Shatter spell vs Constructs?


Rules Questions


I have seen a little debate about the effectiveness of Shatter in combat but never anything concrete.
The spell does 1d6 sonic damage per caster level (max 10d6 ) against crystalline creatures, but as far as I can tell there is not a single creature with crystalline type, subtype, or quality anywhere throughout the bestiaries. There are barely any with implications of crystal in their name.

I've argued for shatter affecting stone and metal constructs as stone and metal have crystalline atomic bonding structures, and the GM argues RAW in spite of not a single instance of usefulness having shown itself

The construct traits certainly allow for being affected if they're crystalline, as the immunity to fort save effects is negated if the effect affects objects, which Shatter does.

We're in Numeria now, lots of robot constructs, which leads to the question:

Does Shatter work against constructs? Or is this a spell with next to zero applicability?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

You probably are right to some extent. Shatter didn't change much from 2nd Edition D&D to 3rd or at all from 3.0 > 3.5 > Pathfinder.

That said the Glass Golem specifically states its vulnerable to the shatter spell as a crystaline object. So its not completely without use even by the strictest RAW.

For GMs attempting to follow RAW tightly I think they are better off evaluating each creature individually to determine if it has a crystal nature. I can't see many saying Shatter would not work on a Crystal Golem, Crysmal, or a Crystallis example for the most part.

If I was the GM, I'd let you use it on just about anything with crystal in the description and anything vulnerable to sonic damage.


chibikami wrote:
Does Shatter work against constructs?

Only a few of them (e.g. alchemical golem, glass golem). Constructs are not usually crystalline.

chibikami wrote:
Or is this a spell with next to zero applicability?

You're ignoring most of the text/uses of the spell. It works nicely against animated objects (which are not uncommon) whether they're crystalline or not. It works on the non-magical sword that guy is holding and trying to use on you. It's a fast way to destroy someone's unattended potion collection.

chibikami wrote:
I've argued for shatter affecting stone and metal constructs as stone and metal have crystalline atomic bonding structures

I know of no instance in the rules of this or any other RPG where it is necessary to know the atomic bonding structures of anything in order to correctly apply the rules.

Crystalline creatures are mostly mentioned as a legacy from previous editions. However, while "crystalline" is neither a type nor a subtype nor a special quality (neither is "flesh"), there are a few crystalline creatures in the Bestiaries. A quick search at the Archives of Nethys for "crystalline" in Monsters finds

Alchemical Golem "Shatter damages an alchemical golem as if it were a crystalline creature."
Axiomites have a crystalline form
Carnivorous Crystal
Crysmal
Freezing Flow (actually does have "crystalline" as a unique special quality)
Glass Golem "A shatter spell damages a glass golem as if it were a crystalline creature."
Prism Dragon
And some more things I don't feel like looking up. Some of the ones I skipped are partially crystalline (e.g. spine dragons' spines) and should probably take partial damage, though that's a GM call.


Fuzzy-Wuzzy,
with one exception, all the monsters you listed are significantly above the level at which you'd learn Shatter

in any case, it's a matter of concern. While it has great utility use against nonmagical objects (it did break the party out of being sealed in mad scientist tubes), its actual damage rules are lacking for application
Shatter is the SLA of the pitborn variant of tiefling and based on their other abilities they're built around being effective at breaking constructs

I suppose I'm not likely to get the developers to weigh in on this

maybe I'll just use it to sunder robots' leg joints or something


Some spells are just not that good. Shatter is one of them. It doesn't do anything to constructs because they are not by nature crystalline creatures. Only certain ones are.

Also constructs can't be broken. They are creatures not object. In addition pitborn tieflings are not built around attacking constructs. They dont have any specific rules that are native pitborns that calls out constructs, and its not in their flavor writeup.

They are demon-spawn, while other tieflings are from other outsiders, demons don't care about constructs.

I understand that you want it to work, but there is nothing to support it.


wraithstrike wrote:

They dont have any specific rules that are native pitborns that calls out constructs, and its not in their flavor writeup.

Flair for Destruction: You have a talent for striking

objects at their weakest points. You gain a +1 trait bonus on
weapon damage rolls made against objects and constructs

Blood of Fiends, page 20


chibikami wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:

They dont have any specific rules that are native pitborns that calls out constructs, and its not in their flavor writeup.

Flair for Destruction: You have a talent for striking

objects at their weakest points. You gain a +1 trait bonus on
weapon damage rolls made against objects and constructs

Blood of Fiends, page 20

A single optional trait does not make the race "built around being effective at breaking constructs". They do like ruining and breaking things in general, something that shatter is good at.


chibikami wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:

They dont have any specific rules that are native pitborns that calls out constructs, and its not in their flavor writeup.

Flair for Destruction: You have a talent for striking

objects at their weakest points. You gain a +1 trait bonus on
weapon damage rolls made against objects and constructs

Blood of Fiends, page 20

That does not mean they are built around breaking constructs, but I do admit they have some flavor for doing more damage. However, 1 point of extra damage does not count for "built around", and since objects are also called out then the shatter spell does fit that, even though it doesnt do anything special to constructs.

Just like they aren't built around charging despite getting an attack bonus to confirm crits when charging.


