Electrical Effects and Underwater Combat?


Rules Questions

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.

During Seven Days to the Grave (Crimson Throne AP) my party ran into some of the extra playmates I'd placed in the ocean for them to encounter. The Priestess of Shelyn was thinking of using her Lightning Arc ability from her Air domain, and the Holy Warrior of Pharasma (paladin variant) has a Shocking Bastard Sword ... so I looked under the Underwater Rules for what happens with Electricity and water.

And I couldn't find anything! We ran the combat with no penalties on those for the nonce, not wanting to slow the game while doing research, but I was even more surprised to find nothing about Electricity and Water in the SRD ...

So, is this something that got lost somewhere between older editions and now? Or is electricity truly not hindered or dangerous to use in watery environments? Inquiring minds really want to know :)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Um, the magic prevents the natural laws of conductivity from occuring?

It's a good question, and I think a rule of it affecting everyone in the water, perhaps a half damage, would be a decent ruling. Not exactly realistic, but we can't have people taking advantage right? Right?

Scarab Sages

If the damage is 4d6 electricity, i would have the damage be 20' burst centered on the source. Everyone inside effected and gets saves as normal.
I brought this up during the Beta... :sigh:


I'm not sure about the physics of it but I'd only apply damage within a limited range...say a 5' radius or something like that. Maybe do some research on sea creatures with electrical defense and their range? Not sure if there is much of one. A lightning bolt or shocking magic item are more powerful, of course, so it'd be a larger effect. I like the idea of half damage. Either no save or, maybe, a really tough Reflex save...
M

Scarab Sages

I would argue that, in bodies of water large enough to entirely encompass the creatures involved, the electricity disperses unless it is a touch attack (which would be unaffected), but because such a rule severely hinders those characters with lighting-based offense, I'd go the No Affect route.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Gamer Girrl wrote:

..

So, is this something that got lost somewhere between older editions and now? Or is electricity truly not hindered or dangerous to use in watery environments? Inquiring minds really want to know :)

In both 3.5 and Pathfinder their are no special rules for elemental types besides fire. Pathfinder added a concentration check to cast any spell underwater now (3.5 didn't have that) and if its a fire based spell their is even a caster level check. Otherwise no additional rules for elemental damage types.

The bastard sword already has all non-electricity damage cut in half (ie normal damage of 1d10+4 5-14 now it only does 2-7) and it gets a -2 to hit. If they where failing any swim checks they where much easier to hit(no dex and -2AC). Their movements are cut way down to a quarter movement if they still wish to try and attack and half if they just move all round. Speaking of movement no 5ft steps in water without a swim speed. All those penalties against creatures that where more than likely perfectly adapted to fighting in the water. Isn't that already enough disadvantages to the PCs?


In 2nd edition and in a 3E sage advice lightning bolts and similar electric effects where treated as bursts emanating from the starting point of the effect.
Ligtning bolt was effectively an underwater electric fireball.
I still go by those rules though I increase the radius of the burst relative to the surface effect of the electrical attack.


Diego Winterborg wrote:

In 2nd edition and in a 3E sage advice lightning bolts and similar electric effects where treated as bursts emanating from the starting point of the effect.

Ligtning bolt was effectively an underwater electric fireball.
I still go by those rules though I increase the radius of the burst relative to the surface effect of the electrical attack.

Well, the real problem is that a Lightning Bolt's starting point is... right from the fingertips of the caster ! (see description of the spell on page 305). This would result in a 'Lightning Ball' centered on the caster... not a very useful move.

Shocking Grasp, being a Touch Attack, lingers on the hand of the caster. The result would be a small burst (perhaps 5 ft. radius only) centered on the caster, again.

And Chain Lightning... well, the description says again that the spell starts from the fingertips of the caster, so the result would be the same - no, only worse, because a GM would have to decide what to do with the Long Range of the spell (ignoring it completely, since the burst would have a range similar to that of a Fireball, or allowing a HUGE area of electrical discharge 800+ feet in diameter, a diameter equal to the range of the spell itself ?)(BTW, have anyone noticed that the secondary targets now take full damage as well, with an easier DC? This is a good change, IMHO!!!)

