This game uses a number of terms, abbreviations, and definitions in presenting the rules of the game. The following are among the most common.
You can move 5 feet in any round when you don't perform any other kind of movement. Taking this 5-foot step never provokes an attack of opportunity. You can't take more than one 5-foot step in a round, and you can't take a 5-foot step in the same round that you move any distance.
You can take a 5-foot step before, during, or after your other actions in the round.
You can only take a 5-foot-step if your movement isn't hampered by difficult terrain or darkness. Any creature with a speed of 5 feet or less can't take a 5-foot step, since moving even 5 feet requires a move action for such a slow creature.
You may not take a 5-foot step using a form of movement for which you do not have a listed speed.
Each creature has six ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These scores represent a creature's most basic attributes. The higher the score, the more raw potential and talent your character possesses.
An action is a discrete measurement of time during a round of combat. Using abilities, casting spells, and making attacks all require actions to perform. There are a number of different kinds of actions, such as a standard action, move action, swift action, free action, and full-round action.
An adventure is a self-contained storyline the PCs experience. An adventure is composed of a series of encounters furthering the storyline.
"Aid Another" is a way to help someone else on a skill check by making the same kind of skill check in a cooperative effort. If you roll a 10 or higher on your check, the character you're helping gets a +2 bonus on his or her check. (You can't take 10 on a skill check to aid another.) In many cases, a character's help won't be beneficial, or only a limited number of characters can help at once. In cases where the skill restricts who can achieve certain results, such as trying to open a lock using Disable Device, you can't aid another to grant a bonus to a task that your character couldn't achieve alone. The GM might impose further restrictions to aiding another on a case-by-case basis as well.
Alignment represents a creature's basic moral and ethical attitude. Alignment has two components: one describing whether a creature is lawful, neutral, or chaotic, followed by another that describes whether a character is good, neutral, or evil. Alignments are usually abbreviated using the first letter of each alignment component, such as LN for lawful neutral or CE for chaotic evil. Creatures that are neutral in both components are denoted by a single “N.”
Armor Class (AC)
All creatures in the game have an Armor Class. This score represents how difficult a character is to hit with weapons and some spells, and works much like a Difficulty Class for attacks. As with other scores, higher is better. This is the target number enemies need to hit you. Your basic AC is 10 + Dex modifier + armor bonus + shield bonus + spells or magic items that grant an AC bonus. An average unarmored person has an AC of 10. Armor and various abilities can increase this number.
Something that is "at-will" can be used an unlimited number of times per day. It is otherwise unchanged in all other respects.
Each creature has a base attack bonus and it represents its skill in combat. As a character gains levels or Hit Dice, his base attack bonus improves. When a creature's base attack bonus reaches +6, +11, or +16, he receives an additional attack in combat when he takes a full-attack action (which is one type of full-round action—see Combat).
A class that progresses from level 1-20.
Bonuses are numerical values that are added to checks and statistical scores. Most bonuses have a type, and as a general rule, bonuses of the same type are not cumulative (do not “stack”)—only the greater bonus granted applies.
The important aspect of bonus types is that two bonuses of the same type don't generally stack. With the exception of dodge bonuses, most circumstance bonuses, and racial bonuses, only the better bonus of a given type works. Bonuses without a type always stack, unless they are from the same source.
* Spells and magic items should never grant dodge bonuses because dodge bonuses always stack, and it would be a simple matter to stack various low-power items or spells with small dodge bonuses and get an incredibly high armor class more cheaply than by achieving that AC using the armor, deflection, enhancement, and natural armor bonuses in the game.
A campaign is a collection of stories weaving into an overreaching narrative. It may be a string of published adventures, a chain of home-brewed material, or an Adventure Path designed to be played as a series. A campaign may or may not have a definitive or predefined end point.
A sequence of adventures that mesh well with each other, usually part of a larger campaign. Game Masters often run these shorter arcs to create a story that’s more concise than a full campaign but longer than a single adventure.
"Cantrip" is another word for any 0-level arcane spell (spells cast by classes such as sorcerers and wizards.)
Caster level represents a creature's power and ability when casting spells. When a creature casts a spell, it often contains a number of variables, such as range or damage, that are based on the caster's level.
A Caster Level Check is made by rolling 1d20 and adding the caster level of the character or creature casting the spell. Many spells (such as dispel magic, nondetection, planar binding, remove curse, and many more) require or include Caster Level Checks to function.
