Mage Hand, Misdirection, & reproducible results


Rules Questions

Contributor

Okay, would like a ruling here and a discussion.

This came up in my game this weekend after discovering that Mage Hand could not be used to retrieve a magic wand that had fallen into the cracks of a floor, because Mage Hand only works on nonmagical objects. This then began a discussion of how Mage Hand doesn't have so much of a bug as a feature, since this means that it comes with a free Detect Magic. But it then gets worse than that.

Picture your standard wizard's university where mages would sit down and document stuff like this because they can and because they would, since everyone wants to squeeze all the power out of their spells they can.

Take a tray of rings. One ring is magical. The rest are ordinary. The wizard for some reason does not have Detect Magic, but does have Mage Hand. Per the RAW, Mage Hand should be able to winnow out the nonmagical rings, leaving only the magical one in the tray.

Second experiment, rules question, and wizard's philosophical argument: Same scenario with the tray of rings, except someone first casts Misdirection on the magic ring, giving it the aura of one of the nonmagical ones. Detect Magic should not detect any of them as magical. Can Mage Hand still winnow out the magical ring, even though it now has a nonmagical aura?

Third experiment: The wizard does the Misdirection spell again, but this time gives one of the nonmagical rings the same aura as the magical one. Can Mage Hand lift either ring?

Fourth experiment: The wizard removes the magic ring from the tray and casts Misdirection, giving one of the nonmagical rings the aura of one of the other nonmagical ring. It's a spell of no obvious effect, and completely undetectable with Detect Magic. But will Mage Hand be able to lift the misdirected ring?

This may all seem a trivial amusement for apprentices, but gets into important philosophical ramifications for wizards, especially those who might one day want to be liches and have some reasonable way to hide their phylacteries.

Bonus question: Can Misdirection spells be chained, and can any sort of Rube Goldberg device be created by combining this with Mage Hand? What might the most useful or entertaining application for this be?


Interesting. I suppose there are a couple ways to go about this.

1a) Mage hand works on objects that aren't actually magical, so magic aura doesn't fool it. A spell isn't enough to make an object magic. Makes for a nice magic detector for nonmagical objects.

1b) Same as 1a, except an object that has a spell cast on it is magical while the spell lasts. Really, what's the difference between a +2 sword and a sword with greater magic weapon cast on it? This would prevent a nonmagic object from being lifted while it was under the effect of a magic aura (the nonmagic version).

2a) Mage hand doesn't detect magic any better than detect magic. If a spell would show a magic aura, it won't move. An item's nonpermanent magic aura doesn't affect this.

2b) Same as 2a, except a magic aura created by a spell prevents mage hand from working on the object.

While writing this, I had a question that might be worth wile to ask. Can Mage Hand lift a magical object that has been suppressed for a few rounds with dispel magic?

Scarab Sages

Any designers care to explain why this was changed?
Were people abusing it?

Scarab Sages

Well to add more mystery to the question at hand:

The line "Target: One nonmagical, unattended object weighing up to 5 lb.", is verbatim from both the D&D PH 3.0 and the D&D PH 3.5. So this has been going on since the begining of 3rd Edition (~August 2000)...

Maybe someone's house ruled something for this a while back?

Then again, many powerful magic items are less than 5 lb. I think it was intended that it work as written so it wouldn't be easy to pilfer/yoink/steal/bypass traps for something small and powerful...

That is an amusing work-around "bug/feature" you found though ;-) I bet most people never noticed! lol

Contributor

I think this is a problem of the 3.0 designers (being Cook, Tweet & Williams) nailing a nerf into a cantrip so you couldn't use it to pitch the One Ring into Mt. Doom in the middle of the grand battle, causing an unforeseen complication when Pathfinder gives all wizards unlimited use of the spell without having to wear a mummified elf hand around their necks (a common fashion accessory in 3.0 games).

I think the two possible ways to go on this.

