Game Altering (or Game Breaking?) Spells: Invisibility and Greater Invisibility


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


The intent of these line of threads is to generate GM and player discussion on how these spells are used in their games in order to generate some logical analytical discussion about how GMs can make in game rulings, provide fun challenges and encounters, and if required provide some house-rule mechanics options for their table as players gain access to these spells. In theory, a GM could type the spell name in the search and then review this thread to get some useful ideas for this spell in their game.

As with our other threads on this topic, please as much as possible use examples from your actual game. If you're interested in creating a "what if" scenario to get ideas about how to deal with them at your table, please start with the spell description in mind and what a reasonable player (I know - very subjective term :-) ) would do in a game world which has weather, terrain, high level NPCs/governments, and other beings have access to magic (and know about these spells).

These 2 are next on the list.
A few key rule points:

Invisibility: 1min/level; +40 to stealth if still, or +20 when moving; goes away if you attack (allows summoning, buffing, and some non-direct threating such as cutting a rope bridge with enemy standing on it)

Greater Invisibility: 1rd/level (4th lvl spell); same function but allows attacks

How do your players, NPCs, monsters use these? How do you keep things fun and challenging? When can it feel like its out of hand?

Enjoy, and lets try to keep it professional.


Listen checks used to help.


Easily counteracted with faerie fire or muddy floor.


Bag of flour on a touch attack with the standard 50% miss chance.

we run it that if an invisible creature attacks you, you automatically know what space it has attacked from - doesn't help if it was standing next to you and attacked then moved.

Consider grappling the invisible creature on the grounds that once you are grappled you don't really have to worry about its bonus to attack your and you aren't rolling miss chances anymore.

I allow standard perception checks to identify if the creature isn't visible. Thus the chance to perceive someone sneaking down the creaky stairs in the corridor outside your door is the same whether they are invisible or not.

Blind fight helps with the miss chance a 25% miss chance isn't too bad really. Blind fight can also assist with things like displacement and mirror image. Very Luke sky walker.

Even the odds, extinguish light or some other method of making everyone blind the. No one has an advantage - particularly effective underground.

Improved invisibility is the much more dangerous of the two. Losing the power after a hostile action means level 2 spell it is limited effectiveness in combat. As a DM I tend to use improved invis for a NPC or monster that would otherwise struggle to survive - it is a useful interesting challenge to overcome.

Just having see invisible seems like a bit of a cheat, though it is undoubtably effective. Obviously glitterdust is also a solution.


The fundamental problem with invisibility is that someone thought it would be a good idea to merge hearing and vision in a game where invisibility magic exists.

It would still cause issues when combined with silent metamagic and magical flight or levitation, but requiring metamagic on all spells is a meaningful tax.


Atarlost wrote:
The fundamental problem with invisibility is that someone thought it would be a good idea to merge hearing and vision in a game where invisibility magic exists.

Listen/perception can only tell you what square the creature is in, it doesn't do much more then that, and never did.

I think the best thing would be to add the chalk/flour bag item to the game, and include specific rules for it automatically allowing you to tell what square someone is in. You could also include some kind of "pixie dust satchel" or whatever that is a non-magic glitterdust type effect.

This is a sight based game world. Blindness, darkness, and invisibility are amazingly powerful.


Fergie wrote:
Atarlost wrote:
The fundamental problem with invisibility is that someone thought it would be a good idea to merge hearing and vision in a game where invisibility magic exists.

Listen/perception can only tell you what square the creature is in, it doesn't do much more then that, and never did.

I think the best thing would be to add the chalk/flour bag item to the game, and include specific rules for it automatically allowing you to tell what square someone is in. You could also include some kind of "pixie dust satchel" or whatever that is a non-magic glitterdust type effect.

This is a sight based game world. Blindness, darkness, and invisibility are amazingly powerful.

If listen allows you to pinpoint the square a creature is in then all invisibility gives in combat is miss chance subject to an action restriction (or not if you use a fourth level spell). That makes invisibility early access displacement with a major action restriction and greater invisibility just displacement with some extra out of combat applications from a higher level slot.

