As written, this feat has some undefined qualities and I'm interested in knowing more specific details. As of right now, I am unaware of any errata or comments from the devs' that clarify.

Deadhand Style, from Horror Adventures

Benefit(s): While using this style, if you have at least 1 point in your ki pool, you gain a +2 bonus on saves against fear effects, and the DC of Intimidate checks against you increases by 4. As a swift action, you can spend 1 point from your ki pool to empower your unarmed strikes. Creatures hit with your unarmed strikes must succeed at a Will save (DC = 10 + 1/2 your character level + your Wisdom modifier) or become shaken for a number of rounds equal to your Wisdom modifier. This is a mind-affecting fear effect.

How long do your unarmed strikes stay empowered for? A single strike, a round, a minute, for as long as you maintain the style, longer?

Per the recommendation of several others, this has been split into two separate posts.

Related question

  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, fear effects don't stack but, instead, are cumulative as per this question and its answer. With that in mind, I think the linked question addresses this question's second issue. However, the first issue—how long the attacker's fists stay scary—remains. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 16, 2020 at 20:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan It seems pretty clear to me that a lot of authors make assumptions about how you can and cannot combine effects with themselves, even when they’re not the kind of thing that has explicit rules for that, and I’d expect a good answer to the second issue to address that. Either way, seems to me that this should probably be split into two questions—if for no other reason than that we have an answer to one of them and the other one, I suspect, is unanswerable. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 17, 2020 at 5:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I second @KRyan opinion, the issues would be better adressed if you split it into two separate questions. We would then be able to provide a specific answer to each. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nyakouai
    Jan 17, 2020 at 8:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nyakouai Fair enough. Considering that part 2 is basically a duplicate question of the one that HeyICanChan linked, I'll just drop it from this one. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 17, 2020 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


As written, but it’s dumb—the empowering is permanent

RAW, you can enter Deadhand Style, and then spend a ki point to empower your unarmed strikes to cause the shaken condition, and that’s it, end of the rules. Nothing there ever ends the empowering of your unarmed strikes—so it’s permanent. Any effect using ki is presumably supernatural, which means this empowering can be suppressed by antimagic field, but otherwise, it’s not going anywhere. Even disjunction does nothing to do it (probably; see this answer for a discussion of disjoining supernatural effects—Pathfinder hasn’t added any clarification on this as far as I know).

I think it’s pretty clear that there would be no point in having a style that you only ever needed to enter once, nor in a ki cost that would be refunded in a day and never paid again. But this is all we have, as written.

As intended—completely unknown

I can find no outside discussion of Deadhand Style by anyone from Paizo. There is a paizo.com thread asking both of your excellent questions, but it only got a few replies, none from Paizo staff, and none of which had an answer to this question (and whose answer to the other question was, officially, wrong, in the way I described in my own answer to that question).

As I interpret—sadly, probably just one attack

Because the feat doesn’t specify about self-stacking, which is usually a feature of fear sources that cost something to re-apply, it seems to me that you’re meant to spend a ki point for every application of this effect, so you spend more ki to accumulate the feat in the target.

This sucks because of the swift-action requirement—that means you can only pump the fear status once per round, and that means you take 3 rounds to reach panicked. After 3 rounds, a Pathfinder combat is almost-certainly over—a typical “striker” expectation is to finish a target in 1 round of focused attack (usually a full-attack). So much happens in a Pathfinder round, between extremely powerful spells, very-high damage from full-attacks, and so on, that it’s unlikely for there to be very much fight left after everyone’s gone once or twice. There may still be combatants standing but in most cases, one side or the other has gained a decisive advantage and now it’s a question of retreat versus finishing the enemy off. So by the time you manage to end one target’s threat via fear, another character may well have ended the threat of multiple targets, quite possibly the entire encounter.

Still, Deadhand Master is a pretty strong feat. Deadhand Style and Deadhand Initiate are pretty meh, but an actually-decent feat for a monk is a rare thing—two feat taxes is bad but not exactly out of line, considering the available precedents. Plenty of feats that require two bad feats are, themselves, bad, so this is still ahead of the game, sad as that is.

As I rule—one round

Personally, I’d rule this as having the empowering last one round. That potentially could allow you to bring someone all the way to panicked for just one ki point, but you have to hit at least three times, and then the target has to fail three Will saves—failing one Will save is usually enough to take someone out of a fight, so this is still pretty weak, but at least it’s worth using.

  • \$\begingroup\$ And there we have it. Too bad Deadhand Style is bad. Deadhand Master is amazing, two negative levels, with no save per hit, and all it costs is being level 14, 23 Wisdom, and 1 Ki per negative level inflicted! Practically chump change! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 21, 2020 at 21:54

RAW doesn't address it...

I don't know of any specific errata that address a clarification of this. The wording, as you've pointed out, is rather vague and undefined.

...but you can likely draw from context...

The text does say “While using this style.” It's fair to assume, then, that the effect remains until you spend a swift action to switch to another style.

...or decide for yourself (RAI)

If you think that having the effect works better as a single round, the vagueness of the text could certainly lend itself to that conclusion. So long as your players are okay with your call, I would go with whatever feels the most balanced to you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You don’t spend the ki when you first switch to the style, you spend the ki at some point during the use of the style, so I find it kind of dubious that it lasts for the entire time you use the style (that would also be pretty overpowered, not that it’s unheard of for there to be overpowered feats—but most of them aren’t for monks). Just comparing to other uses of ki makes this quite unlikely, I think. In addition, “deciding for yourself” is not “RAI.” You should probably avoid that abbreviation altogether. See this meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 21, 2020 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, also, please don’t use code formatting for anything but actual code and other text fragments intended for computer parsing—it can mess with alternative browsing technologies, like some screen-readers for the blind. We care about accessibility here, so that’s not allowed. See this meta for more on that one. Quotation marks work quite well for their job here. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 21, 2020 at 15:32

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