The first is to say that Mage Hand is somehow disrupted by magical auras--meaning it has a free "detect magic" as part of it--which also means that a wizard could make it work on a magic ring by suppressing it with Dispel Magic first, or swapping the aura out via Misdirection, and likewise being able to foil someone's use of Mage Hand by zapping a Magic Aura on in the middle of the telekinesis. The downside of this in Pathfinder is that no sensible wizard will use Detect Magic as one of his daily cantrips because he can have Mage Hand do double duty.

The other is to decide that the 3.0 text about "nonmagical" is something that should have been redlined and Mage Hand is simply 5 lb. telekinesis and it doesn't matter if what's picked up is the One Ring or a rock.

Since the defect of not being able to lift nonmagical items via Mage Hand can be defeated by any wizard with a signet ring and a drop of Sovereign Glue--or just a piece of string--I'm probably going to go with the second.

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

First of all A K M, thanks for proving that my players aren't the only group that has good in game reason to "break the game".

Second this is just another reason unlimited cantrips was a bad idea.

I posted and posted about the effect of Create Water in a desert culture, but sadly Jason didn't listen.

Contributor

I don't think it's unlimited cantrips per se that are bad as leaving certain spells as cantrips. Create Water is far too useful of a spell to be left as a cantrip, especially with the volume that can be created.

IMHO, clerical water cantrips should be Locate Water and Purify Water, and leave the purification to some reasonable amount, so you don't have clerics immediately desalinating seas.

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:

I don't think it's unlimited cantrips per se that are bad as leaving certain spells as cantrips. Create Water is far too useful of a spell to be left as a cantrip, especially with the volume that can be created.

IMHO, clerical water cantrips should be Locate Water and Purify Water, and leave the purification to some reasonable amount, so you don't have clerics immediately desalinating seas.

I'm sure you're right. Just a few spells are open to abuse.

Just a sore point for me.


Andrew Phillips wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:

I don't think it's unlimited cantrips per se that are bad as leaving certain spells as cantrips. Create Water is far too useful of a spell to be left as a cantrip, especially with the volume that can be created.

IMHO, clerical water cantrips should be Locate Water and Purify Water, and leave the purification to some reasonable amount, so you don't have clerics immediately desalinating seas.

I'm sure you're right. Just a few spells are open to abuse.

Just a sore point for me.

I'm begining to get pi$$ed with Detect Magic.

EVERY room the players enter its "Cast Detect Magic", sometimes even before I describe the room. And what is the point of magical traps anymore or illusions.
I'm going to make it a 1st Level spell again very soon....


I think our group is getting ready to House Rule that cantrips can be used 3 + INT/WIS/CHA modifier times per day to stay consistent with the Domain/Schools powers.

As far as Mage Hand, it probably won't see much abuse since Detect Magic is still readily available and allows you a chance to identify the object. My groups haven't picked up on it yet. I suppose the Powers-That-Be didn't wish players to use a cantrip to remove a magic item from its trapped pedestal ala Indiana Jones.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Spacelard wrote:


I'm begining to get pi$$ed with Detect Magic.
EVERY room the players enter its "Cast Detect Magic", sometimes even before I describe the room. And what is the point of magical traps anymore or illusions.
I'm going to make it a 1st Level spell again very soon....

Now you understand why nonmagical traps remain so popular and why illusions haven't completely replaced good old-fashion trick-walls and camouflage.

By the way, this thread is awesome.


Hydro wrote:


Now you understand why nonmagical traps remain so popular and why illusions haven't completely replaced good old-fashion trick-walls and camouflage.

By the way, this thread is awesome.

Yea, that nasty Cleric's Glyphs of Warding, gone...clever illusions, gone...want to play an Illusionist? Nah whats the point...hat of disguise, gone...deck of illusions, gone...

This is all probably a con by dwarven pit diggers to improve their business.

