Detecting / Dispelling Supernatural (Su) and Spell-Like (Sp) Abilities


Rules Questions

Shadow Lodge

How do Supernatural and Spell-like abilities interact with Spellcraft, detect magic and dispel magic? Do they work differently depending on how similar they are to an actual spell? Here are a number of cases I've been able to think of, along with examples (all the examples have durations, as that's the most likely way detect and dispel magic can interact with them, but there are, of course, a plethora of instantaneous versions):
.

  • Supernatural Abilities with durations, eg. Destruction Domain's Destructive Aura (Su)
  • Supernatural abilities that are always on, eg. Babau Demon's Protective Slime (Su)
  • Supernatural abilities that partially replicate spells, Avoral Agathion's True Seeing (Su), Cetaceal Agathion's Protective Aura (Su), Witch Hex Flight (Su)
  • Spell-like abilities that don't replicate spells, eg. Luck Domain's Bit of Luck (Sp)
  • Spell-like abilities that partially replicate spells, eg. Fey Bloodline's Fleeting Glance (Sp)
  • Spell-like abilities that exactly replicate spells (minus components), eg. monster spell-like ability lists


  • Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

    Spell-like abilities can be detected and dispelled, just like spells. Supernatural abilities are magical, too, and as such can be detected, but they do not belong to any school. They also cannot be dispelled. (see Core Rulebook, p. 221)


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

    I've been wondering this as well. Do hexes, most of which are SU abilities, have spell manifestations and as such are identifiable via spellcraft? I've been playing a Shaman and have been wonder if in social situations whether Charm or Evil Eye can be used undetected.


    Agodeshalf wrote:
    I've been wondering this as well. Do hexes, most of which are SU abilities, have spell manifestations and as such are identifiable via spellcraft? I've been playing a Shaman and have been wonder if in social situations whether Charm or Evil Eye can be used undetected.

    Hexes are not spells, therefore they do not create spell manifestations. They are also not identified by spellcraft, instead a relevant knowledge can identify them when they are used (see the Recall Intrigues section).


    Kinetic Counter is the only way I know of to counter supernatural and extraordinary abilities. And it only works if they have the opposite element as the one you readied.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

    Seems that given the knowledge skill check is predicated on a visible effect and neither the charm or evil eye, for example, is a visible effect not sure how someone would make the check. Is making the saving throw which gives you a feeling of hostile intent or a tingle sufficient to allow the knowledge check?

    It just seems that the objective of the rules was to prevent unfettered casting in social context that could go undetected making the hex much more powerful in these circumstances.


    Spell Like and Supernatural abilities can't be identified by observation using Spellcraft.
    Because they aren't spells, even if the end effect looks the same as a spell.

    Quote:
    A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus. The user activates it mentally.
    Quote:
    Identifying a spell as it is being cast requires no action, but you must be able to clearly see the spell as it is being cast, and this incurs the same penalties as a Perception skill check due to distance, poor conditions, and other factors.

    Nothing to observe. Concentrating to cast Charm Monster looks the same as concentrating to cast Prot from Evil.


    Can you increase the caster level of a Spell Like Ability? Like say, with an Orange Prism Ioun Stone?

    Shadow Lodge

    Stephen Ede wrote:

    Spell Like and Supernatural abilities can't be identified by observation using Spellcraft.

    Because they aren't spells, even if the end effect looks the same as a spell.

    Quote:
    A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus. The user activates it mentally.
    Quote:
    Identifying a spell as it is being cast requires no action, but you must be able to clearly see the spell as it is being cast, and this incurs the same penalties as a Perception skill check due to distance, poor conditions, and other factors.
    Nothing to observe. Concentrating to cast Charm Monster looks the same as concentrating to cast Prot from Evil.

    This post is kind of on the nose, given the currently active thread discussing this very topic. Your statement implies that Spellcraft can't identify spells that don't have visible effects, as spell components aren't the spell you have to be able to see as it is being cast. It would be impossible to identify, as you say, charm person or protection from evil, regardless if it was a spell or spell-Like ability.


    Um, Protection from evil has a very clear visible effect, "It creates a magical barrier around the subject at a distance of 1 foot."

    From what I understood of that thread, is that all spells have some effect/noice/movement; even if you dont speak, move, handle a material, or use emotion (for psychics). Spell-like abilities are no different to spells in that regard, specially considering that spell-like abilities provoke AoOs.

    Similarly, you can always use Detect Magic/Identify to identify all magical effects.

    Actually identifying the effect would definetly call for a Knowledge check, most likely Knowledge (Arcana).

