Scare to death errata


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Scare to death was the best skill feat in the game capable of occasionally killing lower level enemies outright.

It had a reputation for being one of the most fun feats in the game and for being all kinds of overpowered and annoying some gms.

It has now been nerfed fairly substantially to the point thar your very rarely going to see enemies die from it.

What do people think , are you happy it was nerfed did they go far enough did they go too far.

My take is that is balanced now but a lot less fun (moving from actually realising its name to being a slightly empowered demoralise) which is fine if slightly disappointing for someone who likes big over the top feats.

Is scare to death post errata still thr best skills feat in the game ? If not which feats move up to fill it's spot (I'm looking at you reveal machinations).


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Must-pick feats that annoy GMs should probably be brought in line.

It still is a skill feat that occasionally kills lower level enemies. It just does so less frequently. If you buff/debuff it will slightly improve the probabilities, same as anything else. Though with the need for double crit rolls it will still be rather rare to actually get the death effect.

I'm happy with the change. The feat is still good, and has an improved effect over a regular Demoralize. When the death effect does happen, it will be rather memorable. But it won't happen often enough to become boring and outshine the other ways of approaching combat encounters.


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Scare to Death definitely deserved the nerf IMO. I just wish they did something about the insanely high HP pools of level- enemies at high levels, which S2D unintentionally served as a half-baked solution to.


I'm a big fan of Scare to Death but I never picked it for the instant death effect. For me, that was just a happy accident. I enjoyed it more as a second Demoralize on any target. That said, I think the nerf is reasonable. I'm content with it and will likely find it just as fun as before.

I'm also content with the errata fixing this anomaly. Previously, a crit success Scare check had a possibility of having no effect should the target crit success on the subsequent save. It effectively turns a crit success check into a crit failure. This happened to me before and it was a huge feelsbad moment after rolling a crit success.

However, as Megistone pointed out in the other thread, the errata created a different anomaly. Now, Scare to Death also has a probability of doing nothing on a crit success should the target crit fail on the subsequent save and be immune to death effects. It makes a crit failed save the best outcome for the would be target, which is undoubtedly odd.

Megistone posted a simple and clean change that solves everything though:

Megistone wrote:
The critical success effect should be: "The target becomes frightened 2 and is fleeing for 1 round. In addition, it must attempt at a Fortitude save against your Intimidation DC. On a critical failure, it dies. This critical failure effect has the death trait."

Scarab Sages

My experience may be unusual, but I played a Braggart Swashbuckler that would spam Scare to Death, and I only killed a single enemy.

I think the errata's fine, except for the issue noted above.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I don't like that sometimes critically succeeding on your check can be a bad thing. In general I don't think it's good design to create an ability that is potentially worse if you roll well under certain scenarios as just a natural part of the ability.

I also think the feat is awkward insofar as that it's the capstone Intimidation ability, but doesn't interact with anything else associated with Intimidate. It was like that before, but also so strong it didn't really matter.

In general I think the errata was necessary and mostly fine though.


I feel like there should be a Skill Feat 19 or 20 that requires Scare to Death and gives it back its original kick.


I do not know what the errata states. I would be ok with any change that makes it more limited. It had been used in a way that looked really stupid in my mind's eyes and better than 9th or 10th level death magic usable over and over again. That seems like a very badly designed ability for a game focusing on balance.

Sovereign Court

I was starting to focus more on using Scare than on using my high level spells, so I guess it was too good. But with the nerf it no longer really does what it's named.

I think it's still a good feat, because even on a failure you inflict Frightened 1 which can help with other feats like Shatter Defenses or Dread Striker. But the use case basically changed: you're less likely to spend setup (bon mot, ..) to boost S2D to try to kill enemies. But it's still good for weakening enemies to soften them up for attacks or spells.

Liberty's Edge

This change is absolutey :fire: and :100: IMO.

Now I just am eagerly awaiting a tweak to Bon Mot so as to bring another must-take Feat down to at least a near-par level of power.


Deriven Firelion wrote:
I do not know what the errata states. I would be ok with any change that makes it more limited. It had been used in a way that looked really stupid in my mind's eyes and better than 9th or 10th level death magic usable over and over again. That seems like a very badly designed ability for a game focusing on balance.

Basically when you critically succeed your role they have to critically fail there save for them to die rather than just having to fail. So it makes it massively less likely to work.


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9.75% chance to kill an on-level enemy for no resource cost except a single action seems excessive


Matthew Jaluvka wrote:
9.75% chance to kill an on-level enemy for no resource cost except a single action seems excessive

Heroism is a resource :)

Liberty's Edge

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Themetricsystem wrote:

This change is absolutey :fire: and :100: IMO.

Now I just am eagerly awaiting a tweak to Bon Mot so as to bring another must-take Feat down to at least a near-par level of power.

Before Bon Mot arrived, investing in CHA was considered alright but not optimal. After Bon Mot, it became a strong choice.

If Bon Mot is nerfed, bye bye CHA.

Also I do not remember seeing that many posts asking to nerf it.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Bon Mot's really good if you have a party that can leverage it, which imo puts it in a pretty different league than StD, which could brute force some encounters by itself.


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siegfriedliner wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:
I do not know what the errata states. I would be ok with any change that makes it more limited. It had been used in a way that looked really stupid in my mind's eyes and better than 9th or 10th level death magic usable over and over again. That seems like a very badly designed ability for a game focusing on balance.
Basically when you critically succeed your role they have to critically fail there save for them to die rather than just having to fail. So it makes it massively less likely to work.

