What spells do you consider to be "breakers"???


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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I like your plan to turn certain spells that have a dramatic impact on the game into rituals. As you mentioned, other games (notably D&D 4e) have used similar mechanics to good effect.

Personally, I would not make any of the following spells into rituals. I'm happy to give my reasons for each spell, if you care to know.
Black Tentacles (4) –
Dimension Door (4) –
Freedom of Movement (4) –
Globe of Invulnerability (4,6) –
Invisibility, Greater (4) –
Solid Fog (4) –
Stoneskin (4) –
Discern Lies (4) – Inferior to having a character with a high Sense Motive skill.
Feeblemind (5) –
Flame Strike (5) –
Polymorph (5,7) –
Wall of Force (5) –
Wall of Iron (6) –
Disintegrate (6) –
Dispel Magic, Greater (6) –
Forcecage (7) –

The mind control spells, should you make them into rituals, I suggest leaving a "regular" version in the game and simply lowering the duration dramatically.
Geas, Lesser (4) – Change from weeks to hours/level.
Dominate Person (5) – Change from days to minutes/level.

The divination spells are intentionally limited so that they rarely break mysteries, with rules like "yes/no" answers only, one word answers, unreliability, and long casting times. They're already essentially rituals, so I see no reason why you couldn't shift their requirements into your preferred ritual system.
Divination (4) –
Commune (5) –
Scrying (4|5) –

I definitely agree that spells capable of raising the dead should be rituals. I'm undecided on Restoration, since once you've made the others into rituals, converting Restoration as well seems punitive.
Restoration (2, 4, 7) –
Raise Dead (5) –
Resurrection (7,9) –

I agree on the major conjuration spells as well, with one exception.
Gate (9) –
Planar Travel (5) –
Teleport (5,7) – Sometimes the only way to avoid a TPK or near-TPK is to retreat, and at high levels there are a lot of situations that don't allow for any form of mundane retreat. Teleport can be the only recourse, and since it generally means abandoning the mission, it doesn't really break stories when used that way. I suggest keeping a "normal" version in the game as an escape plan, perhaps with an additional limitation, perhaps it takes you "to safety" but you don't get to choose the place, so you may end up in the nearest town, or a nice meadow with no indication of where you are, etc.


At lower levels, player's don't have access to the higher level divination spells, so you can build a lot of mystery then. At higher levels, I have been actually writing plots where I want the PCs to try using these divination spells. To learn to think of magic solutions to problems without busting down the door and killing people. That's why they are higher level; challenges they once couldn't solve at all can be solved.

In a recent game I GMed, a PC's brother-in-law was murdered; one of the PCs thought to raise dead him. But the 5k gp is a steep cost at lvl 4. Thus prevented the party from doing so.

If you don't want the PCs using these spells, you need to be aware of their existence when writing a campaign for PCs. You've identified them, so now think of ways to hide things. Speak with Dead only works if the corpse isn't destroyed. There are loads of spells to protect against scrying/detecting alignment. A sneaky enemy who's more political will probably employ these protections.


Journ-O-LST-3 wrote:

Being a narcissist I prefer to use Simulacrum for orgies.

Or sell them, a seventh level wizard thing is worth quite a bit I'd assume.

Or franchises. There's a wizard in my game who's set up shop in every important city in Numeria. He specializes in low level crafting and transport/shipping.

Which reminds me: Summon Monster III.
Because you can use it to get creatures with greater teleport at will. Who can be given bags of holding with things inside. Or people holding their breath.

summoned creatures can't teleport.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
Journ-O-LST-3 wrote:

Being a narcissist I prefer to use Simulacrum for orgies.

Or sell them, a seventh level wizard thing is worth quite a bit I'd assume.

Or franchises. There's a wizard in my game who's set up shop in every important city in Numeria. He specializes in low level crafting and transport/shipping.

Which reminds me: Summon Monster III.
Because you can use it to get creatures with greater teleport at will. Who can be given bags of holding with things inside. Or people holding their breath.

summoned creatures can't teleport.

Not true, summoned creatures cannot summon, the rules do not prohibit teleportation.

Shadow Lodge

Alexis Jefferson wrote:
If you don't want the PCs using these spells, you need to be aware of their existence when writing a campaign for PCs. You've identified them, so now think of ways to hide things. Speak with Dead only works if the corpse isn't destroyed. There are loads of spells to protect against scrying/detecting alignment. A sneaky enemy who's more political will probably employ these protections.