The Exchange

Aristodeimos wrote:

I think our group is getting ready to House Rule that cantrips can be used 3 + INT/WIS/CHA modifier times per day to stay consistent with the Domain/Schools powers.

As far as Mage Hand, it probably won't see much abuse since Detect Magic is still readily available and allows you a chance to identify the object. My groups haven't picked up on it yet. I suppose the Powers-That-Be didn't wish players to use a cantrip to remove a magic item from its trapped pedestal ala Indiana Jones.

Carry a fish-hook or pair of pliers to use as appropriate as the target of Mage Hand and your long-range arcane pilfery should be good to go.

The Exchange

Spacelard wrote:


I'm begining to get pi$$ed with Detect Magic.
EVERY room the players enter its "Cast Detect Magic", sometimes even before I describe the room. And what is the point of magical traps anymore or illusions.
I'm going to make it a 1st Level spell again very soon....

You can get shot with a lot of arrows while standing in a doorway casting and concentrating.

Disabling a presumed magical trap by dispelling it based on aura alone becomes risky when the magic is holding back the effect - poison gas in a dispel-able container, etc.

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

I can't....resist...0th level spells cannot, should not be unlimited!

I can't blame my players for trying to get the most use out of any ability and I don't want anymore house rules.

Change it back, change it back, errata, errata!!!

Sorry, Sorry.

I really tried not to post this;)


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Spacelard wrote:

I'm begining to get pi$$ed with Detect Magic.

EVERY room the players enter its "Cast Detect Magic", sometimes even before I describe the room. And what is the point of magical traps anymore or illusions.
I'm going to make it a 1st Level spell again very soon....

A nice little spell for your trap layers to keep in mind is "Magic Aura". This allows you to have an item appear to be magic or to appear to be mundane.

Have a tile with a "glyph" that appears to be magical, when the real glyph (which appears to be mundane) is a tile or two closer to the PCs.....

Or have Magic Mouth cast on every 5' tile in the place.

Have hiding places for treasure have a lead lining (as the opposition will have grown up with detect magic at will). I use this on a regular basis and haven't had any negative reaction from my players for doing so (especially as they are doing so at their base of operations).

There are ways to use it that will have your players not rely on it as their main scouting tool. My players use it after the fight, during the clean up and healing phase (and because I am a cruel GM, they have missed magical items due to magic aura).

Contributor

Honestly, I don't mind Detect Magic being an "at will" power. It basically gives wizards mage sight, an old staple of fantasy literature, without having to wait for high level and blowing a Permanency on it.

And, as mentioned, Magic Aura and cheap enchantments can be used to cloak an area. Get a pot of library paste, cast Magic Aura on it, and paint unempowered Symbols of Death on every available surface. People without Detect Magic will pass right by, whereas the Detect Magic crew will be freaking out. False traps are part of any good security system anyway.

Also, go back to 1st edition rulings and have it where illusions DO NOT radiate magic, because it would be a pretty piss poor illusion that did. You need Detect Illusion for that, and it's a 1st level spell.

Similarly, take a cue from the old story of the fairy's midwife, who gets True Seeing in one eye, until the fairies come and stick a stick in it. Anyone who gets True Seeing as an at-will or always-on power from some cheesy prestige class better keep quiet about it AND get an insane Bluff check to go with it so they don't do double-takes when the green hag walks down the street wearing nothing but illusion, and I mean nothing but illusion. Fae and illusionists can hire evil clerics and necromancers to cast Cause Blindness or just simplify matters and hire assassins for anyone who spoils their fun. Ever wondered why all-seeing oracles lived in caves or on mountaintops? It's not just to look all kewl and mystical.

Scarab Sages

As someone who grew up with 'Grimtooth's Traps', all I'll say is, it's even more fun to do in thieves who think they know where the trap is.


Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
And, as mentioned, Magic Aura and cheap enchantments can be used to cloak an area. Get a pot of library paste, cast Magic Aura on it, and paint unempowered Symbols of Death on every available surface. People without Detect Magic will pass right by, whereas the Detect Magic crew will be freaking out.

That. Is. Genius. However, wouldn't they get a Spellcraft roll to know the difference between a Symbol and a Magic Aura spell?

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Also, go back to 1st edition rulings and have it where illusions DO NOT radiate magic, because it would be a pretty piss poor illusion that did. You need Detect Illusion for that, and it's a 1st level spell.

Nice. Did that also include opponents using Invisibility, or was Detect Magic a poor-man's See Invisibility?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Re: Detect Magic and Illusions: The way I've always dealt with detect magic and will-disbelief spells like Major Image is that casting detect magic counts as 'interacting'. If you make the save, you detect the illusion, can see through it, and see the illusion aura (if you make your spellcraft check to figure out the school). If you fail your save, the illusion shows as what the illusion is of, i.e. a non-magical wall or what-have you. (However, the illusion won't block the aura on anything behind it.)

This doesn't work for things like Invisibilty that can't be disbelieved. Detect Magic can be a slow, clumsy see invisible. It just does a really bad job of it (several rounds to pinpoint, invisible guy still has concealmeant, etc.)

This doesn't have any back up in the rules that I'm aware of, but its the most logical way to deal with it in my mind.

Re: Mage Hand as a poor-man's detect magic: There are still things that detect magic can do that mage hand can't. It can detect if object more than 5 pounds are magic. It can determine school. It can sweep a whole room in a short period of time (rather than painstakingly testing each and every object in the room.) It can be used with an Appraise check to identify magic items. It can find objects you weren't aware of. It can detect magic on an item without moving it (i.e. setting off a trap or letting other folks in the room know what you're poking at.)

I mean, mage hand not moving a coin may mean the coin is magical, or it could mean its glued to the sidewalk.

Contributor

Aristodeimos wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
And, as mentioned, Magic Aura and cheap enchantments can be used to cloak an area. Get a pot of library paste, cast Magic Aura on it, and paint unempowered Symbols of Death on every available surface. People without Detect Magic will pass right by, whereas the Detect Magic crew will be freaking out.
That. Is. Genius. However, wouldn't they get a Spellcraft roll to know the difference between a Symbol and a Magic Aura spell?

Check the text of the new Magic Aura spell: Unless someone casts Identify on something, they have no way of seeing through the magic aura. And even then, it's only a chance.

You can easily give the library paste the aura of a Symbol of Death, then paint the symbol.

And 5 lbs. of library paste can paint an awful lot of symbols.

Aristodeimos wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Also, go back to 1st edition rulings and have it where illusions DO NOT radiate magic, because it would be a pretty piss poor illusion that did. You need Detect Illusion for that, and it's a 1st level spell.
Nice. Did that also include opponents using Invisibility, or was Detect Magic a poor-man's See Invisibility?

You have to see something in order to Detect Magic on it. Invisibility short-circuits regular detection.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

Ross Byers wrote:

Re: Detect Magic and Illusions: The way I've always dealt with detect magic and will-disbelief spells like Major Image is that casting detect magic counts as 'interacting'. If you make the save, you detect the illusion, can see through it, and see the illusion aura (if you make your spellcraft check to figure out the school). If you fail your save, the illusion shows as what the illusion is of, i.e. a non-magical wall or what-have you. (However, the illusion won't block the aura on anything behind it.)

This doesn't work for things like Invisibilty that can't be disbelieved. Detect Magic can be a slow, clumsy see invisible. It just does a really bad job of it (several rounds to pinpoint, invisible guy still has concealmeant, etc.)

This doesn't have any back up in the rules that I'm aware of, but its the most logical way to deal with it in my mind.

