Stunt Skill

From a Gm perspective we have always struggled to deal with the grey area on actions in combat that a player wants to complete, but there is no exact area in the Core rules on how to manage the action. Therefore this rule – “Skillful Stunts” – will allow us to deal with grey areas. For example there was a session I ran where Bo grapppled a ratman orge with a spiked chain, meanwhile two other PC’s shield bashed the creatures legs from underneath him, meanwhile another co’de gra him. Or running up walls using spears stuck into the wall, climbing up arrows on a dragons hide, shooting grappling arrows into creatures and numerous other actions. Of corse some of these actions can be achieved using feats, but others cannot. Therefore Pathfinder has released a tunt skill to del with the greyu areas, designed for PC’s to be more creative with their actions. They can also combine with other PC’s to be even more creative. All is described below.

Skillful Stunts

Bard the Bowman sinking the arrow into the oneweak spot of Smaug’s armored hide…a called shot to a vampire’s heart…witty banter to catchan opponent off-guard…

the Kirk roll to sneak pastan opponent’s whirling sword and impenetrable defense…

all of these combat scenes are vital parts of exciting narrative in media, but aside froma Game Master describing action in a flowery way,are not part of standard combats.With feats so valuable, characters are not likely to be able to have more than one or two cool tricks up their sleeve. But the one thing all player shave in common is skills. Most adventurers are likely to have the standard Perception, but what about the character who has invested skill points into Appraise? What about the character with Knowledge (religion) who has an understanding ofthe weaknesses of undead?

Skillful stunts will not only spice up your combats, but will give characters more options without necessitating the need for new rules or yet another laundry list of feats.The basic mechanic for skillful stunts is a simple one: when a character wants to perform a stunt,the character declares the stunt (a stunt counts asa standard action) and rolls a stunt check.

A stunt check DC is determined by the opponent’s Touch AC + the opponent’s BAB +the opponent’s Wisdom bonus.

If the stunt is successful, the character gets at least one Stunt Point that can be allocated as they choose. There is no penalty if a stunt is unsuccessful, although a character does have to follow through with their action.

Characters maynot take 10 or take 20 on a stunt check.

A Stunt Point allows a character to do one of threethings:

1) a character may add 1d10 damage to their ranged or melee attack (note that this damage ismultiplied in the case of a critical hit);

2) a character may lower all the saves of anopponent by 1 for any spell or effect by the caster;

3) a character may lower the AC of an opponent by 2 for the follow-up attack.

Stunt effects generally work only for the stunter, and only last until the follow-up action immediatelyfollowing the stunt.

A character may also attempt to voluntarily increase the number of Stunt Points with a stuntby adding to the stunt DC. Every increment of 5 added to the DC adds an additional Stunt Point tothe total received if the stunt check is successful. However, although stunts are cool, opponents are not likely to be fooled by the same stunt again and again. After the second stunt attempt against an opponent, the initial DC increases by 5 for each additional attempt. Why after the second attempt?

Canny combatants will often attempt a stunt thefirst time to test the mettle of their opponent, and after gauging their opponent will voluntarily increase the DC to do even more damage. NPCs can stunt as well…

Characters might also request that they be allowed synergy bonuses for skills normally not associated with one another. Knowledge skills offer great opportunities for synergy against specific foes.

For example, Rangers add their favored enemy bonusto any stunt roll against a favored enemy. Again, it is an attacker’s request and a GM’s final ruling, but encouraging creativity is sure to get characters more involved in their skill selection. In order to not water down the coolness of stunts, it is recommended that each player be given a cap for the number of stunts they can attempteach session, perhaps one/ level (or for NPCs without levels, one/ HD). Stunts should encouragecreativity, not become yet another tool for min/maxing.

Malin is facing off against a Cloud Giant. Malin needs every advantage he can get, so he tries to let the giant knows he means business. He lets out a ferocious roar, flexes his muscles and raises his maul to take down the giant. This isan intimidation stunt.The GM notes that the stunt DC against thegiant is equal to their CMD, or in this case 24 (9 touch AC, + 12 BAB, +3 Wis modifier). Malin has a +14 modifier to his intimidate check and rolls a 13.


The giant realizes theremight be more to this dwarf than he bargained for. Malin decides to use the Stunt Point to add 1d10 to his damage roll.

The following round, Malin really needs a bighit, so he increases the DC by 10 hoping to add a total of 3d10 to his roll. Unfortunately, Malin does not know that the stunt DC is now a 29 (fora total of 39) and with only a +14 modifier, he is unlikely to make the roll…

Some stunts are so over the top and so detailed that they require more than just one skill. Why not try a combo-stunt? A combo-stunt is when more than one skill is used for a stunt attempt.The base difficulty of each stunt DC increases by 2 for every additional skill used in the combo, but damage is cumulative. If any roll in a combo stunt is unsuccessful, the stunt itself is unsuccessful.

