What is the threat range of a flame blade?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

In a recent game the GM killed a fellow player's character when his NPC crit with his flame blade spell, dealing double damage. The GM claimed that it had an 18-20 threat range, like a scimitar. I argued the point saying that it does not say that anywhere in the spell.

The GM then pointed out the following:

A 3-foot-long, blazing beam of red-hot fire springs forth from your hand. You wield this blade-like beam as if it were a scimitar. Attacks with the flame blade are melee touch attacks. The blade deals 1d8 points of fire damage + 1 point per two caster levels (maximum +10). Since the blade is immaterial, your Strength modifier does not apply to the damage. A flame blade can ignite combustible materials such as parchment, straw, dry sticks, and cloth.

He took that to mean that you use the mechanical rules for scimitars except where specifically contradicted by the spell; that is, it has an 18-20 threat range and can benefit from things such as Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, etc.

I took it to describe the flavor of how one is meant to wield it (like how burning hands describes how you hold your hands out--even though you could cast the spell with one hand tied behind your back), not the mechanical properties it possesses; that is, in your hand, swinging it at your enemies like you would a scimitar. In my experience, spells with a crit range or crit multiplier higher than 20/x2 specifically say as much, like aspect of the falcon, Geb's hammer, or a mage's sword, for example.

Has there been any official clarification on this point? A PC's life may well depend on it!


Well, I looked at the spell description to see if it said anything about Scimitar proficiency, and it doesn't . . . And then realized that Druids are by default proficient with the Scimitar(*), and nobody else has it on their spell list unless some Bloodline, Domain, Mystery, Patron, or Spirit gives it as a bonus spell.

(*)Exceptions: Ancient Guardian and Feral Child archetypes, and these don't say anything about Flame Blade.

Spells that require attack rolls usually only threaten a Critical on a natural 20, so I would default to this unless a FAQ says otherwise, since this spell's' description doesn't.

Edit: Here is another spell for which this question would be relevant: Spiritual Hammer, which doesn't say anything about Criticals, but does say that it often makes a force replica of your deity's favored weapon, and then mentions 4 specific weapons for Clerics (and presumably Oracles) without a deity.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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We've always played that it had an 18-20/x2 crit range. That's what it means by treating it as a scimitar.

I guess your fellow player has an opportunity to play a new character....


I would side with the DM on this. If it wasn't meant to be a scimitar's focus/specialization and such, it would say, "It's appearance is similiar to a Scimitar" or something along those lines. Instead, it says you are wielding it like a scimitar..meaning anything you do with a scimitar, you can do with this, with the exceptions of what the spell points out as differences. While the spell could use a bit better wording..but then, that's RAW for you.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Another example is spiritual weapon, which specifically calls out that the weapons use the weapons' crit ranges.

If that was assumed, why clarify it?

Nerioth wrote:
I would side with the DM on this. If it wasn't meant to be a scimitar's focus/specialization and such, it would say, "It's appearance is similiar to a Scimitar" or something along those lines. Instead, it says you are wielding it like a scimitar..meaning anything you do with a scimitar, you can do with this, with the exceptions of what the spell points out as differences. While the spell could use a bit better wording..but then, that's RAW for you.

If it's meant to have the same threat range as a real scimitar, how come it isn't worded like the numerous other spells out there that specifically call out the threat range? Why beat around the bush?

Perhaps the answer is that it isn't supposed to have the scimitar's threat range.


You could ask that question of twenty other spells, why weren't they clarified. The only thing to do is when there is an open to interpretation is to let the GM make the call. You can argue both sides of it and it won't make a lick of difference because there is no Errata to clarify.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I think it's just poorly written. They may not have specified it for this spell because this spell refers to a single specific weapon, and the unique characteristic of the scimitar is its expanded critical threat range.

Sorry about the dead character. Maybe he can make a crit-fishing druid that dual-wields flame blade spells and teams up with the No-dachi-wielding barbarian and uses the Butterfly Sting feat to give crits to the barbarian?

The Exchange Owner - D20 Hobbies

Ravingdork wrote:
it has an 18-20 threat range and can benefit from things such as Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, etc.

For what it's worth, I'd do the same.

It does say "as if it were a scimitar".

Ravingdork wrote:
If that was assumed, why clarify it?

They often state assumed things, all over the place in the rules. I wouldn't use something stated as an exception.


So, would you also allow to use stuff like weapon focus:scimitar, dervish dance, or a magus spellstrike through it (assume the magus got it on his spell list somehow)?

