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Pathfinder Unchained

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 4
In 2008, Paizo released the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It was a massive project, and we gave it everything we had, combining the best legacies of the past with fresh new ideas to create the game you know today.

But a game designer never stops tinkering. In the years since, we’ve released tons of new rules, from classes and subsystems to feats and spells. Yet there were always those ideas too big to be touched—the shiny, terrifying ones that could fundamentally alter the way the game works. Unwilling to rock the boat, we incorporated them into our home games or set them aside.

Until now. Within these pages, you’ll f ind lovingly crafted refinements that fine-tune the Pathfinder RPG rules system, and mad experiments that transform it completely. With Pathfinder Unchained, you become the designer—which parts of this book you incorporate into your game, and which parts you leave on the shelf, are entirely your call.

We’re opening up our workshop and offering you our best tools. What you build with them is up to you.

Alignment (Unchained)

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 95
Many campaigns treat alignment mechanically—as a class prerequisite, a rough concept of moral standing (often open to much bickering and debate), and a benchmark for letting you know what weapons and spells to avoid. Others treat it with more reverence, with each player delving deeply into her character’s alignment and the PCs becoming exemplars of their respective moral philosophies.

The following variant system treats alignment as a storytelling mechanic, giving you guidance on creating challenges, tracking shifts, and presenting rewards to those who champion their alignments appropriately.

For each character in the campaign, you’ll need a copy of the alignment diagram reproduced below as Table 3–1. Whether the characters’ positions are tracked by the GM or the players is up to you. There are two general ways you can start using this system. The first is the relative alignment method, which starts a character at neutral on both axes (or as near to neutral as his class’s starting alignment allows). Alternatively, you can use the standard alignment method, which allows each character to start with the alignment he wants, though he will begin closely bordering neutral and must work to fulfill the true ethos of his chosen alignment. The basic principles for each method are detailed below.

Relative Alignment: In the relative alignment method, many, if not most, characters start out as truly neutral on both axes of the alignment charts (the number 5 position on both the law/chaos axis and the good/evil axis). If a character’s starting class has an alignment restriction, the character starts at the nearest border to the neutral range on those charts as she can without breaking the class’s alignment restriction. For instance, a monk would start at the 3 position on the law/chaos axis, but would still start at the 5 position on the good/evil axis. A paladin, on the other hand, would start at the 3 position on both axes.

This method makes moral conflicts dangerous for low-level characters. For a character who must adhere to a specific alignment ethos to keep certain abilities or progress in her class, an early slip might have her searching for an atonement or rethinking her chosen career path.

Standard Alignment: The standard path is less restrictive than the relative method. A player chooses his character’s alignment normally, and the character is positioned on the chart within that alignment but as close to the border of neutral as possible (either the 3 or the 7 position on each axis). If the player chooses neutral on either axis, then the character starts right in the middle (the 5 position) on that axis.

This method can also make early levels and moral conf licts precarious, but it does make it easier to stay on track and gain the rewards allowed later on.

Table 3-1: Changing Alignment

123456789
← Lawful →← Neutral →← Chaotic →
123456789
← Good →← Neutral →← Evil →

Alternate Crafting and Profession Rules

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 72
While the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game takes place in a world of grand and heroic adventure, not every corner of the campaign setting is full of monsters and villains. Like the real world, it is home to common artisans, merchants, and tradespeople—those who spend their lives making and selling goods or performing specialized tasks that require particular knowledge. Many heroes have a humble start as apprentices or artisans before hearing the call to adventure. Some even keep up with their former crafts and talents and find ways to utilize their skills and knowledge while adventuring.

Automatic Bonus Progression

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 156
In order to face the dangers of the game, characters in the Pathfinder RPG normally need items that grant bonuses to their statistics. With this variant, characters instead gain those bonuses automatically as they increase in level, allowing them to use magic item slots for more interesting items.

