Incorporeal Undead VS Healing Magic


Rules Questions


So I'm DMing a party that's fighting a wraith. It's an incorporeal creature, so I've been ruling that all their magic attacks (except for Force Spells and Channel Energy) do 50% damage as stated in the Incorporeal Creature description.

We're playing on Roll20, and one of my players was at a coffee shop when a Regional Pathfinder Society Manager wanders by and informs him that the cure light wounds spells that I've been ruling as doing half-damage should be doing full damage.

So we find a few conflicting discussions. This one says that healing spells don't do their full damage. This one cites the Errata for Bestiary I and says they do.

I checked the errata and couldn't find the entry. I'm pretty sure the PF Society manager would be correct, but I can't find the source. Can anyone help clear this up? It seems like such a simple thing that no one can agree on!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The Society Manger unfortunately has it wrong. In a game system this large, it happens to the best of us.

The ruling you're looking for is Incorporeal under the Universal Monster rules. Relevant text follows.

An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature. Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.

He might be making an assumption that cure spells operate under the channel energy guidelines. That's a DM call.


I agree with LazarX

Grand Lodge

LazarX wrote:

The Society Manger unfortunately has it wrong. In a game system this large, it happens to the best of us.

The ruling you're looking for is Incorporeal under the Universal Monster rules. Relevant text follows.

An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature. Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.

He might be making an assumption that cure spells operate under the channel energy guidelines. That's a DM call.

While it doesn't change the fact that Cure spells only work half as well on incorporeal undead, that's not what my copy of the Bestiary says (nor is it what the PRD says).

Current Bestiary wrote:
Incorporeal (Ex) An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source. Although it is not a magical attack, holy water affects incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature (except for channel energy). Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.

A strict reading of that would seem to imply that even Channel Energy is halved, since it's not mentioned in the "half damage" bit.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I disagree. Cure spells are channeled positive energy. It says so in the spell description:

Cure Light Wounds wrote:
When laying your hand upon a living creature, you channel positive energy that cures 1d8 points of damage + 1 point per caster level (maximum +5). Since undead are powered by negative energy, this spell deals damage to them instead of curing their wounds. An undead creature can apply spell resistance, and can attempt a Will save to take half damage.

So cure spells would do full damage or half if they make the save.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Jeff Merola wrote:
LazarX wrote:

The Society Manger unfortunately has it wrong. In a game system this large, it happens to the best of us.

The ruling you're looking for is Incorporeal under the Universal Monster rules. Relevant text follows.

An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature. Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.

He might be making an assumption that cure spells operate under the channel energy guidelines. That's a DM call.

While it doesn't change the fact that Cure spells only work half as well on incorporeal undead, that's not what my copy of the Bestiary says (nor is it what the PRD says).

Current Bestiary wrote:
Incorporeal (Ex) An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source. Although it is not a magical attack, holy water affects incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature (except for channel energy). Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.
A strict reading of that would seem to imply that even Channel Energy is halved,...

Are you looking at d20pfsrd or the actual Paizo PRD because this is the wording from the PRD:

Incorporeal (Ex) wrote:
An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature. Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.

Notice where the "(except for channel energy)" is.

Grand Lodge

anthonydido wrote:
Jeff Merola wrote:
LazarX wrote:

The Society Manger unfortunately has it wrong. In a game system this large, it happens to the best of us.

The ruling you're looking for is Incorporeal under the Universal Monster rules. Relevant text follows.

An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature. Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.

He might be making an assumption that cure spells operate under the channel energy guidelines. That's a DM call.

While it doesn't change the fact that Cure spells only work half as well on incorporeal undead, that's not what my copy of the Bestiary says (nor is it what the PRD says).

Current Bestiary wrote:
Incorporeal (Ex) An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source. Although it is not a magical attack, holy water affects incorporeal undead. Corporeal spells and effects that do not cause damage only have a 50% chance of affecting an incorporeal creature (except for channel energy). Force spells and effects, such as from a magic missile, affect an incorporeal creature normally.
A strict reading of that would seem to imply that
...

