Identifying curses and other effects


Rules Questions


Hi all, been gone from here for quite awhile (been running Rise of the Runelords) but I need some help with curse effects and ability drain.

Let's say a character is cursed through a long range ability of a monster. This character will now make one save daily or take wisdom drain. One character in particular in my game is adamant about certain things like being able to tell when there is something wrong with other characters. Like all players (and people in general) he is able to make arguments for his case when its in his favor.

My question is how should I run this? If you are a GM I'm sure you know that even mentioning something about a character acting different or even showing the slightest sign something is wrong instantly makes the other players make any and all checks and cast any and all spells they can to find out whats wrong.

Based on this I don't see why I even try and should just tell them "PC A is now infected with curse A, cast this spell to cure him" and just move on.

Please help me determine how best to go about playing this into the game. Thank you for all your time.


If the player has a curse or the like that I don't want them to knkow, I just don't tell them. I try and modify the DC of checks that they are trying to make. Not until it gets significant would I tell the player.


I understand that...and was going to go with just not telling them. However I know my players and I know that they will argue wholeheartedly that they should have gotten a check to notice it right off...especially if the person cursed is losing 1d6 wisdom a day. (i am blessed to always roll high so its usually 5-6, my players hate me)


I might after they lose more than 25%. As far as I know by the rules, I don't think you get any check by default. But to put it in real life terms, does a person instantly think they're sick just because they have an off day? Does a person rush to the doctor because they got the sniffles? It usually takes a significant dip before a person starts trying to diagnose the problem.


See thats what I agree with...my problem mostly stems from veteran players when I'm a new GM. That and I pretty much memorized the GM's Guide and Core Rulebook and any other books that I have to have for what they are playing. This causes multiple rules issues to arise when one or more players question the rule or confuse it with an old rule from D&D 3.5.

Thanks for your time sir


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In general, a player and a character both know if they have to make a save, and whether they succeeded or not, although they may well not know what the particular magical effect that they have succumbed to is. And a player and a character should both definitely know if they have taken ability damage or drain.

What another character would know about the effected character is more difficult to judge. Lacking magic, I don't think they would notice the curse itself. Sense Motive would probably be appropriate to identify that mental drain/damage had happened, while Heal would probably be appropriate of physical stats. I would think it rare though that a character was taking ability damage and didn't tell anyone.

As to whether or not you want to detail out the steps they take to diagnose the problem, it probably depends on external factors. If nothing is pressing and using spell resources won't have any real difference then just moving on would probably be fine. If they are in the middle of an adventure and need to use open slots or something, then playing it out is probably appropriate.


I'm not as certain that the player has to know they took ability damage. They do have to know that they have to make a save, but does that tell them why? Characters often don't know they've been poisoned or take a disease, only that they had to make a save. I generally tell them about poison, because poison is often fast acting. But there are some that aren't. Besides, if it takes a minute to set in, do you know whether it was the drink or the food that caused you to be poisoned?


Now I do want to throw out there that I usually tell my players. But there have been times where I won't, particularly if it was unlikely for the players to know. Fighting a witch in combat and they have to make a save, hey, you just got cursed. Walking down the street, make a save, cool, you're not sure why you just had to make a save. You know something happened, but you aren't sure what; you simply feel a wave of palpable negativity or cold shivers on your spine. Ultimately, you're the GM. And most times, story trumps mechanics.

Now from a strictly rules stand point, I'd say show me where it says you know the effect of a spell or damage without a heal check or spellcraft/knowledge check.


Dave Justus wrote:
In general, a player and a character both know if they have to make a save, and whether they succeeded or not,

I'm not sure that's true.

The rulebook clearly states that they know when they MAKE a save. Hostile force, tingle, whatever. So that's RAW.

