Footprints are a myth


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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Ranger: I think we should track the bad guys back to their lair.
Fighter: How would we do that?
Ranger: We follow their footprints.
Fighter: What are these footprints of which you speak?
Ranger: Do you see those holes in the snow shaped like boots?
Fighter: Nope. Hey Cleric, do you see these "footprints"?
Cleric: Hell no, I follow Abadar. Footprints are just Erastil propaganda.
Fighter: How about you Rogue; you can count the hairs on a fly at half a league.
Rogue: I see nothing. I think Ranger got into Alchemist's stash again.

Tracking is a trained only activity of the survival skill. So we are back to AD&D where tracks, even those in 2 foot deep snow, are invisible to those without this skill.


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Well...I had not noticed that Tracking was a Survival trained activity but your post was most illuminating and quite hilarious. ^^


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Pretty sure there’s a significant difference between “finding footprints” and “being able to follow the direction footprints go across changing terrain and conditions”, and there’s nothing at all preventing a GM from saying “you found some prints, but you’ve got a 50% chance of going the wrong way because you’re not trained”.


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I mean, yeah if the monster leaves the room by leaving a kool-aid man style hole in the wall, and a furrow in the ground 6' deep through the forest where a bunch of trees got knocked down... you don't ask anybody to roll anything.

It's just like how you don't ask people to roll perception for things which are obvious.


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The system of untrained only up to a certain DC was sufficient.


It didn't come up as a problem in my game. Oddly, every character in my playtest game was trained in Survival. I'm not sure why.


Scythia wrote:
It didn't come up as a problem in my game. Oddly, every character in my playtest game was trained in Survival. I'm not sure why.

Admittedly, my most recent character was a multiclassing one, but for me, I know that, given the multiclass "if you are already trained in [x], you instead become trained in an additional skill of your choice" aspect, I, who already trained in more relevant skills, chose Survival as the one that didn't seem too out of character, but was still one that I hadn't trained in prior. I don't know if this is a common feeling, though I do wonder how many characters pick survival as their "well, I've got nothing else more ideal" pick.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, yeah if the monster leaves the room by leaving a kool-aid man style hole in the wall, and a furrow in the ground 6' deep through the forest where a bunch of trees got knocked down... you don't ask anybody to roll anything.

Because any creature that big and powerful would be really high level, meaning the DC to track them would be so high that it's not worth trying to roll?


Matthew Downie wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, yeah if the monster leaves the room by leaving a kool-aid man style hole in the wall, and a furrow in the ground 6' deep through the forest where a bunch of trees got knocked down... you don't ask anybody to roll anything.
Because any creature that big and powerful would be really high level, meaning the DC to track them would be so high that it's not worth trying to roll?

That's not how the system works


Tasks can require various levels of skill proficiency in order to be attempted.
Thus, I think that tracking should be possible untrained, in general; the kind of track you have to follow, instead, should be the one determining not only the DC, but the required proficiency too.

At that point we have to decide what should increase DC (lighter, smaller tracks? Harder terrain? Time passed? Weather?), and what the needed proficiency (size of the creature? Different kind of traces?).


thenobledrake wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, yeah if the monster leaves the room by leaving a kool-aid man style hole in the wall, and a furrow in the ground 6' deep through the forest where a bunch of trees got knocked down... you don't ask anybody to roll anything.
Because any creature that big and powerful would be really high level, meaning the DC to track them would be so high that it's not worth trying to roll?
That's not how the system works

True. The only way it gets a bit silly is if a gigantic high-level monster is Trained in Survival; it would be able to Cover Tracks well enough to hide from low-level enemies.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, yeah if the monster leaves the room by leaving a kool-aid man style hole in the wall, and a furrow in the ground 6' deep through the forest where a bunch of trees got knocked down... you don't ask anybody to roll anything.
Because any creature that big and powerful would be really high level, meaning the DC to track them would be so high that it's not worth trying to roll?
That's not how the system works
True. The only way it gets a bit silly is if a gigantic high-level monster is Trained in Survival; it would be able to Cover Tracks well enough to hide from low-level enemies.

This gets into how you would explain covering tracks. Do you as GM just go... "Nope, it leaves zero trace on the ground!" or do you say "The trail leads to a river/rocky surface/place with many, many tracks."

