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We're not sure how to handle certain things concerning incorporeal creatures.

incorporeal (trait) An incorporeal creature or object has no physical form. It can pass through solid objects, including walls. When inside an object, an incorporeal creature can’t perceive, attack, or interact with anything outside the object, and if it starts its turn in an object, it is slowed 1 until the end of its turn. A corporeal and an incorporeal creature can pass through one another, but they can’t end their movement in each other's space.

An incorporeal creature can’t attempt Strength-based checks against physical creatures or objects—only against incorporeal ones—unless those objects have the ghost touch property rune. Likewise, a corporeal creature can’t attempt Strength-based checks against incorporeal creatures or objects.

Incorporeal creatures usually have immunity to effects or conditions that require a physical body, like disease, poison, and precision damage. They usually have resistance against all damage (except force damage and damage from Strikes with the ghost touch property rune), with double the resistance against non-magical damage.
anchored incorporeality 37

In particular, we have a ghost in the party (as per the archetype in the Book of the Dead).

You also gain the incorporeal trait, as described on page 218, except you can’t pass through solid objects unless you select the Pass Through feat.

(Ghost PCs gain the ability to affect the corporeal, so this question isn't about that.)

The question centers around

a corporeal creature can’t attempt Strength-based checks against incorporeal creatures or objects.

Aren't Strength-based attacks Strength-based checks? But ghost monsters don't have any immunities listed. They merely have a resistance with an exception carved out for ghost touch. And while a ghost PC doesn't start with such a resistance, they can gain one.

So, ignoring the damage forms specifically called out (force, ghost touch), what affects an incorporeal creature?

  • Dexterity-based attacks?
  • Strength-based attacks?
  • Grapple?

There's a strong likelihood we'll encounter incorporeal monsters or even create them, so the question isn't limited to ghost PCs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's unanimous on this reddit post that they're immune to athletics-based checks and thus grabbing and tripping, but merely resistant to attacks despite the wording. Makes sense to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Aug 20, 2022 at 7:37

1 Answer 1

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By the Rules

A corporeal creature can't attempt any Strength-based check against an incorporeal creature, and a Strike attack roll is a check. So not only does a Strength-based attack not affect a ghost, it can't even be attempted.

This is problematic for a few reasons, like how Striking with something like a ghost touch greatsword is still a Strength-based check and can't be attempted against a ghost (or in the other direction, that the ghost couldn't use its ghost touch greatsword against a corporeal creature). It's also unusual that they can't attempt a Strike against such a creature rather than it just doesn't affect the target, particularly when they typically have a special resistance against non-magical weapons.

Otherwise, Dexterity-based attacks and things like Grab which don't require a roll work as normal. There may be reduced damage from a Dexterity-based attack due to the typical Resist all or other factors, but the incorporeal trait doesn't stop the attacker from attempting to use them.

Sensibly Ignoring Them

Ignoring this rule and treating it as only covering "Strength-based skill checks" would probably be best, but even then it might make sense to also allow such checks when the attacker uses a ghost touch weapon with appropriate traits like disarm or shove.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the "Sensibly Ignoring Them" section. I've never heard of anyone actually ruling that Ghosts can't be struck by Str-based strikes. It makes no in world sense for ghosts to be affected by bows and not greatswords! Given that basically the only other strength-based checks are the combat maneuvers, the intent is probably "incorporeal" means "immune to combat maneuvers that don't have ghost touch". \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Aug 20, 2022 at 23:48

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