All characters gain the abilities listed on the table below when they reach the appropriate level. Decrease character wealth by level to half the normal amount. The automatic bonuses are often more beneficial than that reduction in wealth, but characters have less flexibility, so the advantages and disadvantages balance out. Items that only grant bonuses to AC, saving throws, and ability scores don’t exist in this variant, and wish and similar spells never grant inherent bonuses to ability scores. Magic weapons and armor do exist, but grant only special abilities, not enhancement bonuses; calculate their prices with the table in the Magic Weapons and Armor section.

If you want to remove magic items entirely (or make them so exceedingly rare that there is no expectation of finding them), consider giving the characters bonuses from the following table as if they were 2 levels higher. The table extends to 22nd level to account for games without magic items.

LevelBonus Gained
1st
2nd
3rdResistance +1
4thArmor attunement +1, weapon attunement +1
5thDeflection +1
6thMental prowess +2
7thPhysical prowess +2
8thArmor attunement +1/+1, resistance +2, toughening +1, weapon attunement +1/+1
9thArmor attunement +2, weapon attunement +2
10thDeflection +2, resistance +3
11thMental prowess +4
12thPhysical prowess +4
13thMental prowess +4/+2, physical prowess +4/+2, resistance +4, toughening +2
14thArmor attunement +2/+2 or +3, resistance +5, weapon attunement +2/+2 or +3
15thArmor attunement +3/+3 or +4, mental prowess +6/+2 or +4/+4, weapon attunement +3/+3 or +4
16thDeflection +3, physical prowess +6/+2 or +4/+4, toughening +3
17thArmor attunement +4/+3 or +5, deflection +4, mental prowess +6/+2/+2 or +4/+4/+2, physical prowess +6/+2/+2 or +4/+4/+2, toughening +4, weapon attunement +4/+3 or +5
18thDeflection +5, mental prowess +6/+4/+2 or +4/+4/+4, physical prowess +6/+4/+2 or +4/+4/+4, toughening +5
19th3 legendary gifts
20th5 legendary gifts (8 total)
21st7 legendary gifts (15 total)
22nd8 legendary gifts (23 total)

Background Skills

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 46
The skill system presented in the Core Rulebook has a lot of versatility. It allows characters to overcome various challenges related to their diverse talents, with simple rules for dealing with beneficial or adverse conditions. Though many players simply spend their skill ranks on the same skills at every level, it is also possible for a character to diversify his investment in order to gain access to more skills overall or to remedy a shortcoming.

However, not all skills provide the same benefit to characters. It’s difficult to argue that a high bonus in a Profession skill has the same value as a high bonus in a more general skill such as Perception. Yet Profession is an important skill for nonplayer characters, as well as for players who wish to show that adventuring isn’t the only thing their characters care about.

The background skills system recognizes that skills such as Craft, Knowledge, and Profession serve an important role in the game. Though these skills don’t directly affect the careers of typical adventurers the same way that Bluff, Perception, and Stealth do, they are useful means for characters to interact with and explore the world outside of combat. You shouldn’t have to choose between having the knowledge to understand the world and the ability to survive in it!

These skills are called background skills because they ref lect the non-adventuring interests and passions of a player character, or the skills more important to NPCs. All other skills are called adventuring skills. In a campaign that uses the background skills system, each character gains an additional 2 skill ranks per level, which must be spent on background skills. More details appear in the Gaining Background Skills section. These new rules make characters and their skills more versatile, but because they boost non-adventuring skills, they’re unlikely to unbalance a campaign.

Converting Characters

Implementing background skills in an established campaign is easy. To convert a character’s skill ranks into this system, first determine the total number of background skill ranks she has—this is equal to 2 × the PC’s character level. Next, find out how many ranks she has already spent on skills that are background skills under this system. The character gains that number of regular skill ranks to spend on any skills—essentially refunding the regular skill ranks spent on background skills. Finally, subtract this number from the character’s total number of background skill ranks to determine how many background skill ranks she still has to spend. For example, a 5th-level rogue would have 10 background skill ranks. If she had already put 5 ranks into skills that are now background skills, she would spend 5 of her background skill ranks on those skills, freeing up the original 5 ranks to spend on any skills, and she would still have 5 background skill ranks left to spend on background skills.

