Do all spells have blatant visual effects?


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So I'm playing with Psychic casters and we can't pin down what has purple sparkle effects and what doesn't. Charm Person doesn't logically work as a spell if every time you cast it you shot heart smoke into someone's face. So what does mind thrust look like? What about Detect Thoughts?

Does it say anywhere what spells look like?

Edit: Or what spell effects can be hidden.

Silver Crusade

As of Ultimate Intrigue (Paizo claims this was a clarification. Many people disagree) ALL spells AND spell like abilities have visible special effects. Even psychic ones. Even ones where that makes the spell much, much less useful. Even ones with no verbal or somatic components.

There are some ways around this (mostly in Ultimate Intrigue) but they're fairly expensive and somewhat limited.


If you really wanted to, you could just homebrew or flavor it so that they don't. I can think of several spells, especially psychic ones, where it wouldn't make sense or would be prudent to hide magical effects. i.e. telekinesis or something.


Outside PFS, which can't ignore the publishing of Ultimate Intrigue, it's up to your group.

Sparkles for all was never a thing before that. That book makes a habit of messing with how things work. It should be remembered that's it's geared toward a niche game type.


If you want to cast something like charm person on the local king/innkeeper/etc to get something you'll probably need the conceal spell feat: https://www.d20pfsrd.com/feats/general-feats/conceal-spell/


The relevant FAQ.

Just what spells look like is explicitly left to your group. Importantly, I don't think it's implied that onlookers can tell you just cast a spell on Bob, only that you just cast a spell, so it's a little less of a giveaway than it could be. And they still need Spellcraft to ID what the spell was.


Casting a spell is usually obvious. An active spell may require detect magic to be noticeable. So for example, with detect thoughts you wave your hand speak the incantation, and somehow manipulate that copper coin that is the spell focus, but after that it's nowhere obvious that you're reading minds, unless you make it obvious.


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Yup, always visual phenomenon. Like the floating runes in much of the art.
Which I never heard anybody complain or ask about what specific spell that is before.
As mentioned, this doesn't indicate what the spell is, what the target is, or if it has targets.
And it doesn't interfere with the stated effects of the spell,
so when a spell says the targets treats you as friend/ally or whatever,
the fact they just saw some spellcasting floating runes will not change that opinion,
even if from outside view one believes one seriously undercuts the other, they are magically charmed so don't care.
Now OTHER PEOPLE seeing that certainly can make their infererences, but that's their issue.

As an aside, I don't believe it was ever determined what the general characteristics of this visual phenomenon are.
I believe it's reasonable to take the "floating rune" art as a standard starting point,
but even that isn't clear to me whether it is 'glowing' or simply visually reflective magical artifacts...
So it's entirely plausible that mundane Darkness or even concealment by more than 5' of mist/smoke blocks sight of this phenomenon.
On the other hand, it's also reasonable to say that it DOES "glow" and thus is visible thru Darkness,
although this would not be bright enough to change lighting conditions on other objects (which would need to be stated).


Worst FAQ ever


Yeah I'm not a fan of how they worded that.

If this were the rules forum then I'd be giving a different answer (agreeing with everyone really), but since this is the advice forum I'll assume you're not in PFS and are looking for a way to make this work for you.

The way I'd play it is that flashy spells are obvious. If you want to conceal that you're casting fireball you better have some crazy shenanigans up your sleeve.

Spells like charm person/etc would be a little more subtle. I'd probably use a little plot armour for important people, but otherwise let the casting be as subtle as it needs to be to work. If you want to charm a lone guard into leaving you alone nobody in the crowd going to notice that you just did magic, but if you try to charm the king with other people around then you're going to have a bad day.

Shadow Lodge

In my home games I don't consider spells like charm to have obvious magic lights flying around. However, to cast the spell you do still need to chant in a clearly audible volume and wave your arms about, so it is pretty obvious to anyone watching that something's up. I wouldn't let someone conceal their spellcasting unless they delt with that first, such as by using silent and still metamagics.


gnoams wrote:
In my home games I don't consider spells like charm to have obvious magic lights flying around. However, to cast the spell you do still need to chant in a clearly audible volume and wave your arms about, so it is pretty obvious to anyone watching that something's up. I wouldn't let someone conceal their spellcasting unless they delt with that first, such as by using silent and still metamagics.

The OP's issue is that their group has psychic casters, who don't have somatic or verbal components to their spells. This by itself would mean that there is no way for an outside observer to tell that a psychic spell has been cast, were it not for the further clarifications on purple glows and whatnot.


