[Civil Discussion Thread] Feat Effects and Spell-Like Abilities

Rules Questions


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Hello, everyone! I'm looking for opinions to settle a question that may or may not turn heated, so let's try to NOT get heated, okay? Okay.

So, spell-like abilities. According to the rules, they're spells except in the circumstances where they're not spells. There have already been three separate FAQs issued regarding how spell-like abilities interact with other effects. I have a question regarding such an effect.

How do bonuses to spells (such as caster level and save DC) apply to spell-like abilities, if at all?

Let's say I'm a Level 5 kitsune sorcerer. I took Magical Tail as my 1st-level and 2nd-level feats, so I have charm person as a spell-like ability. Do I get to add my racial +1 bonus on enchantment spell saves to my spell-like ability's save DC? Moreover, if I take Spell Focus (enchantment) as my next feat, do I get to add my new feat's bonus to my spell-like ability's save DCs?

Now, before you start posting your answers, please read on—I have some different evidence I'd like you to consider before you answer.

Exhibit A—FAQ, August 2011
Here's our first bit of evidence, an FAQ on whether or not you could use a spell-like ability as justification for casting a spell on your spell list.

The answer was ironclad:

August 2011 wrote:
No. A spell-like ability is not a spell, having a spell-like ability is not part of a class's spell list, and therefore doesn't give the creature the ability to activate spell completion or spell trigger items.

So, that seems pretty final, right? Spell-like abilities are not spells, and Spell Focus and the kitsune racial trait specifically say that they only apply to spells. This seems straightforward.

Except its not.

Exhibit B—FAQ, February 2015
Here's our second bit of evidence, the Augment Summoning feat.

The answer was also ironclade:

November 2013 wrote:

This ruling has interesting parallels that we can cross-apply to my case with charm person and our kitsune sorcerer. First, the wordings of both feats are essentially the same: Augment Summoning notes "summon spells" while Spell Focus notes "spells of the chosen school." Second, both feats provide a numeric bonus to some aspect of the spells (creatures conjured or the effect's save DC).

Ultimately, this looks like a case of, "If a feat supplements a spell, it also supplements any spell-like abilities that meet the feat's criteria." This supports Augment Summoning supplementing summon nature's ally and summon monster spell-like abilities. This is further supported by a FAQ made in February 2015 regarding how a dimension door spell-like ability could be used to meet the prerequisites of a feat, provided the feat specifically called out that spell. (To avoid debate, that FAQ currently applies solely to meeting the prerequisites of the feat, it does not discuss effects at all, which imply that the feat already works with the "effects" of the dimension door spell-like ability, which is what we're talking about here.)

So, what do you guys think? I think its pretty clear where I stand, but no matter your stance (for/agree/disagree/against), I'd appreciate an FAQ boost by clicking the FAQ button above, and some civil discussion down below. And hey, guess what? If you provide good evidence I PROMISE that you can change my mind. For realzies. :D

Thanks for listening to my rambling, everyone!


Apparently I am too thorough for my own good—no one wants to talk about this! :O

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Alexander Augunas wrote:
Moreover, if I take Spell Focus (enchantment) as my next feat, do I get to add my new feat's bonus to my spell-like ability's save DCs?

I believe you do.

Exhibit C—Leanan Sidhe

Leanan Sidhe are a type of fey from Bestiary 4. Let's take a look at some of their statistics.

Leanan Sidhe wrote:

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th; concentration +12)

At will—calm emotions (DC 18), crushing despair (DC 20), dimension door (self plus 50 lbs. of objects only)
3/day—animal trance (DC 18), quickened charm person (DC 17)
Str 10, Dex 17, Con 18, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 21
Feats Alertness, Combat Casting, Dodge, Improved InitiativeM, PersuasiveM, Quicken Spell-Like Ability (charm person), Spell Focus (enchantment)

Leanan sidhe have no actual spellcasting, only spell-like abilities. But they have the Spell Focus (enchantment) feat, and its bonus is clearly being applied to four separate enchantment spell-like abilities. Their 3/day quickened charm person, for instance, has a DC of 10 + 1 (level) + 5 (Charisma) + 1 (Spell Focus), for a total of 17.

If a published Paizo creature can use the Spell Focus feat to enhance its spell-like abilities, then I am firmly of the opinion that player characters can as well.

Not An Official Rules Source: I math'd it in Hero Lab, and it says "yes, your Kitsune racial trait would apply to that Spell-like Abilities". It's generally pretty accurate about this stuff, and I'd accept it in games I'm running.

Aside from that, I do feel like Exhibit B suggests that feats that improve spells will typically improve similar spell-like abilities - metamagic being the only notable exception I can think of off the top of my head.

Paizo Employee Developer

I am completely biased writing this, given my penchant for Kitsune, Kitsune-Star Gems, Magical Tail feats and even Divine Obediences...

But I really have no problems with feats and traits enhancing spell-like abilities and every GM I've had who I've discussed this with agrees. We also agree that it's "safe", given most spell-like abilities are extremely limited in per-day use and spells still get the distinct advantages of additional material components/focuses, metamagic rods, metamagic feats and class-features that specify "[class name] spells".

That being said, the wording of "Conceal Spell" is contradictory to this logic. It specifies "Spells you cast or Spell-like ability you use". Meanwhile spell focus says "spells you cast", but does not specify "spell-like abilities you use".

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

Trickster Mage gnome from NPC codex has Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus (Illusion),and a CHA-18.
And their spell-like-ability "ghostsound" has DC=15

So it appears in this case they get the +1 to DC of illusions via "gnome magic" racial trait (which calls out 'spells') but do not get the extra bonus from the spell focus feats.

Liberty's Edge

The problem is that there isn't a "all yes, all no" answer.
You must read every ability and feat and see what it affect.

"Kitsune Magic (Ex/Sp): Kitsune add +1 to the DC of any saving throws against enchantment spells that they cast."
What is the target of the effect: a spell that you cast. no other requirement. A spell like ability is a spell? Yes. You cast it? Yes
It work.

"Spell Focus (enchantment): Choose a school of magic. Any spells you cast of that school are more difficult to resist."
What is the target of the effect: every spell of a specific shool that you cast.
A spell like ability is a spell? Yes. You cast it? Yes. Charm person is enchantment school spell? Yes.
It work.

Exhibit A—FAQ, August 2011
"Spell Completion: ... To use a spell completion item safely, a character must be of high enough level in the right class to cast the spell already.
Spell Trigger: ... Spell trigger items can be used by anyone whose class can cast the corresponding spell."

Spell complexation check: Are you member of a class that can cast that spell and has a sufficiently high level? No, Kitsune isn't a class. The spell like abilities given by being a kitsune don't help. Check failed.

Spell trigger check: Are you member of a class that can cast that spell? No, Kitsune isn't a class. Check failed.

so you need to evaluate the actual requirement for the use of each ability. There isn't a general answer.

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