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A question about Occultiist Energy Ray


Rules Questions


The Occultist Energy Ray(SP) states:

Quote:
As a standard action that provokes attacks of opportunity, you can expend 1 point of mental focus to unleash a ray of pure energy as a ranged touch attack. This ray has a range of 30 feet. The ray deals an amount of energy damage equal to 1d6 points + 1d6 points for every 2 occultist levels you possess beyond 1st (2d6 at 3rd level, 3d6 at 5th, and so on, to a maximum of 10d6 at 19th level). When you unleash an energy ray, you must decide what type of damage it deals (acid, cold, electricity, or fire).

So given that it is SP, and is granted by an Implement which is SP, it should be subject to SR. But what is the CL of the ability? Based on what it says under Spell Like Abilities, the CL is the level when you pick it up, which really seems to limit the usefulness of this ability.

It scales based on your level, so one would think it's CL = your occultist level.

Liberty's Edge

To the best of my knowledge, unless the Spell-Like Ability specifies a caster level, it uses the creature's hit dice to determine the SP's CL. Or, in the case of creatures with class levels (such as a PC) it would be the character's actual caster level, i.e. hit dice in a spell-casting class (specifically the class that granted the SP).

d2opfsrd "Spell-Like Abilities (Sp)" Universal Monster Rules wrote:


For creatures with spell-like abilities...If no caster level is specified, the caster level is equal to the creature’s Hit Dice.


Spell-Like Abilities (Sp) Spell-like abilities are magical and work just like spells (though they are not spells and so have no verbal, somatic, focus, or material components). They go away in an antimagic field and are subject to spell resistance if the spell the ability is based on would be subject to spell resistance.

This ability isn't based on a spell that would be subject to SR, so it shouldn't be subject to SR.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Much as I like the answers how does that square with

Magic - Special Abilities - Spell-Like Abilities wrote:


Spell-like abilities are subject to spell resistance and dispel magic. They do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated. Spell-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.

If a character class grants a spell-like ability that is not based on an actual spell, the ability’s effective spell level is equal to the highest-level class spell the character can cast, and is cast at the class level the ability is gained.

Seems to be different from the monster rules.

Liberty's Edge

EDIT: Apparently "Energy Ray" is from a 3rd Party Publisher rather than Paizo; I missed that in my research. That being said, my answer below is likely outside RAW. I would rule it scales in a game I ran, and would further argue that would be RAI, but that's not what was initially asked.

Since I'm not as familiar with Occult Adventures as maybe I should be to answer this question, I won't claim my reading of this is 100% accurate. That being said, however, the Energy Ray is based on a Psionic Power. Psionics and Magic are essentially the same thing, and have been since at least 3rd Ed. In fact, this is what the PRD has to say:

PRD wrote:

Psychic Magic

Wizards study ancient tomes to unlock arcane secrets of the universe, and clerics pray to distant deities to grant them divine power. Yet there is a third, more esoteric kind of magic, connected to every creature's composite being, from the conscious mind to the deepest desire, from the life force to the spirit, from the very soul to the cosmic self. This third type of magic is psychic magic.

A psychic spell largely functions like any other spell. It's another type of magic, similar to arcane or divine magic—in fact, those who use psychic magic are easily mistaken for practitioners of arcane and divine traditions. Metamagic feats and any other rules that alter or trigger from spells can usually be used with psychic spells (though see the Components section below for a few exceptions). Psychic spellcasters aren't affected by effects that target only arcane or divine spellcasters, nor can they use arcane or divine scrolls or other items or feats that state they can be utilized by only arcane or divine spellcasters.

(Emphasis mine.)

So, it seems to me that Energy Ray is based on a PSYCHIC spell, and would therefore increase in caster level just like the rules for Spell-Like Abilities say it should.


But again, there are two different and contradictory rules based on where you look.

From Universal Monster Rules, you get:

Quote:

For creatures with spell-like abilities, a designated caster level defines how difficult it is to dispel their spell-like effects and to define any level-dependent variables (such as range and duration) the abilities might have. The creature's caster level never affects which spell-like abilities the creature has; sometimes the given caster level is lower than the level a spellcasting character would need to cast the spell of the same name. If no caster level is specified, the caster level is equal to the creature's Hit Dice. The saving throw (if any) against a spell-like ability is 10 + the level of the spell the ability resembles or duplicates + the creature's Charisma modifier.

Some spell-like abilities duplicate spells that work differently when cast by characters of different classes. A monster's spell-like abilities are presumed to be the sorcerer/wizard versions. If the spell in question is not a sorcerer/wizard spell, then default to cleric, druid, bard, paladin, and ranger, in that order.

And from Magic - Special Abilities, you get:

Quote:

Usually, a spell-like ability works just like the spell of that name. A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus. The user activates it mentally. Armor never affects a spell-like ability's use, even if the ability resembles an arcane spell with a somatic component.

