Ghosts and... well, flying in general?


Rules Discussion


Ghosts. Flying. How am I supposed to interpret this?

Technically the Fly action states that a monster/creature may hover (i.e. move 0 feet) to Hover in place. This is all fine and good, and I get that, but I have a few sticking points:

1) If a ghost/shadow/incorporeal creature has *only* a fly speed, what happens if they don't use a Fly action to hover? Do they then proceed to plummet 500 feet per round? That seems a bit excessive.
2) If they possess any abilities that require 3 actions (perfect example is a Greater Shadow's innate divine spell darkness which is a 3-action Cast a Spell activity). Does he need to allow himself/itself to plummet 500 feet just to cast darkness? Is he always burning an action simply "existing" in the same spot?
3) Incorporeal creatures have no bodies to speak of (or rather, no physical bodies), so does that mean they aren't affected by gravity? Can they "stand" upon the ground, since they aren't able to make any Strength-based check to interact with objects/things?

This Fly rule seems to be a hilarious (and admittedly, simple) oversight to make. Why not simply add in the Monster Rules that monsters/creatures that possess a fly speed only need not use that Fly action to "move 0 feet" to hover?

Or, on the flip side, why not simply modify it to allow it to be a Free Action so that they are able to "follow the rules as written" by tying it to the action economy?

It just seems ridiculous that we haven't heard anything regarding a glaring rule that seems to plague Paizo from PF1, SF, and now PF2e.

Further? It gives an example of "Manuever in Flight", with Hover being listed under expert. Does this then indicate creatures must be Expert or better to hover? It says no such thing in the base Fly action. What is this referring to?

Moreover, monsters are not "trained" in skills, they simply receive bonuses/modifiers representing anything from "low" to "high" scores (the full variation being something like 'terrible' and 'extreme' if I recall).

So what gives, Paizo? How is this such a hard question to answer? I know how I'll homebrew or adjucate, but it shouldn't require GMs to sit down and ponder 5 different rules interacting with each other to figure out.


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https://paizo.com/threads/rzs42wl4?Have-we-discussed-falling-ghosts-yet

Seriously, it's 2020. Why do I have to manually code URLs?


Aratorin wrote:

https://paizo.com/threads/rzs42wl4?Have-we-discussed-falling-ghosts-yet

Seriously, it's 2020. Why do I have to manually code URLs?

I saw that post. I just felt it didn't get much traction. It's also not much of an answer. I appreciate the link all the same.


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Lacking a ground movement doesn't mean incorporeal creatures automatically pass through the ground. An argument could be made for that, but then one would be adding a new rule about how incorporeal creatures interact (or don't) with the ground. As it is, creatures with the Incorporeal trait interact with the ground like any other creature, except:

"An incorporeal creature CAN pass through solid objects..." (my caps).

So they could go through the floor if they wanted since passing through solid objects is an option. Incorporeal creatures don't have to pass through solid objects, they can though.
(As an aside, I'd also argue they have to take an action intending to do so or it could lead to shenanigans.)

If one wishes to bang the rules hard, then the creature's immunity to effects that require a physical body comes into play. Without mass, gravity shouldn't effect them either. Except then we're parsing physics in a game that has disembodied minds and immaterial material. The setting would unravel and Golarion's orbit would leave most wraiths behind.

I'd recommend not overthinking this. Taking PF2 as the storytelling system it is, incorporeal creatures would simply fall to the ground, often taking no damage (due to Resistance x2) so not going prone.
There must be some sort of resistance (small 'r') with the matter (i.e. the ground), otherwise incorporeal creatures wouldn't ever be harmed by generic non-magical matter (i.e. weapons).


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

Lol! I just created my own thread asking exactly this within one day of yours!

Great minds think alike as they say.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

What Castilliano said.

Trying to fit the RAW to a completely "logical" view of how things should work leads only to madness.

So, let's just stick what the RAW says and not what we think they should say.


Honestly, it would actually make the game more realistic if ghosts fell through the planet.


Tender Tendrils wrote:
Honestly, it would actually make the game more realistic if ghosts fell through the planet.

Yep. Because everybody knows that's what really happens w/ ghosts. ;)

Hey, if they're massless, ghosts should move at the speed of light. Now that'd be realistic. (And match some popular lore too.)


