Swarms and Rays for FAQing


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Tarantula wrote:

Here's my suggestion for a FAQ question on this:

Are swarms immune to spells which require a ranged attack roll to hit a single target(ex Acid Arrow, Ray of Frost) even if the spell doesn't specifically state it targets a single creature?

I heard it is better if the FAQ is first post so started a new Thread for my spider friend.

Grand Lodge

I'm thinking unless a spell has a "burst" or "cone" or any other "area of effect" descriptor, it only targets one square, and typically: 1 square = 1 target.
Swarms are masses of tiny or diminutive creatures.

Touch attacks imply that you are trying to (meta)physically "touch" a single enemy.

What good does an Acid Arrow do against hundreds of rats in a swarm or Thousands of irate wasps?
You are striking at a square filled with non-stationary enemies that are writhing over one another. You want to stick your hand into one?

Yay, you killed maybe one of two of them. Keep whittling them down!

When combating a swarm, you are aiming to destroy the entire swarm in one go or kill as many of them as possible.

TL;DR-
Touch spells target enemies.
Burst/Cone/Spread spell with saves are best against swarms.


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Quote:
I'm thinking unless a spell has a "burst" or "cone" or any other "area of effect" descriptor, it only targets one square, and typically: 1 square = 1 target.

Well there are spells with one square AoEs like snapdragon fireworks

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
PRD wrote:
Ray: Some effects are rays. You aim a ray as if using a ranged weapon, though typically you make a ranged touch attack rather than a normal ranged attack. As with a ranged weapon, you can fire into the dark or at an invisible creature and hope you hit something. You don't have to see the creature you're trying to hit, as you do with a targeted spell. Intervening creatures and obstacles, however, can block your line of sight or provide cover for the creature at which you're aiming.
PRD wrote:

A swarm of Tiny creatures consists of 300 nonflying creatures or 1,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Diminutive creatures consists of 1,500 nonflying creatures or 5,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Fine creatures consists of 10,000 creatures, whether they are flying or not.

....
[b]A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate),[/] with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind. A swarm takes half again as much damage (+50%) from spells or effects that affect an area, such as splash weapons and many evocation spells.

I don't know where you get the idea that a ray target an area. It target a creature or a specific number of creatures if you can fire more than 1 ray at a time.

The example spell in the swarm subtype, disintegrate, is a ray.


Here is how we know swarms don't get affected by ranged touch attacks as questioned.

PRD wrote:
A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate),
disintegrate wrote:

DISINTEGRATE

School transmutation; Level sorcerer/wizard 6
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M/DF (a lodestone and a pinch of dust)
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Effect ray...
A thin, green ray springs from your pointing finger. You must make a successful ranged touch attack to hit....

Rays like any other attack roll based attack only target one creature unless otherwise specified.

Also the word "target" is used in more than one way. It is a specific way to aim a spell for spells such as "hold person". It is also used to mean the victim chosen for your attack. So if I target someone with a ray they are a target. If I target them with hold person they are also a target.


wraithstrike wrote:

Here is how we know swarms don't get affected by ranged touch attacks as questioned.

PRD wrote:
A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate),
disintegrate wrote:

DISINTEGRATE

School transmutation; Level sorcerer/wizard 6
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M/DF (a lodestone and a pinch of dust)
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Effect ray...
A thin, green ray springs from your pointing finger. You must make a successful ranged touch attack to hit....

Rays like any other attack roll based attack only target one creature unless otherwise specified.

Also the word "target" is used in more than one way. It is a specific way to aim a spell for spells such as "hold person". It is also used to mean the victim chosen for your attack. So if I target someone with a ray they are a target. If I target them with hold person they are also a target.

But Disintegrate has its own limitation:

It states it only hits the first target, thus limiting itself to single target.


Pathfinder Card Game, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
PRD wrote:

Ray: Some effects are rays. You aim a ray as if using a ranged weapon, though typically you make a ranged touch attack rather than a normal ranged attack. As with a ranged weapon, you can fire into the dark or at an invisible creature and hope you hit something. You don't have to see the creature you're trying to hit, as you do with a targeted spell. Intervening creatures and obstacles, however, can block your line of sight or provide cover for the creature at which you're aiming.

If a ray spell has a duration, it's the duration of the effect that the ray causes, not the length of time the ray itself persists.