There's plenty of monsters whose spell-like abilities (no verbal or somatic) make no sense if any observer can see runes or whatever floating around. Fey especially.


I think a decent enough houserule for it would be that enchantment and illusion spells are not inherently noticeable; these two schools are generally intended to be deceptive beyond the others, if you can obscure your somatic/verbal components or otherwise don't need to worry about them then it makes sense for the spell effects on charm to be untraceable. You can still save against a glamer or notice your buddy is acting strangely with sense motive.


I don't see anything in that FAQ that requires manifestations to be visual. It's just that something happens which clues everybody around into the idea that "something weird has happened."

One's manifestations could be "everyone hears a distant bassoon" or "everyone present smells peppermint and sage" or "everybody has the distinct feeling of spiders crawling down their spine."

IMO the point of the FAQ is to give people a chance to say "huh, that's weird, what is going on?" to keep spellcasters from being able to operate with impunity, not to force wizards to light up like a candle every time they use magic. How subtle the manifestation can be should be commensurate to how subtle the effect is, so "nice smells with no apparent source" wouldn't work well for a fireball, but could for Charm Person.

Paizo Employee

PossibleCabbage wrote:
[...] How subtle the manifestation can be should be commensurate to how subtle the effect is, so "nice smells with no apparent source" wouldn't work well for a fireball, but could for Charm Person.

With a fireball you usually know where the nice smells are coming from, and it's often a little traumatizing.

"Anyone else smell bacon...?"


Being visual or not isn't really relevant; the important bit of the FAQ answer is this:

Quote:
Whatever the case, these manifestations are obviously magic of some kind, even to the uninitiated

Whatever happens, everyone is going to know you just cast a spell and are entitled to a spellcraft check to identify it if trained in the skill. This is a pretty serious issue for anyone trying to use charms or compulsions.


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Ssalarn wrote:

With a fireball you usually know where the nice smells are coming from, and it's often a little traumatizing.

"Anyone else smell bacon...?"

This then leads to a damage roll for the caster because the fireball obviously burned the caster, if this is before it makes contact with the target.

Silver Crusade

born_of_fire wrote:
Worst FAQ ever

In vague fairness, the rules make TOTAL sense for an intrigue based campaign where you don't want Charm person et. al. to be the uber spell it easily could be.

If I was running an Intrigue based campaign using Pathfinder rules I'd very happily adopt just about everything in Ultimate Intrigue.

The mistake Paizo made was making those rules the default for all campaigns.

Especially for PFS :-(.

Grand Lodge

Conceal Spell, which is PFS legal, is a decent workaround. Personally I don't think being able to hide spellcasting with a DC is worth two feats (given that you need deceitful) but it's not a bad way to deal with it, especially if you're a charisma based caster.


Problem. Conceal Spell does not work with Conceal Spell.

"When you cast a spell or use a spell-like ability, you can attempt to conceal verbal and somatic components among other speech and gestures, and to conceal the manifestation of casting the spell, so others don’t realize you’re casting a spell or using a spell-like ability until it is too late."
Verbal and Somatic components


Alchemist 23 wrote:

Problem. Conceal Spell does not work with Conceal Spell.

"When you cast a spell or use a spell-like ability, you can attempt to conceal verbal and somatic components among other speech and gestures, and to conceal the manifestation of casting the spell, so others don’t realize you’re casting a spell or using a spell-like ability until it is too late."

Verbal and Somatic components.

Conceal Spell obfuscates the verbal components, somatic components, and the manifestation of casting the spell. The third one is what a psychic caster is going to be concerned about, of course.


Arachnofiend wrote:
Alchemist 23 wrote:

Problem. Conceal Spell does not work with Conceal Spell.

"When you cast a spell or use a spell-like ability, you can attempt to conceal verbal and somatic components among other speech and gestures, and to conceal the manifestation of casting the spell, so others don’t realize you’re casting a spell or using a spell-like ability until it is too late."

Verbal and Somatic components.

Conceal Spell obfuscates the verbal components, somatic components, and the manifestation of casting the spell. The third one is what a psychic caster is going to be concerned about, of course.

Yeah just read through all of it a few time to figure it out. Its poorly written but yeah I get it now. Basically psychic casters can only be detected by either sense motive if someone is close to you or spell-craft if they have it.


Alchemist 23 wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Alchemist 23 wrote:

Problem. Conceal Spell does not work with Conceal Spell.