Exactly. You don't even need to nullify divinations most of the time, just work with them. I'm currently running a mystery-heavy game with a diviner wizard. I know his spell list, I know what spells he can access using scrolls or contacts, and I plan on him casting those spells. I recently made use of his constant detect scrying ability to point him at a BBEG who was trying to lay low - the BBEG scried on the diviner not knowing that the diviner was going to get a look at the BBEG in the process. Rather than breaking the mystery the ability was a useful clue-delivery-device.

Commune tells you the cleric of Cyth-V'sug isn't responsible for the poisoned mushrooms in the nobles' food? That's one red herring out of the way, but you've still got to figure out the real culprit.

Divination gives you a vision of the evil amulet animating the corpses on a patch of land? Now you will have an easier time researching where it comes from and how to destroy it once you defeat the BBEG using it.

Blood Biography tells you that the mysterious "elven huntsman" is actually a fey? Now you'll be slightly more effective when you negotiate with him, and have the right weapons on hand in case he tries to double-cross you.

Forensic technology gives RL detectives access to all sorts of information that detectives didn't have in the time of Sherlock Holmes, but murder mysteries still work as a genre.

On the topic of death and NPCs, maybe there are social/political consequences for being known to have been raised from the dead. Maybe the common people don't believe you can actually retrieve a soul from the land of the dead, and that a Raised person is a sophisticated fake? Maybe once you're legally dead your lands, titles, and possessions are distributed to your inheritors and being raised doesn't change that (perhaps there was a scandal with a prominent person being repeatedly reincarnated to hold onto power for several lifetimes). This could complicate things for enemy or friendly NPCs who die. And that's on top of the complications that missing or utterly destroyed bodies can cause.

If you're worried about the PCs getting blase about their own deaths, either use the above or use stakes other than personal death. Maybe the priceless piece or art or magical artifact will be irrevocably destroyed if the PCs fail at their task, or a whole village will be wiped out (can't raise them all), or the PC will fail to gain entry into an elite organization.


BiggDawg wrote:
Not true, summoned creatures cannot summon, the rules do not prohibit teleportation.

Re-read the summon monster spell. It's there rather than in the magic chapter.


BiggDawg wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
Journ-O-LST-3 wrote:

Being a narcissist I prefer to use Simulacrum for orgies.

Or sell them, a seventh level wizard thing is worth quite a bit I'd assume.

Or franchises. There's a wizard in my game who's set up shop in every important city in Numeria. He specializes in low level crafting and transport/shipping.

Which reminds me: Summon Monster III.
Because you can use it to get creatures with greater teleport at will. Who can be given bags of holding with things inside. Or people holding their breath.

summoned creatures can't teleport.
Not true, summoned creatures cannot summon, the rules do not prohibit teleportation.

They can't teleport either.

Quote:
A summoned monster cannot summon or otherwise conjure another creature, nor can it use any teleportation or planar travel abilities.


BiggDawg wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
Journ-O-LST-3 wrote:

Being a narcissist I prefer to use Simulacrum for orgies.

Or sell them, a seventh level wizard thing is worth quite a bit I'd assume.

Or franchises. There's a wizard in my game who's set up shop in every important city in Numeria. He specializes in low level crafting and transport/shipping.

Which reminds me: Summon Monster III.
Because you can use it to get creatures with greater teleport at will. Who can be given bags of holding with things inside. Or people holding their breath.

summoned creatures can't teleport.
Not true, summoned creatures cannot summon, the rules do not prohibit teleportation.

they can't summon, twleport, planar travel, or use spell like abilities that cost gold as spells (wish for example)

Liberty's Edge

Lincoln Hills wrote:
I don't recall ever seeing a thread titled, "Animate rope is destroying my campaign!"

I'm amazed that you posted that on Friday, and there's still no thread with that title...


Blueluck, if you're still watching this thread, I would appreciate knowing why you think those spells don't belong on the list, because some of the ones on your list haven't been discussed by others at all, and others on your list have been mentioned by others as definitely being "breakers".

Thanks to all for your input!


I haven't found Resurrection/Raise Dead to be big problems in my campaigns.

If you really want to assassinate a King. Kill him, raise him as a zombie, and teleport away with him. Not even a wish can bring him back so long as the King is an undead.

Somewhere in the land of bad guys there is a "prison" where the undead bodies of kings, queens, and powerful dignitaries from centuries past are all gathered.

