Variant Rules

The following are some variant rules which can be utilized in your campaign, allowing players and GMs to better customize their characters, worlds, and magical functions.

Class Skill Ranks Adjustment [BTH]

“We are men, not beasts!” the man exclaimed.

Rule: The class skill rank adjustment variant rule increases the minimum number of skill ranks granted to every class to be 4 + the character’s Intelligence modifier, up from 2 + the character’s Intelligence modifier.

If an archetype would adjust a class’s base skill points, adjust that class’s base skill points as described above before applying the archetype’s changes. No class should receive less than 4 skill points per level.

Example: The fracture fighter archetype (Ultimate Spheres of Power pg. 141) adjusts the fighter’s base skill points from 2 to 4. You would adjust the fighter’s base skill points from 2 to 4 with this variant rule, then apply the archetype’s changes, resulting in the fracture fighter receiving 6 skill points per level.

Context and Reasoning: Skill ranks are not something that should bar a character’s ability to interact with the world. This is meant to be a simple, holistic change that grants classes that normally did not have as many skill ranks as they might have wanted the ability to flesh their characters out a bit more and branch into opportunities they may have not been able to consider previously. This variant rule is not meant to edge out or reduce a character’s ability to possess a large number of skill ranks, but rather to ensure that a fighter or paladin can invest in a few more skills and feel more well rounded and able to participate.

This variant rule pairs well with the Background Skills ruleset originally included in Pathfinder Unchained (Pathfinder Unchained).

Diversified Casting Ability Scores [S&P]

While combat-focused characters must frequently pay attention to numerous ability scores in order to make a functional characters, casters can typically get away with enhancing only their casting ability score. Some GMs may wish to force casters to diversify their abilities or simply to homogenize magic across a setting rather than assigning each class or character a distinct casting ability score.

Under these rules, classes do not possess casting ability scores. Rather, the components of a character’s casting ability score and casting ability score modifier is divided among Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. If a character can cast using another ability score (such as Constitution), they may use the other ability score in place of one of the three options.

Intelligence is used to determine the number of spell points in a character’s spell pool and to determine the number of uses per day of various class abilities (such as an incanter or soul weaver’s channel energy).

Wisdom is used to determine the caster’s concentration checks as well as to determine the duration of any sphere talent or class ability with a duration based on casting ability score modifier (such as the mageknight’s bleeding wounds mystic combat or the Energy Aura talent from the Destruction sphere).

Charisma is used to determine the DCs of your sphere abilities and the DCs of your class abilities which would be based on your casting ability modifier (such as an eliciter’s hypnotisms or an incanter or soul weaver’s channel energy). If an effect would add your casting ability modifier to damage dealt or healed by an effect or would change the number of targets based on your casting ability modifier (such as Healing Aegis from the Protection sphere or Selective Blast from the Destruction sphere), such abilities use Charisma.

GMs may exchange the effects of the three ability scores at their discretion if they so wish. Some games may wish to make Diversified Casting Ability Scores a casting tradition drawback, in which case it should be worth one drawback.

Integrated Aristeia Progression [S&P]

Although the Aristeia system is powerful, some GMs may wish to integrate it as a natural progression of characters rather than as a series of optional feats. This works particularly well for high-powered games.

At 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, all characters gain an Aristeia feat as a bonus feat.

Some GMs may wish to take this further by removing the system of Aristeia points entirely, allowing the characters to enter whatever level of Aristeia they feel is appropriate whenever their situations arise.

Oath Points in place of Wealth [S&P]

Managing character wealth is a difficult but necessary task for many GMs, as many situations are designed with the expectation that players possess certain numbers-boosting pieces of equipment. Oath boons provide alternative sources for many of these item-based bonuses, and a GM may wish to grant free Oath boons to PCs as an alternative to typical magical gear. This diminishes the bookkeeping necessary for many high-level characters.

Generally, a character given half of the normal wealth for their level and 7 free Oath points worth of Oath boons should be similar in power to a character with normal wealth for their level. Similarly, 15 Oath points should be sufficient to give a character with little wealth beyond mundane equipment a similar degree of strength and versatility to a character who possesses normal wealth for their level. If GMs feel that these numbers are unbalanced in their particular campaign world at a specific level, they may wish to grant or revoke Oath points in order to reach the proper balance in conjunction with the expensive or unique equipment they may wish to supply players.

This process can be applied to low-wealth NPCs as well. An NPC who possesses mundane equipment and 5 Oath points worth of free Oath boons is likely to be of similar strength to an NPC with more typical wealth.