Tender Tendrils wrote:
Honestly, it would actually make the game more realistic if ghosts fell through the planet.

There's a series of YA books (that I can't remember the name of) where all the characters are ghosts, and this is basically an ever-present threat for them. It's pretty interesting.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tender Tendrils wrote:
Honestly, it would actually make the game more realistic if ghosts fell through the planet.

Speaking of realistic, T-rexes sharing the same ecosystem with kajiu and dragons would like to have a word with you.


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I actually don't see a problem. If a flying creature doesn't continue trying to fly falls to the ground.
Since the creature isn't instantly sucked to the center of the planet, or alternatively flung into the vastness of space or left to trail in the planets wake as it continues it's solar revolution, even incorporeal creatures interact with the ground and gravity. So it settles to the ground if it doesn't fly away from it.

Also this is a game of make believe.


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They're ghosts and don't need to follow physics, and asking for rules justification for ghosts existing and functioning is a little silly.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Incorporeal creatures (and even other creatures that don't use wings to fly) should have an action listing like this:

Effortless hover: on any turn in which no fly action is taken, the creature remains floating in place instead of falling, like other flying creatures.

A rule like that would clear things up quickly!

Silver Crusade

Perhaps I can reiterate the problem; it would seem that, if a ghost or similar incorporeal creature casts a three action spell, then they cannot fly, meaning that by the rules they plummet to the ground. Unless this is a specific lore choice, which is doubtful, this is simply a rules oversight, since it is much more common in fiction for ghosts to be able to hover wherever they wish, even while casting spells. Therefore, the rules clarification is necessary: is this the intended behavior for incorporeal creatures? Saying that it’s a game of make believe doesn’t help resolve the perceived mechanical disconnect.


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Does there need to be a rule spelling out common sense? This isn't 1E.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

There is no such thing as Common sense, as the rules threads demonstrate. Unique sense is a better fit IMO.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Grankless wrote:
Does there need to be a rule spelling out common sense? This isn't 1E.

Common sense is hardly common. I've seen no less than three independent threads on this topic pop up within a month of one another.


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Grankless wrote:
Does there need to be a rule spelling out common sense? This isn't 1E.

When it has a profound effect on game balance? Sometimes, yeah. Keep in mind, this isn't an ambiguous rule open to interpretation. The actual rule is extremely clear. Also, I feel like common sense would just tell you ghosts aren't real and there's no telling how they'd handle gravity.

Personally, I think the solution of having a ghost need an action to fly but not dropping through the ground unless it tries too is my favorite solution as it allows a ghost to use all of its action for offense without actually violating any rules. But that may not work as well for common sense as just letting ghosts hover. But I don't really want to create that precedent for everyone who casts fly on themselves; I think needing an action to stay in the air is an important tactical limitation on casters.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Daniel Yeatman wrote:
Perhaps I can reiterate the problem; it would seem that, if a ghost or similar incorporeal creature casts a three action spell, then they cannot fly, meaning that by the rules they plummet to the ground. Unless this is a specific lore choice, which is doubtful, this is simply a rules oversight, since it is much more common in fiction for ghosts to be able to hover wherever they wish, even while casting spells. Therefore, the rules clarification is necessary: is this the intended behavior for incorporeal creatures? Saying that it’s a game of make believe doesn’t help resolve the perceived mechanical disconnect.

I do not see it as common for ghosts to hover above ground while using their three actions doing something else.

I personally have no problem with ghosts resting on the ground just like any creature. In fact in most ghost stories, ghosts often seem to be normal creatures walking around until something shows that they are far from normal. They are not that often depicted as always flying.

Thus I for myself have no need for an additional rule. Obviously YMMV and I agree that a clarification might solve the matter.


Tender Tendrils wrote:
Honestly, it would actually make the game more realistic if ghosts fell through the planet.

...great, now you made me imagine an on rails scene where the party is astroprojecting and falling through the planet. They would have to deal with the various daemon and other spirit hunting monsters that stalk the underground.

The 'on rails' part would be that the board doesn't represent an actual location, but rather the party's relative position to eachother and threats around them. Enemies would get a restricted 'free action move' that would represent the party falling towards them.

There would be various pauses where the board would actually represent a location when the party encounters things like some sort of spirit net designed to stop the fall ghosts at an ambush location. This scene would have them trying to destroy the net or find a way around it.

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