Called Shots Rules
The normal combat rules for the Pathfinder RPG deal with attacks and hits in an abstract way, subtracting hit points and leaving the details of where the sword strikes up to the GM’s description. This system places more control in the individual’s hands, allowing characters to target specific areas of an opponent, with corresponding results.
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game deals with hits and damage in a rather abstract way, treating almost all hits the same except for the amount and type of damage dealt. With these optional called shot rules, PCs, monsters, and villains alike can aim their attacks more precisely, potentially to devastating effect. These rules are an optional addition to any campaign, and should be approached with care by the Gamemaster.
Making Called Shots
A called shot is an attack aimed at a particular part of the body, in the hope of gaining some extra effect from the attack. The smaller or better guarded the area, the more difficult the called shot. A called shot is a single attack made as a full-round action, and thus can’t be combined with a charge, feats like Vital Strike, or multiple attacks with a full-attack action.
Called shots are divided into three basic difficulty groups: easy, tricky, and challenging.
- Easy called shots represent large areas of the body, and are made at a –2 penalty. They have relatively minor effects unless a critical hit is scored or massive damage is dealt.
- Tricky called shots represent either smaller areas, like a hand, or areas a creature protects well, like its head. Tricky shots receive a –5 penalty, and inflict more serious consequences.
- Challenging called shots represent very small areas like eyes, fingers, or creatures’ necks. They receive a –10 penalty, and successful hits cause significant short-term impairment.
Beyond these challenging ratings lie almost impossible called shots that receive a –20 penalty. For called shots against non-humanoid creatures, use common sense and the categories above as guidelines. For example, a flying creature’s wings are treated as arms.
Range and Reach: Called shots work best at close range. Melee called shots are at a –2 penalty if the target isn’t adjacent to its attacker. For called shots made at range, all range penalties due to range increment are doubled, with a minimum penalty of –2 for any called shot against a target that’s not within 30 feet.
Critical Hits and Critical Threats: A called shot has the normal chance for a critical hit, and inflicts an extra effect if one is confirmed. The exact effects of a successful critical hit depend on where the target was hit, and are described under Called Shot Effects.
Automatic Hits: Some effects in the game, like true strike or the flash of insight ability of cyclopes, provide automatic or nearly automatic hits. Using such an ability on a called shot turns it into a normal attack, with none of the benefits or penalties associated with called shots. From a story perspective, this is because the effect cannot distinguish between a hit in general and a hit in a particular area, but it’s also necessary to keep the power of such abilities in line with their original intended effects. Some Game Masters may prefer a more theatrical or dangerous game in which magic can make a shot through the eye nearly certain, in which case this rule can be ignored.
Cover: Cover other than soft cover interferes with a called shot even more than with a normal shot. Double any AC bonuses provided by cover that isn’t soft cover. In addition, cover may make certain called shots impossible.
Concealment: The miss chance for a called shot against a creature with concealment increases to 50%. It’s not possible to make a called shot against a creature with total concealment. For effects that function like concealment, such as blink and displacement, a miss chance of 50% or more prevents called shots, a miss chance of 20% increases to 50%, and miss chances of other values are doubled.
Damage Reduction: If damage reduction completely negates the damage from a called shot, the called shot has no effect. If hit point damage does get through, the called shot has normal effects. Damage reduction does not reduce any ability damage, ability drain, penalties, or bleed damage caused by the called shot.
Immunity: Immunity to critical hits protects against the extra effects of called shots. Partial protection, such as that provided by the fortification special ability of some magical armors, protects the creature as though the called shot were a critical hit.
Regeneration: Regeneration provides no special protection against called shots, but it might negate or undo some of the effects, such as bleeding or limb loss.
Saving Throws: If a saving throw is allowed on a called shot, the DC is equal to the Armor Class hit by the attack. In the case of an attack roll of a natural 20, the DC is the AC the attack would have hit if 20s did not automatically hit.
Stacking: Unless otherwise stated, penalties for multiple called shots do not stack, even if they are to different areas of the body. Ability damage and drain caused by called shots always stacks.
Touch Attacks: Touch attacks and ranged touch attacks made as called shots must target AC rather than touch AC. This represents the care it takes to target such strikes.
Called Shot Effects
The consequences of a successful called shot vary depending on whether the hit is a normal hit, a critical hit, or a debilitating blow (a hit for 50 points of damage or more). When more than one limb or organ can be affected by a called shot, the attacker can choose the target if desired; otherwise, it should be determined randomly.
Called Shot: An attack aimed at a body part that deals fewer than 50 points of damage results in a normal called shot. Called shots inflict either minor penalties or temporary inconveniences.
Critical Called Shot: When a called shot is confirmed as a critical hit but deals fewer than half the creature’s hit points of damage (minimum 50), a critical called shot results. Critical called shots can cause ability damage, bleeding, and other serious effects.
Debilitating Blow: A called shot that deals half the creature’s hit points of damage (minimum 50) or more (whether a critical hit or not) results in a debilitating blow that has extra effects. A debilitating blow inflicts major consequences and potentially permanent consequences.
Concentration Checks: Concentration checks forced by called shots to parts of the body involved in spellcasting (generally the head for spells with verbal components, and the casting arm and hand for spells with somatic components ) are made at a –5 penalty.
Healing Called Shot Effects: Some called shot effects render a given location useless until healed. Remedying this condition requires the victim be healed (naturally or magically, and by one or more sources of healing) for as many hit points of damage as the called shot caused. If the victim is suffering from multiple wounds of this sort, divide healing equally between them. The regenerate spell repairs any and all effects of called shots except for ability damage and ability drain.
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