"check or step" - which type of step?


Rules Questions and Gameplay Discussion


(this issue came up on BGG)

There are a few places in the rulebook where the phrase "once per check or step" is used. However, the rulebook uses the term "step" for two different things: (1) the steps of a turn (Explore, etc.) and (2) the steps of an encounter (Apply Any Evasion Effects, etc.). Which type of step is meant in these instances?

A related example:

The Exhausted scourge says: On each check or step, you may play no more than 1 boon.

So, if I'm Exhausted, I can't both play a blessing on a combat check and use an armor to reduce damage from the failed check - because both occur during the same Explore step? Or is something else intended?


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My short answer is: The relevant step is not the Explore step - the relevant step is the step of the encounter (if the check is not made in an encounter, then it is the check itself that matters, not the step).

My longer answer is: look to the Core Set rulebook as a guide. Note this passage:

Core Set rules p.8 wrote:

Encountering a Card

During each step... Each character may play any number of cards, but collectively, the party may play no more than one of each type of boon...

Here the Core Set has moved the previous set's restriction from applying to each character to applying to the party as a whole, but the consistent rule is: the restriction applies to steps of an encounter - not other steps. (IMHO)

So, to answer the Exhausted question: Yes. If you can only use one boon on a step, the relevant step here is "Attempt the Check" - in the example, the check to defeat. If you use a boon on the combat check, you can't use a boon to reduce damage suffered on the check.

(I was just looking at this here in in this somewhat epic thread.)


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

Exhausted is almost certainly meant to only apply to encounter steps, just as the restriction on playing one card of each type only applies to encounter steps.

I really wish Core would’ve started calling steps of the turn “phases” or something else instead so we wouldn’t have overloaded terminology, but alas. It’s clear enough in most cases right now which is being referred to.

For your damage question, yes, it means no playing an armor during Suffer Damage, If Necessary if you played any boon earlier in the check. This is because suffering damage as part of a failed check is still part of the check. No need to look upwards into steps of an encounter as elcoderdude did, but doing so reinforces the answer I gave because you arrive at the same conclusion should you look at it all being in the same encounter step.


These answers all make sense - thanks.

Agree 100% that steps of a turn should be called phases to prevent confusion.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

The reason that both of these things are called steps is because things that restrict what you can do during a step apply to BOTH kinds of steps.

So while you're exhausted, you're limited to playing one boon during each step of a turn and during each step of an encounter. (Because all of the steps of an encounter happen during the same step of the turn, the latter limitation is redundant in this case, but it's not incorrect.)

On the other hand, the individual parts of a check are called actions and not steps because things that restrict what you can do during a step apply to the check as a whole, not to each action within the check.


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

So exhausted = you’re better off just skipping your turn entirely in most cases. Because you certainly won’t be able to handle anything remotely complex with a restriction like that unless your allies have tons of support and you’re good at punching things unarmed. If you rely on a weapon for combat, a monster that has you summon and encounter another monster will completely mess you up.

(just making an observation, not asking for changes)


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
So while you're exhausted, you're limited to playing one boon during each step of a turn and during each step of an encounter. (Because all of the steps of an encounter happen during the same step of the turn, the latter limitation is redundant in this case, but it's not incorrect.)

Oh. I didn't realize that. So, as Skizzerz said before, if you come across a bane with two combat checks to defeat - or summons a monster for you to encounter Before Acting - then you can't use a weapon twice (even in completely different encounters) because you're in the same exploration step?

That's... terrifying. I never realised Exhausted was that bad. I agree with skizzerz then; there's a strong argument for players to simply pass on explorations in a lot of cases, then, unless they're sufficiently certain they'll encounter a boon or examine banes in advance.


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Vic Wertz wrote:
The reason that both of these things are called steps is because things that restrict what you can do during a step apply to BOTH kinds of steps.

The Playing Cards section of the rulebook (p. 7) says the following:

Reveal: Show it from your hand then put it back in your hand. You may not reveal the same card for its power more than once per check or step.

The above interpretation makes it sound like a fighter can't ever play the same weapon twice during the same Explore step. That isn't intended, is it?


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
The reason that both of these things are called steps is because things that restrict what you can do during a step apply to BOTH kinds of steps.

Something wrong here or my English is misleading me.

We always played it as:
The reason that both of these things are called steps is because things that restrict what you can do during a step apply
1) to the different steps during an Explore.
2) to the different steps of a turn EXCEPT the Explore step.

If a rule limiting things using the word "per step" applies as Vic says, RAW it seems to imply (as cleverly pointed out by the previous veterans) that
- I cannot reveal the same card twice in a single explore step (we never applied that, especially for weapons as stated previously)
- I cannot play 2 cards of the same type during a single explore step (no cannot bless each of the two combat checks...)

My advice is that neither the "Exploration phase", nor each of the "single Explore" within the "Exploration phase" shouldn't be steps. There shouldn't be steps within steps. If you remove the word "step" and only talk about "Exploration phase" consisting of "Explores" which in turn consist of "steps", then seems to me that all the other rules and cards work fine. IMHO.