Assaulting this prison - where the prisoners themselves are the enemy - would make for a great adventure! Go and destroy the Wight-Queen so that she may be Resurrected!

Once you start to puzzle out the effect on the world of these "breaker" spells, just start to think like a bad guy. What would the villain do to counter these abilities?

Then...allow the powerful spells to work against most enemies - making these brilliant Arch-Villains the stuff of table talk for years to come.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Wind Walk (Cleric 6, Druid 7) yet as a "story-breaker".

In my campaign, it's killing the travel encounters and "find a large adventure while travelling between points A and B" option. Plus, the party is missing out on a lot of sub-plots because they just whiz by overhead at 60 m.p.h.

I've tried to limit the use of Wind Walk because of the risk of getting lost without successful Survival or Knowledge (Geography) checks, and by pointing out that roads are neither as broad and recognisable from above as they are in RL today, nor are sign posts as clear as today's illuminated motorway signs (if they're there at all).

And I'm seriously thinking of banning it outright in my future campaigns. Or making it available only if the deity/its spell-granting servants think that its use will be crucial for that particular day.


Couldn't you just have aerial encounters between points A and B?

By the time you get Wind Walk your characters are over half way to max level. By that point random encounters and on-the-road pickups should be less prevalent than the 'save the kingdom' issues they will be tackling at that level.

There's also obvious ground-level stuff like burned down forests, active battlefields, huge monsters...not to mention cloud castles, dragons, storm giants; the list is endless.

Sovereign Court

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Can't really think of a particular spell that has stood out. Certainly some of them are better/more useful in certain situations but nothing has just up and broken anything.


Daniel Eastland wrote:

I haven't found Resurrection/Raise Dead to be big problems in my campaigns.

If you really want to assassinate a King. Kill him, raise him as a zombie, and teleport away with him. Not even a wish can bring him back so long as the King is an undead.

Somewhere in the land of bad guys there is a "prison" where the undead bodies of kings, queens, and powerful dignitaries from centuries past are all gathered.

Assaulting this prison - where the prisoners themselves are the enemy - would make for a great adventure! Go and destroy the Wight-Queen so that she may be Resurrected!

Once you start to puzzle out the effect on the world of these "breaker" spells, just start to think like a bad guy. What would the villain do to counter these abilities?

Then...allow the powerful spells to work against most enemies - making these brilliant Arch-Villains the stuff of table talk for years to come.

This sounds AWESOME!


Bellona wrote:

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Wind Walk (Cleric 6, Druid 7) yet as a "story-breaker".

In my campaign, it's killing the travel encounters and "find a large adventure while travelling between points A and B" option. Plus, the party is missing out on a lot of sub-plots because they just whiz by overhead at 60 m.p.h.

I've tried to limit the use of Wind Walk because of the risk of getting lost without successful Survival or Knowledge (Geography) checks, and by pointing out that roads are neither as broad and recognisable from above as they are in RL today, nor are sign posts as clear as today's illuminated motorway signs (if they're there at all).

And I'm seriously thinking of banning it outright in my future campaigns. Or making it available only if the deity/its spell-granting servants think that its use will be crucial for that particular day.

Any travel spell could do that. Transport Through Trees (whichever one has the really long-range) could do that.

I think Teleport is the worst of those transport spells. Wind Walking still takes time, and you can still have encounters. IIRC it takes a fair amount of time to turn from gas to solid, so it's even a bit risky.

I don't think skill checks would work as a house balance rule for Wind Walk. Any PC high enough level to cast that spell is competent enough to not get lost. Especially if they're a druid; it's pretty much impossible.


With SOME Gamemasters, even cantrips are a “game breaker’.


I hate detect evil and similar spells. The fact that they require no saving throw is what does me in. I know there are ways of circumnavigating the spell, but not everyone has access to undetectable alignment. Further, that spell seems like a cheap bandaid. I wouldn't have all my bad guys preparing resist energy (fire) solely because my party has a wizard or a sorcerer in it, so why should I have to do virtually the same thing if there's a paladin? I mean, I understand evil folks are gonna want to conceal their nature (so it extends beyond the scope of the party/villain dynamic), but still--not everyone's gonna have the spell active (whether because it is cost-restrictive, or because they simply aren't aware of it's existence).


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DrDeth wrote:
With SOME Gamemasters, even cantrips are a “game breaker’.

