Simple Request: Clarification On Spell Manifestations


Prerelease Discussion

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My apologies if this has already been addressed.

Anyway, for the Pathfinder Playtest (and ultimately PF2), I'd appreciate it if the CRB had clearer information about the manifestations of spells that appear when they're being cast - what they are, what affects them, and how they ultimately play into the game. Perhaps something along these lines?

Quote:
Manifestations: Every spell creates a visual manifestation in the square(s) of the caster when it's being cast, the exact appearance of which is up to your group. This manifestation exists regardless of the spell's components (or lack thereof). Any character who can see a manifestation can make a [Relevant Skill] check to identify the spell as it is being cast. The manifestation of a spell can be seen even if the caster is invisible, but is otherwise hidden by anything that normally blocks accurate sight to the caster's square (such as a wall, an Obscuring Mist spell, or an illusion). A spell must be identified by its manifestation before it can be counterspelled.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps Subscriber

I'm pretty sure it's too late* for the Playtest CRB, but I agree it needs to be considered for the PF2 CRB

*I think that's already gone to the printers

Silver Crusade

Yes, the Playtest is off to the printers. I agree that this is something that would be good to cover in the rules. We'll have to keep an eye on this.

Sovereign Court

I agree as well.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I, TOO, AGREE


I had made a thread on this very topic before. So it's been asked, but I don't know if it's been addressed.

Certainly needs to be, so I, too, agree.


Hmm... on second thought, it might read better if it's "Anything that only blocks sight of the caster (such as invisibility) does not hide a manifestation, but anything that obscures clear vision of their square (such as a wall, an obscuring mist spell, or some illusions) hides manifestations." Just to cover weird corner situations. XD I'm glad to see what looks like general support for this clarification, though - thanks for chiming in!


I disagree. How Paizo handled psychic spell manifestation was pretty much the worst way to do so IMO. Give every spell verbal and somatic components. Then let wizards swap one (caster choice) for material components, psychics for thought component and clerics for a divine focus component. Make the alternative components also provoke an AoO and you get flavorful components that are equal in power and don't require anime-esque spell manifestations.

Liberty's Edge

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A clear guideline on how obvious spells are by default is definitely a good idea.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
I disagree. How Paizo handled psychic spell manifestation was pretty much the worst way to do so IMO. Give every spell verbal and somatic components. Then let wizards swap one (caster choice) for material components, psychics for thought component and clerics for a divine focus component. Make the alternative components also provoke an AoO and you get flavorful components that are equal in power and don't require anime-esque spell manifestations.

I'm not sure any of us in this thread are particularly rooting for the manifestations thing to carry over. I think we mostly just want it to be clear on how obvious spellcasting is from the beginning.

I think it is likely manifestations will remain in effect, if only because if verbal and somatic components are now being balanced around actions in combat, spells probably can't use those components to balance things like if people can tell you are casting spells.


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GM Rednal wrote:

Perhaps something along these lines?

Quote:
Manifestations: Every spell creates a visual manifestation in the square(s) of the caster when it's being cast, the exact appearance of which is up to your group. This manifestation exists regardless of the spell's components (or lack thereof). Any character who can see a manifestation can make a [Relevant Skill] check to identify the spell as it is being cast. The manifestation of a spell can be seen even if the caster is invisible, but is otherwise hidden by anything that normally blocks accurate sight to the caster's square (such as a wall, an Obscuring Mist spell, or an illusion). A spell must be identified by its manifestation before it can be counterspelled.