The GM might want to allow some amount of retraining to factor in the new background skills. A character who took Profession (poet) might prefer to put those ranks in Artistry (poetry) instead, or a character who took Knowledge (geography) to represent the time she spent traveling a specific river might take Lore in that river instead.

Consolidated Skills

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 54
The skills in the Core Rulebook allow for complex specialization. In some games, the GM might wish to use a smaller list to make characters more broadly talented, to group skills that characters typically choose together, and to speed up the leveling-up process. The consolidated skills system reduces the number of skills by combining related skills. In many cases, the new skills have been renamed to highlight the nature of the consolidated skill. This variant system makes each skill rank matter more. Even after reducing the number of skill ranks granted, characters will be somewhat more skilled. Character classes that are highly skilled, such as the bard or rogue, get the biggest boost.

The consolidated skills system reduces the number of skills from 35 to 12. Many knowledge skills have been placed into larger categories with a similar theme. Knowledge (arcana), for example, is combined with Use Magic Device under Spellcraft. The list of new skills appears on Table 2–1: Consolidated Skills, along with the key ability for each consolidated skill and the core skills it replaces. Several skills are removed and not replicated by this system, as indicated by a dash (—) on Table 2–2: Converting Core Skills. These are typically skills that are less important for adventuring, but can be put back into your game using the background skills variant. Skills can be converted to and from the consolidated skills system using Table 2–2. This is most helpful when running published adventures or using monsters built using the core system.

Table 2-1: Consolidated Skills

New SkillUntrainedAbilityCore Skills Included
AcrobaticsYesDex*Acrobatics (except jumping), Escape Artist, Fly, Ride
AthleticsYesStr*Acrobatics (jumping), Climb, Swim
FinesseNoDex*Disable Device, Sleight of Hands
InfluenceYesChaBluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate
NatureNoIntHandle Animal, Knowledge (dungeoneering, geography, nature)
PerceptionYesWisPerception, Sense Motive
PerformanceYesChaDisguise, Perform
RelgionNoIntKnowledge (planes, religion)
SocietyNoIntKnowledge (history, local, nobility), Linguistics
SpellcraftNoIntKnowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, Use Magic Device
StealthYesDex*Stealth
SurvivalYesWisHeal, Survival
*Armor check penalty applies.

Table 2-2: Converting Core Skills

Core SkillConsolidated Skill
Acrobatics (except jumping)Acrobatics
Acrobatics (jumping)*Athletics
Appraise
BluffInfluence
ClimbAthletics
Craft
DiplomacyInfluence
Disable DeviceFinesse
DisguisePerformance
Escape ArtistAcrobatics
FlyAcrobatics
Handle Animal*Nature
HealSurvival
IntimidateInfluence
Knowledge (arcana)Spellcraft
Knowledge (dungeoneering)Nature
Knowledge (engineering)
Knowledge (geography)Nature
Knowledge (history)Society
Knowledge (local)Society
Knowledge (nature)Nature
Knowledge (nobility)Society
Knowledge (planes)Religion
Knowledge (religion)Religion
LinguisticsSociety
PerceptionPerception
PerformPerformance
Profession
RideAcrobatics
Sense MotivePerception
Sleight of HandFinesse
SpellcraftSpellcraft
StealthStealth
SurvivalSurvival
SwimAthletics
Use Magic Device*Spellcraft
* This skill’s key ability changes under the consolidated skills system.

Diseases and Poisons

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 138
The basic Pathfinder rules for diseases and poisons don’t necessarily mimic the progression of these afflictions in a believable way; a character with a few lesser restoration spells can simply ignore most diseases, and diseases and poisons that don’t affect your Constitution score can never kill you. What’s more, because these afflictions tend to affect ability scores, their effects can be unrealistically powerful—a poison that damages Intelligence can take down any creature of animal intelligence, regardless of CR. The following optional system presents progression tracks for diseases and poisons that cause the victim’s situation to become increasingly worse.

Dynamic Magic Item Creation

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 180
In folklore, a major part of any magic item’s mystique is the tale of its creation. With the dynamic magic item creation system, the crafting of magic items becomes a quick but interesting story in which the whole party can participate. Items created in this way have unusual properties that lend them character and remind the PCs of the choices they made during item creation.

