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How to treat Occultist Focus Powers – sp, su, etc? For FAQ


Rules Questions


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The Occultist class states the following –
Under Class Features:
“Focus Powers (Su): “
“Implements (Su):“
These would seem to indicate that Occultist Focus powers should be treated as a supernatural ability.
However on the website when listing individual focus powers it states things such as:
“Base Focus Power: All occultists who learn to use evocation implements gain the following focus power.
Energy Ray (Sp):
This would seem to indicate that Energy Ray and many other focus powers are in fact NOT Supernatural abilities, but rather Spell like abilities.

Under Spell Like Ability:
Spell-Like Abilities: 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.

So Spell-Like Abilities seem not to require a focus, yet an Occultist’s focus power does.
So there are many questions that stem from this. If an Occultist acquires energy ray at a later level, does he only get an energy ray equivalent of the highest level spell he can cast? Does spell resistance and dispel magic work on these sort of occultist powers?

Liberty's Edge

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I don't have a great answer for you, except that specific beats general so the focus powers are SU unless they say Sp, in which case spell resistance applies to them. I think the effective spell level and etc. is all covered by the powers.


Abilities are whatever they're listed as. If Energy Ray says it's (Sp), then it's (Sp).


But then why would you list Focus powers as su? Wouldn't you list them as variable? Or...something? And if you take energy ray at say 10th level, does it only work like you are 4th level (for an effective spell level) (As that's the highest level spell you can cast?) but technically is cast as 10th level?

Makes things pretty darn complicated in a lot of situations.


Usually, they don't put an ability type by the class feature if it just wraps other abilities. That would prevent this sort of thing from coming up.


Your focus power ability is SU, each focus power might be an SLA or an SU.


If it is SP, and I have someone roll up a 16th level Occultist, I then have to have them go back through and determine what level they picked every Occultist power at so I can determine it's potential effective spell level? Seems ridic.


Chess Pwn wrote:

Your focus power ability is SU, each focus power might be an SLA or an SU.

My question on this would be what good does it do to list Focus power as su, when each focus power is already listed as sp, su, etc. Is there a situation where you are going to use a focus power without using an individual focus power?


If something blocked your ability to do SU's but not SLA then your focus power ability would be blocked for all focus powers.


Chess Pwn wrote:
If something blocked your ability to do SU's but not SLA then your focus power ability would be blocked for all focus powers.

Okay, I can see that, but then that's kinda of a sucks either way catch all. It's both su and SP so suffer both sets of consequences. It's effectively worse than either or.

You are effectively saying that if a focus power is listed as su, it's su, however if a focus power is listed as SP, it's both SP AND SU, as using focus powers in general is Su.

Which is kinda my point to this question. Some of the implications of this take the Occultist class from something really cool to something where a lot of the powers are diminished, you suffer bad consequences as pertains to both SU and SP, you need to keep track of what level you acquired what power, and some powers diminish significantly depending on the order you select them.
I also have to determine now if every occultist focus power is "based on an actual spell" as it will have different consequences than the two focus powers next to it as one is treated sp, but not based on a spell and one is treated SU.....so 3 focus powers I've already got to treat them 3 different ways?

Honestly, makes the class a whole nother level of complicated.


I don't think there is any disadvantage supernatural abilities have compared to spell-like ones that would ever come up, so I'm not really sure what you are getting at.

As far as the caster level goes I'd stick with class level for the spell-like abilities, regardless of when you picked them. The focus powers are all pretty similar to spells and effectively granted by a supernatural ability.

I strongly believe this is how it is intended to work, because in Pathfinder the order of your choices is not supposed to matter when you check a characters validity.
You retroactively get skill points if you raise your intelligence modifier for example, because the exact level your attribute increased would be important forever after otherwise. Paizo doesn't expect that much bookkeeping from their players (which is a good choice). If you get abilities at a specific level, this level always stays the same and doesn't conflict with the above philosophy. If you pick from a pool of abilities at different levels the most reasonable way to stay true to the design principle would be simply be always using your current class level.


I agree Lintecarka that what you are saying makes more sense, but that's not the way it's written, and that's why I'm asking for clarification.

