Basic Rules

You can download a PDF version of this cheat-sheet here


Below are several common abbreviations used when talking about the game.

  • GM: Game Master. The game’s storyteller, referee, and director.
  • PC: Player Character. A character controlled by you or one of the other players.
  • NPC: Nonplayer Character. A character run by the Game Master, such as townsfolk, villains, monsters, and so on.
  • 1d4, 1d20, 2d6, etc: How many dice of what type you need to roll; 1d20 translates into “1 die with 20 sides,” while 2d6 means “2 dice with 6 sides each.”
  • DC: Difficulty Class. The number you must match or roll higher than to succeed on a die roll.


Every character has the following traits, which reflect their capabilities with regards to things like combat and interpersonal interactions.

  • Abilities: The six traits that define your character: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. The higher the related number, the more significant the ability. Each ability has a modifier that influences many other rolls.
  • Initiative: Your ability to react to danger. Initiative is a d20 roll + Dexterity modifier + any bonus modifiers. The higher the result, the earlier you can act.
  • Movement: How many feet you can move with a single move action on your turn. Each square on a battle grid represents 5 feet.
  • Saving Throw: Your skill at avoiding negative effects, such as poisons, effects that target a wide area, or mental attacks, divided into three categories: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. A saving throw is a d20 roll + your relevant saving throw bonus + the relevant ability modifier (Constitution, Dexterity, and Wisdom, respectively).
  • Skill Check: Your ability to do something, from lying to climbing a wall or healing wounds. A skill check is a d20 roll + your skill modifier from the related skill (if any).


These are some of the most common terms that arise during battle.

  • AC: Armor Class. This is the target number enemies need to hit you. Your basic AC is 10 + Dex modifier + armor bonus + shield bonus + spells or magic items that grant an AC bonus.
  • hp: Hit points. These represent your character’s health, based on your Hit Dice. Damage subtracts hit points, while healing restores hit points.
  • Melee attack: An attack in hand-to-hand combat. A basic melee attack is a d20 roll + base attack bonus + Strength modifier + any related or magical bonuses.
  • Ranged attack: An attack with a projectile weapon, such as a bow and arrow. A basic ranged attack is a d20 roll + base attack bonus + Dexterity modifier + any related or magical bonuses .
  • Damage: Damage is determined by rolling the dice listed with the weapon. Melee weapons deal their listed damage + Strength modifier. Ranged weapons usually do only their listed damage. Some weapons gain additional bonuses from magic or other effects. Spells do their listed damage.


These are the most basic types of actions available during combat. A typical round involves one standard action and one move action per combatant, representing about 6 seconds in the game world. A complete list of types of actions can be found in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, page 183.

  • Standard Actions: One attack roll, one spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, drinking one potion, using most special abilities.
  • Move Actions: Traveling your movement speed, drawing a weapon, opening a door, dismounting a steed, loading a light or hand crossbow, getting something out of a pack.
  • Full-Round Actions: Making more than one attack, charging an enemy, loading a heavy or repeating crossbow, running.
  • Free Actions: Can be done at any time during your turn for free. Includes speaking and dropping an item.


You can do more in battle than simply swing or shoot a weapon. On your turn you might attempt any of the following actions to hinder your opponents or aid your allies.

  • Aid Another: Sometimes the best way to defeat a foe is to help an ally. To do this, you must be in a position to attack your ally’s opponent and make an attack roll against AC 10. If you succeed, your ally gains your choice of either a +2 bonus on his next attack roll against that opponent or a +2 bonus on his AC against that opponent’s next attack.
  • Charge: You rush at an enemy in a reckless rush. By moving at least 10 feet in a straight line at your foe, you gain a +2 bonus on one attack roll but take a -2 penalty to your AC until the start of your next turn.
  • Combat Maneuvers: There’s more to combat that just striking a foe with your weapon. The following are maneuvers any character might perform. Your Combat Maneuver Bonus (CMB) influences your ability to perform these attacks, while your Combat Maneuver Defense (CMD) determines your skill at resisting them. (See pages 198 – 201 of the Core Rulebook for more details)
  • Bull Rush: A charge that forces an enemy backward.
  • Disarm: A strike that knocks an item from an enemy’s hands.
  • Grapple: An attempt to grab and hold an enemy.
  • Overrun: A dash carrying you through an enemy’s space.
  • Sunder: An attack that breaks something held or worn by an enemy.
  • Trip: A strike that knocks an enemy down.
  • Combat Maneuver Bonus (CMB): Attempts to use combat maneuvers rely on a character’s Combat Maneuver Bonus (or CMB). Your CMB is your base attack bonus + Strength modifier + special size modifier. This number is added to a d20 roll whenever you attempt one of the combat maneuvers noted above.
  • Combat Maneuver Defense (CMD): To succeed at a combat maneuver (or for a foe to succeed at a maneuver against you) you must make a combat maneuver roll that equals or exceeds your target’s Combat Maneuver Defense. Your CMD is 10 + base attack bonus + Strength modifier + Dexterity modifier + special size modifier.
  • Flanking: When a character or enemy is in battle with foes directly on opposite sides of him (directly in front and behind for example), he is considered “flanked.” Those who attack a flanked foe gain a +2 bonus on melee attack rolls against that foe.

Basic Rules

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