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How to Read a Spell Description

Spells have a number of defining characteristics that distinguish each spell from the others. Each spell description includes most or all of the following pieces of information.

School

The first line beneath the spell's name provides the school (and perhaps also a subschool) that the spell belongs to. Schools provide a way of grouping together spells that have certain characteristics in common.

(click the school titles to see all spells of that school)

Abjuration:
Spells of this school are protective spells. They create physical or magical barriers or negate magical or physical abilities.

Conjuration (Creation):
This type of spell manipulates matter to create an object or creature in a place the spellcaster designates. If the spell has a duration other than instantaneous, magic holds the creation together, and when the spell ends or is dispelled, the conjured creature or object vanishes without a trace. If the spell has an instantaneous duration, the created object or creature is merely assembled through magic. It lasts indefinitely and does not depend on magic for its existence.

Conjuration (Healing):
Certain divine conjuration spells can heal creatures or even bring them back to life.

Conjuration (Summoning):
A summoning spell instantly brings a creature or an object to a place the caster designates. When the spell ends or is dispelled, the summoned creature is instantly sent back to where it came from, but a summoned object is not sent back unless the spell description specifically indicates this. A summoned creature also goes away if it is killed or dropped to 0 hit points.

Conjuration (Teleporting):
A spell of this type transports one or more creatures or objects a great distance.

Divination:
These spells enable you to learn information, to find hidden things (true seeing), or to foil deceptive spells.

Enchantment:
An enchantment spell affects the minds of others, influencing or controlling their behavior. All enchantment spells have the mind-affecting descriptor (see below for more on spell descriptors).

Evocation:
These spells manipulate energy or tap an unseen source of power to produce a desired end. In effect, they create something out of nothing. Many of these spells produce spectacular effects, and evocation spells can deal large amounts of damage.

Illusion:
Illusion spells deceive the senses or minds of others.

Saving Throws and Illusions (Disbelief): Creatures encountering an illusion effect usually do not receive saving throws to recognize it as illusory until they study it carefully or interact with it in some fashion. This allows them to disbelieve the illusion. If any viewer successfully disbelieves an illusion and communicates this fact to other viewers, each such viewer gains a saving throw with a +4 bonus.

Necromancy:
Necromancy spells manipulate the power of death, unlife, and the life force. Spells involving undead creatures belong to this school, as do spells that utilize negative energy to deal damage.

Transmutation:
Transmutation spells change the properties of some creature, thing, or condition

Universal:
A small number of spells belong to no school and are designated as universal. The type of magic they involve does not fall into one of the above categories.

Descriptors

Descriptors are a way of classifying spells (often from different schools) that have some common characteristic.

A spell's descriptors (if any) appear in brackets on the line identifying the school. Descriptors used for spells include cold, electricity, fear, fire, force, language-dependent, light, mind-affecting, and sonic.

Level

The relative power of a spell is indicated by its level. A spell's level also indicates whether a particular spellcaster is capable of preparing and casting the spell.

Spell Slots: Every spellcaster can prepare as many spells every day as he or she has spell slots. (See the advance class description for details.)

Spell slots have levels just as spells do; a spell slot of a certain level is designed to hold a spell of that level. It's possible, however, to place a lower-level spell in a higher-level spell slot if you desire. A character doesn't have to fill all spell slots with prepared spells every day (although it usually makes sense to do so).

Components

Every spell has at least one type of component that the spellcaster must provide at the time of casting.

