"Ablative Sphere" spell (Humans of Golarion) clarifications

Rules Questions

3 people marked this as FAQ candidate. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

Source Humans of Golarion pg. 28
School abjuration; Level sorcerer/wizard 3
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (a crystalline sphere worth 10 gp)
Range personal
Target you
Duration 1 minute/level (D)

An immobile, crystalline, web-like globe surrounds you. When the ablative sphere winks into existence, it provides you with improved cover (see below). The barrier does not impede a spell's line of sight or effect.

The sphere is 1 inch thick per caster level, has hardness 5, and 3 hit points per inch of thickness. When an ablative sphere loses hit points, the level of cover it provides is reduced. When the ablative sphere has lost one-third of its hit points, it provides cover instead of improved cover. Once it has lost two-thirds of its hit points, it provides only partial cover. Finally, when the ablative sphere's hit points reach 0, the globe is destroyed. When an attack reduces an ablative sphere's hit points to 0, you take any remaining damage.


1) The sphere is immobile. Is it correct to assume the caster is immobile as well? Otherwise this would be an extremely overpowered spell.

2) It grants improved cover, decreasing in protection the more damage the globe takes. If you successfully hit the caster even with it's improved cover AC bonus, does the caster take damage or both the globe AND caster?

3) If you miss, does the globe take damage?

4) Do enemies also have improved cover in relation to the caster?

5) It says if the globe is destroyed, remaining damage goes to the caster. This implies an attacker can target only the globe. What is the globe's AC?

1) Yes. The sphere is immobile so the caster can't walk around and have it "follow" him. He'd be, effectively, trapped inside until he dismisses the effect or it is destroyed.

2) The sphere is web-like so it has holes and gaps into which you could, say, shoot an arrow or thrust a weapon. So if you overcome his AC even with the cover bonus and strike him, you're only damaging him and not the sphere.

3) This is kind of iffy. There's no explicit provision that missing him re-directs the damage against the sphere. How would you determine the difference between missing the caster but hitting the sphere and missing wide and not striking either one? By strict RAW, a miss is just a miss. You'd have to target the sphere directly. It'd count as smashing an object so you target an effective AC of 3 + size modifier (PRD states that objects not only have a Dex mod of -5 but also an additional -2 penalty to AC because they are entirely incapable of moving). So a Medium Sphere would have an AC of 3 while Small has 2 and Large has 4. But a reasonable houserule would be if you miss by the difference in bonus to AC, you hit the sphere. To illustrate, if their AC without the sphere is 14 and the sphere boosts that to 18, and you get a total of 16 on your attack roll, you can say you hit the sphere but if you get less than 14, you missed even the sphere... and your teammates will laugh at you and say you need glasses.

4) The sphere provides you with cover of some variety. The effect isn't reciprocal as it would be with mundane source of cover (ie. a wall). It's analogous to using a Tower Shield's "deploy" ability to create a virtual "wall" on one side of your square that provides total cover to you because you're huddled directly behind the shield but doesn't, technically, provide the same to anyone standing behind you; they just get the normal cover provided from an intervening character between the attacker and target. So said caster could easily fire a ray out through the little holes with no ill effects.

5) As stated above, it'd be targeted as if smashing an object since it is immobile. AC 10 + size mod + dex mod (effective -5, minus 2 more special for it being an immobile object) gives you 3 AC for a medium sphere. Bigger or smaller spheres will go up or down based on size bonus/penalty. It's all listed out in the Smashing an Object heading under Additional Rules. You can take a full-round action to "line up the shot" and get an auto-hit in melee, or a +5 bonus to attack with ranged. However, you can't normally smash with a piercing weapon (unless you have a specific exception) so you need a slashing/bludgeoning weapon to effectively target the sphere itself.

PS: You're not supposed to include "FAQ" or "FAQ Request" or the like in the title of your thread. Just state your question and the rest of us flag as to whether it's a FAQ or if there's already a valid answer that can be logically derived from the rules text (no FAQ needed) or if it's really something that is frequently questioned.