If a ray spell deals damage, you can score a critical hit just as if it were a weapon. A ray spell threatens a critical hit on a natural roll of 20 and deals double damage on a successful critical hit.

You're making a ranged touch attack, and the rules state that intervening creatures and obstacles provide cover. Note how it does not say that intervening creatures are effected by the ray as well. As such, each ray effects only a single creature, the one you are making the attack roll against. Some spells make more than one ray, but the number of rays is always finite and known in advance, and therefore would be effecting a specific number of creatures (that number being the number of rays). As a result, ray spells fall entirely under that restriction and therefore cannot damage swarms.

I fully quoted the general rules about rays above, and we can see text in them supporting that every individual ray only effects a single creature. There is no text in the general ray rules that indicates that a single ray can effect multiple creatures or an area. The text you refer to in the disintegrate spell is not unique to that spell; I believe it was just a murky way to explicitly state that you only get one ray, as many other ray spells give you multiple, and that the ray can't "pass through" things it disintegrated to hit other targets.


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I'm having difficulty seeing the argument *for* rays affecting swarms.
To me, it seems pretty self-evident that rays target individual targets, which falls outside the scope of what works against a swarm.

Am I missing something here?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

You are missing the other thread, where a couple of people insisted that Rays would affect swarms. I do not happen to agree.

Their argument basically was that Disintegrate was a special case and that Ray spells lack a Target line.

Since simple questions are more likely to get an FAQ, that thread spawned this question.


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Thanks BretI. After posting above I saw and read over the other thread in its entirety.

I think I now have a better understanding of the argument in favour of rays affecting swarms, though for the reasons posted over there, I have concluded that I do not agree with it.

Also, because I think the intent behind the swarm immunity language is unambiguous on a close reading, I will not flag for FAQ'ing.


The only reasonable argument put forth in the other thread (IMO) for why a ray might affect a swarm is relating rays to weapons. e.g

Can an arrow harm a swarm? Depends on the size of the creatures in the swarm, but yes in some cases an arrow can harm a swarm. In that case it would make at least some sense for a ray to have an affect in the same manner.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber

Rays are not lightning bolts.

Always carry a scroll of lightning bolt. At mid levels and onwards, martials with no UMD should carry a javelin of lightning. It's crazy good to clean/disinfect narrow corridors with swarms, rot grubs, slimes and various other low hp things that rely on not being spotted (tooth fairies... I hate you sooooo much!)

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Scrolls of lightning bolt are a rare (nonexistent) commodity when playing the Quest series that gave rise to this runelord..er, question. :)

If you argue that the ray, an effect, affects one target as a ranged attack, you have to conclude that a splash weapon, which deals damage on a ranged attack roll and AOE splash damage to creatures around the target, would only deal the splash damage, times 1.5.


Okay, I will post my argument as to why a ray would work here as well. But I'm honestly done with the "back and forward" of the conversation. I will admit that my readings on rules are more liberal while following patterns to help support any calls I make as a GM.

So, first off. Spells have various description blocks filled with little descriptors. These include components, effects, saves, and another called "Target".

I believe that if the spell has a description that says "Target: 1 (or more) 'Targets/Creatures'" then a swarm is Immune to that spell. I'm sure just about anyone would agree with that.

A ray spell almost always lacks that descriptor. But what they do give you is an attack roll against a target. That target can be a wall, a small monster, a large monster, a vase, and what I argue: a swarm. A swarm is a target comprised of many little creatures, but is targeted as a single target for attack rolls.

I can shoot arrows at a swarm (depending on the swarm, it will do little to no damage), I can swing a flaming sword at a swarm (once again will do little damage), and according to a torch (in the description, a torch does 1 fire damage, which a swarm is not immune to by default) it can do damage.

A ray gives you an attack roll, just like any other attack, it does not target a single creature (which a swarm is not), it targets a single "Target" (which a swarm is).

Disintegrate is a special ray that includes a line at the end saying that it can only ever affect one creature per casting, which is why swarms are specifically called out to being immune to it.

My argument is that a ray is not a targeted spell, but rather a spell that gives a caster an attack that you target with.

I know his opinions are not official, but James Jacob's opinion was that a ray would work against a swarm.

