Special Abilities

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Source: Pathfinder d20pfsrd.com

The following special abilities include rules commonly used by a number of creatures, spells, and traps.

Extraordinary Abilities (Ex)

Extraordinary abilities are non-magical. They are, however, 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.

Spell-Like Abilities (Sp)

Spell-like abilities, as the name implies, are magical abilities that are very much like spells. Spell-like abilities are subject to Spell Resistance and dispel magic. They do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated (such as an antimagic field). Spell-like abilities can be dispelled but they cannot be counterspelled or used to counterspell.

Supernatural Abilities (Su)

Supernatural abilities are magical but not spell-like. Supernatural abilities are not subject to Spell Resistance and do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated (such as an antimagic field). A supernatural ability's effect cannot be dispelled and is not subject to counterspells.

Table: Special Ability Types

Extraordinary Spell-Like Supernatural
Dispel No Yes No
Spell Resistance No Yes No
Antimagic field No Yes Yes
Attack of Opportunity No Yes No

Dispel: Can dispel magic and similar spells dispel the effects of abilities of that type?
Spell Resistance: Does Spell Resistance protect a creature from these abilities?
Antimagic Field: Does an antimagic field or similar magic suppress the ability?
Attack of Opportunity: Does using the ability provoke attacks of opportunity the way that casting a spell does?

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Channel Resistance

Charm and Compulsion

Many abilities and spells can cloud the minds of characters and monsters, leaving them unable to tell friend from foe—or worse yet, deceiving them into thinking that their former friends are now their worst enemies. Two general types of enchantments affect characters and creatures: charms and compulsions.

Charming another creature gives the charming character the ability to befriend and suggest courses of action to his minion, but the servitude is not absolute or mindless. Charms of this type include the various charm spells and some monster abilities. Essentially, a charmed character retains free will but makes choices according to a skewed view of the world.

A charmed creature doesn't gain any magical ability to understand his new friend's language.
A charmed character retains his original alignment and allegiances, generally with the exception that he now regards the charming creature as a dear friend and will give great weight to his suggestions and directions.
A charmed character fights his former allies only if they threaten his new friend, and even then he uses the least lethal means at his disposal as long as these tactics show any possibility of success (just as he would in a fight with an actual friend).

A charmed character is entitled to an opposed Charisma check against his master in order to resist instructions or commands that would make him do something he wouldn't normally do even for a close friend. If he succeeds, he decides not to go along with that order but remains charmed.

A charmed character never obeys a command that is obviously suicidal or grievously harmful to him.
If the charming creature commands his minion to do something that the influenced character would be violently opposed to, the subject may attempt a new saving throw to break free of the influence altogether.
A charmed character who is openly attacked by the creature who charmed him or by that creature's apparent allies is automatically freed of the spell or effect.

Compulsion is a different matter altogether. A compulsion overrides the subject's free will in some way or simply changes the way the subject's mind works. A charm makes the subject a friend of the caster; a compulsion makes the subject obey the caster.

Regardless of whether a character is charmed or compelled, he does not volunteer information or tactics that his master doesn't ask for.

Damage Reduction

Some magic creatures have the supernatural ability to instantly heal damage from weapons or ignore blows altogether as though they were invulnerable.

The numerical part of a creature's damage reduction (or DR) is the amount of damage the creature ignores from normal attacks. Usually, a certain type of weapon can overcome this reduction (see Overcoming DR). This information is separated from the damage reduction number by a slash. For example, DR 5/magic means that a creature takes 5 less points of damage from all weapons that are not magic. If a dash follows the slash, then the damage reduction is effective against any attack that does not ignore damage reduction.

Whenever damage reduction completely negates the damage from an attack, it also negates most special effects that accompany the attack, such as injury poison, a monk's stunning, and injury-based disease. Damage Reduction does not negate touch attacks, energy damage dealt along with an attack, or energy drains. Nor does it affect poisons or diseases delivered by inhalation, ingestion, or contact.

Attacks that deal no damage because of the target's damage reduction do not disrupt spells.

Spells, spell-like abilities, and energy attacks (even non-magical fire) ignore damage reduction.

Sometimes damage reduction represents instant healing. Sometimes it represents the creature's tough hide or body. In either case, other characters can see that conventional attacks won't work.