To add on to this though, for the Fort Save they attempt on your critical success, any result other than them Crit Failing results in Frightened 2 and Fleeing for a round. As compared to the old version, where if they Crit Succeeded their save the entire action (and your Crit Success roll) were wasted.


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In my opinion, a more elegant fix to this would have been to make the Fortitude Save have the Incapacitate trait. This way, on-level or stronger enemies are far less likely to fail (which requires a critical failure) and therefore die, but makes it relatively effective at clearing mooks (which would take 2 or 3 rounds otherwise).

I can say that I do appreciate them rectifying a Critical Success on the Fortitude Save doing nothing, but as another Rules Question thread points out, an enemy immune to Death effects benefits from (critically) failing the save if they aren't immune to Frightened, for example (such as a sentient Undead creature), it's kind of meh in its execution. A simple fix would be to still apply the failure effects on creatures immune to Death effects, but it's kind of a niche thing that it's easier to handwave than it is to require errata.

As it stands, Scare to Death sits as an "Improved Intimidate" feat that lets you combo it with a standard Demoralize if it's not enough. Which isn't the worst thing, since there are no options that let you Demoralize as part of other actions, or let you reset/ignore the Demoralize immunity timer (even if it's by design). But as far as it actually being able to "Scare to Death," it's almost as bad as Power Word Kill and similar effects.

Liberty's Edge

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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

In my opinion, a more elegant fix to this would have been to make the Fortitude Save have the Incapacitate trait. This way, on-level or stronger enemies are far less likely to fail (which requires a critical failure) and therefore die, but makes it relatively effective at clearing mooks (which would take 2 or 3 rounds otherwise).

I can say that I do appreciate them rectifying a Critical Success on the Fortitude Save doing nothing, but as another Rules Question thread points out, an enemy immune to Death effects benefits from (critically) failing the save if they aren't immune to Frightened, for example (such as a sentient Undead creature), it's kind of meh in its execution. A simple fix would be to still apply the failure effects on creatures immune to Death effects, but it's kind of a niche thing that it's easier to handwave than it is to require errata.

As it stands, Scare to Death sits as an "Improved Intimidate" feat that lets you combo it with a standard Demoralize if it's not enough. Which isn't the worst thing, since there are no options that let you Demoralize as part of other actions, or let you reset/ignore the Demoralize immunity timer (even if it's by design). But as far as it actually being able to "Scare to Death," it's almost as bad as Power Word Kill and similar effects.

Well, since many people argued that Scare to death should not be better than a spell, I guess the change also aimed at making them happy.

Hope it worked.


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
In my opinion, a more elegant fix to this would have been to make the Fortitude Save have the Incapacitate trait. This way, on-level or stronger enemies are far less likely to fail (which requires a critical failure) and therefore die, but makes it relatively effective at clearing mooks (which would take 2 or 3 rounds otherwise).

Scare to Death already has the Incapacitation trait. And it's impossible to force the Fortitude save on anything but an equal/lower level enemy as you can't score a critical hit on a higher level enemy due to the Incapacitation trait.

Sovereign Court

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I feel like it was a bit of an overcorrection. Yes, it was unusually strong before and probably needed a nerf. But I feel like this might have been too much of one. It certainly doesn't do justice to the name anymore.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

It's noticeably worse, but even against bosses it's basically a second demoralize on a separate cooldown and against level or lower enemies it's got demoralize's crit/success effects on success/failure instead which makes it really reliable.

Still feels like an easy pickup for anyone who meets the prereqs.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
I feel like it was a bit of an overcorrection. Yes, it was unusually strong before and probably needed a nerf. But I feel like this might have been too much of one. It certainly doesn't do justice to the name anymore.

In my opinion it's far from an overcorrection.

An example to illustrate why I think that:
At level 16 you should have +31 in Intimidation (+33 for an Outwit Ranger or a strong Charisma-based character).
A level 13 creature average save is +23 (which happens to be a level 15 creature low save).
So for the first check to be a critical success, you need to roll a 43, 45% chance to succeed if you speak the language or 25% if you don't (55%/35% for the Ranger/strong Charisma character).
Then the creature had to roll a DC 41 (43) save with 85% (95%) chance of failure. It now becomes a DC 31 (33) check with 35% (45%) chance of failure.

It's an important nerf, but the name Scare to Death is not wrong, there's still 15% (25%) chances to scare a creature to death instead of 40% (50%). It's just that before you could use it without any buff/debuff on a creature with average Will/Fortitude saves and it was working crazy. Now you'll preferably use it on low Will or low Fortitude enemies and try to get a few bonuses to the check (like One for All) to achieve the same chances of success. I think it's more in line with what a one action skill check should do.

Sovereign Court

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I don't think it's really interesting to run the comparison on a level -3 creature. Those are supposed to be absolutely trivial. Anything is supposed to work like crazy against them. 15% success rate of Scare to Death for that is kinda underwhelming.

For it to deserve the name I'd say Scare to Death should have decent odds of killing against level -1 or even on-level enemies. We don't name abilities after what they might do against trivial enemies.


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Ascalaphus wrote:

I don't think it's really interesting to run the comparison on a level -3 creature. Those are supposed to be absolutely trivial. Anything is supposed to work like crazy against them. 15% success rate of Scare to Death for that is kinda underwhelming.

