[FAQ Request] Vigilante's Startling and Frightening Appearance; Surprise Rounds and Spells


Rules Questions


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

These questions are specifically for the Warlock archetype, though other spell casting archetypes could likely apply. I haven't been able to find any threads addressing these questions, and the rules/descriptions are a bit too ambiguous, and lead to other ambiguous cases, so I decided to lay the whole thing out.

Startling Appearance wrote:

At 5th level, a vigilante learns to use the element of surprise to his advantage, startling foes that are unaware of his presence. Whenever a vigilante with this ability attempts an attack against a foe that is completely unaware of the vigilante’s presence (usually due to Stealth or invisibility), the foe is treated as flat-footed for the rest of the vigilante’s turn (uncanny dodge or a similar ability prevents this effect unless the vigilante is at least 4 levels higher than the foe with uncanny dodge).

The foe also takes a –4 penalty on attacks made against the vigilante until the start of the vigilante’s next turn.

A. Normally, a creature can only take a Standard or Move action (plus a Swift and Free action) during a Surprise Round. Also normally, a creature is considered Flat-footed until it takes its first action. If Startling Appearance is used during a Surprise Round (for example, if a Vig catches someone unaware before combat starts), he gets one attack as a Standard action. This one attack isn't assisted by the ability, because the target is already Flat-footed as per the standard mechanic. Does the creature's Flat-footed condition instead roll over until the end of the Vig's NEXT turn (i.e. after the Surprise Round has ended, and initiative has been rolled, and ending after the Vig's first turn in the initiative order)? If it's the former, this ability loses a lot of wind as a combat opener...

B. Startling Appearance lists the triggering action as "attempting an attack". It doesn't specify that it has to be an attack roll, or an attack action, or if it even has to be with a weapon.
B1. Does this require the Vig to make an attack roll?
B2. Does it have to be with a weapon?
B3. Can it instead be a spell attack roll?
B3a. If it can be a spell attack roll, can a Vig target multiple creatures with a spell like Scorching Ray, and leave all targets Flat-footed for whichever duration Question 1's answer happens to be?
B3b. Can it be an offensive spell that has no attack roll like Magic Missile or Fireball, causing all creatures affected to be Flat-footed?
B4. Can other offensive abilities be used in place of a traditional attack?

Frightening Appearance wrote:

At 11th level, whenever a vigilante with this ability makes an attack against a foe that is unaware of the vigilante’s presence (see startling appearance above), the vigilante can, as a free action, attempt an Intimidate check to demoralize the target of his attack and any enemies within 10 feet who can see the attack. This check is attempted before the attack roll against the foe is made and resolved. The vigilante rolls only one Intimidate check and applies the result to all the targets. If the check succeeds against the target of the vigilante’s attack, that foe is also frightened for 1 round, in addition to being shaken as normal, unless the foe succeeds at a Will save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the vigilante’s class level + his Charisma modifier).

Once a creature has been the target of this ability (either as the target of the attack or as a nearby creature, regardless of whether or not it was successful), it is immune to that vigilante’s frightening appearance for 24 hours. This effect is in addition to the bonuses gained from the startling appearance ability. This is a mind-affecting fear effect.

C. If the answers to questions B3a and/or B3b are yes, does Frightening Appearance then leave all creatures directly affected by Startling Appearance with the Frightened condition (Will negates)?

D. Frightening Appearance states that "all creatures within 10' who can see the attack are targeted by your Intimidate check," but it doesn't state if this is within 10' of you, or the effect (that is to say, the creature targeted by Startling Appearance).
D1. If you use a ranged attack to trigger Startling Appearance, does your free Intimidate check from Frightening Appearance target all creatures within 10' of you, or the target of the ranged attack?
D2. If it's the latter, and the answers to questions B3b and C are yes, are all creatures within 10' of a Fireball effect intimidated? And/or are all creatures within 10' of each creature hit with a Magic Missile or Scorching Ray intimidated?

The Concordance

A. It only applies to the round you attacked them. In my experience I've found that it's better to position during the surprise round and full attack round 1 if I want to use this ability.

B1. Probably.
B2. No.
B3. Sure.
B3a. If they are all unaware, yes. Only one will take your precision damage but all can be affected by your scary abilities.
B3b. Probably not.
B4. If they use attack rolls you can use them definitely. Grey area on other "attacks."

C. Seems like it. Scorching Ray looks like a fun combo with this.

D1. The target of the ranged attack.
D2. I maintain that non attack roll spells don't likely trigger these class features.


I agree with nearly everything ShieldLawrence said above. Only thing different, I can see the possibility of letting things like Magic Missile work, but don't expect most people to go along with it. (I won't even argue to defend it, just see possibility. Only because you are a 3/4 BAB class who can cast a Touch Attack against a Flat Footed Touch AC. You want to hit things for 1d4+1 damage, be my guest, you can't sneak attack or surprise strike whatever it's called with it and you won't get an attack again except maybe an AoO.)


Suppose you're invisible
Suppose you magic missile 5 mooks that are unaware of you.

Either you have attacked, and they are affected by startling appearance, or you haven't attacked, and are still invisible.

Since we all agree that casting magic missile on 5 creatures is an attack and breaks invisibility (at least I haven't seen anyone claiming otherwise) it's an attack for startling appearance as well.


These are all fairly reasonable calls, but does anyone have any rules to cite to support them officially?


Gah, my novel was eaten!

So short rewrite since I am not doing that again.

Question A: Initiative is rolled by all combatants THEN surprise is determined. A Surprise round turn is a turn, so it does not allow the ability to roll over as the ability does not say it does. Solution, stay hidden until first full round.

Question B2 and B3: An attack is an attack whether it be with a spell, weapon, unarmed strike, or natural weapon. If it requires an attack roll, it is an attack.

Question B1: Answer vague, expect variances as there is, as far as I know, no official answer on that.

Question B3a: There MAY be a FAQ on whether or not scorching ray (and similar spells) allow you to attack multiple targets from stealth/invisibility. I don't care enough to look, I hate the FAQ system and don't spend enough time on this site to get used to it. It might be a sneak attack question. If there is I think the FAQ said something about only the first ray being from stealth/invisibility then the others are normal. Don't quote me, do some homework.

Question B3b: Honestly, no clue, expect variance without an official answer. Except with AoE spells/SLAs like fireball, you are not targeting anyone with those so it would not work.

Question B4: Not sure what other offensive abilities there are that are not already covered by the above questions.

Question C: Assuming B3a and B3b are yes, then the answer here is yes. The ability does what it says it does.

Question D1: The sentence structure of the ability description is written so that any enemy within 10ft of the TARGET who can see the attack are subject to it.

Question D2: Again, requires B3a and B3b to be answered. Refer to Question C, except in the case of Fireball. Sadly, with fireball, and any other AoE spell/SLA, since you are not targeting anyone, none of these abilities apply.

I see only Question B3a and B3b as FAQ worthy questions. Get those answered and everything else is already covered in the rules.

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