Along with adding flavor to the crafting of magic items, this system changes the average cost of magic item creation to be variable—generally more expensive for a single creator, and possibly less expensive for a group that works together. The standard system for the creation of magic items presented in the Core Rulebook leads to automatic successes during crafting, and given enough days of downtime, it can lead to a wild power imbalance between PCs who opt into the crafting system and all other characters. The system presented here encourages characters to work together to play out the story of the item’s creation while also adding unique touches to the resulting item.

For groups that prefer a more in-depth experience, replace the required skill checks below with roleplaying scenes.

Esoteric Material Components

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 150
A handful of hard-to-find, naturally occurring substances contain magical potency and can be used as special material components. Some spellcasters are trained to use these esoteric material components in their enhanced practice of the magical arts. The four more common types—entropic resin, geodes, prismatic sand, and verdant salts—link to two schools of magic each. A fifth type, yliaster, is extremely potent, but far more rare; it is universally useful, and can be substituted for any other material component.

Use the following rules for esoteric material components with the variants presented on pages 151–152.

Component Cost: The value of esoteric material components that must be spent on a spell is equal to 1 gp × caster level × spell level, as shown on Table 4–7: Esoteric Material Component Costs. This value must be spent if esoteric components are mandatory in the campaign, or can be spent to replace normal material components if esoteric material components are optional.

Expending Components: Each component works effectively for only two schools of magic. A caster can expend an esoteric component type that doesn’t match his spell’s school, but he must expend twice as much of the substitute component to fake the effects of the appropriate component. The esoteric components used in a spell need not all be of the same type. For example, a 3rd-level wizard casting bear’s endurance could expend 6 gp worth of geodes, or 12 gp total worth of entropic resin and verdant salts, or 4 gp worth of geodes plus 4 gp worth of verdant salts, and so on.

Greater Component Effects: Expending twice the amount of components indicated on Table 4–7 activates a greater component effect, which varies by esoteric component type. These benefits are listed under the component descriptions at the end of the chapter, and depend on the component expended. To obtain the greater component benefit, the caster must use a single component type; using a type that doesn’t match the spell’s school still costs twice as much. The wizard in the above example could gain the geodes’ greater component benefit by expending an extra 6 gp worth of geodes, or gain the verdant salts’ greater component benefit by expending an extra 12 gp worth of verdant salts. A single casting of a spell can normally benefit from only one greater component effect, but the caster can expend additional components and attempt a Spellcraft check with a DC equal to 20 + double the spell’s level to add more. The caster must pay the cost in esoteric components even if the Spellcraft check fails. For each greater component effect beyond the second, the DC increases by 5 + the spell’s level. If the caster fails this check by 5 or more, the spell fails and its slot is lost. You can’t apply the greater component effect of a single type of component more than once on a single casting of a spell.

Table 4-7: Esoteric Material Component Costs

Spell Level
CL0123456789
1st5 sp1 gp
2nd1 gp2 gp
3rd1 gp, 5 sp3 gp6 gp
4th2 gp4 gp8 gp
5th2 gp, 5 sp5 gp10 gp15 gp
6th3 gp6 gp12 gp18 gp
7th3 gp, 5 sp7 gp14 gp21 gp28 gp
8th4 gp8 gp16 gp24 gp32 gp
9th4 gp, 5 sp9 gp18 gp27 gp36 gp45 gp
10th5 gp10 gp20 gp30 gp40 gp50 gp
11th5 gp, 5 sp11 gp22 gp33 gp44 gp55 gp66 gp
12th6 gp12 gp24 gp36 gp48 gp60 gp72 gp
13th6 gp, 5 sp13 gp26 gp39 gp52 gp65 gp78 gp91 gp
14th7 gp14 gp28 gp42 gp56 gp70 gp84 gp98 gp
15th7 gp, 5 sp15 gp30 gp45 gp60 gp75 gp90 gp105 gp120 gp
16th8 gp16 gp32 gp48 gp64 gp80 gp96 gp112 gp128 gp
17th8 gp, 5 sp17 gp34 gp51 gp68 gp85 gp102 gp119 gp136 gp153 gp
18th9 gp18 gp36 gp54 gp72 gp90 gp108 gp126 gp144 gp162 gp
19th9 gp, 5 sp19 gp38 gp57 gp76 gp95 gp114 gp133 gp152 gp171 gp
20th10 gp20 gp40 gp60 gp80 gp100 gp120 gp140 gp160 gp180 gp

