During which step is Varril's power used?


Rules Questions and Gameplay Discussion


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Pathfinder Card Game, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Varril has the power "When you attempt any check, you may discard a card to use your Divine skill instead of any listed skill."

The rulebook has the following rule (using MM):

Rulebook, p11 wrote:
Determine Which Skill You're Using. ... Some cards allow you to use a particular skill for a specific type of check, or to use one skill instead of another. (These cards generally say things like “For your combat check, use your Strength or Melee skill,” or “Use your Strength skill instead of your Diplomacy skill.”) You may play only 1 such card or use only 1 such power to determine which skill you’re using.

Now consider the following scenario:

1. Varril is encountering a monster with a Combat check.
2. Varril plays a Dagger on the check to use his Dexterity skill + 1d4.
3. Can Varril use his power to swap the Dexterity on the Dagger with Divine?

If Varril's power is used during Determine Which Skill You're Using, the above quoted rule applies and the answer is "no" -- he can swap his raw unarmed Strength/Melee with Divine (but cannot play a weapon or spell), or he can play a weapon or spell (but cannot use his Divine replacement power).

If Varril's power is not used during that step, then he can (maybe) do both.

The reason this is unclear stems from the wording at the beginning of the power: "When you attempt any check." Normally, a power which begins with "when" is special in that it lets you get around the "may not play more than 1 card of each type or use any 1 power more than once during each check" rule on p11. That particular restriction isn't applicable here since we're only trying to use the power once anyways, but such powers always activate whenever something particular happens. For the sake of brevity, I will be calling such powers "reaction powers" in the remainder of this post (and likely elsewhere, I like that term and "trigger" got stolen for a particular subset of these powers :P)

If this is not the case (i.e. it's unfortunate wording, not actually a reaction power), then the power must be used during Determine Which Skill you're using so the answer to point 3 above is "no." I do not favor this interpretation, as in order for it to not be a reaction power in my view, the power would need to not start with "when."

In this is the case (i.e. this is a reaction power), the something particular happening is "attempt any check." I see two places where such a trigger point could happen:

A. The power fires before any steps of the check have been taken (i.e. before Determine Which Skill You're Using). In this case, Varril would only be looking at the card itself, and nothing would have been played on the check yet. He can pretend that the card says Divine instead of anything listed as he moves into playing a card or using a power to determine which skill he's using. Note that if the card says Combat, he can swap out Divine for the default unarmed Strength or Melee rather than Combat itself. That note is not officially anywhere in the rulebook yet, but Vic mentioned wanting to add that to the rulebook.

B. The power fires during Attempt the Roll. This is where you actually attempt the check itself. In this case, Varril would be able to swap out the skill listed for the check even if a card or power was played during Determine Which Skill You're Using. If Vic's proposed wording is left mostly unchanged in the link above, this would also mean that you can replace the skill used if playing a weapon or spell for a Combat check, so point 3 above would be "yes."

Upon further consideration, I believe that the power is i) indeed a reaction power, and ii) it falls under interpretation A, as "attempting the roll" is only part of "attempting a check." This would mean that it is not incredibly powerful for combat checks (as you could use unarmed Divine, but the moment you used a weapon or spell that no longer applies), but it still lets you play a card or use a different power to determine which skill you're using. Official clarification or community consensus would be welcome in order to finally settle this matter down.


Varril's power may be used only in "determine which skill you are using" step. And he cannot play cards or use any other powers to swap.


I agree with SimonB, but I'll try and actually give some reasons.

Firstly, there's two ways of reading "instead of any listed skill" (I'll label P and Q to avoid confusion with your own A and B):

P) "any listed skill" means choose one of the listed "skill"s, then you use divine "instead" of that skill. This interpretation is as in the sentence "Use the spare tyre instead of any flat tyre you may have".

Q) "Instead" of choosing "any" of the "listed skills" in the first place, use divine. This interpretation is as in the sentence "I'm going to eat takeaway for dinner instead of any food in the fridge"

It takes a bit of effort to get your head around whichever way you don't read it, first but they're both grammatically valid interpretations. Note that the only reason these interpretations are different at all in practice is because of the convoluted way the "combat" pseudo-skill is currently handled in the rules. Otherwise whether you replace a particular skill or the whole list is the same outcome.

If it's Q, then case closed, you'd have to use divine instead of choosing combat in the first place.

So let's run with P, which I believe to be the more popular interpretation.

To me, this text from the rulebook is a 100% clear answer to the question:

Rulebook wrote:
Some cards allow you to use a particular skill for a specific type of check, or to use one skill instead of another. (These cards generally say things like “For your combat check, use your Strength or Melee skill,” or “Use your Strength skill instead of your Diplomacy skill.”) You may play only 1 such card or use only 1 such power to determine which skill you’re using.

I can see no reason whatsoever why Varril's power would not could as "use one skill instead of another". It is exactly, identically, using one skill instead of another, with no caveats. It is not in any way different to any other power covered by that sentence. Thus the "only 1" part kicks in and it can't be used with a weapon.

The timing is irrelevant. It doesn't say "1 such power during the determine which skill you're using step". It says "1 such power to determine which skill you’re using". And no matter which step you're in when you decide to use the power, you're still determining which skill you're using (I'd also argue that, for that reason, it should be used during that step, but that's not important).

I won't be surprised to see another opinion but I really don't even see this as something that's unclear in any way. Rules, wording, intent (estimated) and impact all point to the same resolution.


