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Beast Shape Spellcasting


Rules Questions


(I made an advice thread that also asked about a rule element, was directed to the polymorph rules and had follow-up questions, but that thread seems to have dried up so I thought I might have better luck asking it in the rules forum)

If I use beast shape to turn into a magical beast that has fingered hands, limbs and is specifically stated to be able to speak and knows languages in the creature's entry and I have eschew materials, can I cast spells while in that form?

All I can find on it is in the polymorph rules: "While in such a form, you cannot cast any spells that require material components (unless you have the Eschew Materials or Natural Spell feat), and can only cast spells with somatic or verbal components if the form you choose has the capability to make such movements or speak" - which seems to indicate that I could cast spells, but someone said that by "raw" I cant. Are there further rules on this?

Scarab Sages

Morbid Eels wrote:

(I made an advice thread that also asked about a rule element, was directed to the polymorph rules and had follow-up questions, but that thread seems to have dried up so I thought I might have better luck asking it in the rules forum)

If I use beast shape to turn into a magical beast that has fingered hands, limbs and is specifically stated to be able to speak and knows languages in the creature's entry and I have eschew materials, can I cast spells while in that form?

All I can find on it is in the polymorph rules: "While in such a form, you cannot cast any spells that require material components (unless you have the Eschew Materials or Natural Spell feat), and can only cast spells with somatic or verbal components if the form you choose has the capability to make such movements or speak" - which seems to indicate that I could cast spells, but someone said that by "raw" I cant. Are there further rules on this?

Up to the GM. I'd certainly allow it if you transformed into another humanoid. It would be entirely GM disgression if your chosen form could speak well enough for verbal components or if the form was coordinated enough for somatic components. From your very limited description of your magical beast, yes, I would allow somatic and verbal components for that form. You would still need Eschew Materials or otherwise have access to any needed materials.

Regarding the ability to cast spells while unable to speak or move, the Still Spell and Silent Spell Metamagic feats can be both applied to a single spellcasting attempt. Those, plus Eschew Materials, should allow spellcasting in any form.

Though regarding Eschew Materials, that feat only grants inexpensive material components. For expensive materials, you would need the materials handy (which means they can't be in your possession when you transform). So you probably can't cast Raise Dead while subject to Beast Shape, unless you have a pile of gold left next to you when you transform.


Morbid Eels wrote:
All I can find on it is in the polymorph rules: "While in such a form, you cannot cast any spells that require material components (unless you have the Eschew Materials or Natural Spell feat), and can only cast spells with somatic or verbal components if the form you choose has the capability to make such movements or speak" - which seems to indicate that I could cast spells, but someone said that by "raw" I cant. Are there further rules on this?

The polymorph rules that you cited are RAW, so I don't understand what that other person was talking about. It might help if you told us which form you are thinking of taking.


Thank you for the replies, since posting this I've also had similar replies on the advice thread (but its good to be sure there's not RAW i'm missing) :)

To satisfy your curiosity: What I had in mind (at the time) was a Voonith, it says it knows a language, can speak it (often holding conversations, even with passing travelers) and the artwork shows it having enough limbs to stand and still gesticulate with two or more arms, having elbows, wrists and hands with bony fingers.


Hmm. They can speak so Verbal Components would be fine. But they have six legs rather than four legs and two arms. I don't think they would be able to make Somatic Components or manipulate Material Components. My dog can strike a pose similar to that in the picture, but that doesn't mean that her forelegs are arms.


Gisher wrote:
Hmm. They can speak so Verbal Components would be fine. But they have six legs rather than four legs and two arms. I don't think they would be able to make Somatic Components or manipulate Material Components. My dog can strike a pose similar to that in the picture, but that doesn't mean that her forelegs are arms.

Agreed as far as the dog is concerned, but the only distinction between arms and legs is apparently that the appendages are able to be used for "other things"* and those fingers (as evidenced by the clasping onto the rock) are clearly able to freely move in and independent manner (unlike paws). Given that it seems quite comfortable on four limbs in the pic and the front two limbs look less stocky with longer fingers than the others (therefore not the most suitable limbs for supporting body weight) they would likely be useful for something else other than purely for walking, whether that is for grooming, manipulating terrain or clasping other things, but at the very least the front limbs certainly look capable of a fairly wide (if not full) range of motion. There's also the matter of whether or not it has thumbs, due to the artwork style it's unclear although it does seem to have shortened stubby fingers on the inside of its hands where you would expect them to be. Then again, I'm not sure if somatic casting even requires thumbs.

*apparently some languages dont even use separate words for arms and legs in animals, instead referring to the design of the "hand" to distinguish between appendages, dont quote me on that though, that was just from a couple of mins of googling.

