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Frightened from the Pathfinder Core:

A frightened creature flees from the source of its fear as best it can. If unable to flee, it may fight. A frightened creature takes a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks. A frightened creature can use special abilities, including spells, to flee; indeed, the creature must use such means if they are the only way to escape.

Does this mean that on the creature's turn, it would take a withdraw (2x speed) action (avoiding attacks of opportunity)? Or would the creature simply run (4x speed) as far as it could, taking an attack of opportunity in the process?

In a related question, how about panicked? Panicked from the Pathfinder Core:

A panicked creature must drop everything it holds and flee at top speed from the source of its fear, as well as any other dangers it encounters, along a random path. It can't take any other actions. In addition, the creature takes a -2 penalty on all saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. If cornered, a panicked creature cowers and does not attack, typically using the total defense action in combat. A panicked creature can use special abilities including spells, to flee; indeed, the creature must use such means if they are the only way to escape.

Again, does this mean that the creature must attempt to run (4x its speed) and take an attack of opportunity in the process as opposed to the safer withdraw action (2x speed).

I could see a frightened creature attempting to withdraw, while a panicked creature would run and take an attack of opportunity, but I'm not sure.

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Yes, a Frightened creature can, and indeed must, use Withdraw to get away from danger. It must get away from danger to the best of its ability – putting itself in harm’s way by provoking is not consistent with that requirement.

A panicked creature, by contrast, is required to absolutely maximize the distance between it and the source of its fear, period. It cannot use Withdraw if it might otherwise use Run (i.e. there is a straight line it could run down to put more distance between it and the source of its fear). Even if it cannot run or running isn’t any better than Withdraw, the “drop everything it holds and flee” line suggests it isn’t taking the careful approach that Withdraw suggests, so a double-move might be more appropriate. This is ambiguous and probably up to the GM, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I am the GM and this came up in our most recent session where a group of goblins were feared. At the time, I ruled the goblins would withdraw, but I promised I would look into the subject more. \$\endgroup\$ – BaseHobo Jan 21 '16 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, keep this in mind when your table's wizard get frightened and has prepared Teleport. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jan 21 '16 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Teleport "along a random path" = Into a wall? Bwahahahaha. \$\endgroup\$ – aebabis Jan 21 '16 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @acbabis Teleport has an extreme range and doesn’t care about path. Indeed, it works better when you teleport somewhere familiar. So I would assume that they would just teleport to someplace they consider safe and familiar. Which is great for them, but not so much the rest of their party. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 21 '16 at 20:17

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