What people often overlook is the question of luminosity vs reflectivity. If the former, the visual manifestation should be able to be seen in darkness. If the latter, then it would not (unless viewer has darkvision and is within range). I tried to get specificity on this in P1E FAQ but it was never given attention. Both are equally valid 'visual manifestation' yet different implications re: Perception.

re: the last line, that reminds me of the slight overlap of Spellcraft and Know:Arcana in P1E. You could use latter to ID something based on it's components. Well, if multiple spells used same components you wouldn't know which. But you could just make assumption and counterspell the spell you surmise it is. And in many cases there may only be one spell with certain combo of ingredients, so it would be conclusive. Interesting to see if that parallel mechanic remains. (I found Spellcraft to just be boring, and especially on limited skill rank characters like Sorcerors, I preferred to get by with Know:Arcana which also does alot of other stuff)


Spell visibility is a must have as its an easy way to balance magic use. While clever casters have ways to mitigate such things it still inspires creativity and strategical thinking. Also manifestations arent necessary on anime level. As someone who started with RPG througb computer games I still like my Baldurs Gate or Elders Scrolls casting.


It has been asked. I do not believe Paizo has commented on the matter.

I second this for a second time.


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They really should just rip off the bandaid and just say that spells create some wibbling noise and a glowing rune circle around your head/hand/tentacle like pretty much all the art has these days.


Captain Morgan wrote:
I think it is likely manifestations will remain in effect, if only because if verbal and somatic components are now being balanced around actions in combat, spells probably can't use those components to balance things like if people can tell you are casting spells.

IMO that's a sign that their clever trick on spell components is a bad idea that will be a detriment to the game. The worst thing to come out of Occult Adventures (other than the broken classes such as the psychic) were spell manifestations.


Okay as someone who doesn't crunch numbers that much...why exactly were the occult classes and manifestations broken?

Shadow Lodge

I mean, the Medium had to have an FAQ just to make it feasible(and the FAQ went against the whole flavor of the class, so still broken...)


Well I am not a big fan of the medium myself, so that was never the big problem for me.
On the other hand my gf was a REALLY big fan of the mesmserist. Were there problems too?
Sorry if that goes to much off topic ^^°


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
IMO that's a sign that their clever trick on spell components is a bad idea that will be a detriment to the game. The worst thing to come out of Occult Adventures (other than the broken classes such as the psychic) were spell manifestations.

People have been interpreting Pathfinder as having spell manifestations since CRB, since the CRB changed the wording on identifying spells to have it no longer require spell components. Occult Adventures just required them to make it more explicit since some people didn't notice the change (including writers for some adventures).

... also, psychic is probably the most balanced full caster in the game so that's abit odd to say.


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Seisho wrote:
Okay as someone who doesn't crunch numbers that much...why exactly were the occult classes and manifestations broken?

It used to be that paladins could detect evil without magic runes appearing. lots of people rp'd it as an "Icy stare" or whatever, it was fun.

That's impossible now, and I think pretty sad.


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Milo v3 wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
IMO that's a sign that their clever trick on spell components is a bad idea that will be a detriment to the game. The worst thing to come out of Occult Adventures (other than the broken classes such as the psychic) were spell manifestations.

People have been interpreting Pathfinder as having spell manifestations since CRB, since the CRB changed the wording on identifying spells to have it no longer require spell components. Occult Adventures just required them to make it more explicit since some people didn't notice the change (including writers for some adventures).

... also, psychic is probably the most balanced full caster in the game so that's abit odd to say.

Spell manifestations break a lot of subtle enchantment and illusion magic.

For instance, a succubus or enchanting witch casts Suggestion to get her way. If you just read Suggestion, you would think it a very straightforward "will save fails, victim follows your suggestion and is none the wiser".

But due to the obvious manifestations, the victim knows you are screwing with them. So subtle manipulation doesn't work.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Well, I don't think there is an objection to a paladin detecting evil assuming the person knows what is happening, but seeing someone cast in a world that has dominate person could set people on edge.

I feel like there should be some spells at least that can be cast stealthily. Stuff like Detect Thoughts seems a little pointless otherwise, doesn't it? On the other hand, I think Enchantment spells are probably safer if visible. It's a tricky subject.


I'd like to see manifestation rules in the finalized CRB. Also, better rules for luminous magical side effects. Do manifestations glow or are they shiny? what about magic symbols? Fire Giants? How bright are these effects?