What if the caster tried to attack with a melee weapon? Wouldn't the enemy have improved cover from the caster then?

Also, James made only 1 notable reply to this spell, but just recently he said it was better to post it here and we can hope Jason Bulmahn, or one of the authors of Humans of Golarion could answer this. But here was his reply, of which he seemed to have not thoroughly read the poster's question or the spell itself before responding.

James Jacobs reply to Ablative Sphere

Yeah, JJ has stated repeatedly that that his answers amount to, "This is how I'd rule it in my personal game," and he always cautions that he isn't a "rules guy" so his answers should be taken with a grain of salt. He'd been wrong in the past as his answers have been outright contradicted when official responses came out. That having been said, while it would make sense that the cover works both ways, you also have to consider mechanical definitions in the game. A wall grants cover to anyone on either side but the sphere explicitly states it grants "you" (as in the caster) cover and does not state in any manner that this cover is reciprocal. Therefore, from a mechanical standpoint, the cover is "one-way". The sphere, being magical in nature, probably opens up briefly to allow the caster to swing a weapon if he wants but closes almost immediately. That's how I'd explain the visuals to work around the given mechanics, anyway.

I see. What sucks is these splatbooks get answered less often than the core books. If ever. I wish I could ask one of the book's authors who wrote the spell and if they can please clarify.

We decided to rule it by saying damage done to caster also damages the sphere, like a Stoneskin spell. A miss is a miss, it does not damage to the globe. We omitted the line that makes it seem like you can attack only the sphere, because it was not giving a method of attack (e.g. an Armor Class, for example).

I wish designers were more careful in their spell writing.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

3) If you would have otherwise hit save for the cover the sphere gave, than the sphere takes the damage that gets past it's hardness.

LazarX: Is that the rule or a suggestion from you? I don't see that in the description of the spell.

It's LazarX's rule. : )

Yeah, the spell doesn't even state about if you miss there's a chance the cover is hit.

I actually remember back either in 3.5 or maybe 3.0 D&D they actually did have a rule saying if the attack missed only because of the cover bonus, that it hit the cover instead. I wish that was a PF rule.

Scarab Sages

Kazaan wrote:
So a Medium Sphere would have an AC of 3 while Small has 2 and Large has 4.

Size bonuses work In The opposite direction. Small is +1 to Ac, large is -1. So a small would have Ac of 4, and a large an Ac of 2

burkoJames wrote:
Kazaan wrote:
So a Medium Sphere would have an AC of 3 while Small has 2 and Large has 4.
Size bonuses work In The opposite direction. Small is +1 to Ac, large is -1. So a small would have Ac of 4, and a large an Ac of 2


Yeah, that's what I meant.

So none of the following authors can clarify this spell at all still?

James Jacobs
Colin McComb
Sean K Reynolds
Amber Scott
Larry Wilhelm

And we have here James saying to FAQ it 4 months ago and we still don't have an answer. Why can't they just walk over to the author's office or make a phone call and ask for some clarification on this? This would take less than 5 minutes to discuss.

James Jacobs' Replies

The Exchange Owner - D20 Hobbies

Barachiel Shina wrote:
This would take less than 5 minutes to discuss.

They will spend far longer than that to get it straight or they won't do it. It isn't in their interest to spend just 5 - 20 minutes looking at something, then making a change. If they miss something the fallout from the change will be worth more loss "goodwill" than they stand to gain by making a change.

As for how you want to run it in your game, use James Jacobs reply. Alternatively if you can grass roots grow support for it to be in the 80-100 FAQ world then you stand a good chance to get it a topic of FAQ Friday. Keep in mind you can't do that by pointing people to the thread or by continually bumping the thread.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder RPG / Rules Questions / "Ablative Sphere" spell (Humans of Golarion) clarifications All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.