For it to deserve the name I'd say Scare to Death should have decent odds of killing against level -1 or even on-level enemies. We don't name abilities after what they might do against trivial enemies.

I wouldn't call a level 13 creature "trivial". We are speaking of a 200 hit point creature. On top of that, at high level, low level creatures can really mess up with heroes.

And even against a level-1 creature you have decent chances to kill them as long as you are buffed and them debuffed. At level 16, Heroism, One for All and Frightened conditions are easy to apply, allowing you to kill a level 16 creature with honorable chances of success. Of course, you'll never get to 50% like before, but that was anyway way to strong to kill a same level foe that easily.


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Another nerf I would accept would be to make it a flourish, or perhaps two actions.

The ridiculousness for me was when people used it 3 times in a row and just wipes out several enemies.

A spellcaster (DC38) with an 8th level fireball does 60 avg damage to the creature used in the example. Scare To Death did 94 avg damage (and also caused fleeing or frightened when it fails) when Charisma is your off-stat. This is also without any sort of buffs like Heroism.

If a -3 enemy crit fails vs a damage spell it loses less than 50% HP while vs scare to death they had an 85% chance of just instantly die.


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I also did compare Phantasmal Killer (8th) with Scare to Death, Phantasmal Killer does 96 avg damage vs a -3 enemy (moderate saves). So Scare to Death before the nerf is as good as a spell of the highest level that fills the same niche while also being a single action that costs no resources.

Sovereign Court

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The Flourish trait is a really interesting idea. Alternatively, making it a 2-action activity would bring it more in line with spells.

Given the set-ups proposed for getting your STD bonus high enough (cast this spell, someone else uses One For All and spends a reaction, do a bon mot first, have this item, ..) it definitely eats up resources.

If you're investing significantly to boost Intimidation to make STD work, then it becomes a more equal comparison to spending high level spells; both consume some daily resources.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Onkonk wrote:
I also did compare Phantasmal Killer (8th) with Scare to Death, Phantasmal Killer does 96 avg damage vs a -3 enemy (moderate saves). So Scare to Death before the nerf is as good as a spell of the highest level that fills the same niche while also being a single action that costs no resources.

While technically true, I'll point out that comparing a feat you get at 15th to a spell you get at 7tb isn't a fair comparison. Heightened spells are worse than on level counterparts as your high level spell selection matters more, much like your high level feats.

By the next level in this comparison you get Weird which just blows Phantasmal Killer away. More single target damage, and let's you target all enemies within 120 feet. Heck, even by now you could be casting Phantasmal Calamity. It doesn't technically kill the target but it might as well. Stunned for a minute on a secondary save, and no incapacitation. You don't get frightened, but you get better single target damage and also do it AoE.

Not saying Scare to Death shouldn't have been nerfed or whatever, just saying it isn't as crazy when you compare it to true high level spells. And in practice the best StD users are usually casters, so for all you're improving the relative power of spells you're also making sorcerers, oracles, and bards feel weaker overall.


But there was another point in favor o StD. The legendary skill level!
A lvl 15 spellcaster using Weird is fantastic due it's non-incapacitant and practically unlimited targets but your DC is basically master until level 18 while StD begins legendary since lvl 15.

So in most combat situations, where a char don't face a large number of opponents, before the errata a player with StD (like a bard) could StD 3 different creatures in a round with a DC greater than the spell DC. So especially in this example of a bard (a char with high cha) in most situations was better to first StD everyone because your chances to kill was higher than the spell and you don't waste spellslots and only after this this char will consider to use Weird.
This DC difference is specially noticeable when the check needs to crit and 2 rolls.

Now after the errata Weird turns a primary option due the difficult to StD to kill is considerably higher.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Onkonk wrote:
I also did compare Phantasmal Killer (8th) with Scare to Death, Phantasmal Killer does 96 avg damage vs a -3 enemy (moderate saves). So Scare to Death before the nerf is as good as a spell of the highest level that fills the same niche while also being a single action that costs no resources.

While technically true, I'll point out that comparing a feat you get at 15th to a spell you get at 7tb isn't a fair comparison. Heightened spells are worse than on level counterparts as your high level spell selection matters more, much like your high level feats.

By the next level in this comparison you get Weird which just blows Phantasmal Killer away. More single target damage, and let's you target all enemies within 120 feet. Heck, even by now you could be casting Phantasmal Calamity. It doesn't technically kill the target but it might as well. Stunned for a minute on a secondary save, and no incapacitation. You don't get frightened, but you get better single target damage and also do it AoE.

Not saying Scare to Death shouldn't have been nerfed or whatever, just saying it isn't as crazy when you compare it to true high level spells. And in practice the best StD users are usually casters, so for all you're improving the relative power of spells you're also making sorcerers, oracles, and bards feel weaker overall.

Of note, Phantasmal Calamity allows you to make a save every turn.

And yeah, it is true that a 4th level spell is a bit worse when upcasted but you also have stuff like Finger of Death (84 avg dmg).

I also think there are better spells than these (stuff like upcasted Slow or Paralyze are super good), but I still don't think the 1 action, resourceless feature should be comparable to unbuffable, very limited resource 2 action ability regardless.

It is true charisma casters are best at using it, but I think the game is definitely worse if the neutral spam action available to everyone is better than using your limited unique features like spells.