If a creature has damage reduction from more than one source, the two forms of damage reduction do not stack. Instead, the creature gets the benefit of the best damage reduction in a given situation.

Overcoming DR

DR Type Weapon Enhancement Bonus Equivalent
cold iron / silver +3
adamantine* +4
Alignment-based +5

* Note that this does not give the ability to ignore hardness, like an actual adamantine weapon does.

Damage Reduction may be overcome by special materials, magic weapons (any weapon with a +1 or higher enhancement bonus, not counting the enhancement from masterwork quality), certain types of weapons (such as slashing or bludgeoning), and weapons imbued with an alignment.

Ammunition fired from a projectile weapon with an enhancement bonus of +1 or higher is treated as a magic weapon for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. Similarly, ammunition fired from a projectile weapon with an alignment gains the alignment of that projectile weapon (in addition to any alignment it may already have).

Weapons with an enhancement bonus of +3 or greater can ignore some types of damage reduction, regardless of their actual material or alignment. The following table shows what type of enhancement bonus is needed to overcome some common types of damage reduction.


Death Attacks

In most cases, a death attack allows the victim a Fortitude save to avoid the effect, but if the save fails, the character dies instantly.

Raise dead doesn't work on someone killed by a death attack or effect.
Death attacks slay instantly. A victim cannot be made stable and thereby kept alive.
In case it matters, a dead character, no matter how he died, has hit points equal to or less than his negative Constitution score.
The spell death ward protects against these attacks.

Energy Drain and Negative Levels

Some spells and a number of undead creatures have the ability to drain away life and energy; this dreadful attack results in “negative levels.” These cause a character to take a number of penalties.

For each negative level a creature has, it takes a cumulative –1 penalty on all ability checks, attack rolls, combat maneuver checks, Combat Maneuver Defense, saving throws, and skill checks. In addition, the creature reduces its current and total hit points by 5 for each negative level it possesses. The creature is also treated as one level lower for the purpose of level-dependent variables (such as spellcasting) for each negative level possessed. Spellcasters do not lose any prepared spells or slots as a result of negative levels. If a creature's negative levels equal or exceed its total Hit Dice, it dies.

A creature with temporary negative levels receives a new saving throw to remove the negative level each day. The DC of this save is the same as the effect that caused the negative levels.

Some abilities and spells (such as raise dead) bestow permanent level drain on a creature. These are treated just like temporary negative levels, but they do not allow a new save each day to remove them. Level drain can be removed through spells like restoration. Permanent negative levels remain after a dead creature is restored to life. A creature whose permanent negative levels equal its Hit Dice cannot be brought back to life through spells like raise dead and resurrection without also receiving a restoration spell, cast the round after it is restored to life.

Energy Immunity and Vulnerability

A creature with energy immunity never takes damage from that energy type. Vulnerability means the creature takes half again as much (+50%) damage as normal from that energy type, regardless of whether a saving throw is allowed or if the save is a success or failure.

Energy Resistance

A creature with resistance to energy has the ability (usually extraordinary) to ignore some damage of a certain type per attack, but it does not have total immunity.

Each resistance ability is defined by what energy type it resists and how many points of damage are resisted. It doesn't matter whether the damage has a mundane or magical source.

When resistance completely negates the damage from an energy attack, the attack does not disrupt a spell. This resistance does not stack with the resistance that a spell might provide.



Spells, magic items, and certain monsters can affect characters with fear. In most cases, the character makes a Will saving throw to resist this effect, and a failed roll means that the character is shaken, frightened, or panicked.

Shaken: Characters who are shaken take a –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.

Frightened: Characters who are frightened are shaken, and in addition they flee from the source of their fear as quickly as they can. They can choose the paths of their flight. Other than that stipulation, once they are out of sight (or hearing) of the source of their fear, they can act as they want. If the duration of their fear continues, however, characters can be forced to flee if the source of their fear presents itself again. Characters unable to flee can fight (though they are still shaken).

Panicked: Characters who are panicked are shaken, and they run away from the source of their fear as quickly as they can, dropping whatever they are holding. Other than running away from the source, their paths are random. They flee from all other dangers that confront them rather than facing those dangers. Once they are out of sight (or hearing) of any source of danger, they can act as they want. Panicked characters cower if they are prevented from fleeing.

