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For a homebrew pathfinder campaign, I wanted to get your opinion if the changes to the Seamantle spell, turning it into a Treemantle (wood element) spell are balanced.


Is the below balanced with regards to the 8th level spell Seamantle? (It would only be available to druids and those of the Wood School of magic.)

Duration 1 minute/level
You sheathe yourself within a leafy pine tree up to 30 feet high that fills your space and which bends as if violently blown by the win. You can see, hear, and breathe normally within the Treemantle, but attacks against you are treated as if you were behind a wall of thick branches equivalent to several inches of wood. You gain improved cover (+8 cover bonus to AC, +4 bonus on Reflex saves) against foes that do not have freedom of movement effects. 30 points of fire damage (absorbed by Treemantle) will reduce this improved cover to normal cover until the end of your next turn. The cover granted by the Treemantle does not enable you to prevent attacks of opportunity or make ANY Stealth checks. Magical attacks against you are unaffected unless they require attack rolls.

The Treemantle blocks line of effect for any electricity or sonic spell or supernatural electricity or sonic effect, but enemies can attempt to use electricity or sonic spells within the Treemantle; this requires a caster level check (DC 20 + spell level), and if successful the electricity or sonic is halved. Treemantle redirects all spells or spell like abilities with mind affecting effects that target you into the mindless wood, this includes beneficial effects like morale bonuses.

The Treemantle allows you to make a slam attack with a large branch, inflicting damage appropriate for your size. This slam attack has a reach of 30 feet. In addition, being inside Treemantle provides you oxygen and protects against harmful gases and vapors as if under the spell "Life Bubble".

As you are sheathed within a living tree, neither you nor the mantle can be grappled as the pine needles surrounding you bend and deflect all attempts at grappling.


1) I think that replacing the fire dispelling ability with the protection from targeted mind affecting affects (including beneficial ones) is a close trade off, although not "perfectly" balanced.

2) I think that gaining protecting from two less common elements (electricity/sonic) while giving limited reduced protection from fire is a fair trade off. The inability to use ANY stealth is a part of the balance.

Your thoughts?

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As I am the original poster, I'm now going to summarize some of the more interesting valuable opinions here so far, adding a few of my own.

1. Summoned critters actually serve other greater lords of their plane, (like elemental lords, demon or devil princes, etc.) so if those powerful entities did not want their minions activities interrupted, it would be known. (A courier with a critical task that was interrupted by a summoning would have consequences.) Therefore these powerful creatures are probably involved somehow.

2. Cross planar travel is powerful magic, which means that a summon spell probably requires there by powerful magic on the other end to allow for the piercing and travel between the corresponding planes when a summoning spell is cast. Example: A creature (or powerful lord) than can easily send multiple creatures across the planar divide finds the magic "sent" to summon the creature to be "valuable," therefore it is simply sending creatures within its domain on a "harvesting" mission, because if summoned creatures were not helpful/useful, then who would sent the summoning magic their way?

3. A variant on the #2 above, is that a summoning spell is simply "pulling the trigger" on a gun that already exists, and the summoner isn't actually loading the bullets, but rather the bullets are being provide by others. If powerful beings help enforce their domain by creating powerful magic to allow for their minions or residents to be summoned, there must be a reason for it.

A) As Punishment (Lawful alignments simply punish in a more organized and disciplined fashion)

B) Because creatures "wanted" to be summoned for their own reasons.

  • i) Example: There are no "weekends" on certain planes; just as the plain of air is air, air, clouds, and more air, it then means that if a you want a good story of what you for a weekend equivalent, you pretty much need to be summoned somewhere radically different from the same-old same-old.
  • ii) The creature wants to impress (or pay) a more powerful creature on its own plane, and is therefore highly motivated to be effective/subservient to the summoner, even if chaotic or evil.
  • iii) Each transport across the planar divide may provide the more powerful creature who is the "boss" of the lower types, some sort of benefit that comes from the occurance of a crossing of the planar divide itself. (i.e. Conjuration magic gives something that is desired by those who've created the ability to have creatures summoned from their side.)

3. Being able to be summoned is not a natural state of a creature on a plane, rather it has to become something that can be summoned because an outside force or energy allows for it, such as either being punished by a creature that can make susceptible to summoning, or being sentenced to being available to being summoned.

4. Getting summoned gives you bragging rights AND you get to experience something rather different from your own plane. (i.e. You get to go to normally inaccessible area, but only at the cost that you have to do exactly what the person who brought you there requests.) Or it may allow you to pay off a debt or accrue credit, either from a powerful planar being, or for something else.

5. Some people/creatures are complete homebodies, and would never leave the house, while others on the opposite side of the bell curve are thrill seekers, and willing to endanger themselves in a non-permanent way because for them, both change and thrill is good. Perhaps like kids on a bicycle who work on a trick until either they master it, or get bored.

6. The risks that come from avoiding being summoned are less than the reward of allowing oneself to be summoned OR the reward of seeking out being summoned.

7. Being summoned from your own plane is actually a CURE (to whatever). Anything less than total commitment is like not taking every pill of penicillin at the time you are supposed to take it.

