Spells and class features that rely on non-visible triggers


Rules Questions


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There are a number of spells and class features that can be triggered in reaction to something that affects an ally, or even characteristics of an enemy. However, those effects are not always readily visible. Does a caster\character have to make a check to identify that the 'trigger' has occurred, or are they assumed to just know "because magic"?

As an example, the Bard spell Saving Finale states that as an immediate action the Bard can end her performance when an ally fails a saving throw, to allow the ally to re-roll the save. Many such effects aren't visible - for example, failing a saving throw versus Charm Person has no visible effect. Does the Bard have to make a Perception check or a Spellcraft check in order to use Saving Finale. or is it assumed that a Bard just knows and casts the spell? As a third alternative, is the spell useless in those situations where there's no way to identify that the ally failed the check?

Another example would be the Ranger's Favored Enemy (thanks Zhayne, that actually let's me extend the question a bit). Does it require some check for it to function, or does it simply take effect if the foe is a Favored Enemy (perhaps with the GM adding in the bonuses\extra damage if the enemy is disguised)?

Personally, I have always gone with the second option - the Bard just knows the ally failed "because magic", and the Ranger just fights more effectively against the enemy even if he hasn't identified it.


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I go with the second. The game relies on a fair amount of meta-data to function (Favored Enemy probably being the biggest offender in my mind). A certain amount of transparency is simply needed, or you nerf the crap out of a lot of stuff.

Sovereign Court

In the case of the ranger I'm pretty sure the bonus applies whether you know it's [insert enemy here] or not. That's just how the FE ability is worded; it just happens.

Fluffwise, maybe you've just incorporated those techniques into your general fighting style. You might notice that things are easy and realize that your tactics seem to match the enemy - and so identify the enemy.

Set people on fire. If they burn nicely, they must be witches.

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In the case of the bard, it's definitely a good question.


I say they just happen. Otherwise, there'd be no point in the ability.

I'm sure there's SOME kind of trigger, like you see in movies and such. Your ally stops for a second and shudders, before resuming what he was doing, Dominated people explicitly move very stiffly and unnaturally, like they're trying to fight everything they do, things like that.

I suppose if you wanna be a real hardass you could force them to take a minute to use Sense Motive, but again...how useful would any of these abilities be in that case?


To offer some context, on another thread someone posted that in PFS they've had GMs tell them they couldn't use Saving Finale with their Bard because they'd have no way to know that their ally failed a save. That rubs me the wrong way; as I said, I generally just allow the Bard to 'know' that the ally failed, but it did make me realize that the ability doesn't actually indicate if you know, or how you know.

Sovereign Court

I dunno. The rules also say that if you succeed at a saving throw you know something happened. But if you fail a save vs. an effect without obvious visible consequences, you don't know that you were affected.

If the target doesn't know, how would the bard?


PFS GMs are well known for not allowing stuff that is explicitly stated to be allowed by the ability in question so I'd take that with a cup of salt too.


Report those GMs.


I would but I don't play PFS, so I don't know exactly who they are and such. "Well known" is a bit of an exaggeration, but I've seen a buncha threads floating around recently that are like "I'm a PFS GM and I know this thing says this but I will purposefully misread it to make it unusable as it's intended to be".


Zhayne wrote:
I go with the second. The game relies on a fair amount of meta-data to function (Favored Enemy probably being the biggest offender in my mind). A certain amount of transparency is simply needed, or you nerf the crap out of a lot of stuff.

This is pretty much where I stand on it as well. There may not be an actual rule on the books, but this sort of information has always been freely given meta-data at every table I've been around.

Whether or not a caster is supposed to simply "know" why, how, (or even if) a spell with no visual indicator has failed without a save being involved never even occurred to me until the recent "Stabilize at Range" thread cropped up.

Maybe I should have seen it sooner, but then again, I only have one eye.

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