The total level of the character, which is the sum of all class levels held by that character.
A check is a d20 roll which may or may not be modified by another value. The most common types are attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks and saving throws.
Classes represent chosen professions taken by characters and some other creatures. Classes give a host of bonuses and allow characters to take actions that they otherwise could not, such as casting spells or changing shape. As a creature gains levels in a given class, it gains new, more powerful abilities. Most PCs gain levels in the core classes or prestige classes, since these are the most powerful. Most NPCs gain levels in NPC Classes, which are less powerful.
The level of a character in a particular class. For a character with levels in only one class, class level and character level are the same.
Combat Maneuver Defense represents how hard it is to perform a combat maneuver against this creature. A creature's CMD is used as the difficulty class when performing a maneuver against that creature.
When a creature is casting a spell, but is disrupted during the casting, he must make a concentration check or fail to cast the spell.
One of the standard classes found in Classes.
A creature is an active participant in the story or world. This includes PCs, NPCs, and monsters.
When you make an attack roll and get a natural 20 (the d20 shows 20), you hit regardless of your target's Armor Class, and you have scored a “threat,” meaning the hit might be a critical hit (or “crit”). To find out if it's a critical hit, you immediately make an attempt to “confirm” the critical hit—another attack roll with all the same modifiers as the attack roll you just made. If the confirmation roll also results in a hit against the target's AC, your original hit is a critical hit. (The critical roll just needs to hit to give you a crit, it doesn't need to come up 20 again.) If the confirmation roll is a miss, then your hit is just a regular hit.
Damage is determined by rolling the dice listed with the weapon. Melee weapons deal their listed damage + Strength modifier. Ranged weapons usually do only their listed damage. Some weapons gain additional bonuses from magic or other effects. Spells do their listed damage.
Creatures that are resistant to harm typically have damage reduction. This amount is subtracted from any damage dealt to them from a physical source. Most types of DR can be bypassed by certain types of weapons. This is denoted by a “/” followed by the type, such as “10/cold iron.” Some types of DR apply to all physical attacks. Such DR is denoted by the “—” symbol. See Special Abilities for more information.
When the lowercase letter d is followed by a number, it refers to a die with that many sides. For example, a d6 is a six-sided die, and a d20 is a 20-sided die. Sometimes you roll multiple dice and add them together; in these cases, the number of dice goes in front of the “d” and the type of die goes after it. For example, 4d6 means “roll four six-sided dice and add them together.” See Roleplaying Dice on page 8 for more on this.
Whenever a creature attempts to perform an action whose success is not guaranteed, he must make some sort of check (usually a skill check). The result of that check must meet or exceed the Difficulty Class of the action that the creature is attempting to perform in order for the action to be successful. Climbing a slippery wall, dropping prone to avoid dragon breath, and gaining a suspicious guard's trust all have their own DCs that are determined by the GM. The higher the DC, the more difficult the challenge.
An encounter is a short scene in which the PCs are actively doing something. Examples of encounters include a combat with a monster, a social interaction significant to the adventure’s plot, an attempt to disarm a trap, or the discovery of a mystery or clue requiring further investigation.
Extraordinary abilities are unusual abilities that do not rely on magic to function. They are not something that just anyone can do or even learn to do without extensive training. Effects or areas that suppress or negate magic have no effect on extraordinary abilities.
As a character overcomes challenges, defeats monsters, and completes quests, he gains experience points. These points accumulate over time, and when they reach or surpass a specific value, the character gains a level.
A feat is an ability a creature has mastered. Feats often allow creatures to circumvent rules or restrictions. Creatures receive a number of feats based off their Hit Dice, but some classes and other abilities grant bonus feats.
A Game Master is the person who adjudicates the rules and controls all of the elements of the story and world that the players explore. A GM's duty is to provide a fair and fun game. The game’s storyteller, referee, and director.
Hit Dice represent a creature's general level of power and skill. As a creature gains levels, it gains additional Hit Dice. Monsters, on the other hand, gain racial Hit Dice, which represent the monster's general prowess and ability. Hit Dice are represented by the number the creature possesses followed by a type of die, such as “3d8.” This value is used to determine a creature's total hit points. In this example, the creature has 3 Hit Dice. When rolling for this creature's hit points, you would roll a d8 three times and add the results together, along with other modifiers.