Fractional Base Bonuses

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 40
Multiclass characters in the core rules are at a slight disadvantage when it comes to their statistics. This fractional base bonuses variant is designed to help multiclass characters fulfill their true potential and stand tall among their single-class peers. It is ideal for campaigns featuring many multiclass characters, particularly if those characters take levels in many different classes or prestige classes.

Base attack bonuses and base save bonuses in the Core Rulebook progress at a fractional rate, but those fractions are eliminated because of rounding; it doesn’t make sense to distinguish a base attack bonus of +6-1/2 from a base attack bonus of +6 when a character with either bonus would hit AC 17 on a roll of 11 and miss on a 10. For ease of reference, the values in the class tables are rounded this way since it never makes a difference for single-class characters. However, for multiclass characters, this rounding often results in a base attack bonus that’s too low, as well as base save bonuses that are imbalanced. The following variant results in more accurate base bonuses for multiclass characters, based on the formulas behind the class progression tables rather than on the tables themselves.

For example, a character who’s a 1st-level wizard and a 1st-level rogue has a base attack bonus (BAB) of +0 from each class, resulting in a total BAB of +0—worse than a 2nd-level wizard or 2nd-level rogue. But that’s only because each fraction was rounded down to 0 before adding them together; the character theoretically has a BAB of +3/4 from her rogue level and +1/2 from her wizard level. If the rounding was done after adding the fractional values together rather than before, the character would have a BAB of +1 (rounded down from +1-1/4)—the same as a 2nd-level wizard or rogue.

Table 1-7: Fractional Bonuses by Class Level

Class LevelBase Save Bonus (Good)*Base Save Bonus (Poor)Base Attack Bonus (d10 or d12)Base Attack Bonus (d8)Base Attack Bonus (d6)
1st+1/2+1/3+1+3/4+1/2
2nd+1+2/3+2+1-1/2+1
3rd+1-1/2+1+3+2-1/4+1-1/2
4th+2+1-1/3+4+3+2
5th+2-1/2+1-2/3+5+3-3/4+2-1/2
6th+3+2+6+4-1/2+3
7th+3-1/2+2-1/3+7+5-1/4+3-1/2
8th+4+2-2/3+8+6+4
9th+4-1/2+3+9+6-3/4+4-1/2
10th+5+3-1/3+10+7-1/2+5
11th+5-1/2+3-2/3+11+8-1/4+5-1/2
12th+6+4+12+9+6
13th+6-1/2+4-1/3+13+9-3/4+6-1/2
14th+7+4-2/3+14+10-1/2+7
15th+7-1/2+5+15+11-1/4+7-1/2
16th+8+5-1/3+16+12+8
17th+8-1/2+5-2/3+17+12-3/4+8-1/2
18th+9+6+18+13-1/2+9
19th+9-1/2+6-1/3+19+14-1/4+9-1/2
20th+10+6-2/3+20+15+10
*If at least one of the character’s classes has a good saving throw progression for the save in question, add 2 to the total save bonus.

Grouped Skills

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 70
Using the grouped skills system, characters gain bonuses for large categories of skills and higher bonuses for specific skills. Instead of replacing or modifying the skill list, this system finds commonalities among skills and divides them into groups. Choosing skills is simplified, so instead of expending skill ranks to gain one skill at a time, a character gains training in a small number of skill groups, and gains specialties that give her bonuses to particular skills as she advances in level. The groups represent broad talents, and the skill specialties draw from the standard skill list.

With this system, players don’t need to worry about expending skill ranks. A character adds 1/2 her level when attempting skill checks for her chosen grouped skills, thereby making that character at least somewhat competent in skills she might otherwise neglect. This system makes characters more broadly skilled, but gives them fewer skills they truly excel at—at least at low levels.

