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Heroic Auras for Pathfinder 1st edition

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

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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Boosting Noncaster Pathfinder 1e Classes

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, and 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.

Of course, granting a universal set of buffs to classes with access to cantrips obviously gives characters with those classes an edge. Given that being underpowered it not generally the problem with spellcasting classes, if we are going to give those classes a big boost every other class needs a few things as well. When looking at who has options in a game that wants to challenge players to get creative, classes with access to spells already had an edge, so the fewer spells (and similar abilities) a character class has access to, the more of a boost it needs for our Sword and Sorcery E6 game.

Since we’re not getting those boosts from spells, we need to look at other game elements, specifically, skills and feats.

Skill Specialization

To help them keep up with our super-cantrip spellcasters, classes with more limited spell access gain some bonus skill ranks and early access to Skill Unlocks (as presented in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Unchained). Since the game is designed to cap at 6th level, PCs would normally never get the skill unlocks for having 10 and 15 ranks in a skill. So by granting skill unlocks early, we can give classes with fewer spells a flexible edge that other characters don’t have access to. This special skill boost is referred to as skill specialization.

The less access a class grants to spells and other special powers, the more skill specialization it needs. As convenient break-points, I’ve created major and minor skill specialization (defined below), and a lesser option to access some skill specialization by spending a feat (for classes with a lot of general spellpower, but who don’t get cantrips). These don’t apply to all a characters’ skills, just a few they select from their class skills (which helps encourage spotlight protection of different rolls, without locking any class into one one option).

For purposes of deciding how many skill unlock boosts a class gives you, point-based power pools such as monk’s ki and gunslinger panache are treated as spell-like abilities, due to their flexibility and utility, even though in some cases the powers they grant are all extraordinary and/or supernatural. Similarly some classes (such as kineticist) are placed in categories based on their overall magic power access, even if they don’t gain normal spellcasting. I’ve categorized the official classes by how much skill specialization they gain, with brief descriptions of why in case the system gets mixed with 3pp classes… which, let’s be honest, I have written a ton of.

Least Special Powers (fighter): 2 major skill specializations, 2 minor skill specialization

No Spell Access (barbarian, brawler, cavalier, samurai, shifter): 1 major skill specialization, 2 minor skill specialization

Minor Spell-Like or Supernatural Access (gunslinger, monk, ninja, rogue, slayer, swashbuckler, vigilante): 2 minor skill specializations

1st-4th Level Spell Access (bloodrager, kineticist, medium, paladin, ranger): 1 minor skill specialization

1st-6th Level Spell-Like Access [No cantrips] (alchemist, investigator): 1 minor skill specialization available as a feat choice.

Major Skill Specialization: Select a class skill. You gain a bonus rank in this skill at every class level (not to exceed a number of ranks equal to your character level), and use your total ranks +9 as your effective number of ranks for skill unlocks with that skill.

Minor Skill Specialization: Select a class skill. You gain a bonus rank in this skill at every class level (not to exceed a number of ranks equal to your character level), and use your total ranks +4 as your effective number of ranks for skill unlocks with that skill.

Minor Skill Specialization Feat: You can expend a feat to gain a +4 bonus to the number of effective ranks you have in a class skill of your choice when determining your skill unlocks for that skill. You may only expend a feat for this bonus for a single skill.

Improved Combat Feats For Fighters

The fighter should be a viable, even attractive option for a Sword and Sorcery genre ttRPG. However, the fighter is the least flexible and utilitarian of all the standard PC classes in Pathfinder 1st edition. Not only are fighters often not the best combatants (with barbarians, cavaliers, and all the classes with full attack bonuses and access to up to 4 levels of spells frequently outdoing fighters in pure combat), but they have many fewer special abilities that other classes can’t access somehow. While there are “fighter feats” that were originally fighter-only, many classes (often hybrid classes of the fighter and another class) gain access to fighter feats at some level, and nearly everything else a fighter gets as an exclusive class feature is just a bonus or weakening of a penalty.

So, for our E6/Sword and Sorcery campaign, fighters get Improved Combat Feats, giving them options other characters just don’t have.

Improved Combat Feats: The bonus combat feats gained by a fighter grant the option to automatically apply the benefits of the feat’s combat trick (as normally gained through the Combat Stamina feat) without having to expend stamina points. Combat Stamina is not available for characters to select as a feat–fighter bonuses feats gaining combat tricks automatically for their bonus feats is the only way to access combat tricks in this campaign model.