If displacement doesn't make your broken spell list neither would invisibility if the +20 to stealth properly failed to apply to sound based perception checks.


The Sword wrote:

Bag of flour on a touch attack with the standard 50% miss chance.

we run it that if an invisible creature attacks you, you automatically know what space it has attacked from - doesn't help if it was standing next to you and attacked then moved.

Consider grappling the invisible creature on the grounds that once you are grappled you don't really have to worry about its bonus to attack your and you aren't rolling miss chances anymore.

I allow standard perception checks to identify if the creature isn't visible. Thus the chance to perceive someone sneaking down the creaky stairs in the corridor outside your door is the same whether they are invisible or not.

Blind fight helps with the miss chance a 25% miss chance isn't too bad really. Blind fight can also assist with things like displacement and mirror image. Very Luke sky walker.

Even the odds, extinguish light or some other method of making everyone blind the. No one has an advantage - particularly effective underground.

Improved invisibility is the much more dangerous of the two. Losing the power after a hostile action means level 2 spell it is limited effectiveness in combat. As a DM I tend to use improved invis for a NPC or monster that would otherwise struggle to survive - it is a useful interesting challenge to overcome.

Just having see invisible seems like a bit of a cheat, though it is undoubtably effective. Obviously glitterdust is also a solution.

I like what you point out about Greater Invs for NPCs as a challenge to overcome. I'm not opposed to PCs thinking of how to gain advantage with the spell list either, but frankly some of what I've read described about spell use by PCs would be boring to me as a player after the first "that was cool guys.".

I'm a fan of blind fight for Fighters, almost a must. Granted - its very situational, but as a GM I tend to look at what players invested in and actually make encounters to let them use skills/feats they picked up. Check with your GM first :-).

By the time the group is fighting CR 8-10 monsters I'd also look at including some that can detect invisible and some that have AoE attacks and spells. Not intending to kill or punish the caster, but similar to why I put ranged attackers in early on - it makes the group work as a team and gives the groups ranged attacker something to focus on. So if a ranged attacker or caster is using Greater Invisibility vs a group, then every encounter possible would include something that could attack at range and with AoE. Once death starts raining down on bad-guys from "nothing", they're going to target that general location and hope to get lucky. Also, if as an intelligent being Greater Invisibility would frankly be one of the more dangerous low-mid level spells that could be used against me - so I wouldn't think its uncommon to prepare by carrying a potion of detect invis. So at least 1 or 2 of the creatures could consume and then pose a threat to the caster, or something with the Scent monster trait. And, once they reach that level, unless the party is stupid or broke - I'd suggest they do the same because Greater Invisibility is open to NPCs as well.

Also, Greater Invisibility is 1rd/level so when its first an option that's 7 rounds - yes, lots of combats end between then and 10 rounds. However, waves can extend that. Also, if you wait until combat starts to cast it to maximize the duration, you're showing your hand making it easier for the bad-guys. In a dungeon or "room clearing" scenario you could cast it just before entering like other buffs. In those situations you're also more at risk to things like monsters with scent or AoE attacks due to constrained movement.

I like a lot of your ideas - a lot of basic, but effective (and probably easy to overlook) options like "go dark".


The other thing to remember about invisibility it is only very powerful when people sneak. Otherwise the perception DCs are based on other senses. For instance once the invisible creature attacks it is no longer sneaking (unless it is using the sniper rule and penalty) detecting a creature in combat is DC -10 so even with invisibility this is at best a DC 10 perception check.

Keep mobile so the enemy has to move to you and then attack when the enemy attacks. For casters at range, take cover then used the bag of flour/tanglefoot bag/glitterdust etc when the cast. Or ready the throw for when they cast.

Spells have effects that are visible. If a spell has a verbal component then we assume it must be spoken confidently not whispered under your breath. It should be possible to correctly identify the square, pinpoint the caster and then unleash ranged attacks using similar to fly - the caster has just given themselves total concealment like displacement.

