Identifying a Spells with Spellcraft


Rules Questions

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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
DrSwordopolis wrote:
FAQ wrote:
this prevents spellcasters that use spell-like abilities, psychic magic, and the like from running completely amok against non-spellcasters in a non-combat situation

Huh. All SLAs have noticeable manifestations now.

Really dislike this FAQ, but at least they finally ruled on it.

Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the visible spell-like abilities bit either.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Jeraa wrote:
Avh wrote:
That's not the swirling rune that is the problem. It's that casting is obvious for everyone.
There is something about casting that is obvious to everyone. It is whatever causes spellcasting to trigger an attack of opportunity from any enemy within reach, even those with no magical knowledge at all.

You don't need to know what spellcasting looks like to recognize that someone is distracted enough to have left you an opening.


What I don't like is "the like" not being specific enough. I think it applies to SU's also with regard to people knowing something magical is going on.

Just to be clear I am NOT saying spellcraft identifies SU's.

For an invisible caster I will just apply the penalty for an invisible opponent to the spellcraft check.


Gisher wrote:
Hmmm. If these unspecified effects glow at all, then casting even silent spells in a dark room would risk revealing your party. But no such risk is ever mentioned in the magic rules. So I'm going to assume that they don't glow despite the artwork that suggests otherwise.

It would also be significant that if spells glowed by default, you could use them in situations where you had no other light source. Forgot to take Light and your torch just went out? Cast Detect Magic and your party will catch a brief glimpse of the enemy.

But, like you say, the rules don't say spells do that, so I'm going to think of spell effects as more like swirly smoke than incandescent runes.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Gisher wrote:
Hmmm. If these unspecified effects glow at all, then casting even silent spells in a dark room would risk revealing your party. But no such risk is ever mentioned in the magic rules. So I'm going to assume that they don't glow despite the artwork that suggests otherwise.

It would also be significant that if spells glowed by default, you could use them in situations where you had no other light source. Forgot to take Light and your torch just went out? Cast Detect Magic and your party will catch a brief glimpse of the enemy.

But, like you say, the rules don't say spells do that, so I'm going to think of spell effects as more like swirly smoke than incandescent runes.

Swirling rune light could be of a magical wavelength or whatever that all objects are perfectly non-reflective of. So whenever it hits anything it is totally absorbed. Including your retina, so you can see it, but it won't ever bounce off of anything else, thus gives no information about surroundings, only direct observation.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Pathfinder Design Team wrote:
Although this isn’t directly stated in the Core Rulebook, many elements of the game system work assuming that all spells have their own manifestations, regardless of whether or not they also produce an obvious visual effect, like fireball. You can see some examples to give you ideas of how to describe a spell’s manifestation in various pieces of art from Pathfinder products, but ultimately, the choice is up to your group, or perhaps even to the aesthetics of an individual spellcaster, to decide the exact details. Whatever the case, these manifestations are obviously magic of some kind, even to the uninitiated; this prevents spellcasters that use spell-like abilities, psychic magic, and the like from running completely amok against non-spellcasters in a non-combat situation. Special abilities exist (and more are likely to appear in Ultimate Intrigue) that specifically facilitate a spellcaster using chicanery to misdirect people from those manifestations and allow them to go unnoticed, but they will always provide an onlooker some sort of chance to detect the ruse.

I'm noticing that this doesn't actually say anything about spellcraft.

My take had always been that spells/SLAs had perceptible manifestations, but that these were usually not sufficient to identify the effect in advance. Maybe if a viewer had Arcane Sight or something else that allowed them to see magic auras (ala Detect Magic) then they could get a spellcraft check, but otherwise they would only know that some sort of magic had been used.

In past comments Paizo seems to have gone further to indicate that spellcraft was still possible... maybe at a penalty. However, here they don't really address that aspect of it. Just that casting is detectable... you can't hide the material/somatic components, whisper the verbal, and then be like, 'Did you see that guy just disintegrate? That was weird, right? I wonder how that happened. Maybe we shouldn't stand here.'


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I love it how there's a big long discussion with proponents on both sides and when the FAQ finally arrives one side is all "That's a rules change!"