At least, Call Lightning and Call Lightning Storm specifically say that they cannot be cast underwater...

This is without taking in consideration spells from other sources (like Spell Compendium). What burst area could have a spell like Arc of Lightning?

The idea is intriguing, I admit it (I loved the area changes to spells in the old TSR's Dark Queen of Krynn CRPG, when the party was underwater in the Elven city of Naulidis), but I think it's not worth the effort (and the headaches...).

Just my 2c.


There are a lot of spells that a DM is just going to have to rule on the fly with in odd environments. If you have some of the planer handbooks or older 3.5 stuff, go ahead and use that as the game is designed to be compatible to some extent and if the current rules are mute on a subject I see nothing wrong with using an older rule.

Some of the many spells that will have issues underwater if you apply real world logic are below -

Fire based, electricity based, acid based, Gust of Wind, Sonic (Sound travels much faster in the water), suggestion (depending upon how talking works with your method of water breathing), resilient sphere and wall of ice could have buoyancy problems, and many more I may have missed for sure.

I like the idea of a combination of concentration checks, caster level checks, or spellcraft checks to allow the spell to function as written by "magic." If you fail the roll (or rolls) the spell is either half effective, fizzles, or maybe the DM uses a rule on the fly with real world style impact.

There were a lot of good rules in some of the older manual of the planes that work nicely with some fair details as well.


So, what happens when a lightning bolt is cast?

1.) The caster gains a large electrical charge.
2.) The caster points his hand towards his target, thus creating a path of least resistance necessary for an arc.
3.) An arc begins, tearing apart the molecules in its way, creating a superconductive path for itself.
4.) The arc strikes the target, and the electrical charge between the caster and the target equalize.
5.) Target is damaged.

A wizard ought to not be capable og damaging himself when using lightning bolts in the water, because he doesn't damage himself in the air. Analogy: an electric eel shocks creatures by developing a charge from within its body. It does not shock itself.

The DM may wish to treat it however he likes. A lightning bolt could tear apart water molecules like it does air molecules, and the result would be an electric arc and steam bubbles.

Look at underwater arc-welding.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

In 1st edition, electrical spells did work differently underwater, but the way in which they worked differently didn't follow any centralized design theory. And when new electrical spells were invented, they invariably did something else different, or more commonly, just didn't mention how they worked at all.

We've more or less abandoned this concept in the PRPG (as it was also pretty much abandoned in 3rd edition), mostly because it adds an increasingly complex set of sub rules to the game, making things too complicated for our tastes. Feel free to add variant underwater effects to your game if you want, but keep in mind that this can result in all sorts of complexities, especially when you start thinking about how acid and cold and sonic and fire stuff works underwater. Or in other exotic environments.


I seem to recall there being rules along these lines in a old dragonlance module(the one that was mostly at the bottom of the ocean) I can't remember any specifics right now. but i will look it up when a get home tonite.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

...

We've more or less abandoned this concept in the PRPG (as it was also pretty much abandoned in 3rd edition), mostly because it adds an increasingly complex set of sub rules to the game, making things too complicated for our tastes. Feel free to add variant underwater effects to your game if you want, but keep in mind that this can result in all sorts of complexities, especially when you start thinking about how acid and cold and sonic and fire stuff works underwater. Or in other exotic environments.

I agree with this 100% as I stated above. My experience has shown that the normal underwater rules as is will frustrate many players already. Adding any more rules will just zip all the fun out of the underwater encounter, but your groups could vary. Back to the discussion and happy gaming.


The Wraith wrote:


Well, the real problem is that a Lightning Bolt's starting point is... right from the fingertips of the caster ! (see description of the spell on page 305). This would result in a 'Lightning Ball' centered on the caster... not a very useful move.

Well, I never suggested it would be a smart move, its like taking your toaster to the bathtop.

