Unarmed in Exploration Mode?


Rules Discussion

Liberty's Edge

In the Playtest it seemed to be generally assumed that PCs walked around unarmed in Exploration mode, and if they wanted a weapon in hand, they had to spend an action to draw that weapon once Encounter Mode began. I am almost certain that the first time I played “actual” 2E, in a demo at Origins 2019, my PC, Valeros, had to draw his sword at the beginning of the first encounter.

On the basis of the Playtest and that Origins experience, when my group began playing 2E we continued to assume that characters entered Encounter Mode unarmed. A comment made in another thread made me question that, and I went to the CRB looking for answers. My latest read doesn’t seem to support the notion that characters are assumed to be unarmed, but it’s sufficiently ingrained at this point that when I mentioned it to one of my players, he wasn’t quite sure either, pointing to feats such as Quick Draw or the new Swashbuckler feat Swaggering Initiative, which seem to be aimed at that rule. So we played yesterday’s session under the “Unarmed Exploration” convention, and I’m only just asking this now, so we’ll probably play that way today as well, but I’m less and less certain that it’s correct.

So, to wrap this all into a question, any insight?


I have no idea if this was a thing at some point during the play test because my group only did the first bit and then went back to playing other games so it's been a long time.

What I do know is this: the word "weapon" doesn't shop up within the sections of the rule book that talk about exploration mode, and the next best place I could think of to put a rule that you're assumed not to have weapons ready while exploring (unless they are shields) - the section "Wielding Items" in the equipment chapter - doesn't say anything about a restriction while exploring either.

And when it comes to the feats you mention, they don't imply not being generally able to have a weapon ready either.

Swaggering Initiative's allowance to draw a weapon matches to the flavor text "..and somehow meet even an ambush with a weapon in your hand." So that's just covering the hypothetical situation that you didn't expect combat so you haven't gotten your weapon ready yet.

Quick Draw lets a character more rapidly switch from one weapon to another, draw another thrown weapon after throwing one, and get their weapon ready again after putting it away to do something else (drink a potion, interact with the environment, etc.).

Now, if there were a feat that's only function was to let you ready a weapon when you roll initiative, that'd imply a general assumption of not having weapons ready - but as-is, there's definitely not such an assumption, especially given the clear ability to have a shield ready and raised as an exploration activity.

Liberty's Edge

thenobledrake wrote:
What I do know is this: the word "weapon" doesn't shop up within the sections of the rule book that talk about exploration mode, and the next best place I could think of to put a rule that you're assumed not to have weapons ready while exploring (unless they are shields) - the section "Wielding Items" in the equipment chapter - doesn't say anything about a restriction while exploring either.

I’m all but satisfied that this isn’t a thing. The only doubt that remains is on the basis that the CRB isn’t very well organized so I could have missed a rule somewhere else.

Quote:
And when it comes to the feats you mention, they don't imply not being generally able to have a weapon ready either.

The Rogue in one of my campaigns has made great use of Quick Draw within Encounter Mode switching between bow and shortsword, in addition to using it every first round of combat because we’ve been using Unarmed Exploration, so I can see it’s a good feat even without what I’m fairly sure was a misunderstanding.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I really don’t think this is a thing. If the heroes are exploring a dangerous place, it makes sense that they are ready to defend themselves at a moments notice, which means they are going around armed.

Consider also the exploration tactic of having your shield raised. Why would you have a shield raised but not a sword drawn?

Now, exploration mode also happens in a city, too. And there may be a social impact if the heroes go around town with their swords drawn. Would probably depend on the situation, right? Town is under attack, it’s ok. Business as usual sort of day, going about with weapons drawn is going to raise concern.

Back to exploration mode in a dangerous place, I can see a rogue using quick draw if they were picking a lock when a patrol jumps the party. They have lockpicks in hand, not weapons, at that point.

Liberty's Edge

jdripley wrote:
Now, exploration mode also happens in a city, too. And there may be a social impact if the heroes go around town with their swords drawn.

To be clear, even if I drop Unarmed Exploration as a general rule, there are situations in which it would clearly still apply, generally for social reasons, as you say.

We’re hex crawling in the wilderness, so encounters during sleep aren’t all that uncommon, and it seems obvious only the character on watch would be armed at the moment of initiative.

All the PCs are generally mounted when outdoors, as well, so I’m not sure I buy that they’d be riding with weapons drawn as a general rule, though considering that bridles, reins and saddles don’t exist in 2E, I suppose perhaps all riders use their knees to control their mounts, so hands are always available for weapons.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Good points. I think the issue is more “does it make sense to be armed right now” or even “this character is making a conscious choice about how they are or are not armed” as opposed to “the rules forbid anybody being armed during encounter mode.

Also, are humanoid enemies having to draw weapons at the start of encounter mode?