First in regard to your question about a disadvantage for supernatural abilities -
I asked earlier what would be the point in listing all Focus powers as (su), but the listing half the actual focus powers as (sp) individually. Chess Pwn pointed out that "If something blocked your ability to do SU's but not SLA then your focus power ability would be blocked for all focus powers"

I'm pointing out then that if his interpretation is correct, certain focus powers are subject to any disadvantages that might affect su powers (hypotehtical one such as what he brought up), as well as things that might affect sp powers (such as spell resistance).
I agree that in a general sense having su powers is not really a disadvantage, however if we interpret things the way it appears, a power such as "Energy Ray" could be blocked both by something that blocks sp powers and/or by something that blocks su powers.

In the grand scheme of things however, this is the least of my concerns. I'm more concerned about the implications of power level in regard to:
"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."
So by a literal interpretaton of that rule, an occultist picking up Energy Ray at 9th level would cast it with a lower level effectiveness. When encountering spell resistance, does energy ray have the same CL if the character picked it up at 1st level vs if the character picked it up at 9th?


So if there was a shield of some sort that blocked all SU on the enemy, energy ray still works fine, as the actual ray is a SLA. Having focus powers is a SU for the Occultist, using them is what is listed. So having your SU turned off stops energy ray because you no longer have focus powers.


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Unless otherwise noted, the DC for any saving throw against a focus power equals 10 + 1/2 the occultist’s level + the occultist’s Intelligence modifier.

CL of a SLA granted by a class are always full class level of the class granting the SLA. So the level you pick it up doesn't matter.

Now it's effective spell level (which spell slot it would use) I would say is based on the level the class grants access to the SLA, regardless of when you pick up the SLA. So energy ray since you can pick it up at first would be a 1st level spell. Fly being available at lv7 is a 3rd level spell, even if you don't pick it up till lv 15. So the level you pick it up doesn't matter.

This follows the principle of pathfinder that the results should be the same regardless of the order of the path to get there.


Source?


Right Chess Pwn, your ideas sound reasonable, I grant, but it makes a couple assumptions.
Do you have a source that "CL of a SLA granted by a class are always full class level of the class granting the SLA. So the level you pick it up doesn't matter." ?
Or
"Now it's effective spell level (which spell slot it would use) I would say is based on the level the class grants access to the SLA, "?


Chess Pwn wrote:

Unless otherwise noted, the DC for any saving throw against a focus power equals 10 + 1/2 the occultist’s level + the occultist’s Intelligence modifier.

CL of a SLA granted by a class are always full class level of the class granting the SLA. So the level you pick it up doesn't matter.

Now it's effective spell level (which spell slot it would use) I would say is based on the level the class grants access to the SLA, regardless of when you pick up the SLA. So energy ray since you can pick it up at first would be a 1st level spell. Fly being available at lv7 is a 3rd level spell, even if you don't pick it up till lv 15. So the level you pick it up doesn't matter.

This follows the principle of pathfinder that the results should be the same regardless of the order of the path to get there.

Except it isn't. There are two sets of rules for SLA, one in the magic section, and one from the universal monster rules. The last sentence from the Magic - Special Abilities - Spell Like Abilities says:

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.

The other possible relevant rules are in the universal monster rules section on SLA which states:

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.

But the monster rules really shouldn't apply to a PC, so I don't see how you get to that ruling that the CL is full class level since the Magic text directly contradicts that *because* it isn't based on an actual spell.


Quote:
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.

So this is worded a little funny, but it's saying that the caster level of the SLA is the class level that granted the ability.

FAQ
The class grants quickness at lv5, if you choose or are able to take it that level doesn't matter, the class granted access to it at lv5, thus it'd count as a 2nd level spell.

Mark's thoughts

Shadow Lodge

That makes way more sense, Chess Pwn, and it fits with the usual use of "class level" as a variable equal to the number of levels you currently have in a particular class.

Unfortunately, I think because of the funny wording it could use clarification. Mark himself says that the wording "always confused" him, and later down in that thread, you have another poster who reads that passage the same way that others in this thread are reading it: your CL for these SLAs are set at the precise class level at which the ability is granted. Personally, I can't parse the RAW without frying my language circuits - the syntax just doesn't make sense to me.

Would suggest the wording: "The ability’s effective spell level is equal to the highest-level class spell the character can cast at the level the ability is gained, with your caster level equal to your class level."

Or possibly even: "The ability’s effective spell level is equal to the highest-level class spell the character can cast at the level they gain access to the ability..." which would I think make it more clear what happens if an occultist takes the energy blast power (available from level 3) at level 5 instead.


