Finding invisible spellcasters via their spellcasting


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

In a recent game I threw a powerful witch at my players. Said witch, knowing the PCs had access to see invisibility, used dust of disappearance prolifically during the battle (which allows invisibility, and specifically defeats see invisibility).

When the witch later cast a spell, my players demanded to know his exact position (that is, grid square), citing that the FAQ made it clear that the magical manifestations generated from spellcasting are easily observable by all. They further claimed that, per the rules for invisibility, light sources (such as the glowing runes of spellcasting sometimes portrayed in Paizo's art) could not be hidden by invisibility effects.

I denied them this knowledge, and instead allowed them to make Perception checks to try and pinpoint the caster's square by sound (as he made no attempt to conceal his voice). They were less than pleased, but the game moved on.

What does the RAW have to say about this? Can you actually locate spellcasters via their spellcasting while they are invisible? Does nothing short of a high, opaque wall and a deaf target keep others from realizing you are casting a spell?


Casting a spell does generate effects that allow observers to pinpoint the caster's location.

Nothing stops the caster from moving after casting.


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

Casting a spell does generate effects that allow observers to pinpoint the caster's location.

Nothing stops the caster from moving after casting.

I was hoping for some rules citations/evidence to that effect. If there's none to be had, I can't say I'd be surprised. Observable spellcasting manifestations are a pseudo-unwritten rule after all.


Even of there is effects to see, I'd still require perception checks to see it. So regardless a roll would be required.


I always assumed the rules were deliberately vague to allow individual caster's the option to personalize the visualization of their spells.

Used to be a feat for customizing spell appearance back in 3.0
I would rather not have that feat reappear.


The FAQ never says that all manifestations are visible, and the intent is to avoid the caster doing whatever he wants in noncombat situations. The intent is not to negate spells like invisbility.

Quote:
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.

However there is a -20 when in combat or speaking normally, and the caster is assumed to not be whispering so they should get a perception check.

The idea is that somehow people will know the caster is doing something magical, and if they see him casting they get a spellcraft check. If they can't see him casting well, there is no spellcraft check.

If they continue to try to argue that was Paizo's intent then I would put up an FAQ that specifally asks if invisibility was intended to be negated by casting spell with regard to giving the exact square away.

If they don't want to wait you can ask Mark for an answer for now until the FAQ would be resolved.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
wraithstrike wrote:
The FAQ never says that all manifestations are visible...

No, but they are observable. Nothing in the rules for invisibility seem to change this, sadly.

To hear my players talk about it, it's like a wizard with permanent arcane sight trying to use invisibility. It just doesn't work.

(Which is ironic, considering the PCs have been casting spells while invisible every other battle up to this point.)


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Ravingdork wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
The FAQ never says that all manifestations are visible...

No, but they are observable. Nothing in the rules for invisibility seem to change this, sadly.

To hear my players talk about it, it's like a wizard with permanent arcane sight trying to use invisibility. It just doesn't work.

(Which is ironic, considering the PCs have been casting spells while invisible every other battle up to this point.)

Observable does not mean the square is given away. Sound is also observable, as an example.

Also players often suggest rules changes without thinking about how it will impact them. Let's say you go with their idea, and it shuts down this one encounter, it would affect them for the rest of the game.

Lastly, they were not enforcing it before now so I would say that I would consider it for the next game, since they didn't bring it up before.

PS: Project Image also fails under their interpretation. Even though the image is the source of the spell the caster is still the one casting the spell. How do they propose to allow this spell to work?
The spell requires lines of sight from the caster to the image so hiding in another room won't work. I would have them prove intent.


I have a question kinda related.
Can you spellcraft something you can't perception?
Like if I have a +40 spellcraft to identify spells being cast, and I have a perception of 0, can I spellcraft a spell from the invisible person that I cannot perceive?


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Chess Pwn wrote:

I have a question kinda related.

Can you spellcraft something you can't perception?
Like if I have a +40 spellcraft to identify spells being cast, and I have a perception of 0, can I spellcraft a spell from the invisible person that I cannot perceive?