"When you cast a spell or use a spell-like ability, you can attempt to conceal verbal and somatic components among other speech and gestures, and to conceal the manifestation of casting the spell, so others don’t realize you’re casting a spell or using a spell-like ability until it is too late."

Verbal and Somatic components.

Conceal Spell obfuscates the verbal components, somatic components, and the manifestation of casting the spell. The third one is what a psychic caster is going to be concerned about, of course.
Yeah just read through all of it a few time to figure it out. Its poorly written but yeah I get it now. Basically psychic casters can only be detected by either sense motive if someone is close to you or spell-craft if they have it.

And actually after all that I found Cunning Caster which is over all a much better feat.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
pauljathome wrote:
The mistake Paizo made was making those rules the default for all campaigns.

The rule was essentially already the default for all campaigns given the way the Spellcraft skill works. Unless you can't see the caster, if they cast a spell you get to make a check to identify it. That's been the rule since 2009.

"Visual manifestations" is just a way of justifying how someone in-universe knows to identify a spell in the first place if it doesn't have components.


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Squiggit wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
The mistake Paizo made was making those rules the default for all campaigns.

The rule was essentially already the default for all campaigns given the way the Spellcraft skill works. Unless you can't see the caster, if they cast a spell you get to make a check to identify it. That's been the rule since 2009.

"Visual manifestations" is just a way of justifying how someone in-universe knows to identify a spell in the first place if it doesn't have components.

Spellcraft is a trained only skill. There is a vast difference between anyone with eyes and ears automatically knowing you are casting a spell and anyone trained in spellcraft has a chance to figure out you are casting a spell.

The problem with the FAQ and everyone always knowing everyone and everything is casting a spell is that there are a ton of spells that no longer make sense and, as avr pointed out, a ton of creatures whose abilities no longer make sense.


born_of_fire wrote:
there are a ton of spells that no longer make sense

Name one.

We will assume the target doesn't have the ability to know what you were casting, only that you're doing something magical.


Matthew Downie wrote:
born_of_fire wrote:
there are a ton of spells that no longer make sense

Name one.

We will assume the target doesn't have the ability to know what you were casting, only that you're doing something magical.

Charm Person, Suggestion or most any charm, compulsion or illusion spell as mentioned a number of times already in this discussion by a number of others. Not sure why you’re jumping all over me like this is breaking news.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

All those spells work even if its obvious you're spellcasting, just as long as the creature doesn't spellcraft the exact spell. Imagine:

"Of course I was casting a spell, Guardsman Biff, I thought you could use a protective ward to do your job in safety!" - Charm Person

*Balor steps out of a burning portal* "Flee, for I have summoned a terrible demon to destroy you!" - Major Image

Both situations work without issue (other than maybe needing a bluff check) and hardly cause their respective spells to "not make sense". In my experience both playing and GMing, this FAQ is excellent and has made my games MORE fun rather than less. It pushes players to be more creative in how they use their tricky spells - rather than just charming people in broad daylight in the middle of a crowd.

Shadow Lodge

Disguise self and alter self as at-will spell-like abilities used by various shape-changers like hags and dragons are incredibly hard to use when interacting with others for more than minutes at a time.

A similar but tangential issue: How are doppelgangers supposed to infiltrate a society when they lack the means to hide their magical transmutation auras?


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Cellion wrote:
All those spells work even if its obvious you're spellcasting, just as long as the creature doesn't spellcraft the exact spell.

Even if they do identify an enchantment spell, that doesn't break the spell. The charmed person will assume you had a valid reason to be casting Charm Person - after all, you're a trustworthy person. The person afflicted by Suggestion will think, "Well, that was a Suggestion spell, but that doesn't mean he's wrong. I probably should throw down my weapons and surrender."

Identified illusion spells are more of a problem - you can't bluff that your illusory wall is a wall spell if they know you were casting Silent Image. Though if you go around a corner and cast it, that might work to hide the manifestations.

Of course, the 'manifestations' FAQ really only makes a difference if you were casting a Still Silent spell, and I never saw anyone doing that anyway.


The illusion is a minor one in my opinion.

If you let someone see you cast an illusion they would have a chance to identify the spell being cast, even without the FAQ and even when the spell was cast Still and Silent, someone that see the spell cast can attempt to identify it. And usually, it's pretty easy to do so.


Serum wrote:
A similar but tangential issue: How are doppelgangers supposed to infiltrate a society when they lack the means to hide their magical transmutation auras?

It is disputed, but I believe that supernatural abilities (like Change Shape) don't have magical auras.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Of course, the 'manifestations' FAQ really only makes a difference if you were casting a Still Silent spell, and I never saw anyone doing that anyway.