I guess I'm still not seeing it. The FAQ refers to spell level, which isn't caster level. The spell level is covered by the first part of the text which sets it to the highest level spells you can cast, and the caster level is set to your class level when you gained the ability. Now I can see that Mark combines those, and maybe it's just was what was intended but I can't parse it that way.

Shadow Lodge

But it doesn't say "class level when you gained the ability."

It says "the class level the ability is granted."

And I think the reason that syntax is throwing me - and that it's being read two ways - is that there's a missing preposition.

(1) "the class level at which the ability is granted"

(2) "the class level from which the ability is granted"

And given that the rule was introduced as an eratta, I think it's unlikely that it's meant to make SLAs not based on spells work differently from other types of SLAs - it's more likely that they're trying to establish what variable to use for the CL of these SLAs than that they're trying to establish a fixed CL only for this specific type of SLA.

But because of the syntax, it's a mess.

Interestingly, my SO thinks it says that the caster level is fixed at the level you gain the ability, but that the effective spell level increases as you gain access to more powerful spells.

Silver Crusade

I have a "bad touch" cleric, so I had to figure out how to cast defensively when using domain powers.

In that case, everyone agrees that you treat them as the same spell level as the highest level spells you could cast at the time you got the domain power. So your first level domain powers are treated as level 1 spells for the purposes to concentration checks. Your 6th level domain powers are treated as 3rd level spells when figuring out the concentration checks.

I'm not sure how that applies to spell-like class abilities that you can get at variable levels. But I thought I'd throw it out there to clarify the intent of the rule.


Weirdo wrote:

But it doesn't say "class level when you gained the ability."

It says "the class level the ability is granted."

And I think the reason that syntax is throwing me - and that it's being read two ways - is that there's a missing preposition.

(1) "the class level at which the ability is granted"

(2) "the class level from which the ability is granted"

And given that the rule was introduced as an eratta, I think it's unlikely that it's meant to make SLAs not based on spells work differently from other types of SLAs - it's more likely that they're trying to establish what variable to use for the CL of these SLAs than that they're trying to establish a fixed CL only for this specific type of SLA.

But because of the syntax, it's a mess.

Interestingly, my SO thinks it says that the caster level is fixed at the level you gain the ability, but that the effective spell level increases as you gain access to more powerful spells.

Syntax indeed. If that's what was meant, it isn't just awkwardly worded, it's actually incoherent on a "not even wrong" level.

I'm just going to pretend they wrote it coherently and use the current class level for parsimony's sake.


Fromper wrote:

I have a "bad touch" cleric, so I had to figure out how to cast defensively when using domain powers.

In that case, everyone agrees that you treat them as the same spell level as the highest level spells you could cast at the time you got the domain power. So your first level domain powers are treated as level 1 spells for the purposes to concentration checks. Your 6th level domain powers are treated as 3rd level spells when figuring out the concentration checks.

I'm not sure how that applies to spell-like class abilities that you can get at variable levels. But I thought I'd throw it out there to clarify the intent of the rule.

The rules are actually coherent (if bizarre) on the subject of spell level--the highest spell level you can cast. Essentially, they automatically Heighten as you grow, amazingly making concentration checks more difficult as you gain levels...! Not sure what this means if you don't have the ability to cast spells, though--I guess 0?

Silver Crusade

No, they don't heighten as you go. For my cleric, I'm at level 7, and I still treat my first level domain powers as level 1 spells when concentrating (which I do constantly, since I'm always casting on the front line). The FAQ is pretty clear on this.

The only variable is what to do about class abilities that can be gained at different levels.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Two things to keep in mind:

1) Specific exceptions to general rules. Generally spell-like and supernatural abilities do not require a focus (that was listed for the spell that is being duplicated); however, in the specific case of occultists they require an implement (focus) for pretty much any of their magical (Sp, Su) abilities (it's the signature concept of the class). The specific exception overrides the general rule in that circumstance.

2) Each of the focus powers (indeed all individual class abilities) are either extraordinary (Ex), spell-like (Sp), or supernatural (Su). The reason they are classified that way is to quantify how they interact with other abilities and circumstances, without having to state each time: "This ability cannot be dispelled and works in areas where magic is suppressed," "This ability is subject to spell resistance and can be dispelled/suppressed as a magic effect," or "This ability is not subject to spell resistance but does not work in areas where magic is suppressed."


blahpers wrote:
Fromper wrote:

I have a "bad touch" cleric, so I had to figure out how to cast defensively when using domain powers.

