Incorporeality and Weapons treated as "magic for the purpose of ..."


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72 people marked this as FAQ candidate. Answered in the FAQ. 3 people marked this as a favorite.

I've seen a question pop up in a few threads about whether weapons "treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction" (e.g., a Monk's Unarmed Strikes at 4th level, the Natural Attacks of a Monster with DR/Magic, the Eldritch Claws feat, non-magical ammunition fired from a magical projectile weapon, etc.) can, without any other effect or augmentation, cause damage to creatures with the Incorporeal condition.

Creatures with the incorporeal condition do not have a physical body. Incorporeal creatures are immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Incorporeal creatures take half damage (50%) from magic weapons, spells, spell-like effects, and supernatural effects. Incorporeal creatures take full damage from other incorporeal creatures and effects, as well as all force effects.

I believe the pure, "words on the page" reading is that weapons treated as magic for the purpose of DR should not be able to harm incorporeal creatures. It seems a little strange that a Glabrezu wouldn't be able to harm a Shadow with any of its weapons, but a straight reading does certainly say that. I think a lot of people have feeling and probably always assumed that weapons treated as magic for DR should work, so it seems like a possibly common misunderstanding.

So question:

Are weapons which are treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction capable of injuring an incorporeal creature?

I was unable to find a definitive answer on this, so perhaps my google-fu has failed me. If there's a clear developer answer, please enlighten me. Otherwise, is this simply a common misunderstanding that most people have simply overlooked or is it FAQ-worthy?

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

FAQ'd.

My Saurian Shaman would love it if the dinosaurs he summons via Sunlight Summons could pound away Ghosts and Shadows.


FAQ'd as well. This seems like an inertial change since incorporeality was changed for 3.0, but DR was changed for 3.5, then incorporeality changed again for PRG.


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For those interested in discussing it, please feel free to do so here.

From the other incorporeality thread, Nefreet asked that these two posts be brought over since they basically state the two positions involved.

Mathwei ap Niall wrote:
Nefreet wrote:

There are obviously people that disagree with that point of view.

And they're in the right, technically, because "for the purposes of" is a limiting statement.

If I had a weapon that "counts as cold iron when fighting demons", is that weapon going to help me fight fey?

No.

And so, similarly, things that "count as magic for one purpose" don't necessarily count as magic for other purposes.

TINY NINJA HIDES IN CLOVER!!

+1 to this.

If it has a limiting statement on the description it should only work under the conditions laid out there. Here it says it's only against DR, which is a defined game term, Incorporeal is a different game defined term.
The two are separate conditions so no, it should not allow you to hit something incorporeal.

The literal interpretation is that these weapons are treated as magic for the stated purpose and the stated purpose only.

Majuba wrote:
Nefreet wrote:
They count as magic for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction.
Yep - and because they are magic, they can affect incorporeal. That is all that is needed. The test is simple "Is it magic? Then it works." There is not any special "counts as magic to affect incorporeal" trait required.

The more generous interpretation is that the weapons are indeed actually intended to be magical, not just "count" as magical, and so they should count as magical for other purposes, too.

Talk amongst yourselves.

*waives hand dismissively*


Ki Pool is a supernatural ability. Supernatural abilities are technically magic. Ergo, Ki Strike as part of that supernatural class ability, should hit incorporeal creatures like a normal magic weapon.


I don't think that applies, because DR itself is a supernatural ability, but someone with DR/Cold Iron doesn't automatically bypass DR/Magic because of it.

Keep in mind I do think ki strike should hit incorporeal, I just don't think your reason is good enough to prove it.


By the same token, creatures with DR/Magic also have their weapons count as magic for the purpose of overcoming DR/Magic. If DR is supernatural, that would imply the ability to overcome DR/Magic is supernatural.

That obviously wouldn't apply to situations like arrows shot from magical projectile weapons or character taking the Eldritch Claws feat.

If it did work out that way, it would leave us in the unenviable position of having weapons treated as magic for overcoming DR/Magic being handled differently based on the source of the weapons being treated as magic. That would be a bit frustrating.