    Knowledge (Arcana) uses:
  • Identify auras while using detect magic
  • Identify a spell effect that is in place
  • Identify materials manufactured by magic
  • Identify a spell that just targeted you
  • Identify the spells cast using a specific material component

  • Serum wrote:
    Stephen Ede wrote:

    Spell Like and Supernatural abilities can't be identified by observation using Spellcraft.

    Because they aren't spells, even if the end effect looks the same as a spell.

    Quote:
    A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus. The user activates it mentally.
    Quote:
    Identifying a spell as it is being cast requires no action, but you must be able to clearly see the spell as it is being cast, and this incurs the same penalties as a Perception skill check due to distance, poor conditions, and other factors.
    Nothing to observe. Concentrating to cast Charm Monster looks the same as concentrating to cast Prot from Evil.
    This post is kind of on the nose, given the currently active thread discussing this very topic. Your statement implies that Spellcraft can't identify spells that don't have visible effects, as spell components aren't the spell you have to be able to see as it is being cast. It would be impossible to identify, as you say, charm person or protection from evil, regardless if it was a spell or spell-Like ability.

    Components V, S

    You use spellcraft to identify a spell been cast before the spell is completed by observing the spell been cast by the casting. This is why you have to see the caster doing it.
    Charm Person has Verbal and Somatic components.

    When been cast as a Spell-like ability their are no Verbal or Somatic components so you can't identify it as it's been cast.

    The errata regarding magic creating glowy effets whatever means you know a spell was cast. It doesn't mean you can identify what the spell been cast is. TTBOMK they never said "these effects can tell you what the person is casting". Apples and Oranges.

    Yes, some spells are obvious after they've been cast - Fireball been a pretty classic example, but that's not what the Spellcraft check is for.

    Sure there are ways of telling what magic is after it is cast - I didn't comment on those.
    Telling what a spell is by studying afterwards has nothing to do with using Spellcraft

    Quote:

    Identify Spell Being Cast

    Identifying a spell as it is being cast requires no action, but you must be able to clearly see the spell as it is being cast, and this incurs the same penalties as a Perception skill check due to distance, poor conditions, and other factors.

    I would note that there is no RAW for identifying a spell using Spellcraft after the spell is cast. At least not under the skill Spellcraft (there may be something elsewhere).

    I'm not sure why you think my comment was "on the nose".

    Shadow Lodge

    You can use Spellcraft (as it is being cast) to identify a spell that doesn't have verbal or somatic components.

    You can identify a spell that only has verbal (not visual) components, like command, but not if the career is behind a wall. You can identify psychic spells which has neither verbal or somatic (thought and emotion components are not explicitly visible), and you can identify spells that have Silent + Still or Intuitive + Logical metamagic applied.

    Grand Lodge

    Stephen Ede wrote:

    I would note that there is no RAW for identifying a spell using Spellcraft after the spell is cast. At least not under the skill Spellcraft (there may be something elsewhere).

    You can identify the school of magic for spells that are active by using Detect Magic and a knowledge (arcana) check. This actually includes non-spell effects, the implication here being spell-like abilities. It also spells out dim aura, indicating you can identify the school of magic even after the effects have ended.

    See Detect Magic CR: pg 267.


    Stephen Ede wrote:

    You use spellcraft to identify a spell been cast before the spell is completed by observing the spell been cast by the casting. This is why you have to see the caster doing it.

    Charm Person has Verbal and Somatic components.
    When been cast as a Spell-like ability their are no Verbal or Somatic components so you can't identify it as it's been cast.

    The errata regarding magic creating glowy effets whatever means you know a spell was cast. It doesn't mean you can identify what the spell been cast is. TTBOMK they never said "these effects can tell you what the person is casting". Apples and Oranges.

    Yes, some spells are obvious after they've been cast - Fireball been a pretty classic example, but that's not what the Spellcraft check is for.

    Sure there are ways of telling what magic is after it is cast - I didn't comment on those.
    Telling what a spell is by studying afterwards has nothing to do with using Spellcraft

    FAQ wrote:

    What exactly do I identify when I’m using Spellcraft to identify a spell? Is it the components, since spell-like abilities, for instance, don’t have any? If I can only identify components, would that mean that I can’t take an attack of opportunity against someone using a spell-like ability (or spell with no verbal, somatic, or material components) or ready an action to shoot an arrow to disrupt a spell-like ability? If there’s something else, how do I know what it is?

    Although this isn’t directly stated in the Core Rulebook, many elements of the game system work assuming that all spells have their own manifestations, regardless of whether or not they also produce an obvious visual effect, like fireball. You can see some examples to give you ideas of how to describe a spell’s manifestation in various pieces of art from Pathfinder products, but ultimately, the choice is up to your group, or perhaps even to the aesthetics of an individual spellcaster, to decide the exact details. Whatever the case, these manifestations are obviously magic of some kind, even to the uninitiated; this prevents spellcasters that use spell-like abilities, psychic magic, and the like from running completely amok against non-spellcasters in a non-combat situation. Special abilities exist (and more are likely to appear in Ultimate Intrigue) that specifically facilitate a spellcaster using chicanery to misdirect people from those manifestations and allow them to go unnoticed, but they will always provide an onlooker some sort of chance to detect the ruse.

