Spell-Like Abilities While Paralyzed


Rules Questions

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Sounds simple enough. From what I understand, a spell-like ability functions pretty much like a spell with no components, and as stated in the description of being paralyzed, you may perform purely mental actions such as casting a spell with no components. So far so good.

However, casting a spell with no components, or using a spell-like ability provokes an attack of opportunity. If I adhere to the RAW, then if a paralyzed, threatened character uses a spell-like ability, it will draw an attack of opportunity. Only this doesn't make any sense; he's just standing there whether he acts mentally or not.

Is this an oversight in the rules? Did I miss something? Or does this make sense to someone who can explain it to me? Why would a creature who performs a purely mental action provoke an attack of opportunity?


You may wish to try the rules forum instead as this is not a pfs specific question.

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Pirate Rob wrote:
You may wish to try the rules forum instead as this is not a pfs specific question.

True, looks like it's been moved though. :)

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

If it provokes an Attack of Opportunity, it probably isn't a purely mental action. It doesn't have verbal, material, or somatic components, but there has to be some (untyped) action occurring which provokes the AoO. I would say you probably cannot use most SLA while paralyzed, unless they are affected by Quicken Spell-like Ability or a similar effect.


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Yes, they can use SLAs while paralyzed. AoOs from SLAs are, if I recall correctly, strictly there for game balance reason. That they're paralyzed doesn't really change how odd it is that they provoke anyways.


The more I think about this, the more it seems to me that it would make more sense for a paralyzed creature to automatically provoke on their turn rather than a paralyzed creature not provoking when using a SPA. My reasoning is that an attack of opportunity is just taking advantage of an opponent letting down their defenses because they are distracted by some other action. Since a paralyzed character cannot defend themselves that opportunity is always there. I think it would be pretty terrible though in terms of game balance if a paralyzed creature did provoke every time their turn came up.


I'm going to go out on a limb and say you can't use a spell-like ability while paralyzed.

Here's my reasoning:

A paralyzed character is frozen in place and unable to move or act. (Core Rulebook 568)

Combatants act in initiative order (highest to lowest). (Core Rulebook 178).

In many places the rules use 'act' to mean 'perform actions.' Use a spell-like ability is an action. Consider this, the rules state: "Combatants who are unaware at the start of battle don’t get to act in the surprise round." (Core Rulebook 178) I don't think many will argue that using a spell-like ability when surprised is allowed.


The next sentence is the one that allows them to do it while paralyzed.


EDITED: I found an appropriate quote after doing some more digging. Hence, why I said I was climbing out on that limb.

Under Paralysis special ability in Appendix 1: "He may take purely mental actions, such as casting a spell with no components." (Core Rulebook 564)


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It's my belief that that limb has a Dire Woodpecker on it :)


Cheapy wrote:
It's my belief that that limb has a Dire Woodpecker on it :)

No, it was the Infernal Termites that did me in. The quote is found under Special Abilities not Conditions where I would have hoped to have found it.


What makes this whole exercise even funnier is that paralized character Combat casting the SPA.

I will hide in the dark corners of my mind behind the low wall of my ego so as not to provoke from that troll standing next to me... Ala peanut butter sandwiches!. *Poof* the paralyzed mage disappears.

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So, it would seem to maintain game balance, using a SLA or spell with no components will provoke, regardless of if the caster is paralyzed or not.

I'm considering a house rule: Casting while paralyzed requires a Caster Level check with a DC of (15 + spell level), the same as casting on the defensive, and allow the bonus from Combat Casting to apply to this check. If successful, the casting is successful and does not provoke an AoO. So it's basically requiring any paralyzed character cast on the defensive in order to cast at all.


How is a paralyzed caster going to defend himself*? Are you treating it as a bluff check to pretend he is not casting?

*Not from a rules perspective, but an immersion point of view?

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wraithstrike wrote:

How is a paralyzed caster going to defend himself*? Are you treating it as a bluff check to pretend he is not casting?

*Not from a rules perspective, but an immersion point of view?

I'm using the rules for concentration checks while entangled/grappled/etc as a precedent. The idea is the character isn't defending himself, but willing himself to do something he knows he can do while completely motionless but isn't used to. The end result being he casts his spell without anyone knowing he's doing it.

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