So I am simply requesting that everyone please understand that there is a valid argument why a ray should work against a swarm, and that an FAQ would very much help clear this whole thing up once and for all.

EDIT: I missed some key wording in what I believe a ray is. I have bolded the additional words.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber
Val'bryn2 wrote:
If you argue that the ray, an effect, affects one target as a ranged attack, you have to conclude that a splash weapon, which deals damage on a ranged attack roll and AOE splash damage to creatures around the target, would only deal the splash damage, times 1.5.

Quoting what was already said above:

A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind. A swarm takes half again as much damage (+50%) from spells or effects that affect an area, such as splash weapons and many evocation spells.

...I would say GM call.

If I was the GM: splash weapons would deal direct damage times 1.5 because they are "effects that affect an area," but a more stickler GM would be in his rights to limit it to splash times 1.5.

I think it's silly to even argue rays do something to swarms as they are specifically excluded in the definition of swarms.

I also think it's silly not to recognize that an alchemist bomb that explodes in a square and extends to nearby squares would not deal its full damage on a swarm.


Link2000 wrote:
So, first off. Spells have various description blocks filled with little descriptors. These include components, effects, saves, and another called "Target".

Rays have the descriptor Effect. Swarms are immune to EFFECTS which target a specific number of creatures. A ray is an effect which targets one creature. Therefore, swarms are immune to rays because they create an effect, not because they have a target. Swarms are immune to both Target and Effect spells which only target a single creature.


I've said my piece. I believe that a ray spell gives you a ray, and then you target that Ray as a ranged attack. I believe it is no different than attack with a sword or bow beyond that point.

But that's how I read them, and that's why I would appreciate an FAQ.

Edit: I also use my imagination while playing this game. I imagine a ray kind of looking like a mini cone. It's not wide, but it sort of expands at the end to cover the target.

I imagine casting ray of frost at a goblin and seeing it's face get covered in ice and snow.

I imagine the same image against a swarm. I don't see a particle beam freezing a single bug...

So I understand that my interpretation is different than yours as we imagine the effect differently.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Starbuck_II wrote:

But Disintegrate has its own limitation:

It states it only hits the first target, thus limiting itself to single target.

But all rays only hit the first target, so I don't understand what the point of that text is.


to be a reminder of how rays work. Most rays DON'T completely cause what they hit to not exist anymore. Some people might have thought that since I could do xd6, if I haven't used them all then the rest keep going?

Like it the same point of saying monks can kick. Just a reminder, not actually doing anything.

Shadow Lodge

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Link2000 wrote:
Edit: I also use my imagination while playing this game.

So do the rest of us. I'm not sure why you wanted to point this out.


TOZ wrote:
Link2000 wrote:
Edit: I also use my imagination while playing this game.
So do the rest of us. I'm not sure why you wanted to point this out.

I mentioned it in the last part. We imagine the effect differently, so it would lead to a difference on how we view the spells workings.

If you're implying that I was trying to take a jab at Tarantula, I assure you I wasn't. I honestly respect his views on the matter as much as he has respected mine.

Shadow Lodge

Okay, thanks for clearing that up. I agree.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Purple Dragon Knight wrote:


I think it's silly to even argue rays do something to swarms as they are specifically excluded in the definition of swarms.

I also think it's silly not to recognize that an alchemist bomb that explodes in a square and extends to nearby squares would not deal its full damage on a swarm.

Not quite. If you'll reread the spell description of disintegrate, it, alone out of ray spells, says it only affects one target per casting. It's this absence that I say is why other rays do affect swarms.

Yes, I really should have read ALL the posts. But in further review, it never claims to be true of all rays. If it did, it would have been in the subsection on Rays in the magic chapter. By being in the Disintegrate description, it only applies to Disintegrate, as the rule on kicking only applies to brawlers and monks.


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Link2000 wrote:
I've said my piece. I believe that a ray spell gives you a ray, and then you target that Ray as a ranged attack. I believe it is no different than attack with a sword or bow beyond that point.

The ray is an effect. Swarms are immune to effects which target a single creature. Weapons are not effects. That is why a swarm is immune to the ray effect but not a longsword.

Link2000 wrote:

Edit: I also use my imagination while playing this game. I imagine a ray kind of looking like a mini cone. It's not wide, but it sort of expands at the end to cover the target.

I imagine casting ray of frost at a goblin and seeing it's face get covered in ice and snow.