    The manifestations are quite literally what you use to identify spells, not the components.

    Quote:

    I would note that there is no RAW for identifying a spell using Spellcraft after the spell is cast. At least not under the skill Spellcraft (there may be something elsewhere).

    I'm not sure why you think my comment was "on the nose".

    You use knowledge arcana to identify spell effects that are in place.

    Grand Lodge

    Stephen Ede wrote:


    When been cast as a Spell-like ability their are no Verbal or Somatic components so you can't identify it as it's been cast.

    The errata regarding magic creating glowy effets whatever means you know a spell was cast. It doesn't mean you can identify what the spell been cast is. TTBOMK they never said "these effects can tell you what the person is casting". Apples and Oranges.

    Yes, some spells are obvious after they've been cast - Fireball been a pretty classic example, but that's not what the Spellcraft check is for....

    This FAQ seems to contradict your statement:

    What exactly do I identify when I’m using Spellcraft to identify a spell? Is it the components, since spell-like abilities, for instance, don’t have any? If I can only identify components, would that mean that I can’t take an attack of opportunity against someone using a spell-like ability (or spell with no verbal, somatic, or material components) or ready an action to shoot an arrow to disrupt a spell-like ability? If there’s something else, how do I know what it is?

    Although this isn’t directly stated in the Core Rulebook, many elements of the game system work assuming that all spells have their own manifestations, regardless of whether or not they also produce an obvious visual effect, like fireball. You can see some examples to give you ideas of how to describe a spell’s manifestation in various pieces of art from Pathfinder products, but ultimately, the choice is up to your group, or perhaps even to the aesthetics of an individual spellcaster, to decide the exact details. Whatever the case, these manifestations are obviously magic of some kind, even to the uninitiated; this prevents spellcasters that use spell-like abilities, psychic magic, and the like from running completely amok against non-spellcasters in a non-combat situation. Special abilities exist (and more are likely to appear in Ultimate Intrigue) that specifically facilitate a spellcaster using chicanery to misdirect people from those manifestations and allow them to go unnoticed, but they will always provide an onlooker some sort of chance to detect the ruse.

    Source: https://www.paizo.com/paizo/faq/v5748nruor1fm#v5748eaic9s54
    It reads to me that you can use the spell manifestations to identify the spell. They don't say that you can only identify from components.


    Interesting FAQ since the original question conflates two different things.
    Identifying whether a spell is getting cast and identifying what spell is getting cast.

    The FAQ answer clearly specifies that you can tell, even with no Spellcraft, that a person is casting magic due to the manisfestations around the caster.
    It is much vaguer and unclear regarding as to how Spellcraft identifies that precise spell been cast. Indeed the line "perhaps even to the aesthetics of an individual spellcaster, to decide the exact details." pretty much says you can't use the manisfestations to workout the precise nature of the spell. If every caster decides the manisfestations for each spell they cast it wouldn't be possible for a person who had never worked with caster to make a Spellcraft ck to determine anything from the manisfestations.

    Regardless using Spellcraft to identify precisely what is been cast remains something that can be done with spells, and given Spell-like abilities existed when that rule was written the assumption should be that if they had meant it to be used to identify precisely what spell-like ability was been cast they would've said.


    Stephen Ede wrote:
    Regardless using Spellcraft to identify precisely what is been cast remains something that can be done with spells, and given Spell-like abilities existed when that rule was written the assumption should be that if they had meant it to be used to identify precisely what spell-like ability was been cast they would've said.

    They didn't need to call them out as identifiable in that way.

    Spell-like abilities are magical and work just like spells (though they are not spells and so have no verbal, somatic, focus, or material components). They go away in an antimagic field and are subject to spell resistance if the spell the ability is based on would be subject to spell resistance.

    Usually, a spell-like ability works just like the spell of that name. A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus. The user activates it mentally. Armor never affects a spell-like ability’s use, even if the ability resembles an arcane spell with a somatic component.

    A spell-like ability has a casting time of 1 standard action unless noted otherwise in the ability or spell description. In all other ways, a spell-like ability functions just like a spell.

    Since SLAs work just like spells, and spells are identified by spellcraft, SLAs are able to be identified by spellcraft.