Onkonk wrote:
I also think there are better spells than these (stuff like upcasted Slow or Paralyze are super good), but I still don't think the 1 action, resourceless feature should be comparable to unbuffable, very limited resource 2 action ability regardless.

Just another observation about StD. Despite it's a "unlimited" resource in fact you still are limited to 1 use per opponent this may help it to be more closer to a spell in balance or at last to a focus spell but I agree before the errata it's still feels too good due it's low action cost high proficiency bonus and relatively low requirement (let's be honest it's basically cost a lvl 15 skill feat, it's a bargain).

But after the errata feels much more fair.


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I would had wished that all the instant death spells got buffed instead of Scare to Death being nerfed.

But as has been stated the fact that a lv 15 feat with unlimited usage could outperform a 9th level spell that at most has 6 uses (when cast by a Wizard) made magic seem like a joke. Now they just need to fix all the other stuff that makes magic feel like a joke.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

You know, I once defended Scare to Death as fine.

Now, having actually played with it, I was totally wrong and I admit it. The nerf is much needed. It is still a great ability, just not broken.

Sovereign Court

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Temperans wrote:

I would had wished that all the instant death spells got buffed instead of Scare to Death being nerfed.

But as has been stated the fact that a lv 15 feat with unlimited usage could outperform a 9th level spell that at most has 6 uses (when cast by a Wizard) made magic seem like a joke. Now they just need to fix all the other stuff that makes magic feel like a joke.

So... buff player magic, or nerf everyone and everything (martials, NPCs) else?

I feel like the problem with StD was only somewhat that it was too good in general (okay, it looks strong compared to a martial spending several actions to kill a goon). But mainly, it was making magic look bad, by being faster and more powerful and less resource intensive.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Don't really agree (especially since the best StD users were mages anyways). The problem with Scare to Death was that it was a cheap, spammable instant death button which let you just kind of run over enemies in a way inconsistent with a lot of PF2's basic design.


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Just as an aside, StD may be a 15th level skill feat, but most people only get skill feats at even levels, so effectively lv. 16 for non-Rogues/investigators.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Lycar wrote:
Just as an aside, StD may be a 15th level skill feat, but most people only get skill feats at even levels, so effectively lv. 16 for non-Rogues/investigators.

15 is a General Feat level. Any class can take StD at 15, if that's what they choose.


Temperans wrote:

I would had wished that all the instant death spells got buffed instead of Scare to Death being nerfed.

But as has been stated the fact that a lv 15 feat with unlimited usage could outperform a 9th level spell that at most has 6 uses (when cast by a Wizard) made magic seem like a joke. Now they just need to fix all the other stuff that makes magic feel like a joke.

Now my current hopes are in Psychic class. If it's good as it's appear to be may help to diminish this "magic joke". Joining to my list of more interesting casters of the game together with Summoner, Magus, Bard and Druid.

Yet, ironically the best part of these classes doesn't come from their spellslots casting abilities so I know how you feel.

Lycar wrote:
Just as an aside, StD may be a 15th level skill feat, but most people only get skill feats at even levels, so effectively lv. 16 for non-Rogues/investigators.

That's true

HammerJack wrote:
Lycar wrote:
Just as an aside, StD may be a 15th level skill feat, but most people only get skill feats at even levels, so effectively lv. 16 for non-Rogues/investigators.
15 is a General Feat level. Any class can take StD at 15, if that's what they choose.

That's true too.

So you can ways take it as general feat than retrain it in level 16 to turns into skill feat kkk (depending from GM this isn't even a retrain just a feat re-order when you progress).


SuperBidi wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
In my opinion, a more elegant fix to this would have been to make the Fortitude Save have the Incapacitate trait. This way, on-level or stronger enemies are far less likely to fail (which requires a critical failure) and therefore die, but makes it relatively effective at clearing mooks (which would take 2 or 3 rounds otherwise).
Scare to Death already has the Incapacitation trait. And it's impossible to force the Fortitude save on anything but an equal/lower level enemy as you can't score a critical hit on a higher level enemy due to the Incapacitation trait.

Just realized that. Whoops. I do believe we still ran the ability correctly, though. However, in that case, it still feels like a bit of an overcorrection, since the Incapacitate trait means it doesn't trounce on-level or higher enemies, which is really the big thing we don't want this feat to do. Taking lower level enemies (like level-2 enemies) out of the fight? Sure, why not. Even for a Spellcaster, who usually does 2 action spells, it's worth having a nice 1 action ability that does this same thing. Furthermore, skills require significant character investment no matter what class you are, compared to spells which are just kind of there, and are also opt-in in terms of spell choice, not unlike Skill investments. Why shouldn't they be rewarded adequately for those investments?

Even if we want to say it shouldn't overcome a spell in terms of power, a spell like Weird, available the next level after the level Scare to Death becomes commonplace, is far stronger than it. Yes, it consumes a precious high level spell slot, making it not at-will, and requires selecting it (for preparation or known), but if the claim is "Scare to Death is more powerful than a spell of similar capacity, so it needs to be nerfed to compensate," it's just complete BS.

