Better Child-Scent?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

So, the Child-Scent hex seems to be more or less unilaterally regarded as completely terrible. (Unless maybe there are a lot of kidnapped children the PCs need to rescue.)

I, thinking that the idea is not without merit, have attempted to make it... Slightly less so. Maybe? What does the forum think?

Child-Scent (Ex): The witch gains the Scent ability, but only with respect to children, pre-adult, juvenile or immature creatures. Thus, she could sniff out a child’s hiding place, a den of wolf pups or a juvenile age-category dragon, but not the child’s parents or the den mother. She also gains a +2 bonus on Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks against such creatures. Likewise, she gets a +2 bonus on weapon attack and damage rolls against them. A witch may make Knowledge skill checks untrained when attempting to identify these creatures.

So, yeah. Favoured Enemy: Child?

Yes, it's still probably bad, but at least it's less bad, maybe? And might, possibly, have some more applications? I could add full ranger favoured enemy scaling, but I'm not sure it's worth it? (Though one feels even with that, it could hardly break anything...) Thoughts?

(Now, I grant you, this is likely maybe marginally more use to the Hexblade in my house-rules/own rules edition (to Make Hexblades Not Suck, one of the things I did was steal (many of) the Witch's hexes) as being more likely to be whacking things wit' sword or something, but yah.)


Favored Enemy (child), make it scale like the Ranger using her effective Witch level as her effective Ranger level. Because why not?

Honestly, it's still not a great use of a Hex... unless you're in a campaign based in an orphanage or daycare or preschool, and that point, what's wrong with you?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Okay, done.

Actually, I can think of one other time this becomes the go-to choice for is if the game is some sort of magical girl anime adaption, then you'd be quids in, I guess...!

That said, there are the odd players who have teenaged characters, come to that, as this explictly works on non-adults...! (I have... more than one myself, and at least one or two other players do, so...)

Hmm...

Perhaps in all seriousness, I ought to add some sort of concrete age limit for humanoids as a compartive. Maybe less than 20 years (or equivilent...?)


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I think it's just there as old school witch lore/dogma, I think it's purely, umm, FLAVOR.

"I SMELL CHILDREN!!!"

It's just to be creepy, like witches are generally thought to be...

Exploiting or building around it, requiring that it be more powerful, just makes you a creeper... stop preying on children, stop designing characters that prey on children, it has no place in the realm of playable characters even in a fantasy game.

Why do you need the Favored Enemy against children? How many kids are wearing armor? How much HP can a kid have?

Don't be a bully. It's not a good look for any character, Witch or otherwise.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

VoodistMonk wrote:

I think it's just there as old school witch lore/dogma, I think it's purely, umm, FLAVOR.

"I SMELL CHILDREN!!!"

It's just to be creepy, like witches are generally thought to be...

Exploiting or building around it, requiring that it be more powerful, just makes you a creeper... stop preying on children, stop designing characters that prey on children, it has no place in the realm of playable characters even in a fantasy game.

Why do you need the Favored Enemy against children? How many kids are wearing armor? How much HP can a kid have?

Don't be a bully. It's not a good look for any character, Witch or otherwise.

I'm the primary DM, actually. I have no specific character in mind, I just don't like seeing a potentially interesting idea be completely and functionally useless on either side of the screen. An option that is so bad that no-one will ever take it might as well not exist.

I am of the opinion that if something exists as game mechancis, it should not be empty flavour, it should DO something.

As it stands, Child-Scent is not an ability anyone will take as a PC, nor any DM as for an NPC, as it is functionally "waste an ability," for the sake of not spending five minute's thought for how to narratively work construct something to do what it needs to do. (As a mechanical ability, as it stands, child-scent had absolutely no use whatsoever.)

(Aside from that one gentleman or lady on the internet who said he'd used that ability on a character to find a small child (they are probably the only person in Pathfinder's existance to ever find a use for it, but a stopped clock and all).)

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Come to that, I did even specify that that the revised abiltiy would work against dragons (which have defined age categories), as an example of a non-adult creature that is an actual, defined enemy creature. One would also, perhaps, say that that the revised ability ought to count against such things as, oh, I don't know, the Attic Whisperer, which is the ghost, let us not forget, of a neglected child. So that's two types of legitimate enemies off the top of my head that you could get an actual bonus on. (Also, any creature wit the "young" template.) By removing the restriction from "fundementally ussless, even to literally puppy-kicking evil characters," it becomes "marginally of some use in niche cases." I'd prefer "moderately useful sometimes," but it's not likely to get there.