Hit points are an abstraction signifying how robust and healthy a creature is at the current moment. To determine a creature's hit points, roll the dice indicated by its Hit Dice. A creature gains maximum hit points if its first Hit Die roll is for a character class level. Creatures whose first Hit Die comes from an NPC class or from his race roll their first Hit Die normally. Wounds subtract hit points, while healing (both natural and magical) restores hit points. Some abilities and spells grant temporary hit points that disappear after a specific duration. When a creature's hit points drop below 0, it becomes unconscious. When a creature's hit points reach a negative total equal to its Constitution score, it dies.
Whenever combat begins, all creatures involved in the battle must make an initiative check to determine the order in which creatures act during combat. The higher the result of the check, the earlier a creature gets to act. Initiative is a d20 roll + Dexterity modifier + any bonus modifiers. The higher the result, the earlier you can act.
Many spells and effects state that they are "language-dependent." A language-dependent spell or effect uses intelligible language as a medium for communication. If the target cannot understand or hear what the caster of a language-dependent spell says, the spell has no effect, even if the target fails its saving throw.
A character's level represents his overall ability and power. There are three types of levels. Class level is the number of levels of a specific class possessed by a character. Character level is the sum of all of the levels possessed by a character in all of his classes. Characters start at 1st level, and by adventuring can rise as high as 20th level over time. When a character gains a level, he or she receives new abilities and enhancements.
In addition, spells have a level associated with them numbered from 0 to 9. Spells of level 0 are also called either cantrips (arcane) or orisons (divine). Spell level indicates the general power of the spell. As a spellcaster gains character levels, he learns to cast spells of a higher spell level.
A line of effect is a straight, unblocked path that indicates what a spell can affect. A line of effect is canceled by a solid barrier. It's like line of sight for ranged weapons, except that it's not blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight. A line of effect starts from any corner of your square and extends to the limit of its range or until it strikes a barrier that would block it. A line-shaped spell affects all creatures in squares through which the line passes.
A line of sight is the same as a Line of Effect but with the additional restriction that that it is blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight (such as Concealment).
An attack in hand-to-hand combat. A basic melee attack is a d20 roll + base attack bonus + Strength modifier + any related or magical bonuses.
This is when characters act on information that they don’t have access to, but which their players know from the real world. Metagaming comes into play when players fail to maintain a divide between in-character knowledge and out-of-character knowledge. That could include anything from uncannily accurate in-character predictions from a player who’s already read the adventure, players recognizing monsters when their characters wouldn’t, low-Intelligence characters accessing well-educated players’ knowledge and talents, etc.
See Magic for additional details.
This is a number added to a die roll or a number on your character sheet. For example, your attack roll might have a modifier of +5, meaning that when you make an attack, you add 5 to the number you roll on the d20 die to get your result (thus, a 12 on the die would count as a 17, and so on). A bonus is a modifier that is +0 or higher; a penalty is one that's –1 or lower.
Monsters are creatures that rely on racial Hit Dice instead of class levels for their powers and abilities (although some possess class levels as well). PCs are usually not monsters.
How many feet you can move with a single move action on your turn. Each square on a battle grid represents 5 feet.
When you are asked to apply more than one multiplier to a roll, the multipliers are not multiplied by one another. Instead, you combine them into a single multiplier, with each extra multiple adding 1 less than its value to the first multiple. For example, if you are asked to apply a ×2 multiplier twice, the result would be ×3, not ×4.
A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on an attack roll is always a miss.
A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a hit. A natural 20 is also a Critical Threat—a possible critical hit.
"Orison" is another word for any 0-level divine spell (spells cast by classes such as clerics, druids, oracles, and inquisitors.)
Penalties are numerical values that are subtracted from a check or statistical score. Penalties do not have a type and most penalties stack with one another.
This is a character directly controlled by one of the players—typically a hero of the story you're playing.
An attack with a projectile weapon, such as a bow and arrow. A basic ranged attack is a d20 roll + base attack bonus + Dexterity modifier + any related or magical bonuses .
The core rules are somewhat vague on the requirements of resting and sleeping so the following is an extrapolation of existing rules combined with rules taken from d20srd.org combined with a bit of our own personal ideas. Use at your discretion.