Scarab Sages

LoneKnave wrote:
So, would you also allow to use stuff like weapon focus:scimitar, dervish dance, or a magus spellstrike through it (assume the magus got it on his spell list somehow)?

Well Dervish Dance wouldn't work, because you don't add your Strength mod to the damage roll, and thus have nothing for which to sub your Dex mod.


You can sub it for the attack roll still.

Sovereign Court

The mythic version of Flame Blade does specifically call out that it threatens on an 18-20.


Ravingdork wrote:
He took that to mean that you use the mechanical rules for scimitars except where specifically contradicted by the spell; that is, it has an 18-20 threat range and can benefit from things such as Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, etc.

I agree with this 100%


LoneKnave wrote:
You can sub it for the attack roll still.

Plus you have a nice backup option for when you run out of spell slots.

I agree with it being 18-20.


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This is the spell description for mythic flame blade.

The blade's damage increases to 2d6 points of fire damage + 1 point per caster level (maximum +20). The blade threatens a critical hit on a natural 18–20 as if it were an actual scimitar.

Augmented (3rd): If you expend two uses of mythic power, the blade threatens a critical hit on a natural 15–20, and bypasses hardness, fire resistance, and fire immunity.

It spells out that flame blade does get a crit range once it's mythic.
Strongly implying that it does not from the basic spell.

My opinion has always been the language referring to scimitar in the base spell description is to enforce that a druid can use it without non-proficiency penalties as they are proficient in 'scimitar' but not 'sword'.


Cornielius wrote:

This is the spell description for mythic flame blade.

My opinion has always been the language referring to scimitar in the base spell description is to enforce that a druid can use it without non-proficiency penalties as they are proficient in 'scimitar' but not 'sword'.

Are you sure they didn't just say what the original spell had intended and instead of fixing the original spell in an errata, they just corrected it in the Mythic Flame blade version? Anyways, without someone to vet it, it's going to just go back to interpretation by the GM.

Liberty's Edge

The one time I had an opportunity use flame blade I didn't use the expanded crit range. Then again, I didn't read the spell that closely and didn't realize it was mimicking a scimitar.

I have no problem with what the GM did.


I take "as if it were a scimitar" to mean that any feats or abilities specific to scimitars also applies to this weapon. So, if you had weapon focus (scimitar), you would get the +1 to hit.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:

Another example is spiritual weapon, which specifically calls out that the weapons use the weapons' crit ranges.

If that was assumed, why clarify it?

"The weapon takes the shape of a weapon favored by your deity or a weapon with some spiritual significance or symbolism to you (see below) and has the same threat range and critical multipliers as a real weapon of its form." vs "You wield this blade-like beam as if it were a scimitar."

So one say that you have a weapon that can have several forms, and that the threat range and multiplier is determined by the specific form it take. The other has only 1 specific form. Actually saying that the flame blade has the same threat range and critical multiplier of a scimitar is perfectly in line with spiritual weapon.


In 3.5, Scourge of Howling Horror, the druid hobgoblin you fought used Flame blade and it notes he has 18 Crit I believe.
So while "maybe" in Pathfinder, definitely in 3.5 which Pathfinder was based on.

However, on the opposite side, Rise of runelords, notes the spear has x3 crit, but says nothing about flame blade of Gogmurt.


Flame blade's been wielded as a scimitar ever since Gygax first wrote up the spell.

I'd say it has an 18-20 crit range, and any scimitar feats you've got would work with the thing (barring anything blacked by the touch attack rules). And if you aren't proficient in scimitars, you aren't proficient in a flame blade, either.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
FAQ wrote:

Ray: Do rays count as weapons for the purpose of spells and effects that affect weapons?

Yes. (See also this FAQ item for a similar question about rays and weapon feats.)

For example, a bard's inspire courage says it affects "weapon damage rolls," which is worded that way so don't try to add the bonus to a spell like fireball. However, rays are treated as weapons, whether they're from spells, a monster ability, a class ability, or some other source, so the inspire courage bonus applies to ray attack rolls and ray damage rolls.

The same rule applies to weapon-like spells such as flame blade, mage's sword, and spiritual weapon--effects that affect weapons work on these spells.

So. "effects that affect weapons work flame blade". So some effect work with flame blade. It is unclear if you need "weapon focus Flame blade", "weapon focus spells that make a energy blade spring from my hand" or "weapon focus scimitar".

As "weapon focus ray" exist the second option seem the right one, but AFAIK, it would be a category made by 1 spell.

i would allow "weapon focus scimitar" to work, but any GM can have a different opinion.


