Fear and Affrighted

12 March, 2012

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.

-Mark Twain

I want to look at a different way to model fear in Pathfinder

Rather than have shaken, frightened and panicked conditions for fear, all fear effects are going to be mechanically increasing penalties.  We will call this condition Affrighted and it will be tagged with a number which is the current penalty it is imposing (see below).

When a character is affrighted, it is noted as affrighted [Number] and he takes a penalty equal to the affrighted number on: attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. If a character gains the affrighted condition again add the two levels together and reduce the total by one to determine their current level of affrighted.*  The duration of all fear effects stack.  A fear affect written as shaken causes affrighted 2, one that would make you frightened counts as affrighted 3, and panicked counts as affrighted 4.

Example: A character walks into a cause fear spell and fails his save, gaining affrighted 3 for 2 rounds and then sees a spooky skelething and again fails his save, gaining affrighted 2 for 6 rounds.  Net effect, our unfortunate friend suffers an affrighted 4 effect for the next 8 rounds.

Monster Chiller Horror


A character is NOT told how high their affrighted penalty is, thus if a character is hit by an effect that would normally make him panicked, he is just told “You are affrighted” (or perhaps, “you are seriously affrighted”, if one wishes to convey a little more information). The GM tracks all fear penalties and the player is told each time the effect gets worse, but not by how much.

A player may choose to have their character flee the source of their fear, as if frightened. A character that does this does not suffer the penalties for being affrighted as long as he can flee or if he has fled beyond where he can perceive the source of his fear.  However, if a character who chooses to flee while suffering affrighted 4 or greater must make a DC 18 Will save, fleeing as if panicked if their fail the save.

Using affrighted rather than the standard Pathfinder levels of fear allows players to control their characters’ reactions in that face of terror.  They can stand and try to master their fear, but their effectiveness will suffer, as exactly how much they are penalized will be unknown to the player perhaps they will suffer a frisson of fear as well.  The only time they might lose control of their character’s actions is once they have decided to flee, as occasionally panic overwhelms the conscious mind once you have given into your fear.

*Optionally, if the character fails their save by 10 or more, just add the affrighted numbers together for the total penalty.

Based on New Optional Rule: Badly Shaken by Owen Stephens.

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


  1. I like it!

    • Good to hear! I liked your original idea and wanted to really nail it down into a usable fashion for my campaign.

  2. Although the notation reminds me a little of Magic: The Gathering (Bushido 4!), I think I’ll give this rule a playtest and report back to you how it goes.

    Also, hey! How’s it going? I just recently started back up with Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies and I remember you used to comment every now and again. Good to see you’re still blogging.

    • Please do. I will be using it in my future games as well, though I need to house rule the Paladin’s Aura of Courage and a few other things in preparation.

      Yes, still here. Glad to see you back as well.

  3. I like this idea quite well in terms of encouraging players to take the actions described by the effect, while allowing them options. I had at one point pondered a “temporary hit point damage” model to accomplish the same, but for reasons of distraction with other things never followed the idea through to playtesting. =)

  4. Novel system. There’s an interesting interplay with the PC’s not knowing how frightened they are.

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