Question About Stunning Fist


Rules Discussion


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

...Is it intended that Stunning Fist is just terrible, even by the standards of Incapacitation effects, against anything higher level than you?

Most other Incap effects, like Sleeper Hold, only require a single check and so are only affected by the Incap penalty once. However, it seems like Stunning Fist is affected twice: first you "reduce the degree of success" of both of your attack rolls (meaning you need at least one crit to even trigger Stunning Fist) and then your opponent "increases the degree of success" of their Fort save (meaning they need to crit fail in order to be effected).

Compared to effects like Sleeper Hold, which only need a single crit to go off, that seems really, really bad.


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Can you clarify what you mean by "Incap penalty" and how this affects the sunning strike ability?

Liberty's Edge

If this shakes out to be true then I'm calling it - CONFIRMED - The lead design team at Paizo HATES the idea of Monk getting nice things.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Stunning Fist:
When you make a Flurry of Blows … if either strike hits and does damage, target must make a Fort save vs your Class DC. If fails stunned 1 (crit fail stunned 3).

Stunned reduces the number of actions so "the next time the target gets actions" they have 1 (or 3) less actions.

sounds like if either hit did damage they get 1 save attempt. Flurry also doesn't reduce your "to hit" for the cost of 1 action you can make your 2 attacks at 0/-4 (assuming agile and first attack action).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The playtest Stunning Fist was garbage yes, that's the one you're talking about. The final version is much better as Rhyst posted.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Sorry, I should clarify:

Stunning Fist has the Incapatation tag, which has the following rules attached:

"When you use an Incapacitation effect against a creature higher level than you, you reduce the degree of success of your attack roll by one step, the creature improves the degree of success of its saving throws for that effect by one step"

On the flip side, Stunning Fist is useable at will with no action cost or any other cost for that matter, so it's pretty awesome against anything your level or lower. Just seems really, really bad against anything higher level than you.


Isn't anything higher level than the PCs supposed to be a serious challenge in which the PCs likely already have a noticeable action economy advantage? If so, I assume "let's not compound that action economy advantage even more" is why incapacitate effects are bad against higher level opponents.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oddly Stunning Fist does not have the Incapacitation Trait. It simply states "This is an incapacitation effect". Looking in the Appendix (p633) it lists Incapacitation as a Trait.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Isn't anything higher level than the PCs supposed to be a serious challenge in which the PCs likely already have a noticeable action economy advantage? If so, I assume "let's not compound that action economy advantage even more" is why incapacitate effects are bad against higher level opponents.

Yes, that logic makes sense.

My concern is that the other Incap effects I have seen (Sleeper Hold and the rogue's Master Strike) both only apply the debuff to a single roll, while Stunning Fist both penalizes your roll and buffs the enemy's roll - in other words, while normally you take an effective -10 penalty for Incap effects against higher level enemies, with Stunning Fist you are taking an effective -20.

Basically it makes Stunning Fist something you should never, ever try against anything higher level than you, because not only will it fail, it will fail AND ruin your attack rolls.


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MaxAstro wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Isn't anything higher level than the PCs supposed to be a serious challenge in which the PCs likely already have a noticeable action economy advantage? If so, I assume "let's not compound that action economy advantage even more" is why incapacitate effects are bad against higher level opponents.

Yes, that logic makes sense.

My concern is that the other Incap effects I have seen (Sleeper Hold and the rogue's Master Strike) both only apply the debuff to a single roll, while Stunning Fist both penalizes your roll and buffs the enemy's roll - in other words, while normally you take an effective -10 penalty for Incap effects against higher level enemies, with Stunning Fist you are taking an effective -20.

Basically it makes Stunning Fist something you should never, ever try against anything higher level than you, because not only will it fail, it will fail AND ruin your attack rolls.

Based on what I've read in this thread, I don't think you reduce the degree of success of your attack rolls; the attack rolls are just regular old attack rolls and don't have the incapacitation trait. Stunning Fist seems like it's a "passive ability" that "triggers" when your Flurry of Blows attacks hit, i.e. you determine the degree of success of your attack roll before Stunning Fist even enters the picture. Otherwise, Stunning Fist would just be a straight up nerf to your Flurry of Blows, and that doesn't seem right. It's not like you can choose to turn Stunning Fist off, right?

So the Saving Throw is increased by one degree of success, but the attack rolls aren't reduced by one.

Does that seem like a plausible interpretation, MaxAstro?

EDIT: For clarity, I don't have the final rules. I'm just going off what MaxAstro has written. MaxAstro does have the final rules.


I'm unclear on who has the final rules and is referencing them and who isn't.
re: MaxAstro's Incapacitation quote (if accurate, in final rules),
"When(...), you reduce(...), the creature improves(...)" doesn't seem to be grammatically correct if both are to be applied.
If that was the intent, there should be an "and" before "the creature". Of course, there should also be supporting grammar if they are intended as alternatives, but I would say it is a reasonable possibility the intent is NOT for both of them to be applied to any single Incapacitation effect.

That ties in with BD's comment (above) which queries whether the "triggering" attack roll itself is properly part of the "Incapacitation effect" or merely a trigger for it. Which would clarify the rule re: Stunning Fist itself, but not in general for potential future Incapacitation effects which "actively" contain both an attack roll AND saving throw. Although the "editorial" meta-guidance for such abilities could include need to specify WHICH of attack or save is penalized.

Even with such meta-guidance covering prioritization, I think the text of Incapacitated would still need to be amended either with an "or" preceding "the creature". Or alternatively, if intent is both always apply when possible, amended with an "and" although that wouldn't apply if attack roll is "outside" scope of the Incapatitation effect "proper".