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Davor wrote:
LoneKnave wrote:
So, would you also allow to use stuff like weapon focus:scimitar, dervish dance, or a magus spellstrike through it (assume the magus got it on his spell list somehow)?
Well Dervish Dance wouldn't work, because you don't add your Strength mod to the damage roll, and thus have nothing for which to sub your Dex mod.

Dervish Dance would allow you to treat it as a finesse weapon and use dex for your attack roll, though.

The Exchange Owner - D20 Hobbies

LoneKnave wrote:
So, would you also allow to use stuff like

It does say "as if it were a scimitar".

So if something like Weapon Focus Scimitar is possessed, then it improves this attack.


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As if a scimitar. Takes scimitar proficiency uses scimitar crit range.


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I've always run it using the 18+ crit range too FWIW.

Scarab Sages

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
As if a scimitar. Takes scimitar proficiency uses scimitar crit range.

It a scimitar for proficency and feats, but it's not a scimitar, or it would target normal AC instead of touch AC. The mythic version of the spell clearly states the normal version does not alter the threat range.

House rule it to use the crit range of you like, but raw it has a x20.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Imbicatus wrote:
The mythic version of the spell clearly states the normal version does not alter the threat range.

Actually, unless you're looking at a different version of the spell than I am, it doesn't "clearly state" it - it merely implies it.


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The Mythic version seems to imply that the normal version has the standard 20/x2. I agree that focus and specialization should apply, but the crit stats do not.


I think your GM is in error. Spells that have differing crit ranges from standard say so in the spell text rather explicitly as has been demonstrated many times in the thread.

The whole 'scimitar' descriptive part of flame blade is a fluff hold over from pre 3.0 editions of the spell IIRC anyways. Since the critical threat system was invented with 3.0 I would be doubtful if that holdover descriptive text was meant to intend an increase in threat range, especially after so many other spells explicitly say when critical damage details are altered.

Even Mythic Flame blade specifically calls out that it gives a different threat range, which regular Flame Blade does not (call out explicitly).

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Atarlost wrote:
Davor wrote:
LoneKnave wrote:
So, would you also allow to use stuff like weapon focus:scimitar, dervish dance, or a magus spellstrike through it (assume the magus got it on his spell list somehow)?
Well Dervish Dance wouldn't work, because you don't add your Strength mod to the damage roll, and thus have nothing for which to sub your Dex mod.
Dervish Dance would allow you to treat it as a finesse weapon and use dex for your attack roll, though.
Quote:

Dervish Dance (Combat)

...
Benefit: When wielding a scimitar with one hand, you can use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on melee attack and damage rolls.

You don't apply your strength modifier, so there is nothing to substitute with your dexterity. The flame blade damage is 1d8, not 1d8+strength bonus, so it can't become 1d8+dexterity bonus.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

It's probably intended not to actually have the properties of a scimitar (as in threat range) but still have feats devoted to scimitar use apply. The reference to the 18-20 threat range for the mythic version pretty much seals that deal for me.

That said, it's not exactly a terrible interpretation to use the physical scimitar's threat range, either (particularly in absence of the mythic rules). Just probably unintended.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

The attack roll is still Strength-based, though, which is what Atarlost is speaking of.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I have always read this to require proficiency with the scimitar, and that any feat or ability to applied to wielding a scimitar applied to this spell. I have never read it as having the threat range of scimitar. My reading has always been that it is a spell, and threatens on a natural roll of 20 only.

I think the referneces to the Mythic spell increase support for the reading the rules as Flame Blade not providing an increased threat range for the spell.

However, this does raise the question in my mind of how I would interpret this for someone with Improved Critical (Scimitar) and using this spell.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I had always assumed that it was in all ways like a scimitar with the increased threat range etc. The mythic version does make it fairly obvious that at least those developers believed that flame doesn't have an expanded threat range, and that is a compelling argument.

I would have to go with 'wield as a scimitar' means that any abilities or feats that would effect scimitar wielding would apply (focus, specialization etc.) but the weapon itself has a normal threat range of a spell (20 x 2).


If I wield a Rapier as a Long sword, is it a Long sword, a Rapier, or an improvised weapon?

I'm firmly in the "feats apply but it's threat range is 20/x2" camp


I always used it that way. First edition, second, 3.0-5, PF.....


Weird -- after seeing the Mythic version of the spell (which for some reason is neither on the PRD page linked in the original post nor on the www.d20pfsrd.com page for it, so you have to go to Archives of Nethys), I noticed that not only do Hunters get it (for having the 1st 6 levels of the Druid spell list), but also Shamans get it, and they DON'T have proficiency with the Scimitar (and the spell doesn't give you a servant force to wield it for you the way Spiritual Weapon does), so from that plus the Mythic version of it I would be inclined to say that it just gets the default 20/x2 Critical that most spells requiring attack rolls get.