In that case, everyone agrees that you treat them as the same spell level as the highest level spells you could cast at the time you got the domain power. So your first level domain powers are treated as level 1 spells for the purposes to concentration checks. Your 6th level domain powers are treated as 3rd level spells when figuring out the concentration checks.

I'm not sure how that applies to spell-like class abilities that you can get at variable levels. But I thought I'd throw it out there to clarify the intent of the rule.

The rules are actually coherent (if bizarre) on the subject of spell level--the highest spell level you can cast. Essentially, they automatically Heighten as you grow, amazingly making concentration checks more difficult as you gain levels...! Not sure what this means if you don't have the ability to cast spells, though--I guess 0?

Which FAQ? I'm just going off the PRD:

Quote:
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.

Silver Crusade

This FAQ mentioned upthread.

Quote:

Cleric domains, sorcerer bloodlines, wizard schools, and certain other class features give spell-like abilities that aren't based on spells. What's the effective spell level for these abilities?

The effective spell level for these spell-like abilities is equal to the highest-level spell that a character of that class could normally cast at the level the ability is gained.

For example, a 1st-level elemental bloodline sorcerer has elemental ray as a spell-like ability. Because a sorcerer 1's highest-level spell available is 1st, that spell-like ability counts as a 1st-level spell. A 9th-level elemental bloodline sorcerer has elemental blast as a spell-like ability. Because a sorcerer 9's highest-level spell available is 4th, that spell-like ability counts as a 4th-level spell.


Huh. That directly contradicts the text in Magic. Whee, words in books have no meaning!

It's a better way of doing it, at least, but now we're back in "what about revelations/focus powers/other choose-when-you-want-it stuff"-land, as you mentioned above.


For the record, I'm still confused beyond all understanding of how to implement these rules as worded.

I would THINK that the intent of the rule is to allow an Occultist to gain a focus power, and use that focus power as the level of Occultist he/she is when they gain the power. However the FAQ cited would seem to indicate otherwise, as Occultist cannot cast spells as high level as Clerics, Sorcerers, or Wizards.

So at 15th level max spell an Occultist can cast is 5th level, Clerics and Wizards can cast 8th level, Sorcerer's 7th.

So, if at 15th level an Occultist acquires Energy Ray the power states "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). " (Indicating that at least for this purpose what is important is Occultist level, not spell casting level). However for purposes of spell resistance we would treat this power as 5th level since it is sp and this is the maximum level spell the Occultist can cast?

Silver Crusade

Spell resistance is based on caster level, not spell level. You roll d20 and add your caster level to see if you overcome the SR of the enemy. So it doesn't matter what level "spell" the power is considered to be.

The only time this matters is for concentration checks, which are based on spell level.


For stuff that you can choose at any level, the "Spell level" is set at the level the ability earliest achievable.

So for Quickness power, that is opened up at lv5, that's the level you use, regardless of if you pick it up as your last focus power.

So for the energy ray example, since that doesn't have a minimum level requirement it's a "1st level spell". Since the power requires only 1 level of occultist and at that level you only have 1st level spells.

This way it follows the principle that things are the same regardless of the order of getting there.

Silver Crusade

That would be an easy way to deal with it, Chess Pwn, but where does it say that in the rules?


The effective spell level for these spell-like abilities is equal to the highest-level spell that a character of that class could normally cast at the level the ability is gained.

It's going off of this and using the logic that the ability is gained the level the requirements are met, but that you can't use it unless you choose it for your focus power.

Also bringing in the logic that the DEVs have said to use that stuff in pathfinder should be the same regardless of order. A ranger 2 fighter 2 is the same regardless of the order of taking the levels. So choosing the power at the earliest possible or latest possible shouldn't give different results for the same ability.

Granted this isn't going to be spelled out so clearly since this seems to be the first time this issue has come up. But unless the DEVs have changed their minds about having abilities be the same regardless of when you acquire them their answer will be use the level that it's opened up as an option.

As a GM this makes sense and should probably be followed unless you want to change it, and as a player you should follow this cause the GM won't care since it's the less exploitable option and if he does care he will likely be persuaded by this argument.