A spell-like ability has a casting time of 1 standard action unless noted otherwise in the ability or spell description. In all other ways, a spell-like ability functions just like a spell.

Spell-like abilities are subject to spell resistance and dispel magic. They do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated. Spell-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.

If a character class grants a spell-like ability that is not based on an actual spell, the ability's effective spell level is equal to the highest-level class spell the character can cast, and is cast at the class level the ability is granted.

As noted, Energy Ray seems to come from a 3rd party Psionic power.

So if you follow the magic rules, not really a "spell", which would make the spell level the highest-level class spell the character can cast. And is cast at the class level you picked up the ability.

Or if you follow the monster rules, you end up with the spell level equal to 1 (Energy Ray is a level 1 power), and CL == creature HD.

In either case, it would seem that SR needs to be overcome.


I think the answer is that the occultist power is not technically a spell like ability.

Per Spell like ability definition:Usually, a spell-like ability works just like the spell of that name. A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus.

The Occultist Focus powers require a focus.

Focus (F)

A focus component is a prop of some sort. Unlike a material component, a focus is not consumed when the spell is cast and can be reused. As with material components, the cost for a focus is negligible unless a price is given. Assume that focus components of negligible cost are in your spell component pouch.

Thus I'd think this ability is more Su than Sp.


Being supernatural would a) make more sense, b) would eliminate the need for figuring out CL as it's not subject to SR, nor dispel. But it's not what is written, and would have to be house ruled as such.

Grand Lodge

darth_gator wrote:
EDIT: Apparently "Energy Ray" is from a 3rd Party Publisher rather than Paizo; I missed that in my research.
Agodeshalf wrote:
As noted, Energy Ray seems to come from a 3rd party Psionic power.

Its not 3rd party. Energy Ray is the Base Focus Power for the Occultist evocation implement school.


Yes, that is what we are talking about. It is listed as an SP ability, which if it is such, requires a CL to be defined. This leads to one of two conclusions: CL is equal to the level that you acquire the ability (Magic special abilities), or it's CL is equal to your HD (Universal Monster Rules). The CL turns on whether it's a actual spell, which it sort of is in a 3rd pp but there it's a psionic power.

Of course there is the third possibility that it was never intended to be an SP ability at all and is suppose to be an SU one.


It's a spell-like ability granted by a class and not based on an actual spell, so you use the rule for spell-like abilities granted by a class and not based on an actual spell. Otherwise, that passage is meaningless.


Out of curiosity, where specifically is it listed as a spell-like ability?


I just went through the Occult Adventures handbook and on page 47, Focus Powers are listed as (Su).

Here's the reference on paizo.com:

http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/occultAdventures/classes/occultist.html

"Focus Powers (Su): At 1st level, an occultist learns the base focus power....."
and Energy Ray is listed as a focus power under the Evocation Implement school.

Thus, I'd say it's pretty clear it's Su.


PRD wrote:

Base Focus Power: All occultists who learn to use evocation implements gain the following focus power.

Energy Ray (Sp): As a standard action that provokes attacks of opportunity, you can expend 1 point of mental focus to unleash a ray of pure energy as a ranged touch attack. This ray has a range of 30 feet. The ray deals an amount of energy damage equal to 1d6 points + 1d6 points for every 2 occultist levels you possess beyond 1st (2d6 at 3rd level, 3d6 at 5th, and so on, to a maximum of 10d6 at 19th level). When you unleash an energy ray, you must decide what type of damage it deals (acid, cold, electricity, or fire).

The energy ray itself is a spell-like ability.


Oh I see. On the website it says:
http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/occultAdventures/classes/occultist.html
"Energy Ray (Sp): As a standard action that provokes attacks of opportunity, you can expend 1 point of mental focus to unleash a ray of pure energy as a ranged touch attack. This ray has a range of 30 feet. The ray deals an amount of energy damage equal to 1d6 points + 1d6 points for every 2 occultist levels you possess beyond 1st (2d6 at 3rd level, 3d6 at 5th, and so on, to a maximum of 10d6 at 19th level). When you unleash an energy ray, you must decide what type of damage it deals (acid, cold, electricity, or fire)."

Even though it says under Focus Powers "Focus Powers (Su):"
And it says under Spell Like Abilities that they do not require a focus.

I'm going to look in the book when I get home and see, I don't think however that (sp) is in the book.


But spell-like abilities don't require a focus, so how does that jibe with a "focus" power with a glove implement? Making it a spell like ability really does make it useless if taken at a lower level as the spell resistance check is going to be so weaken by the CL of the ability. Honestly, it makes a lot more sense as a supernatural ability.


At a lower level, most foes don't have spell resistance. YMMV, of course.

Edit: Spell-like abilities normally do not require components. Occultists are different. They store their mental focus in their implements. Specific overrides general.


Honestly, I'd ask the designers for clarification in the rules section. You may not like the answer, but this looks to me like conflicting rules.

Why would you list "Focus Powers (Su):" only to have half the actual powers listed as (sp?)


