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This discussion is carried over from a post in the advice forum as it was about to go off topic.
When I wrote my Guide on Wizards, one of the things I wrote that generated a lot of disagreement was when I suggested that a wizard who cast Elemental Form would be unable to meet the somatic component for casting spells (as I had always seen pictures of elementals without proper hands). I was linked many pictures of elementals with hands to show me the error of my ways. My opinion on elemental form interfering with spellcasting has become clouded since.
Now though, on another thread discussing Oracles, I suggested that an Oracle using Beast Shape would not be able to cast spells with Somatic components since none of the applicable forms have proper hands (of course Still Spell would work), nor are Oracles able to take the natural spell feat.
Here's my opinions on the topic, but please reply below with your own.
I've always wondered what consists being able to use somatic components for casting.
Here's the appropriate snip from the polymorph spells rules: (bolding emphasis is mine)
When you cast a polymorph spell that changes you into a creature of the animal, dragon, elemental, magical beast, plant, or vermin type, all of your gear melds into your body. Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the exception of armor and shield bonuses, which cease to function). Items that require activation cannot be used while you maintain that form. 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, such as a dragon.
I think the rules for Material components/Verbal components are pretty clear. With Material components you need a pouch, natural spell or eschew materials. For Verbal you need Natural Spell, Silent Spell or a form that can speak.
Somatic components are a bit more vague. Here's what the rules say about Somatic components:
Somatic: A somatic component is a measured and precise movement of the hand.
I've always thought that was clear, but am second guessing myself now as this is not the first time my interpretation of this has been challenged.
I've always interpreted it as you need a hand, and that hand must be free, unrestricted, and able to make specific and precise gestures.
That would mean a paw wouldn't work, nor would a tentacle, or an appendage, or a talon. It would need to be a hand, as in an appendage with a thumb and some fingers.
When I look at the Natural Spell feat, it allows you to: "substitute various noises and gestures for the normal verbal and somatic components" which suggests to me that making gestures with something that is not capable precise movements of a hand does not satisfy the requirement unless you have the feat.
The rules specifically say that a Dragon meets the requirements. Illustrations I've seen in Pathfinder sources seem to be pretty consistent on the front appendages. 1 thumb and 3 fingers (all clawed). This fits with my previous assumption on the requirements.
However, then the question goes to:
If it is hands, or claws, how do royal nagas and coutals cast? Neither of them have hands, both are snakes.
If you look at the feats of these creatures, Natural Spell is notoriously absent. How indeed do these creatures cast? They clearly would be unable to meet the somatic components for their spells.
Personally, I would say it's because according to the entry in the appropriate Bestiary...they can.
I know that is not a particularly satisfying answer, but I strongly suspect it is the correct one. I would suggest that they wouldn't need the Natural Spell feat to get the effect of the feat because that IS their natural form.
Quite a number of magical beasts (kamadan, catobepas, chimera) speak a language, so spell casting as a magical beast should not be a problem, even though lunar oracled can never take natural spell.
Certainly any creature that speaks a language is going to be able to meet the verbal requirement of spellcasting, but you've made the conclusion that Somatic Components are unnecessary.
Here's the conclusion where we must disagree, and I would ask others to weigh in on their opinions.
The logic here appears to be "because they can cast in that form without somatic component, so can my character..."
My opinion would be that if you make a character who IS a Royal Naga, your character can cast spells. If your character takes the form of a Royal Naga, you would not (unless using the Still Spell feat or a spell without Somatic components)