I don't think it's particularly overpowered or unbalancing to allow these types of weapons to harm incorporeal creatures, especially since they're still subject to the 50% damage reduction (and I have a suspicion that most people feel the same way). If they don't, then natural weapon characters, monks focusing on unarmed strikes, and archers all have to make some pretty substantial financial investments to be on par with similarly situated characters to be able to harm incorporeal creatures.

But literal reading states they don't and I can't see a lot outside of "everybody would prefer that it works the other way" to read it differently. As I mentioned though, it feels odd that a high level demon with natural attacks treated as magical for DR would be utterly incapable of harming a low level undead creature like a shadow with those natural attacks. Similarly, it feels odd that a non-magical arrow shot from a magical bow would be "magic enough" for DR, but not "magic enough" for incorporeality.

But I don't think there's really anyway to tell if the Developers meant the literal restrictions placed on the page (akin to the Sling FAQ - We said "sling" because we meant "sling") or if this is one of those situations where they had far more important things to worry about than trying to guess how literally (or not) we as gamers might interpret language like "treated as magic for the purpose of ..." (akin to the Great Bastard Sword debate of '10 (and '11 and '12 and '13 ...)).


I'll FAQ as well since it doesn't come outright and say it, but I am positive the intent of abilities allowing your weapons to be considered magical for overcoming DR would be applicable in this case as well, due that since being Incorporeal reduces the damage dealt from Magic weapons, one can construe that it's a special form/rule for damage reduction, meaning it's also fair game to say that it overcomes damage reduced from Incorporeal traits as well.

@Bizbag: Not all forms of DR are Supernatural abilities. DR from the Invuln. Rager Barbarian Archetype is an extraordinary ability, and its DR type has only 2 means to bypass it; one is a 16th Level Fighter-Only Feat, the other is an ability that ignores DR altogether (Smite Evil as an example).


I think it really means only "DR", but it is a fair question so I FAQ'd it also. :)


Good FAQ. Means the difference between a ranged character having to stock up on ghost salts or just pretending that shadows have twice as many hit points as they really do.


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I'm in the camp that says "for the purposes of DR" is a limiting factor meaning that it only works for DR, but I can see this being worth an FAQ.


blahpers wrote:
Good FAQ. Means the difference between a ranged character having to stock up on ghost salts or just pretending that shadows have twice as many hit points as they really do.

Well, more like the difference between them having to stock up on those or just pretending Shadows have infinite HP.

Dark Archive

Rynjin wrote:
blahpers wrote:
Good FAQ. Means the difference between a ranged character having to stock up on ghost salts or just pretending that shadows have twice as many hit points as they really do.

Well, more like the difference between them having to stock up on those or just pretending Shadows have infinite HP.

Actually it's more like the difference between burning a little cash for fighting this one type of opponent or running away. Like every other non-magical character type in the game.


What I meant was, either the archer has to buy ghost salts for his non magic arrows or he can rely on his magic bow to deliver half damage and not waste space, time, and money on ghost salts.

Dark Archive

blahpers wrote:
What I meant was, either the archer has to buy ghost salts for his non magic arrows or he can rely on his magic bow to deliver half damage and not waste space and money on ghost salts.

Ghost salt and all weapon blanches are already 10 times more efficient for ranged characters then it is for melee (actually it's even better then that).

1 Dose of ghost salt is only good for 1 hit for melee characters or 10 hits for ranged.

Roughly your argument is Melee can usually consistently get half damage vs incorporeal and once per fight do full damage on 1 attack while Ranged will either do full damage on all their attacks and kill it in 1 round or have to switch to a backup weapon.

Still seems like Ranged characters are coming out ahead on this exchange.


I'm not comparing ranged characters to melee characters at all. I'm comparing half damage to no damage. If I have a hard-hitting archer (or, better yet, gunslinger), I may decide that I don't need ghost salts because I have a magic weapon that can do half damage, and half damage may be enough. On top of that, ghost salts take time to apply and space to golf bag, and the party usually doesn't know in advance that they're encountering shadows that day.