It would also matter for spell-like abilities, that don't need any components, but still have manifestations.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Cellion wrote:
All those spells work even if its obvious you're spellcasting, just as long as the creature doesn't spellcraft the exact spell.
Even if they do identify an enchantment spell, that doesn't break the spell. The charmed person will assume you had a valid reason to be casting Charm Person - after all, you're a trustworthy person. The person afflicted by Suggestion will think, "Well, that was a Suggestion spell, but that doesn't mean he's wrong. I probably should throw down my weapons and surrender."

Right, it doesn't even depend on visual manifestation ruling, a caster can before casting the spell openly say "hey buddy, I'm gonna cast Charm Person on you" and... THE SPELL EFFECTS STILL APPLY AS STATED, they still see you as friendly with good intent. The entire point of these spells is they create a discrepancy between normal thought process based on known facts and the targetted friendly compliant state of mind. Knowing you just cast Charm Person is really nothing special considering they might also know you just murdered their entire family and tribe, or have decades long history of cheating them etc. If knowing you Cast Charm Person specifically would lead to hostile attitude, that is just one more fact that isn't going to influence their attitude towards you. That's just what the magic does.

Regarding an Illusion spell, say an Illusory bridge cast over canyon that caster requests person to walk over, it's again not so fundamentally different WITHOUT the visual rule because no matter what the Illusory effect JUST APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE, i.e. is obviously magical. And knowing nothing else, it's reasonable to recognize the plausible chance that it's an Illusion. Obviously the Spellcraft chance to ID the specific spell existed previous to people's delayed recognition of visual phenomenon ruling, although in all honesty (accurately) believing it to be the spell it is doesn't necessarily preclude doubts that maybe you're wrong about the spell. (2e better models this with specific false information being semi-routine)

And to be clear, there was NOTHING NEW in the FAQ, the head designer said as much YEARS earlier in forum comment before FAQ system. Many other people including me ;-) pointed to explicitly visual nature of spellcraft, which didn't hinge on VSM... I myself pointed to the "floating runes" art as model for this, which nobody every had questioned or had problem with before. I think the "mental blocks" people had re: "what if they know you cast spell" + Enchants/Illusions really just is case of not able to step back enough from "player" perspective metagaming, to just be able to accept what rules say and roleplay it without. /shrug


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And, of course, the doppelgänger trying to infiltrate society as a lowly peasant, the moment it tries to use Detect Thoughts, immediately catches the attention of everyone in a 50-foot radius.

I, too, hate the FAQ.

Shadow Lodge

Dαedαlus wrote:

And, of course, the doppelgänger trying to infiltrate society as a lowly peasant, the moment it tries to use Detect Thoughts, immediately catches the attention of everyone in a 50-foot radius.

I, too, hate the FAQ.

At best, if it casts detect thoughts in a secluded location, it's stuck moving around at half speed while concentrating and is still glowing to any random detect magic cast in its direction.


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I feel like if people aren't paying attention to you, they aren't really any more likely to notice you if you cast detect thoughts than they are if you were picking pockets, drinking a potion, drawing a weapon, opening a door, etc. Whole point is to make "casting spells" to be a thing people can notice if they happen to be paying attention to you.


Cellion wrote:

All those spells work even if its obvious you're spellcasting, just as long as the creature doesn't spellcraft the exact spell. Imagine:

"Of course I was casting a spell, Guardsman Biff, I thought you could use a protective ward to do your job in safety!" - Charm Person

*Balor steps out of a burning portal* "Flee, for I have summoned a terrible demon to destroy you!" - Major Image

Both situations work without issue (other than maybe needing a bluff check) and hardly cause their respective spells to "not make sense". In my experience both playing and GMing, this FAQ is excellent and has made my games MORE fun rather than less. It pushes players to be more creative in how they use their tricky spells - rather than just charming people in broad daylight in the middle of a crowd.

All right, now do the charm scenario where there's a second person standing there. That guy immediately becomes hostile because even if he doesn't know exactly what you did he does know that some magic s%&# went down and suddenly his buddy is acting completely out of character.

Shadow Lodge

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If you blatantly go about charming people in front of witnesses then yeah, that has consequences. Being able to charm someone in a room full of people is something that takes specialized talents, such as levels in enchanting courtesan. It is not and should not be something any first level magic user can pull off.