Liberty's Edge

jdripley wrote:
Also, are humanoid enemies having to draw weapons at the start of encounter mode?

Yes, I’ve used this rule on both sides, which combined with the fact that drawing a weapon triggers Attack of Opportunity, has made winning initiative even more valuable.


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During their turn taking watch a character might not have their weapon ready. That's prime narrative time to be having a snack or otherwise doing some self-entertaining activity to help keep them awake and aware.

Luke Styer wrote:
...considering that bridles, reins and saddles don’t exist in 2E...

They do exist! They've been presented as a collective, likely to try and make sure that folks not familiar with riding animals themselves don't buy one or two of the needed implements and forget some others... though now a person either has to read all the equipment descriptions or be familiar enough with riding to know that all the gear you need to outfit your mount is called "tack."

Details on p. 291, price of 4 gp.

Liberty's Edge

thenobledrake wrote:
During their turn taking watch a character might not have their weapon ready. That's prime narrative time to be having a snack or otherwise doing some self-entertaining activity to help keep them awake and aware.

You’re not wrong, but I’d feel pretty awful enforcing that after having needlessly rendered my PCs unarmed for months.

Quote:
They do exist! They've been presented as a collective, likely to try and make sure that folks not familiar with riding animals themselves don't buy one or two of the needed implements and forget some others...

I totally missed that!

Quote:
Details on p. 291, price of 4 gp.

I’ll definitely take a look. Knowing now that it even exists, I can more reasoably decide how to handle the hand use requirements for riding in Exploration Mode.


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

If a player insists that he wants to have a weapon drawn during exploration mode, tell him he can. And that if he wants, he can also have his shield ready.

Behind the scenes, apply the Defend exploration activity.

My only gripe with exploration activities is the way it makes you choose either/or. Only at very high levels can you use both Stealth and Perception, for example.

Liberty's Edge

Wheldrake wrote:
If a player insists that he wants to have a weapon drawn during exploration mode, tell him he can. And that if he wants, he can also have his shield ready.

If I’ve given the impression that this is a matter of a player insisting I’ve been doing it wrong, let me clear that up. I’m the GM, I noticed that I’ve probably been doing it wrong, and I intend to fix it.

Quote:
Behind the scenes, apply the Defend exploration activity.

I think Defend only applies if the PC wants to start with their shield raised. Having a weapon in hand seems to only matters if having a full hand impedes the selected exploration activity or, as mentioned before, there’s a social constraint in play.

Quote:
My only gripe with exploration activities is the way it makes you choose either/or. Only at very high levels can you use both Stealth and Perception, for example.

That’s not an unreasonable gripe, but I don’t think I share it. Generally picking one activity per PC streamlines and regularizes Exploration Mode, which I appreciate.

Sovereign Court

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I don't see anything in Exploration stopping you from having a weapon ready. If the party is exploring a hostile area (dungeon for example), I'll even happily accept them claiming retroactively that "of course we were walking around with weapons drawn".

During overland travel, like traveling through the forest for hours in a row, I'll generally assume weapons are sheathed. They do get tedious to carry in hand after a while.

And in town/safe areas, or when the party is doing stuff that occupies their hands, I also assume they're sheathed.

---

The difference between weapons and shields is that shields need an action every round to keep them raised. That makes it a valid Exploration Tactic, because that's taking some attention. Weapons only need an action to draw once. That doesn't really require a full on tactic. Also, there is no tactic for it in the book. If you really needed to do something special to walk around armed, I think there would have been a tactic for it.


Luke Styer wrote:
Having a weapon in hand seems to only matters if having a full hand impedes the selected exploration activity or, as mentioned before, there’s a social constraint in play.

This right here is what I use.

If there is some social reason to not be armed, or if the party is in an area where it is generally thought to be safe, then they can have their weapons in hand if they request it. Otherwise it is assumed that they do not have them drawn.

If they are exploring using some activity that requires a free hand, then they have to have at least one of their hands free. This would include things like checking for traps or searching for secret doors since using a hand to manipulate and investigate things would be needed. I don't know if that is actually required in the rules or not, but I use it as a houserule if not.

Other than that, the players can have their characters exploring around carrying whatever they want. Including weapons, shields, or dowsing rods.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Game developers let their players walk around with weapons drawn all the time in their online vlogs. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us. :)


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber

I would think they are armed unless it conflicts with their exploration activity.


Generally, if it hasn't already been established, I'll ask my players if they WOULD have been wielding their weapons in exploration mode, or decide they wouldn't if their activity precluded it.


krazmuze wrote:
I would think they are armed unless it conflicts with their exploration activity.

I can see the validity of the opposite - they are unarmed unless it doesn't conflict with their exploration activity.