I think also being invisible doesn't get rid of spell manifestations, so the classic strategy of being invisible and summoning stuff doesn't actually work lol


CWheezy wrote:
I think also being invisible doesn't get rid of spell manifestations, so the classic strategy of being invisible and summoning stuff doesn't actually work lol

There have been some long arguments on this forum over that.

For instance, do the emanations come from your square? That makes a big difference for invisible summoning.


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The coming from yoru square part probably doesn't matter. It matters more if emanations are like an object your are holding. Like if you have a sword, then drop it, the sword becomes visible. If the emanations are not part of you then they are visible.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I feel like if that's the case boss casters shouldn't use greater invisibility on themselves.


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It should be clearly defined that almost all magic has a clear visual and auditory manifestation.

There should be a Subtle descriptor with the game effect that the spell doesn't have an obvious manifestation, and the DC of any check to identify the spell or notice that a spell is being cast at all increases by 5, even with Detect Magic up. (I'd say 10 but that feels too extreme in the new math.) All Enchantment and Illusion spells should come with this tag, so they preserve a lot of their subterfuge but can still be noticed. Classes or creatures can sometimes add this tag to spells they get as "supernatural abilities," like a Paladin's detect evil.

There would in CRB or APG be a Subtle Spell metamagic feat. It adds the Subtle tag to a normal spell, or the Hidden / Subtle II tag to an already subtle spell. Hidden / Subtle II would make even the components of a spell (verbalizations, gestures, etc) completely subtle, so they can be worked into normal conversation or performance. This would double the DC from subtle.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Fuzzypaws wrote:

It should be clearly defined that almost all magic has a clear visual and auditory manifestation.

There should be a Subtle descriptor with the game effect that the spell doesn't have an obvious manifestation, and the DC of any check to identify the spell or notice that a spell is being cast at all increases by 5, even with Detect Magic up. (I'd say 10 but that feels too extreme in the new math.) All Enchantment and Illusion spells should come with this tag, so they preserve a lot of their subterfuge but can still be noticed. Classes or creatures can sometimes add this tag to spells they get as "supernatural abilities," like a Paladin's detect evil.

There would in CRB or APG be a Subtle Spell metamagic feat. It adds the Subtle tag to a normal spell, or the Hidden / Subtle II tag to an already subtle spell. Hidden / Subtle II would make even the components of a spell (verbalizations, gestures, etc) completely subtle, so they can be worked into normal conversation or performance. This would double the DC from subtle.

ooooh, that's very good. You're a smart rat.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Agreed. I was rereading the Beguiler class, and this would be awesome of we were going to translate that class into PF


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CWheezy wrote:

The coming from yoru square part probably doesn't matter. It matters more if emanations are like an object your are holding. Like if you have a sword, then drop it, the sword becomes visible. If the emanations are not part of you then they are visible.

It matters a lot. If it comes from my square, enemies know where to attack to stop the casting.


This really needs a clarification, especially for illusion and trickery (a Dancing Lights with an obvious visible manifestation will trick very few into believing it is an approaching party) and ”these are not the droids you are looking for” stuff.


johnlocke90 wrote:
CWheezy wrote:
The coming from yoru square part probably doesn't matter. It matters more if emanations are like an object your are holding. Like if you have a sword, then drop it, the sword becomes visible. If the emanations are not part of you then they are visible.
It matters a lot. If it comes from my square, enemies know where to attack to stop the casting.

That only works if they have readied actions. Also, they still have to get through your total concealment (50%) and probably mirror image. So if your have 4 images up, they have a whole 12.5% chance to actually hit you and disrupt your spell. Of course, if you see the whole party stopping what they're doing and readying actions, you could just preemptively move out of their line of sight before casting ...

So it goes from "this really obvious strategy* is almost impossible to stop unless there is an arcane caster in your party," ("I win" button) to "this really obvious strategy is difficult to stop unless there is an arcane caster in your party." (major advantage) To me, that doesn't seem so bad.