I guess you could say the thing that doesn't make sense, in which case it might seem ridiculous.

Silver Crusade

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Matthew Downie wrote:
if a gigantic high-level monster

Very large monsters are currently a real issue in my mind.

Yesterday, my level 9 players faced a colossal monster. With stealth so high (post errata) that even the characters maxed out in perception had almost no chance of seeing it.

Paizo really need to make more adjustments to monster skill blocks based on size, what the monster is, etc. I have no problem with a CR 12 monster being good at some things automatically but they should be "in shtick" things. A colossal monster should not have a huge stealth modifier (at least in general, I'm sure there are exceptions),

Size modifiers need to be applied to monsters, darn it!


pauljathome wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
if a gigantic high-level monster

Very large monsters are currently a real issue in my mind.

Yesterday, my level 9 players faced a colossal monster. With stealth so high (post errata) that even the characters maxed out in perception had almost no chance of seeing it.

Paizo really need to make more adjustments to monster skill blocks based on size, what the monster is, etc. I have no problem with a CR 12 monster being good at some things automatically but they should be "in shtick" things. A colossal monster should not have a huge stealth modifier (at least in general, I'm sure there are exceptions),

Size modifiers need to be applied to monsters, darn it!

Literally no one sees the elephant in the room... 'why did this room get so cramped all of a sudden?' ;)

AS a bonus, a lot less people are finding bigfoot tracks. That and T-rex's trampling through your yard goes unnoticed.


Matthew Downie wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, yeah if the monster leaves the room by leaving a kool-aid man style hole in the wall, and a furrow in the ground 6' deep through the forest where a bunch of trees got knocked down... you don't ask anybody to roll anything.
Because any creature that big and powerful would be really high level, meaning the DC to track them would be so high that it's not worth trying to roll?
That's not how the system works
True. The only way it gets a bit silly is if a gigantic high-level monster is Trained in Survival; it would be able to Cover Tracks well enough to hide from low-level enemies.

Ah, yes... but a creature trying to prevent itself from being tracked is a whole different thing from "I'm just a big high-level bad-ass so you can't track me lol"


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graystone wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
if a gigantic high-level monster

Very large monsters are currently a real issue in my mind.

Yesterday, my level 9 players faced a colossal monster. With stealth so high (post errata) that even the characters maxed out in perception had almost no chance of seeing it.

Paizo really need to make more adjustments to monster skill blocks based on size, what the monster is, etc. I have no problem with a CR 12 monster being good at some things automatically but they should be "in shtick" things. A colossal monster should not have a huge stealth modifier (at least in general, I'm sure there are exceptions),

Size modifiers need to be applied to monsters, darn it!

Literally no one sees the elephant in the room... 'why did this room get so cramped all of a sudden?' ;)

AS a bonus, a lot less people are finding bigfoot tracks. That and T-rex's trampling through your yard goes unnoticed.

reminds me of the semi-recent godzilla movie where they are chasing him through the city in a helicopter and then lose sight of him....

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
pauljathome wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
if a gigantic high-level monster

Very large monsters are currently a real issue in my mind.

Yesterday, my level 9 players faced a colossal monster. With stealth so high (post errata) that even the characters maxed out in perception had almost no chance of seeing it.

Paizo really need to make more adjustments to monster skill blocks based on size, what the monster is, etc. I have no problem with a CR 12 monster being good at some things automatically but they should be "in shtick" things. A colossal monster should not have a huge stealth modifier (at least in general, I'm sure there are exceptions),

Size modifiers need to be applied to monsters, darn it!

If you're talking about the creature I think you're talking about, it literally has a special ability called "Undetectable." I don't think it's a good general case example.


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To me, such an example would fall under Page 327's talk about determining when characters make rolls and if one is needed in a situation. Under most circumstances, tracks are not going to be as obvious as boot prints in the snow on a pristine snow-blanketed plain where it hasn't been snowing. In such a case, the DM has the tacit approval of the game-makers to determine if a roll is even needed. However, the majority of tracking circumstances are going to be a little more difficult - swampy ground, multiple passers-by, or hard ground that gives little evidence of tracks such as in cobblestones, rolling hills, or mountains. Even in the case of "snow bootprints", what happens when it's heavily snowing and you come across those prints in the middle of a field six hours after they've been made? In those cases, it makes much more sense that an untrained person cannot just start looking and say, "a-ha! They passed this way and are headed northeast!"