Let's compare Scare to Death to its most obvious and power-level equivalent counterpart, Weird:

-Does Scare to Death do damage? No, but Weird does. Sure, the damage is irrelevant when the idea is to just avoid doing damage entirely and ending a creature entirely, but even if Weird is less likely to have a Critical Failure than Scare to Death a Critical Success, it offers better (or at least, equivalent) compensation for when the dice aren't always in your favor. Even if we argue that an enemy has high Will saves, making a spell like Weird ineffective, Scare to Death would also be consequently ineffective due to its initial effect also being based on the enemy's Will save. Really, the only time Scare to Death would be more effective is if the Weird spell only targeted one enemy (which is a poor use of the spell), and the enemy's Will save is so high that the bonuses of Scare to Death give exponentially more likelihood to (critically) succeed compared to your typical Save DC, which is a pretty narrow frame.

-Does Scare to Death afflict the Frightened condition? To one target. Weird affects all chosen creatures within a radius far larger than Scare to Death. Enemies further than 30 feet away? Good luck affecting them without getting in range to be attacked/killed by them. Even if you spend all 3 actions doing Scare to Death on 3 different enemies, you are spending an entire turn doing this, while a spellcaster could do other things with their remaining action(s). Shield cantrips, Force Bolts to finish stragglers, move to a safer/better position, etc. The possibilities are endless. All while affecting far more enemies in far further areas.

-Does Scare to Death work on higher level foes very well? Again, no, thanks to Incapacitate. Weird, of course, lacks this, meaning a 9th level spell could kill a level 20 or higher creature if the Spell DC is cranked up as much as possible and they roll badly, the inverse of if the Intimidate skill is cranked up as much as possible and you roll amazingly (followed by an unfavorable roll by them). It won't work on Undead, Constructs, and similar creatures, but in those cases, Scare to Death probably won't be effective either, making it kind of a moot point (especially if the purpose is to use Scare to Death to kill the enemy; if the intent is to debuff them, there are better spells to use for that purpose, meaning it's not really an apt comparison).

With those comparisons, it's safe to say that Scare to Death won't outpace a spell of similar capacity.

Even if we want to say "Scare to Death is at-will, so it's more powerful due to its constant applicability," there is an internal cooldown on it, making it effectively once per opponent per fight, so the idea of it being "at-will" is moot when the opponent will either be killed by the feat already, or be killed by normal means when the feat doesn't work out. In either case, once is all you can reliably do, which is no different than a casting of the spell to begin with; which can be chained if it is so needed, without a need for an internal cooldown.

And if you're facing numerous combats in a day, guess what? Of course you're going to outpace someone with limited slots, that's by design. This is like saying you should nerf Martials by making them do Fatigue checks for fighting numerous combats in a day, reducing the amount of bonuses they get, limiting Strength/Dexterity, removing actions, etc. Which I guarantee you nobody would like, both due to upkeep, and because Martials finally have nice things again, and people don't want them taken away so soon. Incidentally, I see this feat more on Martials than I do Spellcasters (since they usually invest in other things, unless they are Charisma-based Spellcasters), so it hurts them more than it hurts a Spellcaster for this nerf.


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Scare to Death needed to be nerfed. In a game as balanced as PF2, it was an outlier far more powerful than it should have been.


Xenocrat wrote:
TL:DR

Helpful post followed by cliffnotes because [reasons]:

Weird outclasses Scare to Death in all categories, so saying it's better than Spells doesn't make sense as a reason for it to get nerfed.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
In my opinion, a more elegant fix to this would have been to make the Fortitude Save have the Incapacitate trait. This way, on-level or stronger enemies are far less likely to fail (which requires a critical failure) and therefore die, but makes it relatively effective at clearing mooks (which would take 2 or 3 rounds otherwise).
Scare to Death already has the Incapacitation trait. And it's impossible to force the Fortitude save on anything but an equal/lower level enemy as you can't score a critical hit on a higher level enemy due to the Incapacitation trait.

Just realized that. Whoops. I do believe we still ran the ability correctly, though. However, in that case, it still feels like a bit of an overcorrection, since the Incapacitate trait means it doesn't trounce on-level or higher enemies, which is really the big thing we don't want this feat to do. Taking lower level enemies (like level-2 enemies) out of the fight? Sure, why not. Even for a Spellcaster, who usually does 2 action spells, it's worth having a nice 1 action ability that does this same thing. Furthermore, skills require significant character investment no matter what class you are, compared to spells which are just kind of there, and are also opt-in in terms of spell choice, not unlike Skill investments. Why shouldn't they be rewarded adequately for those investments?

Even if we want to say it shouldn't overcome a spell in terms of power, a spell like Weird, available the next level after the level Scare to Death becomes commonplace, is far stronger than it. Yes, it consumes a precious high level spell slot, making it not at-will, and requires selecting it (for preparation or known), but if the claim is "Scare to Death is more powerful than a spell of similar capacity, so it needs to be nerfed to compensate," it's just complete BS.

Let's compare Scare to Death to its most obvious and power-level equivalent counterpart, Weird:

-Does Scare to Death do...

I’m happy for you, or sorry that happened, but I ain’t reading all of that.


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Deriven Firelion wrote:
Scare to Death needed to be nerfed. In a game as balanced as PF2, it was an outlier far more powerful than it should have been.

Was it really, though? Since it already had Incapacitate, and required both a Critical Success against a Will Save DC, as well as a Failure of a Fortitude Save against an Intimidation DC (or Critical Failure with Incapacitate). And if you either did not Critically Succeed the check (quite likely, even against lower level enemies), or the enemy did not Fail (or Critically Fail with Incapacitate), which again, against Save DCs for monsters, isn't that likely, the effect wouldn't pass, and you couldn't use the effect again for basically the rest of the fight, since it has a 1 minute internal cooldown on it.