I've seen casters in first edition PF with invisibility (casting buffs, etc). run with the spell manifestations FAQ. It's still a huge advantage, and challenging unless the party has, for example, glitterdust or some other way to deal with it.
--
*greater invisibility and spellcasting


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Cheburn wrote:


That only works if they have readied actions. Also, they still have to get through your total concealment (50%) and probably mirror image. So if your have 4 images up, they have a whole 12.5% chance to actually hit you and disrupt your spell. Of course, if you see the whole party stopping what they're doing and readying actions, you could just preemptively move out of their line of sight before casting ...

By PF1 RAW, Mirror Image does not stack with Invisibility.

Quote: ”An attacker must be able to see the figments to be fooled. If you are invisible or the attacker is blind, the spell has no effect (although the normal miss chances still apply).”

Yes, it means that it often is better to simply close your eyes and blindly attack the square of the Mirror Image user, especially if you have the appropriate feats.

No need for Glitterdust or Faerie Fire: just pop in a smog smoke pellet from Dungoneer’s Handbook. 40gp, and it makes any invisible creature in the targeted square visible for 1d4 rounds, no save - just hit the square itself.


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Fuzzypaws wrote:


There should be a Subtle descriptor with the game effect that the spell doesn't have an obvious manifestation, and the DC of any check to identify the spell or notice that a spell is being cast at all increases by 5, even with Detect Magic up. (I'd say 10 but that feels too extreme in the new math.) All Enchantment and Illusion spells should come with this tag, so they preserve a lot of their subterfuge but can still be noticed. Classes or creatures can sometimes add this tag to spells they get as "supernatural abilities," like a Paladin's detect evil.

There would in CRB or APG be a Subtle Spell metamagic feat. It adds the Subtle tag to a normal spell, or the Hidden / Subtle II tag to an already subtle spell. Hidden / Subtle II would make even the components of a spell (verbalizations, gestures, etc) completely subtle, so they can be worked into normal conversation or performance. This would double the DC from subtle.

I think this is a horrible idea. There's an elephant in the room of all D&D/spinoff RPGs. That elephant is the idea that a society with magic being a thing since Day 1, would more or less be similar to how our society functions today. The very presence of spells like create water or mend would alter the very fabric of society. And that's before we even get into charm person or any of the mind control spells.

There's no way for us to understand what those spells would do to society if they had been present since civilization began. And when I say society, I mean the very fabric of social interactions and conventions. So what these games do is pretend society is like it is now (because that's the baseline most of us are familiar with), only we have these spells, and everyone concocts some idea of how we'd all react to someone casting these spells in various circumstances. Problem is GMs and players don't agree and the books have never really been clear on what happens when someone casts a spell, any spell in a social environment.

D&D 3.5 made Spellcraft work on components.

SRD wrote:
Identify a spell being cast. (You must see or hear the spell’s verbal or somatic components.

And then they decided to create the metamagic feats of Still/Silent spell. So now you have people who can walk around at social events mind-controlling others. And it's not just parties, we're talking about, this includes political rallies, assemblies, business deals, etc.

To put it bluntly, if it were possible to cast spells, any spells, undetected, this would have been going on for a millennia, and society would have found a way to protect itself against it. To decide that illusions or whatever can be cast right in someone's face without it being obvious to others, creates a ridiculous amount of problems for a magic society where some can cast and some cannot.

Magic casting is already powerful enough, there is no reason to make it even more powerful by letting people casts spells undetected.


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Tarik Blackhands wrote:

They really should just rip off the bandaid and just say that spells create some wibbling noise and a glowing rune circle around your head/hand/tentacle like pretty much all the art has these days.

Agreed. ALOT of people read "visual manifestations" and don't even know what that is. I mean, I personally was aware of issue from first year or 2 of Pathfinder, which was only FAQ'd years later when some people were intentionally ignoring the original dev post (and of course, many were simply unaware of it), but vagaries like glowing vs. needing ambient light to see manifestion 'objects' are still undetermined.