I don't think there should be a universal rule. If you're in a haunted house, just slain a bunch of zombies, and head down a dark tunnel, it seems appropriate for everyone to have weapons drawn. If you're arriving in a village and are walking through the market to see the village chief, it seems appropriate to have weapons sheathed. In the latter case, I would probably question Defend as a valid exploration activity as well.


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General speaking, I would as a GM, give my players the benefit of the doubt and say that they are walking around with weapons drawn unless social norms would dictate not to, or you would have no reason to believe you would be under threat.

So even walking around the woods in a "secure" area I could still see it.

Generally, I would probably just tell my players "You can be armed unless you're doing something that would prevent it or I tell you that you aren't armed because of a specific reason."


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Yeah, there is zero reason for a codified rule here. If it makes sense, it works.


Yea. What Ravingdork said.
If they're overland traveling, I say no on the weapons.
My players always want to assume they are doing what's most advantageous to them. I constantly hear, "Well, my character would've been..."
If you're in an actual place. A dungeon. A castle. Then, yes. You can logically be walking around with your bow out. It even says you can explore at half speed in defensive mode, and have a raised shield when combat starts.
But if you are searching for traps. Identifying items when the monsters burst in. Then, no. You don't have your weapon out.

Here's my question, sort of unrelated but related.
I have a dwarf monk in my group who walks around with a 10 ft reach bo staff.
He always walks up to people first action, does battle medicine second action, and then swings his staff at someone ten feet away in a flurry of blows as his third action.
This seems excessive to me. Doesn't he have to get out his bandages or something?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Barnabas Eckleworth III wrote:

He always walks up to people first action, does battle medicine second action, and then swings his staff at someone ten feet away in a flurry of blows as his third action.

This seems excessive to me. Doesn't he have to get out his bandages or something?

Sadly, battle medicine doesn't specify if you need bandages or healer's tools (even though it speaks about "patching up" your target) and it doesn't specify needing hands.

That's why I call it the "stern glance" version of battle medicine. By the RAW, you don't need a hand, bandages or even to touch the guy. You just spend an action and Voilà!

I'm hoping for more specific errata one of these days. IMHO, it either needs to be a supernatural ability, or require healer's tools and at least one free hand.


Yea. I can't find any rule that says he can't. But it just seems excessive.


Luke Styer wrote:
Quote:
My only gripe with exploration activities is the way it makes you choose either/or. Only at very high levels can you use both Stealth and Perception, for example.
That’s not an unreasonable gripe, but I don’t think I share it. Generally picking one activity per PC streamlines and regularizes Exploration Mode, which I appreciate.

Note that you can't talk to people and observe your surroundings at the same time.

Or talk to people and raise your shield.
Detect Magic and observe your surroundings.
Wall and talk.
Walk and Detect Magic.
Ride a horse and not move slower than walking (and still be fatigued in 10 minutes) if you don't have a specific feat.
Cast any other cantrip at all (other than Detect Magic) without becoming fatigued.

It isn't just stealth-and-perception.

Exo-Guardians

Draco18s wrote:
Luke Styer wrote:
Quote:
My only gripe with exploration activities is the way it makes you choose either/or. Only at very high levels can you use both Stealth and Perception, for example.
That’s not an unreasonable gripe, but I don’t think I share it. Generally picking one activity per PC streamlines and regularizes Exploration Mode, which I appreciate.

Note that you can't talk to people and observe your surroundings at the same time.

Or talk to people and raise your shield.
Detect Magic and observe your surroundings.
Wall and talk.
Walk and Detect Magic.
Ride a horse and not move slower than walking (and still be fatigued in 10 minutes) if you don't have a specific feat.
Cast any other cantrip at all (other than Detect Magic) without becoming fatigued.

It isn't just stealth-and-perception.

Only if your GM is some kind of robot who has missed the whole point of the exploration rules and is determined to interpret them in the most literal and algorithmic way possible.


Saros Palanthios wrote:


Only if your GM is some kind of robot who has missed the whole point of the exploration rules and is determined to interpret them in the most literal and algorithmic way possible.

Some of those are more true than others, I'll grant. But the rules day you can only do one exploration activity at a time without getting fatigued.

"Walking" "talking" and "observing" are three separate activities. Detect Magic is the only cantrip that has its own activity, all others are explicitly called out as fatiguing after ten minutes (including the witch's cackle!).


While walking, talking, and observing are three separate activities - they aren't exactly three separate Exploration Activities.


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

Yes, the only reasonable way to use Exploration mode during play is with the widest possible leeway on the part of the game master. IMHO players shouldn't use the menu of Exploration activities as a straightjacket. They should simply and logically describe what their character is doing and it's up to the DM to interpet that and assign an appropriate Exploration activity in order to determine the effect when entering combat, say.