The actual PRD. I just double checked and the wording I quoted is listed twice on the PRD, while yours is listed once. And the one I quoted matches the current wording in the most recent Bestiary 1, 2, and 3 (I don't have a copy of 4 handy to check).


anthonydido wrote:

I disagree. Cure spells are channeled positive energy. It says so in the spell description:

Cure Light Wounds wrote:
When laying your hand upon a living creature, you channel positive energy that cures 1d8 points of damage + 1 point per caster level (maximum +5). Since undead are powered by negative energy, this spell deals damage to them instead of curing their wounds. An undead creature can apply spell resistance, and can attempt a Will save to take half damage.
So cure spells would do full damage or half if they make the save.

I found this.

Q: Does positive energy from Channel Energy only cause half damage to Incorporeal undead?

A: (Jason Bulmahn 12/1/09) As for this particular issue, there is nothing in the rules exempting channel energy from being reduced by the incorporeal UMR (universal monster rule). Using the rules as written, this means that it is reduced. That said it probably should not be, but that is a matter I will take up when we get to errata for that book.

Update: The Universal Monster Rules for Incorporeal creatures updated the rules to reflect that Channel Energy is NOT reduced by 50%.

He seems to be referencing the Channel Energy ability, not the positive energy from CLW. Does this change anything?

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Hmm, that's interesting. I just checked Bestiary 4 and it says the same as your quote. So, I guess the real question is which is correct? Did they change it in the one I found and just overlook the Bestiary entries or is it correct in the Bestiary(s)?

Grand Lodge

anthonydido wrote:
Hmm, that's interesting. I just checked Bestiary 4 and it says the same as your quote. So, I guess the real question is which is correct? Did they change it in the one I found and just overlook the Bestiary entries or is it correct in the Bestiary(s)?

Given that Channel Energy definitely does damage, I'd hazard a guess that the Bestiary entries are mistakes. I just found the RAW situation amusing.

Shadow Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
viker wrote:
anthonydido wrote:

I disagree. Cure spells are channeled positive energy. It says so in the spell description:

Cure Light Wounds wrote:
When laying your hand upon a living creature, you channel positive energy that cures 1d8 points of damage + 1 point per caster level (maximum +5). Since undead are powered by negative energy, this spell deals damage to them instead of curing their wounds. An undead creature can apply spell resistance, and can attempt a Will save to take half damage.
So cure spells would do full damage or half if they make the save.

I found this.

Q: Does positive energy from Channel Energy only cause half damage to Incorporeal undead?

A: (Jason Bulmahn 12/1/09) As for this particular issue, there is nothing in the rules exempting channel energy from being reduced by the incorporeal UMR (universal monster rule). Using the rules as written, this means that it is reduced. That said it probably should not be, but that is a matter I will take up when we get to errata for that book.

Update: The Universal Monster Rules for Incorporeal creatures updated the rules to reflect that Channel Energy is NOT reduced by 50%.

He seems to be referencing the Channel Energy ability, not the positive energy from CLW. Does this change anything?

That answers my question then. The one I quoted seems to be the correct version and they just haven't errata'd the bestiaries yet.

Now, that question seems to be directed towards the Channel Energy ability but the "channel energy" in the incorporeal description is not capitalized so to me it is referencing all channeled energy, not just the ability.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

anthonydido wrote:
Now, that question seems to be directed towards the Channel Energy ability but the "channel energy" in the incorporeal description is not capitalized so to me it is referencing all channeled energy, not just the ability.

I don't think it's a standard practice to capitalize class feature names, so I'm not sure you can actually infer that.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Hm, you may be right jiggy. I just looked at some feats that require the channel energy class feature and it's not capitalized there.

However, I don't see why the class feature would work and the spells wouldn't as they are both essentially channeled positive energy.


I will say that I interpret it as being the specific class feature, not positive energy from cure spells.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The universal ruling in Indy is that positive energy does full damage, including Holy Water and Cure Spells. Darn things are hard enough as it is.

