Can Magic Jar be used to possess Incorporeal Undead?


Rules Questions

Shadow Lodge

I am planning an encounter for my party with a great wyrm umbral dragon.I had the idea that it would be super cool if he could use Magic Jar to possess his undead minions (which are shadows), and use their bodies to attack the party and cast spells at them while he remains safely hidden in a secret chamber of his lair. So does this work?

Magic Jar:

School necromancy; Level sorcerer/wizard 5

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, F (a gem or crystal worth at least 100 gp)

Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Target one creature

Duration 1 hour/level or until you return to your body

Saving Throw Will negates; see text; Spell Resistance yes

By casting magic jar, you place your soul in a gem or large crystal (known as the magic jar), leaving your body lifeless. Then you can attempt to take control of a nearby body, forcing its soul into the magic jar. You may move back to the jar (thereby returning the trapped soul to its body) and attempt to possess another body. The spell ends when you send your soul back to your own body, leaving the receptacle empty. To cast the spell, the magic jar must be within spell range and you must know where it is, though you do not need line of sight or line of effect to it. When you transfer your soul upon casting, your body is, as near as anyone can tell, dead.

While in the magic jar, you can sense and attack any life force within 10 feet per caster level (and on the same plane of existence). You do need line of effect from the jar to the creatures. You cannot determine the exact creature types or positions of these creatures. In a group of life forces, you can sense a difference of 4 or more HD between one creature and another and can determine whether a life force is powered by positive or negative energy. (Undead creatures are powered by negative energy. Only sentient undead creatures have, or are, souls.)

You could choose to take over either a stronger or a weaker creature, but which particular stronger or weaker creature you attempt to possess is determined randomly.

Attempting to possess a body is a full-round action. It is blocked by protection from evil or a similar ward. You possess the body and force the creature's soul into the magic jar unless the subject succeeds on a Will save. Failure to take over the host leaves your life force in the magic jar, and the target automatically succeeds on further saving throws if you attempt to possess its body again.

If you are successful, your life force occupies the host body, and the host's life force is imprisoned in the magic jar. You keep your Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, level, class, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, alignment, and mental abilities. The body retains its Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, hit points, natural abilities, and automatic abilities. A body with extra limbs does not allow you to make more attacks (or more advantageous two-weapon attacks) than normal. You can't choose to activate the body's extraordinary or supernatural abilities. The creature's spells and spell-like abilities do not stay with the body.

As a standard action, you can shift freely from a host to the magic jar if within range, sending the trapped soul back to its body. The spell ends when you shift from the jar to your own body.

If the host body is slain, you return to the magic jar, if within range, and the life force of the host departs (it is dead). If the host body is slain beyond the range of the spell, both you and the host die. Any life force with nowhere to go is treated as slain.

If the spell ends while you are in the magic jar, you return to your body (or die if your body is out of range or destroyed). If the spell ends while you are in a host, you return to your body (or die, if it is out of range of your current position), and the soul in the magic jar returns to its body (or dies if it is out of range). Destroying the receptacle ends the spell, and the spell can be dispelled at either the magic jar or the host's location.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The problem is that magic jar works on perception of life force, which undead have none.


LazarX wrote:
The problem is that magic jar works on perception of life force, which undead have none.

Yet you can tell if a life source is powered by negative energy, so, clearly, they do.


Unfortunately, no. You can not use magic jar to take the body of an incorporeal creature. From the Paizo PRD:

Quote:
Incorporeal Subtype: An incorporeal creature has no physical body. An incorporeal creature is immune to critical hits and precision-based damage (such as sneak attack damage) unless the attacks are made using a weapon with the ghost touch special weapon quality. In addition, creatures with the incorporeal subtype gain the incorporeal special quality.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I wouldn't allow a player to take control of creatures where there's no duality, either because their soul equals their body (i.e. most outsiders) or where there is no body (e.g. incorporeal undead).

That said, by the addition of "or are" in that bit about undead, it's pretty clear they're eligible targets for takeover and since there's no callout about it automatically failing you can actually accomplish it. So since we're in the rules forum, I conclude that yes, you can.

Edit: As for my general "should it work", I think the idea is cool and thematic. I'd rather not do it with magic jar. By RAW it seems it can work, but it doesn't really fit with what the spell means to me. I would give the umbral dragon a different spell/ability that would replace magic jar to allow it to do this.


Target: Creature
Rules Text: Body

It specifies that sentient undead have souls, so it's very obvious that possessing undead is not a problem (I actually had this come up in my homebrew game).

Of course the question comes with the "body" part. While this is part of the rules text, it's not entirely clear if it's flavor or meant to be very specific in that your target has to actually have a physical body.

I say this is very on the fence. I would wager a guess that PFS would say no, but I'm not 100% sure on RAW or even RAI. Personally I would allow this at my table, although we would go through some interesting roleplaying as the character experiences the lack of a material body.

Plus, it sounds like you're the GM. You can have the dragon puke rainbows if you want. The concept sounds really freaking awesome and I say go for it.

Shadow Lodge

Tindalen wrote:

Unfortunately, no. You can not use magic jar to take the body of an incorporeal creature. From the Paizo PRD:

Quote:
Incorporeal Subtype: An incorporeal creature has no physical body. An incorporeal creature is immune to critical hits and precision-based damage (such as sneak attack damage) unless the attacks are made using a weapon with the ghost touch special weapon quality. In addition, creatures with the incorporeal subtype gain the incorporeal special quality.
It has no Physical body, but it does have an incorporeal one that were you also incorporeal, you could feel touch and interact with. Which when combined with this bit, leads me to believe maybe I can:
Quote:
(Undead creatures are powered by negative energy. Only sentient undead creatures have, or are, souls.)


