RPG Adventures and design guides for tabletop gamers

Friday Funny: A Coward’s Life (Part 1)

Posted In Articles, Front Page | 17 comments

KinglearpaintingBy sweet Chautauqua’s flow’ry banks
We love to sing and play,
But should we spy a foeman’s ranks,
We’d proudly run away!

—H. P. Lovecraft, “Pacifist War Song—1917”

There comes a time in all heroes’ lives when they must make the ultimate sacrifice and perish while saving their adventuring companions, their true loves, and sometimes even the very universe. But if everyone would play the hero and die nobly, who would live to tell the tale and reap the profits?

This article is not intended for the players who plan for their characters to go out in a blaze of blood and glory. It is intended for those who want to see their characters live and prosper through many dangerous adventures and unimaginable perils. These may not be the noblest feats in the book, and they won’t help your companions in the deadly game of dungeon crawling… but then again, in the deadly game of dungeon crawling, who cares about companions?!

So, ladies and gentlemen, to paraphrase the great poet Dylan’s words, prepare to “run, run from the dying of the light!”

New Feats

Characters whose powers stem from courage and savagery (paladins, some clerics and monks, barbarians) lose these powers as soon as they take a cowardly fear. This is treated in the same way as shifting to a forbidden alignment.

Otherwise these feats are available to everyone and can be taken as fighter bonus feats.

Combat Looting [Cowardly]

You have mastered the technique of searching for valuables to pocket even as your allies are fighting for their lives.

Benefit This feat enables you to search an incapacitated opponent’s body for a small item of value and snatch it as a full round action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

Normal Ordinarily, such an action would take 2 rounds and evoke at least two attacks of opportunity.

Human Shield [Cowardly]

You are adept at hiding behind the backs of your allies or innocent passersby who just happened to walk into the battle area by mistake.

Benefit At the start of your turn, if there is a creature of your size or larger within 5 ft. of you, you can transfer up to 4 points of AC from this creature to yourself and, additionally, gain a +1 cover bonus to AC for every 2 points taken from the adjacent creature. This creature counts as your human shield until the beginning of your next round.

Non-willing human shields can make opposed dexterity checks to avoid this effect, success enables them to make an attack of opportunity against you.

This bonus does not stack with any bonuses to AC gained from cover.

Normal Ordinarily, you can only gain a cover bonus to AC from willing characters standing between you and the attacker.

Improved Human Shield [Cowardly]

You have mastered the art of having friends and non-combatants take shots aimed at you. As long as you have friends around you, you are protected.

Prerequisite Human Shield

Benefit Once per round, when you take damage from a melee or ranged attack, you can have an adjacent human shield take the damage instead. The creature can make a Reflex save (DC 15) to take half damage.

Improved Run [Cowardly]

You’re an expert in running away from the battlefield, leaving your friends and enemies alike stunned with the rapidity of your sudden retreat.

Prerequisite Run

Benefit While moving away from an enemy, you gain a +2 dodge bonus to your AC and move six times your normal speed for the first round of your escape (if wearing medium, light, or no armor and carrying no more than a medium load) or five times your speed (if wearing heavy armor or carrying a heavy load).

To use this feat you must drop all Medium or larger items held in your hands.

Live to Tell the Tale [Cowardly]

In your desire to save yourself, you gain almost supernatural speed and resistance. In a shameful display of cowardly hysteria, you flee screaming from the battlefield pushing friends and foes alike into harms way.

Prerequisite Human Shield, Improved Run

Benefit You can fly into a mindless hysteria once per 5 levels per day. You scream wildly that all is lost and “we’re all gonna die,” throw away any items that might hinder your escape, and flee the battle, discouraging your allies and encouraging your enemies.

During the hysteria, you gain phenomenal agility and durability but become almost mad with fear, losing your ability to do anything except running away. Whenever possible, you use both Improved Run and Improved Human Shield.

Such a display of cowardice and despair is extremely disheartening to your allies. Any friendly combatant who witness your escape must succeed on DC 14 Will save or suffer a -1 morale penalty on all rolls for the duration of the encounter. Penalties induced by multiple hysterias do not stack.

You temporarily gain a +4 bonus to Dexterity, a +4 bonus to Constitution and a +2 morale bonus on AC and all saving throws, but you lose the ability to attack any hostile creatures. The increase in Constitution is treated the same way as that gained from a barbarian’s rage.

While panicking, you cannot use any skills, abilities, spells, or magic items that do not directly assist your escape. You cannot carry any items larger than Small.

A fit of hysteria lasts for a number of rounds equal to 3 + your (newly improved) Constitution modifier and cannot be prematurely ended. At the end of your hysteria, you lose the hysteria modifiers and restrictions and become fatigued (-2 penalty to Strength, -2 penalty to Dexterity, and can’t charge or run) for the duration of the current encounter.

Pathetic [Cowardly]

Your appearance and behavior suggest a miserable creature not worthy of killing, too weak to enslave and too sickly to devour. This often gives you an edge when negotiating your surrender or punishment or when bargaining from a position of absolute powerlessness.

Benefit You get a +2 on all Charisma-based skill checks made to avoid being hurt by an opponent. This bonus rises to +4 if you have lost half or more your hp or allies.

Special This bonus does not stack with Persuasive and Negotiator.

(This post is Product Identity.)


I prefer to call it survival. I’ll be behind that post down there if you need me.


  1. The idea of a cowardly ‘negative barbarian rage’ is awesome and may very well become a kobold racial ability in one of my games.


    November 20, 2009

  2. These ROCK!!! I’ve got a player who would probably like them… but I’m envisioning an NPC with these… oh man… I love these!

    kunger00 (Keith Unger)

    November 20, 2009

  3. Awesome Feats! I’m totally converting these to 4e for my games.


    November 20, 2009

  4. This is a great piece!

    Human Shield and Improved Human Shield are actually kind of useful, even if you aren’t a coward.


    November 20, 2009

  5. Finally some feats that fit my play style :)


    November 20, 2009

  6. Very nice, Uri! Real fun stuff there.


    November 20, 2009

  7. Wow, awesome stuff from the Urik!

    Hugo Solis

    November 21, 2009

  8. These are perfect for the wizards in my group! I think I will allow them to adopt them if they so wish! lol


    November 22, 2009

  9. Absolutely fantastic! Added to my house rules and working on an NPC with them. Please keep the 3.5 content coming, we really appreciate it out here!


    November 22, 2009

  10. These feats are so many shades of brilliant I can barely contain myself! Awesome Uri.

    Phil Larwood

    November 23, 2009

  11. I can think of several important NPC’s in my Ptolus game for whom these feats are perfect!

    I can’t wait to use Human Shield on the party!


    November 23, 2009

  12. Fun ideas all ’round, Uri.

    Rone Barton

    November 23, 2009

  13. SO funny! I’ll be watching out for that, Cory… lol.


    November 23, 2009

  14. AMAZING! Thank you for these, Uri!


    November 23, 2009

  15. Wonderfull! I’m writing up Feats/Prestige Classes/Gods for the Roachlings in my game. These will be perfect additions.


    November 23, 2009

  16. Well done. I look forward to the Groveling Minion prestige class.

    Black Fang

    November 29, 2009

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