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
pauljathome wrote:

Very large monsters are currently a real issue in my mind.

Yesterday, my level 9 players faced a colossal monster. With stealth so high (post errata) that even the characters maxed out in perception had almost no chance of seeing it.

Paizo really need to make more adjustments to monster skill blocks based on size, what the monster is, etc. I have no problem with a CR 12 monster being good at some things automatically but they should be "in shtick" things. A colossal monster should not have a huge stealth modifier (at least in general, I'm sure there are exceptions),

Size modifiers need to be applied to monsters, darn it!

To be fair, either the monster has some special ability related to stealth, or it still needs to find colossal-sized cover to hide behind.

Which I am okay with - there's plenty of examples in kaiju fiction of sneaky kaiju hiding behind buildings quite effectively.

EDIT: I should also add that even Hide in Plain Sight doesn't mean "invisible" - it just requires the GM to cleverly incorporate the monster into the scenery in some way.

I think my favorite example of this is the last book of Eragon, where the main character mistakes Shruiken's wing for a curtain dividing the room.


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ENHenry wrote:
To me, such an example would fall under Page 327's talk about determining when characters make rolls and if one is needed in a situation. Under most circumstances, tracks are not going to be as obvious as boot prints in the snow on a pristine snow-blanketed plain where it hasn't been snowing. In such a case, the DM has the tacit approval of the game-makers to determine if a roll is even needed. However, the majority of tracking circumstances are going to be a little more difficult - swampy ground, multiple passers-by, or hard ground that gives little evidence of tracks such as in cobblestones, rolling hills, or mountains. Even in the case of "snow bootprints", what happens when it's heavily snowing and you come across those prints in the middle of a field six hours after they've been made? In those cases, it makes much more sense that an untrained person cannot just start looking and say, "a-ha! They passed this way and are headed northeast!"

However, just because 'most of the time' tracks will not be so blatantly obvious dos not mean that the rules should not address when they are.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
thorin001 wrote:
However, just because 'most of the time' tracks will not be so blatantly obvious dos not mean that the rules should not address when they are.

Honestly, though, could you - assuming you have no training - walk into a forest, find some deer tracks, and follow them to a deer?

I know I couldn't. Maybe I could follow the tracks a few feet through the mud where they were obvious, but all the way to a deer? Not a chance.


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MaxAstro wrote:
thorin001 wrote:
However, just because 'most of the time' tracks will not be so blatantly obvious dos not mean that the rules should not address when they are.

Honestly, though, could you - assuming you have no training - walk into a forest, find some deer tracks, and follow them to a deer?

I know I couldn't. Maybe I could follow the tracks a few feet through the mud where they were obvious, but all the way to a deer? Not a chance.

But you could follow that saame deer through 2 foot deep snow. And PF2 characters cannot without a specific skill, which is the problem.


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thorin001 wrote:

Ranger: I think we should track the bad guys back to their lair.

Fighter: How would we do that?
Ranger: We follow their footprints.
Fighter: What are these footprints of which you speak?
Ranger: Do you see those holes in the snow shaped like boots?
Fighter: Nope. Hey Cleric, do you see these "footprints"?
Cleric: Hell no, I follow Abadar. Footprints are just Erastil propaganda.
Fighter: How about you Rogue; you can count the hairs on a fly at half a league.
Rogue: I see nothing. I think Ranger got into Alchemist's stash again.

Tracking is a trained only activity of the survival skill. So we are back to AD&D where tracks, even those in 2 foot deep snow, are invisible to those without this skill.

Actually, that's not the way it is in AD&D.

From Unearthed Arcana
"In all cases, the DM must use common sense as to whether or not it will be possible
to follow a creature by tracking. For instance, creatures which leave obvious trails can almost always be tracked - worms, slimes, jellies, and the like are obvious examples of this."

This seems like a "common sense" situation to me. But if you want a rule:

From Wilderness Survival Guide
"A character without proficiency in tracking has a base chance of 0% on any attempt to follow a trail, but may still be able to engage in tracking if the total of all applicable modifiers is a positive number."

The modifiers would be positive in this case.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
thorin001 wrote:
But you could follow that saame deer through 2 foot deep snow. And PF2 characters cannot without a specific skill, which is the problem.

