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Chapter 4: Variant Rules

Magic Item Variants

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
Pathfinder’s magic item system is calibrated for a high-fantasy world like Golarion, with plenty of access to magic. However, not all settings, games, or subgenres match those assumptions. Varying from the default magic item system can help your group build games in low-magic settings, where the availability of magic items is unreliable, or where most or all of the power comes from the character and not their gear.

Automatic Bonus Progression

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
This variant removes the item bonus to rolls and DCs usually provided by magic items (with the exception of armor’s item bonus) and replaces it with a new kind of bonus—potency—to reflect a character’s innate ability instead. In this variant, magic items, if they exist at all, can provide unique special abilities rather than numerical increases.

Special Class Features

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
Every character automatically gains the class features on Table 4–11: Automatic Bonus Progression.

Table 4-11: Automatic Bonus Progression

2Attack potency +1
3Skill potency (one at +1)
4Devastating attacks (two dice)
5Defense potency +1
6Skill potency (two at +1 each)
7Perception potency +1
8Saving throw potency +1
9Skill potency (one at +2, one at +1)
10Attack potency +2
11Defense potency +2
12Devastating attacks (three dice)
13Perception potency +2; skill potency (two at +2 each, one at +1)
14Saving throw potency +2
15Skill potency (three at +2 each, one at +1)
16Attack potency +3
17Ability apex; skill potency (one at +3, two at +2 each, two at +1 each)
18Defense potency +3
19Devastating attacks (four dice), Perception potency +3
20Saving throw potency +3; skill potency (two at +3 each, two at +2 each, two at +1 each)

Attack Potency

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
Starting at 2nd level, you gain a +1 potency bonus to attack rolls with all weapons and unarmed attacks. This increases to +2 at 10th level, and +3 at 16th level.

Skill Potency

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
At 3rd level, choose a single skill. You gain a +1 potency bonus with that skill. At 6th level, choose a second skill to gain a +1 potency bonus. At 9th level, choose one of those skills and increase its potency bonus to +2. At 13th level, increase the potency bonus of your second skill to +2 and choose a third skill to gain a +1 potency bonus. At 15th level, increase the third skill’s potency bonus to +2 and choose a fourth skill to gain a +1 potency bonus. At 17th level, choose one of your three skills with a +2 potency bonus to increase to +3, and choose a fifth skill to gain a +1 potency bonus. Finally, at 20th level, choose one of the two skills with a +2 potency bonus to increase to +3, choose one of the three skills at a +1 potency bonus to increase to +2, and choose one new skill to gain a +1 potency bonus. You can spend 1 week to retrain one of these assignments at any time.

Devastating Attacks

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
At 4th level, your weapon and unarmed Strikes deal two damage dice instead of one. This increases to three at 12th level and to four at 19th level.

Defense Potency

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
At 5th level, you gain a +1 potency bonus to AC. At 11th level, this bonus increases to +2, and at 18th level, to +3.

Perception Potency

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
At 7th level, you gain a +1 potency bonus to Perception, increasing to +2 at level 13 and +3 at level 19.

Saving Throw Potency

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
At 8th level, you gain a +1 potency bonus to saves, increasing to +2 at level 14 and +3 at level 20.

Ability Apex

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 196
At 17th level, choose one ability score to either increase by 2 or increase to 18 (whichever grants the higher score).

Adjusting Items and Treasure

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 197
With this variant, you can ignore as much of Table 10–9: Party Treasure by Level from the Core Rulebook as you want, though you’ll usually want to provide consistent currency. The main area your choice will impact is in spellcasting items, such as scrolls and wands.

Remove all potency runes, striking runes, and resilient runes. Items that normally grant an item bonus to statistics or damage dice no longer do, other than the base item bonus to AC from armor. Apex items do not increase ability scores. If your world still includes magic items, a safe bet is to continue to give out consumable items at roughly the rate on Table 10–9 of the Core Rulebook.

If you choose to eliminate runes entirely, this can reduce the PCs’ damage since they won’t have runes like flaming or holy. If you’ve removed nearly all treasure, challenges might become more difficult, even with automatic bonuses.

