Pathfinder Rules Musings – Fortification

3 February, 2012

“Knife him in the gut!”

“I tried!  His armor stopped it!”

That is how the Fortification ability is suppose to work in Pathfinder (and 3.x), here are the actual rules as written:

Fortification: This suit of armor or shield produces a magical force that protects vital areas of the wearer more effectively. When a critical hit or sneak attack is scored on the wearer, there is a chance that the critical hit or sneak attack is negated and damage is instead rolled normally.

Fortification Type Chance for Normal Damage Base Price Modifier
Light 25% +1 bonus
Moderate 50% +3 bonus
Heavy 75% +5 bonus
Fortified with iron!


Now, this is conceptually, a pretty neat idea especially for people fearing assassination, paladins and such.  But like everything that has only a chance of success it is annoying when it does not work.  And when used against the players it is even worse, no one likes to have their once in a game critical negated.

So, what if Fortification was changed to reduce the extra damage from critical hits and sneak attacks instead?  So, if you have light Fortification armor and a rouge knifes you for 3 points of dagger damage plus 8 points of sneak attack damage, you just take 9 points of damage (3 from the dagger + 6 from the sneak)?

Yes, it is more math, but: You always get something from the magic you paid for and players are not ‘cheated’ out of their extra damage, it just is not as effective as usual.

I think that this is how I am going to do Fortification in my campaign.  What do other people think?  Reasonable?

Edit: For effects triggered by successful critical hits, the fortification percentage remains as the chance to negate that effect.

Notes: Photo by cisc1970 and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



  1. I think this sounds entirely reasonable if you’re willing to do the math, and much less aggravating on both sides because of increased predictability of outcome.

    The potential downside (with fortification, not your houserule) is that I don’t think the rules ever gave the rogue any way around fortification. (Or did Pathfinder address this at some point?) That is, if fortification represents the defender saying, “No, you can’t,” I don’t know that there’s a way for the rogue to turn it around and say, “Actually, yes, I can.” This is chiefly a problem because of how unevenly it affects characters of different classes – even a completely crit-focused fighter is not hindered as thoroughly as a rogue.

    On the other hand, if there were such a stat that rogues could gain from some source (feats, weapon enchantments, whatever), it would set up an arms race that was little more than a stat progression, and another stat that attacker and defender had to compare before the attack could resolve. So maybe that wouldn’t be so good.

    • Well, as I am the GM, I will handle all the math. It is not so common of an ability that I am worried about every character having it and I would be calculating it for the opposition in any case . . .

  2. I like it for standard crit rules. It doesn’t work when you’ve brought in the decks of random crit effects, though.

    • That had occurred to me after I posted it, that it does not address affects triggered by critical hit. Will edit.

  3. @Harbinger of Doom: That way lies madness. You work a way to overcome limits, then they counter it, where do you stop? Some of the problem with the 3.5 builds is that they had too many ways to overcome the limits of the game by the end of it. When you apply these to an incredibly focused character you can break the game.
    It’s sort of like the trace-buster-buster-buster. (ah, that was a great movie)

    • The problem is the current rules gimp rouge characters and crit characters any time something has fortification. Crits and sneak attack damage already require allot of luck, allot of planning, or a very focused feat progression to pull off with any consistency, and yet in a higher level game characters have access to something that essentially says, hey that thing you do that deals the bulk of your damage and special effects? It won’t work 75% of the time. It’s basically like putting a caster who could roll 30 on a check to overcome spell res against someone who has a spell res of 25. Failure chance? Sure. But at worst, I don’t see allowing more than 50%, at least that requires no charges, no activation, and no risk to the user. Hate to say it, but I’ve seen a rouge become almost useless in a high level campaign because half of the crap we fought was immune to crits or had heavy fort.

      You know, now that I think about it there’s a simpler solution. An equivalent weapon enhancement. It would be a significant expense, but worth it for specialized characters. “Soul Blade: This weapon enhancement makes it so that damage done attacks not only vital organs, but the very essence of the creature being struck. The very magic that holds constructs, undead and the like together is attacked when this weapon is used, and strikes at parts of a being that fortification cannot protect. +1 version, reduce crit immunity by 25% (ex, immunity becomes heavy fort, heavy fort becomes medium, light goes away) +3 version, reduce crit immunity by 50%, +5 reduce crit immunity by 75%). It’s much more expensive than the armor equivalent (2x as much for single wielders, 4x as much for duel), and eats a ton of weapon enhancement but for someone who’s depending on such things it may be worth it.

      I edited your two comments into one. -SH

      • So, do you think my variant is an improvement then? Or equally limiting?

        In general, I agree with Philo Pharynx. You add soul blade, they add improved fortification you add . . . and so on. I say find a campaign that rewards creative play and get out of the magical arms race.

        • I do like your variant. Actually, I’d say that most things “immune to crits/sneak attack” would simply have a level that would cancel most of the expected precision damage. I.e. When a rogue is 3-4th level they do 2d6 sneak. If an immune creature has resist 10 then an occasional sneak attack will get through. And if the rogue does both crit and sneka, then they arelikely to get some through.

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