Pathfinder Card Game, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

That rulebook text you quoted (and that I quoted in the OP) only matters if the power is played as part of Determine Which Skill You're Using. Since the power starts with the word "when" -- that is not a given. Reaction powers happen whenever their trigger point is, which may not align neatly with a step. If the power is not actually a reaction power, then it is as you say and the rulebook quote you and I quoted applies and blocks shenanigans.

However, in every other instance that a power begins with the word when (that I can think of offhand), the power just takes effect at the specified time. No caveats. Why would this power (which also begins with when) work differently? I just quoted two timings for when the power would actually trigger, and neither of those timings are during Determine Which Skill You're Using. The former (and most sensible to me) is before you do anything else in the check, which would be before you get a chance to determine which skill you're using.

If the power didn't begin with when, we wouldn't be having this conversation. The rulebook would be completely unambiguous in that case. The issue is not how "Determine Which Skill You're Using" is worded, but rather how the timing of Varril's power interacts with the steps of a check.


Ok, interpreting his power as some kind of triggered ability, based purely on the presence of the word "when", feels utterly ridiculous to me. But I admit "feels" isn't much of an argument. So let's run with that interpretation anyway.

Varril says "when you attempt any check". There's a step in encountering a card, labelled "Attempt the check". More importantly, there's a section in the rulebook called "Attempting the check". It seems quite clear that the phrase "attempt the check" refers to this entire process described in that section, including all of the various steps such as "Determine Which Skill You're Using", "Play Cards and Use Powers That Affect Your Check (Optional).", "Assemble Your Dice" and so on.

So, even as a triggered power, it triggers when you "attempt the check". It doesn't say "When you Attempt the Roll", it doesn't say "When you Assemble Your Dice", it doesn't even say when you "Determine Which Skill You're Using". It says when you "attempt the check". Thus the "when" says nothing whatsoever about which specific sub-step of "attempt the check" to use the power in. Fortunately, there's one, and only one sub-step in which you are allowed to use a power that determines which skill you're using, and that's the step called "Determine Which Skill You're Using".

Which I think leaves us thinking the same thing anyway (just me thinking it much more confidently). The only other possibility you listed was when you "attempt the roll", and there is absolutely no way you can change which skill you're using after "Assemble the Dice". Even if you could, you've already assembled the dice, so at best you'd be calling it something else but then rolling the same dice anyway, making his power practically worthless.


I think the SimonB/Irgy line is overly legalistic. We are parsing the rulebook RAW to handle a situation it isn't well equipped to handle (powers like Varril's). Vic's comment and subsequent post on that thread indicate the intention, if not the currently explicit RAW. At most, this means we need to adapt and improve the wording of the RAW to handle this situation (as Vic suggests).

Look at Zelhara:

Zelhara wrote:
On your check that invokes the Chain, Finesse, or Knife trait, you may use Divine instead of the listed skill.

The SimonB/Irgy line means this power -- a basic starting power of the character -- is pretty much only usable to acquire weapons. That's it. This for a class/character deck Inquisitor with a weapon proficiency, a 5-card starting hand, no Melee or Ranged bonus, and using a deck that we know contains weapons with the Knife trait and the Chain trait. I can't believe that's the intention.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I agree with elcoderdude. The "Determine what skill you're using" restriction exists to be explicit about the fact that, for example, Kyra can't both use a longsword and a holy light on the same combat check; she has to pick one or the other.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
elcoderdude wrote:

Look at Zelhara:

Zelhara wrote:
On your check that invokes the Chain, Finesse, or Knife trait, you may use Divine instead of the listed skill.

This looks like a pretty good argument and a clear indication of the direction the designers are heading - i.e. "listed skill" meaning BOTH "non-Combat skills listed on the encountered card" AND "skills listed on a card you play to Determine Your Skill for a Combat check".

Regardless, it seems everyone concurs this is NOT currently supported by RAW, so ... time for FAQ, I guess?


elcoderdude wrote:

I think the SimonB/Irgy line is overly legalistic. We are parsing the rulebook RAW to handle a situation it isn't well equipped to handle (powers like Varril's). Vic's comment and subsequent post on that thread indicate the intention, if not the currently explicit RAW. At most, this means we need to adapt and improve the wording of the RAW to handle this situation (as Vic suggests).

Look at Zelhara:

Zelhara wrote:
On your check that invokes the Chain, Finesse, or Knife trait, you may use Divine instead of the listed skill.

The SimonB/Irgy line means this power -- a basic starting power of the character -- is pretty much only usable to acquire weapons. That's it. This for a class/character deck Inquisitor with a weapon proficiency, a 5-card starting hand, no Melee or Ranged bonus, and using a deck that we know contains weapons with the Knife trait and the Chain trait. I can't believe that's the intention.

Well I do admit that as utterly overpowered as Varril would be if his power *did* work (has anyone noticed that even his other two abilities are quite good?), Zelhara does look like the intent was the other way. I couldn't in good conscience accept any consistent ruling on these two as matching intent. The two cards in combination strike me as not having been fully thought through.

If I was going to change one though it would be Zelhara.

As for legalistic, well it's a rules argument. I felt like people trying to use Varril with a weapon were the ones trying to rules-lawyer their way into making Varril better than he ought to be. I use a lot of words but they're for emphasis/clarity/disambiguity, the interpretation I'm taking is actually quite simple, straightforward and natural at its core.

Lone Shark Games

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For reference, FAQ/errata will be issued at some point to resolve this issue. In the meantime, I wouldn't read too far into intent on Varril, Zelhara, or any previous response to either.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

This will be resolved over here. Closing this thread.

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