I once broke a one shot adventure by casting mending on a broken wheel. The caravan was supposed to be stranded in the middle of the forest (the plot hook). When I fixed it, we just left. The end.

The Exchange

Detect Magic's anecdote is a particularly poignant example of the problems we GMs have to grapple with. The existence of spells that can undo so many harms and fix so many difficulties is great for the PCs, and for those NPCs who can afford them, but it's a perpetual pain in the butt when it comes to scripting adventures. I can't count the number of times I've said to myself, "This will be very fun!... except that the PCs will solve it in six seconds if they have Spell X." Strangely enough, I've started having the same problem with any adventure that relies on not knowing an obscure fact - because there's a fifth-level Bard in the party who knows what Cayden had for breakfast eighteen days before his apotheosis.

Sovereign Court

Detect Magic wrote:
DrDeth wrote:
With SOME Gamemasters, even cantrips are a “game breaker’.
I once broke a one shot adventure by casting mending on a broken wheel. The caravan was supposed to be stranded in the middle of the forest (the plot hook). When I fixed it, we just left. The end.

Here is a way to fix that plot hook. A wheel on one of the wagons breaks, sending the cargo tumbling down the side of a small cliff. The caravan workers have to spend a fair amount of time collecting the cargo, repacking it, AND fix the wheel.


Yea, but the DM folded his hand, haha.


I'm happy to oblige.

Flame Strike (5) – This is just an area effect damage spell that's available to divine casters. It allows a reflex save, spell resistance, and is 50% vulnerable to energy resistance. Arcane spellcasters have a dozen more powerful options, so taking Flame Strike away only eliminates your divine casters from the fun, not change the course of a campaign.

All of these are single target spells that allow saves. They're each good against the right target, but unless you plan to eliminate all "save or lose" spells, these aren't particularly egregious:
Feeblemind (5) –
Disintegrate (6) –
Forcecage (7) –

These are all good battlefield control spells, but they don't alter campaigns, or even win fights on their own:
Black Tentacles (4) – Pin down some enemies so your friends get advantage over them in combat. Isn't that exactly the kind of behavior you would want in a spellcaster?
Solid Fog (4) –
Wall of Force (5) – Divide and conquer is a great strategy for a party, but like all battlefield control spells, it takes a whole party to both "divide" and "conquer".
Wall of Iron (6) –

Each of these is a short duration buff:
Invisibility, Greater (4) – Cast on an ally, particularly a rogue, this spell just spreads out power through the party. Used on the caster, it's just a round used up on defense rather than offense.
Polymorph (5,7) – Again, spreading power throughout the party is a good thing!
Freedom of Movement (4) – In a fairly narrow set of circumstances, this spell is great! Great, because it lets a player keep taking actions when they'd otherwise be sitting at the table frustrated.
Globe of Invulnerability (4,6) – Are you really worried about mid-level characters becoming temporarily immune to low-level spells?

Discern Lies (4) – Inferior to having a character with a high Sense Motive skill. Since it doesn't compel anyone to speak, doesn't last long, it doesn't really prevent a party from being lied to. What it most often does is prove that an honest NPC is honest, which can actually be a help to GMs with overly suspicious players.

Dimension Door (4) – DD is usually an escape plan, not an attack, and taking away escape plans just makes players more cautious. Yes, it's possible to use DD to circumvent a threat in some situations, but those situations are fairly rare.


Detect Magic wrote:
I hate detect evil and similar spells. The fact that they require no saving throw is what does me in. I know there are ways of circumnavigating the spell, but not everyone has access to undetectable alignment.

Read the spell.

Best way of “getting around it”.

It likely doesn't do what you think it does.


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I'm really glad to see so many DMs who incorporate high-level magic into their adventure design, rather than considering it "game breaking" and thinking to ban it.

One of the best parts about D&D is how the game changes as you level. My longest-running game as a player went from 1-20 over 2 years of weekly games, and the reason it stayed fresh was the way in which the game evolved as we leveled.

At the low levels you're riding horses over the countryside and worrying about bandits you may encounter on the road. Or random bears or tigers (man those things are mean!)

At the mid-levels you're being introduced to kings, you're taking griffons or hippogriffs across country to reach the coast in time to turn back enemy armies.

And at the high-levels you're opening portals into other planes to recover pieces of ancient artifacts to re-seal Dark Gods. You're negotiating with efreets in the City of Brass to acquire lost talismans. You're being visited by Gods asking you to throw in with them against the forces of Eternal Darkness.