Fromper wrote:

Spell resistance is based on caster level, not spell level. You roll d20 and add your caster level to see if you overcome the SR of the enemy. So it doesn't matter what level "spell" the power is considered to be.

The only time this matters is for concentration checks, which are based on spell level.

My head hurts. But I get this point. I'm confusing CL and maximum spell level.

So we assume (probably correctly) that an Occultist's caster level is the level of his Occultist class. No reason not to.

I'm still left with a problem reconciling this:

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.

So at 15th level if you acquire energy ray, you would cast it like it was a 5th level spell, BUT since the actual power description is more specific than the general rule.....you ignore this rule and defer to the Focus Power description.

I think that reconciles all my issues? I need to think on this.

Silver Crusade

The "spell level" of a spell-like ability is considered to be the highest spell level you can cast when you get the spell-like power. The problem is that occultists can get the same spell-like abilities at different levels, so it may or may not depend on what level you actually pick up energy ray.

I think I agree with Chess Pwn's interpretation. I don't know if there's enough detail in the rules to actually back it up, but it's really the only thing that makes sense. Just treat it as the highest spell level you could cast if you'd picked it up at the lowest possible level. So if there's a spell-like ability that you could have gotten at 1st level, but didn't actually choose to take until 15th, treat it as a 1st level ability.


I guess I'm still stuck with how you get from this:

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.

I think we can all agree that if a 3rd level occultist take Energy Ray, that it's cast as a 1st level spell (highest-level class spell the character can cast), and has a caster level of 3 (class level the ability is granted).

The issue is that if I now gain 2 levels in occultist should it have a spell level of 2, and a caster level of 5, or does it remain a spell level of 1, and a caster level of 3, or the other alternative that the spell level goes to 2, but the caster level remains 3.

Why make reference to the level the ability is granted if it is going to float. I can at least potentially see how you can that the spell level does in fact actually float mapping to your highest-level class spell you can cast, but to me the caster level as written seems to be fixed at the point in time you take the ability.


The default rule for SLA are things granted by race, and thus go off of total hit die for calculations. Class based SLA don't want to go off of total HD, but just the class levels of the class granting the SLA.

The other thing to do is look at the wording the FAQ uses, it makes it more clear what they actually meant. Word space in books is a difficult thing to work around sometimes.

Like if you feel that's the rules then run with it. You do have enough support for the idea that it can hold if you're the GM, it just runs counter to the general trend of the game, thus why the other view is prefered and used by many.


The FAQ, at least as I read it, is only referring to *spell level* and I get that. And if the ability were an actual spell, I can see how you get to the caster level == your current class level in the class that grants the ability. Although it's not really all that well spelled out either.

The crux is that the powers that be put in a clause to handle the corner case of "not based on an actual spell". And went out of their way to a stipulate a caster level rule. Why if the caster level is just your current class level, and that is the default, do you need to define that? You did need to define the spell level but not so much the caster level.

Why waste the space?

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder has been known to use redundant reminder text - and in this case, as Chess Pwn suggests, it would be beneficial to ensure that people don't try to use character level or total HD as their caster level. My guess is that the FAQ didn't address caster level because it wasn't causing confusion at the time. Then someone took the FAQ when writing the errata and while adapting the text realized that it would be good to specify how caster level works. However they were trying to cram than information into a small space, mangling the syntax. The confusing wording even parallels the wording of the FAQ in a way that I could see resulting from a copy-paste operation and some hasty editing.

"The effective spell level for these spell-like abilities is equal to the highest-level spell that a character of that class could normally cast at the level the ability is gained."

"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."


Agodeshalf wrote:

The FAQ, at least as I read it, is only referring to *spell level* and I get that. And if the ability were an actual spell, I can see how you get to the caster level == your current class level in the class that grants the ability. Although it's not really all that well spelled out either.

The crux is that the powers that be put in a clause to handle the corner case of "not based on an actual spell". And went out of their way to a stipulate a caster level rule. Why if the caster level is just your current class level, and that is the default, do you need to define that? You did need to define the spell level but not so much the caster level.

Why waste the space?

This is how I'm viewing it now - but honestly, can't make a firm decision, just interpretation based on FAQs cited, etc:

The rule citing caster level - This rule is a generic "spell like ability" rule. So as it is broad, the specific rules involving Occultists would override it. The powers under Occultist state how they are handled in regards to level of the Occultist.