If a combat trick has a variable stamina point cost up to a specific ability score modifier (such as Agile Maneuvers), the fighter gains the benefit of spending points equal to the maximum. For other variable costs, the fighter gains the benefit of spending stamina points equal to half their class level.

Additionally, a fighter ignores ability score minimums when determining if they meet prerequisites for combat feats gained with the bonus feat class feature. Everyone else may need a 13 Intelligence to take Combat Expertise, but fighters do not.

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Buffing Pathfinder 1st ed Cantrips

I’m thinking of running an E6-style Pathfinder 1st edition game in the not-too-distant future, and I want to make cantrips a more important and impactful element of that campaign. So, I have come up with scaling power increases to every official cantrip for Pathfinder 1st edition.

To be clear, these are a pure power-up, and using these rules makes all characters able to cast cantrips at least slightly more powerful. I plan on using these rules only in campaigns where noncasters gain a similar boost to effectiveness.

Those affects that use half your caster level always round down. Those that allow you to make a skill check only allow a single check for each thing you wish to attempt, and you can never take 10 or take 20. Such checks are often made by the GM in secret.

Acid Splash: Add half your caster level to the damage done by this spell.

Arcane Mark: You cast use Spellcraft to attempt to find or follow the most recent arcane mark spell you cast, as if using Survival to track.

Bleed: This spell can be cast on creatures not below 0 hp, in which case if they fail a save they bleed 1 hp/round for a number of rounds equal to half your caster level.

Brand: This spell can deal acid, electricity, or fire damage, as you prefer. Add half you caster level to the damage done by this spell.

Breeze: During the duration of this spell, each round as a standard action you can select one creature within range to gain a deflection bonus to AC against ranged missile attacks equal to half your caster level. Only ranged attacks that could be affected by the Deflect Arrows feat are affected by this spell.

Chameleon Scales: When you cast this spell while you have cover or concealment, you can make a Spellcraft check to hide as if using Stealth. You cannot use it for Stealth while moving, and if your cover or concealment ends, so does your Stealth.

Create Water: Casting this spell allows you to attempt to trip a foe, with a CMB of 1/2 your caster level + your spellcasting ability score. It also does 1 point of damage per 2 caster levels to fire elementals (and, at the GM’s discretion, other creatures actually made of fire).

Dancing Lights: Casting this spells allows you to attempt to feint a single foe using Spellcraft, as if making a Bluff check, by using the lights to confuse and distract your opponent. If your check is successful, the feint applies to the next attack made against the target before the end of your next turn.

Daze: This spell affects targets with a max HD equal to your caster level +3.

Detect Fiendish Presence: Casting this spell allows you to use Spellcraft in place of a Perception check to spot outsiders with the evil subtype, as well as the lingering effects caused by their gifts, presence, and spells and divine spellcasters who worship fiendish deities or creatures with fiendish patrons. If you have time to also make a Perception check, you can use this spell in an attempt to aid another with your own Perception check.

Detect Magic: Casting this spell allows you to use Spellcraft in place of a Perception check to spot magical creatures, items, and traps. If you have time to also make a Perception check, you can use this spell in an attempt to aid another with your own Perception check.

Detect Poison: Casting this spell allows you to use Spellcraft in place of a Perception check to spot poisonous creatures, items, and traps. If you have time to also make a Perception check, you can use this spell in an attempt to aid another with your own Perception check.

Detect Psychic Significance: Casting this spell allows you to use Spellcraft in place of a Perception check to spot items of psychic significance. If you have time to also make a Perception check, you can use this spell in an attempt to aid another with your own Perception check.

Disrupt Undead: Add your caster level to damage done with this spell.

Drench: Drenched creatures gain a bonus equal to half your caster level on their next saving throws against fire effects within 1 round per caster level. This spell also does 1 point of damage per caster level to fire elementals (and, at the GM’s discretion, other creatures actually made of fire).

Flare: The duration is 10 rounds, +1 round/2 caster levels.

Ghost Sound: Casting this spell allows you to attempt to demoralize a single foe using Spellcraft, as if making an Intimidate check, by making sudden, distracting, disturbing noises. This use does not allow a Will save, and is not language-dependent. If the target is already shaken, this extends the duration of their shaken effect, rather than increase their degree of fear.

Grasp: This spell gains a target of 1 creature, and a range of 1/2 your caster level x 5 feet.

Grave Words: The chance of the words being of some use is 9+caster level %.

Guidance: Guidance has a duration of 1 minute/caster level, and is not discharged when the target uses it. instead, the target can use its bonus again one minute after a previous use.