If a person uses mirror image or displacement you might as well close you eyes and fight blind anyway, particularly if you have blind fighting. I see feats like blind fighting being a great strength for brawlers.


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Fergie wrote:
I think the best thing would be to add the chalk/flour bag item to the game, and include specific rules for it automatically allowing you to tell what square someone is in.

Already exists - though not as effective as I would have expected.

Quote:
Powder: Powdered chalk, flour, and similar materials are popular with adventurers for their utility in pinpointing invisible creatures. Throwing a bag of powder into a square is an attack against AC 5, and momentarily reveals if there is an invisible creature there. A much more effective method is to spread powder on a surface (which takes 1 full round) and look for footprints.

Sovereign Court

Consider that invisibility is rounds/level and see invisibility is 10 minutes/level. When I play my investigator I walk into an adventure with see invisibility and heightened awareness running if it's a dungeon-type scenario that looks like it will last a couple hours of in-game time. This has saved the party on a few occasions when I'm walking around like that and have a wand of faerie fire in hand. "Hey look, it's a sneaky SOB! Wreck him!"


I have not found invisibility to be a major issue at our table, any more than ranged weapons are. Characters are either prepared for them, or they're not. Preparations are relatively straightforward (from third level onwards, someone usually has glitterdust or see invisible prepared; a druid has faerie fire from first. Before that, it becomes the old "bag of flour" trick if someone thought to pack one).

If they're prepared, the combat is fairly straightforward.

If they're not, it becomes a somewhat Darwinian learning opportunity.

What's more of a problem is when the person who prepared glitterdust goes down, but that's a more general risk (what do you do when the only <X> goes down?, where X could be the healer or the chick with the ghost salt arrows.)


Alistair Quinnell wrote:
Consider that invisibility is rounds/level and see invisibility is 10 minutes/level. When I play my investigator I walk into an adventure with see invisibility and heightened awareness running if it's a dungeon-type scenario that looks like it will last a couple hours of in-game time. This has saved the party on a few occasions when I'm walking around like that and have a wand of faerie fire in hand. "Hey look, it's a sneaky SOB! Wreck him!"

Invisibility is minutes/level.

Vanish and Greater Insivibility are rounds/level.

As an arcane caster, even a kensai, I always memorize Glitterdust.


The Sword wrote:
The other thing to remember about invisibility it is only very powerful when people sneak. Otherwise the perception DCs are based on other senses. For instance once the invisible creature attacks it is no longer sneaking (unless it is using the sniper rule and penalty) detecting a creature in combat is DC -10 so even with invisibility this is at best a DC 10 perception check.

The -10 is applied to the perception check roll, not the DC. If applying the -10 in-combat penalty, it effectively becomes a DC 30 if the character is not actively using stealth. The only reason stealth would not be used is if the attacker chose not to 5' step after making a full attack, or the attacker simply chose not to roll.


Snowlilly wrote:
Alistair Quinnell wrote:
Consider that invisibility is rounds/level and see invisibility is 10 minutes/level. When I play my investigator I walk into an adventure with see invisibility and heightened awareness running if it's a dungeon-type scenario that looks like it will last a couple hours of in-game time. This has saved the party on a few occasions when I'm walking around like that and have a wand of faerie fire in hand. "Hey look, it's a sneaky SOB! Wreck him!"

Invisibility is minutes/level.

Vanish and Greater Insivibility are rounds/level.

As an arcane caster, even a kensai, I always memorize Glitterdust.

yes, and those monsters/npc's capable of carrying some means of glitterdust will too if they want to live long. well...longer is relative, if they want to put up a fight might be a better saying. (or a bag of flour, crushed bat guano, ground mushrooms, etc)

Arcane caster are pesky...be prepared for 'em.


Once a party is high enough level that they can use Greater Invisibility, and they have an arcane caster with See Invisibility, then Invisibility (either version) tends not to be a major problem.