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As to your moral complaints, I will have to, I'm afraid, as someone who is actually basically LE and whose group has a significant proportion of Evil parties in rotation (and who has spent thirty years Doing Panto, most of them as the villain), just laugh manically and make a point of twiddling my non-existant moustache.


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...why not just remove the child part, and give them scent?


If you want or need oh so much help fighting baby dragons or have no other means of fighting the undead spirits of children, you can by all means bolster your Child Scent Hex with Favored Enemy (children), evil or not, how lame do you have to be as a character to require a bonus against children, of any sort?!

Play a class with Favored Enemies, choose Dragon and/or Undead...

It works regardless of age.

As if a Witch doesn't have a million cantrips, spells, and hexes that a child is literally incapable of resisting... you have to make this particular Hex more powerful. Lol.


As I recently had a Gingerbread Witch in my Return of the Runelords game, I ruled as follows on Child Scent:

I ruled that it worked pregnancies, fertilized eggs, and the like. Additionally, I allowed heal checks in conjunction to determine the general health/state) of the child (healthy, malnourished, scared, sick, etc).

Adult creatures had no scent, and while they could not be tracked or detected, interacting with one in disguise as a child for whatever reason would be easily seen through because of this lack.

Immortal creatures could likewise be detected by a faint "unnatural" odor. Not enough to track or detect by, again, but in an open interaction easily noticed. This applies to natural immortals like outsiders, and achieved immortals, like high level monks.

Obviously magic/techniques that conceals scent conceals this as well.

Not saying this puts it in the realm of Evil Eye or Sleep, but it allowed the witch to contribute intelligence in interesting ways from time to time. And deliver a couple babies. No complaints from the player.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Quixote wrote:
...why not just remove the child part, and give them scent?

That is one option, yes.

But my thinking was, if you will forgive me the indulgance of Explaining My Reasoning, considering the gentleman I'd read about who used it to find a lost child, "okay, let's give it a bonus to track."

So I gave it the ranger's favoured enemy bonuses; I nearly removed the knowledge bonus, until I realised child-scent only affected humanoids and animals and went, "oh hells no, that's no good, that's way too narrow a scope."

(I have already written years ago, the "party rescues a child" plot once, and it's not something I'm likely to revisit. So unless child-rescuing comes up as part of the adventure paths I'm going to run in the future, or the "emergancy back-up, day-quest gets cancelled at the last minute because the DM can't make it so I have to take over" party quest draw from the collected old Society modules I got donated to squirrel away. So the chances of a party that contains a Hexblade (or even less likely Witch, which has not been ported over to my house-rules) that picks Child-Scent and happens to be involved in a quest which involves searching for a lost human child is sufficiently low that it might never come up in the next thirty years or (beyond which, I suspect my gaming group might be getting past it away.))

Tracking anything gives it a little bit more traction, especailly as I considered stuff like ACTUAL nonadult enemy monsters (which are more likely to actually appear). Or, hell, eggs. Because sniffing out eggs is something that seems more likely to come up (finding a nest of deadly insect critters than needs clearing out, finding a clutch of owlbear/roc/griffon eggs etc etc.)

And then I looked at it and said to myself "the first thing people are going to say is 'you've given it the favoured enemy bonus, but without the attack and damage bonus! Lame!'" so I, considering the now-wider options beyond Comedically Evil Literally A Bonus To Attack Puppies, Kittens and Juvenile Catgirls (which is, as VooistMonk noted, lareghly a pointless one), gave it that as well for the sake of arguement, given the potential of targets that it might be of use on. (And then VoodistMonk - perhaps unintentionally, given his second post, I took his first post in all seriousness - convinced me that I might as well have it scale as well.)

Further, extending it from "child" to "teenager/subadult" even puts in the range of "an NPC might even get the bonus on a PC." I myself have a 14-year old character (and considering he's level 16 monk/clericzilla (3.5 style, now with back-added eccelistheurge), one feels that he's quite capable of handing something doing a bit of extra damage to him) - nor is he the first teenager character I've had - and there's a Marksman in my curret Shackled City party that I'm running for who qualifies, there's a dragon PC in one of my Evil parties who qualifies, and that's three out of the, what, seven D&D parties we have (counting the emergancy-back-up party we've not even generated yet) just off the top of my head.

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Actually, all that said, there might be a legitimate arguement to giving it Scent AND said quote-unquote favoured enemy bonuses; you get something all-round useful, plus a niche bonus which is nice if it actually ever comes up.