As wealth is much more limited in this ruleset, Oaths which rely on wealth limitation (such as Oath of Offerings and Oath of Poverty) should not be allowed or should be appropriately reduced in the number of Oath points they grant. Similarly, Oath points granted in place of wealth should not count towards the maximum number of Oath points a character can benefit from.

Opt-In Negative Energy Affinity [Gravecaller's HB]

Rule: With the opt-in negative energy affinity variant rule, any race can accept the following racial trait:

Negative Energy Affinity: Though a living creature, the race reacts to positive and negative energy as if it were undead—positive energy harms it, while negative energy heals it. Context and Reasoning: This option allows any race to have a similar experience as the dhampir race, undead by association and not by mechanics.

In a game using opt-in negative energy affinity, any race that gains negative energy affinity instead gains Skill Focus as a bonus feat, and may choose to opt into this variant rule like any other race. For example, a dhampir would gain Skill Focus as a bonus feat instead of their negative energy affinity trait and could then choose to opt into having negative energy affinity, whereas a dwarf could choose to gain negative energy affinity normally. Any class that would gain negative energy affinity, or something similar, may instead gain a bonus feat related to that class, subject to GM discretion (such as the lichling soul weaver gaining a bonus feat with spherecasting or bound nexus as a prerequisite).

The gameplay and mechanical implications of this variant rule are relatively minor but offer some mechanical backing to wanting to play a “lesser undead” elf or aasimar, for example, without all the mechanical headaches that come with the undead type.

Undead Player Characters [Gravecaller's HB]

Wiki Note: This rule is not particularly meant to be used with the Opt-In Negative Energy Affinity variant rule.

Rule: With the undead player characters variant rule, any race can accept the following racial trait:

**Undeath: The race’s type changes to undead. It retains any subtypes and uses all the base creature’s statistics and abilities but gains all the traits listed by the undead type. This alters the race’s creature type.

Context and Reasoning: This option allows any race to have the undead type along with its immunities and weaknesses. It is intentionally left open-ended for characters to choose if they are a more corpse-like undead, such as a zombie, skeletal, or simply preserved, like a vampire.

Unlike the opt-in negative energy affinity variant rule, this variant rule can be a very noticeable and powerful change. It is important for a GM to understand that the immunities granted by the undead type are some of the most comprehensive and powerful immunities in Pathfinder. GMs can and will find it challenging when player characters are immune to a majority of the game’s saving throws and should be willing to adjust encounters to appropriately challenge a player character with the undead type.

When allowing a player character to accept the undead type, GMs should closely monitor or supervise the character generation process. Because the undead type does not have a Constitution score, and uses Charisma instead of Constitution, Charisma becomes a much more valuable ability score. Players using their point buy or other ability score generation methods may be tempted to “dump” Constitution to bolster their other ability scores, oftentimes to levels which would not have been feasible for the formerly-living body that player represents. It is important to remember that creatures with the undead type are destroyed when they reach 0 or fewer hit points.

Some GMs and players may find that this prevents deadlier encounters due to a fear of killing a player’s character and removing that character’s roleplay, history, and story. One suggested solution is to implement the following addendum to the undead racial trait above:

  • Clinging to Undeath: The creature gains a Constitution score and can be targeted by spells and effects that target living creatures or undead, as well as those that require a Fortitude save. They are no longer immune to ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, exhaustion or fatigue. Races with this trait require sleep, but they do not need to breathe or eat. They are not destroyed when reduced to 0 hit points, instead becoming unconscious and stable. They are destroyed when reduced to a negative number of hit points equal to their Charisma score. The creature can be raised or resurrected when destroyed. This alters the race’s creature type (requires undeath).

This change, inspired by a similar option presented to the wyrwood race from Pathfinder Player Companion: Heroes of Golarion, removes some of the benefits of the undead type but allows the character to not be permanently killed when reduced to 0 hit points. GMs should find using the clinging to undeath racial trait as a modification to the undeath trait to be less difficult to navigate around, but should feel free to adjust the immunities and tradeoffs presented by clinging to undeath to fit their needs, such as removing the immunity to mind-affected or Fortitude saves. However, the more that is removed, the more it is advised to simply use the opt-in negative energy affinity variant rule instead.

When using this variant rule, consider granting player characters who do not opt into being undead a bonus feat or other benefit to help even the playing field with characters who will have these immunities and benefits.

This website uses cookies. See the Legal & OGL page for important information. Any material NOT covered by the Open Game License Version 1.0a is covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.