No. The spellcraft skill says that you have to be able to see the spell as it is being cast. So if the caster is invisible you can't see the spell as it is being cast.


wraithstrike wrote:
Chess Pwn wrote:

I have a question kinda related.

Can you spellcraft something you can't perception?
Like if I have a +40 spellcraft to identify spells being cast, and I have a perception of 0, can I spellcraft a spell from the invisible person that I cannot perceive?
No. The spellcraft skill says that you have to be able to see the spell as it is being cast. So if the caster is invisible you can't see the spell as it is being cast.

The FAQ says otherwise, and gives the reason why.

FAQ wrote:
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.


The FAQ doesn't undermine his point.


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

But it's the caster who is invisible, not the spell. (To play Devil's advocate.)


the faq needs a part about people being invisible when they cast because as it is right now casting while invisible gives you away completely. this came up in one of my games also. I was playing a psychic who was invis and I said I was going to cast and the DM said it would immediately give away my position citing this faq. after reading it I had to agree by RAW casting a spell while invis lets everyone with eyes to know exactly where you are, its BS and I hate it.


Plausible Pseudonym wrote:
The FAQ doesn't undermine his point.

The FAQ question explicitly includes casting while invisible.

The spell's manifestation is always observable and identifiable as magic.


Snowlilly wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Chess Pwn wrote:

I have a question kinda related.

Can you spellcraft something you can't perception?
Like if I have a +40 spellcraft to identify spells being cast, and I have a perception of 0, can I spellcraft a spell from the invisible person that I cannot perceive?
No. The spellcraft skill says that you have to be able to see the spell as it is being cast. So if the caster is invisible you can't see the spell as it is being cast.

The FAQ says otherwise, and gives the reason why.

FAQ wrote:
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.

The FAQ does nothing to undermine my point. It never contradicts the rule in the spellcraft section. Noticing a manifestion does not mean you "see" the spell being cast.


Snowlilly wrote:
Plausible Pseudonym wrote:
The FAQ doesn't undermine his point.

The FAQ question explicitly includes casting while invisible.

The spell's manifestation is always observable and identifiable as magic.

As I already said observable, does not mean visible. You might want to quote my previous post, and then counter with specific text to avoid me having to repeat myself. It makes it look like you are just skimming.

I am guilty of it at times also, but I do try not to do it.


Ravingdork wrote:
But it's the caster who is invisible, not the spell. (To play Devil's advocate.)

"See the spell as it is being cast" means see the caster cast the spell.

Noticing manifestations is not stated anywhere in the book as being the equivalent of seeing the spell as it is being cast since manifestations does not equal the spell itself.


The Spellcraft rule explicitly states that it takes the same penalties as Perception.

I read it very easily as "If you can see the caster, you can see the magic."

Absolute worst case, it's unclear. FAQ it and while you wait, pick whichever way you'd rather run it.


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Just as an example for everyone to chew on:

Imagine that you're in a king's court, and just as Ludwig XIX is about to make a pronouncement, a disembodied voice (I cast James Earl Jones here) booms out "אדם לשלוט." As the king stands, his courtiers notice that his face is blank and his voice is curiously robotic as he announces that he is expelling the diplomats from Fredonia for crimes against the State.

I wonder if the king was just enchanted?

That's an obvious -- and observable -- manifestation, but it doesn't necessarily reveal the spellcaster, only the spell. Of course, I can now look around and see if anyone in the crowd is making rude gestures that I associate with an enchantment spell.....


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thejeff wrote:

The Spellcraft rule explicitly states that it takes the same penalties as Perception.

I read it very easily as "If you can see the caster, you can see the magic."

Alternatively, if you can hear the caster, you can hear the magic, since hearing something is also Perception-based.

We also know that you can observe the magic based on the same rules that you would use to see/hear/smell/whatever the caster if the caster weren't invisible/silenced/standing in a pile of peppermint/whatever.


Orfamay Quest wrote:

Just as an example for everyone to chew on:

Imagine that you're in a king's court, and just as Ludwig XIX is about to make a pronouncement, a disembodied voice (I cast James Earl Jones here) booms out "אדם לשלוט." As the king stands, his courtiers notice that his face is blank and his voice is curiously robotic as he announces that he is expelling the diplomats from Fredonia for crimes against the State.