Obviously there was enough confusion in the text that people were reading it both ways before. That's why there was an argument. Just because your reading didn't match the dev team's doesn't mean they changed the rules.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Semantics.

Logically, a 'rule change' has to include something which changes/contradicts a previous rule. This FAQ doesn't have any text which qualifies. No changes need be made to existing Pathfinder (or v3/3.5) text due to this FAQ... the existing rules text and the FAQ text are complementary rather than contradictory. Ergo, not a 'rules change'. Possibly a rules 'extension' or 'addition' for some, but merely a 'clarification' for others.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

More of a rules addition than a rules change I guess. There's nothing in the rules that states (either way) that it acts the way they say it does. Hence, it's a new rule.


Ravingdork wrote:
More of a rules addition than a rules change I guess. There's nothing in the rules that states (either way) that it acts the way they say it does. Hence, it's a new rule.

There is nothing in your interpretation of the rules that states it acts the way they say it does.

Plenty of other people thought the rules did say that.


So, any answer on whether this lets you automatically pinpoint an invisible spell caster?


_Ozy_ wrote:
So, any answer on whether this lets you automatically pinpoint an invisible spell caster?

Not explicitly, but there's nothing to say that it does.

They don't say, for example, "When casting a spell, you are surrounded by glowing runes and bright flashing lights". They leave it up to you what the exact effects are.

Since Spellcraft takes the same penalties as Perception, I would assume that it's not that obvious - that you can tell someone is casting, if you can see them, but if you can't see them, you still can't see them when they cast.


thejeff wrote:
_Ozy_ wrote:
So, any answer on whether this lets you automatically pinpoint an invisible spell caster?

Not explicitly, but there's nothing to say that it does.

They don't say, for example, "When casting a spell, you are surrounded by glowing runes and bright flashing lights". They leave it up to you what the exact effects are.

Since Spellcraft takes the same penalties as Perception, I would assume that it's not that obvious - that you can tell someone is casting, if you can see them, but if you can't see them, you still can't see them when they cast.

Well, that's certainly going to limit the 'special effects' available then, glowing runes tend to be hard to hide. In fact, they can't have any effect that would otherwise show up in the dark.

Furthermore, the invisibility spell itself limits what is made invisible to you and your gear, so why would that cover visible runes that are generated by casting?

I think, once again, we have a FAQ that raises more questions than it answers.


Everyone needs to relax a bit.

This is nothing new. It's been in place since 3.5 and since the inception of Pathfinder, although in both cases it was just recognition by the two development teams and comments posted on forums, etc.

Now it's official per the FAQ.

Nothing has really changed except that making it official makes it harder for some people to comfortably ignore it. Everyone who was using it already will feel no change, everyone who was ignoring it now needs to re-evaluate whether they'll keep ignoring it or not.

That's all.

Not a big deal.


As for the invisibility question, there is no problem here if you just read the rules and think about it for a moment:

SRD, Invisibility Spell wrote:
Thus, an invisible being can open doors, talk, eat, climb stairs, summon monsters and have them attack, cut the ropes holding a rope bridge while enemies are on the bridge, remotely trigger traps, open a portcullis to release attack dogs, and so forth. If the subject attacks directly, however, it immediately becomes visible along with all its gear. Spells such as bless that specifically affect allies but not foes are not attacks for this purpose, even when they include foes in their area.

Note the first bit I bolded. A spellcaster can summon monsters without breaking invisibility. Now, I admit, they might mean that you can be invisible, go behind a solid wall, summon your monster, and then come out from the wall and still be invisible. Tedious, but I guess they might mean that.

But note the second bit I bolded. You can cast Bless while enemies are in the area. That requires line of effect and line of sight to those enemies. Which means those enemies can see you. Except, you're invisible, so they cannot see you.

Now, if the glowing runes and swirling magical vortices ARE visible even when you're not, then you are effectively giving away your square. You might still have total concealment, but everyone knows that you are there, in that square, casting a spell.