It'd be the same as if you cast Phantasmal Killer on an enemy at your highest Spell Slot. However, Phantasmal Killer also doesn't require investing a Charisma-based skill to Legendary and putting in a couple skill feats to make it work, and still does passable damage in addition to the Frightened condition on a Success (or Critical Success, because again, Incapacitate).

It also gets completely outclassed by Weird in the level following when Scare to Death becomes commonplace, since it affects more targets, does more damage, and isn't restricted by Incapacitate, making it even potentially effective against higher level enemies.


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:
Scare to Death needed to be nerfed. In a game as balanced as PF2, it was an outlier far more powerful than it should have been.

Was it really, though? Since it already had Incapacitate, and required both a Critical Success against a Will Save DC, as well as a Failure of a Fortitude Save against an Intimidation DC (or Critical Failure with Incapacitate). And if you either did not Critically Succeed the check (quite likely, even against lower level enemies), or the enemy did not Fail (or Critically Fail with Incapacitate), which again, against Save DCs for monsters, isn't that likely, the effect wouldn't pass, and you couldn't use the effect again for basically the rest of the fight, since it has a 1 minute internal cooldown on it.

It'd be the same as if you cast Phantasmal Killer on an enemy at your highest Spell Slot. However, Phantasmal Killer also doesn't require investing a Charisma-based skill to Legendary and putting in a couple skill feats to make it work, and still does passable damage in addition to the Frightened condition on a Success (or Critical Success, because again, Incapacitate).

It also gets completely outclassed by Weird in the level following when Scare to Death becomes commonplace, since it affects more targets, does more damage, and isn't restricted by Incapacitate, making it even potentially effective against higher level enemies.

Yes. It really was.

No ability is a killer of powerful CR creatures. It trivialized fights against lower level creatures with one use per creature. No matter how much you math it, weird is a limited use resource that you obtain at level 17 whereas Scare to Death is an unlimited use resource you gain at level 16, possibly level 15.

It was trivializing a lot of fights.

It was bad in many ways, not just mathematically:

1. Mathematically it's nigh unlimited use resource to in essence gain similar ability to a level 9 spell was imbalanced with caster capability. It would be more worthwhile for a Sorcerer to use this ability in fights against low level enemies rather than expend a spell resource that has limited use.

2. It's action cost was also out of line requiring only a single action to execute meaning you could use it 3 times per round or cast a spell or use a specialized attack and use Scare to Death to kill a creature. No spell is in line with this ability.

So a charisma based caster could buff himself with say heroism, then debuff with a spell like phantasmal killer, and then use a single action to kill up an equal level creature.

This was the only ability to do this in the game near as I can recall.

3. It was narratively difficult on DMs that characters had an easily acquired "Death Gaze" often taken by multiple characters in the party. So that a party of adventurers could use a "Death Gaze" prior to attacking that was as effective if not more so than swinging their powerful magic weapon or using a high level spell.

It is far more narratively interesting and appropriate when a caster uses a weird spell or a rogue does some kind of Death stab attack than a party where often one to two or more characters can all walk onto the battlefield and merely gaze at an enemy killing them unlimited times, fight after fight, and in fact this is often their best option to open a fight against any enemies it is effective against.

It looks ridiculous when campaign after campaign and group after group where this is a common use ability that should be taken by everyone with a high charisma including if a DM so chooses powerful NPC enemies who can kill PCs with Scare to Death with an ease that may look cool if used once, but would become immensely annoying if every single major enemy took this ability, hit a PC with a debuff, then scared them to death because it was a highly efficient and easy to acquire tactic.

In essence, a Death Gaze often equivalent to monster or magically contrived Death Gaze was a no brainer, easy to acquire skill for all high level participants.

Scare to Death needed to be nerfed for mechanical and narrative reasons as it was creating a very unsatisfying and easy to exploit ability that made something that should be powerful and cool like a "Death Gaze" as common in high level play as swinging a sword.

I'm glad they noticed and took action as it had become ridiculous for those of us that often reach level 15 plus.


As another spell comparison point: Curse of Death is also a less limited use ability than a spell slot spell.

It also costs 2 actions to cast and 1 action each round to sustain. It doesn't kill the target until they fail the save 4 times, or crit fail twice, or various other combinations. But it doesn't outright kill the target until stage 4.

How does that balance against Scare to Death? In either version.


Deriven Firelion wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:
Scare to Death needed to be nerfed. In a game as balanced as PF2, it was an outlier far more powerful than it should have been.

Was it really, though? Since it already had Incapacitate, and required both a Critical Success against a Will Save DC, as well as a Failure of a Fortitude Save against an Intimidation DC (or Critical Failure with Incapacitate). And if you either did not Critically Succeed the check (quite likely, even against lower level enemies), or the enemy did not Fail (or Critically Fail with Incapacitate), which again, against Save DCs for monsters, isn't that likely, the effect wouldn't pass, and you couldn't use the effect again for basically the rest of the fight, since it has a 1 minute internal cooldown on it.

It'd be the same as if you cast Phantasmal Killer on an enemy at your highest Spell Slot. However, Phantasmal Killer also doesn't require investing a Charisma-based skill to Legendary and putting in a couple skill feats to make it work, and still does passable damage in addition to the Frightened condition on a Success (or Critical Success, because again, Incapacitate).

