Fly skill problems


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Okay, so I'm doing myself a DM screen for my own hybrid 3.x/PF system and I want to resolve some issues with fly. Posting it here rather than the rules section because it will involve some house rules as well.

First off, straight RAW rules query:

1) The skill check lists you need to make a Fly check for moving *less than half* speed. The text below says you don't need to make a fly check if you move *greater than half* speed. So, which is it? It can't be both, since it ignores moving exactly half-speed.

2) Failure by less than 4/failure for non-winged fliers. There is no RAW on what happens. The intention SEEMS to suggest that they half to fly such that they either don't have to make a fly check - or fall, though the wording would almost seem to suggest that would happen at the end of their turn. Poorly worded, with too much "implied but not stated." I want to fix this so that it isn't (even if the end result it not what was originally intended, so long as it makes sense).

3) The Ghost Prat-fall Effect.

Partially a by-product of 2, partially from RAW.

Ghost have perfect fly speed, but, even with the aforementioned rule aside a standard PF ghost only has a +9 Fly skill, which means 25% of the time, it can't hover (whatever that means, see 2) and 5% of the time, it falls out of the sky when it tries to do so. I have difficulty parsing that.

This is exascerabated by us using a 1 = -10 and 20 = 30 on skill checks. This is pretty much fine in 99% of circumctances, but here raises an issue of logic, especially with Perfect fliers not using wings.

So, I belive that perfect fliers ought to have something that prevents that - I am supposing that perfect fliers ought to be able to take 10 on fly checks (or at least fly checks for movement), which would be in line with the bonus for Climb and Swim check for creatures with Climb and Swim speed. In the case of stuff like air elementals and a lot of (*but not all*) creatures with perfect fly speed, most of them are automatically making movement checks automatically in PF (where normally a 1 is just a 1) anyway.

Clarfication for 1 and and suggestions for 2 and 3 would be welcome.


Re: Ghosts and falling

Universal monster rules, incorporeal wrote:
Incorporeal creatures cannot fall or take falling damage

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

WagnerSika wrote:

Re: Ghosts and falling

Universal monster rules, incorporeal wrote:
Incorporeal creatures cannot fall or take falling damage

Okay, but that only stops them falling, not lets them hover if they fail their Fly check. And still doesn't help, say, large flying things like you magic thrones or floating beam constructs and whatnot.

It doesn't SAY they can automatically hover. And in my own mind, I am struggling to see non-winged floating creatures being unable to hover, especially if they are able to hang in place for hours on end out of combat (by taking ten) and then failing and drifting the movement Fighting Happens.

(I am still trying to get my head around why Beholders in 3.5 are inexplicably only Good maneuverability when they probably ought to be Perfect, really.)

Interesting question - does Starfinder have anything to say on this given that I would guess you would see a lot more grav-type stuff around there?


As for the half-speed problem, ignore it. Assume the creature is going 1 mm/week faster than half and he's OK.

The beholder can hover and generally float about, but it's probably clumsy and has some problems with wind and controlling its acceleration. Think of it like a badly designed airship.

As for perfect flyers, you might work on the same principle. They can in theory go in any direction, stop on a dime, whatever...except they're only human. Or whatever they are instead. Depending on the means of propulsion, they probably won't fall down, but might do something undesirable instead like bump into a tree.


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The consequence of failing to hover is falling. If you can't fall then gravity has no plan B.

If you want creatures with perfect maneuvrability to be able to take 10 on fly in all situations go for it. It seems a minor house rule.


avr wrote:
The consequence of failing to hover is falling. If you can't fall then gravity has no plan B.

That doesn't seem consistent with "If you are using wings and you fail a Fly check by 5 or more, you plummet to the ground."

So for other types of failure I would let the creature move at half speed (or more) in a straight line. (Which might be punishment enough; if they want to hover there's a good chance it's because they're in melee and want to make a full attack. By flying away instead they will lose their full attack and provoke an AoO.)

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Looking at the ghost as an example, I think the possibility of a pratfall is certainly feasible. It has a +9 to fly, which indicates it has no skill point,no training in flying, even though it can. If you don't like it, allow some skill point retraining for something like that, as it's not accurate to assume it automatically knows how to do pinpoint maneuvering with an ability it never had before dying.


Val'bryn2 wrote:
Looking at the ghost as an example, I think the possibility of a pratfall is certainly feasible.

I don't think the ghost is a good example as it isn't subject to gravity. I can envision however the ghost not being expert at maneuvering, which is why it is sometimes painfully slow.

Shadow Lodge

The consequence for failing a check by 4 or less is having to move without performing whatever you were trying to do. Generally that means moving forward at half speed or greater, possibly making an acute angle turn.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Sadly, the fly skill (and flying in general) is just as vague and unspecific as it's always been. Here's my interpretation of the RAW:

1) Moving half-speed or greater requires NO check.
2) Failing a hover check (or any other listed maneuver) means that you MUST move at least half speed forward with no other tricky maneuvers (although you can use "normal" maneuvers that would not require a skill check). If that is impossible (say, due to an obstacle) you fall. Winged creatures still fall if they fail by 5 or more.

