Humans gain an extra skill point per level from their 'skilled' racial trait. If I become a human after first level (via reincarnate, polymorph any object, becoming a mythic creature, or some other method), do I gain retroactive skill points as if I had been human for each of my levels? Similarly, if I lose access to my 'skilled' racial trait as a human do I lose a skill point per hit die? Why?


3 Answers 3


Probably yes.

in D&D 3.5 this would definitely not be the case. There were no retroactive calculation of skill points, even if you spent an attribute increase on Int.

But for it is different.

here is a forum post from James Jacobs:

All bonuses are retroactive when an ability score increases, be they bonuses to damage, to skill ranks, to hit points, to saves, to skill checks... all of them. Skill ranks not being retroactive are a 3.5 convention we specifically removed from the game because it was a weird exception to the rule, and since now there are no exceptions to this rule, there's no need to specifically state that skill ranks are retroactively granted if your Intelligence goes up.

Given, he was talking about Int increases. But since they already concede that skill calculations are retroactive, there is no reason to believe the human racial modifier is not included.

Just this is so rare a case that was not mentioned.

An honorable mention to David Wilkins for posting this up on a related question.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I think you're right, but I would house-rule the opposite - my interpretation is that being human (or having a high int) makes it easier to learn skills, so the number of skills you gained from x to y age is bigger. If you suddenly become human, or your int increases, then it is easier for you to learn skills in the future (higher skills-per-level), but the amount of skills you learned in the past doesn't change. \$\endgroup\$
    – Benubird
    Oct 4, 2017 at 13:10
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ It is worth noting that James Jacobs is the creative director, not in charge of rules, and he is frequently wrong about what the rules say, particularly when he makes broad claims about something in discussions about specific aspects of them. His comment is not as convincing evidence as you might think it is. It would improve this answer to take a look at what the rules actually say rather than just trusting JJ to accurately report what they say. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 4, 2017 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kryan (+1 to your comment) I am not well versed in PF, and I think one RAW analysis would fit well into its own answer. Here's some invisible internet cookies for ya. Hooray for diversity. :D \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2017 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Benubird One disadvantage of that house rule is that I'll want to be human with lots of INT buffs at each level-up, but don't need to be any other time to maintain the bonus. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2017 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Benubird Seems like transforming a character into a human that lacks human skill points would be like transforming into a dragon that lacks wings. Either way, you could argue that the transformation could just as readily convert the target into a skill-less/wing-less version of a human/dragon, and that the acquisition of skills/wings was something that the character missed by virtue of having no actually grown up as a member of that species. This same argument could then apply to just about every attribute, ending up with the conclusion that transformations don't do anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nat
    Oct 5, 2017 at 7:22

Strictly speaking, this isn't an ability score increase, rather a racial type change, which I do not believe is addressed specifically in the rules. However, Adding Racial Hit Dice, Step 4: Skills and Feats mentions

When adding skills, check to see if the creature's Int modifier changed. If it is unchanged, simply multiply the total number of ranks per Hit Dice gained by a monster of its type times the total number of added Hit Dice and add that number of ranks to its existing skills. If its Intelligence modifier has increased, perform the same calculation as if it had not increased and then multiply the change in its Intelligence modifier times its new total number of Hit Dice and add that number of additional ranks as well (adding new skills as needed to spend all of the ranks).

And clearly here, the intent is to retroactively add the new skill ranks, like with an ability score increase.

The reasoning for Pathfinder doing this different than 3.5 is simply that Int was a weird exception. However, more important to running the game; additional bookkeeping is required without retroactive adjustments. That is, you have to keep track of when each adjustment is made to accurately determine skill ranks and this history is not normally a part of any stat block.

I think this is why many 3.5 DMs house-rule retroactive skills.


TLDR: Because the "Skilled" feature in the Human Racial Traits is not a physical feature, it is neither gained nor lost by magical effects such as Polymorph Any Object, or Reincarnation that change your race, since these effects specifically do not change the mind of the targeted creature.

The Reincarnation Spell in Pathfinder reads:

A reincarnated creature recalls the majority of its former life and form. It retains any class abilities, feats, or skill ranks it formerly possessed. Its class, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, and hit points are unchanged. Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores depend partly on the new body. First eliminate the subject’s racial adjustments (since it is no longer necessarily of his previous race) and then apply the adjustments found below to its remaining ability scores. ... The reincarnated creature gains all abilities associated with its new form, including forms of movement and speeds, natural armor, natural attacks, extraordinary abilities, and the like, but it doesn’t automatically speak the language of the new form.