Please notice that force effects are fully effective. This includes defensive measures, such as Mage Armor.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Holy Water : Yes
Channel Energy : Yes
Cure Spells Half: Yes - Reason being is it involves a physical touch attack. Some of your hand goes through it and half of it doesn't.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber

I would be fine with thaX's approach as the darn things are indeed hard enough. Con drain is permanent and the only way I know how to fix it is via a restoration spell (read: the most spell effective way, as there might be higher level spells than restoration that do it, whereas I'm not aware of lower level spells that do).

(Note: NOT lesser restoration... the actual "restoration" spell, which necessitates 100gp of diamond dust as well...)

I just read Death Ward again and since you're immune to energy damage, you'd be immune to the wraith's "energy damage + con drain" attack as well, in the same way you're immune to injected poison if the damage is not high enough to go through damage reduction.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber

Here's the wording on damage reduction and poison:

PRD:

Whenever damage reduction completely negates the damage from an attack, it also negates most special effects that accompany the attack, such as injury poison, a monk's stunning, and injury-based disease. Damage reduction does not negate touch attacks, energy damage dealt along with an attack, or energy drains. Nor does it affect poisons or diseases delivered by inhalation, ingestion, or contact.

So damage reduction specifically does nothing against touch attacks, good to know.

However when you have Death Ward, it's not damage reduction, it's immunity to negative energy damage... so by extension the "plus Con drain" part should be cancelled as well. That's how I'll interpret it unless the devs have ruled otherwise... 'cause Con drain really blows for players and Death Ward is no small spell to begin with...

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Sounds good, PDK. I do wonder if the attack is universally considered a negitive energy attack or if it is specified in each creature's stat block.

Silver Crusade

Whenever people say it does half damage, there's something that seems a bit off.

When people use the half-damage quotes, it says:

rules wrote:
Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy).

There are two ways to read this: if the spell itself is corporeal or if the caster is corporeal. I would read it as the spell. In that case, I would definitely say that positive energy (such as that from cure spells) isn't a corporeal force. Fire? That's a physical world thing, so corporeal. Rocks smashing together? Obviously corporeal. Intangible energy that's just kind of there being beamed into things? Not corporeal. I would read it as full damage.


Channel Energy is a class feature and is not the same as channeled(dictionary use) of the word so by RAW cure spells and even searing light do half damage, but since they are against undead many GM's allow them to do full damage.


Positive and negative energy are just as corporeal as the other energy types. They just do not exist in our world. If that were not the case then channel energy would not have to specifically be called out, when they could have just said positive and negative energy, and taken care of everything.


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I'd like to note that in 3.5, incorporeal creatures took full damage from cure spells. It looks like they editted the text a little when converting to Pathfinder. Can't say for certain if it is intended for incorporeal creatures to take half damage from cure spells.

D20SRD wrote:

Incorporeal Subtype

An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it has a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source (except for positive energy, negative energy, force effects such as magic missile, or attacks made with ghost touch weapons). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead, but a hit with holy water has a 50% chance of not affecting an incorporeal creature.

It would appear from a strict reading of the current text that cure spells do indeed only deal 50% damage. I'd probably house rule the full effect in my games considering it worked in 3.5, especially if there isn't a character in the party that can channel energy.

Liberty's Edge

*cast thread necro*

I heard someone say - there's the "spirit" of the rule and the strict letter of the rule. (as an actual lawyer I like this :) )

Given that Pathfinder comes from 3.5 I think the spirit is to say that positive energy from a cure spell fully affects incorporeal save for half with a touch attack.

clw - from PRD "When laying your hand upon a living creature, you channel positive energy"

" it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy)"

I'm a PFS regional VL and I've always ruled it like thaX said. (see above)


Qstor wrote:

I heard someone say - there's the "spirit" of the rule and the strict letter of the rule. (as an actual lawyer I like this :) )

PRD wrote:
Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage from a corporeal source (except for channel energy).

If you read it strictly the parenthesis exception has no sense, as the Channel Energy feature is neither a spell or a magic weapon, but a supernatural ability that is not even magical in essence. Besides, as already cited in this thread, the cure and inflict spells specify you channel positive/negative energy on the target when you cast them.

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