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Thought I'd bring this quote over from another thread. It makes me wonder whether or not the PDT is operating under another one of their "unwritten rules" regarding things that count as magic:

Sean K Reynolds (regarding the Sound Striker's Weird Words ability) wrote:
Jonenee Merriex wrote:
Can we clarify whether these are weapons and affected by things like point blank shot, cluster shot, etc?

Update: Yes, these should be rays, and therefore are subject to feats like PBS, Weapon Focus (ray), and so on.

Jonenee Merriex wrote:
Also can we clarify if these are magical?
Yes, these count as magic weapons (such as for overcoming DR, affecting incorporeal creatures, and so on).

(emphasis mine)


Maybe, but it could just be that the "unwritten rule" in that case is that spells are, in fact, magic, even when they behave like weapon attacks. Seems straightforward.

It doesn't seem to suggest an answer on ki strike, because strictly speaking unarmed strikes are not magic; the ability just let's you behave as if they are under certain circumstances. The discussion here is whether one can apply those circumstances more broadly than literally implied.

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

30 FAQ hits so far!

Dark Archive

The people who answer FAQ requests have explicitly said the number of FAQ has absolutely no effect on when or if they answer the question, so please don't encourage spamming of FAQ requests. It just makes their job more difficult and slows things down.


Victor Zajic wrote:
The people who answer FAQ requests have explicitly said the number of FAQ has absolutely no effect on when or if they answer the question, so please don't encourage spamming of FAQ requests. It just makes their job more difficult and slows things down.

No they haven't.

They have said that having multiple posts or threads FAQing the same subject isn't helpful.

FAQing one post as many times as possible is what causes it to get moved up in the queue (it shows up on top more often).

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

^ this.


This issue popped up again when I was messing around with some character builds the other day. Anybody have anything new to add or know if a Developer has made any relevant comments in the last few months?

Liberty's Edge

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fretgod99 wrote:
This issue popped up again when I was messing around with some character builds the other day. Anybody have anything new to add or know if a Developer has made any relevant comments in the last few months?

If it's a build for one of my campaigns, then I provide an emphatic "NO". If someone else's, then I'm certainly agreeable to it.

Silver Crusade

Certainly a valid question, and one that is going to be relevant in an upcoming (homebrew) game at our table very soon, hence my interest. I'm in favor of the 'works for both' generous argument, but I can see the alternative interpretation.

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

It's almost 4 months to the day. Thanks for resurrecting it. I'd completely forgotten this was still pending FAQ.

We're up to 42 FAQ clicks, though!

(and that is the answer to the most important question in the universe)


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Incorporeal and DR are two very different things. Likewise, things that affect incorporeal creatures don't automatically affect DR.

It specifically states DR and that is all. It's clear that these type of weapons do not affect incorporeal creatures

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

FAQ'd! I'm very sure that the RAI is that when a weapon is "magically charged" in such a way that it penetrates DR, it also cuts through an incorporeal creature's defenses the same way an actual magic weapon would. It's probably just an oversight resulting from the historical baggage of many editions with little changes here and there.

But the RAW clearly only allows penetrating DR. If I'm wrong about the RAI, then I must question the designers' intent. Why make incorporeal monsters arbitrarily more difficult for certain characters to fight? As far as game balance, consistency and common sense are concerned, the game designer in me says that it wasn't intentional.

Scarab Sages

FAQd. This is also important for Arcane Strike users, as that imbues the weapon with magic, but also states "counts as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction."


It also matters for monsters with things like DR/evil and DR/good.

It seems like a pit fiend should be able to hit a shadow, but maybe not?


CWheezy wrote:

It also matters for monsters with things like DR/evil and DR/good.

It seems like a pit fiend should be able to hit a shadow, but maybe not?

page 562 CRB states that a +5 weapon overcomes alignment based DR, so any weapon treated as a +5 for the purpose of overcoming DR overcomes DR/good and DR/evil

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
CWheezy wrote:

It also matters for monsters with things like DR/evil and DR/good.