Ross, I really like this idea, thanks for sharing it. On the same topic, how do you handle spellcraft checks against illusions? Do you apply the will save then as well and if they fail, then give them a false spell, such as summon monster for a figment of a monster? My biggest pet peeve is having players use spellcraft against spells like mislead.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Aristodeimos wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Also, go back to 1st edition rulings and have it where illusions DO NOT radiate magic, because it would be a pretty piss poor illusion that did. You need Detect Illusion for that, and it's a 1st level spell.
Nice. Did that also include opponents using Invisibility, or was Detect Magic a poor-man's See Invisibility?
You have to see something in order to Detect Magic on it. Invisibility short-circuits regular detection.

Since when? The detect magic spell creates a cone shaped emanation, and allows you to "detect magical auras. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject." The spell says nothing about being able to see something in order to detect it's aura. In fact, by describing that the spell can penetrate barriers (just not ones over specific thicknesses), it makes it clear that you can specifically detect magic auras on objects that you can't see.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Yea, I've always been under the impression that detect magic lets you sweep for any spell, including invisibility.

Fooling divinations is a whole different ballgame from fooling the ears or eyes. Fortunately, there are many options for doing both.

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
JoelF847 wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Aristodeimos wrote:
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Also, go back to 1st edition rulings and have it where illusions DO NOT radiate magic, because it would be a pretty piss poor illusion that did. You need Detect Illusion for that, and it's a 1st level spell.
Nice. Did that also include opponents using Invisibility, or was Detect Magic a poor-man's See Invisibility?
You have to see something in order to Detect Magic on it. Invisibility short-circuits regular detection.
Since when? The detect magic spell creates a cone shaped emanation, and allows you to "detect magical auras. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject." The spell says nothing about being able to see something in order to detect it's aura. In fact, by describing that the spell can penetrate barriers (just not ones over specific thicknesses), it makes it clear that you can specifically detect magic auras on objects that you can't see.

True so you could see the aura but not the object.

or paste;)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

JoelF847 wrote:
Ross, I really like this idea, thanks for sharing it. On the same topic, how do you handle spellcraft checks against illusions? Do you apply the will save then as well and if they fail, then give them a false spell, such as summon monster for a figment of a monster? My biggest pet peeve is having players use spellcraft against spells like mislead.

If you're trying to identify a spell while its being cast, I think its fair to determine what's going on: you hear the spell being cast. (If I was feeling generous/cruel, I might allow the caster to make a bluff and/or sleight of hand check to conceal the actual spell he's casting, i.e.: 'I call upon shadow to...Asmodeus answer my...fool these dupes...call, send me your greatest servant!...with a monster beyond their fears.')

If you're trying to identify a spell in place, which is a Knowledge (Arcana) check now, I'd use the same guideline as with detect magic: You get your will save, and if you pass you can identify which spell produced the illusion. If you fail, you don't think there's a spell there to find. If the illusion is of another spell effect (say a Permanent Image designed to look like a Wall of Fire), then you think you find that spell. (If I'm feeling generous/cruel, I might force the caster of the illusion to make a spellcraft check vs. the identification DC to make his illusion convincing in this regard. In this case, a making the Knowledge (Arcana) check against a non-convincing illusion telly ou something is wrong, but not what.)

Contributor

JoelF847 wrote:


Since when? The detect magic spell creates a cone shaped emanation, and allows you to "detect magical auras. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject." The spell says nothing about being able to see something in order to detect it's aura. In fact, by describing that the spell can penetrate barriers (just not ones over specific thicknesses), it makes it clear that you can specifically detect magic auras on objects that you can't see.

Hmm, true enough. But 1st ed Detect Magic didn't let you parse out the various schools of the magic you were detecting or any other useful information, so a magical man you meet might be an illusion, a person disguised by illusion, a werewolf, a paladin under a bless spell, or a polymorphed rutabaga.

