PF2 equivalent to Charisma check to manipulate magic?


5th Ed has this rather interesting idea that in order to, say, manipulate a magic mirror to show you what you want... or open/activate an unknown portal so you can step through... in several instances this is handled by a Charisma check as your personality and id battle to make the unknown magics do your bidding. (Or something like that).

That is, you'd roll a d20, add your Charisma modifier and try to reach DC 20 or whatever.

Now, what would be your best suggestion for how to "officially" handle this in PF2?

I already know of the principle "only one roll" or "don't pitch an active roll against an active defense", so it's either the item making a roll against the character's DC or the character making a roll against the item's DC.

But what roll?
(A skill? What skill?)
(A save? Can you even make "active" as opposed to reactionary saves?)
(An ability? Do PF2 even use ability checks?)

Against what DC? (Not the number, but what kind of DC? Deception DC? Will DC? Class DC?)

Obviously you could say "make a Charisma check"... but if that's not what a person steeped in PF2 would do, that would make the mechanism feel more 5E than PF2 and that's what I'm seeking advice to avoid... :)



Just one caveat: I'm not looking for any solution that gates the attempt behind a class. For instance, Rogues have traditionally owned the "operate unknown devices" niche. But I'm not interested in anything that in practice becomes "if you don't have Class X, you can't proceed". Obviously the 5E solution rewards any party that contains a charisma-based character, but that's not the same as saying "you can't even try without a Rogue". Thank you for understanding.

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The most applicable thing to that in PF is "Trick Magic Item" which uses the relevant skill for Arcana, Religion, Occultism or Nature to activate a magic item.

The DM would set the DC probably based on item level. Tricking a lvl10 magic mirror would be easier to trick than the lvl20 gate.

As a house rule or an additional method of activation, you could allow a Deception, Diplomacy or Intimidation for intelligent magical items (like the fairytale magic mirror). Or you could rule that for that specific item, the Trick Macig Item feat isn't neccessary to achieve its results. But generally, Trick Magic Item is the way to go.

Edit: As an answer to the question of using saves actively - this is generally not done. If you use your reflexes and balance actively, that would be Acrobatics. For strength and force thats Athletics. And for mental tasks, that would be one of the "knowledge" skills (Arcana, Society, Lore,...). Saving throws are really just for defense.

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

It's also worth noting that innate magical abilities are charisma based, regardless of the tradition they come from. IIRC.

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You are looking for the Trick Magic Item skill feat. You can use it with Arcana, Religion, Occultism, or Nature, depending on the Magic item you interact with. You roll against a DC based on the item's level.

If you are making some conversion or mechanic that relies on the PCs being able to make the check, you could allow it untrained for this particular device maybe, or just change it to something else, like the charisma check you mentioned.

Most excellent - thx!

Adding that the consequence of failure is merely that you lost your action and need to try again. Meaning that even if you only have a 50% chance on average this is of little consequence for a item you try to make work without any time pressure. Even a critfail only means "try again tomorrow".

So the DC isn't that critical. The item I have in mind doesn't rely on the PCs being able to make the check, not on the first attempt anyways.

More generally, the action seems pretty obviously geared towards activating regular magic items. That is, "use magic device" where you're mostly only trying to overcome the class barrier (a cleric trying to use a Druid item etc).

But actually that's not what the 5E Charisma check is used for - that's the Thief's Use Magic Device ability. The 5E Charisma check isn't about "tricking" the item (into believing you're a Druid, for example).

It's a much less specific mechanism to handle non-specific magic items (like mirrors and gates) that usually don't come with detailed instructions (like "requires attunement by a Wizard" or "acts like a spell on the Sorcerer spell list").

In my case, I have an Eternal Flame that acts up (sputters and fizzles). Sometimes random Mephits appear to try and steal it. Investigating PCs will learn the item has powers to open up elemental rifts. I'm looking for the "correct" check or save to use to operate this item in a controlled way - to open a portal to the pocket dimension jail it acts as a key to.

In 5E, this would clearly be handled by a Charisma check.

Can I still assume Trick Magic item is the appropriate PF2 mechanism? (Even though there's no aspect of "trying to look like a Druid" to it)


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

If the item is intelligent I would just use the normal social influence rules. Either stat it out as a creature or just give it a Will Save and an initial attitude. That way players could deceive it with Lie, Coerce it, or Convince it or even use Charm and other spells against it.