Haunted Fey Aspect: The DR is increased by +1 per 3 caster levels.

Jolt: Add half your caster level to the damage done by this spell.

Know Direction: This spell allows you to use Spellcraft in place of Survival for all Survival tasks except tracking.

Light: Casting this spells allows you to attempt to pass a secret message to a single creature using Spellcraft, as if making a Bluff check, by using the lights to send clandestine signals.

Lullaby: You can make a Perform check to conceal casting a lullaby, with observers having to exceed your Perform result with an opposed Perception check to realize you are using this spell.

Mage Hand: The spell’s weight limit is 4 + your caster level in pounds.

Mending: Add half your caster level to the hp restored with each casting of this spell. If a magic item is destroyed by damage, and you mend it back to full hp within one minute, its magic properties are retained.

Message: The DC for those not targeted by your spell to overhear the message is 24 + your caster level.

Oath of Anonymity: Add half your caster level to the bonus granted by this spell.

Open/Close: The casting time for this spell is 1 move action. The weight limit is (5 + your caster level) x 5 lbs.

Penumbra: The target of this spell gains a bonus to Stealth checks (equal to half your caster level) against creatures unable to see in total darkness, when in dim and no light.

Prestidigitation: Prestidigitation allows you to use Spellcraft as wide number of Craft and Professional skill checks (subject to GM approval), including as an aid another option for yourself and others making any Craft or Profession check.

Purify Food and Drink: You can use this spell to make a Spellcraft check to attempt to treat disease or treat poison, as if making a Healing check. If you have time to also make a Healing check, you can use this spell in an attempt to aid another with your own Healing check.

Ray of Frost: Add half your caster level to the damage done by this spell.

Read Magic: You can use this spell to make a Spellcraft check to attempt to decipher written language as if making a Linguistics check. If you have time to also make a Linguistics check, you can use this spell in an attempt to aid another with your own Linguistics check.

Resistance: This becomes an untyped bonus that does not stack with itself (regardless of source), with a duration of 1 minute per caster level.

Root: This spell gains a range of 1/2 your caster level x 5 feet, and a duration of 1 minute/caster level.

Scoop: As part of the standard action to concentrate on this spell, you can use it to deliver a liquid in your possession to a creature within range. This can apply potions and oils to willing targets, or to make a thrown attack against unwilling targets using your spellcasting ability bonus in place of your Dexterity bonus for the attack.

Scrivener’s Chant: This spell allows you to scribe spells into a spellbook in half the normal time and at half the normal cost, and to make scrolls (if you have the Scribe Scroll feat) while travelling (but not engaging in more strenuous activities, such as fighting, research, or crafting).

Sift: This spell uses your Spellcraft check if that is superior to your Perception -5. All other limitations of the spell apply. You can make a Perform check to conceal casting a sift, with observers having to exceed your Perform result with an opposed Perception check to realize you are using this spell.

Sotto Voce: This spell affects targets with a max HD equal to your caster level +3.

Spark: This spell can deal one point of fire damage per 2 caster levels to a creature or object within range. Targets soaked or covered in easily flammable substances (such as being soaked in oil) must make a Reflex save each time they take damage, or catch on fire.

Stabilize: The first time each day a creature has stabilize cast on them, they also recover hit points equal to half the caster’s level.

Summon Instrument: This spell can also summon a typical tool (weighing no more than 5 lbs and worth no more than 1 p, and it is obviously conjured), which will function only for you. Instruments summoned by it grant a +1 circumstance bonus to related Perform checks per 5 caster levels.

Telekinetic Projectile: Add half your caster level to damage dealt by this spell.

Touch of Fatigue: This spell gains a range of 1/2 your caster level x 5 feet.

Unwitting Ally: The spell’s duration becomes 1 round/caster level.

Vacuous Vessel: The duration increases to 10minutes/level, and you can have one vacuous vessel spell active per 2 caster levels.

Vigor: Add half your caster level to the damage bonus provided by this spell.

Virtue: Add half your caster level to the temporary hit points granted by this spell.

Expanded Post:

While I likely won’t use the 2 pre-Pathfinder spells published in official sources (enhanced diplomacy and sign of the dawnflower), I went ahead and included them in the expanded version of this article available to backers of my Patreon.
If you enjoy any of my articles, please sign up at my Patreon, for as little as the cost of one cup of coffee a month! Of, if you prefer, you can drop me a single cup of appreciation at my Ko-Fi.

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