Grouped Skills in Other Variants

With a bit of adaptation, skill groups can work alongside the background skills or consolidated skills systems.

Background Skills: Instead of gaining background skill ranks at every level, a character gains one additional skill specialty at 1st level that can be used only to select a background skill. She can expend her normal skill specialties to select either background or adventuring skills. The Artistry and Lore skills fall under the Scholarly skill group. The character can take a specialty in Lore any number of times, choosing a different type of Lore each time. To attempt a check with a Lore skill, a character must have a specialty in it. Having training in the Scholarly skill group doesn’t allow a character to use all the potential Lore skills untrained, but it does enable a character with one or more Lore skills to add her full level as a bonus on those checks, rather than just 1/2 her level.

Consolidated Skills: Reduce both the number of skill groups and the number of skill specialties characters gain by 1/2 (rounded down, to a minimum of 1). Use 1/2 the class’s skill ranks per level from the core rules to determine that class’s number of skill groups and specialties, not 1/2 the adjusted values presented in the Class Skills section.

You also need to change the skill groups to the following.

Skill GroupsIncluded Skills
NaturalNature, Survival
PerceptivePerception
PhysicalAcrobatics, Athletics
ScholarlyReligion, Society, Spellcraft
SocialInfluence, Performance
ThievingFinesse, Stealth

Innate Item Bonuses

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 158
Some GMs may find themselves frustrated by the need for players to seek out magic items granting specific bonuses. Under this new system, characters gain the statistical bonuses they’re expected to gain from magic items as they level up so long as they have any item in the relevant slot, instead of needing specific items. The system involves minimal alterations to existing items, and works especially well for campaigns with higher than normal wealth.

The rules in the Automatic Bonus Progression section downplay the role of magic items by granting bonuses to characters directly as they increase in level, and restricting the abilities of magic items. However, those rules don’t work as well as the innate item bonuses system does in games that include more magic items than is assumed in the Core Rulebook. In addition, this system helps those GMs who prefer to emphasize the wonder and power of magic items.

Removing Alignment

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 100
Alignment is a cornerstone of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. In its most useful form, alignment is a shorthand to help players learn more about their characters’ personalities. But sometimes you may want to play in a world where there is no absolute good and evil. Perhaps the only lord willing to send troops to aid the PCs’ fight against an undead horde is an oppressive dictator who will use the situation to further his own power and oppress his subjects—but without his help, everyone will die. Or the PCs must face an infernal foe, but the only available way to take him down is to imbue themselves with demonic power.

In the following rules variant, the PCs can test their convictions against impossible situations and make decisions without players feeling constrained by the mechanical consequences their characters will suffer if their alignments change. Alignment is replaced by a new character aspect called loyalties, and class alignment restrictions are redefined in those terms. Several options for handling alignment-dependent spells and effects are presented here.

Removing Iterative Attacks

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 110
Iterative attacks allow combatants to deal a high amount of damage, but they can also make turns take a long time. Since a character’s subsequent attacks have a bonus that’s so much lower, this can lead to a lot of time spent on missed attacks. With this new system, an entire full attack resolves with a single d20 roll. Other sorts of attacks (such as attack actions, attacks of opportunity, and attacks granted by the Whirlwind Attack feat) are resolved as normal.

Revised Action Economy

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 102
The default action economy of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is intricate—full of exceptions, nonactions, and strange actions. This revised action economy streamlines the process of combat encounters. In many ways, it’s a more active system that allows lower-level characters more options in a round while slightly limiting how much higher-level characters can do during their turns.

In this system, a character can commit up to 3 acts on her turn; these can be committed individually as simple actions, or combined into advanced actions. When it’s not her turn, a character can take a single reaction per round. Iterative attacks have been discarded in this action economy. Instead, any character can make multiple attacks during her turn simply by taking multiple actions to do so.