    Grand Lodge

    Stephen Ede wrote:
    It is much vaguer and unclear regarding as to how Spellcraft identifies that precise spell been cast. Indeed the line "perhaps even to the aesthetics of an individual spellcaster, to decide the exact details." pretty much says you can't use the manisfestations to workout the precise nature of the spell.

    Wow, you totally changed the meaning of that phrase. The aesthetics are the flavor text of the spell. This is not game mechanics. It says spellcasting is always obvious. Spellcraft doesn't say you have to observe the somatic or verbal components, it says you need to clearly see the spell as it is being cast.

    If you want to say "a blue mist rises out of your hands", you can. If you want to say that "the light increases around your aura", you can. If you want to "an image of a hawk hovers above you", you can.

    However, not a single one of these affects the game mechanics. Regardless of how you describe the manifestations, untrained people can tell you cast a spell, and trained people may try to identify it regardless of the lack of verbal or somatic components.

    It is vague only in what the manifestations looks like. Since this doesn't affect the mechanics, there is no reason to be more specific. The very definition of aesthetics means no mechanics, all beauty and creativity.

    This line answers the question definitely: Although this isn’t directly stated in the Core Rulebook, many elements of the game system work assuming that all spells have their own manifestations, regardless of whether or not they also produce an obvious visual effect, like fireball.

    And This sections ensures that it applies to spell-like abilities as well:
    Spell-like abilities are magical and work just like spells...

    You are adding restrictions to the spellcraft skill that are just not supported by the rules.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

    I agree. It is clear that it just requires line of sight to identify the spell. This is why Conceal spell, and Greater Conceal spell are required to get a spell off undetected. Not just the use of Still/Silent/Eschew Materials. Nor Logical/Intuitive for psychic magic either. So clearly the detection/identification of the spell being cast must by observing something else. The FAQ calls them manifestations. This begs the question is it LOS to the caster or to the manifestations themselves. I only ask because what if I am invisible and I cast a spell which doesn't break invisibility. Are the manifestations visible or not. And can someone notice as spell was cast.

    But is a SU ability detectable via spellcraft or a knowledge check and if so what are the prerequisites for that check to be allowed. Is the answer different if the SU ability duplicates a spell?


    there are different DCs and formulas to come up with that DC based on HOW the observer experiences the spell(casting, ongoing, etc) and what environmental effects are in place, so there are differences.

    Detect Magic just gives you a school aura. Certainly less information than observing a casting.

    GMs ALSO have to figure out what the heck "manifestations" are in a practical manner for play and where they manifest.

    There are spell interactions(Illusion of Calm, Major Image, Silent Table, Darkness, Obscuring Mist,...) and skill/feat interactions (Ult Intrigue). Your GM has to have spell manifestations down to interpret the aforementioned interactions. It's where I see the most table variance in play.

    Honestly, the Ult Intrg rules aren't worth it in standard play as they are too feat/skill costly. Now in a home game based in Razmiran or Rahadoum they're probably needed.


    Takeaways for me so far from this and other similar threads such as the one noted by Serum above i.e. "currently active thread".

    1) KISS -> It says spells can be identified via Spellcraft. Don't think too hard about how, just accept.
    2) Manifestations are a nice aesthetic to add to spell. Things like summoning an Imp get more flavor if the room smells faintly of brimstone or sulfur.
    3) Manifestations are left to the DM's and party's imagination.
    4) For #2 and #3 see number #1
    5) The "other factors" listed in the description of Spellcraft are too undefined to be useful beyond 'stuff not already noted'. They can safely be held under the DM's umbrella of Circumstance bonuses whatever they might be, no need to go looking for them. See #1.
    6)Components play absolutely no role in identifying a spell. And that totally makes no intuitive sense to this DM, but GM Rednal does bring up some interesting thoughts on why that might be true. Not to mention on why a Stilled Silent Eschewed version of Gate vs the normal Gate is exactly the same DC to Spellcraft.
    7) Ummm Material Components can play a role in Identifying a spell after the fact ... but apparently can't help you while its being cast. See Knowledge Arcana. And see #1, of course.
    8) Unless I'm missing it the presence of a Focus or Divine Focus isn't accounted for under either Spellcraft or Knowledge Arcana even though it is noted for a Material component under Knowledge Arcana. Okay, thinking that's an oversight ... see #1.
    9) Trying to make a mechanical effect out of Manifestations in a short paragraph or two will result in a quagmire at least as bad as the Stealth rules. See #1.
    10) Possible Cabbage hit it on the head for me in many ways with the post of:

    Possible Cabbage 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.

    Edit to add: As for SLA's well treat them as spells with if you must the appropriate Metamagic to eliminate the components (which as we've seen have no effect on identifying a spell). And as for Su abilities ... lack of the ability to counterspell says a lot about the inability to id it via Spellcraft. See #1

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