It also gets completely outclassed by Weird in the level following when Scare to Death becomes commonplace, since it affects more targets, does more damage, and isn't restricted by Incapacitate, making it even potentially effective against higher level enemies.

Yes. It really was.

No ability is a killer of powerful CR creatures. It trivialized fights against lower level creatures with one use per creature. No matter how much you math it, weird is a limited use resource that you obtain at level 17 whereas Scare to Death is an unlimited use resource you gain at level 16, possibly level 15.

It was trivializing a lot of fights.

It was bad in many ways, not just mathematically:

1. Mathematically it's nigh unlimited use resource to in essence gain similar ability to a level 9 spell was imbalanced with caster capability....

In what means is Scare to Death similar to Weird in regards to its ability? Besides the obvious intended effect (instantly kill a target), you can't target multiple creatures with a single use of it, you need to be in a far closer range, and it requires both feat and skill increase investments to pull off, which incidentally also require high/max Charisma to be effective with. You also couldn't chain Scare to Death on a given target, because creatures are immune to it for a long enough period after you use it, meaning it either works or doesn't in a given fight. Suggesting they are equal in power because you can "spam" one (again, can't do it multiple times on the same creature in a fight) and not the other is hardly a means of an increase of power, especially if we subscribe to the "enemies are already all dead in 3 rounds" paradigm. As for a spellcaster not using actual spell slots on trivial encounters, I don't see the problem of them using a skill they invested in compared to, say, cantrips, or actual weapons they almost never use anyway because the math doesn't support them to do so. Players being smart and using tactics to conserve power for fights that actually need them isn't fair justification for nerfbats.

Heroism plus Phantasmal Killer is way too much pointless spell expenditure for a trivial fight, meaning this is already being blown out of proportion if the spellcaster is intended to use non-expendable resources that aren't skills to solve the problem. That combo would work much better with Bon Mot than it would with Heroism and Phantasmal Killer. It's less actions, doesn't require pre-buffing, and can be done at-will. Why don't we nerf Bon Mot while we're at it? It's too OP because Scare to Death is too OP by proxy. Logic seems to hold up based on the reasons provided, since it's better than any spell in the game. /sarcasm

For something less sarcastic, I legit trivialized a high level encounter where 10th level spells are present with a 6th level Slow spell, something that Scare to Death is far less likely to do by proxy based on it requiring both a critically successful check followed by a failed save, when failed and critically failed saves by themselves are far more likely to pass through. When Scare to Death starts trivializing encounters in the same way a lower level spell like Slow does, I'll start believing it. Until then, it's highly doubtful.

Narratively, it might be frustrating, but it's not like the GM can't use enemies that are very effective against them, or have scenarios where Scare to Death isn't always the best option to use. With Scare to Death, higher level foes are practically immune to its Death effect based on it being Incapacitate. Given that the highest levels of play almost always include creatures that are higher level than the PCs, the odds of it landing are as statistically possible as rolling 2 Natural 20's, 2 Natural 1's, or a mixture of a 20 and a 1, within the same consecutive probability trials. Boom, instant trivialization averted. I can hear you say "But you can't just throw higher level enemies at your PCs all the time, it might TPK them just because of their skill feats!" Well, then we can use enemies that are either immune to Mental/Fear effects (such as mindless creatures), are immune to Death effects (such as undead, constructs, etc.), or have a ridiculous amount of Will/Fortitude Saves, depending on which spectrum of the scale you want to put the enemies at (whether they be stalwart cowards or resolute wimps). Given that there are plenty of monsters that fit those parameters that are published, it's not difficult to throw a horde of undead or some decent spellcasters or some extremely brutish/horrific monsters at the party.

Seriously, it's not complicated to work around your party's strengths to both have moments where they shine and moments where maybe it's not the best strategy in the encounter to do. I seriously don't understand why GMs, especially homebrew ones, cannot find means to challenge their party, or feel like they can't ever make encounters where PCs should not use the same tactics repeatedly for fear of being labeled badwrongfun or some garbage entitlement tactic. (I won't include PFS GMs in that for obvious reasons.)

Here we go again with Scare to Death somehow being constantly useable against all enemies at all times without internal cooldowns or chances for failure/success. Is this Schrodinger's Skill Feat? Ignoring already obviously spelled out feat mechanics to support your point is quite a disingenuous argument. Nobody is using Scare to Death on the same opponent 3 times in a turn/combat without it spanning 30+ rounds, which no sane combat would do. Nobody is automatically succeeding/failing Scare to Death results, especially given how tight the math is. Which means by proxy, Scare to Death does not trivialize encounters; and if the encounters are easily able to be trivialized by Scare to Death, chances are the encounter is trivial as-is, in which case why have it in the story if you can avoid it? If, for some reason, a single Skill Feat does trivialize an encounter (and no, Scare to Death isn't the only Skill Feat that can do this), then it's a poorly designed encounter and should be reconsidered as being presented in the adventure path/campaign/homebrew/whatever.