For example, Vysus wants to try a stunt he is calling The Stare against the above Cloud Giant.The Stare is a combo-stunt using Perception, Intimidation and Bluff. The base DC for a stunt against the giant is still 25, but for the combo stunt, the DC for each skill check is 29 (25 plus 4 for the two additional skills).If all three rolls are successful, Vysus will get 3 Stunt Points. If a combo stunt is attempted more than once against an opponent or anyone who witnessed the combo, the DC automatically increases by 5.

What follows is a list of sample stunts for many of the skills in The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Players are encouraged to get descriptive when describing their stunts, and come up with interesting new ways of using their skills.

Body Like the Blade
A character using acrobatics often finds that approaching an opponent sideways (similar to a fencing stance) allows them to get through their defenses.

Death From Above
Too often attackers stay on the ground, why not take to the air?

Flawed Diamond Attack
A character using appraise can look for aweakness in the armor of an opponent, eitherman-made armor or natural armor.

Kitten Claws
A character will attempt to appear weaker than they really are, but every kitten has claws….

Spell Feint
A character makes it appear there is another target, or perhaps even another spell that they will cast, lower the defenses of an opponent.

Spider Style
If during a move action, before a stunt, a character comes across a wall or other obstacle, the character will easily cross it in a show of their climbing prowess. Characters have been known to run halfway up a wall around an opponent and catch them off guard.

Secrets of the Trade
For an appropriate Craft, a skilled artisan can find the shortcuts his fellow artisan made and exploit them.

Friends Like Enemies
Perhaps there is a larger threat, perhaps anopponent’s anger is misguided.

Disable Device:
The Nutcracker No, this is not meant as an attack usable only against the manliest of men, rather, against heavily armored foes, a character skilled is Disabling Devices, is also skilled enough to sneak a blade in-between plates of armor.

Instant Ally
Combat is chaotic. In a combat with many combatants, a skilled disguiser is able to usewhat is around her and trick an opponent into letting down their defenses thinking the attacker is an ally (example: wrapping up in one of the cloaks of a recently felled Knight of the Black Gate).

Escape Artist:
Flowing Like Water
Weaving through defenses with limbs that must be double-jointed.

Handle Animal:
Bees with Honey
Entering combat with an animal companion agai,nst a skilled animal handler, is asking for trouble, both for the animal and for the opponent.This skill breaks some of the link between animal and master, even just for split-second, causing hesitation and a drop of defenses..

Nerve Points
One who knows how to heal, probably also knows where to harm.

Furious Blow
Sometimes knowing your opponent is bringing the beat-down makes it hurt even more.

Learned Strike
Many of the knowledge skills allow someone to know a monster’s weakness and vulnerabilities, use of this skill as a stunt is a perfect example of exploiting them (Arcana- constructs, dragons, magical beasts; Dungeoneering- aberrations,oozes; Nature- animals, fey, giants, monstroush umanoids, plants, vermin; Religion- undead; The planes- outsiders, elementals)

Battlefield Orders
To use this stunt, the character must speak a language native to their opponent(s), adding tothe chaos of battle with orders of their own.

Perfect Timing
Seeing that one moment your opponent is off balance.

Scholar’s Strike
Watch your opponent, learn their weakness.

The Sounds of Dying
Did your opponent take a shot to the ribs, and ishaving trouble breathing? Are they telegraphing their attacks muttering under their breath? A listen stunt allows a character to drown out the noise of combat to focus on their opponent.

Bringing the House Down
Juggling knives, an opponent is unlikely to know which one will be thrown, singing of an opponent’s demise might be unsettling, a poemdetailing every blow….

Mounting Attack
Some warriors believe that there is a code of conduct in a combat, others will do what they need to in order to survive. While in closecombat, an attacker attempting this Ride stunt actually leaps onto the back of their opponentfor a brief moment, catching them off guard and getting a great opportunity to strike.

Sleight of Hand:
An opponent can best defend against a blow they know is coming, what about one they do not see?

Against an opponent with magic enhancements, protections, etc this attack is able to countersome of the magic.

Strike From the Shadows
Leaping in and out of the shadows, an attacker uses the darkness to mask their attack.

Whisper Strike
Combat is loud, sometimes a silent blow can be quite deadly.

Survival:Gaia’s Ally
Using your surroundings, you are able to take advantage of your opponent’s weakness and of utilize your inherent instincts.

Use Magic Device:
Magical Defense Avoidance
Characters who rely too much on magic items for their power and defense (saves, strength, AC, etc) should avoid a skilled user of magical devices, who know how everything works, and how to get around them.

Most effects from magic items can be deactivated, this type of stunt temporarily powers down a magic item, lowering the defenses of anopponent.