Of course trying to ascertain the exact and full function of this creature's limbs from one picture and a brief description is impossible unless the description specifically calls it out - and this isnt even an ordinary animal it is a "magical" beast anyway, so all I've pointed out is still somewhat speculative and would ultimately fall to a GM call, but for the reasons listed there's at least a decent argument for allowing it. (For the rules question I originally asked I deliberately wasnt going to say what creature I was thinking about so I could get a grasp on the RAW before it got murky and I had to run specific creatures past my GM)

Scarab Sages

For starters, in pathfinder, verbal components require being able to speak, so sign language isn't an option for verbal spells. Doesn't matter if it's a legit language or not, verbal components is speaking aloud.

For Somatic Compontents while in an odd shape, that's up to the GM, but generally no without the Natural Spell Feat. That's the point of the feat. For a home game, could ask the GM if you could an alternate version of Natural Spell which applied to any polymorph spell instead of wildshape.

Regarding manipulation of material components, the main issue is that while polymorphed, equipment is often melded into your new form and is otherwise inaccessable. Assuming material components are accessable, I would not put the lack of fine motor skills against the player, since a Still spell can still require materials and all sorts of Monsters (like dragons) have spells which require ridicously tiny quanties of materials and have no ability to use fine motor skills to pick them up. The spell component pouch, for example, does not scale with size of the caster, making it rather impossible for larger and smaller creatures to manipulate realistically. Instead, the NPC or PC requires access to the materials, and sometimes a free hand (as in a "hand" not equipping a weapon), but doesn't actually require being able to pick them up.


Murdock Mudeater wrote:
For starters, in pathfinder, verbal components require being able to speak, so sign language isn't an option for verbal spells. Doesn't matter if it's a legit language or not, verbal components is speaking aloud.

Why are you bringing up sign language?

Murdock Mudeater wrote:
Regarding manipulation of material components, the main issue is that while polymorphed, equipment is often melded into your new form and is otherwise inaccessable. Assuming material components are accessable, I would not put the lack of fine motor skills against the player, since a Still spell can still require materials and all sorts of Monsters (like dragons) have spells which require ridicously tiny quanties of materials and have no ability to use fine motor skills to pick them up. The spell component pouch, for example, does not scale with size of the caster, making it rather impossible for larger and smaller creatures to manipulate realistically. Instead, the NPC or PC requires access to the materials, and sometimes a free hand (as in a "hand" not equipping a weapon), but doesn't actually require being able to pick them up.

Question specified Eschew materials. :)

Murdock Mudeater wrote:
For Somatic Compontents while in an odd shape, that's up to the GM, but generally no without the Natural Spell Feat. That's the point of the feat. For a home game, could ask the GM if you could an alternate version of Natural Spell which applied to any polymorph spell instead of wildshape.

I think the point of the feat is to allow it for animals which clearly dont have arms and hands (when there's no doubt that somatic casting would be impossible), but yes, this seems to be the least clear-cut of the factors and the most dependant on GMs when it comes to creatures which have near-humanoid anatomy.

Thank you both for the replies and the extra info, much appreciated!

Scarab Sages

Sorry, original draft included a quote from Gisher regarding the manipulation of material components if you lacks arms, but then I noticed a comment from you, Eels, regarding alternate forms of communication, and I decided to repurpose the post as a more general evaluation of the different components as they applied to polymorph. In hindsight, I see your point about it being somewhat off topic.

Regarding the function of the feat, Natural Spell, recall that Wild Shape lasts for hours per day and beast shape lasts for mere minutes per day. There really isn't the need for feat investment with Beast Shape because it really doesn't last long enough. A Beast Shape Caster is better off with Metamagic feats or just switching back to their normal form, than they are in devoting special training that can only be used for minutes per day. Meanwhile, a Druid can spend nearly all day in beast form, so the need for the special training is much more practical.

If you do have a polymorph class/race ability that has a very long duration (like the Kitsune Fox Shape feat which they can use indefinitely), I highly recommend asking the GM to houserule the prerequisite for Natural Spell as "any polymorph ability that lasts longer than 2 hours" instead of the wild shape requirement. It's a very reasonable substitution and it avoids the need for this sort of debate.

Regarding the use of Beast Shape, the bottom line is, would a druid using wild shape for this form require Natural Spell to cast spells? If the answer is no, then you are in the clear. If the GM decides that form requires natural spell, then the druid in question would need that feat and a non-druid in that same form would need an alternative of their own.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Nothing in the voonith's description includes manipulative hands, so I would rule that you could not cast spells when in voonith form. I don't believe the illustration is a good basis for the decision.


Polymorphing into the form of a dragon explicitly allows somatic components, so there's that. The rest is up to the GM.

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