I can add other items to this list and can repost them if there are relatively short and coherent.

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In a recent dungeon crawl my PC wanted to summon and send an air elemental to detect and set off traps so that we knew what we were looking at. The party had already taken a beating, had used numerous spells and healing, and had a few members with negative levels.

Several party members objected strongly saying it was immoral to send a "sentient" (although summoned) creature to scout and possibly trigger traps, and that it was the equivalent of torture.

I'd heard of PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) and of a group opposed to exactly that by with the same name, but PETSA? People for the Ethical Treatment of Summoned Elementals?

Then to my surprise, they argued that it was morally OK to summon one to fight when you needed it. Even though here too it would be painfully destroyed (for 24hrs) while you use it to "defend" you (specifically they said "to keep you from dying"), and while it probably held ill will for you for disturbing it.

Part of the argument used was the "How would you like it if you were jerked from your home and subject to having to be injured or temporarily and painfully destroyed? Such that if they ever met you in the future, they would hate you for subjecting them to this?" But somehow the fact that summoning them unwillingly to save you from dying (even though they would get painfully destroyed and probably want you to die for simply having disturbed them in the first place) was considered to be different and acceptable.

I just didn't get it and still don't. And the more they tried to explain it to me, the more clear it became that I simply didn't get it. That it was somehow ethically wrong to summon an elemental from another plane to save the life or limb of a creature that would die permanently if they screwed up versus a trap.

1. I first tried arguing that it was morally better to pseudo-sacrifice a sentient air elemental against a trap than to buy a dog and run him over the same traps. (I think they agreed with this one, but it didn't change their POV.)

2. I then tried arguing that bringing a sentient creature into a fight that it didn't want to fight was then also as bad under their reasoning. They disagreed, and I just didn't get it. Apparently subjecting a random sentient stranger to violence to spare your life or to make it easier for you to kill another creature (possibly a sentient one) didn't make a lick of difference.

So I come here to ask the community their thoughts, as I've thought about it some more and concluded the following:

1. Using shards of their reasoning, I've since concluded that bringing a sentient creature to fight for you is actually worse (or "more evil") than sending it to check and trigger traps, possibly being destroyed for 24 hours until it re-formed on its native plane.

a) As Golda Meir once said, "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but we cannot forgive them for making our sons kill their sons." Forcing a creature to harm another creature that it had no interest in harming, no connection to, and no prior knowledge of, would therefore be an evil act, even a form of "gladiatorial" torture.

b) Summoning a creature to "fight for you" (to save your life) generally ignores the fact that you are using it while out there being a murder hobo trying to kill things and take their stuff. The summoned creature may even wish you ill, but has to fight and become pseudo-lethally injured for you, yet receives no compensation and no XP. This is the equivalent of saying, "I'd like steak for lunch. Here, take this knife and go up against the bull, and when you're done, I'll finish him up and have my Rib-eye for lunch (and all the XP) while you simply get to go home with the memories of being traumatized by completely unexpected violence."

2. In a fantasy and possibly semi-medieval world filled with fantastical, violent, and dangerous beasts, where life is often "Nasty, Brutish, and Short" the sort of modern day value systems about "sentient creatures" is wholly misplaced and very absurd. {I should probably mention here that in my second Pathfinder campaign, a different group overcame a dragon that had sought them out to destroy them, but when beaten and captured, this large dragon would not explain its complete enmity for our group that it had attacked. One player then voice this opinion that it was wrong/evil to kill this again unconscious creature because it was sentient. Thankfully the rest of the group strenuously and reasonably objected to this position, pointing out that it was a "marauding monster" and the fact that it was sentient was absolutely irrelevant. It was clear he had a hard time grappling with this concept, but when pointed out the fact that it was not a sentient humanoid, he seemed to be a bit mollified.]

3. Shouldn't the spell "Enslave Random Creatures" (A.K.A. Summoning Spells) have an "Evil" descriptor? Or at the very least, have a minutes or 10 minutes per level duration "if they are not called upon to fight or do not suffer being attacked?" A sort of "You have to clean the outhouse and take out the dirty laundry for 60 minutes, unless you get attacked by the Otyugh living there, then you have to fight for your life, limb, and 24hour existence for the next 60 seconds."

4. Shouldn't most compulsion spells, (not a including charm type spell, because they clearly and presently "want" to do good things for you) be considered evil as well, especially since they are often abused to cause injury or misfortune to a compelled sentient creature? This being the equivalent to involuntary slavery of the "Enslave Random Creatures" Spell?