In general I don not think electrical attacks are suited to underwater adventures :)


For the record, there are no special rules in WoTC's Stormwrack either, even though it is the book of water combat. (It's still one of my faves.)


I use the houserule that electrical attacks under water have double their effective area. Examples: Lightining bolt is 240 feet long, chain lightning can hit targets 60ft apart, any burst spells would have double the radius, etc. Touch attacks pretty much remain the same.

I think it makes them more effective without having to worry too much about friendly fire, but also doesn't overpower them.

Liberty's Edge

This is how I would resolve this, if I were DM.

Natural electrical attacks work normally underwater. The creatures (such as electric eels, blue dragons, or whatever) intuitively know how to use water to augment their electrical attacks. Clerical spells likewise function normally as their deities guide the spellshape without mishap.

Arcane and Druidic spells may fizzle out completely, due to the failsafes that are built into the spell structure. I would require a knowledge (nature) check (DC = 15 + spell level) to cast the spell. A failure indicates the spell fizzles out, but is cast for the day. On a success, the spell is cast normally. On a natural 20, the spellcaster knows something about how to use water to augment their electrical spells, and each die of the spell deals 1 point more damage. On a natural 1, the spell explodes on the spellcaster, dealing full damage to the caster, and half damage to everyone within 5 feet per level of the spell.

A druid or arcane caster that has at any time in their life taken the form of a creature with a natural electrical attack gains a +4 insight bonus to knowledge rolls to cast underwater electrical spells.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16

stardust wrote:

This is how I would resolve this, if I were DM.

Natural electrical attacks work normally underwater. The creatures (such as electric eels, blue dragons, or whatever) intuitively know how to use water to augment their electrical attacks. Clerical spells likewise function normally as their deities guide the spellshape without mishap.

Arcane and Druidic spells may fizzle out completely, due to the failsafes that are built into the spell structure. I would require a knowledge (nature) check (DC = 15 + spell level) to cast the spell. A failure indicates the spell fizzles out, but is cast for the day. On a success, the spell is cast normally. On a natural 20, the spellcaster knows something about how to use water to augment their electrical spells, and each die of the spell deals 1 point more damage. On a natural 1, the spell explodes on the spellcaster, dealing full damage to the caster, and half damage to everyone within 5 feet per level of the spell.

A druid or arcane caster that has at any time in their life taken the form of a creature with a natural electrical attack gains a +4 insight bonus to knowledge rolls to cast underwater electrical spells.

I like that! I'd also add 2 to the Save DC for electrical spells in water, while I's increase the damage of a cold spell i water by a factor of one die (d6 becomes d8 and so forth)


So.. +2 DC for Elec; Next die increase for cold dmg;

Perhaps extended range/area (equivelent of free Widen/Enlarge metamagic feats)for sonic?

But where would that leave acid? I see that being diluted in a watery environment.


Perhaps "dispersed" is better than "diluted" for acid attacks. Widen the area of effect, but still deal the same total damage.

Liberty's Edge

Ah dear, here we go again. Spellcraft 101.

The Law of Inverse Elemental Effects

Fire opposes Cold (boiling or warming)
Fire complements Electricity and Sonic (heating)
Fire complements Acid (burning)
Fire equals Fire (expansion)

Water opposes Fire (dousing)
Water complements Electricity and Sonic (conduction)
Water complements Acid (clouding or dispersion)
Water equals Cold (icing)

Air opposes Acid (dilution)
Air complements Fire (feeding)
Air complements Cold (freezing)
Air equals Electricity and Sonic (nongrounded)

Earth opposes Electricity and Sonic (grounding)
Earth complements Fire (fueling)
Earth complements Cold (frosting)
Earth equals Acid (corrosion)

Opposes: diminishes spell effects.
Complements: has some effect on spell effects, normally improving damage or effects.
Equals: Depending on the scenario, a spell may either be swallowed up in a stronger environment, or enhance the damage of a weaker one.