The Stare
(Bluff, Intimidate, Perception; +3 Stunt Points)-
The stare occurs when an attacker seemingly freezes in combat and locks eyes with their opponent. During this battle of wills, the attacker is sizing up the opponent and letting them knowshe means business. Done effectively, the Stare is enough to make many opponents strongly consider whether staying to fight the attacker is the best course of action.

Ghost Strike
(Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth; +3 Stunt Points)-
What happens when the opponent you are fighting suddenly vanishes? But instead of them no longer being present, you can feel them right next to you, their hot breath on your neck…

It is far more terrifying knowing they are there andthat you are helpless against them.

Will O’ the Wisp
(Acrobatics, Climb, Intimidate; +3 StuntPoints)-
Keeping track of an opponent, and knowing what they can and cannot do are keys to victory. When your opponent leaps forward, tumbles between your legs, runs up the wall next to you and strikes while seemingly attached to the ceiling—- it is unnerving to say the least!

Apollo’s Strike
(An appropriate Knowledge skill, Perception;+2 Stunt Points when combined with a rangedattack)- Some battlefield philosophers claim that the easiest way to victory is through the air, others call these individuals cowards. Make them pay fortheir cowardice! If an opponent won’t let you get close, a spot check and an appropriate knowledge roll will lead you straight to their weakness, beit the dragon with on plate missing from their armored hide, or attacking a vampire with a wooden arrow right through the heart.

(Disable Device, Use Magic Device, Spellcraft(or Knowledge – Arcana); +3 Stunt Points)-
Used against an opponent who relies far too muchon their magical items, a Backlash stunt turns some of those magical protections against the user, almost as if directly channeling the magical energies contained within each.

Fearsome Display
(Perform, Sleight of Hand, Bluff; +3 StuntPoints)-
Sure, the guy in the heavy armor withthe huge sword looks like someone to avoid, but what about the opponent calmly walking towards you, whirling his sword about his body almost too fast to be seen and as if it was an extensionof their being. That opponent is demonstrating a Fearsome Display, and although they might not be as bad-ass as the other opponent (because they are likely a bard) when they hit you after their display, you will feel it!

Blood Oath
(Intimidate, Knowledge-(appropriate to thefoe),
Bluff, Diplomacy, Sense Motive; +5 StuntPoints)- You have dedicated your life to destroying this foe. This is the individual who killed your family, burned your village and ate your teddybear. It all comes down to this. Best of luck making the checks, but live or die, it will be the note worthy.

Note that all of these are just examples, players and GMs are encouraged to come up with their own justifications for how a skill can be used in a stunt (maybe a player has some incredibly clever way of using Forgery against a city guard). Becreative, name and describe your stunts, come upwith cool combos, stunts should be memorable!

Stunts are a great way to make combat morevisual and interesting and also serve to give attackers an extra edge against particularly tough opponents. In sacrificing extra attacks, and by requiring a skill roll, an attacker gains a definite edge.

Final Example:
Randis, a 15th level fighter, faces off against his nemesis Infernum, the Mature Adult Red Dragon. Randis knows that with his allies already beaten he doesn’t stand much chance, but he has to do something. Although he gets 3 attacks with his great sword and even though it is designed to takedown dreaded Great wyrms, his 2nd and 3rd attacks are likely to do little. His to hit bonus with all modifiers taken into consideration is +27, but he is certainly going to want to power attack in order to take advantage of his two-handed weapon.

He considers a power attack lowering his to hit bonus by -2, this will give him +6 to his damage, but his second and third attacks are very unlikely to hit. Even his first attack will require a great roll. If he can lower the AC of the wyrm, that would increase his chances to hit and do damage.

He attempts a combo stunt he is calling “Ride the Fire” it will be a combo of Acrobatics, Climb, and Ride, and is described as Randis leaping up onto the dragon’s back and bringing his sword down into the great beast. Fortunately for this example, Randis is a master with each skill. His Acrobatics and Climbmodifiers are +25 and +32 respectively, and his Ride modifier is +23. Randis has been hunting Infernum for sometime and has 7 ranks in Knowledge (arcana) and asks theGM if that would help with his Ride check. The GM likes the concept and gives Randis a +2 synergy bonus. This improves his Ride modifier to +25.The GM notes that the base DC for a stunt against Infernum is 37, with a three stunt combo thisincreases to 43.

For the sake of Randis staying alive, let us presume he makes all three checks (requiring rolls of 18 for both Ride and Climb and 11 for Jump), he allocates all three Stunt Points to lowering the beast’s AC.The GM notes a normal AC of 33 drops to a 27. Given that he rolled 2 18s for the stunt, Rand is is feeling lucky and pours everything he has into the Power Attack. This gives him a +25 to hit and he rolls, knowing he will do his base damage +6 with just this one blow. If he criticals that damage will be +12.

Stunt Skill

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