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I don't have the rules knowledge necessary to keep up with the discussion, but I'll make a final comment.

No one in any of my games (online and IRL) has been playing the Exhausted scourge as Vic describes. I think this is because every instance of "check or step" in the rulebook has always been interpreted by the community as "check or encounter step". So there's no reason why "check or step" would mean something different for the Exhausted scourge.

The "Reveal" rules citation is a good example. That rule is only reasonable if "check or step" is interpreted as check or encounter step.

I'd also add that skipping a turn is one of the least fun mechanics in the history of gaming, so it would be great if Exhausted were less painful rather than more painful so that skipping might not be mandatory. :)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

wkover wrote:
The "Reveal" rules citation is a good example. That rule is only reasonable if "check or step" is interpreted as check or encounter step.

During your move step, you move to a location that says "When you move to this location, you are dealt 1d4 damage." You roll a 4. You have a Ring of Protection, which says "When you suffer any damage, freely reveal to reduce it by 1." Do you think you can reveal that card 4 times?

Step means any step.

(We are having a discussion about Exhausted perhaps being too strong.)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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I do think there's a problem here, but that problem is that restrictions are applying to the entire explore step when they should be applying only to each step within the explore step. (I have to research this, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't always broken...)

Per step restrictions are absolutely supposed to apply to the Advance the Hour, Give a Card, Move, Close Your Location, and End Your Turn steps.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Vic Wertz wrote:
I do think there's a problem here, but that problem is that restrictions are applying to the entire explore step when they should be applying only to each step within the explore step.

With further thought, that's not where the problem is. Per-step limits do need to be in place for each step of the turn, but anytime you are encountering a card (not just during the exploration step) you need to be absolved of the turn step limits, and held only to the encounter step limits.


wkover wrote:
I don't have the rules knowledge necessary to keep up with the discussion...

See, I told you. :P

Anyway, good luck with the fix and thanks for the replies.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

The solution might be similar for the big damage problem we've been discussing: anytime you are suffering damage, you need to be absolved of all step limits (either turn step or encounter step) and held only to the limits imposed by the Suffering Damage rules.


I realize the check/step/Exhausted discussion is still ongoing, but Keith mentioned the following on BGG in terms of the intention of the Exhausted scourge:

You can only play 1 boon before acting, 1 for each check to defeat, etc.

So his interpretation is one card per encounter step, I think.


I see a way to resolve this that works for both cases, although it's not exactly easy to explain.

Basically, each time you use a card/power/etc (except freely ofc) it adds a restriction to the smallest (/most recent) step/check/damage instance that you're in. Then that restriction applies to that instance, and any instance inside it, but ends when that instance ends.

Imagine it like a bunch of boxes; you have the "explore step" box, into which you put the "before you act" box, into which you put the "attempt a Wisdom 4 check" box. Then each time you use something, you put the restriction into the smallest box.

So for example on taking damage from failing to defeat a monster, that's still considered part of the check, so you can't use an armor if you already did on the check. But if you take damage after you act, you can use an armor then.
(...That might actually be the only example. I can't honestly think of any other time when a restriction would propagate down. But in theory, it could happen!)

I think this makes the rules work as intended (correct me if I'm wrong, as I'm not the one with the intentions). But I don't know how you would word it without relying heavily on examples and metaphor.

This does mean that, if you use (for example) an ally's start-of-turn power and then encounter a card during the start of your turn (probably because the hour told you to) you would be blocked from using allies during that encounter. But, if you did it in the other order, using an ally during the encounter wouldn't block you from using a start-of-turn ally power later. That's odd. (But.. at least it's not ambiguous?)

Well, I hope this is helpful, but I understand if it doesn't work for you.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

We discussed that with my group and agreed that an easy way would be to first define the cases (at that time there are only 2 I know of) when the generic rule is overruled, and then fix the generic rule. I. e. :

Rule could be written as:
- When you suffer damage, you are limited by...
- Otherwise, when you encounter a card, you are limited by...
- Otherwise, you are limited by...

That way it would be clear.


I'll try to add my two cents. Maybe the ruling could be something like this:

During each step, the party may collectively play no more than one of each type of boon. When a step is contained within another step (for example, a Before Acting step inside an Exploration step), only consider cards played during the innermost step when determining whether a card of the appropriate type has been played this step, and cards played during this step are only considered to have been played during the innermost step.

Would this cause any problems? Or maybe it's a bit confusing? I understand it, but these things always make the most sense when inside one's own head.


Vic Wertz wrote:
(We are having a discussion about Exhausted perhaps being too strong.)

If the designers are reconsidering the Exhausted scourge, one way to simplify the card (also making it potentially more understandable) would be to omit the "check or step" language and instead limit the number of cards played per turn.

Something like this might be interesting:

You can play a maximum of two cards per turn.
(Revealing the same card twice counts as two card plays.)

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