On the other hand, if the glowing runes and swirling magical vortices are NOT visible, because your invisibility spell also hides this magical tell-tale effect, then invisibility works exactly as it is written to work.

I choose the latter.

It's a bit of a stretch because it's not explicit, but it is obvious.

Why?

Because this FAQ is not designed to ruin invisibility for the whole game.

And that is all you need to consider.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
DM_Blake wrote:
Not a big deal.

Says the Tarrasque.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
_Ozy_ wrote:
I think, once again, we have a FAQ that raises more questions than it answers.

More accurately, it leaves unanswered some questions which already existed. That is, they answered one of many related questions;

Are the manifestations purely visual or could they be audible, olfactory, or detectable via other senses? (e.g. sound of crackling electricity and smell of ozone preceding a lightning bolt spell).

Can the manifestations be detected through invisibility/darkness/concealment/silence/whatever?

Do the manifestations allow determination of the spell's target(s), or just the caster?

Do the manifestations provide enough information for someone to identify the effect via spellcraft, and if so are there any additional requirements (e.g. Arcane Sight to see the magical auras) or adjustments to the roll?

Et cetera.

These aren't 'new' questions. Plenty of us have been using our own answers to them for many years now. Maybe someday we'll get 'official' responses on these too... or they could continue to be left to individual GM interpretation/preference.


Ravingdork wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
Not a big deal.
Says the Tarrasque.

Of course I'm a big deal. A very big, heavily armored deal.

So I know a big deal when I see one, and this FAQ isn't it.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
CBDunkerson wrote:
Do the manifestations allow determination of the spell's target(s), or just the caster?

I can answer this one.

No. The caster does not have to determine targets until the casting of the spell is complete. If the caster hasn't determined it yet, I don't see how anyone else can.


DM_Blake wrote:

As for the invisibility question, there is no problem here if you just read the rules and think about it for a moment:

SRD, Invisibility Spell wrote:
Thus, an invisible being can open doors, talk, eat, climb stairs, summon monsters and have them attack, cut the ropes holding a rope bridge while enemies are on the bridge, remotely trigger traps, open a portcullis to release attack dogs, and so forth. If the subject attacks directly, however, it immediately becomes visible along with all its gear. Spells such as bless that specifically affect allies but not foes are not attacks for this purpose, even when they include foes in their area.

Note the first bit I bolded. A spellcaster can summon monsters without breaking invisibility. Now, I admit, they might mean that you can be invisible, go behind a solid wall, summon your monster, and then come out from the wall and still be invisible. Tedious, but I guess they might mean that.

But note the second bit I bolded. You can cast Bless while enemies are in the area. That requires line of effect and line of sight to those enemies. Which means those enemies can see you. Except, you're invisible, so they cannot see you.

Now, if the glowing runes and swirling magical vortices ARE visible even when you're not, then you are effectively giving away your square. You might still have total concealment, but everyone knows that you are there, in that square, casting a spell.

On the other hand, if the glowing runes and swirling magical vortices are NOT visible, because your invisibility spell also hides this magical tell-tale effect, then invisibility works exactly as it is written to work.

I choose the latter.

It's a bit of a stretch because it's not explicit, but it is obvious.

Why?

Because this FAQ is not designed to ruin invisibility for the whole game.

And that is all you need to consider.

It's not 'all' you need to consider, it's one extra thing you need to consider. And speaking out loud doesn't 'break' invisibility, but it makes you easier to find, why shouldn't spellcasting work the same way?

Note, they specifically can't be 'glowing' runes, because invisibility specifically says Light, however, never becomes invisible.

That's kind of the point of this particular issue. You casually mentioned 'glowing runes' and yet that's exactly the sort of thing that wouldn't be hidden by invisibility (or darkness). Furthermore, it can't really be some sort of physical activity because still/silent/eschewed spells can be enacted without any physical activity whatsoever and yet are detected and analyzed with spellcraft the same way.

You would think if they wanted some sort of visible magical vortex effect (non-glowing of course!) to occur for every spell casting and SLA, they should have mentioned it in the original rule set.

This is really an errata, and one that needs better actual definition.


Invisibility also hides "glowing runes".