They are intent on making rules Golarion specific. So no reason to hold back, just tell us what Golarion spellcasting looks like (/sound like/smells like). Ends debates and questions right there, we know exactly what is meant and intended. Glowing runes, or floating glyphs (which reflect ambient light, not glowing), or whatever. Don't play coy.


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Quandary wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:

They really should just rip off the bandaid and just say that spells create some wibbling noise and a glowing rune circle around your head/hand/tentacle like pretty much all the art has these days.

Agreed. ALOT of people read "visual manifestations" and don't even know what that is. I mean, I personally was aware of issue from first year or 2 of Pathfinder, which was only FAQ'd years later when some people were intentionally ignoring the original dev post (and of course, many were simply unaware of it), but vagaries like glowing vs. needing ambient light to see manifestion 'objects' are still undetermined.

They are intent on making rules Golarion specific. So no reason to hold back, just tell us what Golarion spellcasting looks like (/sound like/smells like). Ends debates and questions right there, we know exactly what is meant and intended. Glowing runes, or floating glyphs (which reflect ambient light, not glowing), or whatever. Don't play coy.

Based on the dev post in question:

  • They should be detectable even if you are blind
  • They should be detectable even if you are deaf
  • They should be detectable even if you are unable to smell
  • They should be detectable even if you have a combination of all the above.

    I suggest 'pressure' - as the spellcraft check to determine the spell being cast is supposed to work even in supernatural darkness and you are deaf and can't smell at all.

    I pretty much took the dev post to mean that outside of normal perception modifiers - you could always make a spellcraft check if a spell was being cast - that is there were no ways to hide spellcasting completely by intention - and to date there are only a couple of legal ways to do so that have pretty specific requirements.


  • Quandary wrote:
    some people were intentionally ignoring the original dev post

    Well they were following Jason's post that random dev posts were not official. That's why a FAQ was needed.

    Quandary wrote:
    of course, many were simply unaware of it

    Which was one of the reasons he gave for making dev posts unofficial: that people should not be required to comb through the message boards for rulings.

    Quandary wrote:
    Don't play coy.

    I would dearly love it if they would start filling in info instead of leaving many things 'up to the dm to figure out'. I'd rather have everyone start on the same page. Things like the non-FAQ for take 10 annoys me.


    Maybe different schools of magic should give off different levels of manifestation effects or different types of effects like sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, etc.


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    I think using a level 3 slot for a level 1 spell is a pretty good price to pay to be able to cast spells undetected. But if the devs disagree, make the 2 feats require a 5th level spell slot or even a 7th level one. This is far more favorable than anime glowing runes that even blind people can see.


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    Dragon78 wrote:
    Maybe different schools of magic should give off different levels of manifestation effects or different types of effects like sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, etc.

    There is a concept in Ars Magica called a wizard's sigil, which is that all spells cast by a particular wizard have manifestations on a particular theme. So one wizard's sigil might be 'roses', and depending on the spell it might manifest as the scent of roses, or the colour red, or a fireball that looked like a giant rose unfolding. Another might be 'decay', and all his spellcasting smells rotten, or things he create are crumbling at the edges.

    I imagine manifestations that are thematic to the spell but not necessarily the same for every caster. Clerical manifestations might reflect the caster's holy symbol or the qualities their god embodies - Sarenrite priests glow with sunlight, and Norgorberites are briefly shadowed when casting.


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    I adore magic theming and use it myself. :) But that's more something that modifies a spell's manifestation, rather than being a manifestation unto itself.

    They definitely need to pin down, in rules text, how the actual act of casting manifests before the spell even "goes off" - even if that can be individually themed. A kind of psychophysical "pressure" like was mentioned above is a good component of that, and part of why even my proposed take on subtle doesn't make a spell completely undetectable.