So thanks for the opporunity to ramble and bounce the idea around, as genuinely, sometimes just replying to people gives me ideas as I'm working on it, even if I've been rolling stuff around in my head for a while.

(I really miss having my local forums up so I have people to talk at, and sometimes even to, about this stuff. My in-meatspace mates are, on the one hand, entirely happy to let me basically sort all the rules stuff and then use my rules to play even when they DM, but part of the reason for that is they're not quite as fussed about rules-smithing as me, who does it inveterately.)


Technically, it can have a use in a vampire/undead campaign vs "child looking vampires/undead", specially given that there are ways to hide the "undead" status.

It has some use for poachers, allowing them to find easy pray, which are both easier to capture, transport, and train.

Also useful for an anti-child abuse campaign (or the inverse for those wanting to play evil). Specially since it's a natural counter to a Halfling's "Childlike" trait: Helps avoid spies and false positives.

The "favored enemy (child)" is weird and admittedly not that useful in most cases. However, its important to note it does not count as favored enemy so those ability stacks; That means a person who is hunting/searching for "not adults" of a species can become very well specialized.

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In any case that ability never seemed like something to base a build around, but an interesting quirk an evil NPC and the occasional evil PC might have. Much like you can get torture tools, torture spells, cannibalism, and other questionable things that everyone should agree to before you even try to include it. Which does makes those abilities and this one specifically incredibly niche at best.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Temperans wrote:

Technically, it can have a use in a vampire/undead campaign vs "child looking vampires/undead", specially given that there are ways to hide the "undead" status.

It has some use for poachers, allowing them to find easy pray, which are both easier to capture, transport, and train.

Also useful for an anti-child abuse campaign (or the inverse for those wanting to play evil). Specially since it's a natural counter to a Halfling's "Childlike" trait: Helps avoid spies and false positives.

The "favored enemy (child)" is weird and admittedly not that useful in most cases. However, its important to note it does not count as favored enemy so those ability stacks; That means a person who is hunting/searching for "not adults" of a species can become very well specialized.

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In any case that ability never seemed like something to base a build around, but an interesting quirk an evil NPC and the occasional evil PC might have. Much like you can get torture tools, torture spells, cannibalism, and other questionable things that everyone should agree to before you even try to include it. Which does makes those abilities and this one specifically incredibly niche at best.

Indeed. Though I think having it give Scent and then the other stuff on top (to be used or totally ignored as the player sees fit - flavour is mutable, after all) is a better idea the more I think about it. Scent is generally nice to have, and there's not THAT many ways to get it, I don't believe (if there are, it suggests that in preference to taking unmodified child-scent you'd take that option and re-flavour...)

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(It terms of questionale and/or potentially offensive content, I have always taken a great deal more personal offence at 3.5's Lich-loved feat, which is called such only because of the dubious the alliteration and totally ignoring the fact that anyone that is banging undead is likely to be a) doing a vampire because "Pretty" or b) something that is not almost unilaterally a skeleton but has some flesh, especially not a type noted for wanting to get away from all that crap in the first place.)

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Edit: V2.0

Child-Scent (Ex): The witchgains the Scent ability.

She also gains additional bonus pertaining to nonadult creatures. This includes any creature with the Young template, young humanoids (below the age of twenty, unless their phyiscal maturity is specified otherwise), dragons of below Young Adult stage, eggs, juvenile, immature or larval forms of any creature and any Undead versions of such creatures. (DM’s discretion as to what creatures otherwise may or may not fit this criterion.)

She gains a +2 bonus on Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks against such creatures. Likewise, he gets a +2 bonus on weapon attack and damage rolls against them. A witchmay make Knowledge skill checks untrained when attempting to identify these creatures. At 5th level, and every 5 levels thereafter. This bonus increases by +2.

This ability also extends to the detection of gestation (including the formation pre-laid eggs) beyond the earliest stages. (Assume that the developing foetus/egg is detectable only when it is over 1/3 of the way through the gestation/pre-laying period.) This requires a Knowledge (Nature) check of the same DC as would be for monster identification when the creature is within the hexblade’s Scent range.

So now your theorhetical witch has the ability to be a midwife (just becuase you techically get a bonus to attack and damage potential sunny-side--up breakfest doens't mean that it is an application you will ever want or need to use...), a hunter (sustainable hunting - leave the pregant feamales!) sellable-egg-hunter, spider-nest-detector etc, on top of being able to generallt Wolverine stuff. Better, one feels...?


