Making sure I understand the Ghost Archetype correctly


Rules Discussion


I honestly think I've made a thread asking after this in the past, but can't find it now, and have been puzzled by this particular issue since Book of the Dead dropped.

By RAW, can a PC with the Ghost Archetype make melee attacks against corporeal creatures? It forbids Strength-based skill checks against the living... but is a melee Strike a skill check? The next line implies that they can't - why specify melee Strikes as something that works normally for you against other incorporeal beings otherwise? - but I want to make sure I'm not parsing this incorrectly. Is it just slightly ambiguous wording?


Strikes aren't skill checks (they're attack rolls) but consider the following:
If you're making unarmed strikes you're dealing negative damage so no problem with being incorporeal.
If you're making weapon strikes you have to be wielding that weapon to begin with so it probably has ghost touch and you're hitting with a corporeal object.
Any case, use your strikes normally.


Strikes are checks and also attack rolls, but not a skill check.

Every d20 roll in the game is a check. That is flat checks, attack rolls, spell attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, perception checks.

Technically specking the Incorporeal trait stops you from making Strength-based checks. This includes swinging an axe. Most people see this as too bad to be true, and ignore it.

As for me I just won't let my players take the Incoporeal options till Paizo fix it. I prefer it as it is written.


Gortle wrote:
Technically specking the Incorporeal trait stops you from making Strength-based checks. This includes swinging an axe. Most people see this as too bad to be true, and ignore it.

It's split between different cases but I believe everything is accounted for.

Ghost dedication wrote:

Items: You can transmute physical items to make them part of your incorporeal form. (snip)

Once you've incorporated the items, you and other incorporeal creatures can use them normally—you can Interact with them, Release them, and so on. Your incorporated weapons gain the benefits of the ghost touch property rune, allowing you to use them normally against both corporeal and incorporeal creatures. Incorporated items become corporeal again only if you transmute them back or are destroyed, in which case, they drop to the ground under you.


Yes it it the reverse that is not accounted for. Enemies attacking the Ghost.


Gortle wrote:

Strikes are checks and also attack rolls, but not a skill check.

Every d20 roll in the game is a check. That is flat checks, attack rolls, spell attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, perception checks.

Technically specking the Incorporeal trait stops you from making Strength-based checks. This includes swinging an axe. Most people see this as too bad to be true, and ignore it.

This is the crux of my question, yeah - even though your unarmed attack is dealing Negative damage, you’re still rolling Strength to hit with it, and it reads to me like you’re forbidden from doing so against the living as a Ghost.


It does sound like the intended interaction since Ghostly grasp enables you to do it later.
I get that it opens the possibility of being stuck without options if you are completely stripped of equipment but there's plenty of options you have to get around it like transmuting a gauntlet.


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Yes. Without some sanity ruling/errata to fix the problems in the Incorporeal trait, having Incorporeal player characters is rather broken and doesn't work well. Many enemies would be unable to attack the Ghost character, while others would be able to attack just fine.

Ghost Archetype does specify that you are only limited in making STR skill checks against corporeal creatures. Strikes are not skill checks, so STR-based attack rolls work just fine for Ghost Archetype characters.

The upgrade from Ghostly Grasp lets you make STR-based skill checks against corporeal creatures - such as Trip and Grapple. Without that feat, you can't use those combat maneuvers.


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keftiu wrote:
This is the crux of my question, yeah - even though your unarmed attack is dealing Negative damage, you’re still rolling Strength to hit with it, and it reads to me like you’re forbidden from doing so against the living as a Ghost.

I believe that the standard unarmed strike has finesse, and would thus allow dex-based strikes. There's nothing in the Ghost archetype that removes that.

breithauptclan wrote:
Ghost Archetype does specify that you are only limited in making STR skill checks against corporeal creatures. Strikes are not skill checks, so STR-based attack rolls work just fine for Ghost Archetype characters.

Ghost archetype gives Incorporeal, though, which does interfere with str-based attack rolls. That's the issue here.


Incidentally, I have more of a lore question: does it say anywhere that your ghost character must look 'ghostly'? Meaning one-coloured and/or translucent? Or even obviously not alive, with gaping and/or fatal wounds? Could you make completely 'normal looking' ghost?


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I have to assume it needs an errata pass, because "Ghosts can make melee attacks with Dex but not Strength" is just silly, but that does seem to indeed be how Incorporeal interacts with the Archetype by RAW.

Thanks for the sanity check, folks - I was worried I was just dumb.


keftiu wrote:

I have to assume it needs an errata pass, because "Ghosts can make melee attacks with Dex but not Strength" is just silly, but that does seem to indeed be how Incorporeal interacts with the Archetype by RAW.

Thanks for the sanity check, folks - I was worried I was just dumb.

Practically speaking, it applies only to unarmed melee attacks, so it's a relatively thin area.

Further, those unarmed attacks that they can make are negative energy rather than some form of physical, and are thus much less effective against, say, the undead.

Mostly the upshot seems to be "If you are a strength-based grappling fist puncher, then this archetype is probably not for you." That seems... not entirely unreasonable to me?


Sanityfaerie wrote:
keftiu wrote:

I have to assume it needs an errata pass, because "Ghosts can make melee attacks with Dex but not Strength" is just silly, but that does seem to indeed be how Incorporeal interacts with the Archetype by RAW.

Thanks for the sanity check, folks - I was worried I was just dumb.

Practically speaking, it applies only to unarmed melee attacks, so it's a relatively thin area.

Further, those unarmed attacks that they can make are negative energy rather than some form of physical, and are thus much less effective against, say, the undead.

Mostly the upshot seems to be "If you are a strength-based grappling fist puncher, then this archetype is probably not for you." That seems... not entirely unreasonable to me?

The Incorporeal Trait doesn’t just apply to unarmed attacks: “ An incorporeal creature can’t attempt Strength-based checks against physical creatures or objects[…]”

Swinging an axe is a Strength-based check, whether you consider it to apply to the axe or the person it’s supposed to thwack; the Incorporeal Trait granted by being a Ghost disallows both. Essentially, Ghost PCs can be spellcasters or Dex martials, and the latter feels like an unintended loophole - why can a ghost shoot a crossbow, but not jab with a spear?


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That's covered by the Items section of the dedication - you can treat your weapons as having the ghost touch rune.

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