Becoming Even More Fearful: Fear effects are cumulative. A shaken character who is made shaken again becomes frightened, and a shaken character who is made frightened becomes panicked instead. A frightened character who is made shaken or frightened becomes panicked instead.

The ability to move about unseen is not foolproof. While they can't be seen, invisible creatures can be heard, smelled, or felt.

Invisibility makes a creature undetectable by vision, including Darkvision.

Invisibility does not, by itself, make a creature immune to critical hits, but it does make the creature immune to extra damage from being a ranger's favored enemy and from sneak attacks.

A creature can generally notice the presence of an active invisible creature within 30 feet with a DC 20 Perception check. The observer gains a hunch that “something's there” but can't see it or target it accurately with an attack. It's practically impossible (+20 DC) to pinpoint an invisible creature's location with a Perception check. Even once a character has pinpointed the square that contains an invisible creature, the creature still benefits from total concealment (50% miss chance). There are a number of modifiers that can be applied to this DC if the invisible creature is moving or engaged in a noisy activity.
Invisible creature is... Perception DC Modifier
In combat or speaking –20
Moving at half speed –5
Moving at full speed –10
Running or charging –20
Not moving +20
Using Stealth Stealth check +20
Some distance away +1 per 10 feet
Behind an obstacle (door) +5
Behind an obstacle (stone wall) +15

A creature can grope about to find an invisible creature. A character can make a touch attack with his hands or a weapon into two adjacent 5-foot squares using a standard action. If an invisible target is in the designated area, there is a 50% miss chance on the touch attack. If successful, the groping character deals no damage but has successfully pinpointed the invisible creature's current location. If the invisible creature moves, its location, obviously, is once again unknown.

If an invisible creature strikes a character, the character struck knows the location of the creature that struck him (until, of course, the invisible creature moves). The only exception is if the invisible creature has a reach greater than 5 feet. In this case, the struck character knows the general location of the creature but has not pinpointed the exact location.

If a character tries to attack an invisible creature whose location he has pinpointed, he attacks normally, but the invisible creature still benefits from full concealment (and thus a 50% miss chance). A particularly large and slow invisible creature might get a smaller miss chance.

If a character tries to attack an invisible creature whose location he has not pinpointed, have the player choose the space where the character will direct the attack. If the invisible creature is there, conduct the attack normally. If the enemy's not there, roll the miss chance as if it were there and tell him that the character has missed, regardless of the result. That way the player doesn't know whether the attack missed because the enemy's not there or because you successfully rolled the miss chance.

If an invisible character picks up a visible object, the object remains visible. An invisible creature can pick up a small visible item and hide it on his person (tucked in a pocket or behind a cloak) and render it effectively invisible. One could coat an invisible object with flour to at least keep track of its position (until the flour falls off or blows away).

Invisible creatures leave tracks. They can be tracked normally. Footprints in sand, mud, or other soft surfaces can give enemies clues to an invisible creature's location.

An invisible creature in the water displaces water, revealing its location. The invisible creature, however, is still hard to see and benefits from concealment.

A creature with the Scent ability can detect an invisible creature as it would a visible one.

A creature with the Blind-Fight feat has a better chance to hit an invisible creature. Roll the miss chance twice, and he misses only if both rolls indicate a miss. (Alternatively, make one 25% miss chance roll rather than two 50% miss chance rolls.)

A creature with Blindsight can attack (and otherwise interact with) creatures regardless of invisibility.

An invisible burning torch still gives off light, as does an invisible object with a light or similar spell cast upon it.

ethereal creatures are invisible. Since ethereal creatures are not materially present, Perception checks, Scent, Blind-Fight, and Blindsight don't help locate them. Incorporeal creatures are often invisible. Scent, Blind-Fight, and Blindsight don't help creatures find or attack invisible, incorporeal creatures, but Perception checks can help.

Invisible creatures cannot use gaze attacks.

Invisibility does not thwart divination spells.

Since some creatures can detect or even see invisible creatures, it is helpful to be able to hide even when invisible.

Low-Light Vision



Spell Resistance

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