    Scarab Sages

    Manifestations and take 10 being clear and concise would eliminate about 1/5 of my ongoing issues with 1E. Personally I like the idea of runes (like in warmachine, another 3.5 offshoot in the table top realm) or a "pressure" that everyone can feel but not everyone understands (without proficiency in spellcraft).


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    Ckorik wrote:

    Based on the dev post in question:

    They should be detectable even if you are blind, deaf, unable to smell, even if you have a combination of all the above.
    I suggest 'pressure' - as the spellcraft check to determine the spell being cast is supposed to work even in supernatural darkness and you are deaf and can't smell at all.

    I'm curious where you derived the 'supposed to work in Su Darkness or even if you are blind' from, since I never was aware of any Paizo statement suggesting that, and I was involved in earliest discussions of it, and later 'recurrence' that led to FAQ. Both somewhat conflict with clear Spellcraft ID requirement "you must be able to clearly see the spell as it is being cast, and this incurs [normal Perception] penalties".


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    Dragon78 wrote:
    Maybe different schools of magic should give off different levels of manifestation effects or different types of effects like sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, etc.

    This is how it worked in the Psionic Rules (just scroll down to "Displays") and each spell just had the displays in its statblock. It was simple and allowed for every power to define exactly what kind of sensations it gives off when used. We've already seen that PF2 spell descriptions don't have this, but a per-school breakdown would almost as good and quite simple. Certainly it makes sense that illusion and enchantment are more subtle than the other schools, and I do hope they aren't completely gimped by RAW by being giant flashing neon signs.

    There were also trickle-down issues from the FAQ, such as whether an invisible spellcaster's spells were also invisible, or whether a spellcaster who succeeded a stealth check also hides his spells as a result. There was never any consensus on those issues, and Paizo never cleared them up with follow-up FAQ's.


    I absolutely do not want stealth casting in the game. It causes no end to headaches for GMs when players try to pull it and if pulled against players they will be upset and rightly so.

    Don't believe me?

    Next time you run for your group, just call for a random Will save.

    And tell the player, "You are now dominated. Give me your sheet."

    "Who did it?"
    "You don't know. You are dominated."
    "Where did it come from?"
    "No clue. Now hand me your sheet."


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    HWalsh wrote:

    I absolutely do not want stealth casting in the game. It causes no end to headaches for GMs when players try to pull it and if pulled against players they will be upset and rightly so.

    Don't believe me?

    Next time you run for your group, just call for a random Will save.

    And tell the player, "You are now dominated. Give me your sheet."

    "Who did it?"
    "You don't know. You are dominated."
    "Where did it come from?"
    "No clue. Now hand me your sheet."

    Lets try another one.

    Tell the player, "Your head is now missing. Give me your sheet."
    "Who did it?"
    "You don't know. You are dead."
    "Where did it come from?"

    I don't see ANY difference between improved invisible, long limbed attackers and spells. You either have to get rid of the idea of stealth as an option or expect it to be a viable tactic for various attacks.

    Liberty's Edge

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    There are too many neat scenarios involving concealed spell casting to not have it in the game. At the same time, it's too easy to do things like shortcut through social encounters with charm person for it to be universally available, IMO.

    Personally, I'm on board conceptually with it being something you Feat into (which is how it works in PF1), though PF1's feat tree is a bit more onerous than I'd prefer.

    But really, all that is secondary. I could live with any of the three options (always noticeable, never noticeable, or noticeable unless you invest) as long as which is true is made clear and explicit by the rules.


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    If casting isn't stealthy, then they should to rewrite Charm Person.

    In most cases where a new player would think it works, it doesn't.

    Liberty's Edge

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    johnlocke90 wrote:

    If casting isn't stealthy, then they should to rewrite Charm Person.

    In most cases where a new player would think it works, it doesn't.

    This isn't strictly true. People you've charmed explicitly put the best possible interpretation on your actions, so they aren't gonna believe their new friendship is a spell.

    So it works any time your target doesn't have actual friends right there. And works to make them believe in your friendship even if they're surrounded by friends who may react badly.

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