We Are Stupid – Episode 65

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…

I can’t remember the last time that we made a mistake in TROY’S favor, but this week we managed to do it (and get Della critically injured in the process). During the fight with the manticores, the confusion of the cage had Della trying to vacillate between melee and ranged attacks from round to round. On the round where Lorc lifted the cage, and Della was suddenly in melee range of a manticore, Matthew asked, “Does drawing a weapon provoke an attack of opportunity?” We all answer with the quick confidence of seasoned veterans, “Yes, it does.”

Turns out, We Are Stupid.

In Pathfinder, drawing a weapon does NOT, in fact, provoke an attack of opportunity. Sheathing a weapon does. Here’s a reference to move-equivalent actions – how they work, and which ones do and do not provoke an attack of opportunity.

Matthew had Della boldly draw her weapon in the face of danger, and Troy rolled a confirmed critical hit on the attack of opportunity. Luckily Della survived the fight, but I still think we all owe Matthew an apology. Actually, we probably owe Della an apology. Matthew was just sitting there eating Sour Patch Kids through the whole fight.

Moving on, let’s tackle the sensitive subject of “Taking 20″.

Often times the player’s best friend and the GM’s worst enemy, “Taking 20″ allows a player to have a successful maximum roll of 20 on a given skill check that he or she is able to try over and over again, where failure does not result in taking damage, triggering traps, alerting guards, etc. Often times, the easiest skill to take 20 on is Perception. If you search a crime scene and don’t see the killer’s footprint on the first pass, that failure doesn’t automatically result in you never being able to see the footprint again. No. Instead, you comb the area a second time, then a third time, and then 20 more times. The idea here is that you would eventually roll a 20, so why not just fast forward the story, and get to the good stuff?

“Why don’t you always take 20?” The downside of Taking 20 is that it takes time. If, for example, Gelabrous has cast Bull’s Strength on Lorc, that powerful magic buffer will end after about five minutes. From the moment a combat ends, to the start of the next one, we may want to push the action and get Lorc in there while he’s super-orc. Doing so would not allow for Taking 20 on Perception checks for valuable intel before the next fight. If you took 20, Lorc’s Bull’s Strength would wear out long before you found out the results of your “roll”.

So, we decided to Take 20 in the chamber with the manticores because we knew, with all the crates, boxes, and wedding dresses in the area, there was bound to be some juicy information, and man were we right! But did we play the Take 20 by the book? No, of course not! Because We Are Stupid.

I said I thought it took 20 minutes or an hour to take 20 on a Perception check to search a room. I’m not sure where I came up with those numbers. I guess I thought I saw it in the rulebook once. I didn’t. In fact, there really isn’t a detailed explanation of how to do it in the RAW (Rules As Written), thus the controversy that comes up sometimes between players and GM. GMs need to balance the players’ expectation to get perfect information after taking 20, with the fact that in some rooms a failure on a Perception check might actually lead to a damaging result, like a trap going off or a gelatinous cube enveloping you. If the GM then says, “Well, you can’t take 20 in this room,” the players may very well say, “Well, that’s bullshit.” Then the GM has to counter with, “TRUST ME. You can’t Take 20 in this room.” Then an experienced player would know that there was some hidden danger in the room, before they even rolled a die. See why it can be tricky?

Well, I don’t want to presume to tell you how to run your game, and if any GMs have suggestions on what to do in this situation, please let us know in the comments. Today, though, I just want to let you know how you should execute a Take 20 Perception to search a room based on several blog posts by GMs, players, and even some of Pathfinder’s creators. It goes something like his:

By the book, taking 20 takes “20 times as long as a single check would.” That assumes that taking 20 almost always takes two minutes for any given action (six seconds for the action x 20 = 120 secs = two minutes).  Since it doesn’t make much sense that you can take 20 on searching a room of any size and complete it in two minutes, it in generally recommended that a GM make the time limit relative to the size of the room, with each “five foot square” of the room taking two minutes to search. So, take the number of squares in the room you want to search, multiply it by two, and you have the result, in minutes, of how long it takes to search that room thoroughly!

By these rules, the room with the cage and the manticores should have taken us roughly an hour and a half  (88 minutes) to thoroughly search. In this case, it didn’t matter too much as we didn’t have enemies chasing us, or a prisoner that’s on the verge of being executed (except for Umlo I guess…but he doesn’t count).


Let’s finish up this long one with a change of idiot scenery.

Sometimes you get the Pathfinder rules wrong and sometimes, you’re just generally a brainless moron. During one of Ingrahild’s full attack actions, Troy rolled for her, made four attacks and two of them hit. Here is the transcript from Troy’s rolling and calculation of damage: “[die roll], seven points of damage, [die roll] and 12 points of damage, [sounds of Troy’s brain working very very hard], a whopping 21 points of damage!” Isn’t it enough that we have to deal with one of the most complicated rule systems in modern gaming? Do we also have to double check Troy’s ability to successfully do second grade arithmetic? This is a man who has a graduate degree from Columbia University. Actually, he just says he has one. I took his word for it like a fool. Sense Motive!

Until next time, you maniacs…


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