Scaling Items

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 160
Typically, player characters find themselves buying and selling magic items as they gain levels to keep up with the increasing threats they face. Items come and go from each character’s inventory with such frequency that they hardly have the chance to impact the game’s story. Scaling items, however, increase in power along with the characters who carry them, allowing an old and cherished item to develop and retain its utility rather than being sold and forgotten.

Scaling items work like normal magic items, but they gain new powers as their wielders gain levels, and their existing powers sometimes also improve. Additional item powers appear in a scaling magic item’s entry with a header indicating the character level at which they unlock.

The caster level of the item scales up as well. A scaling item’s effective caster level is its listed caster level or the character level of its wielder, whichever is higher, to a maximum of the item’s highest-level ability. For instance, if an item has a base caster level of 5th and additional abilities at 7th and 9th levels, it’s treated as caster level 8th in the hands of an 8th-level character, but is treated as only caster level 9th in the hands of a 10th-level character.

Each scaling item has a base price that represents its value to a character whose level is equal to or less than the item’s caster level. As the item’s caster level increases in the hands of a more powerful character, the item’s value increases as well. The values of such items fall into three categories (baubles, prizes, and wonders), which indicate the rough percentage of the character’s wealth a scaling item represents.

The weakest items, baubles, represent 5% of a PC’s character wealth at her level and can be compared to consumable magic items (even though baubles aren’t destroyed by use). Items in the middle category, prizes, represent 15% of a PC’s suggested wealth and correspond to magic items of moderate power. An item of the most valuable category, wonders, represents 30% of a PC’s suggested wealth and corresponds to a major magic item, such as a fighter’s most beloved and powerful sword. Wonders exceed the normal cost assumptions of the game at their highest level. Such items approach the power of minor artifacts, though they’re not indestructible and can still be created normally.

Simple Monster Creation

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 194
Monsters can be truly memorable and entertaining, but they can also be a lot of work if the GM needs to customize them or create new ones. The standard methods for creating monsters and NPCs are similar to those for creating player characters, but striking the right power balance can be challenging.

The simple monster creation system presented here lets you create a monster and have it ready for your table quickly. This means bending the normal rules to cut out time-consuming steps, such as picking a ton of 1st-level spells a monster is unlikely to cast, selecting magic items according to an NPC’s budget, or recalculating statistics based on spell effects. Rather than making you build a monster from scratch, this system uses baselines derived from Table 1–1: Monster Statistics by CR on page 291 of the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary. This gives you the flexibility to start off with almost-final statistics and make a few adjustments as needed to create a formidable unchained monster.

Simplified Spellcasting

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 144
For a 1st-level wizard who knows only a small handful of spells, it isn’t too hard to decide which spells to prepare each day. But a 20th-level wizard could easily have more than 60 spells from which to select. Choosing them can eat up quite a bit of time, leaving the other players in your game twiddling their fingers.

With simplified spellcasting, you keep track of only your 3 highest levels of spells, and all the other spells are placed in a pool that you can use on the fly. The number of spells in the pool is smaller than the number of lower-level spells you could otherwise cast, but the pool is more flexible than preparing all the spells in advance would be, and allows you to save the tricky decision-making for your most important spells. Because this system affects only your 3 highest levels of spells, it doesn’t change anything for a character who isn’t yet able to cast 4th-level spells.

Skill Unlocks

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 82
Skill unlocks give characters new abilities and ways to use their skills upon reaching 5, 10, 15, and 20 ranks in a skill. Any character with the Signature Skill feat (see below) can earn skill unlocks for a single skill, and they are a prime feature of the revised version of the rogue from Chapter 1 (see page 20), who uses her rogue’s edge ability to gain skill unlocks for several of her most iconic skills. Alternatively, you might make skill unlocks a universal part of the game, but you should be aware they add significant power and flexibility to skills, so giving them for free to all classes would grant power boosts to other highly skilled classes such as the investigator and bard, particularly in comparison to the rogue. Another alternative is to eliminate access to the Signature Skill feat, limiting skill unlocks to rogues and rogues alone.

See Here for the skill unlocks.

Spell Alterations

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 146
The following optional rules alter normal spellcasting in fun new ways. Each system is fairly simple in concept, but could generate ramifications not fully detailed below, and GMs should be ready to reconcile or arbitrate unexpected effects.