5. To be fair, in my own campaign, I may introduce a situation where if one player is effectively traveling 100mph, in a burning aircraft, with both arms broken, at 1hp, and 10' above the ground just before the plane makes an "uncontrolled landing," I'll ask the player if his PC is either has A) "his life flash before his eyes,"" or B) if he has this very deep feeling of "I don't want to be here!" If the answer is the latter I'll simply let him have a large negative circumstantial bonus to his Will Save (maybe a -10 circumstance penalty due to his high level of distraction and stress) against a "regional" spell affecting his particular section of the prime material plane; a spell cast from another plane seeking to summon a creature of his type. Since he would be the one that most meets the conditions that makes it possible for him to be the one summoned (over ALL the other creatures in his section of the prime material), he'll be the summoned creature, with full health, having to fight and be possibly killed on behalf of another creature that he has no knowledge of or interest in. If he succeeds, he'll come back to the material plane someplace safe in his original condition (cured of all lethal poisons/diseases), and if he dies in the fight, then he'll come back 24 hours later to someplace safe, but fully healed. Not that I'm making a particular point on how a weak first level spell might be able to reach across the planes to bring forth and compel a creature to willingly fight for you, it is just that it might be hilarious. As would be the reverse, an adventure hook started by trying to find a severely wounded guy who disappeared in a vicious fight that occurred but only 12 hours ago. (A guy who miraculously appears nearby after the party spends 12 hours searching for him, and tells of a waking up with memories of a rather bizarre albeit violent dream that he's having trouble remembering fully.)

Clearly, Jonathan Swift I'm not, but since I OBVIOUSLY still don't get it. Perhaps someone here would explain it to me so that the position of the rest of my party seems reasonable and fair to me so that I will actually "get it."

On behalf of all but one other in my party (who agreed with me), I thank you.

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Dancing Lights is an extremely powerful spell, but it never seems to be used correctly.

Couple of assumptions first:
1. As a part of moving Dancing Lights the caster 'knows' where they are.
2. Either the Dancing Lights can move through solid objects, or they can't.
a) If they can move through solid objects, then send 2-4 of them into a room at 20' distance from each other (10' radius spell) and move them about to determine how big the room is. The changes in light levels will give away when they went 'through' a wall or something. By using both your knowledge of where you are moving them, and the light that it is being cast at the entryway for the room, you will get an idea of the room and major contents in the center of the room.
b) if they cannot move through solid objects, then you will know when they stop and cannot move. However this implies that they can be stopped, held, etc. The spell describes them as winking out if they go beyond the casters range. but no mention of 'entering' and object.
Even if they are stopped, the trick is to have two pairs of lights 5' apart and rotating about one another at various speeds (maximum of 100' per round). As soon as one pair hits an object and stops, I get a reduction in the flickering that comes from them rotating at 100'/round about each other like a police car light.

Even a single torch (or 4 lights together) that sweeps the room back and forth by traveling through each and every square to determine how the light changes as it comes out the doorway will work in terms of determining where walls are. And if the light gets 'behind' a figure that is standing there looking at it (or looking for a Fey in the room that might be invisible and trying to screw with them...), then the shadows might show up near the entrance to the room. Basically I'm repeating the experiment that physicists used to discover the structure of things like atoms and molecules by shooting things in and seeing what happens. I send in torches, and know where they 'should be' and look for effect from the light they give off. Any columns in the room should introduce repeatable flickering in the doorway. If a figure moves, then I cannot repeat the flickering by repeating the same pattern that gave me the initial flicker.

Obviously this will not work for big caverns, but for smaller rooms, it should be enough to give the general dimensions as well as significant features like columns or standing bodies. If I have the lights move about in various patters that test light coming from various locations in the room, I should be able to gain a lot of information, especially if I've practiced this trick many times before, and especially if I control the lights and therefore know their locations (to determine the dimensions of the room).

Clearly, determining the size of a 40'x40' room as well as 'major features' inside takes a considerable amount of time. It could/would confuse anyone who is not familiar with either Knowledge(dungeoneering) or Knowledge(Arcana) that this is one of the uses of this spell. But the long time it takes also works in my favor, because anyone inside is likely to get impatient, unless they know we are coming AND know who we are. So the large amount of time it takes for me to move the lights around in various patters to see how the light in the doorway flickers, based on my knowledge of the location of the dancing lights, also works in my favor if I can be patient.

Weird magical effects, whether they are supposedly by mischevous Fey, or seem to be an attempt to distract right before an assault, will certainly alert anyone inside the room, and possibly get them to react. It is the time 'after' the lights have been gone, that those inside might realize that nothing is coming (or that it already came and left.)
The next step is to either use Ghost Sound, or even better, Message the residents with a high pitched sylvan accent. With Ghost Sound, having a couple of high pitched voices speaking/whispering/giggling in Sylvan, or even the pitter patter of a little horde with "Bring the water bladder and put it over the door" or "Keep the caltrops under your shirt, only throw them in front of them when they start moving" should be enough to trigger occupants to react (or limit their mobility when we actually enter a room).

With Message, the target or occupant of the room need not know where you are to reply to you. A message of "You have no idea how many times I've gotten Gnolls to leave out a few coins so that 'we' don't start playing all sorts of invisible pranks. A few Copper is good, unless you have a really nice mug or comb you don't need. Do you have any extra large feathers? Leave it in the doorway, and step back. Or else I get to show you my best tricks!"

And at night, Dancing Lights is like a trip flare that simply pops up randomly, backlighting anything moving towards you.

So what am I missing? Or should I say, why are so many people totally missing the advantages of this spell?

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Uh oh.

Anyone know of any other weapons that still allow for reach and nearby?

If S.C. is nerfed, then why bother taking it? You had a spend a feat to be proficient in it.