I wonder if the king was just enchanted?

That's an obvious -- and observable -- manifestation, but it doesn't necessarily reveal the spellcaster, only the spell. Of course, I can now look around and see if anyone in the crowd is making rude gestures that I associate with an enchantment spell.....

You're treading over ground already covered in the thread that made the FAQ.

That's the effects of the spell, not the manifestations of casting a spell.

The FAQ says they if they are doing a SLA, a silent and stilled spell, or Psychic spell, all of which are only thought based. Anyone would be able to know who is casting the spell and if trained in spellcraft, which spell it is.

Now the question is, how does invisibility work with this? can you still see the casting of the spell that is visible when the purely mental action happens or is it hidden because you are hidden?


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Chess Pwn wrote:


You're treading over ground already covered in the thread that made the FAQ.

I am not. Re-read the FAQ.

Quote:


That's the effects of the spell, not the manifestations of casting a spell.

No, the EFFECTS of a dominate person spell are that a person is dominated. The MANIFESTATIONS are something different that enable people to determine that a spell has been cast. Such as a disembodied voice saying the name of the spell in badly-translated Hebrew.

N.b. -- they enable a person to determine that a spell has been cast, but not who cast it.

Quote:


The FAQ says they if they are doing a SLA, a silent and stilled spell, or Psychic spell, all of which are only thought based. Anyone would be able to know who is casting the spell and if trained in spellcraft, which spell it is.

It does not. It merely says that "these manifestations are obviously magic of some kind, even to the uninitiated"; it does not say that these manifestations can be traced to any specific person.

Quote:


Now the question is, how does invisibility work with this?

Mr. Jones' voice still announces to everyone that someone tried to ensorcel the king. Whether or not the caster is invisible is irrelevant.


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Chess Pwn wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:

Just as an example for everyone to chew on:

Imagine that you're in a king's court, and just as Ludwig XIX is about to make a pronouncement, a disembodied voice (I cast James Earl Jones here) booms out "אדם לשלוט." As the king stands, his courtiers notice that his face is blank and his voice is curiously robotic as he announces that he is expelling the diplomats from Fredonia for crimes against the State.

I wonder if the king was just enchanted?

That's an obvious -- and observable -- manifestation, but it doesn't necessarily reveal the spellcaster, only the spell. Of course, I can now look around and see if anyone in the crowd is making rude gestures that I associate with an enchantment spell.....

You're treading over ground already covered in the thread that made the FAQ.

That's the effects of the spell, not the manifestations of casting a spell.

The FAQ says they if they are doing a SLA, a silent and stilled spell, or Psychic spell, all of which are only thought based. Anyone would be able to know who is casting the spell and if trained in spellcraft, which spell it is.

Now the question is, how does invisibility work with this? can you still see the casting of the spell that is visible when the purely mental action happens or is it hidden because you are hidden?

Can you still observe it they are behind a wall? In another room? Halfway across the city?

Given that Perception modifiers explicitly affect Spellcraft checks, I think it only makes sense that you have to actually be able to perceive them. The point of the FAQ and the rule is to keep people from just standing there and casting unnoticed, not to ruin any kind of stealth.


thejeff wrote:

you still observe it they are behind a wall? In another room? Halfway across the city?

Given that Perception modifiers explicitly affect Spellcraft checks, I think it only makes sense that you have to actually be able to perceive them. The point of the FAQ and the rule is to keep people from just standing there and casting unnoticed, not to ruin any kind of stealth.

Mr. Jones' voice is, per rule, exactly as audible as anyone else's voice would be under the same circumstances. If you're across the city, you probably can't hear it. Hearing through a wall imposes the same "+10/foot of thickness" penalty to the perception DC that would be applied to ordinary conversation or the sounds of battle.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Perception modifiers, but not stealth modifiers. Invisibility only alters stealth.


Perception Modifiers DC Modifier

Creature or object is invisible +20

link


The easy RAW answer is that a Perception check is required for something as simple as "Notice a visible creature", sure it is DC 0, so most characters will succeed on a 1 and needn't roll, but RAW a check is required to detect much of anything.