That has too much to be a regular hex and be borderline grand hex.

I would maybe split it into 2 hexes. Such that the first gives the ability to smell non-adults creatures and half the bonus stats; and the second upgraded your scent to full while giving you the remaining bonuses. Scalling bonuses is debatable as it is a niche, but it's hard to tell without testing.
My point is that splitting the benefits between 2 hexes prevents it from being too powerful.

Also, you shouldn't treat human aging as the standard for maturity given how different every race is and even within humans it's kind of variable. Instead I would say, "humanoids who have not reach adult age (as determined by the GM)". This allows GMs to set different standards for each race, while still being able to be flexible within a single one.

* P.S. Apparently, there are talks that the human brain takes until age 25 maybe more (with girls being ahead by 2 years) to fully mature. So thats an IRL case of declaring people as "adults" arbitrarily can be quite troublesome.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Temperans wrote:

That has too much to be a regular hex and be borderline grand hex.

I would maybe split it into 2 hexes. Such that the first gives the ability to smell non-adults creatures and half the bonus stats; and the second upgraded your scent to full while giving you the remaining bonuses. Scalling bonuses is debatable as it is a niche, but it's hard to tell without testing.
My point is that splitting the benefits between 2 hexes prevents it from being too powerful.

I don't think it is worth two hexes though; it certainly isn't better than Flight or Misfortune (and definitely not as good as both), which it is competing against. I'm looking at a mid-high optimisation enviroment (not least for me myself), so two hexes for that is just not good enough to be stand.

Scent alone might be worth a hex on its own, but the point was the retain the flavour bit; if that flavour cannot stand on its own as a viable mechanical option, then it's not worth retaining as a mechanical option, it might as well just be the player/NPC fluffing Scent or something.

Now, I can see an arguement for increasing the level you get scent to a higher one, rather than off the bat (say, I dunno, level 5 or something).

Temperans wrote:
Also, you shouldn't treat human aging as the standard for maturity given how different every race is and even within humans it's kind of variable. Instead I would say, "humanoids who have not reach adult age (as determined by the GM)". This allows GMs to set different standards for each race, while still being able to be flexible within a single one.

But if I wrote it that way, as the DM, I'm pretty much just going to say I determine than the age is going to less than 20 anyway when it comes up (because it's conveniant and covers enough but not too many PCs) unless something either DOES have that information provided or it notably has a much shorter lifespan than humans, though. By far the overwhelming majority of races in use will fundemntally humanlike (I mean, it's even in the "humanoid" type name). (Starfinder might be different, but it doesn't matter there.)

So, in the absense of concrete provided information, and given this is not likely to be a regular point to come up simple rule-of-thumb like that should do. (If it becomes something that crops up often enough, then I'll go about making a llst for it, same as I do for everything else.)

I mean, for Goblins, for example, I know it's five, but that level of information is not common to most races.

(Really, this sort of thing ought to have been spelled out in the race information years and years ago (rather than essentially just regurgitating the age numbers from 3.0=>3.5) if for no other reason than heading off the endless rounds of debate; I know I always try to do so when I do an alien race.

Sidenote: I empathically don't subscribe to the idea that longer-lived races mature physically slower than humans, that idea was a really awful one (probablty started by dwarves so they could mock the elves) that fortunately I don't think has been maintained much since AD&D.

(Sidenote sidenote: I also consider that a really old creature is going to be inherently higher level just because life is a thing that happens, no matter how lazy or indolent you are; a centuries-old elf should NOT be level one unless something level-drained it.))


If scent on it's own isn't smith, give them bonuses to Perception or improved senses later on.
The whole child aspect is silly, weird, usually worthless and doesn't make sense. Stories of witches "sniffing out" kids are examples of witches who (1) have scent and (2) prefer to target children. That's all it needs to be. Simple is almost always better.


Either make it Scent or, if you're really going to leave it as Child Scent, make it more like the old stories. Child Scent, but you get a range of 1 mile/level.


Scent with a range in miles would mean you could determine the exact square a creature is in...several miles away.

Pretty sure, in those stories, the witches uses Survival and track their victims by scent.


One easy way to make it better is to remember that most characters are 16-17 (or 15 in PFS)


deuxhero wrote:
One easy way to make it better is to remember that most characters are 16-17 (or 15 in PFS)

That's the minimum age. Whether chosen or rolled, most will be older.


Yeah, I still don't get it. Why link it to children at all?