I also introduce a house rule that seems essential: Flying creatures that are not hovering must track their facing from one round to the next.

Without this rule, things like maneuverability class have little meaning, and the restrictions on what angle you can turn at are easily avoided.

With these rules, your ghost would never fall, since even if it was flying in an enclosed space, it could just fly through material barriers if it were forced to fly ahead at half speed.

Alternatively, you could house rule that creatures flying without the use of wings can automatically hover, with no skill check necessary.

Note that creatures that don't hover, or are unable to hover on a given round, can't take the full attack action.

I don't think it's specified anywhere, but I also rule that only flying creatures that hover for that turn are able to take a five-foot step. That's a logical corollary to the general rule prohibiting five-foot steps.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Here is my first draft attempt I posted up on the GitP forums the other day.

(Apologies for the rather crude formating, but I'm not sure how or even if you can format a table on these forums and I'm not up to much today unfortunately.)

Changes, and clarifications in bold.

Version 1 Revision (changes/clarifications in bold):

You generally need only make a Fly check when you are attempting a complex maneuver. Without making a check, a flying creature can remain flying at the end of its turn so long as it moves a distance of at least half its speed. It can also turn up to 45 degrees by sacrificing 5 feet of movement, can rise at half speed at an angle of 45 degrees, and can descend at any angle at normal speed. Sacrified movement does not count towards your minimum of half speed.

Note that these restrictions only apply to movement taken during your current turn. At the beginning of the next turn, you can move in a different direction than you did the previous turn without making a check. Taking any action that violates these rules requires a Fly check. The difficulty of these maneuvers varies depending upon the maneuver you are attempting, as noted on the following chart.

Retry? Varies. You can attempt a Fly check to perform the same maneuver on subsequent rounds (if hovering or trying to fly less than half speed). If you failed on turns or flying at an angle, if have movement left, you may continue to try to make fly checks to try again (provided you have not already failed a fly check that requries you to move at least half speed).

If you fail you fly check, you must make the appropriate action indicated by the table. (See below.) If you are using wings and you fail a Fly check by 5 or more, you instead plummet to the ground, taking the appropriate falling damage.

Fly (Dex; ACP)
Move less than half speed and remain flying*: 10
Hover* ***: 15
Turn greater than 45° by spending 5 feet of movement**: 15
Turn 180° by spending 10 feet of movement**: 20
Fly up at a greater than 45° angle**: 20

* On a fail, you must move half your speed
** On a fail, you only turn 45º or rise at 45º
*** Automatic with Hover feat

Possible addition of "or if non-winged with Perfect fly speed" to the automatic hover clause.

Wheldrake wrote:
I don't think it's specified anywhere, but I also rule that only flying creatures that hover for that turn are able to take a five-foot step. That's a logical corollary to the general rule prohibiting five-foot steps.

I think that one was something I had just automatically assumed myself, or at least how I've always played it, anyway.


Wheldrake wrote:
That's a logical corollary to the general rule prohibiting five-foot steps.

What general rule?


Matthew Downie wrote:
Wheldrake wrote:
That's a logical corollary to the general rule prohibiting five-foot steps.
What general rule?

You can only take 5-foot steps if you have a listed movement speed with that kind of movement. So you can't 5-foot while using the Spider Climb or Fly spells. But if you're a race with a climb or fly speed you can.

Don't know if that's the one referred to but it's the one I know of.


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NorthernDruid wrote:
You can only take 5-foot steps if you have a listed movement speed with that kind of movement. So you can't 5-foot while using the Spider Climb or Fly spells.

Fly spell: "The subject can fly at a speed of 60 feet"

Spider Climb: "The subject gains a climb speed of 20 feet"
That seems like a movement speed to me.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
Wheldrake wrote:
That's a logical corollary to the general rule prohibiting five-foot steps.
What general rule?

Sorry, I should have been more specific. You can't take a 5-foot step if you've already moved in the turn. And if you're flying but not hovering, then you are moving. Consequently you can't take a five-foot step while flying unless you are successfully hovering.

Does that make sense?

Frankly, there are only two things missing from the flight skill rules that would solve everything:
1) What are the consequences when you fail a maneuver check (to hover, turn fast, etc)
2) Tracking facing from one turn to the next. If you don't track facing, then even the clumsiest flier can make a complete 180° turn at top speed automatically with no check involved, as long as it's from one turn to the next.


Wheldrake wrote:

You can't take a 5-foot step if you've already moved in the turn. And if you're flying but not hovering, then you are moving. Consequently you can't take a five-foot step while flying unless you are successfully hovering.

Does that make sense?

I always assumed it worked that way.

But looking at it again, "Move less than half speed and remain flying" is DC 10 and "Hover" is DC 15.

Moving 5 feet seems like it would fall into the category of "less than half speed" more than it would fall into the category of "hovering" unless there's something I'm missing saying that "Move less than half speed" is always a move action.

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