What's the DC to pinpoint a caster? "The DC to notice such details varies depending upon distance, the environment, and how noticeable the detail is. The following table gives a number of guidelines."

By RAW a Perception check is required for even the painfully obvious like the sound of battle or the stench of rotting garbage, it's just that the DC might be very low. The precise number is left to the GM's fiat.


I know this is a rules thread, but I'm going to keep advocating this so maybe at least in PF2 down the road we can get a better codified set of rules for things.

If you're running a home game, I recommend making the switch to Sphere's of power, which has it's own free wikia like d20pfsrd. This system does a much better job at making magic not crazy and making the rules clear and manageable, while still allowing much greater flexibility in player choice.

here's basically what i'm talking about. It clearly defines what can do what and the player can make that choice, or the GM can ban it or require players pick from pre-specified traditions(instead of arbitrarily having to say your spell was noticed, etc.). It's pretty simple.


Bandw2 wrote:


here's basically what i'm talking about. It clearly defines what can do what and the player can make that choice, or the GM can ban it or require players pick from pre-specified traditions(instead of arbitrarily having to say your spell was noticed, etc.). It's pretty simple.

I don't see it. As in, no, it doesn't "clearly define" anything; it has the same drawbacks and ambiguities that were present in AD&D.

For example,

Quote:


Somatic Casting

You must gesture to cast spells—a process that requires you to have at least 1 hand unoccupied. When using magic, you cannot wear armor heavier than light without incurring a chance of arcane spell failure. You may select this drawback twice. If taken a second time, you cannot wear any armor or use a shield without incurring a chance of arcane spell failure.

Verbal Casting

You must speak in a loud, clear voice to cast spells. Using magic alerts all nearby hearing creatures to your presence and location, effectively breaking stealth. You cannot cast in an area of magical silence, or in any other situation where you are unable to speak clearly.

Those are more-or-less the AD&D component rules. So what does "speak in a loud clear voice" actually mean? Can I disguise my verbal components as the lyrics to a song that I'm singing? Does "effectively breaking stealth" mean that I'm no longer invisible? If not, how would a person hearing the spell be able to pinpoint my location, for example, to shoot an arrow at me? Can I make the necessary gestures for somatic casting with a hand tucked behind my back, or under the table at the casino, or behind someone else's back in a crowd?

And if I cast a spell without either of those drawbacks, is it obvious that I cast a spell, or can I dominate the king in such a way that none of his courtiers realize it?

SoP provides, AFAICT, no more guidance on any of those questions than Gygax did. At least the FAQ provides some answers.....


Magical signs wrote:


Your magic is accompanied by a tell-tale sign; for example, your body glows brightly, the sound of tortured souls shriek as you cast, feelings of a deep chill affect all creatures within 30 ft. All nearby creatures know when you are using magic, as well as the nature of the magic used.

otherwise, it isn't obvious they're doing magic.


Here's a question, can you counterspell a caster who is invisible?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Chess Pwn wrote:

Perception Modifiers DC Modifier

Creature or object is invisible +20

link

Ooh, good to know! Thanks.


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The invisibility question isn't answerable by the FAQ as it exists.

Quote:
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.

If you decide the exact details are burning runes in the air around you, spellcasting is visible while invisible. If you decide the manifestation is inky, tattoo-like runes that appear on the spellcaster's body, they aren't detectable while invisible. If you decide the tell is that a distinctive mystical sound or mental chime emanates from the caster, then spellcasting gives a bonus (determined by the GM) to Perception used to pinpoint the spellcaster. All three approaches are valid. There may be others.

The last quoted sentence tells you the intent, no hidden spells in a noncombat situation. Sneaking around in invisibility is a combat situation, so you're ok to decide you don't want spellcasting to be visible in those circumstances.

It really sucks for PFS or consistency between groups, though. They should address it.


Obviously, any player that wants a sneaky spellcaster is going to try to define manifestations that can be hidden with invisibility.

So the real question is, is this actually allowed?


The best thing to do is to start an FAQ.
Can manifestations automatically really the location of an invisible caster down to his square or does him being invisible hide the manifestation, or <alternate and likely longer more complex answer>.


wraithstrike wrote:

The best thing to do is to start an FAQ.