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Aristodeimos wrote:
That. Is. Genius. However, wouldn't they get a Spellcraft roll to know the difference between a Symbol and a Magic Aura spell?
Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:


Check the text of the new Magic Aura spell: Unless someone casts Identify on something, they have no way of seeing through the magic aura. And even then, it's only a chance.

The aura itself might not give anything away but the glyph might. I'd say opposed spell craft checks might be in order.

That said I like your idea but I'm the goofy player who cast continual light on a stick of chalk and drew "magic illuminated runes" all over a gate to intimidate and ward off some superstitious enemies.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Heh.

As a DM, my ruling on "substances" as spell targets would probably spoil some of this fun. I'd certainly let you cast such spells on the "rune" once it was drawn, though (provided it was composed of a single character; dotting your "i"s would take extra castings).

Contributor

Hydro wrote:

Heh.

As a DM, my ruling on "substances" as spell targets would probably spoil some of this fun. I'd certainly let you cast such spells on the "rune" once it was drawn, though (provided it was composed of a single character; dotting your "i"s would take extra castings).

Then be prepared for characters to reinvent neon by casting it on a ball of yarn and applying tar to the portions they wish to black out.

I don't see much of a problem with applying spells to substances. Continual Flame can make stick of chalk glow like a torch. Chalked over the walls, it will create runes that glow like embers but provide the same overall illumination.


Hydro wrote:

Heh.

As a DM, my ruling on "substances" as spell targets would probably spoil some of this fun. I'd certainly let you cast such spells on the "rune" once it was drawn, though (provided it was composed of a single character; dotting your "i"s would take extra castings).

+1

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4

Andrew Phillips wrote:

First of all A K M, thanks for proving that my players aren't the only group that has good in game reason to "break the game".

Second this is just another reason unlimited cantrips was a bad idea.

I posted and posted about the effect of Create Water in a desert culture, but sadly Jason didn't listen.

Did the beta version of Create Water have the following line:

"This water disappears after 1 day if not consumed."
If not, do you still hold the same opinion of the effect of this spell on desert cultures?

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:


Then be prepared for characters to reinvent neon by casting it on a ball of yarn and applying tar to the portions they wish to black out.

That would be awesome.

I don't think that continual flame-chalk would cause any balance issues (that I can think of), it just has to do with my conception of hard metaphysics. Targeted spells affect a discrete object (regardless of size, usually); not a given number of molecules.

It's kind of like how if you chop a troll up only one of the pieces regenerates.


Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
Hmm, true enough. But 1st ed Detect Magic didn't let you parse out the various schools of the magic you were detecting or any other useful information, so a magical man you meet might be an illusion, a person disguised by illusion, a werewolf, a paladin under a bless spell, or a polymorphed rutabaga.

For the record, 1st edition Detect Magic did indeed let you identify the school of magic - if cast by a magic-user. Clerics were out of luck.

Contributor

MillerHero wrote:
Andrew Phillips wrote:

First of all A K M, thanks for proving that my players aren't the only group that has good in game reason to "break the game".

Second this is just another reason unlimited cantrips was a bad idea.

I posted and posted about the effect of Create Water in a desert culture, but sadly Jason didn't listen.

Did the beta version of Create Water have the following line:

"This water disappears after 1 day if not consumed."
If not, do you still hold the same opinion of the effect of this spell on desert cultures?

Short answer: Yes.

Water can be consumed by all sorts of things, not just humans. Melon beds spring to mind.

All the druid needs to do is irrigate some watermelons via magic and the tribe has no need to seek out an oasis.

This doesn't even get into what happens when the water is put into watertight barrels and disappears. Do they implode? Is it replaced with air? Can you sabotage an enemy ship by arranging for their ballast water to disappear one day out?

Relics & Rituals has a nice neat little cantrip called Dowsing, that lets a bard, cleric or druid locate potable water. IMHO, Create Water is a nice spell as a 1st level spell, but shouldn't be left as a cantrip unless you want all your 1st level clerics and druids to double as a Decanter of Endless Water.

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