Rules Index


Format of Rules Elements

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17
Throughout this rulebook, you will see formatting standards that might look a bit unusual at first. Specifically, the game’s rules are set apart in this text using specialized capitalization and italicization. These standards are in place to make this book rules elements easier to recognize.

The names of specific statistics, skills, feats, actions, and some other mechanical elements in Pathfinder are capitalized. This way, when you see the statement “a Strike targets Armor Class,” you know that both Strike and Armor Class are referring to rules.

If a word or a phrase is italicized, it is describing a spell or a magic item. This way, when you see the statement “the door is sealed by lock,” you know that in this case the word denotes the lock spell, rather than a physical item.

Pathfinder also uses many terms that are typically expressed as abbreviations, like AC for Armor Class, DC for Difficulty Class, and HP for Hit Points. If you’re ever confused about a game term or an abbreviation, you can always turn to the Glossary and Index, beginning on page 628, and look it up.

Understanding Actions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17
Characters and their adversaries affect the world of Pathfinder by using actions and producing effects. This is especially the case during encounters, when every action counts. When you use an action, you generate an effect. This effect might be automatic, but sometimes actions necessitate that you roll a die, and the effect is based on what you rolled.

Throughout this book, you will see special icons to denote actions.

Single ActionSingle Action Single Actions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17
Single actions use this symbol: Single ActionSingle Action. They’re the simplest, most common type of action. You can use three single actions on your turn in an encounter, in any order you see fit.

ReactionReaction Reactions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17
Reactions use this symbol: ReactionReaction. These actions can be used even when it’s not your turn. You get only one reaction per encounter round, and you can use it only when its specific trigger is fulfilled. Often, the trigger is another creature’s action.

Free ActionFree Action Free Actions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17
Free actions use this symbol: Free ActionFree Action. Free actions don’t require you to spend any of your three single actions or your reaction. A free action might have a trigger like a reaction does. If so, you can use it just like a reaction—even if it’s not your turn. However, you can use only one free action per trigger, so if you have multiple free actions with the same trigger, you have to decide which to use. If a free action doesn’t have a trigger, you use it like a single action, just without spending any of your actions for the turn.

Activities

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17
Activities are special tasks that you complete by spending one or more of your actions together. Usually, an activity uses two or more actions and lets you do more than a single action would allow. You have to spend all the actions an activity requires for its effects to happen. Spellcasting is one of the most common activities, as most spells take more than a single action to cast.

Activities that use two actions use this symbol: Two ActionsTwo Actions. Activities that use three actions use this symbol: Three ActionsThree Actions. A few special activities, such as spells you can cast in an instant, can be performed by spending a free action or a reaction.

All tasks that take longer than a turn are activities. If an activity is meant to be done during exploration, it has the exploration trait. An activity that takes a day or more of commitment and that can be done only during downtime has the downtime trait.

Reading Rules

Source Core Rulebook pg. 18
This book contains hundreds of rules elements that give characters new and interesting ways to respond to situations in the game. All characters can use the basic actions found in Chapter 9, but an individual character often has special rules that allow them to do things most other characters can’t. Most of these options are feats, which are gained by making certain choices at character creation or when a character advances in level.

Regardless of the game mechanic they convey, rules elements are always presented in the form of a stat block, a summary of the rules necessary to bring the monster, character, item, or other rules element to life during play. Where appropriate, stat blocks are introduced with an explanation of their format. For example, the Ancestry section of Chapter 2 contains rules for each of the game’s six core ancestries, and an explanation of these rules appears at the beginning of that chapter.

The general format for stat blocks is shown below. Entries are omitted from a stat block when they don’t apply, so not all rule elements have all of the entries given below. Actions, reactions, and free actions each have the corresponding icon next to their name to indicate their type. An activity that can be completed in a single turn has a symbol indicating how many actions are needed to complete it; activities that take longer to perform omit these icons. If a character must attain a certain level before accessing an ability, that level is indicated to the right of the stat block’s name. Rules also often have traits associated with them (traits appear in the Glossary and Index).

Spells, alchemical items, and magic items use a similar format, but their stat blocks contain a number of unique elements (see Chapter 7 for more on reading spells, and Chapter 11 for more on alchemical and magic items).

Action or Feat Name Single ActionSingle ActionLevel

Traits
Prerequisites Any minimum ability scores, feats, proficiency ranks, or other prerequisites you must have before you can access this rule element are listed here. Feats also have a level prerequisite, which appears above.
Frequency This is the limit on how many times you can use the ability within a given time.
Trigger Reactions and some free actions have triggers that must be met before they can be used.
Requirements Sometimes you must have a certain item or be in a certain circumstance to use an ability. If so, it’s listed in this section.
This section describes the effects or benefits of a rule element. If the rule is an action, it explains what the effect is or what you must roll to determine the effect. If it’s a feat that modifies an existing action or grants a constant effect, the benefit is explained here.
Special Any special qualities of the rule are explained in this section. Usually this section appears in feats you can select more than once, explaining what happens when you do.