I've been treating all my occultist's focus powers as (su). I wish I had my hardcopy book with me, but I really don't recall seeing an (sp) next to the energy ray description in the book.
I'm with you though, if half of these are (sp) that moves the occultist class down from a really cool class to a class where taking half the abilities are pointless as you level up because you'd get them at such diminished levels.


I'm going to try and sum up this discussion and request a FAQ.


blahpers wrote:

At a lower level, most foes don't have spell resistance. YMMV, of course.

Edit: Spell-like abilities normally do not require components. Occultists are different. They store their mental focus in their implements. Specific overrides general.

I get that but the ability scaling isn't too bad except for the fact that at higher levels you *will* start running into SR, and the ability is going to be stuck at a low CL.

I rather see it as a SU ability or if you must leave it as SP, set the caster level == Occultist level. Either approach would help things.


Daeryon wrote:

I'm going to try and sum up this discussion and request a FAQ.

Check your hardcopy first, but yeah, by all means.


Agodeshalf wrote:
blahpers wrote:

At a lower level, most foes don't have spell resistance. YMMV, of course.

Edit: Spell-like abilities normally do not require components. Occultists are different. They store their mental focus in their implements. Specific overrides general.

I get that but the ability scaling isn't too bad except for the fact that at higher levels you *will* start running into SR, and the ability is going to be stuck at a low CL.

I rather see it as a SU ability or if you must leave it as SP, set the caster level == Occultist level. Either approach would help things.

At higher levels, it's pretty much a dead ability, same as the various 1st-level domain/bloodline/whatever bolts. Why should this one be different?


Most of them are 1d6 + 1 for every 2 levels, not 1d6 + 1d6 for every 2 levels, so 10d6 at 19th level. Not that bad, so why make it scale by a d6, and then not really be usable.


So, it's actually better than the other dead abilities in that it's only dead against things with spell resistance. Again, not seeing a huge problem--even at mid to high levels, plenty of things don't have spell resistance, often by choice.


So checked the hardcopy and it IS in there, I just apparently never saw it (even when looking for it the other day).

However, it's still conflicting in several areas, with the focus, with the reference that focus powers are su, and in the basic instructions that come with the Occultist class - 'caster level" when you take the power, and then the CL...is it your Occultist level? The amount of levels you've had since you took the power? The highest level of spells you can cast?

I'm now totally confused.

Shadow Lodge

Yeah, there's no way that (Sp) focus powers are intended to stop scaling when you select them.

First, people have been using the occultist and written multiple guides about it and I've never seen anyone suggest they don't continue to scale.

Second, it's not balanced. If Energy Ray - and by extension Energy Blast - become "dead abilities" at high level because their damage doesn't scale up, evocation becomes even weaker. It's already not a great option either compared to other occultist schools (Transmutation doesn't depend nearly so much on ability scaling) or compared to blasters of other classes.

Third, it's way too complicated. Occultists are already very complicated to build thanks to picking schools, spells, and focus powers, and then distributing your mental focus on a day-to-day basis. Having to figure out when you should be taking certain schools and powers based on whether they'll become obsolete in a few levels? What a headache.

Fourth, as mentioned above the focus powers are written much more like supernatural abilities than spell-like abilities; most of them make reference to "occultist level" rather than "caster level," and there's a general rule at the top saying to use the DC = 10 + 1/2 level + stat formula (instead of the 10 + spell level + stat formula).

Now I can maybe see the caster level being set at the level at which you get the ability for SR purposes - but that seems pretty pointless if the abilities are otherwise intended to scale at a useful rate, and still requires you to keep track of the "caster level" of your various powers.

Agodeshalf wrote:

Much as I like the answers how does that square with

Magic - Special Abilities - Spell-Like Abilities wrote:


Spell-like abilities are subject to spell resistance and dispel magic. They do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated. Spell-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.

If a character class grants a spell-like ability that is not based on an actual spell, the ability’s effective spell level is equal to the highest-level class spell the character can cast, and is cast at the class level the ability is gained.

Seems to be different from the monster rules.

How does this even work normally? And why would you freeze caster level only for class based SLAs not based on specific spells?

Are we sure this isn't supposed to read "the ability’s effective spell level is equal to the highest-level class spell the character can cast at the class level the ability is gained, with your caster level equal to the level in the class that grants the ability"? That would make way more sense.


It works normally because spell like abilities are well, generally based on a spell, so you're not in last part...If a character class grants a spell-like ability that is not based on an actual spell.

But, given that this *is* a SP ability, you need to have a caster level, and a spell level for the checks that are need those pieces of information to be performed, and the text is pretty clear how that should be done. This is all triggered based on making the ability SP.

It just seems oddly convoluted, and really doesn't to my mind fit the overall theme of the class


Having a variable permanent caster level probably wasn't intended. I'll have to keep an eye on Hero Lab if I ever get around to playing an occultist.

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