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So I was skimming through posts about Touhou and found a 5e homebrew race called the satori (located here) and that made me wonder how accurate that is for pathfinder. So I looked into it a bit and found this post though was more about someone not liking a gm ruling rather than someone wanting to know about how mindless creatures actually work and respond causing replies like "your gm is wrong". It did, however, give examples of how mindless is described in the creature types and subtypes section of the rules in the spoiler section as well as the paragraph that followed.

So what I want to know is what exactly is a mindless creature and how does it respond to its environment.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the Touhou homebrew race is relevant to the question — I'm pretty sure "mindless" from the 5e homebrew and "mindless" trait from PF have nothing in common except the name. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 16:16

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The term “mindless” is equivalent to “Int –” or “Intelligence nonability” as D&D 3.5e put it (Pathfinder doesn’t seem to use this term or any other to describe the lack of an ability score). The creature doesn’t have any Intelligence at all. This is different from Int 0, in which case the creature should have Intelligence but has lost it to ability damage, drain, or penalty. Such a creature is rendered unconscious because their bodies rely on their Intelligence to operate.

Mindless is exactly analogous to “non-living” for creatures with a Constitution nonability, usually constructs or the undead.

A mindless creature, by contrast, is supposed to not have any Intelligence, and therefore continues to function normally without any. This does have some explicit ramifications:

  • No skill ranks and no feats. With no Intelligence score, a creature does not get any skill points, cannot gain skill ranks, and does not gain feats (a mindless creature may have bonus feats, which is just part of that creature’s basic make-up and stats).

  • Cannot speak or understand any languages. Languages require Int 3 or greater. Some mindless creatures (particularly constructs and undead) may be “programmed” with certain command words that might match words in some language, might even issue verbal alerts to particular triggers that match some actual words, but this isn’t “understanding” per se.

  • Probably cannot gain class levels. There aren’t really explicit rules about this—mindless creatures are never playable and GMs can more-or-less do what they want when designing monsters—but several classes assume, for example, knowledge and understanding of language, which requires Int 3, so that seems to be the very minimum Intelligence required to take class levels.

  • Immunity to mind-affecting effects—there is no mind to affect.

  • Treated as having a score of 10, and a modifier of +0, when necessary for performing calculations. Note that this is far superior to the modifier of −5 that a creature with Int 0 has.

And that is pretty much it as far as explicit statements go, but of course we expect far more from being mindless than just these—we expect the creature to behave in a way that does not reflect any kind of intelligence or critical thinking. Computers are a common metaphor for mindless creatures—mindless creatures should behave in an extremely simple, predictable, and consistent way that amounts to a series of “if... then...” triggers, or else should just default to not doing anything at all unless explicitly ordered to do so.

Exactly how that works out, though, is—and has to be—up to the GM. There isn’t any good way to write rules for this, and Paizo hasn’t tried (nor has Wizards of the Coast, or any other RPG developer to my knowledge for that matter). Hence the thread you linked to, where a player’s ideas of how a mindless creature should behave doesn’t mesh with the GM’s ideas. That’s just reality here, though—like all such “I know it when I see it” situations, people rarely perfectly agree on what they’re seeing and we have to just come to some kind of workable compromise. The game is full of such situations—alignment is a huge one—and part of the tacit social contract in sitting down to play a game together is to compromise on these issues.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Then how come oozes are usually mindless? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MageintheBarrel Because oozes (and vermin) are, per the descriptions in the game, so simple that they behave in a manner very similar to a computer, “if, then, if, then,” etc. They are “programmed,” so to speak, by evolution (or creator deity, as may be the case in Pathfinder). Arguably, mindless doesn’t really capture these creatures well—particularly for more sophisticated vermin like bees—but that’s the nature of abstraction. All real-world non-human animals have to fit in one of three categories, Int –, Int 1, or Int 2. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for nuance or distinction. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 16:05

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