But it never says they know when they FAIL a save. Sometimes it's obvious. When he turns into a toad, he can assume that he failed a save. Sometimes it's not obvious. When the fireball goes off and he takes 12 HP of damage, was that a failed save against a decent fireball or a made save against a weak fireball? It could be hard to know, but he could deduce that the RAW says he knows when he MAKES the save and he doesn't know he made it, so he must have failed it - silly metagaming but I suppose it works.

The worst case scenario is the whole charm/dominate category of spells. If i cast Charm Person on you and you make your save, you know something happened and if you saw me casting a spell, you can put two and two together and figure out that I tried some magical witchery on you. But if you fail the save, you really should NOT know that. You're not likely to think I'm your best friend (even though we just met) AND know that I just successfully cast a spell on you. Maybe we could argue that "it works because MAGIC" but it makes no sense to be best friends with a total stranger who just cast a magical spell on you; nobody would trust that at all.

So with no RAW ruling about whether you know you're under the effect of any spell, and clearly obvious cases that you should NOT know, then we get into the gray area of the OP's situation.

I personally would assume that the cursed guy won't immediately know. Like with Alzheimer's, the victims don't know they have it. Not at first anyway. But their close friends and loved ones figure it out pretty quickly.

I think slowly losing WIS would be like that. Your own brain is addled but because your brain is addled you don't realize your brain is addled. But others around you will notice something almost immediately. A day, maybe two (at the OP's given rate).

Interesting, Perception won't help. Your friends and loved ones seem to need Knowledge(Arcana). That's sad and probably wrong. It means you could literally lose all your wisdom until you're a drooling idiot and your friends wouldn't notice anything because Knowledge(Arcana) is a trained-only skill (hopefully you have magic-using friends!).

So, sensibly, noticing that you're devolving into a drooling idiot should be a non-roll for your close friends and loved ones - they might not know why, but they'll surely know that you're definitely not acting like your usual self.

And you might notice it too, but again, there are no rules for this, so I'd say it probably takes longer to notice your own mental disability than it takes to notice it in others.

Just my rambling thoughts...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I guess you are right, it never says you know if you fail a save. I have always assumed that you did. Usually of course it is obvious...

And I have always assumed that a charmed person would know that a spell had been cast, and typically afterwards be pissed about it, but during the magical mind control would not worry about it. After all, you are his friend, must not be a problem. It makes no sense to be best friends with a total stranger (or even an enemy) regardless of whether they cast on spell on you are not. When it makes sense, it is diplomacy not a magical spell, so yeah I kinda do fall into the 'this magic spell works because it is magic' camp.

As for damage/drain though, I don't see any reason why it would be different than hit point damage. I think we generally expect players to know their wounds, and that characters, while they wouldn't know the numbers, certainly know generally how hurt they are. Ability Damage is the same rules wise.

As to the explanations for 'knowing' WIS damage I don't see a lot of difference between knowing that your will feels weaker than you aren't as agile or as strong. Or knowing how physically damaged you are.


Not related to the OP, but...

Spoiler:
Dave Justus wrote:
And I have always assumed that a charmed person would know that a spell had been cast, and typically afterwards be pissed about it, but during the magical mind control would not worry about it. After all, you are his friend, must not be a problem. It makes no sense to be best friends with a total stranger (or even an enemy) regardless of whether they cast on spell on you are not. When it makes sense, it is diplomacy not a magical spell, so yeah I kinda do fall into the 'this magic spell works because it is magic' camp.

Oh, I agree, during the duration, it works because "magic".

But having them pissed off afterward is very problematic. It makes sense that they would be, but it means that anyone who ever uses this kind of magic, even just one time, is instantly a criminal - he must forever be a fugitive, moving from town to town to town to try to stay away from the law.

Yeah, yeah, enchanters could limit themselves to only using these enchantments on monsters out in the wild, or evil enchanters could kill their enchanted victims so there's nobody around to remember they were enchanted, but these are edge-cases; it seems like this kind of magic is heavily neutered to point of being nearly useless if everyone you use it on hates you forever and turns you in to the nearest law enforcement.

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