Hexagram Path of Guile Draft

The path of guile is about using misdirection and cleverness. The primary mechanic behind most path of guile traits is the saving throw, as many of them focus on avoidance of bad outcomes (climbing is the avoidance of falling, stealth is the avoidance of being noticed, tumbling is the avoidance of gravity, etc). Most tasks associated with the path of guile may be attempted by all characters (though a few cannot be attempted without training, like picking complex locks or interacting with some ancient technology), but characters with path of guile traits have several important advantages.

Tasks that benefit from guile traits make use of the general saving throw, which in most cases is a character’s worst saving throw value (considering all five saving throw categories). Characters with guile traits, however, use their best saving throw value for these tasks.

Additionally, characters with points in guile traits may size up and prepare for a situation before actually attempting to use a guile trait. The roll happens after the preparation is complete, but before the character must decide whether or not to actually attempt the task. In other words, the player will know that something will be successful or not before trying (and presumably will not try if it has been decided that the task will fail, though the time spent preparing is still expended).

For example, a character may be confronted with a sheer mountain face. They could spend some time carefully examining the obstacle, and then make their roll. The sizing up and preparation only remain valid as long as conditions do not change. Thus, if a character is halfway up a cliff when enemies begin firing arrows, another climb saving throw will likely be required to avoid falling.

In the climbing example, all characters would be able to attempt the action, but they would not be allowed the benefit of the sizing up procedure, and they must use the standard general saving throw rather than the best general saving throw. They must roll their saving throw after taking action, and let the dice fall where they may.

If you think that such knowledge would not require a full turn, consider if the task itself is really deserving of a check at all. Is this something that anybody would reasonably have trouble with? Is the chance of failure an interesting hazard within the context of the game? If the answer to either of those questions is no, the action should just succeed.

At first glance, it might seem more logical to use ability checks as the basis for guile traits rather than saving throws. However, that would make ability scores too important, and greatly increase the variance of starting competency. By using saving throws, improvement is gradual and level-based.

I’m on the fence about the name of the perception trait. That really is the correct name, but I’m tempted to call it listen just to distance it from the 3E perception skill. I’m also still on the fence about including the last chance trait at all. So let me know if you love it or hate it.


  1. Perception. Save +T to notice details such as noise behind a door.
  2. Stealth. Save +T to move without being noticed.
  3. Devices. Save +T to manipulate small mechanical devices.
  4. Climb. Save +T to climb a sheer surface.
  5. Assassination. +T surprise attack damage dice. Poison use.
  6. Tumbling. Save +T to avoid falling damage if < T x 10'. Free unarmed parry.
  7. Antediluvia. Save +T to utilize artifacts from before the deluge.
  8. Tracking. Follow trails left by creatures. Poison extraction.
  9. Last Chance. T + level % chance to pass a failed catastrophic saving throw.

Perception. This allows characters a better chance to notice details, such as listening for movement behind a door or searching a room for secret doors. Using the perception trait in this way always requires 1 exploration turn (10 minutes). Note that this trait should not be used to decide which clues or details to reveal. Instead, it is a measure of a character’s thoroughness. Perception also grants a saving throw to avoid surprise (though this only works for the character, not companions as well).

Stealth. Save +T to avoid detection when hiding or moving silently. A situation may be sized up for stealthy action beforehand. Hidden characters may attack with surprise.

Image from Wikipedia

Devices. Save +T to pick a lock (requires tools), manipulate a mundane mechanical device, or disable a small mechanical trap (such as a spring-loaded poison needle).

Climb. Save +T to climb sheer surfaces. Note that no saving throw is ever required to climb something like a ladder, unless under great stress. A climb may be sized up.

Assassination. +T to hit for attacks from surprise. If such an attack is successful, T extra damage dice are rolled. In addition, characters trained in assassination may apply poison to weapons without danger to themselves.

Tumbling. Save +T when falling up to T x 10 feet for no damage. On a failed save, falling damage is halved if the distance fallen is less than T X 10 feet. Additionally, tumbling grants one free unarmed parry per turn (which does not stack). Tumbling also includes general training in acrobatics (see skills and ability checks).

Antediluvia. Save +T to activate or use artifacts from before the deluge. Some such artifacts require a successful check for every use, some require only one check to decode, and some are totally incomprehensible without a minimum degree of antediluvia.

Tracking. Save +T to follow the path left by others previously. Tracking also allows up to T doses of poison the be extracted from poisonous monsters up to T hit dice in strength.

Last Chance. T + level % chance to succeed on a failed catastrophic saving throw, which includes things like dragon breath, poison, or the gaze of a medusa. Last chance may not be used for trait saving throws. For example, a 15th level character with last chance 2 will have a 17% chance to succeed on a failed saving throw. (Thanks to Ed Dove for the name suggestion here.)

Miséricorde from Wikipedia

4 thoughts on “Hexagram Path of Guile Draft

  1. Nick Peterson

    I’m intrigued. I really like that taking the time to size up a situation = roll before the action.

    I’d rename Perception as Investigation because it helps to convey that conscious effort is required. I’d also rename Last Chance as Die Hard. It just sounds more badass. You don’t want the DM to go soft and give your character a Last Chance, you want your character to be so Die Hand that she can survive the DM’s mischief. That’s my opinion anyhow.

    I’m assuming that the +T is the training for the “points in guile traits”. I’m not sure how those work, did I miss a previous post?

    1. Brendan

      Investigation is definitely better than perception. Okay, that’s now the working name.

      Die hard: under consideration. People might wonder why that’s not on the warrior path though; it sounds more like toughness and less like guile.

  2. Nick Peterson

    Found it.


    I love the idea of Last Chance, but I’m not sure about the mechanic. All the other +T give a 5% bonus each.

    My humble proposal is to make Last Chance more specialized. Make it only available to those on path of guile, and even for them it is an off-path trait. Max of three +T. Level multiplied by +T = %chance to survive a failed save.

    So your 15th level with Last Chance 2 would have 30%. That costs 2 full levels worth of trait improvements though, and is not available to all classes.

    Just a thought.

  3. Gusty L.

    I like the saving throw mechanic – and the defacto worst vs. best saving throw thing mitigates Clerical saving throws a bit. I always thought thieves should get better saving throws, especially vs. physical things. Nice simple system very intuitive.


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