Can manifestations automatically really the location of an invisible caster down to his square or does him being invisible hide the manifestation, or <alternate and likely longer more complex answer>.

If we're going to ask it, I'd like to include Stealth too.


_Ozy_ wrote:

Obviously, any player that wants a sneaky spellcaster is going to try to define manifestations that can be hidden with invisibility.

So the real question is, is this actually allowed?

It does say it's up the group before it talks about the possibility of customizing it by the caster. In the latter case I'm sure they mean by aesthetics (color, shape) rather than function (visible or not under invisibility). The GM and group should decide what they want, remembering that it goes both ways, players and monsters will both benefit or be punished.

I'll point out it was always allowed before the FAQ, the world didn't end. Componentless spellcasting in social situations was the perceived problem, not spellcasting while invisible. And whatever you decide goes both ways. I suspect parties will benefit more from retaining the status quo more than monsters will.


I've had to browbeat at least two GMs to at least let us attempt to hear invisible spellcasters summoning creatures during combat. GMs wanting to pester the party with invisible spellcasters very much is a thing.

Now, if those spellcasters were manifesting visible 'magic runic circles' or something else that let us pinpoint their square, or at least get a general location for something like glitterdust, we would have had a much easier time of things.

Liberty's Edge

Ravingdork wrote:

In a recent game I threw a powerful witch at my players. Said witch, knowing the PCs had access to see invisibility, used dust of disappearance prolifically during the battle (which allows invisibility, and specifically defeats see invisibility).

When the witch later cast a spell, my players demanded to know his exact position (that is, grid square), citing that the FAQ made it clear that the magical manifestations generated from spellcasting are easily observable by all. They further claimed that, per the rules for invisibility, light sources (such as the glowing runes of spellcasting sometimes portrayed in Paizo's art) could not be hidden by invisibility effects.

I denied them this knowledge, and instead allowed them to make Perception checks to try and pinpoint the caster's square by sound (as he made no attempt to conceal his voice). They were less than pleased, but the game moved on.

What does the RAW have to say about this? Can you actually locate spellcasters via their spellcasting while they are invisible? Does nothing short of a high, opaque wall and a deaf target keep others from realizing you are casting a spell?

i would use the perception table to determine it. the DC for hearing the details of a conversation is DC 0 so if the target is close and the PCs dont have negative perceptions they should have no problem making the check. dont forget to add things like distance (+1 to DC per 10 ft) and if the target is through a closed door or wall. the rune thing is kinda b!*+#*%& your players cooked up unless the spell was something with an obvious path like fireball or magic missle or something. if you want to avoid this problem give them a metamagic rod for silent spell.


vhok wrote:
the faq needs a part about people being invisible when they cast because as it is right now casting while invisible gives you away completely. this came up in one of my games also. I was playing a psychic who was invis and I said I was going to cast and the DM said it would immediately give away my position citing this faq. after reading it I had to agree by RAW casting a spell while invis lets everyone with eyes to know exactly where you are, its BS and I hate it.

Invisibility is still pretty powerful. You get the total concealment and can 5 foot step or move after casting.


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Chess Pwn wrote:

Perception Modifiers DC Modifier

Creature or object is invisible +20

link

The caster is invisible.

The spell manifestations are not.


Snowlilly wrote:
Chess Pwn wrote:

Perception Modifiers DC Modifier

Creature or object is invisible +20

link

The caster is invisible.

The spell manifestations are not.

1) That was specifically in response to someone saying that "Invisibility only alters stealth", not Perception modifiers.

2) Spellcraft specifically says that Perception modifiers apply. Invisibility modifies perception.


Snowlilly wrote:
Chess Pwn wrote:

Perception Modifiers DC Modifier

Creature or object is invisible +20

link

The caster is invisible.

The spell manifestations are not.

I still dont see any rules saying a manifestation has to be visible. It says they are observable. Sound is also observable, and as others have pointed out the FAQ left it up to the group on how they would manifest. They might manifest as writing on the caster, and if he is invisible so is the manifestation.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

... but might still shed light for a split-second.

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