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Quandary wrote:

I'm unclear on who has the final rules and is referencing them and who isn't.

re: MaxAstro's Incapacitation quote (if accurate, in final rules),
"When(...), you reduce(...), the creature improves(...)" doesn't seem to be grammatically correct if both are to be applied.
If that was the intent, there should be an "and" before "the creature". Of course, there should also be supporting grammar if they are intended as alternatives, but I would say it is a reasonable possibility the intent is NOT for both of them to be applied to any single Incapacitation effect.

That ties in with BD's comment (above) which queries whether the "triggering" attack roll itself is properly part of the "Incapacitation effect" or merely a trigger for it. Which would clarify the rule re: Stunning Fist itself, but not in general for potential future Incapacitation effects which "actively" contain both an attack roll AND saving throw. Although the "editorial" meta-guidance for such abilities could include need to specify WHICH of attack or save is penalized.

Even with such meta-guidance covering prioritization, I think the text of Incapacitated would still need to be amended either with an "or" preceding "the creature". Or alternatively, if intent is both always apply when possible, amended with an "and" although that wouldn't apply if attack roll is "outside" scope of the Incapatitation effect "proper".

I like your in-depth analysis, but I think the whole question is circumvented by the fact that Stunning Fist doesn't even enter the picture until AFTER you determine the degree of success of your attack roll.

Example 1: You miss. Stunning Fist isn't triggered.

Example 2: You hit! Stunning Fist triggers! But Stunning Fist has the incapacitation trait and your target is a higher level, so actually you miss? That doesn't seem right... why did you even take this Feat again?

Example 3: You hit! Stunning Fist Triggers! You don't revisit the attack roll, because it's over and done with; it's in the past; its success was a necessary pre-condition to even invoke the Stunning Fist rules. Your opponent now rolls a Saving Throw and fails! But they're a level higher than you, so actually they succeed on the saving throw. That seems more reasonable, no?


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The stun is an incapacitation effect, the flurry is not.

Therefore, it only affects the stun.

Stunning Fist does not give the flurry the incapacitation trait.


Cyouni wrote:

The stun is an incapacitation effect, the flurry is not.

Therefore, it only affects the stun.

Thank you. You said it much better than I did.


Bardic Dave wrote:
I think the whole question is circumvented by the fact that Stunning Fist doesn't even enter the picture until AFTER you determine the degree of success of your attack roll.

Absolutely, I was hesitant to issue concrete judgement on SF just because I don't yet have all the final rules (re: specific SF wording), but I was (obtusely) trying to affirm your conclusion that if SF is "trigger" for (and thus "outside") Incapacitation effect, then it necessarily isn't subject to Incapacitation rules. Which would leave SF entirely clear, but not necessarily resolve OTHER Incapacitation effects, with the grammar clearly lacking regardless of interpretation... And I felt that worthwhile to clarify, if only for future hypothetical abilities including attack roll AND save "within" Incapacitation effect (which is certainly possible even if SF isn't structured that way).


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

@Quandary I accidentally dropped an "and" that is there in the original text, right where you said there should be one.

@Bardic Dave That's the part I'm not totally certain on, though. Here is the full wording of Stunning Fist:

"The focused power of your flurry threatens to overwhelm your opponent. When you target the same creature with two Strikes from your Flurry of Blows, you can try to stun the creature. If either Strike hits and deals damage, the target must succeed at a Fortitude save against your class DC or be stunned 1 (or stunned 3 on a critical failure). This is an incapacitation effect."

My confusion is this: "When you target..." Does that mean that as soon as you declare you are attacking the same creature twice, you are now "try[ing] to stun the creature" and thus the entire action is now "an incapacitation effect"? Or is only the actual Fortitude save an incapacitation effect?

If only the save is affected, why does the section on incapacitation effects say "and", instead of "or"?


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Is Stunning Fist a Free action? What's the trigger?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

It is not an action, and has no trigger.


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Well, I'm stumped! My hunch is that the interpretation a few of us have suggested is correct, but I agree there is some ambiguity there.


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I think RAI is clearly "you have a hard time incapacitating higher level opponents, but no harder a time punching them".


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I think RAI is clearly "you have a hard time incapacitating higher level opponents, but no harder a time punching them".

I hope that is correct - it feels intuitively right, but the wording of incapacitation effects definitely causes some confusion.

Or maybe it's just me. :)

Paizo Employee Designer

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Stunning Fist is an incapacitation effect, not FoB.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Mark Seifter wrote:
Stunning Fist is an incapacitation effect, not FoB.

[pedant]Well yes, but the point at which FoB becomes Stunning Fist is the matter at...[/pedant]

:P

Thanks, Mark. That at least makes the intended function clear. I'll put down money that I won't be the only person confused by incapacitation effects specifically mentioning attack rolls and then the first and most common incapacitation effect not applying to attack rolls, though. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Bardic Dave wrote:
It's not like you can choose to turn Stunning Fist off, right?

It looks like you can to me:

MaxAstro wrote:
When you target the same creature with two Strikes from your Flurry of Blows, you can try to stun the creature.

I'd interpret that as it being an optional effect.

Not that that helps much with the incapacitation confusion, though.


MaxAstro wrote:
If only the save is affected, why does the section on incapacitation effects say "and", instead of "or"?

I don't have the books yet, so I'm mainly guessing here: some incapacitation effects are attack rolls and others are saves. Either way, a weaker creature has a harder time incapacitating a stronger one.

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