I imagine the same image against a swarm. I don't see a particle beam freezing a single bug...

So I understand that my interpretation is different than yours as we imagine the effect differently.

I imagine a ray as like a laser pointer. You point your finger, magic beam comes out and has its effect on what it hits. Against a swarm, your laser pointer hits one spider. That spider freezes solid and disappears into the 10,000 other spiders that make up the swarm. Your cone description sounds a lot more like Line spells to me. Narrow but still big enough to hit multiple creatures.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Val'bryn2 wrote:
Purple Dragon Knight wrote:


I think it's silly to even argue rays do something to swarms as they are specifically excluded in the definition of swarms.

I also think it's silly not to recognize that an alchemist bomb that explodes in a square and extends to nearby squares would not deal its full damage on a swarm.

Not quite. If you'll reread the spell description of disintegrate, it, alone out of ray spells, says it only affects one target per casting. It's this absence that I say is why other rays do affect swarms.

That is because disintegrate has a specific area effect that other rays lack: "When used against an object, the ray simply disintegrates as much as a 10-foot cube of nonliving matter.", so it need a part that say that it only affect 1 object or creature in that volume.


Tarantula wrote:


I imagine a ray as like a laser pointer. You point your finger, magic beam comes out and has its effect on what it hits. Against a swarm, your laser pointer hits one spider. That spider freezes solid and disappears into the 10,000 other spiders that make up the swarm. Your cone description sounds a lot more like Line spells to me. Narrow but still big enough to hit multiple creatures.

The laser beam vaporized spider #1, then #2, then #3, and so forth, cutting a thing line thru the swarm.

I think it should work on swarms of Tiny creatures, they should take half damage, just like a arrow going thru.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber

Lasers in Pathfinder have their own rules. Please refer to Technology Guide.


DrDeth wrote:
Tarantula wrote:


I imagine a ray as like a laser pointer. You point your finger, magic beam comes out and has its effect on what it hits. Against a swarm, your laser pointer hits one spider. That spider freezes solid and disappears into the 10,000 other spiders that make up the swarm. Your cone description sounds a lot more like Line spells to me. Narrow but still big enough to hit multiple creatures.

The laser beam vaporized spider #1, then #2, then #3, and so forth, cutting a thing line thru the swarm.

I think it should work on swarms of Tiny creatures, they should take half damage, just like a arrow going thru.

Except, that is exactly how LINE spells work, ray spells don't have any text which allows them to affect more than one creature.


Tarantula wrote:
DrDeth wrote:
Tarantula wrote:


I imagine a ray as like a laser pointer. You point your finger, magic beam comes out and has its effect on what it hits. Against a swarm, your laser pointer hits one spider. That spider freezes solid and disappears into the 10,000 other spiders that make up the swarm. Your cone description sounds a lot more like Line spells to me. Narrow but still big enough to hit multiple creatures.

The laser beam vaporized spider #1, then #2, then #3, and so forth, cutting a thing line thru the swarm.

I think it should work on swarms of Tiny creatures, they should take half damage, just like a arrow going thru.

Except, that is exactly how LINE spells work, ray spells don't have any text which allows them to affect more than one creature.

I agree with you mostly (a ray definitely does not keep burning through). But no where in scorching ray or ray of frost does it use the word "creature".

They say to make a ranged touch attack against a target(s). Much like how you would make an attack against the target with a bomb, or bow, or whatever.

A swarm is a target. The entire swarm is. I believe that rays gives you a ray "weapon" in which you make an attack roll with at a target.

I really hope people will FAQ, because I really think we are gimping something that really doesn't need to be gimped. It is far more effective to use an area spell then a ray of frost or scorching ray anyways.

The Exchange Owner - D20 Hobbies

Single target spells are single target.
Rays are single target.

"Disintegration ray" is a pop culture, sci fi thing.
It stands to reason they add "its single target" to address the issue outside of Pathfinder of Disintegration working like a line.


To be honest they could have just said "and single target spells such as rays" but they specified a spell that includes a line at the end that said it can only ever affect a single target.

All other rays lack that line.

In your opinion, how would icicle dagger work against a swarm?

It's effect is one icicle.

You make an attack roll with the icicle (as if it were a dagger) to deal dagger damage and cold damage on a successful hit.