Campbell wrote:
If the item is intelligent I would just use the normal social influence rules. Either stat it out as a creature or just give it a Will Save and an initial attitude. That way players could deceive it with Lie, Coerce it, or Convince it or even use Charm and other spells against it.

That's a cool idea.

Sure, but it isn't so... still Trick Magic Item?

I'm not sure if people are necessarily advocating Trick Magic Item per se, which is a Feat most characters won't have, including many who are interested in this function but not "simulate other class to use item" (i.e. normal Trick Magic Item schtick). The citation of that seems more about saying "anybody" with proper proficiency in Arcane/Divine/Nature/Occult skill can use that skill to activate "magic mirror / portal / etc" with the appropriate skill check LIKE how Trick Magic works, but not literally needing to Trick Magic item Feat.

While people are not wrong that Saves aren't generally actively used except for defense, I would say there is nothing mechanically wrong with that, as the math is symettrical. If you want to use Will Save Proficiency, but with CHA modifier to activate these items you could do so. And in fact, it need not "violate" the passivity of Saves convention at all, as "controlling" the magical portals could be seen as "response" to the portal's power which itself actively forces a Save on anybody trying to interact with it, and only those who Save/CritSave can control the portal (with CritFail possibly causing mental damage etc?). The thing is, Save Proficiency is much less flexible in terms of character access, as opposed to skill proficiency where anybody can max proficiency in a skill, which is reason I think this may not be good idea.

Alternatively, you could require a spell ROLL (normally, spell attack roll) to control the portal, and like Trick Magic Item "if you don't have spellcasting proficiency of appropriate tradition, use Level + best of INT/WIS/CHA. If you're Master in skill appropriate to tradition, use Trained... if you're Legendary in skill, use Expert". With CHA required if you prefer, instead of best of INT/WIS/CHA. This approach gives preference to those with actual casting proficienchy, but lets skill proficiency substitute in but not quite as high. (you could make it just -1 proficiency tier, instead of 2 like rule I cited from TMA). You could also force CHA as casting stat (for spell roll), irregardless of normal base, for those with casting proficiency.

Not directly related, but there was a discussion on the missing value of CHA as a stat which I think you may find useful, addressing the systemic repurcussions of this lack of value, and proposing solutions... One of which was CHA to Overcharge checks (using 1/day item one more time without perma-breaking), another was breaking out some Will Saves to use CHA (but still Will Save proficiency), another was splitting bonus languages amongst INT and CHA, and maybe some others I can't remember now. It probably comes up if you search my posts for "CHA stepchild stat" or similar words as I mentioned discussing it.
I think you might like th discussino around value of CHA, and other means proposed to remedy it, which included things like Overcharge checks (using magic items) amongst others. I believe this was the main thread where that was discussed:

Even if it's a special check for a unique item in your adventure, the fitting skill is still Arcana, Religion, Occultism or Nature depending on the item. If it's an intelligent item, use social skills.

As a DM, you can set the success and failure effects for that item freely.

For your elemental rift torch sounds like a Primal item so you would try to control it with the Nature skill. You could rule that Trick Magic Item isn't needed here. And on a critical failure an elemental rift opens and everyone in 10ft takes some energy damage or something like that.

I find using the magic tradition skills makes more sense than charisma. You try to understand the item, not scare it into functioning...

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

This is a spoiler for Absolam Initiation, the introductory Pathfinder Society Scenario for Second Edition.


There is an out of control ritual at one point in the scenario that the Player Characters must try to stabilize. Correcting the flaws in the ritual was an Occultism check. Failure meant these nasty shadow tendrils (that would invade your space and try to grapple you) would spill out.

As mada_gib says generally when interfacing with anything magical you use the skill for the relevant tradition. Like with Recall Knowledge you might grant the ability to use a skill for one of the other traditions at a higher DC. The skill chapter also covers using different attributes for a skill at GM discretion.

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I went with Trick Magic Item per the rules* this time (meaning any of the four skills will do, considering how an Eternal Flame conveniently lacks any Tradition trait).

The character(s) will need to select that feat on level-up or spend a week retraining, but it's not like I have to say "no, you can't do it".


*) As for the consequences of the roll itself, I'm decreeing a critfail means you get sucked into the pocket dimension alone (likely to be captured, forcing the others to mount a rescue).

After all, the core rule is geared towards combat use where the consequence for failure being "try again" is fair (since the cost of an action is significant).

In this case, any attempts to "shake loose" the torch will happen out of combat, in somebody's laboratory (read back yard or empty stables :) so I need another consequence (or I have to ask myself "why even roll?")

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