It seems like a pit fiend should be able to hit a shadow, but maybe not?

Indeed. Imagine a one-on-one Shadow vs. Pit Fiend arena battle, where both combatants fight unarmed in an anti-magic zone. The Shadow would have nothing to fear from the Pit Fiend.

Sovereign Court

I personally say weapons/fists/etc that gain the "treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction" condition do not overcome incorporeal DR as that specifically states it requires a magic weapon, not just something "treated" as a magic weapon (but that's just me, and I have strange reasons for deciding as such)

... but I FAQ'ed it because I'd like to know the official ruling.


The old (3.5) FAQ said no to this question. The reasoning is that the inability to affect incorporeal creatures is not DR, it is something else.

Sovereign Court

thorin001 wrote:
The old (3.5) FAQ said no to this question. The reasoning is that the inability to affect incorporeal creatures is not DR, it is something else.

I actually had a WotC staff member as a GM at Winter Fantasy 2005 say that a magic bow firing non-magic arrows couldn't affect an incorporeal creature.

Paizo Employee Official Rules Response

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Ghosts and spectres have been haunting the Paizo offices today. Out of sheer fright, we've released this FAQ (save us monks!)

FAQ wrote:

Incorporeal Creatures and "Counts as Magic": Say I have an attack that counts as magical for the purpose of bypassing damage reduction, such as from the monk's ki pool (magic). Does that mean I can't harm an incorporeal creature at all, since the attack doesn't count as magical for that purpose?

Such attacks should also be able to harm incorporeal creatures as if the attack was magic. This will be reflected in future errata.


Pathfinder Design Team wrote:

Ghosts and spectres have been haunting the Paizo offices today. Out of sheer fright, we've released this FAQ (save us monks!)

FAQ wrote:

Incorporeal Creatures and "Counts as Magic": Say I have an attack that counts as magical for the purpose of bypassing damage reduction, such as from the monk's ki pool (magic). Does that mean I can't harm an incorporeal creature at all, since the attack doesn't count as magical for that purpose?

Such attacks should also be able to harm incorporeal creatures as if the attack was magic. This will be reflected in future errata.

And there was much rejoicing.

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Yay!


*devours a minstrel in celebration*

Scarab Sages

Woot! Let's hear it for the monk love! Now, about the Brawling enhancement and Bracers of Armor... (ducking as I type) :>D.


Woo, ghost-punching monks FTW!

Paizo Employee Designer

Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
Woo, ghost-punching monks FTW!

Yup, this is especially useful for the Spirit Master monk archetype's Spirit Combat ability. Full damage to incorporeals now for all you Spirit Masters!


I like this answer, because it's clearly a good ruling, but it also acknowledges that the words-as-written did not really say that.

Paizo Employee Designer

seebs wrote:
I like this answer, because it's clearly a good ruling, but it also acknowledges that the words-as-written did not really say that.

I am working to make sure we acknowledge when we are clearly contradicting the text. This will not be the case if the text is ambiguous or just fails to answer the question one way or the other, but it will be the case in situations like this one. Look for the "this will be reflected in future errata" tag.


I find this ruling disappointing. Now I can claim that anything that functions as something for one purposes automatically functions for any other unrelated purpose.

There's no reason this shouldn't apply to anything, not just magic.

A special material weapon counts as adamantine for purposes of overcoming DR? That means it counts as adamantine against hardness, which is like DR. That means it counts as being adamantine against Sunder attempts, because that reflects it being as hard as adamantine, even though it's only iron with an ability that makes it count as adamantine for one single purpose. It's a slippery slope.

Paizo Employee Designer

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The FAQ has the scope that the FAQ says it has. In this case, the scope is incorporeality and counting as magic, no more, but also no less.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Pizza Lord wrote:
It's a slippery slope.

Not after Mark salts the slope like he just did.


I can accept that.


I think in this case it's pretty clear that they are not proposing any kind of general rule that "for the purposes of X" also means "for other purposes", but rather, that in this particular case, those powers should work against incorporeal targets.

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