The Problem of Immunity (Rules Musings)24 March, 2012
It won’t burn?
What, not even magical fire? But it is such a little monster.
In Pathfinder (like 3.x before it), there are a number of monsters, and some classes, that gain flat and total immunity to a variety of things. This was brought back to my attention by the comments on my review of the Genius Guide to: Fire Magic and has been discussed as a problem by Sean K Reynolds (and possibly others).
Immunities are just no fun, not for the player, not for the GM, not do they make a lot sense. Sure, the King of the Fire Elementals cannot be harmed by fire, that makes sense. But should not a 2HD small fire element be washed away by a powerful enough gout of flame? Cannot a creature of electricity be ionized if overwhelmed by a massive stroke of lightning?
I am thinking of setting “immunity” to damaging effects as equal to Resistance 30 or HD x 4 (whichever is higher for each individual creature), enough to shrug off small effects but a big enough fireball can still blast away the smaller of the fire elementals, powerful enough cold will still freeze a yeti and so on. The exception would be the vanishingly rare creature (like the afore mentioned Elemental King) who would have True Immunity, that does ignore all such damage.
So elemental damage immunity becomes a short hand for “really hard to damage in this way” rather than “pack up your fireballs, you are going home dead.”
Now, other immunities, like the Paladin’s immunity to fear or the Druid’s immunity to poison and even the construct’s immunity to sneak attacks. The first set reduce the number of interesting tricks the GM can use against the player characters, the second penalize certain classes and makes the game less fun for their players.
As I have been working on adjusting the fear rules, I wanted to scale down the Paladin’s immunity to fear while still making them exceedingly brave (Reynond’s suggests giving them a +10 fear save, but that seems to bland), so I am thinking of using this:
Aura of Courage (Su)
At 3rd level, a paladin becomes highly resistant to fear (magical or otherwise), she ignores affrighted penalties up to half her level (rounded up) or her Charisma modifier, whichever is lower, suffering penalties only from the amount that exceeds their resistance.
Each ally within 10 feet of her gains a +4 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects. This ability functions only while the paladin is conscious, not if she is unconscious or dead.
I have already addressed sneak attack damage to some extent in my house rules as to the other class based immunities, still pondering what to do with them. Immunity to diseases, at least non-magical ones, does not seem like a major issue.
What do other people think? Have you had problems with immunities in your campaign? What solutions have worked for you?