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I'm considering taking the Fearsome Rune on a weapon, and have feats or other runes which impose a saving throw on a hit/crit. Does the fear effect get applied before the saving throw, or after?

That is to say, will the fear penalty to checks apply to all these saves I might impose on a crit?

Fearsome rune:

When you critically hit with this weapon, the target becomes frightened 1.

Frost rune:

This weapon is empowered with freezing ice. It deals an additional 1d6 cold damage on a successful Strike. On a critical hit, the target is also slowed 1 until the end of your next turn unless it succeeds at a DC 24 Fortitude save.

Stunning Fist:

The focused power of your flurry threatens to overwhelm your opponent. When you target the same creature with two Strikes from your Flurry of Blows, you can try to stun the creature. If either Strike hits and deals damage, the target must succeed at a Fortitude save against your class DC or be stunned 1 (or stunned 3 on a critical failure). This is an incapacitation effect.

Brawling Crit specialisation:

The target must succeed at a Fortitude save against your class DC or be slowed 1 until the end of your next turn.

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2 Answers 2

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It's unclear

I couldn't remember seeing a ruling on this, and that's no surprise as there is nothing in the Encounter Mode, Playing the Game: Encounters, Turns, nor Actions rules about simultaneous Effects. This issue reaches at least as far back as Pathfinder 1e's predecessor, D&D 3.5e.

There are generally two methods for resolving this

  • All effects that can occur simultaneously do so without affecting each other
    • Result: The target is not Frightened until after making the Saves, at which point all incurred Conditions are applied
    • This is, in my experience, the most common table ruling for Pathfinder 1e
  • The current turn holder decides the actual order of effects
    • Result: On your turn, you choose to apply the Frightened Condition, then the order of other effects the target must Save against; if you critically hit an Attack of Opportunity (or similar), the target creature chooses to make all appropriate Saves before becoming Frightened
    • This has been codified as the official way to play D&D 5e (it's up to your group(s) if this matters)

Addendum:

I did miss one option, which I have seen used but haven't come across a lot of formal community support for:

  • The owner of the abilities chooses the order of effect.
    • Result: the Frightened effect happens before the Will Save
      • has the benefit of being simple
      • however, all simultaneous effects will be resolved in the most punishing way possible

Ask your GM which they use, or request which ruling that you consider to be more fun play.

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They’re Frightened When They Make the Save

As I've more deeply gone into with this answer, each effect here happens at the same time. There's no mention in the rules about ordering these effects, so they all happen at the final step of resolving the check for the attack.

Pathfinder has many types of checks, from skill checks to attack rolls to saving throws, but they all follow these basic steps.

  • Roll a d20 and identify the modifiers, bonuses, and penalties that apply.
  • Calculate the result.
  • Compare the result to the difficulty class (DC).
  • Determine the degree of success and the effect.

In this case when you critically hit with your fearsome frost weapon using Flurry of Blows and with something that gives you the brawling critical specialization effect, the effect is:

  • You hit and deal double damage (described under the rules for damage)

In the midst of combat, you attempt checks to determine if you can damage your foe with weapons, spells, or alchemical concoctions. On a successful check, you hit and deal damage.

  • The target becomes frightened 1
  • The target is slowed 1 until the end of your next turn unless it succeeds at a DC 24 Fortitude save.
  • The target must succeed at a Fortitude save against your class DC or be stunned 1 (or stunned 3 on a critical failure)
  • The target must succeed at a Fortitude save against your class DC or be slowed 1 until the end of your next turn.

As each of these effects happen at the same time, the creature is frightened when they are hit by the weapon and that penalty would apply to each of the simultaneously applied saves. The saves aren't made before or after the attack hits, but are rather made exactly when the attack hits and the creature becomes frightened.

Where Things Would be Different

Of note, this would be substantially different if the fearsome rune's effect gave a save to resist it.

As described above in the steps for handling checks, the effect of making that saving throw check would happen after rolling a d20 and identifying modifiers to the roll. With each rune's save happening at the same time this means the resulting effect(s) would happen after making those other checks—that they would only be frightened after having made those saves.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You have established that all of those effects occur simultaneously, which I agree with. However, I do not understand how you took the step from them occurring simultaneously to the fear affecting the save. There are two ways to think about this: That the effects all occur at the same time and thus the fear exists at the same moment as the saving throw occurs. Or, the effects all occur at the same time and thus are resolved independently as if the other effects had not occurred yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nin
    Aug 9, 2022 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ To put the idea of resolving simultaneous effects more simply, the target is frightened when they must attempt each saving throw. If they aren't, then they became frightened after the save rather than at the same time. \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Aug 9, 2022 at 14:20

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