You have strangely keen senses. You're not a normal person. You're eerie, bestial in a way. A throwback to an older time, a vessel of primal secrets.
...so you have scent.

You delight in pain and suffering, especially of those who cannot properly defend themselves against you. You are a cannibal and enjoy fresh, tender meat.
...so you tend to target children.

Combine them, and you get this weird Child Scent stuff. But...why combine them? They're two completely different aspects of a character.
A character with the latter aspect may well have the first, but someone who has the first does not in any way need to gave the second.

A witch that's closer to nature, who can commune with spirits and cure ailments, might have the scent ability. That's a cool idea.
A witch that can specifically smell children is creepy. I don't care if dragons are included on the list or not. History is rife with abductions, human trafficking, cannibalism--singling out children carries way too many awful connotations to ever be a good guy move, no matter how you justify it.

Give the witch scent, then...I dunno. Blindsense later on, then some kind of True Seeing effect. Or scent and a passive bonus to Perception and saves against illusions and whatnot.


Or, more of an earth-mother vibe. Deeply in tune with the living land and all its creatures, spirits and fey and animals alike — so much so that you take on some of their aspects, such as a primal sense of smell.

And fiercely protective of those creatures, especially the young and the lost, which you seek out and defend and return to their homes. Compassionate and maternal.


Mother's don't have scent regarding to children. They have scent, and they often use it to find their children.

You can justify it any way you want, but if anyone told me their character had the scent ability, but ONLY ON KIDS, the first hundred ideas that would pop into my head would be creepy ones.

To be clear, I'm not saying it's impossible to have "child scent" and not be creepy and gross. I'm saying that there is no reason, mechanically logically or thematically, that you would need to have it over regular ol' scent.

A CG barbarian uses her rage to thrown down wicked tyrants. She does not go into a rage that specifically gives her bonuses to fighting LE enemies, she has an ability that grants general bonuses and uses them to achieve her specific goals.

It's less complicated mechanically, which is always important, and it's far less complicated thematically, so it more readily accepts a wider range of character concepts.

I actually ran an encounter recently with an old cottage in the woods, a bunch of enchanted kids and the forest hag who used them as a combo slave labor/larder. The party put the pieces together (the strange behavior of the children, the occasional whiff of rot, the wicked-looking athame on the counter) just as they all sat down for dinner. The following battle between the heroes, the ensorcelled children, the witch's monstrous viper, an animate chicken coop and the hag herself was made more interesting by the fact that she had scent. That worked on everyone.


If you feel so strongly that it’s creepy, why are you only attacking a hypothetical player who takes the option?

Why aren’t you directly calling out the people who designed, wrote and published that option?


Because despite being technically PC compatible, the option is intended for creepy NPCs that eat kids and not PCs? (This is also why attempting to "balance" the hex is completely missing the point.)


J. A. wrote:

If you feel so strongly that it’s creepy, why are you only attacking a hypothetical player who takes the option?

Why aren’t you directly calling out the people who designed, wrote and published that option?

I was not attacking anyone. I apologize if it seemed like I was.

And as blahpers says, it seems clear that the intention behind this design was for a villainous NPC.
My point is that there is virtually no reason to make such an ability so oddly specific and narrow. It's mechanically weak, it's needlessly complicated, and it's thematically limited.
From a designer's perspective, I can see no reason for it existing as it stands.

To me, this seems like a fairly cut-and-dry issue with an obvious solution, so maybe my general struggle to articulate my arguments came across as hostile. Again, not my intention.


I'd stop taking the child scent hex if my GM would stop sending invisible child elementals and child golems after me.

Correct: I am the GM. And I have been gifted a new terrible, terrible idea...


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*child golem approaches* "Are YOU my mommy?"

Other PCs recoil in horror, drawing weapons. Witch PC goes "Ha! Smelled it coming! Nailed it!"

Combat ensues

I still don't really see the point of taking such a specific hex on a PC. Cauldron for example gives you Brew Potion as a free feat. Not the most combat-useful hex but you can create some potions in 2 hours and there are portable cauldrons, so you could at least be constantly using this ability in the background.

A PC with Child Scent could effectively find children in their immediate vicinity more easily than other PCs with high Perception and/or spells. Does that come up a TON in the APs and PFS scenarios/missions? I haven't played a lot of them but even in the one I DID play, where we were in Irrisen surrounded by witches, this wasn't a niche we needed filled in the party.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
I still don't really see the point of taking such a specific hex on a PC.

Barring contrived examples, there isn't any, and that's likely by design.

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