The game evolves, and the best DMs don't fight it, they evolve with it.


@ DrDeth: Not sure what you're referring to, unless you mean the HD limitations. In which case, I am reading it right. Care to elaborate?


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Lincoln Hills wrote:
Detect Magic's anecdote is a particularly poignant example of the problems we GMs have to grapple with. The existence of spells that can undo so many harms and fix so many difficulties is great for the PCs, and for those NPCs who can afford them, but it's a perpetual pain in the butt when it comes to scripting adventures.

that's why high level adventures can't be scripted. Railroading works great in the low levels, but when you level up into double digits, sandboxes work better


Well put, lord pendragon


Detect Magic wrote:
@ DrDeth: Not sure what you're referring to, unless you mean the HD limitations. In which case, I am reading it right. Care to elaborate?

Yes, exactly. The HD limits. Do you really have a problem with high level BBEG just wandering around town, to have their Evil plans spoiled by those pesky kids and their Detect Evil spells?

The Exchange

gustavo iglesias wrote:
...that's why high level adventures can't be scripted. Railroading works great in the low levels, but when you level up into double digits, sandboxes work better

Possibly so, but I'm not even talking about the adventures that PCs can have: I'm talking about the fact that every 2-3 levels, many adventures that could have been great have to be put aside (at best, saved for some later low-level campaign) because there is a six-second solution. In fact, if PCs purchase the spellcasting services of NPCs with particular care, even lower-level parties can bypass entire adventures - replacing an evening of fun with five minutes of boredom. Get what I'm saying?


I get what you are saying, but my advice is the same. Just don't script


DrDeth wrote:
Detect Magic wrote:
@ DrDeth: Not sure what you're referring to, unless you mean the HD limitations. In which case, I am reading it right. Care to elaborate?
Yes, exactly. The HD limits. Do you really have a problem with high level BBEG just wandering around town, to have their Evil plans spoiled by those pesky kids and their Detect Evil spells?

Yea, when they're trigger happy and wanna kill everything that "pings". Pelor forbid I want to use an evil NPC of more than 4 HD. Sometimes they're not murderers... just jerks.


Detect Magic wrote:
I hate detect evil

I actually don't have much problem with Detect Evil. Knowing your enemy, or knowing he's evil, is really only a small part of the problem.

Consider Superman. He knows Lex Luthor is evil. He knows the man is his enemy. And he literally has the power to move mountains. But he can't just waltz into LexCorp and kill the man.

Detect Evil is at best a confirmation of something the PCs have already figured out, and at worst the source of a red herring that may obscure the true villain even more.


Lincoln Hills wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
...that's why high level adventures can't be scripted. Railroading works great in the low levels, but when you level up into double digits, sandboxes work better
Possibly so, but I'm not even talking about the adventures that PCs can have: I'm talking about the fact that every 2-3 levels, many adventures that could have been great have to be put aside (at best, saved for some later low-level campaign) because there is a six-second solution

I guess part of this comes down to what you enjoy. I would get bored chasing bandits for an entire campaign. I don't want to ride horses and worry about sleeping in the forest at level 16. I want to worry about the plots of archfiends and whether or not that crystal phial we broke was really the necromancer's philactery.

If you truly wish to play low-level adventures and only low-level adventures, you might consider having a talk with your gaming group. Maybe they're okay with that. In that case you could just slow down leveling and reboot whenever you reach level 6 or so.

Quote:
In fact, if PCs purchase the spellcasting services of NPCs with particular care, even lower-level parties can bypass entire adventures - replacing an evening of fun with five minutes of boredom. Get what I'm saying?

I have to admit I've never come across this problem. I've never played or run a game where NPC casters were common. This may have to do with the fact that I mostly play/run homebrews.


My problem with it is that it reveals the nature of an NPC before they are able to act on their ulterior motives. Unless I use a countermeasure, I'm unable to have the NPC deal directly with the PCs, else run the risk of becoming found out. It removes the element of surprise, effectively killing some element of suspense within the story. Also, the party will be overly suspicious of every NPC that "pings".


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Detect Magic wrote:
DrDeth wrote:
Detect Magic wrote:
@ DrDeth: Not sure what you're referring to, unless you mean the HD limitations. In which case, I am reading it right. Care to elaborate?
Yes, exactly. The HD limits. Do you really have a problem with high level BBEG just wandering around town, to have their Evil plans spoiled by those pesky kids and their Detect Evil spells?
Yea, when they're trigger happy and wanna kill everything that "pings". Pelor forbid I want to use an evil NPC of more than 4 HD. Sometimes they're not murderers... just jerks.