It's like, if you're a first level rogue you don't just shove your hand in someone's pocket while they are staring straight at you, you aren't that good at sleight of hands yet. You need to use some stealth and guile to pull it off.

If you're dealing with only a few guys then try a little teamwork and imagination. Some people distract the others while you charm one of them. That becomes a more interesting challenge that requires participation from more than one player.


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The biggest unresolved issue with spell manifestations currently is whether or not they have the same level of concealment as the caster. This would determined whether stealth and invisibility can hide spell manifestations, and there's rather big consequences regardless of how you rule.

The Exchange

Dasrak wrote:
The biggest unresolved issue with spell manifestations currently is whether or not they have the same level of concealment as the caster. This would determined whether stealth and invisibility can hide spell manifestations, and there's rather big consequences regardless of how you rule.

I too would like to know which way people lean when it comes to invisability. I have been making them seeable but thinking of changing my mind.


In the spirit of things, I've ruled that the manifestations are visible in line of sight, regardless of whether or the caster is. That means the "dominate the King during a party" problem can't be circumvented by a simple invisibility spell, or else everyone would simply do that.

It also gives foes a chance to try and attack invisible casters who start doing something else, but usually requires a readied action to pull off (and frankly, making some foes waste their turns isn't a terrible thing for casters to be doing anyway). And even when they do attack, miss chances are a thing.

It's worth nothing that the rules say every spell can be identified and counterspelled when it's being cast. It does not say this requires seeing the caster or the spell having specific material components. (<- This is why you can counterspell a silent, stilled, eschew material'd spell.) The stated goal is to help limit the ability of casters to run amok in non-combat situations, so I try to make rulings that are in line with the explicit reason for manifestations existing at all.

The Exchange

I think that was most of my reasoning,and after reading yours will stick with it. Thanks


PossibleCabbage wrote:
I feel like if people aren't paying attention to you, they aren't really any more likely to notice you if you cast detect thoughts than they are if you were picking pockets, drinking a potion, drawing a weapon, opening a door, etc. Whole point is to make "casting spells" to be a thing people can notice if they happen to be paying attention to you.

I think this line of reasoning is the one that has to work for me to even remotely view the FAQ as more than something to completely ignore in my own campaigns.

GM Rednal wrote:
It's worth nothing that the rules say every spell can be identified and counterspelled when it's being cast. It does not say this requires seeing the caster or the spell having specific material components. (<- This is why you can counterspell a silent, stilled, eschew material'd spell.)

It does, however, say it needs to be "clearly viewed as it is being cast" and "incurs the same penalties as a Perception skill check for distance, poor conditions, and other factors". For me this strongly suggests some of those 'other factors' are the metamagic used as well as Stealth factors. Rules/Guidelines are for those specific factors (metamagic) are non-existant.

And why if manifestations are a thing is there no mention of any metamagic effecting manifestations and if they cannot be effected by metamagic why is it not so stated?


pauljathome wrote:
born_of_fire wrote:
Worst FAQ ever

In vague fairness, the rules make TOTAL sense for an intrigue based campaign where you don't want Charm person et. al. to be the uber spell it easily could be.

If I was running an Intrigue based campaign using Pathfinder rules I'd very happily adopt just about everything in Ultimate Intrigue.

The mistake Paizo made was making those rules the default for all campaigns.

Especially for PFS :-(.

Debatable. In an intrigue-based campaign, I'd want such spells to be subtle even more. It isn't as though the idea of subtle spellcasting in intrigue-based games hasn't been playtested to death in previous editions, and as far as I can tell it hasn't been detrimental to the experience.


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I feel like "magic, applied directly, is not your best option" is a good place for Intrigue games. Like if the Oceans gang want to rob somewhere, what they do not get is "a really big gun" it's "a plan". So if magic serves the role of "a really big gun" it's not what I want to be the thing that solves the problem.


I feel like there are better systems for such intrigue-based games. I also feel like if your intrigue-based situation can be so easily resolved via charm person, it wasn't much of an intrigue-based situation to begin with.


Sure but if the reason we're running an intrigue game is that we are invested in the idea of "undermining Cheliax" or something, you're going to try to run it in Pathfinder regardless. So it's best if it at least kinda works.

I mean, for reasons of verisimilitude it's best that people have a strong disincentive to start casting "Charm Person" willy nilly every time they go shopping in order to ensure better prices.


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There's plenty of disincentive against casting charm person every time they go shopping. It's pretty much the same disincentive against casting fireball every time they go shopping--eventually local law enforcement or a rather peeved merchant's hired problem solvers are going to want a word.

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