I'm ok either way but I ran a game and allowed it to be 18 20. But she was new and I didn't want to confuse her with technicalities. Scimitar is enough.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

Functions as a scimitar. Thus same critical range


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Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't apply your strength modifier,

Sure you do. You apply it to the attack roll. Because a scimitar is not a finessable weapon and Flame Blade behaves like a scimitar.

If you have Dervish Dance you substitute your dexterity mod for your strength mod.


The Raven Black wrote:
Functions as a scimitar. Thus same critical range

Wielded is not even close to "functions" as. You can swing a Nerf bat as if it were a sword, that doesn't mean it functions as an actual sword.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber
Atarlost wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't apply your strength modifier,

Sure you do. You apply it to the attack roll. Because a scimitar is not a finessable weapon and Flame Blade behaves like a scimitar.

If you have Dervish Dance you substitute your dexterity mod for your strength mod.

For attack only ;-)

You don't apply Strength to damage on a touch attack.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber
Skylancer4 wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Functions as a scimitar. Thus same critical range
Wielded is not even close to "functions" as. You can swing a Nerf bat as if it were a sword, that doesn't mean it functions as an actual sword.

My bad. I misquote based on this exchange with Joshua Frost in 2009

He made an awful lot of clarifications there, which were good enough for me :-)


Atarlost wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't apply your strength modifier,

Sure you do. You apply it to the attack roll. Because a scimitar is not a finessable weapon and Flame Blade behaves like a scimitar.

If you have Dervish Dance you substitute your dexterity mod for your strength mod.

There are people using a scimitar without dervish dance?


Bottom line is that the GM made a ruling and the fact that it has been argued so much here proves that it is a viable possibility. Except when the ruling is patently unfair or going against the rule, the GM has a right to make a decision and stick with it.
I tend to allow the extended crit. range when I GM but have been in games where my druid had to use that spell with a standard 20/x2 Critical and had no problem with it.


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It is treated as a scimitar. 18-20 threat.

The fact that the Mythic version explicitly states this range is irrelevant, if it was intended to serve as errata for the non-mythic version, it would SAY SO.

It is simply re-iterating what has already been said using different words.

Scimitars threaten on 18-20, any other number would be a house rule.


gorkai wrote:

Bottom line is that the GM made a ruling and the fact that it has been argued so much here proves that it is a viable possibility. Except when the ruling is patently unfair or going against the rule, the GM has a right to make a decision and stick with it.

I tend to allow the extended crit. range when I GM but have been in games where my druid had to use that spell with a standard 20/x2 Critical and had no problem with it.

I would hardly say it has been "argued so much", if anything it has been "we run it this way" vs "we don't". And how many posts are there here actually pointing to rules wording vs "never really looked into/thought about it" ? A little bit of back and forth doesn't mean the topic is particularly ambiguous, it just means people were doing something without putting much thought into how it might actually have supposedly been done correctly. At worst this is one of those "It doesn't tell me I can't -insert point of discussion here ( use the crit range)- so I can" topics. The spell says you use the magical sword shaped flame as if it were a scimitar, not that you use the scimitar's stats.

Wielding has a distinct meaning in the game which has been explained before now (see defending? weapons FAQ and the like).

It means being used.

It doesn't mean equates to being.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
Atarlost wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't apply your strength modifier,

Sure you do. You apply it to the attack roll. Because a scimitar is not a finessable weapon and Flame Blade behaves like a scimitar.

If you have Dervish Dance you substitute your dexterity mod for your strength mod.

There are people using a scimitar without dervish dance?

Why not? Same deal as using a Cutlass. Actually, this ought to be pretty common on ships hailing from the coasts of Garund.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Atarlost wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't apply your strength modifier,

Sure you do. You apply it to the attack roll. Because a scimitar is not a finessable weapon and Flame Blade behaves like a scimitar.

If you have Dervish Dance you substitute your dexterity mod for your strength mod.

I missed the part about "Dervish Dance would allow you to treat it as a finesse weapon and use dex for your attack roll, though." in the original post. With that caveat, it work.

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Atarlost wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't apply your strength modifier,

Sure you do. You apply it to the attack roll. Because a scimitar is not a finessable weapon and Flame Blade behaves like a scimitar.

If you have Dervish Dance you substitute your dexterity mod for your strength mod.

There are people using a scimitar without dervish dance?

Yes. I have a strength based magus.

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