Verbal (V):
To cast a spell with a verbal component, a character must speak in a firm voice. If the character cannot speak, he or she can't cast such a spell. A spellcaster who has been deafened has a 20% chance to spoil any spell he or she tries to cast if that spell has a verbal component.
Somatic (S):
To cast a spell with a somatic component, a character must gesture freely with at least one hand. A character can't cast a spell that has a somatic component while bound, grappled, or with both hands full or occupied. If an arcane spellcaster casts a spell with a somatic component while wearing armor, the armor may bring with it an arcane spell failure chance.
Material (M):
A material component is an object or a small amount of some substance that the caster must have on hand. It is expended and disappears when the spell is cast. Preparing these materials is a free action. The purchase DCs for expensive material components are included in the spell descriptions; if no value is given, assume a purchase DC of 2.
Focus (F):
A focus is similar to a material component, except that it is not expended when the spell is cast.
Divine Focus (DF):
Some divine spells require the caster to provide a divine focus. Unless some other focus is specified in the spell description this is a holy symbol of the character's.

Sometimes the Components entry of a spell description contains the entry "M/DF". This indicates a spell that can be cast as either an arcane spell or a divine spell-an arcane caster casting it needs the specified material component, while a divine caster needs to provide a divine focus.

Casting Time

This entry tells how much time is needed to complete the casting of a spell once it is begun.

Casting a spell with a casting time of 1 action is an attack action. The spell takes effect immediately.

Casting a spell with a casting time of 1 full round is a full-round action. A character can take a 5-foot step before, during, or after casting, but you cannot otherwise move. The spell takes effect at the beginning of that character's turn in the round after he or she began to cast it. The character then acts normally after the casting is completed.

A spell that takes 1 minute to cast comes into effect just before the character's turn 1 minute later (the character spends each of those 10 rounds casting as a full-round action).

When a character begins a spell that takes 1 full round or longer to cast, he or she must continue the invocations, gestures, and/or concentration from one round to just before his or her turn in the next round (at least). If the character loses concentration after starting the casting and before it is complete, the spell is lost (see the Concentration skill).

A character retains his or her Dexterity bonus to Defense while casting a spell.

Attacks of Opportunity: Generally, if a character attempts to cast a spell, he or she provokes attacks of opportunity from threatening enemies. Table: FX Actions in Combat specifies whether a certain activity provokes attacks of opportunity (AoO). If a character takes damage from an attack of opportunity, he or she must make a Concentration check or lose the spell he or she was trying to cast.

Casting on the Defensive: A character may attempt to cast a spell while on the defensive. This option means casting the spell while paying attention to threats and avoiding blows. In this case, the character are no more vulnerable to attack than he or she would be if the character was just standing there, so casting while on the defensive does not provoke an attack of opportunity. It does, however, require a Concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) to pull off. Failure means the spell is lost..

Table: FX Actions in Combat
Attack Actions
AoO?
Activate a ring, rod, staff, wand, or wondrous itemNo
Cast a spell (attack action casting time)Yes
Concentrate to maintain an active spell or powerNo
Dismiss a spell or powerNo
Drink a potionYes
Manifest a power (attack action manifestation time)Yes
Read a scrollYes
Turn or rebuke undeadNo
Use spell-like abilityYes
Use supernatural abilityNo
Use extraordinary abilityNo
Use touch spell on selfNo
Move Actions
AoO?
Direct or redirect an active spell or powerNo
Full-Round Actions
AoO?
Cast a spell (full-round action casting time)Yes
Manifest a power (full-round action manifestation time)Yes
Use touch spell on up to six friendsYes
Free Actions
AoO?
Cease concentration on a spell or powerNo
Prepare spell components to cast a spellNo
Make Spellcraft check on counterspell attemptNo

Range

A spell's range indicates how far from the caster it can reach-the maximum distance from the caster that the spell's effect can occur, as well as the maximum distance at which the caster can designate the spell's point of origin. If any portion of the spell's area would extend beyond the range, that area is wasted.

A spell's range usually falls into one of the following categories.

Personal:
The spell affects only the caster.
Touch:
The caster must touch a creature or object to affect it. To use a touch spell, the caster casts the spell and then touches the subject, either in the same round or any time later. In the same round that the character casts the spell, he or she may also touch (or attempt to touch) the target. The caster may take his or her move before casting the spell, after touching the target, or between casting the spell and touching the target. A character can automatically touch one friend or use the spell on his or herself, but to touch an opponent, the character must succeed on an attack.
Touch Attacks:
Since the character only needs to touch the enemy, he or she makes a touch attack instead of a regular attack. Touching an opponent with a touch spell is considered to be an armed attack and therefore does not provoke attacks of opportunity when it is discharged on an armed opponent. However, the act of casting a spell does provoke attacks of opportunity.