All specific examples of abilities gained from the new form in the Reincarnate spell are due to changes your physical form, you only gain those racial abilities and traits that are associated with the new form's physical body. Similarly, you only lose those racial abilities and traits that are associated with your old form's physical body. That is why your Strength, Dexterity, and Charisma may change, but your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma do not change, even if your new form would normally get a bonus or negative to a mental ability score. So from a RAW perspective, no, you would not gain or lose skill points based on becoming human or transforming from human into something else.

I also contend that the RAI and a good sense of verisimilitude in the game also require that your skill points remain unchanged by effects that change only your physicality, such as the Reincarnation spell. The extra skill points in question are a cultural benefit from being raised as a human and are intended to represent the diversity of human culture. Similarly, you would not acquire a bonus feat because you were reincarnated as a human.
Finally, it only makes sense that you would retain any cultural abilities from your previous form, such as racial spellcasting, or weapon training, since those are things that you already learned and are not erased from your memory.

In the case of Polymorph spells:

In Pathfinder, Polymorph is an entire family of spells that encompass everything from Alter Self to Form of the Dragon, all of which offer mostly lesser benefits of being the type of creature you turn into, rather than fundamentally changing every aspect of the target. In most cases it modifies a few of your physical ability scores, your sensory abilities, and movement abilities, such as flying, burrowing, swimming, etc. The Spell you specifically cite in your question, Polymorph Any Object, states that it works like Greater Polymorph (which directs you to various forms of transformation spells listed above) except that you can turn anything into anything else. It does not, however, say that it alters the mind of a sentient creature that is targeted, rather it can grant sentience to a non-sentient object turned into a sentient creature.

Baleful Polymorph is the only one I know of that specifies that it changes the mental state of the target:

The creature loses its extraordinary, supernatural, and spell-like abilities, loses its ability to cast spells (if it had the ability), and gains the alignment, special abilities, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores of its new form in place of its own.

Even in this case, however:

It still retains its class and level (or HD), as well as all benefits deriving therefrom (such as base attack bonus, base save bonuses, and hit points). It retains any class features (other than spellcasting) that aren’t extraordinary, supernatural, or spell-like abilities.

Racial abilities other than spellcasting training are not specifically addressed, but it can be assumed that such things as skill points, feats, weapon training and the like would remain unchanged, and, assuming the anatomy of the new form permits it, available to the subject of the polymorph spell. Additionally, because your question was about Polymorph Any Object rather than Baleful Polymorph, the subject's spellcasting ability and mental ability scores would not be changed. I included Baleful Polymorph to prove a point that even in the most extreme case of shape changing available in the game, your skill points would still remain unchanged by the transformation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say 'does not grant' you seem to mean both retroactively and normally, which is contrary to the premise of the question. I disagree that the spells you cite work the way you seem to think they do (e.g. Polymorph Any Object can turn things into other things instead of working within the normal limits, and Reincarnation states you gain all abilities of the new form except for language, both of which contradict the conclusions you are drawing from the text), but moreover the question isn't about how those spells work, the question is about what happens when skilled is lost. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 3:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ "It depends on what's giving it to you/taking it away" would be a reasonable answer from the perspective of your position, you might want to edit in that direction. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 3:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe that you may be putting the emphasis in the wrong place for the Reincarnation spell, which states that you gain all abilities of the new form. As I understand it, Reincarnation places the soul (and therefore the mind, identity, and personality) of a recently dead creature into a new body. Although you are right that it only specifically states that you don't learn language, it stands to reason that you would also not know anything else that they creature would normally know because of culture or upbringing. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, the Polymorph Any Object spell says that it functions exactly like Greater Polymorph except that it allows for anything to be transformed into anything else. Greater Polymorph, in turn, says that it functions like Polymorph, and variations of the Beast Shape, Plant Shape, Alter Self, Elemental Body, and Form of the Dragon spells. If you look up each of these spells, you will find exactly what I stated in my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ In short, I know of nothing that would be supported by the rules of Pathfinder, or any edition of Dungeons and Dragons that I have played that would allow a non human creature who suddenly became human to gain extra skill points or proficiencies. The only thing that makes sense would be reality-warping on a much larger scale, such as a Wish spell, as it would be capable of actually providing new memories or perhaps even actually re-writing history to accommodate the change. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:08

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