Heroic Auras for Pathfinder 1st edition
Posted by Owen K.C. Stephens
I’m considering running an E6-style campaign for Pathfinder 1st edition in the not-too-distant future. That’s a play mode where character level progression stops at 6th level, and after that characters pick up a feat every few thousand experience points (and some higher-level abilities can be accessed as feats, and higher-level spells are sometimes available as rituals). I find such campaigns can have a very different feel from standard levels-go-normally-to-20th Pathfinder games, and can be great for more “Sword & Sorcery” stories (with typical Pathfinder often going quickly into High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy).
Being me, I am likely to use some houserules for such a campaign, to help produce a specific play experience focused on competent characters with flexible tools to encourage players to find creative ways to overcome situations. So far I have drafted from fodder foe rules, so I can still throw hordes of adversaries at my stuck-at-lower-level PCs, a set of cantrip buffs to make 0-level spells more impactful and give spellcasters a set of options that won’t run out of daily uses, and a set of skill specializations for most nonspellcasters and combat feat bonuses for fighters.
But characters without access to spells and/or a ton of special abilities also need something else to match their Sword and Sorcery heroic counterparts in genre fiction. They need an ability to just be *more* than typical people. Something between force of personality, keen cunning, and indominable will. Their mere presence can change the outcome of an encounter. Yes, this may change the course of combat, but it can also impact negotiations, bolster rookies, and just generally make things easier for their allies.
In short, they need to have Heroic Auras.
Heroic auras require affected creature to be aware of your presence. This is always the case if they can see or hear you. It is up to GM discretion under what circumstances a creature might be aware of your presence in other circumstances. You must be conscious and not helpless for your heroic aura to function, unless it says otherwise. Bonuses from different heroic auras do not stack, but they are otherwise untyped bonuses. Heroic auras don’t have prerequisites and do not require an action to activate.
As with skill specializations, the less access to special abilities a character class grants, the more heroic auras it gains.
Least Special Powers (fighter): Heroic aura gained at 2nd, 4th, 6th, and every 4 levels thereafter.
No Spell Access (barbarian, brawler, cavalier, samurai, shifter): Heroic aura gained at 2nd, and every 4 levels thereafter.
Minor Spell-Like or Supernatural Access (gunslinger, monk, ninja, rogue, slayer, swashbuckler, vigilante): Heroic aura gained at 3rd, and every 5 levels thereafter.
1st-4th Level Spell Access (bloodrager, kineticist, medium, paladin, ranger): Heroic aura gained at 4th, and every 5 levels thereafter.
Partial List of Auras: Before this idea would be viable in-play, even for a game limited to 6th level, I’d need a LOT more auras. This is especially true since in most game groups, the players aren’t going to double up on auras, instead preferring each character with access to them to take different heroic auras, maximizing the benefit to the group as a while.
This is just a proof-of-concept starting point.
Aura of Goodwill (Ex): Within 60 feet of you, creatures that are friendly to a creature they interact with instead function as though they were helpful. This does not prevent a friendly creature’s attitude from changing in normal response to actions, nor do they feel pressured for having acted in a helpful manner, even after they are outside your aura.
Aura of Readiness (Ex): Your alertness helps your allies stay alert and aware. Whenever you are not flat-footed, your allies within 60 feet also are not flat-footed.
Beloved (Ex): Your allies are moved to extraordinary acts to aid you. Each ally can, once per day, if you are paralyzed, helpless, bleeding, unconscious, or under the effects of a mind-affecting effect from a foe, take an additional standard action to move towards you, or to aid you (including casting a spell or using an ability that increases your saving throws, grants you a new save, heals you of damage, or removes a condition, penalty or affliction). Additionally, while you are adjacent to an ally that is not unconscious, held, paralyzed, or helpless, your actions do not provoke attacks of opportunity, and you cannot be targeted by a coup de grace. this heroic aura functions even when you are unconscious or helpless.
Call It In (Ex): You can help your allies more accurately land their large-area attacks. Adversaries within 30 feet of you with improved evasion only gain the benefit of normal evasion, and those with just standard evasion do not benefit from it.
Commando (Ex): You can direct a raid with great cunning, ensuring that everyone moves together to mask the movements of the unit as a whole and get to where they need to be. Allies within 60 feet of you have a minimum Climb check bonus equal to your Climb bonus -5, and minimum Stealth check bonus equal to your Stealth bonus -5.
Dire Aura (Ex): Your mere presence bolsters your allies, and turns your adversaries’ blood cold. When an adversary within 60 feet is demoralized from any source, the duration is increased by +1d4 rounds. When an ally within 60 feet is subject to a fear effect, they may make a saving throw against it with a cumulative +1 bonus each round (at the same save DC as the original effect, or a DC of 10 +1/2 source’s level + source’s Cha mod, if it does not normally have a saving throw), and on a successful save the effect ends.
Master of Beasts (Ex): You have an instinctive effect on domestic animals Allies within 60 feet of you have a minimum Handle Animal check bonus equal to your Handle Animal bonus -5, and minimum Ride check bonus equal to your Ride bonus -5.
Set My Will Against You (Ex): Your iron resolve to oppose your enemies literally weakens their ability to reject magical change. Allies within 60 feet of you gain a +4 bonus to caster level checks to overcome spell resistance. You do not gain this bonus.
Streetwise (Ex): As long as you are out and about in a community, once per day you can automatically take 20 on Diplomacy checks to gather information while still just taking the normal time to make the attempt. Allies travelling with you can make separate checks to gather information, and if successful gain any additional related information the GM determines is available.
Subtle Signs (Ex): Allies within 60 feet of you always succeed at Bluff checks to pass simple secret messages to you, and you always succeed at Bluff checks to pass secret messages to allies within 60 feet. The Sense Motive DC for unintended recipients to pick up on such messages is 25 + your level + the highest of your Int, Wis, or Cha modifiers.
Vicious Assault (Ex): Your fighting style not only hits hard and fast, slipping under foe’s defenses, it encourages your allies to do the same. You and allies within 30 feet reduce the DR of foes by 5, to a minimum of DR 0.
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