If attacking a swarm with a spell whose effect is one dagger is okay, then why is a spell whose effect is one ray not?


Pathfinder Card Game, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The effect of the spell is to conjure a dagger. You can then use the dagger as a weapon against the swarm, which uses the normal rules for other weapon damage to see whether or not it works. The spell itself does not target something with a dagger attack.


skizzerz wrote:
The effect of the spell is to conjure a dagger. You can then use the dagger as a weapon against the swarm, which uses the normal rules for other weapon damage to see whether or not it works. The spell itself does not target something with a dagger attack.

the effect of acid splash is to conjure a ball of acid. You can then use the ball of acid as a ranged weapon against the swarm, which uses the normal rules for other ranged weapon damage to see whether or not it works. The spell itself does not target something with the aCid splash ranged attack.


I would like to include that I do not think anyone here is wrong with their interpretation.

I was surprised to see that so many felt that these spells don't work, as I always thought they did (never tried ray of frost against a swarm because I always felt it was better buying an acid flask instead).

I've had players in the past use this before and I allowed them because my reading of the rules showed that spells like ray of frost or acid splash was missing a target descriptor, so I figured that the spell itself did not target.

I ruled it as "the spell creates a blah, and you use that blah to attack the target."

I understand the other side of this discussion, and simply would like people to hit the FAQ button just to get a clear and concise answer so I don't continue leading people to believe it works one way when it works another.


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Balls of acid are not a ranged weapon. They are a spell effect which uses a ranged touch attack to see if it hits.

Icicle dagger is a weapon. It uses the normal weapon rules for attacking with a weapon, which swarms are vulnerable to.

You keep repeating they don't have the target line, but ignore that swarms are immune to target or effect spells that affect a specific number of creatures. Rays are an effect spell which affects a single creature targeted by the ray.


I does not say it affects a single creature. It says you make a ranged touch attack against a target.

Deadeye's Arrow has you create an arrow of electricity that you can fire from a bow as a ranged touch attack against a target. I know we can fire an arrow at a swarm, but would deadeye's arrow not work because it was a product of a spell?

I'm not ignoring that part, I'm just saying that the spell does not target. It has no wording that the spell itself targets.

It gives you a ray, or a ball of acid or whatever, and then you make an attack roll with that Ray or ball of acid or whatever targeting touch ac.


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Surely you can see why "It doesn't target a single creature, it just produces an effect that targets a single creature" sounds absurdly pedantic to some of us though, right?


Target or effect spells that affect a specific number of creatures.

Or to state it differently:
A swarm is immune to any spell that targets a specific number of creatures
and
A swarm is immune to any effect that targets a specific number of creatures

Surely you can see why "immune to any effect that targets a specific number of creatures" makes swarms immune to spells which create an effect that targets a single creature.

There are effect spells that do target specific numbers of creatures. I'd say any that require designating a target(s) in their spell text. There are effect spells that do not target specific numbers of creatures, like acid fog.

There are targeted spells that target specific numbers of creatures. These are much more explicitly defined, because they will say Target: one creature, or 1 creature/level. There are targeted spells that do not target specific numbers of creatures, these do work against swarms. Confusion targets all creatures within a 15' burst.


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Okay, this will be my last post on the matter. I will lay out every step of how my brain is handling this to the best of my ability. I understand others do not agree with this thought process and that's okay. My goal is not to "win" this debate. It is to seek the official answer to the question at hand: Are swarms immune to spells which require a ranged attack roll to hit a single target(ex Acid Arrow, Ray of Frost) even if the spell doesn't specifically state it targets a single creature?

I will start off with the swarms immunity:

From PRD wrote:
A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind.

Because of the conjunction "or" we can read that statement as:

1) A swarm is immune to any spell that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind.

OR

2) A swarm is immune to any effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind.

-----

In regards to 1), this cuts out spells that have the Target descriptor that has a specific number of targets. In regards to 2), I would like to point out that effects do not only come from spells (something already covered by the text), but also from class abilities, magic items, feats, and whatnot. (Monk's Stunning Fist for an example)

Now, I know that doesn't automatically exclude spells that produce rays, orbs or acid, arrows of lightning, but now we will look at magic rules to further understand how they work:

From PRD wrote:

Effect: Some spells create or summon things rather than affecting things that are already present.

