Rules Index


Chapter 1: Introduction / Playing the Game

Encounters

Source Core Rulebook pg. 10
In the course of your adventures, there will be times when a simple skill check is not enough to resolve a challenge— when fearsome monsters stand in your character’s way and the only choice is to do battle. In Pathfinder, this is called an encounter. Encounters usually involve combat, but they can also be used in situations where timing is critical, such as during a chase or when dodging hazards.

While exploration is handled in a free-form manner, encounters are more structured. The players and GM roll initiative to determine who acts in what order. The encounter occurs over a number of rounds, each of which is equal to about 6 seconds of time in the world of the game. During a round, each participant takes a turn. When it’s your turn to act, you can use up to three actions. Most simple things, such as drawing a weapon, moving a short distance, opening a door, or swinging a sword, use a single action to perform. There are also activities that use more than a single action to perform; these are often special abilities from your character’s class and feats. One common activity in the game is casting a spell, which usually uses two actions.

Free actions, such as dropping an object, don’t count toward the three actions you can take on your turn. Finally, each character can use up to one reaction during a round. This special type of action can be used even when it’s not your turn, but only in response to certain events, and only if you have an ability that allows it. Rogues, for example, can select a feat that lets them use their reaction to dodge an incoming attack.

Attacking another creature is one of the most common actions in combat, and is done by using the Strike action. This requires an attack roll—a kind of check made against the Armor Class (AC) of the creature you’re attacking. Strikes can be made using weapons, spells, or even parts of a creature’s body, like a fist, claw, or tail. You add a modifier to this roll based on your proficiency rank with the type of attack you’re using, your ability scores, and any other bonuses or penalties based on the situation. The target’s AC is calculated using their proficiency rank in the armor they’re wearing and their Dexterity modifier. An attack deals damage if it hits, and rolling a critical success results in the attack dealing double damage!

You can use more than one Strike action on your turn, but each additional attack after the first becomes less accurate. This is reflected by a multiple attack penalty that starts at –5 on the second attack, but increases to –10 on the third. There are many ways to reduce this penalty, and it resets at the end of your turn.

If your character finds themself the target of a magical lightning bolt or the freezing breath of a fearsome white dragon, you will be called on to attempt a saving throw, representing your character’s ability to avoid danger or otherwise withstand an assault to their mind or body. A saving throw is a check attempted against the DC of the spell or special ability targeting your character. There are three types of saving throws, and a character’s proficiency in each says a great deal about what they can endure. A Fortitude saving throw is used when your character’s health or vitality is under attack, such as from poison or disease. A Reflex saving throw is called for when your character must dodge away from danger, usually something that affects a large area, such as the scorching blast of a fireball spell. Finally, a Will saving throw is often your defense against spells and effects that target your character’s mind, such as a charm or confusion spell. For all saving throws, a success lessens the harmful effect, and scoring a critical success usually means your character escapes unscathed.

Attacks, spells, hazards, and special abilities frequently either deal damage to a character or impose one or more conditions—and sometimes both. Damage is subtracted from a creature’s Hit Points (HP)—a measure of health— and when a creature is reduced to 0 HP, it falls unconscious and may die! A combat encounter typically lasts until one side has been defeated, and while this can mean retreat or surrender, it most often happens because one side is dead or dying. Conditions can hinder a creature for a time, limiting the actions they can use and applying penalties to future checks. Some conditions are even permanent, requiring a character to seek out powerful magic to undo their effects.