The reason the rule you cite does not simply say class level, but rather caster level is becuase it is possible to have a class level of for example 9, but a caster level of only 6 if one was a multi-classed barbarian/sorcerer, Fighter/Wizard, etc.


Daeryon wrote:


The rule citing caster level - This rule is a generic "spell like ability" rule. So as it is broad, the specific rules involving Occultists would override it. The powers under Occultist state how they are handled in regards to level of the Occultist.

Let me be clear, that if I were GM I'd rule that either it's supernatural and not spell like ability and move on, or I'd let the caster level = the PC's current spell casting level, and the spell level equal to the PC's current highest level, but to me that's just house ruling it.

The specific's specified in the Occultist powers do *not* specify the caster level of the power, or at least not in Elemental Ray. They specify the mechanics, how much damage it does, but not the caster level. You need to look at the spell like ability rules to find that and I don't see how you get away from "is casted at the class level the ability is granted." That to me is pretty black and white, and I don't like it that way.

But I get that that seems to be a minority view, that it obviously is based on your current level not the level when you gained the ability as it would be stupid otherwise. And maybe my English parser is broken.

Shadow Lodge

Should we make a separate, more general thread to discuss the meaning of the FAQ?

I feel like the question in the original post (are some Focus Powers spell-like, and what does that mean) has generally been resolved. And the previous FAQ seems to pretty clearly indicate that the effective spell level is fixed. However, we have two remaining questions about SLAs not based on spells:

1) Should the caster level remain fixed, or increase as the character advances in the class granting the SLA?

2) If a SLA can be selected at different levels, should we base the effective spell level (and possibly caster level) on the level the ability was gained, or the level the ability was available? For example, if an occultist takes the Evocation implement school at level 6, gaining access to Energy Ray (Sp), is the effective spell level 1 (because the Energy Ray power can be gained as early as level 1) or 2 (because a 6th level occultist can cast 2nd level spells)?


I agree that this FAQ request isn't really addressing the issue other than making the plea that they should all be supernatural, since they all stem from the general focus/implements are SU, not SP.

And I think it is probably worth trying to get clarification on the mechanics of how SLA works when it is not based on spells. Not they I believe an answer will be forthcoming as it appears the most seem to read it that both caster level and spell level increase as the character advances for spell like abilities.


If you've got a more specific quesiton you'd like Faq'd on this I can re-write the original question. Of you can make a seperate thread.

First - the generic rule on caster level:

Caster Level
A spell's power often depends on its caster level, which for most spellcasting characters is equal to her class level in the class she's using to cast the spell.

You can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level you choose must be high enough for you to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level.

In the event that a class feature or other special ability provides an adjustment to your caster level, that adjustment applies not only to effects based on caster level (such as range, duration, and damage dealt), but also to your caster level check to overcome your target's spell resistance and to the caster level used in dispel checks (both the dispel check and the DC of the check

Here's where I interpret the more specific Occultist rules to be stating that you use Occultist level as caster level:

"Unless otherwise noted, the DC for any saving throw against a focus power equals 10 + 1/2 the occultist's level + the occultist's Intelligence modifier." - First indication that Occultist level is what is relevant.

"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). "
Again a reference that Occultist level is what is used when calculating the effect of the focus power.

The only classes that I am aware of where a caster level is not equal to your class level are Rangers and paladins. Even Bloodragers use their level as caster level for bloodline powers.

And in the case of Paladins and Rangers it's specifically stated to handle their CLs differently than normal.

As the Occultist starts 1st level with the ability to cast spells his caster level would be the same as his occultist level.


I tried to put a new FAQ request together, stripping it down to these two basic questions:
1) is the caster level fixed at the level you gain the ability,
2) are the spell level and possibly the caster level based on the earliest level you can acquire the ability or when you actually take the ability.

I reread the FAQ on SLA spell level as I was going to cite that and again to me it's clear that the spell level for SLAs not based on spells is fixed at the point you gain the ability. Fixed.

Given that the wording in SLA is almost identical to the FAQ, it's hard to see a different conclusion for caster level.

How do I ask the question: is the caster level fixed at the level you gain the ability when the rule text says:

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.

Shadow Lodge

Given that I seem to be the main person reading it both ways, here we go.

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