However any spells with verbal components must still be spoken in a loud voice. The only question is if that allows a spellcraft check, which I agree is ambiguous. Personally I would rule that it does allow a spellcraft check if you can hear it clearly.


Good questions.

CBDunkerson wrote:
Are the manifestations purely visual or could they be audible, olfactory, or detectable via other senses? (e.g. sound of crackling electricity and smell of ozone preceding a lightning bolt spell).

The FAQ leaves this up to the GM/group to decide for themselves.

CBDunkerson wrote:
Can the manifestations be detected through invisibility/darkness/concealment/silence/whatever?

No or this simple FAQ would break all of these other game mechanics and that clearly is not what this FAQ is doing.

CBDunkerson wrote:
Do the manifestations allow determination of the spell's target(s), or just the caster?

Nothing in the FAQ suggests this, so unless your GM/group decides that the manifestations include the target, which could be problematic, then they don't.

CBDunkerson wrote:
Do the manifestations provide enough information for someone to identify the effect via spellcraft, and if so are there any additional requirements (e.g. Arcane Sight to see the magical auras) or adjustments to the roll?

Yes (if by "effect" you mean "spell"). There is a difference - I can use Spellcraft to know that you're casting a Fireball spell, but I can't tell if the effect will be 5d6 or 10d6, I cannot tell if you will affect these orcs over here or those goblins over there, etc.

This has always been the case. Identifying spells with Spellcraft was in the core book in the first printing. You can identify spells with Spellcraft when:

* You don't even know the spell (e.g. a cleric can identify Fireball, a level 1 wizard can identify Wish, etc.)
* The caster uses Still Spell, Silent Spell, and Eschew Materials
* Even when there is no logical way to see any components or effects

By RAW, it's always worked like this, and the FAQ has changed nothing in regards to this.

CBDunkerson wrote:
These aren't 'new' questions. Plenty of us have been using our own answers to them for many years now. Maybe someday we'll get 'official' responses on these too... or they could continue to be left to individual GM interpretation/preference.

True, except the ones that are already answered. Plenty of GMs will do their own thing anyway, but at least some of the questions you've raised are, in fact, already answered.


CampinCarl9127 wrote:

Invisibility also hides "glowing runes".

However any spells with verbal components must still be spoken in a loud voice. The only question is if that allows a spellcraft check, which I agree is ambiguous. Personally I would rule that it does allow a spellcraft check if you can hear it clearly.

I agree.

But I'm sure it's always been like that.

With or without "magical glowing runes", an invisible guy walks into a banquet and starts casting Circle of Death.

Today, after the FAQ, there are glowing magical runes that should be just as invisible as the caster is (or else the FAQ broke Invisibility which I don't believe it did).

But Circle of Death has verbal components.

Before and after this FAQ, everyone in the Banquet MIGHT hear that (it's spoken in a clear voice) and might react to it - they'll probably all know that some magic is being cast, but hey, they might just think the banquet's host has hired an illusionist to entertain them with a magical show. Anyone trained in Spellcraft might be allowed to make the check to identify the spell.

Arguably, the Spellcraft rules say you must be able to clearly see the spell as it is being cast.

In past (pre-FAQ) there was a valid argument that not being able to see the spell means no Spellcraft roll, even if you hear it clearly. Today that is no different because Invisibility should also hide the glowing runes (etc.).

Most GMs I know assumed that the rule about clearly SEEING the spell applies to other senses too, but probably some did not. Regardless, every GM is going to keep playing like they have: either hearing the spell allows a spellcraft check or it does not.

This FAQ has not changed that.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
Not a big deal.
Says the Tarrasque.

When the Tarrasque speaks, you should listen. It's just good policy.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Seems like we have all of the ingredients of a bad FAQ:

1) Doesn't resolve or clear up much of anything.
2) Raises several more questions.
3) At best, leaves everything as it was.
4) Arguably a stealth errata.


People already showed that spellcraft could be used to identify any spell. Showed that silent and stilled didn't modify the spellcraft DC at all. Thus there was "something" that you could spellcraft even for a silent and stilled spell.

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