The core rules clearly indicate that the only types of creatures that do not sleep are constructs, oozes, plants and undead. Most other creature types must rest on a somewhat regular cycle. There are specific examples that do not, such as elementals. The exact required duration of that rest is unclear as well as the consequences of having less than the required amount of rest.
We think it is reasonable that most creatures must rest for approximately 1/3 of every day, which in most worlds translates to roughly 8 hours per day.
For most creatures resting means sleeping. In some worlds some races can gain the benefits of rest simply by sitting quietly maintaining an awareness of their surroundings, while in other worlds those races must sleep, which leaves them vulnerable to attack.
In any case, these are the actual benefits of rest, per the core rules.
Armor Note: A creature that rests or sleeps in medium or heavier armor gains the fatigued condition if they do not possess either the Endurance feat or some other class or race ability which allows them to sleep in such uncomfortable gear.
HP Recovery: Eight hours of normal rest allows a character to recover 1 hp per character level. A disabled character that is not aided by another can attempt a DC 10 Constitution check after resting for 8 hours, to begin recovering hit points naturally (see the disabled condition for additional rules.)
Twenty-four (24) hours of complete rest allows a character to recover 2 hp per character level.
Long-term care: A character recovers hit points at twice the normal rate if attended to by a character who successfully uses the Heal skill to provide "long term care."
House Rule: A common house rule is to allow recovery of hit points from resting to also include the characters Constitution bonus. So, a character that has rested normally overnight would recover 1 hp per character level + his Con bonus.
Ability Damage: Eight hours of normal rest restores 1 point to each ability score that has been damaged. Twenty-four (24) hours of complete rest restores 2 points to each ability score that has been damaged.
Magic: For classes that prepare arcane spells, rest is extremely important. If rest is interrupted, each interruption adds 1 hour to the total amount of time the character has to rest and the character must have at least 1 hour of uninterrupted rest immediately prior to preparing spells. If the character does not need to sleep for some reason, he still must have 8 hours of restful calm before preparing any spells.
Some spellcasting classes, particularly divine spellcasting classes such as clerics, druids, inquisitors (and others), do not need to rest to regain spells but instead regain spells at a set time each day regardless of rest.
Combat is measured in rounds. During an individual round, all creatures have a chance to take a turn to act, in order of initiative. A round represents 6 seconds in the game world.
Occasionally the rules ask you to round a result or value. Unless otherwise stated, always round down. For example, if you are asked to take half of 7, the result would be 3.
When a creature is the subject of a dangerous spell or effect, it often receives a saving throw to mitigate the damage or result. Saving throws are passive, meaning that a character does not need to take an action to make a saving throw—they are made automatically. There are three types of saving throws: Fortitude (used to resist poisons, diseases, and other bodily ailments), Reflex (used to avoid effects that target an entire area, such as fireball), and Will (used to resist mental attacks and spells).
Saving throws are also sometimes just referred to as saves, as in "What is your Reflex Save?".
A session is a single bout of gaming. Not every session ties up an adventure; many adventures require multiple sessions to complete. The duration of sessions varies from group to group, from a few hours to a weekend.
A creatures size comes up frequently. Find below some very commonly referenced information. See page Size, Reach, & Threatened Areas for some examples and diagrams.
1 A creatures size modifier applies to its attacks and Armor Class.
A skill represents a creature's ability to perform an ordinary task, such as climb a wall, sneak down a hallway, or spot an intruder. The number of ranks possessed by a creature in a given skill represents its proficiency in that skill. As a creature gains Hit Dice, it also gains additional skill ranks that can be added to its skills.
Your ability to do something, from lying to climbing a wall or healing wounds. A skill check is a d20 roll + your skill modifier from the related skill (if any).
The following information was compiled in a neat and tidy format by the great orc hero and scrollmaker "Kor". The wording has been changed slightly for clarity.
His original post on the Paizo boards can be found here.
Base speed is your unencumbered speed for a specified type of movement. Your base speed for any movement type is calculated in a similar manner as described in Base Land speed. When a speed type is not referenced, base speed usually implies base land speed.
Base Land Speed
Base land speed is your unencumbered speed. Base land speed is calculated by applying all modifiers to your character’s speed with the exception of armor or encumbrance adjustments or any effect that modifies your “normal speed”.