Honestly, that seems more like a problem with the party than a problem with the spell.

On top of some of the other suggestions, one could always take advantage of the fact that character's don't necessarily have to be black-and-white cardboard cutouts. Perhaps the evil nobleman wants to help out the party because if they fail the kingdom/universe/whatever will be destroyed, and all his stuff is there. Maybe the lawful good cleric thinks that the party must be sacrificed for the Greater Good.

The bottom line is, good characters might have their own reasons to oppose the party, and bad guys might have their own reasons to help them. It makes Detect Evil much less game-breaking if you don't have all non-evil characters be allies, and all evil ones be enemies.


My issue is with the setting breakers.

If you can figure out a way for a BBEG to take over a country with a relatively low level spell that spell can not coexist with a setting that contains countries that aren't under the control of BBEGs.

Charm Person is the worst offender, but Charm Monster is also low enough level to cause problems.

Fun breakers are another problem. Any spell that would have a player sitting out a combat is a bad spell unless you have each player running multiple characters.


@ Chengar Qordath: Alright, perhaps I misrepresented my group. They're not always trigger happy, but detect evil does cause problems. Most groups, I imagine (mine included), are going to be really suspicious of evil NPCs. They kind of assume that the NPC is an enemy and will likely refuse to work with 'em unless the stakes are really high.


@ Atarlost: I'd say color spray and sleep easily qualify as "fun breakers" at early levels. Unless you pack your day with tons of encounters, these spells allow the party's spellcaster to trivialize the game and render the other characters bystanders (especially since low CR monsters tend to have really bad saves). Doesn't last long, but still--it's kind of a bummer to drop half or more of the combatants in one action.


Detect Magic wrote:
@ Atarlost: I'd say color spray and sleep easily qualify as "fun breakers" at early levels. Unless you pack your day with tons of encounters, these spells allow the party's spellcaster to trivialize the game and render the other characters bystanders (especially since low CR monsters tend to have really bad saves). Doesn't last long, but still--it's kind of a bummer to drop half or more of the combatants in one action.

The PC wizard has to drop all the NPCs for the other PCs to be sitting out the fight, and if that happens it's a one round fight.

When an NPC drops a PC with one spell early in the fight the spell only has to drop one target to cause a problem and the fight is probably not going to be over in one round.


Atarlost wrote:

If you can figure out a way for a BBEG to take over a country with a relatively low level spell that spell can not coexist with a setting that contains countries that aren't under the control of BBEGs.

Charm Person is the worst offender, but Charm Monster is also low enough level to cause problems.

There are plenty of counters that would protect a sensible country from being taken over by an evil wizard with Charm Person. If you're trying to influence a king, he gets a Will save, and an opposed charisma check to stop him doing anything he wouldn't normally do (and charisma is likely to be the king's highest stat). And there's the royal cleric who casts Protection from Evil on him once a day, and the royal bodyguard who'll notice that someone is casting a spell on the king and stab him right away, and the paladin who protects the court and warns the king of evil courtiers with 5+HD...


Matthew Downie wrote:
Atarlost wrote:

If you can figure out a way for a BBEG to take over a country with a relatively low level spell that spell can not coexist with a setting that contains countries that aren't under the control of BBEGs.

Charm Person is the worst offender, but Charm Monster is also low enough level to cause problems.

There are plenty of counters that would protect a sensible country from being taken over by an evil wizard with Charm Person. If you're trying to influence a king, he gets a Will save, and an opposed charisma check to stop him doing anything he wouldn't normally do (and charisma is likely to be the king's highest stat). And there's the royal cleric who casts Protection from Evil on him once a day, and the royal bodyguard who'll notice that someone is casting a spell on the king and stab him right away, and the paladin who protects the court and warns the king of evil courtiers with 5+HD...

a simple dc 25 sense motive check will notice someone is charmed. Dispel magic is low level enough to be easliy accessible

The Exchange

Yes, there are ways around the problems charm person presents - among other things, the royal bodyguards will probably not stop to make a Spellcraft check before filling a stranger who starts spellcasting in the throne room full of poisoned arrows.