That's fair. The ability doesn't specify corporeal or physical body. Just body. I would allow it.


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

Developers have ruled that you could not create a simulacrum of an incorporeal creature. That spell had similar wording to magic jar, so I would assume the intent would be similar with this spell.

Shadow Lodge

Being that it is My group, and I am GM, ultimately adjudication falls to me. since its not a PFS game, I think I'll be going for it. I just wanted to get a feel for what others thought. It should be a beastly fun encounter.

Dark Archive

Well, Occult Adventures has expanded and clarified rules for possession, magic jar, and the like. It has the following to say on the subject:

Quote:

Incorporeal Possession: Ghosts, shadow demons,

and similar creatures do not possess physical bodies—
they are simply disembodied souls. They use the rules
below to govern the interaction between their mental
characteristics and their hosts’ physical forms. Such a
creature merges with the host’s body and is unharmed
when ejected. Creatures that use magic jar can often use
the new possession spell instead.

CORE MECHANIC AND
CLARIFICATION
The possession spell contains the core mechanics for
possession. The description of the magic jar spell states
the possessing creature can use her “mental abilities,”
and the possession spell works similarly. This term wasn’t
previously defined, and has been a source of confusion
in many games. The term “mental abilities” as used here
refers to the following.

• The possessor uses her skill ranks, along with any
feats the possessor has for which she still qualifies in
the host’s body. The possessor doesn’t gain any of the
host’s feats or skill ranks, but does apply bonuses and
penalties associated with the host’s body. For example,
when attempting Fly checks, a character who possessed
a bird would use her own ranks in the Fly skill, but
the bird’s Dexterity modifier and racial, size, and
maneuverability bonuses.

• The possessor can use spells and spell-like abilities.
Appropriate spell components and foci are still required
for spells that call for them. Some spell-like abilities
are racial in nature, but the soul’s essence temporarily
instills the possessing creature’s quintessential nature
into the host’s body. For instance, a shadow demon
possessing a paladin can still use its racial spell-like
abilities during that time.

• The possessor can use nonmagical and magical class
abilities such as domain, hex, rage, and school powers.
Supernatural abilities (with the exception of class
abilities) are not considered mental abilities, as they
generally rely upon a creature’s physical form. For
example, a red dragon possessing a cleric of Iomedae
could not use its breath weapon ability to breathe fire
while inhabiting the cleric’s form. The GM can choose
to make a specific exception if she believes an ability is
solely mental in nature.

This would seem to mean that no, you can't possess a wraith because the wraith has no physical body But if you were to try... Well, welcome to being possessed by the wraith?


I could understand that, Ravingdork. Do you happen to have a link or citation? I would be interested in reading that.

Either way I would allow it. It's hardly game breaking and it's really cool.

Shadow Lodge

On a related note, how do you feel about spell ranges and crossing planar boundaries? I had planned for his hiding space to be on the demiplane of shadows in an area that overlaps his lair on the prime material plane. Since in the cosmology of the world, the plane of shadow is much like the ethereal plane which overlaps and exists in the same space/time with the prime, do you think it will break the range, and if so, what tricks do you think I might need to prepare so that the dragon can pull it off?


I think it would absolutely break the range. Otherwise we could have plane traveling spellcasters throwing fireballs at you while not even existing on your plane. I'm pretty sure there's a rules citation that supports this as well.

Gate abilities could easily get around it though. An actual opening between the planes that you could spellcast through. The Shadow Lord template might interest you, as it gains a very gate-like ability (albeit only 1/day).

However, I think you may be able to get away with casting spells with the shadow descriptor on them. That can open up some pretty potent options, especially with a spell like shades.

Dark Archive

If the planes are overlapping, I'd say no the range isn't broken. However according to the rules outlined and clarified in Occult Adventurers, the situation would actually be the dragon is possessed by the incorporeal undead. Magic Jar I believe would end up placing the wraith or whatever in the 'jar', so there's nothing to possess.

Which also could make for an interesting and nasty encounter. FINALLY defeat the dragon, only to discover it had been possessed... and now you have a wraith or whatever to face... when you're low on resources.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I believe Magic Jar does not work against incorporeal creatures, but some of them can use it or a very similar special ability, as explained in their bestiary entries. For more information, I recommend checking out my previous thread on the subject (and hitting the FAQ button if you feel it still needs a FAQ after Occult Adventures threw magic jar under the bus ;] ).
Here's another quote from Occult Adventures:

OA pg. 181 wrote:

Possession and magic jar

The old magic jar spell is unwieldy, particularly with respect to creatures like ghosts and shadow demons that don’t really use a jar at all. Consider replacing magic jar with the new possession spells for both spellcasters and monsters. Likewise, consider using spells based on possession rather than magic jar.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
CampinCarl9127 wrote:

I could understand that, Ravingdork. Do you happen to have a link or citation? I would be interested in reading that.

Either way I would allow it. It's hardly game breaking and it's really cool.

Here you go. The rest of the thread is rather informative as well, as far as simulacrums are concerned.


Thank you. Man, I miss the days when James Jacobs would answer rules questions. Although I suppose now the questions are so much more frustrating.

I would still allow magic jar on an incorporeal creature at my table, but if I was to run a PFS game (urrrk) then I might reconsider.

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