The following special abilities include rules commonly used by a number of creatures, spells, and traps.
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, 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 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. See Table: Special Ability Types for a summary of the types of special abilities.
Some creatures possess blindsight, the extraordinary ability to use a non-visual sense (or a combination senses) to operate effectively without vision. Such senses may include sensitivity to vibrations, acute scent, keen hearing, or echolocation. This makes invisibility and concealment (even magical darkness) irrelevant to the creature (though it still can’t see ethereal creatures). This ability operates out to a range specified in the creature description.
Blindsense lets a creature notice things it cannot see, but without the precision of blindsight. The creature with blindsense usually does not need to make Perception checks to notice and locate creatures within range of its blindsense ability, provided that it has line of effect to that creature. Any opponent that cannot be seen has total concealment (50% miss chance) against a creature with blindsense, and the blindsensing creature still has the normal miss chance when attacking foes that have concealment. Visibility still affects the movement of a creature with blindsense. A creature with blindsense is still denied its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class against attacks from creatures it cannot see.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Darkvision is the extraordinary ability to see with no light source at all, out to a range specified for the creature. Darkvision is black-and-white only (colors cannot be discerned). It does not allow characters to see anything that they could not see otherwise—invisible objects are still invisible, and illusions are still visible as what they seem to be. Likewise, darkvision subjects a creature to gaze attacks normally. The presence of light does not spoil darkvision.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An ethereal creature is invisible, insubstantial, and capable of moving in any direction, even up or down, albeit at half normal speed. An ethereal creature can move through solid objects, including living creatures. An ethereal creature can see and hear on the Material Plane, but everything looks gray and ephemeral. Sight and hearing onto the Material Plane are limited to 60 feet.
Force effects and abjurations affect an ethereal creature normally. Their effects extend onto the Ethereal Plane from the Material Plane, but not vice versa. An ethereal creature can’t attack material creatures, and spells you cast while ethereal affect only other ethereal things. Certain material creatures or objects have attacks or effects that work on the Ethereal Plane.
An ethereal creature treats other ethereal creatures and ethereal objects as if they were material.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Characters with low-light vision have eyes that are so sensitive to light that they can see twice as far as normal in dim light. Low-light vision is color vision. A spellcaster with low-light vision can read a scroll as long as even the tiniest candle flame is next to him as a source of light.
Characters with low-light vision can see outdoors on a moonlit night as well as they can during the day.
A paralyzed character cannot move, speak, or take any physical action. He is rooted to the spot, frozen and helpless. Not even friends can move his limbs. He may take purely mental actions, such as casting a spell with no components.
A winged creature flying in the air at the time that it becomes paralyzed cannot flap its wings and falls. A swimmer can’t swim and may drown.
This extraordinary ability lets a creature detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell.
A creature with the scent ability can detect opponents by sense of smell, generally within 30 feet. If the opponent is upwind, the range is 60 feet. If it is downwind, the range is 15 feet. Strong scents, such as smoke or rotting garbage, can be detected at twice the ranges noted above. Overpowering scents, such as skunk musk or troglodyte stench, can be detected at three times these ranges.
The creature detects another creature’s presence but not its specific location. Noting the direction of the scent is a move action. If the creature moves within 5 feet (1 square) of the scent’s source, the creature can pinpoint the area that the source occupies, even if it cannot be seen.
A creature with the Survival skill and the scent ability can follow tracks by smell, making a Survival check to find or follow a track. A creature with the scent ability can attempt to follow tracks using Survival untrained. The typical DC for a fresh trail is 10. The DC increases or decreases depending on how strong the quarry’s odor is, the number of creatures, and the age of the trail. For each hour that the trail is cold, the DC increases by 2. The ability otherwise follows the rules for the Survival skill in regards to tracking. Creatures tracking by scent ignore the effects of surface conditions and poor visibility.
Water, particularly running water, ruins a trail for air-breathing creatures. Water-breathing creatures that have the scent ability, however, can use it in the water easily.
False, powerful odors can easily mask other scents. The presence of such an odor completely spoils the ability to properly detect or identify creatures, and the base Survival DC to track becomes 20 rather than 10.
Spell resistance (abbreviated SR) is the extraordinary ability to avoid being affected by spells. Some spells also grant spell resistance.
To affect a creature that has spell resistance, a spellcaster must make a caster level check (1d20 + caster level) at least equal to the creature’s spell resistance. The defender’s spell resistance is like an Armor Class against magical attacks. If the caster fails the check, the spell doesn’t affect the creature. The possessor does not have to do anything special to use spell resistance. The creature need not even be aware of the threat for its spell resistance to operate.
Only spells and spell-like abilities are subject to spell resistance. Extraordinary and supernatural abilities (including enhancement bonuses on magic weapons) are not. A creature can have some abilities that are subject to spell resistance and some that are not. Even some spells ignore spell resistance; see When Spell Resistance Applies, below.
A creature can voluntarily lower its spell resistance. Doing so is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. Once a creature lowers its resistance, it remains down until the creature’s next turn. At the beginning of the creature’s next turn, the creature’s spell resistance automatically returns unless the creature intentionally keeps it down (also a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity).
A creature’s spell resistance never interferes with its own spells, items, or abilities.
A creature with spell resistance cannot impart this power to others by touching them or standing in their midst. Only the rarest of creatures and a few magic items have the ability to bestow spell resistance upon another.
Spell resistance does not stack, but rather overlaps.
Each spell includes an entry that indicates whether spell resistance applies to the spell. In general, whether spell resistance applies depends on what the spell does.
Spell resistance applies if the spell is targeted at the creature. Some individually targeted spells can be directed at several creatures simultaneously. In such cases, a creature’s spell resistance applies only to the portion of the spell actually targeted at that creature. If several different resistant creatures are subjected to such a spell, each checks its spell resistance separately.
Spell resistance applies if the resistant creature is within the spell’s area. It protects the resistant creature without affecting the spell itself.
Most effect spells summon or create something and are not subject to spell resistance. Sometimes, however, spell resistance applies to effect spells, usually to those that act upon a creature more or less directly, such as web.
Spell resistance can protect a creature from a spell that’s already been cast. Check spell resistance when the creature is first affected by the spell.
Check spell resistance only once for any particular casting of a spell or use of a spell-like ability. If spell resistance fails the first time, it fails each time the creature encounters that same casting of the spell. Likewise, if the spell resistance succeeds the first time, it always succeeds. If the creature has voluntarily lowered its spell resistance and is then subjected to a spell, the creature still has a single chance to resist that spell later, when its spell resistance is back up.
Spell resistance has no effect unless the energy created or released by the spell actually goes to work on the resistant creature’s mind or body. If the spell acts on anything else and the creature is affected as a consequence, no roll is required. Spell-resistant creatures can be harmed by a spell when they are not being directly affected.
Spell resistance does not apply if an effect fools the creature’s senses or reveals something about the creature.
Magic actually has to be working for spell resistance to apply. Spells that have instantaneous durations but lasting results aren’t subject to spell resistance unless the resistant creature is exposed to the spell the instant it is cast.
Spell resistance prevents a spell or a spell-like ability from affecting or harming the resistant creature, but it never removes a magical effect from another creature or negates a spell’s effect on another creature. Spell resistance prevents a spell from disrupting another spell.
Against an ongoing spell that has already been cast, a failed check against spell resistance allows the resistant creature to ignore any effect the spell might have. The magic continues to affect others normally.