You must designate the location where these things are to appear, either by seeing it or defining it. Range determines how far away an effect can appear, but if the effect is mobile, after it appears it can move regardless of the spell's range.

Ray: Some effects are rays. You aim a ray as if using a ranged weapon, though typically you make a ranged touch attack rather than a normal ranged attack. As with a ranged weapon, you can fire into the dark or at an invisible creature and hope you hit something. You don't have to see the creature you're trying to hit, as you do with a targeted spell. Intervening creatures and obstacles, however, can block your line of sight or provide cover for the creature at which you're aiming.

That first bolded part leads my mind to believe that I am not specifying a target, but rather creating something to use. Like making a dagger of an icicle, an orb of acid, a arrow of lightning, or a ray. Once I have made that thing, I can use it to attack a target.

Target is a vague term in this instance. You can target a door, you can target a monster (big or small), you can target a bag, whatever you'd like. That's why if functions a ranged weapon (or a melee weapon in terms of the dagger), you make an attack roll to see if you hit the target, and do damage accordingly.

The spell Ray of Frost effect is "Ray", so that's what it gives you. And then the rest of the spell describes how you use that spell:

From PRD wrote:
You must succeed on a ranged touch attack with the ray to deal damage to a target.

So like with any attack, you select a target and make an attack roll.

-----

This is the best I can do describe how I believe that rays are effective against swarms. I understand it is not the popular opinion. I understand that people keep seeing the words "a target" and automatically imagine "one creature". But I do not agree with it, just as many of you do not agree with my interpretation.

Please FAQ. If you have a question about my view, I'll be happy to respond, but if you are just going to tell me that my opinion is wrong, I'm just going to stay out of it. Thank you for bearing with me.


Link2000 wrote:
Tarantula wrote:
DrDeth wrote:
Tarantula wrote:


I imagine a ray as like a laser pointer. You point your finger, magic beam comes out and has its effect on what it hits. Against a swarm, your laser pointer hits one spider. That spider freezes solid and disappears into the 10,000 other spiders that make up the swarm. Your cone description sounds a lot more like Line spells to me. Narrow but still big enough to hit multiple creatures.

The laser beam vaporized spider #1, then #2, then #3, and so forth, cutting a thing line thru the swarm.

I think it should work on swarms of Tiny creatures, they should take half damage, just like a arrow going thru.

Except, that is exactly how LINE spells work, ray spells don't have any text which allows them to affect more than one creature.

I agree with you mostly (a ray definitely does not keep burning through). But no where in scorching ray or ray of frost does it use the word "creature".

They say to make a ranged touch attack against a target(s). Much like how you would make an attack against the target with a bomb, or bow, or whatever.

A swarm is a target. The entire swarm is. I believe that rays gives you a ray "weapon" in which you make an attack roll with at a target.

I really hope people will FAQ, because I really think we are gimping something that really doesn't need to be gimped. It is far more effective to use an area spell then a ray of frost or scorching ray anyways.

The telling distinction on the rules for swarms are for single-target attacks. Ray of Frost, each ray of a Scorching Ray spells are single target attacks. FAQ requests are for clearing up rule questions, not requests for changing existing rules. that's what your GM is for.


hahaha, maybe technically FAQs are just for rules questions. But many changes to existing rules have come through FAQ channels so it's not a bad place to try.


I think I understand your position Link2000 but disagree with it.

Yes, the spell creates a ray/acid ball/arrow/whatever. I think that effect still only applies to a specific number of creatures, specifically the one(s) you attack with it. Maybe it has to do with how I envision a ray. I see it as a pulse of energy, that travels in a line. I think other people imagine it as more of a beam, where the beam persists over a few seconds sweeping across the target. Maybe that's why different people envision the effect differently.

I would like a FAQ answer to this, because before the thread I hadn't considered people would allow rays and other Effect spells that require attack rolls to effect a swarm.

Another reason I think rays do not affect swarms, is that touch effect spells do not. As far as I can tell, all touch spells include the Target line of "creature touched", but the ranged spells that require ranged attack rolls don't. Shocking grasp lets you deal damage to a target with a touch attack. Ray of frost lets you deal damage to a target with a ranged touch attack. If ray of frost works on swarms, I don't see why shocking grasp shouldn't (other than it specifically includes the Target: creature touched line, while ranged Effect spells don't).