There's plenty of other skill feats that replicate and do things spells can't, are we just going to suggest nerfing them too all because spells shouldn't be trivialized by skills? Cat Fall makes you immune to falling damage, completely trumps Feather Fall, nerf it to oblivion, because surviving falling into orbit without magical help or artifacts is absurd. Legendary Survivalist means you can never starve or go thirsty, let's make sure it's far worse than a Ring of Sustenance or else the party's Spellcaster will be angry that their very few item investments are pointless. Legendary Sneak combined with Foil Senses lets you do Disappearance at-will, let's just remove that feat from the game entirely because not everyone will have good Perception. Kip Up is far more effective and constant than Time Jump, let's make it have a frequency timer so players can't just trivialize Trip-specialist enemies 24/7.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

"Weird is better than Scare to Death" seems like such a weird hill to die on. Like, yeah sure a 9th level spell is better than a skill feat. That seems fine. Cool. Good. There's no problem then. Sounds great. Why would anyone pretend that's somehow a bad thing?

If you want to argue the feat sucks now and nobody would take it. Argue that, then. That feels like a hard sell though.


Eoran wrote:

As another spell comparison point: Curse of Death is also a less limited use ability than a spell slot spell.

It also costs 2 actions to cast and 1 action each round to sustain. It doesn't kill the target until they fail the save 4 times, or crit fail twice, or various other combinations. But it doesn't outright kill the target until stage 4.

How does that balance against Scare to Death? In either version.

It doesn't, because they're fundamentally different. Scare to Death is an instantaneous effect with a specific result that doesn't change over time or persist beyond its initial effects as normal. It's also expected to be far more powerful than a simple 5st level Hex Focus Spell based on level alone, since Scare to Death is expected to be available by the time 7th/8th level spells show up, and it becomes commonplace with 9th level spells. (Also, you're comparing Skill Feats to the worst class focus spells in the game. A more apt comparison would be a feat like Armored Assist or whatever other garbage niche Skill Feats there are.)

We can't seriously suggest that a "Curse DoT" should be equivalent to an instantaneous effect, even if they are the same level. This is like saying Persistent Damage should do as much damage as Strikes and Martial Attacks; they are fundamentally different, and are treated as such when it comes to determining the damage output for each. Same concept here. Otherwise we should just make a Fireball do persistent Fire damage of 8D6, and see how powerful that is.

Did I also mention that the Witch class is absolutely horrible and using it as a means of a balance point is just asking for things to be nerfed to oblivion, just to make the Witch, Alchemist, Investigator, and Swashbuckler look good? We're not doing anyone any favors by using obviously bad points of balance to justify nerfs, so let's not go down that tedious road, because I can guarantee you that I will derail the thread with how frustrating that concept is.


Squiggit wrote:

"Weird is better than Scare to Death" seems like such a weird hill to die on. Like, yeah sure a 9th level spell is better than a skill feat. That seems fine. Cool. Good. There's no problem then. Sounds great. Why would anyone pretend that's somehow a bad thing?

If you want to argue the feat sucks now and nobody would take it. Argue that, then. That feels like a hard sell though.

Neat weirdception there. But it really isn't when you actually compare what they do to the intended function (kill enemies instantly without dealing damage.) They're both far more successful than Power Word Kill by comparison, too, so let's buff Power Word Kill to just work and have the Incapacitate trait anyway?

What do you mean "why would anyone pretend?" It's literally the justification provided for nerfing Scare to Death (or more accurately, that it's an acceptable reason to nerf the skill feat in question).

The Raven Black wrote:
...since many people argued that Scare to death should not be better than a spell, I guess the change also aimed at making them happy.

And I'm saying that reasoning is absolute BS based on the fact that it isn't actually better than an aptly comparable spell, like Weird. Phantasmal Killer might be a better 1:1 comparison, but we are now purposefully nerfing spellcasters' overall potential to justify them being too weak to compare to Scare to Death, which feels forced and contrived given that there is no reason for a spellcaster not to do so when the resources are available for them to. It's basically a Tentacle Blade argument, which doesn't hold up for obvious reasons.

The feat doesn't necessarily suck, since Demoralize having a 10 minute internal cooldown suffers the same issues as Scare to Death does now, and really, the time difference between 1 minute and 10 minutes in an encounter is ancillary at-best, as evidenced by the Long Casting Time Spells entry in the rules (although people like to ignore this little facet for the convenience of their arguments), and it provides a means to have a more "amped" Demoralize that can be done on top of the standard Demoralize action, should it expire or fail. However, the feat simply just doesn't do what it was originally written to do effectively now, which is that you attempt to scare an enemy to death with your Intimidation. Others felt that it was too much for a single skill feat to do (though even multiples would be too much anyway, since it seems the end result is the problem and not the means of acquiring it). That's what this uproar is all about.

As a point of contention, how can it be Scare to Death when you don't ever actually Scare to Death relevant enemies? It might be funny to do on some random NPC as ancillary shock factor to the story, but it's not impactful except for flavor purposes, which can just be explained away by having high modifiers/training anyway. Why not change the skill feat name to "Improved Demoralize," or "Legendary Demoralizer," or something else far more fitting, and just gut out the whole "Fortitude Save or Die" features to both keep the skill feat simple as well as curb feat power expectations? Too much work? Messes with character spacing? Is it now somehow so iconic that people can't play without it? (Plenty of people in this thread saying it shouldn't instantly kill enemies no matter the circumstance is proving otherwise for that.)

Sovereign Court

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In my own experience (Cha 20, Legendary intimidate, +2 skill item, bon mot, heroism 1-3 depending on how long the adventuring day was) mooks would occasionally die from StD but really not at the frequency that is being suggested here.

And why shouldn't they? A creature that easily dies from StD is also one that the martials in the party are constantly scoring crits against or consistently hitting on third attacks.

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