Fallback Feats for Pathfinder 1e

It can be frustrating, as a player, to have your entire round go by without doing anything effective. It’s especially frustrating when you tried to do something cool, and the end result is nothing but wasted effort.

On the other hand, if you can’t fail at things, the thrill of success is dimmed.

But failure can be relative. When you lob a fireball at a group of giants and they all make their save, they at least take SOME damage. If you lob a fireball at a group of ninja with evasion, the end result may be doing no damage at all.

Ideally, the game moves along fast enough you can shrug off the bad round and look forward to more opportunities. But that isn’t always the case, and some players seem to have the bad luck to be totally ineffective multiple rounds in a row… and that’s no fun.

Enter the fallback feat… an entirely untested idea on how to make failure less frustrating.

Fallback Feats
Fallback feats only function in rounds when you have not taken any action that exceeded a foe’s CMD, caused a foe to take damage, or caused a foe to fail a saving throw. Ongoing events from previous rounds can do those things, but if any action you take manages one of those effects, your fallback feat does not function that round. Fallback feats also require you to have attempted some specific actions, which must also fail in order for the feat to function.

Fallback Witch
(Art by Roman)

ELDRITCH BOLSTER [Fallback]
When your magic energy fails to effect any foe, it instead bolsters your health.
Prerequisites: Caster level 1st
Benefit: When you cast a spell that has an effect other than to deal damage, and it is entirely negated by saving throws or spell resistance, you gain temporary hit points equal to double the spell’s level. These hp do not stack with other temp hp gained from this feat, and last for 10 minutes or until expended.

HONED DEFENSES [Fallback]
When your efforts to harm your foes fail, you instinctively step up your defenses.
Prerequisites: Caster level 1st or base attack bonus +1
Benefit: When you have made at least one attack that could deal damage, or used a damage-dealing ability or spell, and no foe or targeted object took damage as a result, you gain a +2 bonus to your AC, CMD, and saving throws. You apply this bonus to the next attacks made against you or saves you make before the beginning of your next turn. The bonus applies to a maximum number of attacks or saves equal to the number of attacks you made or creatures you targeted or had in a damaging area.

For example, if you caught three ninja in a fireball and damaged none of them, and didn’t take any other effective actions this round, you apply your Honed Defenses bonus to the next three attacks or saves you make before the beginning of your next turn.

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on July 14, 2020, in Game Design, Pathfinder Development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great idea, and very elegant. Thanks!

  2. Peter K. Ullmann

    I love the concept of fallback feats, particularly for failed magic.

    Have you considered the option that a fallback feat that grants a benefit from failed magic has different effects based upon the school of magic used? It might be more interesting if Eldritch Bolster had a different effect when you cast a divination spell (like an insight bonus) than it does when you cast a transmutation (like a bonus to Fortitude saves) or enchantment spell (like a bonus to Will saves)?

    I’d love to see feat trees for this sort of thing (and I’ve got ideas for it bouncing around in my brain right this very minute).

    Best wishes!

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