I do prefer the 'well, what makes sense' version. Don't forget, a few exploration activities might have you armed anyway. If Ranger Fudd is going wabbit hunting, he's going to have a ranged weapon out weady to bwow that wascally wabbit to bits while being vewy vewy quiet. Hahahaha.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Wheldrake wrote:
[The players] should simply and logically describe what their character is doing and it's up to the DM to interpret that and assign an appropriate Exploration activity in order to determine the effect when entering combat, say.

This. This is how it's done. It was always meant to be very freeform. Just watch Jason Buhlman's Knights of Everflame on YouTube for an example of it in action. If it's good enough for a developer it's good enough for us.


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Ravingdork wrote:
If it's good enough for a developer it's good enough for us.

Having been a developer (and having just come back from a con where I playtested a dozen games), no.

No its not. The developers have an understanding about what they mean and what things should be, but if those ideas aren't down on paper they don't exist. And when you have more than one developer (like Pathfinder does), different developers have different ideas about how things work (and this goes double for the stream where they wing it and don't worry about making sure everything is 100% RAW/RAI because its a stream).

They've even said on multiple occasions that the streams are not intended to be taken as word of god because they don't get hung up on rules, instead the GM says a thing and they move on.

While that's probably the intent of the exploration rules, the rules themselves are a mess. We've had entire discussions on the forums about the fact that you can't do two things at once and "why not let the player just choose from a list" and getting confused between Investigate and Seek.


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It is true that a dev knowing what they meant by the rules isn't the same as the rules being written clearly for "everyone else" to use.

However, it is also true that folks on a forum getting hung up on a rule or confused about what it means isn't the same as the rules being written in a way that is actually unclear for "everyone else."


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thenobledrake wrote:
However, it is also true that folks on a forum getting hung up on a rule or confused about what it means isn't the same as the rules being written in a way that is actually unclear for "everyone else."

The reverse is true too: just because some folks on the forums are positive that the rule is totally clear and easy to understand doesn't mean that it actually IS clear to the majority of people. What is 'reasonable' or 'common sense' varies quite a lot so assuming your version of 'reasonable' or 'common sense' is the correct way to do it isn't a guarantee it's actually the right answer.


graystone wrote:
The reverse is true too: just because some folks on the forums are positive that the rule is totally clear and easy to understand doesn't mean that it actually IS clear to the majority of people. What is 'reasonable' or 'common sense' varies quite a lot so assuming your version of 'reasonable' or 'common sense' is the correct way to do it isn't a guarantee it's actually the right answer.

And now you know why Root has three rule books (one for wargamers where everything is literal, one for regular board gamers with colorful pictures and examples, and one for a scripted walkthrough of the first two turns) and even then people get into arguments on Board Game Geek about the intent.

I went to a post-mortem about it on Saturday.

A rough TLDR would be "the rules don't say I can't" "yes, but the rules don't say you can either."

A more detailed example was that a playtest board for the upcoming expansion shrunk the space for players to store crafted items that the vagabond can "buy" in order to make some space for something else. Suddenly people would plop 1, 2, 3 items in it, visually filling the space and say, "so I can only have three items?" (the original box was large enough to hold about 6, but there weren't that many distinct items).


Wheldrake wrote:
My only gripe with exploration activities is the way it makes you choose either/or. Only at very high levels can you use both Stealth and Perception, for example.

I find that quite logical, in fact. Of course, you can stealth and perception at the same time, but you can't perform a competitive stealth and a competitive perception at the same time.

What I mean is if you want to be stealthy to the maximum of your abilities you need to be focused on sounds, creatures around and things like that. You can't look at the wall for 2 minutes to see if there's a hidden passage or go in the middle of the corridor to check that this strange rock is actually a trap or not. Performing multiple activities should come with big maluses to your checks, to represent the fact that you don't do both activities to the best of your abilities, and current rules simplify that by just forbidding it.


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SuperBidi wrote:
Wheldrake wrote:
My only gripe with exploration activities is the way it makes you choose either/or. Only at very high levels can you use both Stealth and Perception, for example.

I find that quite logical, in fact. Of course, you can stealth and perception at the same time, but you can't perform a competitive stealth and a competitive perception at the same time.

What I mean is if you want to be stealthy to the maximum of your abilities you need to be focused on sounds, creatures around and things like that. You can't look at the wall for 2 minutes to see if there's a hidden passage or go in the middle of the corridor to check that this strange rock is actually a trap or not. Performing multiple activities should come with big maluses to your checks, to represent the fact that you don't do both activities to the best of your abilities, and current rules simplify that by just forbidding it.

<insert>Any heist movie ever</insert>

<insert>The actual moment-to-moment duties of a sniper</insert>

Or let me do this:

Quote:
What I mean is if you want to be stealthy to the maximum of your abilities you need to be focused on sounds, creatures around and things like that.

The thing you literally just described is Perception.

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