Staggered Advancement

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 42
When increasing in level, characters often gain new abilities and powers seemingly overnight. The following advancement variant allows you to add some verisimilitude to the way in which your characters grow in power. Instead of gaining all your new abilities when you advance to the next level, you divide them among four XP tiers: 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Each XP tier represents a specific percentage of the XP required to advance to the next level.

Stamina and Combat Tricks

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 112
While magic deals with complex formulae, precise manipulation of components, and intense concentration, martial acumen often relies on seizing opportunities and pushing the body and the will to carve a path to victory on the battlefield. Those who make their way in the world by skill at arms know that the determination to test the limits of endurance often separates the living from the dead and the vanquished from the victorious.

Stamina and combat tricks can help characters better reflect this opportunistic flexibility and the give-and-take of the battlefield. This system allows a character to draw upon an internal reservoir of will and gumption to overturn the assumed limitations of combat, at least for short bursts. With luck and proper timing, a martial character using this system can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat or put a despicable villain to a stunning end.

There are several ways you can implement this system in your game.

Feat Access: The easiest way to introduce stamina and combat tricks into your game is to grant access to the Combat Stamina feat, detailed below. This allows those taking the feat to opt into the system, gain a stamina pool, and use stamina to increase the utility of combat feats and class features they already have or will gain in the future. In general, the Combat Stamina feat is quite strong for martial characters with a variety of combat feats.

Free for Fighters: If your goal is to provide an additional edge to the fighter class, you can allow fighters to gain the Combat Stamina feat as an additional bonus feat at 1st level.

Fighter Bonus Feats Only: If you want to significantly strengthen fighters compared to all other classes and keep this system as a special fighter-only perk, you can restrict the Combat Stamina feat to fighters and limit the feats a character can use with his stamina pool to those gained with the fighter’s bonus feats. A multiclass fighter can’t use stamina with bonus feats he gained from any other class, even if that class can take fighter-only feats as bonus feats (like the warpriest and the swashbuckler). In this version, if a character really wants the stamina ability of a few key feats, he will need to diversify his martial training by taking a level in fighter.

Free for Everyone: If your goal is to immediately boost all martial characters and the whole group is ready to handle the stamina and combat tricks system, you can grant Combat Stamina as an additional bonus feat for all martial characters, or even for all characters.

Variant Multiclassing

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 88
Under the core rules, multiclassing can lead to a wide disparity in character ability. With this system, each character can choose a secondary class at 1st level that she trains in throughout her career, without giving up levels in her primary class. Once selected, this choice is permanent (though if using the retraining rules, the secondary class can be retrained by paying half the cost of retraining all her class levels). A character who selects this option doesn’t gain feats at 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th, and 19th levels, but instead gains class features from her secondary class as described on Table 2–8: Multiclass Character Advancement. It is probably a good idea to use either this variant system or normal multiclassing, but it’s possible for the two systems to be used together. In a game using both systems, a character can’t take levels in the secondary class she gains from this variant.

Table 2–8: Multiclass Character Advancement

Character LevelAbility
1stFeat
2nd
3rdSecondary class feature
4th
5thFeat
6th
7thSecondary class feature
8th
9thFeat
10th
11thSecondary class feature
12th
13thFeat
14th
15thSecondary class feature
16th
17thFeat
18th
19thSecondary class feature
20th

Wound Thresholds

Source Pathfinder Unchained pg. 136
In a standard Pathfinder game, when a dragon with 800 hit points has taken 798 points of damage, it’s still fighting at full capacity, but as soon as it has taken 801 points of damage, it’s knocked completely unconscious. Though this ensures that injured characters remain useful and effective, it can feel unrealistic, and it devalues any healing that doesn’t strictly prevent a knockout. Consider using the following variant to add tension and increase the strategic value of healing, but be aware that it can lead to situations that punish the side that’s already behind, and that the pace of fights could drag in the late stages as two injured parties slug it out. Wound thresholds also make it especially dangerous for a party to take on higher-CR opponents.