Touch attacks come in two types: melee touch attacks (for touches made with the character's hand) and ranged touch attacks (for touches made with projectile and ray effects). The caster can score critical hits with either type of attack. The opponent's Defense against a touch attack does not include any equipment bonus or natural armor bonus. The opponent's size modifier and Dexterity modifier both apply normally.

Holding the Charge: The caster does not have to touch the target immediately after casting a touch spell. Instead, he or she can "hold the charge," waiting to discharge the spell at a later time. If the character touches anything with his or her hand while holding a charge, the spell discharges. Otherwise, the character can make touch attacks round after round, until he or she succeeds (and thus discharge the spell). A character can touch one friend (or his or herself) as an attack action, or up to six friends as a full-round action. If the character casts another spell, the touch spell dissipates.

Close:
The spell reaches up to 25 feet away from the caster. The maximum range increases by 5 feet for every two full spellcasting class levels.
Medium:
The spell reaches up to 100 feet + 10 feet per class level.
Long:
The spell reaches up to 400 feet + 40 feet per class level.
Range Expressed in Feet:
Some spells have no standard range category, just a range expressed in a unit of measurement (usually feet).

Target

Some spells have a specific target or targets. A caster uses these spells directly on creatures or objects, as defined by the spell itself. The caster must be able to see or touch the target, and must specifically choose that target. The caster does not have to select his or her target until he or she finishes casting the spell.

If the character casts a targeted spell on the wrong sort of target the spell has no effect.

If the target of a spell is the caster ("Target: You"), the caster does not receive a saving throw, and spell resistance does not apply.

Subject: The descriptive text of spells makes a distinction between "target" and "subject." The target of a spell is the creature(s) or object(s) it is directed against. A target becomes a subject if it fails a saving throw against the spell and is thus affected by the magic.

Effect

Some spells create or summon things rather than affecting things that are already present. The caster must designate the location where these things are to appear, either by seeing it or defining it. Range determines how far away an effect can appear, but if the effect is mobile it can move regardless of the spell's range.

Ray: Some effects are rays. The caster aims a ray as if using a ranged weapon, though typically the character makes a ranged touch attack rather than a normal ranged attack. As with a ranged weapon, the character can fire into the dark or at an invisible creature and hope to hit something. A character doesn't have to see the creature he or she is trying to hit, as with a targeted spell. Intervening creatures and obstacles, however, can block the caster's line of sight or provide cover for the creature being aimed at.

If a ray has a duration, it's the duration of the effect that the ray causes, not the length of time the ray itself persists.

Spread: Some effects, notably clouds and fogs, spread out from a point of origin to a distance given in the spell description. The effect can extend around corners and into areas the caster can't see. Figure distance by actual distance traveled, taking into account turns the spell effect takes. The caster must designate the point of origin, but need not have line of effect (see below) to all portions of the effect.

Area

Some spells affect an area. The caster selects where the spell starts, but otherwise doesn't control which creatures or objects the spell affects. Sometimes a spell describes a specially defined area, but usually an area falls into one of the following categories.

Burst:
As with an effect, the caster selects the spell or power's point of origin. The spell or power bursts out from this point, affecting whatever it catches in its area. A burst spell has a radius that indicates how far from the point of origin the spell's effect extends.
Cone:
A cone shoots away from the caster in the direction he or she designates. A cone starts in a square adjacent to the caster and widens out as it goes. A cone's width at a given distance from you equals that distance. Its far end is as wide as the effect is long.
Creatures:
Some spells affect creatures directly (as a spell with a target does), but they affect creatures in an area of some kind rather than individual creatures the caster selects. The area might be a burst, a cone, or some other shape.