I don't think "I can imagine a situation in which this is so easy it shouldn't even require a roll" is a reason you shouldn't need to be trained in tracking to roll.

Is this so easy you don't need to roll? Congrats, you succeed, no roll needed.

Is it challenging enough that a roll is required? You need to be trained.

Makes sense to me.


I mean, fundamentally this is just the question as to whether you, as the GM, want a particular thing that the players want to do to be trivial and easily done, or whether you want it to be something which requires skill and involves risk of failure.

If you can figure that out, you can figure out whether you need to be trained in survival to follow the footprints.


thorin001 wrote:
MaxAstro wrote:
thorin001 wrote:
However, just because 'most of the time' tracks will not be so blatantly obvious dos not mean that the rules should not address when they are.

Honestly, though, could you - assuming you have no training - walk into a forest, find some deer tracks, and follow them to a deer?

I know I couldn't. Maybe I could follow the tracks a few feet through the mud where they were obvious, but all the way to a deer? Not a chance.

But you could follow that saame deer through 2 foot deep snow. And PF2 characters cannot without a specific skill, which is the problem.

Well, there's two parts to the problem that they pointed out. Can you follow the tracks for a while? Sure.

Can you follow the tracks TO the deer? Maybe not. You probably also aren't going to follow them in such a way that provides you a useful opportunity to catch the deer unaware.

So, another way to frame this is that someone trained in Survival can follow tracks to a USEFUL outcome. Conversely, untrained people will follow tracks, but it will almost never result in a useful outcome.

There's a reason most hunters use stands. Stalking animals is actually very difficult, labor intensive, and often unsuccessful if you haven't trained to do it.


thorin001 wrote:
But you could follow that same deer through 2 foot deep snow. And PF2 characters cannot without a specific skill, which is the problem.

Personally, I'm fine with the rules being left open enough for the GM to decide this - and if it's an extenuating circumstance like what you describe, then the GM has all the space needed to just call it an automatic success, as noted. Under the majority of circumstances, tracking is not something that can be attempted on the fly with a chance of success. Other than snow or mud in an unblemished plane, are there any other circumstances so simple as to not need a check?

If there is anything the rules set needs in my opinion, it's not pages of tables of example DCs and modifiers, it's clarity to the GM on the need not to call for a check in every circumstance, and a little more guidance on using the existing tables (after somebody needs to do one more sanity check on those numbers, because they STILL feel about 5 or 10% too high.)


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ENHenry wrote:
Other than snow or mud in an unblemished plane, are there any other circumstances so simple as to not need a check?

Given the types of creature you might be tracking in a game like this, there could be a trail of slime, acid, or six-inch deep footprints in solid rock.


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thorin001 wrote:
Tracking is a trained only activity of the survival skill. So we are back to AD&D where tracks, even those in 2 foot deep snow, are invisible to those without this skill.

The real problem isn't that its limited to Survival (since many classes got an extra trained skill). The problem is that it doesn't do anything but follow tracks, which is rarely needed.

What if it worked like in Lord of the Rings. Remember this scene?

Aragorn tracks Mary and Pippin Why can't tracking work half this good for Rangers?

Come on Paizo, this is PF2. There's nothing stopping you guys from bringing the Ranger's MO of tracking to life beyond simply following footprints. Anyone trained in Survival can follow footprints. But a Ranger should be able to actually decode them, and it should count for something (auto-recall Knowledge checks, bonus to Perception/surprise, info on number and status, etc).

It's right there for the taking, Paizo.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
N N 959 wrote:

The real problem isn't that its limited to Survival (since many classes got an extra trained skill). The problem is that it doesn't do anything but follow tracks, which is rarely needed.

What if it worked like in Lord of the Rings. Remember this scene?

Aragorn tracks Mary and Pippin Why can't tracking work half this good for Rangers?

Come on Paizo, this is PF2. There's nothing stopping you guys from bringing the Ranger's MO of tracking to life beyond simply following footprints. Anyone trained in Survival can follow footprints. But a Ranger should be able to actually decode them, and it should count for something (auto-recall Knowledge checks, bonus to Perception/surprise, info on number and status, etc).

It's right there for the taking, Paizo.

So much this.