Because I think the spells should function similarly (both require a touch attack to hit, both deal some form of energy damage) and the touch spell explicitly states the touched creature is the target, I infer that ray and other effect spells that require an attack roll should fall to the same limitations. Especially considering that touch range attack spells tend to be more powerful since it puts the spellcaster more in harms way.

I can't reconcile having a ranged touch attack spell work, but a touch spell not, so I default to having both not work. As far as a question about your point of view, how do you resolve touch spells being ineffective (like shocking grasp) but ray of frost dealing damage?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tarantula wrote:

I think I understand your position Link2000 but disagree with it.

Yes, the spell creates a ray/acid ball/arrow/whatever. I think that effect still only applies to a specific number of creatures, specifically the one(s) you attack with it. Maybe it has to do with how I envision a ray. I see it as a pulse of energy, that travels in a line. I think other people imagine it as more of a beam, where the beam persists over a few seconds sweeping across the target. Maybe that's why different people envision the effect differently.

I would like a FAQ answer to this, because before the thread I hadn't considered people would allow rays and other Effect spells that require attack rolls to effect a swarm.

Another reason I think rays do not affect swarms, is that touch effect spells do not. As far as I can tell, all touch spells include the Target line of "creature touched", but the ranged spells that require ranged attack rolls don't. Shocking grasp lets you deal damage to a target with a touch attack. Ray of frost lets you deal damage to a target with a ranged touch attack. If ray of frost works on swarms, I don't see why shocking grasp shouldn't (other than it specifically includes the Target: creature touched line, while ranged Effect spells don't).

Because I think the spells should function similarly (both require a touch attack to hit, both deal some form of energy damage) and the touch spell explicitly states the touched creature is the target, I infer that ray and other effect spells that require an attack roll should fall to the same limitations. Especially considering that touch range attack spells tend to be more powerful since it puts the spellcaster more in harms way.

I can't reconcile having a ranged touch attack spell work, but a touch spell not, so I default to having both not work. As far as a question about your point of view, how do you resolve touch spells being ineffective (like shocking grasp) but ray of frost dealing damage?

My personal belief on how it can be reconciled is that with Shocking Grasp and the like, you're directly channeling the magic into the creature you touch, you can't channel it in a wide area, so it goes into that one spider then grounds itself out, while the magic of the ray is already focused into the ray, more concentrated, and then let loose like an arrow.


Sorry, I don't follow that.
Shocking grasp you can't channel in a wide area, so it only affects the one spider. I get that. Then you say a ray is more concentrated and let loose like an arrow. I get that too.

How does that make the more concentrated magical ray of cold affect more than one spider? Do you see rays as more of a 1-3 second long beam that you are sweeping across a target? Or an instantaneous pulse almost like a laser gun from star wars?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Because magic ;)

No, it doesn't really make sense, it's just how the rules are written.

Frankly, a lot of the divides in description are rough, been that way for years. And some don't make sense, like how Infernal Healing has the evil descriptor because it involves devil's blood. You just do what you can with what you're given.


I think infernal healing having the evil descriptor because it involves devil's blood makes a lot of sense. You are using an evil creature's blood to power a spell.

I'm glad you can admit it doesn't make sense. I like consistency in my world, and it makes more sense to me that both a shocking grasp and ray of cold are ineffective against a swarm for the same reason. They each kill 1 spider out of 10,000 and the other 9,999 keep on happily biting your eyeballs.


Val'bryn2 wrote:
No, it doesn't really make sense, it's just how the rules are written.

But that's not how the rules are written. That's the whole reason we have a thread arguing about it, because people are disagreeing over what that means.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The problem is that inconsistency is what I'm arguing against. If you have to make a ranged attack for both the alchemist's fire and for Ray of Frost, why does one not work and the other does?


One is a weapon, one is not. One is a spell, one is not. One is an area of effect, one is not.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Except, as a weapon-like spell, it is in a grey area. It's a weapon for feats, ability to be boosted by Inspire Competence and Heroism, but not for ability to be enchanted, weapon training groups, or warpriest's sacred weapon.

Actually, despite the name, alchemist's fire and acid, as examples, aren't really weapons. They're found under Items in the gear section, don't appear on the list of fighter weapon groups, etc. Something I just noticed.

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