Many spells affect "living creatures," which means all creatures other than constructs and undead.

Cylinder:
As with a burst, the caster selects the spell's point of origin. This point is the center of a horizontal circle, and the spell shoots down from the circle, filling a cylinder.
Emanation:
Some spells have an area like a burst except that the effect continues to radiate from the point of origin for the duration of the spell.
Quarter-Circle:
Some spells have a quarter-circle-shaped area. Like a cone, the effect starts in a square adjacent to the caster and widens out as it goes.
Spread:
Some spells spread out like a burst but can turn corners. The caster selects the point of origin, and the spell spreads out a given distance in all directions. Figure distance by actual distance traveled, taking into account turns the spell effect takes.
Other:
A spell or power can have a unique area, as defined in its description.
(S):
If an Area or Effect entry ends with "(S)" (standing for "shapeable"), the caster can shape the spell. A shaped effect or area can have no dimension smaller than 10 feet.

Line of Effect: A line of effect is a straight, unblocked path that indicates what a spell can affect. A line of effect is canceled by a solid barrier. It's like line of sight for ranged weapons, except it's not blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight.

A caster must have a clear line of effect to any target that he or she uses a spell on, or to any space in which he or she wishes to create an effect. The caster must have a clear line of effect to the point of origin of any spell he or she casts or power he or she manifests. For bursts, cones, cylinders, and emanation spells, the spell only affects areas, creatures, or objects to which it has line of effect from its origin (a burst's point, a cone's starting point, a cylinder's circle, or an emanation spell's point of origin).

A hole of at least 1 square foot is sufficient to allow a line of effect through an otherwise solid barrier. If any given 5-foot length of barrier contains such an opening, that 5-foot length is not considered a barrier for purposes of a spell's line of effect (though the rest of the barrier still counts as normal).

Directing or Redirecting Effects: Some spells allow the caster to redirect the effect to new targets or areas after casting the spell. Redirecting a spell requires a move action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It also doesn't require concentration.

Duration

The Duration entry of a spell description tells how long the effect of the spell lasts.

Timed Durations:
Many durations are measured in rounds, minutes, hours, or some other increment. When the time is up, the magical energy goes away and the spell ends. If a spell's duration is variable, the GM rolls it secretly.
Instantaneous:
The spell energy comes and goes the instant the spell is cast, though the consequences of the spell might be long-lasting.
Permanent:
The effect remains indefinitely, but is sustained by lingering magical energy. If the energy goes away, so does the effect.
Concentration:
The spell or power lasts as long as the caster concentrates on it, possibly up to a specified maximum amount of time. Concentrating to maintain a spell is an attack action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. Anything that could break the character's concentration when casting a spell can also break his or her concentration while maintaining one, causing the spell to be ruined (see Concentration, below). A character can't cast a spell while concentrating on another one.

Sometimes a spell lasts for a short time after the character ceases concentrating. In these cases, the spell keeps going for the stated length of time after the character stops concentrating.

Subjects, Effects, and Areas:
If a spell affects creatures directly, the result travels with the subjects for the spell's duration. If the spell creates an effect, the effect lasts for the duration. The effect might move or remain still. Such an effect can be destroyed prior to the end of its duration. If the spell affects an area, the spell stays with that area for the spell's duration. Creatures become subject to the spell when they enter the area and are no longer subject to it when they leave.
Discharge:
A few spells last for a set duration or until triggered or discharged. The spell remains in place until the triggering condition is met (at which point it takes effect) or the maximum duration is reached (at which point it dissipates, with no effect).
(D):
If the Duration entry ends with "(D)" (standing for "dismissible"), the caster can dismiss the spell at will. The caster must be within range of the effect of the spell to dismiss it. Dismissing a spell is an attack action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. A spell that depends on concentration is dismissible by its very nature, and dismissing it does not require an action (since all the caster has to do to end the spell is to stop concentrating).