One of the things that got confused in the session was that (for constructs) we confused up their immunity towards effects that require fort saves for being auto-failures for FORT saves instead (not sure how that happened, really should have double checked that).

Anyway, in the rules for Shatter, the very first line defines the basis of the spells nature: "Breaks brittle, non-magical OBJECTS; sunders a single, solid, non-magical OBJECT; or damages a crystalline creature"

after that it continues to describe everything it does as only applying to non-magical object, save for what it does to crystalline creatures.

As for crystalline bonds, I agree with Fuzzy in that it you shouldn't be reaching with science in order to find more applications for certain things (some spells you can do it with, but this is not one of those spells since it is so specifically defined.)


Ready a shatter for when the alchemist mixes an extract.....

Rather like a wizard not having a spell book, only rther more immediate.


The word "crystalline" has no specific rules definition (such as a subtype name); thus, it uses the plain meaning of the word. A quartz statue affected by animate objects is a crystalline creature. Shatter will damage the heck out of it.

(Amusingly, most glass is not crystalline. Glass golems have specific language rendering them susceptible to shatter, though, so here we are.)


Shatter wrote:

School evocation [sonic]; Level bard 2, cleric 2, sorcerer/wizard 2

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M/DF (a chip of mica)

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Area or Target 5-ft.-radius spread; or one solid object or one crystalline creature

Duration instantaneous

Saving Throw Will negates (object); Will negates (object) or Fortitude half; see text; Spell Resistance yes

Shatter creates a loud, ringing noise that breaks brittle, nonmagical objects; sunders a single solid, nonmagical object; or damages a crystalline creature.

Used as an area attack, shatter destroys nonmagical objects of crystal, glass, ceramic, or porcelain. All such unattended objects within a 5-foot radius of the point of origin are smashed into dozens of pieces by the spell. Objects weighing more than 1 pound per your level are not affected, but all other objects of the appropriate composition are shattered.

Alternatively, you can target shatter against a single solid nonmagical object, regardless of composition, weighing up to 10 pounds per caster level. Targeted against a crystalline creature (of any weight), shatter deals 1d6 points of sonic damage per caster level (maximum 10d6), with a Fortitude save for half damage.

Swap the bolded word with construct and the spell will do pretty well. Golems are inmune because the spell requires a SR check.

Crystalline creatures were more 'common' in old d&d editions. Usually psionic constructs or creatures of the Astral Plane.

They count as attended, but vials and flasks that some PCs carry can be shattered. Also, this spell is pretty good when you target the Priest/Druid non magical focus and they fail the saving throw.

Shadow Lodge

wraithstrike wrote:
Some spells are just not that good. Shatter is one of them.

Tell that to my paladin after the sorcerer shattered his full plate, shield, and bastard sword.


Why is this entire thread assuming crystiline only means glass. Most rocks are made out of crystals. wikipedia page on rock


doctor_wu wrote:
Why is this entire thread assuming crystiline only means glass. Most rocks are made out of crystals. wikipedia page on rock

It doesn't only mean glass, but it doesn't mean rock because you're not supposed to have to know real-world science or consult an encyclopedia in order to interpret the rules correctly. If your interpretation relies on such knowledge/consultation, you're doing it wrong.

IRL, BTW, glass is not a crystal (check Wikipedia). See how that doesn't matter to the game?


It does matter to the game, except when the game specifically overrides it. A creature made of glass will not normally be susceptible to shatter. A glass golem will be susceptible because it has specific language stating so.

doctor_wu is correct as well--most stone creatures will shatter nicely.


Material composition of creatures is one of those issues that some game elements assume is well defined when it really isn't. RAW produces some really wonky results, so basically its down to whatever the GM decides it does.


Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
doctor_wu wrote:
Why is this entire thread assuming crystiline only means glass. Most rocks are made out of crystals. wikipedia page on rock

It doesn't only mean glass, but it doesn't mean rock because you're not supposed to have to know real-world science or consult an encyclopedia in order to interpret the rules correctly. If your interpretation relies on such knowledge/consultation, you're doing it wrong.

Another thing is that the rules for shatter states the circumstances of how much weight it can shatter per level for an object (10). Now, a rock would qualify as an object that is shatterable as long as it is within the wight limit specified.

Now, the difference between an object and a construct (magical or not [in the case of robots]) is that when a sunder attempt is made with the spell, the spell is targeting the entire creature (if it's not holding a separate weapon). With magical constructs, unless they are specifically vulnerable, they can't be effected 1 because it's a hardwired rule of the spell and 2 because quite a few constructs (if not most to all) have immunity to magic and physics goes right out the window anyway despite the spells effects.

If we're talking about non magical constructs (such as robots) then again, we are dealing with targeting the creature as a whole unless the caster is targeting a weapon that is separate from the creature. However, on a Tiny category or smaller (or small if higher than 5th level) non-magical construct, I would say that yes, it should be vulnerable due to it not being magical and that is probably weighs less than X_pounds/level as stated by the spells limitations (and by vulnerable I mean it is affected by the spell of course).

The main issue that seems to be going on with this is that rather being clever about something within the rules as written, someone is attempting to either lie, manipulate or doesn't know the rules in ways that ARE clearly defined, rather than explaining it in a different way.

P.S. Yes, some rules are not very well defined, but shatter is not that vague and it really does suck that there are not that many creatures vulnerable to it.

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