And then theres Force, to rule them all... :oP

Liberty's Edge

If you'll all turn in your spellbooks to page 14, you'll find this chart. :P. It's also useful for alchemy.

Sorcerers will just have to experiment.


stardust wrote:

Water complements Electricity and Sonic (conduction)

Water conducting sound? Nothing could be further from the truth.


Sound propagates significantly faster in water than it does in air.

Liberty's Edge

Ultrasonic and subsonic frequencies are both amplified by water, from what I recall, making it possible to hear things through water from quite a distance away.

Water does seem to muffle sound from outside the water, but listen yourself to clacking two rocks underwater and clacking the same rocks outside the water. The rocks underwater sound significantly louder. At least that has been my experience.

Water is quite conductive to sound waves (sonic attacks).

The only inverse elemental effect I am having a remote problem with is that Air dilutes Acid. The more I think about it, though, the more I believe I'm correct. Acid does not interact with air. It has to interact with a physical object to begin chemically corroding it. A blob of acid falling or floating in mid-air does absolutely nothing, except possibly lose its corrosive qualities slowly over time as the liquid aerates.


I would just rule it normally. Remember that if you're launching bolts of lightning from your fingers or have electricty running across your blade, it doesn't take an observent person to realise that it isn't normal energy, it's magical.

Magical energy doesn't follow the normal laws after all, a warrior holding an electric sword won't shock him/herself, even if the warrior just happens to be coated head-to-toe in water. To this end, I'd say just have it function normally, since it can still remain consistant and it avoids all unnessicery complexities.


stardust wrote:

Ultrasonic and subsonic frequencies are both amplified by water, from what I recall, making it possible to hear things through water from quite a distance away.

Water does seem to muffle sound from outside the water, but listen yourself to clacking two rocks underwater and clacking the same rocks outside the water. The rocks underwater sound significantly louder. At least that has been my experience.

Water is quite conductive to sound waves (sonic attacks).

Thank you for informing me. I was not aware.

stardust wrote:
The only inverse elemental effect I am having a remote problem with is that Air dilutes Acid. The more I think about it, though, the more I believe I'm correct. Acid does not interact with air. It has to interact with a physical object to begin chemically corroding it. A blob of acid falling or floating in mid-air does absolutely nothing, except possibly lose its corrosive qualities slowly over time as the liquid aerates.

You can explain that by evaporation. En exposed liquid will eventually evaporate.


Sonic vibrations transfer quickly in liquids, but more quickly yet in solid matter. So, it's really difficult to conceive "sonic" as being "air" when it's merely vibrations of matter.

Likewise, sonic vibrations and air effects can snuff fire, as well, rather than feed them. Go blow out a candle and see.

Liberty's Edge

Takamonk wrote:
Likewise, sonic vibrations and air effects can snuff fire, as well, rather than feed them. Go blow out a candle and see.

For a small flame like a candle, yes...but what is the bellows in a forge for?

Liberty's Edge

I'm sure there are exceptions to the Law of Inverse Elemental Effects, as noted in page 24 of your spellbooks. For the most part, the classic conditions of a sonic attack are based upon the ability of sound waves to move through air. Thunder, shout, screaming bolts.

Tremorsense, however is an ability to sense vibrations of matter, which are different (magically speaking) from sonic vibrations manifesting in the air. Sonic vibrations manifesting in the air (or water) or other equally less dense material, would still function as a sonic vibration.

Solid matter would change or dampen a sonic vibration. A sonic vibration can transfer to a solid material as a tremor, but it would lose a signficant amount of its damage.

Likewise, a forceful movement of air to extinguish a flame is not a natural air phenomenon. This is rather the effect of a source of rushing air to separate a flame from its source of fuel (the wick). Larger fires that have an already consolidated fuel source are immune to a breath of rushing air. Try to blow out a campfire, a grass fire, or a blazing skyscraper. A giant's breath may be more effective, but the effects are due again to the separation of a flame from its fuel, not because air has an ill effect on flame.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Rules Questions / Electrical Effects and Underwater Combat? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.