Saving Throw

Most harmful spells allow an affected creature to make a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect. The Saving Throw entry in a spell description defines which type of saving throw the spell allows and describes how saving throws against the spell work.

Negates:
This term means the spell has no effect on a creature that makes a successful saving throw.
Partial:
The spell causes an effect on its subject. A successful saving throw means that some lesser effect occurs.
Half:
The spell deals damage, and a successful saving throw halves the damage taken (round down).
None:
No saving throw is allowed.
Disbelief:
A saving throw is not allowed purely on the basis of encountering the spell. Rather, the creature gets a saving throw only after interacting with or carefully studying the spell. A successful save lets the subject ignore the effect.
(Object):
The spell can be cast on objects, which receive saving throws only if they are magical in nature, or if they are attended (held, worn, or grasped) by a creature resisting the spell, in which case the object gets the creature's saving throw bonus unless its own bonus is greater. (This notation does not mean that a spell can only be cast on objects. Some spells of this sort can be cast on creatures or objects.)
(Harmless):
The spell is usually beneficial, not harmful, but a targeted creature can attempt a saving throw if it wishes.

Saving Throw Difficulty Class: A saving throw against a spell has a DC of 10 + the level of the spell + the spellcaster's bonus for the relevant ability (see spellcasting advanced class for details).

Succeeding at a Saving Throw: A creature that successfully saves against a spell without obvious physical effects feels a hostile force or a tingle, but cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack. Likewise, if a creature's saving throw succeeds against a targeted spell the caster senses that the spell has failed. The caster does not sense when creatures succeed at saving throws against effect and area spells.

Voluntarily Giving up a Saving Throw: A creature can voluntarily forego a saving throw and willingly accept a spell's result. Even a character with a special resistance to magic can suppress this resistance if he or she wants to.

Items Surviving after a Saving Throw: Unless the descriptive text for the spell specifies otherwise, all items carried and worn are assumed to survive a magical attack.

If an item is not carried or worn and is not magical, it does not get a saving throw. It is simply dealt the appropriate damage.

Spell Resistance

Spell resistance is a special defensive ability that protects against spells.

Each spell description includes an entry that indicates whether spell resistance applies to the spell (if so, Yes; if not, No). In general, whether spell resistance applies depends on what the spell does:

Targeted Spell:
If the spell is targeted at a creature, spell resistance applies. If the spell targets multiple specific creatures, spell resistance applies to those individuals that have it.
Area Spell:
If the target is within the area of a spell, its spell resistance applies. The spell resistance protects the resistant creature without affecting the spell itself.
Effect Spell:
Most effect spells summon or create something and are not subject to spell resistance. Effect spells that affect a creature more or less directly are sometimes subject to spell resistance.
Level Check:
If a spell is being resisted by a creature with spell resistance, the caster must make a level check (1d20 + caster level) and get a result at least equal to the creature's spell resistance for the spell to affect that creature. If the caster fails the check, the spell doesn't affect the defender. The defender's spell resistance is like a Defense score against magical attacks.
(Harmless) and (Object):
These terms mean the same thing in a spell resistance entry as they do for saving throws. A creature with spell resistance must voluntarily drop the resistance in order to receive the effects of a spell noted as harmless without the level check described above. Doing so is an attack action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. Once a creature lowers its resistance, it remains down until the creature's next turn, at the beginning of which it automatically returns. A creature's spell resistance never interferes with its own spells, powers, items, or abilities.

Only spells and spell-like abilities are subject to spell resistance. Extraordinary and supernatural abilities (including enhancement bonuses on magic weapons) are not. A creature can have some abilities that are subject to spell resistance and others that are not.

Spell resistance does not stack with power resistance, and vice versa.

Descriptive Text

A spell's descriptive text explains how the spell works or what it does and includes necessary information such as the spell's material component.

The Spell's Result

Spells and Critical Hits: A spell that requires an attack roll can score a critical hit. A spell attack that requires no attack roll cannot score a critical hit.