I want my Ranger to find some tracks, immediately activate Hunt Target against the creature who left those tracks, tell the party the weaknesses of the creature I'm tracking, and then get bonuses to set an ambush and exploit those weaknesses when I finally catch up to the poor bastard.

That would be a fantastic direction to take the ranger, in my opinion.

Silver Crusade

You do realize that Aragorn is a legendary ranger using some as yet unwritten legendary feat, right?

At least, I hope they write feats to allow this!


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pauljathome wrote:

You do realize that Aragorn is a legendary ranger using some as yet unwritten legendary feat, right?

At least, I hope they write feats to allow this!

That would be masterful ranger with an as-yet-unwritten master feat. The human and elven characters in Lord of the Rings were lower than 10th level. The dwarf and halfling characters were even lower in level.


Mathmuse wrote:
pauljathome wrote:

You do realize that Aragorn is a legendary ranger using some as yet unwritten legendary feat, right?

At least, I hope they write feats to allow this!

That would be masterful ranger with an as-yet-unwritten master feat. The human and elven characters in Lord of the Rings were lower than 10th level. The dwarf and halfling characters were even lower in level.

Either way, it’s badass and I want it. :-)

Silver Crusade

Mathmuse wrote:
pauljathome wrote:

You do realize that Aragorn is a legendary ranger using some as yet unwritten legendary feat, right?

At least, I hope they write feats to allow this!

That would be masterful ranger with an as-yet-unwritten master feat. The human and elven characters in Lord of the Rings were lower than 10th level. The dwarf and halfling characters were even lower in level.

Trying to figure out levels for Lord Of The Rings is pretty much pointless. D&D does a lousy job of modelling the books or the movies.

But personally what Aragorn does in the movie seems about right for Legendary survival and more than a Master could do. Where I'm completely divorcing those terms from levels. To me, Master should be the upper level (or at most a tiny bit beyond) of what could plausibly be done in the real world, Legendary is what could be done by characters in legend but NOT in the real world


Matthew Downie wrote:
ENHenry wrote:
Other than snow or mud in an unblemished plane, are there any other circumstances so simple as to not need a check?
Given the types of creature you might be tracking in a game like this, there could be a trail of slime, acid, or six-inch deep footprints in solid rock.

Excellent examples, and to me, just like a pristine snow-trail, they are exceptions which prove the rule.


Or Aragorn's RPing just kinda made the DM impressed, and he said roll me a d20... and he rolled a natty.


Mathmuse wrote:
pauljathome wrote:

You do realize that Aragorn is a legendary ranger using some as yet unwritten legendary feat, right?

At least, I hope they write feats to allow this!

That would be masterful ranger with an as-yet-unwritten master feat. The human and elven characters in Lord of the Rings were lower than 10th level. The dwarf and halfling characters were even lower in level.

A little off topic, but if Aragorn was described is being capable of challenging Sauron if he chose to take up the Ring, I expect he might be a few levels above 10 :)


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I honestly liked the "most DC 10 things can be done untrained" rule in PF1E, combined with the ability to take 10 when not stressed. It left out a few specialized things that required training to even attempt (Spellcraft, anyone?) - but populated the game world with NPCs that could manage daily life.

They could track their lost cow through the mud (survival). They could identify a chicken (knowledge: nature) or a goblin (knowledge: local) or a wandering cleric of Erastil (knowledge: religion). They could prepare a basic meal (profession: cook) or mend a tear in their shirt (profession: tailor). They could sing, dance, and tell jokes (perform). They could ask a fair price for a sack of potatoes (appraise). And they could do these things consistently, day after day, without having a tragic failure 5% of the time or an equally-surprising epiphany 5% of the time.


pauljathome wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
if a gigantic high-level monster

Very large monsters are currently a real issue in my mind.

Yesterday, my level 9 players faced a colossal monster. With stealth so high (post errata) that even the characters maxed out in perception had almost no chance of seeing it.

Paizo really need to make more adjustments to monster skill blocks based on size, what the monster is, etc. I have no problem with a CR 12 monster being good at some things automatically but they should be "in shtick" things. A colossal monster should not have a huge stealth modifier (at least in general, I'm sure there are exceptions),

Size modifiers need to be applied to monsters, darn it!

Or make automatic scaling not apply to racial HD. I recall Saga Edition did that.

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