But this isn't a thread about the many, many defensive measures that specific spells require - it's about which spells cause the GM headaches by the fact of their existence. And I'd definitely rate charm person above, say, reduce person on that list.


This is all great stuff (even the sidelines). I will be posting a summary/conclusion of everything by Friday at the latest.

I would like to focus on one spell, Black Tentacles. I've heard it described (elsewhere) as an "I win" spell, and yet others think it's not that bad. Here's the Pathfinder specs :

1. 40' diameter area - that could catch a LOT of people.
2. Everybody, every round, must avoid a +12(min) CMB grapple that does not provoke an AoO.
3. Once grappled, you take 5-10 HP every round. You can't do anything until you break free of the grapple, whose CMD is +22 minimum.
4. While ungrappled, you can only move at half-speed to get out of the area. While moving, see #2.
5. Attacking the tentacles is pointless, only a Dispel Magic gets rid of it (very specific counterspell).

Ok, so please tell me why you think this is a battle-breaker, or why this is not a battle-breaker?


It denies lots of poeple actions and even those who do save are moving at half movement. If they are free and if they cant get out on their turn then they risk being grappled again.

The CMB of the tentacles is likely to be 11 at level 7 (4 str+1 size+6int/cha). Ewuivalent CMD's of no full BaB classes are not very high. A level 7 wizard say is probably looking at 10+3dex-2str+5bab so you only need a 5 to grab them. It may be a couple of points higher if they didnt dump strength aggresively or have a ring of protection but its still a good chance of being grabbed.

The spell does have weaknesses when used against monsters, especially large brute types like Giants and Ogres which is why you dont use it against them. You dont try and Glitterdust the enemy cleric, you dont try and Baleful Polymorph the Druid and you dont Black Tentacles the giants.

Having said all of that the spell does fall off fairly quickly as you level up as your CMB with it will not keep pace with CMD.


Black Tentacles can definitely be scary against low-CMD opponents, but since grapples ultimately depend on beating CMD, they just can't keep up against most entries in the bestiary. This especially so with the tentacles, since their progression is limited 5 + Caster level. Even if you typically face humanoids with class levels, raising caster level is a lot harder than raising CMD, so tentacles will tend to taper off pretty quickly (Not to mention that higher-level are more likely to have access to things that can just completely negate grappling).

Like andreww pointed out, who your typical opponents are is a big factor in how effective Black Tentacles will be. A quick look at the CR 7 creatures in the bestiary shows everything from CMD 20 on the Medusa to CMD 38 on a Huge Air Elemental. Encounter design also factors in: like most big AoEs, Black Tentacles is much better if the GM favors large hordes of lower-CR enemies over a smaller number of high CR ones.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Atarlost wrote:

If you can figure out a way for a BBEG to take over a country with a relatively low level spell that spell can not coexist with a setting that contains countries that aren't under the control of BBEGs.

Charm Person is the worst offender, but Charm Monster is also low enough level to cause problems.

There are plenty of counters that would protect a sensible country from being taken over by an evil wizard with Charm Person. If you're trying to influence a king, he gets a Will save, and an opposed charisma check to stop him doing anything he wouldn't normally do (and charisma is likely to be the king's highest stat). And there's the royal cleric who casts Protection from Evil on him once a day, and the royal bodyguard who'll notice that someone is casting a spell on the king and stab him right away, and the paladin who protects the court and warns the king of evil courtiers with 5+HD...

You're just not imaginative enough.

You don't need to charm the king if you can charm his advisors. The spell has a multi-day duration. A competent wizard or sorcerer can keep quite a few people under his control.

You don't need to control the emperor if you control the head of the praetorian guard. You don't need to control the doge if you control 60% of the council of ten. You don't need to control the president if you control enough bankers.

If nothing else you can wander around causing continuous peasant uprisings and riots until the economy collapses and then pick up the pieces. Craft a few wands of charm person, charm some patsies with UMD, and set them to work. There's no counter.


Atarlost wrote:


You're just not imaginative enough.

You don't need to charm the king if you can charm his advisors.

Anyone can sense the advisor is Charmed with a DC 25 Sense Motive check.


Thats why you dont use charm you use suggestion to control from the shadows.


