Guidance — Alex’s Top 7: Commonly Forgotten Rules

Pathfinder—an incredible cocktail of rules dating well over 30 years. Rules in Pathfinder come from all over the place, and as a result it is very easy to forget them. Today, I thought it might be fun for me to share my Top 7 list of rules that I CONSTANTLY see people forget or get wrong at my tables, whether I’m playing or GMing. So without further adieu, let’s check these rules out!

#1 — Tumbling is VERY Confusing

So, most people know that when you use Acrobatics to tumble, you have to move at half speed. What many people DON’T remember is that you can take a –5 penalty on your check to tumble at your full speed. VERY nifty if you want to escape.

Speaking of escaping, tumble is worded VERY confusing-like when it comes to multiple foes that threaten you. Basically, when you use Acrobatics to tumble, you have to check against each opponent who threatens a space that you move through separately, and for each check you make, you take a cumulative –2 penalty. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running through a group of 4 people crowding around one square or 4 people at separate points throughout the move—you roll against each of them. However, you only need to check once per opponent per move, no matter how many of its squares you move through. (This was clarified in an FAW in November 2010.)

 #2 – Your Alchemist’s Bombs Don’t Super-Crit

Alchemists. Engines of exploding devastation, am I right? They’ve got oodles of touch attack splash weapons that deal a fistful of damage. Better yet, you can pick them as weapons with feats like Weapon Focus and the like. So obviously Improved Critical seems like a must, right? So you can throw another fistful of dice?

Well, it might be a good feat for you, but it is important to remember that when an alchemist bomb crits, only the first 1d6 is multiplied—every d6 after the first counts as an additional damage die that doesn’t crit. (This is literally in the bomb ability, but people always forever.) For example, if your bomb does 3d6 and crits, it’s doing 4d6 damage plus double modifiers. That’s a sizable chunk of damage, but you’re not destroying kingdoms with a single bomb using that crit. (Probably not, anyway.)

#3 – The Flying Rules are Brutal

So, here’s a question. You like flying, right? Super useful, great mobility. Question: have you ever READ the Fly check rules? Because they are absolutely INSANE. You need to make a fly check to do just about anything, and in a game that otherwise does not have facing, the Fly rules have facing. You need to roll to turn more than 45º, you need to roll to ascend higher than a 45º angle, you need to roll to hover, you probably need to roll to fart while flying.

Ignoring about 90% of these rules is a VERY common house rule that I don’t think most GMs even realize they’re implementing—they’re just ignoring something tedious and boring that doesn’t add to the game.

#4 – Some Spells are Longer Than You Think

Everyone knows that summon monster and its ilk take 1 round to cast, but did you know that some other very popular spells also have a casting time of 1 round? Powerful enchantments like sleep and dominate person / dominate monster all have a casting time of 1 round, so make sure you smack those wizards before they can dominate the barbarian!

#5 – Combat Maneuvers — Not That Threatening

You likely know that most combat maneuvers provoke an attack of opportunity if you don’t have the appropriate Improved maneuver feat. However, did you know that you only provoke from the person you’re using the maneuver against? It’s totally true (same for making unarmed strikes without Improved Unarmed Strike). So if you want to grapple the wizard without Improved Grapple, go for it. Only the wizard can try to stop you. BECAUSE YOU ONLY PROVOKE FROM THAT WIMPY LITTLE VOLDEMORT WANNABE.

#6 – You Can Take a Move Action and 5-Foot Step

5-foot steps—everyone knows and loves them. Except plenty of players don’t know them as well as they think they do. I’ve met tons of people who think that you can’t do things like stand from prone (a move action) or draw a weapon (a move action) and still take a 5-foot step. Well, that isn’t the case—when you take a 5-foot step, you can’t have moved any distance. So, for instance, you can’t move 30 feet and then take a 5-foot step. However, you can take move ACTIONS and still take a 5-foot step, provided your action didn’t move you any distance.

#7 – Your CMD is Probably Better Than You Think

CMD, or Combat Maneuver Defense, is calculated using a formula of 10 + your base attack bonus + your Str modifier + your Dex modifier. As a result, players often think that their CMD is too low, and it is. But the reason their CMD is probably too low is that CMD also adds all circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to their CMD. This includes things that the swashbuckler’s nimble ability, the monk’s Wisdom to AC bonus, and even your rings of protection. Granted, the flip side of this is that basically anything that penalizes AC also penalizes your CMD.

Oh, one more thing—if you’re flat-footed or denied your Dexterity bonus to AC, you also lose your Dex bonus to CMD. So you can feint and trip people, and laugh extra hard.

Now, I think these seven rules are great ones to keep in mind, whether you’re playing or GMing. However, I’m sure that these aren’t the only esoteric rules out there—do you know any rules that people often forget or overlook that I didn’t list here? Drop a comment with them below and we can fill this blog post up with esoteric knowledge.

But until next time, I’m Alex Augunas and I’m always here for YOU when you need a little bit of Guidance. Take care!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alexs Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC. If you like Alex's writing and are interested in supporting him while getting professional-quality material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game while doing so, check out the Everyman Gaming, LLC catalog, which is listed under Rogue Genius Games at the following locations:


  1. To dovetail with number two, kinetic blast works the same way.

  2. Oh god, Flying rules. So brutal. Even worse when you misread them to work AGAINST you.

    I was playing my dex based melee Vigilante in a PFS scenario. We’re fighting a monster that’s hovering about 40 feet up and lobbing ranged attacks. I think I’m all clever, with potions of Fly and a headband of Intelligence just so I can have max ranks. Of course, I -assume- that moving diagonally costs 1.5 squares in ADDITION to the half speed when ascending, so trying to get towards the monster is frustrating as hell. Other party members had a more direct route, so they were wailing on it the whole time.

    And the round where I FINALLY achieve a charge lane? Naturally, the thing dies.

  3. I think that a lot of people forget that 1s do not auto-fail on skill check, nor do 20s automatically succeed.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      This is SO true. Plenty of people think that nat 1s on ALL checks fail, and it’s really only attack rolls and saving throws. (I knew someone who thought a nat 1 on a caster level check auto-failed. Granted it’s unlikely to pass, but it isn’t impossible.)

  4. Super Interesting, Alex !

    I’m a GM but I learned a thing or two reading your post !

Leave a Reply