, and that’s being generous! What if we say that in the scrum under water, Raag is in the way of the shot?  That would make the total penalty -20 to hit! Anti-True Strike is what we call that in the biz. The only roll that could successfully hit is most likely the natural 20, but hey, desperate times!

So yeah, why Troy allowed that shot to be taken is not that baffling. Troy likes us to have fun and play a fantasy game. I applaud him for that, but part of having fun is making it feel real. Next time, let’s just have Barron hold his action and wait for a clear shot, like any reasonable fantasy dwarf with modern firearms would do.

Oh, and before we leave, also during that fight, Gormlaith cast enlarge person on Lorc from atop the Crow’s Nest and Lorc instantly grew and attacked as a giant on his next round. Fun fact: the casting time of enlarge person is one full round, meaning that Gormlaith and Lorc have to wait a full round until Gormlaith’s next turn for the spell casting to be complete. Whoops!

Until next time, keep on cheatin!

-Joe

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