If the party uses it, then npcs can have See Invisibility; if npcs use it, then the party has someone who can see them, who also tends to have a more general counter - Glitterdust or Faerie Fire. By this point, 2nd level spells are not too valuable.

There are, then, a few windows where Invisibility is a problem:
a) if a party (or npc group/organisation) lacks an arcane caster with the counter;
b) at lower levels, when the arcane caster might not have the counters memorised/known/has used it up; and
c) when they might have invisibility and maybe one counter, but not Greater Invisibility while an npc enemy, being higher level, has access to Gr Invis, and can counter normal Invisibility.

In my own experience, high stealth npc rogues/sneak attackers are actually harder to counter than someone using invisibility, since Wizards tend not to have the highest Perception totals and See Invisibility doesn't help against actual stealth.

At lower levels, I have found that having Invisibility available (eg a Wand) allows the whole party to join in with sneaking around, rather than splitting into the one (or maybe 2) characters who can sneak doing so while the rest sit around waiting for them to return.

To sum up: if your party lacks an arcane caster with the correct spells, then Invisibility and Greater can be a pain. Otherwise, they aren't, imo.


Snowlilly wrote:
The Sword wrote:
The other thing to remember about invisibility it is only very powerful when people sneak. Otherwise the perception DCs are based on other senses. For instance once the invisible creature attacks it is no longer sneaking (unless it is using the sniper rule and penalty) detecting a creature in combat is DC -10 so even with invisibility this is at best a DC 10 perception check.

The -10 is applied to the perception check roll, not the DC. If applying the -10 in-combat penalty, it effectively becomes a DC 30 if the character is not actively using stealth. The only reason stealth would not be used is if the attacker chose not to 5' step after making a full attack, or the attacker simply chose not to roll.

Sorry I should have been clearer that I intended they were moving so the invisibility bonus is +20 not +40.


Perception rules interact with Invisibility and Stealth rules in ways that usually require some thought and adjudication in most games I've experienced. Perception lets you identify that someone invisible is in the room & casting a spell.

You've got the following Perception DCs to consider:

  • -10 Hear the Sound of Battle | (melee, or general spellcasting) Most games I've been in have linked the sound of spellcasting to a -10 penalty to the invisible spellcaster's stealth, since you have to speak in a strong, confident voice for verbal components.
  • Notice a creature using Stealth | Opposed by Stealth
    Modifiers
  • +1/10 feet Distance to the source, object, or creature
  • And, from Stealth, +20 Stealth if moving, +40 if not moving

Remember "Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus. Intentionally searching for stimulus is a move action." So if you've just been hit, you can do a reactive Perception check to figure out the square from which the invisible creature launched the attack - but that's not the same as doing a move action to see if you can identify where the creature moved after attacking you.

There is a third party stealth rule listed on the Pathfinder PRD Stealth page: Pinpoint Sound: If you exceed the Perception DC to hear a sound by 20, you pinpoint the source of the sound, learning the exact space the sound came from. But this has not been adopted in the games I'm in for opposed rolls.

Generally, I've found Invisibility to be an issue when it appears for opposition creatures or NPCs in lower level campaigns. Once you're beyond 5th or 6th, most parties have some effective way of countering it. Similarly, it's usually used by PCs to allow full group stealthy movement, rather than mass stealth attacks. When we've seen Greater Invisibility used by PCs, there's always a chance of someone being engaged & knocked out away from the rest of the group - leading to lost characters & rescue missions.

Overall these haven't been unbalanced spells (either for the GM's creatures or for PCs) in my experience.


Invisibility has a lot of counters. Glitterdust, See Invis, Fairy Fire; the fact that you have to know someone is coming.

And you get one attack before becoming visible again. For the most part the action economy is a wash. The most powerful use is hiding and summoning creature for a while.

But all in all it's manageable. By the time greater invisibility comes only many monsters have true seeing and other counters. I don't think it causes a severe problem in games.

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