Ok, thanks to all the discussions I've been able to clarify the concept of "breakers", which might be better thought of as "short-circuits", or as Lincoln Hills said, "DM headaches" :

Battle-breaker : affects multiple people, for the entire battle; not 1 round/level, not single-person (either immunity or take-down)
Story-breaker : transports many people quickly, or information instantly, especially if range is “infinite”
Mystery-breaker : gives correct information too easily, especially if range is “infinite”
Death-breaker : removes fear of death (and maybe of negative levels) from the players
Counterspell-breaker : has a limited number of options for negating or getting around the spell
Whether or not the spell has a save is not a factor!

Finally, some spells are going to be rituals just because they should take a long time and involve some risk. Plane Shift just seems like it should be more involved than taking a standard action and bam, you're there. Going to another plane of existance should be tough, and dangerous, and not something you just do on a whim.

Alexis Jefferson made a good point about mystery breakers, that you can work them in to the plot at higher levels. And Blueluck pointed out that sometimes you have to consider whether a spell is useful because it keeps a player active in the melee.

Keep in mind that some of the "breaker" labels in the following were assigned by others, not me. Also that this list is for spells that are going to become "rituals", not banned (with 2 exceptions).

* = definitely; + = probably; ? = can’t decide

* Black Tentacles (4) – battle breaker
+ Charm Monster (4) – story breaker
? Dimension Door (4) – story breaker [but can also prevent TPK]
+ Divination (4) – mystery breaker
? Freedom of Movement (4) – battle breaker
* Geas, Lesser (4) – can “dominate” for a week
? Globe of Invulnerability (4,6) – battle breaker
+ Invisibility, Greater (4) – counterspell breaker; high stealth, spellcasters can attack at long range
* Plane Shift (5|7) – just because it shouldn’t be quick&easy
* Reincarnate (4) – death breaker
* Restoration (2, 4=perm. negative level, 7) – death breaker
+ Scrying (4|5) – mystery breaker, story breaker (infinite range & auto-finds target)
+ Sending (4) – story breaker (infinite distance!)
* Solid Fog (4) – battle/counterspell breaker (severely cripples & only Gust of Wind or Dispel Magic counters)

+ Commune (5) – mystery breaker
+ Contact other plane (5) – mystery breaker
* Dominate Person (5) – total LONG TERM control
* Permanency (5) – just because it shouldn’t be quick&easy
* Planar binding (5,6,8) – just because it shouldn’t be quick&easy
* Planar Travel (5,psi) – story breaker
* Raise Dead (5) – death breaker
* Teleport (5,7) – story breaker (battle avoider, but can also prevent TPK)
? Wall of Force (5) – battle breaker, counterspell breaker

+ Circle of Death (6) – battle breaker
* Create Undead (6) – just because it shouldn’t be quick&easy
? Dispel Magic, Greater (6) – battle breaker (de-buff)
+ Wall of Iron (6) – battle breaker
* Wind Walk (6|7) – story breaker

* Resurrection (7,9) – death breaker
* Simulacrum (7) – story breaker (should probably be banned!)
* Wish, Limited (7) – everything breaker

* Antimagic Field (8) – battle breaker

* Dominate Monster (9) – total LONG TERM control
* Gate (9) – story breaker, battle breaker
* Mage’s Disjunction (9) – omni-breaker (should probably be banned!)
* Wish (9) – just because it shouldn’t be quick&easy
* Miracle (9) – just because it shouldn’t be quick&easy
* Teleportation circle (9) – story breaker
* Tsunami (9) – battle breaker
* Ride the Lightning (9) – story breaker, battle breaker, counterspell breaker

And because of the better definitions of "breakers", the following spells are NOT considered breakers anymore :

Death ward (4) – battle breaker [single effect]
Discern Lies (4) – mystery breaker [no better than good Sense Motive bonus]
Emergency Force Sphere (4) – battle breaker [short term]
Enervation (4) – battle breaker [temporary]
Locate Creature (4) – mystery breaker [400 foot range]
Resilient Sphere (4) – battle breaker, counterspell breaker [single target]
Stoneskin (4) – battle breaker [single target]
Feeblemind (5) – spellcaster breaker [single target]
Flame Strike (5) – battle breaker [small area]
Overland flight (5) – story breaker [one person]
Slay Living (5) – battle breaker (melee touch, Fort save, 12d6/3d6 + 10) [single target]
True Seeing (5) – mystery breaker [too handy for other melee things]
Disintegrate (6) – battle breaker [single target]
Forcecage (7) – battle breaker, counterspell breaker [single target, 1 rnd/lvl]
Invisibility, Mass (7) – story breaker
Energy drain (9) – battle breaker [single target]

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