Table 10-9: Party Treasure by Level

LevelTotal ValuePermanent Items (By Item Level)Consumables (By Item Level)Party CurrencyCurrency per Additional PC
1175 gp2nd: 2, 1st: 22nd: 2, 1st: 340 gp10 gp
2300 gp3rd: 2, 2nd: 23rd: 2, 2nd: 2, 1st: 270 gp18 gp
3500 gp4th: 2, 3rd: 24th: 2, 3rd: 2, 2nd: 2120 gp30 gp
4860 gp5th: 2, 4th: 25th: 2, 4th: 2, 3rd: 2200 gp50 gp
51,350 gp6th: 2, 5th: 26th: 2, 5th: 2, 4th: 2320 gp80 gp
62,000 gp7th: 2, 6th: 27th: 2, 6th: 2, 5th: 2500 gp125 gp
72,900 gp8th: 2, 7th: 28th: 2, 7th: 2, 6th: 2720 gp180 gp
84,000 gp9th: 2, 8th: 29th: 2, 8th: 2, 7th: 21,000 gp250 gp
95,700 gp10th: 2, 9th: 210th: 2, 9th: 2, 8th: 21,400 gp350 gp
108,000 gp11th: 2, 10th: 211th: 2, 10th: 2, 9th: 22,000 gp500 gp
1111,500 gp12th: 2, 11th: 212th: 2, 11th: 2, 10th: 22,800 gp700 gp
1216,500 gp13th: 2, 12th: 213th: 2, 12th: 2, 11th: 24,000 gp1,000 gp
1325,000 gp14th: 2, 13th: 214th: 2, 13th: 2, 12th: 26,000 gp1,500 gp
1436,500 gp15th: 2, 14th: 215th: 2, 14th: 2, 13th: 29,000 gp2,250 gp
1554,500 gp16th: 2, 15th: 216th: 2, 15th: 2, 14th: 213,000 gp3,250 gp
1682,500 gp17th: 2, 16th: 217th: 2, 16th: 2, 15th: 220,000 gp5,000 gp
17128,000 gp18th: 2, 17th: 218th: 2, 17th: 2, 16th: 230,000 gp7,500 gp
18208,000 gp19th: 2, 18th: 219th: 2, 18th: 2, 17th: 248,000 gp12,000 gp
19355,000 gp20th: 2, 19th: 220th: 2, 19th: 2, 18th: 280,000 gp20,000 gp
20490,000 gp20th: 420th: 4, 19th: 2140,000 gp35,000 gp


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 197
In this variant, gear can provide bonuses even if it’s not magical. This is useful for games and settings that set out to give fine, non-magical items the same prominence as magic items. High-quality gear requires the corresponding proficiency rank in Crafting to Craft.

High-Quality Weapons and Armor

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 197
High-quality weapons and armor give the same benefits as weapon and armor potency runes (Tables 4–12 and 4–13). To remove magic from weapons and armor, you can use the devastating attacks and saving throw potency entries from the automatic bonus progression variant, or you can have quality also provide the effects of striking and resilient runes, using Table 4–14 and Table 4–15. If you choose to still have magic weapons and armor, the effects don’t stack with quality.

Table 4-12: High-Quality Weapons

QualityItem BonusProperty Rune SlotsItem LevelPrice
Expert+11235 gp
Master+2210935 gp
Legendary+33168,935 gp

Table 4-13: High-Quality Armor

QualityBonus IncreaseProperty Rune SlotsItem LevelPrice
Expert+115160 gp
Master+22111,060 gp
Legendary+331820,560 gp

Table 4-14: Devastating Weapons

QualityItem BonusDamage DiceProperty Rune SlotsItem LevelPrice
Expert+111235 gp
Expert devastating+1214100 gp
Master+222101,000 gp
Master devastating+232122,000 gp
Legendary+3331610,000 gp
Legendary devastating+3431940,000 gp

Table 4-15: Resilient Armor

QualityBonus IncreaseSave BonusProperty Rune SlotsItem LevelPrice
Expert+115160 gp
Expert resilient+1+118500 gp
Master+2+12111,400 gp
Master resilient+2+22144,500 gp
Legendary+3+231824,000 gp
Legendary resilient+3+332070,000 gp

High-Quality Skill Items

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 197
Items with skill or Perception bonuses don’t have fundamental runes. If an existing skill bonus item costs less than the listed Price for a high-quality skill item or has a lower level, it likely has a feature such as a limitation, so adjust accordingly. A character in a game with this variant can Craft or buy a non-magical item to boost Perception or a skill using the table below.

Table 4-16: High-Quality Skill Item

QualityItem BonusItem LevelPrice
Expert+1340 gp
Master+29550 gp
Legendary+31711,000 gp