In example, Kraag is a half-orc barbarian wearing light armor and calculates his speed as follows:
Your speed after calculating your normal speed and applying all other adjustments that affect your normal speed is your full speed. In most circumstances, your full speed is the same as your normal speed. Some effects modify normal speed however do not specifically add to its total, such as the haste spell. This newly modified speed is your full speed.
Total normal speed: 30’ (40’ total base land speed; -10’ reduction as per Table: Encumbrance Effects)
Total full speed: 60’ (30’ total normal speed +30’ enhancement speed bonus)
Your normal speed is your total encumbered speed (if any encumbrance applies). Normal speed is calculated by applying any armor or encumbrance reduction as indicated on Table: Armor and Encumbrance for Other Base Speeds, to your base speed.
In example, Kraag a half-orc barbarian, has just donned hide armor (medium armor). Kraag calculates his speed as follows:
Overland Speed (or Overland Movement) is typically referred to as a unit of measurement over vast distances and is measured in miles per hour or miles per day. Overland movement is not the same as your land speed. Table: Movement and Distance provides overland movement rates which are calculated as follows:
The term "Speed" is loosely used and is sometimes referred to as “character speed”. Generally, unless indicated otherwise any reference to speed should be deemed as a reference to normal speed.
Speed Modes are usually in reference to the different modes of land speeds available: walk, hustle and run. Run is usually further defined by a situational multiplier starting at (x3).
Speed Type is the type of speed you have available: burrow, climb, land, fly and swim.
Top Speed is a reference to using the best speed mode you have available, for any type of speed.
Spells can perform a wide variety of tasks, from harming enemies to bringing the dead back to life. Spells specify what they can target, what their effects are, and how they can be resisted or negated.
Spell-like abilities function just like spells, but are granted through a special racial ability or by a specific class ability (as opposed to spells, which are gained by spellcasting classes as a character gains levels).*
Some creatures are resistant to magic and gain spell resistance. When a creature with spell resistance is targeted by a spell, the caster of the spell must make a caster level check to see if the spell affects the target. The DC of this check is equal to the target creature's SR (some spells do not allow SR checks).
Stacking refers to the act of adding together bonuses or penalties that apply to one particular check or statistic. Generally speaking, most bonuses of the same type do not stack. Instead, only the highest bonus applies. Most penalties do stack, meaning that their values are added together. Penalties and bonuses generally stack with one another, meaning that the penalties might negate or exceed part or all of the bonuses, and vice versa.
Supernatural abilities are magical attacks, defenses, and qualities. These abilities can be always active or they can require a specific action to utilize. The supernatural ability's description includes information on how it is used and its effects.
When a character or creature is not in immediate danger or distracted, it may choose to take 10 on some rolls (specifically, skill checks). Instead of rolling 1d20 for the check, calculate the result as if the die had rolled a 10. For many routine tasks, taking 10 makes them automatically successful. Distractions or threats (such as combat) make it impossible to take 10. In most cases, taking 10 is purely a safety measure—you know (or expect) that an average roll will succeed but fear that a poor roll might fail, so you elect to settle for the average roll (a 10). Taking 10 is especially useful in situations where a particularly high roll wouldn't help.
When a character or creature has plenty of time, and is not faced with threats or distractions, and the skill being attempted carries no penalties for failure, he/it can take 20. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the check, just calculate the result as if the die had rolled a 20.
Taking 20 means you continue trying until you get it right, and assumes that you will fail many times before succeeding. Taking 20 takes 20 times as long as making a single check would take (usually 2 minutes for a skill that takes 1 round or less to perform).
Since taking 20 assumes that your character will fail many times before succeeding, your character would automatically incur any penalties for failure before he or she could complete the task (hence why it is generally not allowed with skills that carry such penalties).
When a character gains temporary hit points, note his current hit point total. When the temporary hit points go away the character’s hit points drop to his current hit point total. If the character’s hit points are below his current hit point total at that time, the character’s hit point total does not change. Temporary hit points do not stack.
TPK stands for "Total Party Kill" a sometimes accidental result of a poorly designed encounter by the GM, or poor decision making by the players, a combination of the two, or simply, bad luck and dice rolling. This definition provided by your friendly neighborhood d20pfsrd.com collaborators :)
In a round, a creature receives one turn, during which it can perform a wide variety of actions. Generally in the course of one turn, a character can perform one standard action, one move action, one swift action, and a number of free actions. Less-common combination's of actions are permissible as well, see Combat for more details.