Automatically Heightened vs Casting Cantrips at Specific Levels


Rules Discussion


The title says it all.

The way I see the entries in the book, it sounds like the intention was to allow Cantrips, Focus Spells, etc to automatically heighten, not that they are required to actually be cast at that Heightened level.

Otherwise Wildshape, Ferocious Shape, and MANY more Cantrips and Focus Spells would be unusable after a certain point. If you are forced to cast it at its maximum possible level you have access to (typically character level/2 rounded up) then you're trying to sell me on the idea that your Cantrip, what, spirals out of control? You can't cast it at lower levels? Pull back on the reigns a bit?

"Hey, knock him out with just a tiny bit of fire."

Sorcerer proceeds to cast Produce Flame. Somehow loses control of faculties and must cast it at his highest possible. Unleashes level 6 Produce Flame, only intending to singe a little off the top.

Back to the point though.

If anything you would have a **much better** handle on the spell as you get better at it. Cantrips are your bread and butter, requiring little effort and minimal concentration. Getting better at something doesn't mean you then need to focus on doing less of it.

A marathon runner doesn't need to concentrate overmuch to run slower. A craftsman doesn't need to work extra hard to make a poorer quality product. You don't need to prepare to make ***less*** of a sandwich - just put fewer toppings on it.


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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Currently, the rules don't allow you to "downsize" or "undercast" spells. Perhaps this is an oversight, hard to tell. The situations where you would want to downsize your cantrip are somewhat contrived, so I don't see a lot of interest in doing this.

This said, a discerning DM could always allow it, on a special case basis. But AFAIK there is no support for it in the rules.

Kind of like a sorcerer who might want to cast a 3rd-level spell, but he only has 4th-level slots left, and doesn't have what it takes to make it a 4th-level spell out of the box. Can he do it? Current discussion suggests that there are no provisions in PF2 to allow it. Should a DM allow it? I would say yes, but there is no RAW support for it.


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This is another example of rules only covering the most common cases: 99% of the time you will want to cast your cantrips at the maximum possible level.
There is no need, IMO, to explicitly write an exception for a situation that will come up rarely and can be easily handled by the GM anyway.


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Yep, I asked this previously, and there's no way to downsize. As for there being "no need" to add this, I completely disagree on that front. PFS is a *huge* part of Pathfinder play. It's not everything, but there, having something that isn't explicitly allowed is kinda a big deal.


I do not know if you can undercast (for example to put a Cantrip into a Spell Storing weapon, have it be easy to dispel, or to avoid a kill), but when it comes to higher levels opening up options, you aren't forced to take the highest option. That'd be ridiculous, right?
"I'm too good at being a wolf to ever choose a medium wolf form again."
One'd be casting the lower level version at a higher level, yes, but like a 2nd level spell in a 5th level slot where the caster isn't getting any extra perks (other than it being better re: counteracting).

This is one of those "duh, of course" moments where the CRB specifically says one shouldn't overinterpret the rules to make rulings that conflict with the a straightforward reading of an ability. It's in a sidebar.

I'm wondering if there's any wording saying one has to take the heightened spell effect. If so, then this is an issue. If not, I think not.
Cheers

Horizon Hunters

"Nonlethal Damage
Source Core Rulebook pg. 453
You can make a nonlethal attack in an effort to knock someone out instead of killing them (see Knocked Out and Dying on page 459). Weapons with the nonlethal trait (including fists) do this automatically. You take a –2 circumstance penalty to the attack roll when you make a nonlethal attack using a weapon that doesn’t have the nonlethal trait. You also take this penalty when making a lethal attack using a nonlethal weapon"

There are rules that state that you can choose to do non-lethal damage for a circumstance penalty. So while RAW there's no way to undercast accidentally killing someone shouldn't be a big risk you have no way of mitigating.

I get where your coming from with the marathon runner example but I think it's reasonable for magic to not be that simple/direct.


"Nonlethal Damage": That only applies to attacks that require an attack roll, so for instance a magic missile can never be nonlethal. Or a spell that deal damage with a save required instead of an attack.


Most cantrips require an attack roll, however. If you cast electric arc, though, you're out of luck... Still, it matters for things like spellstrike ammunition, where you may think about putting a cantrip into one of them.

Horizon Hunters

It would be logical and make sense that only attacks where you make an attack roll can be non-lethal but is this actually stated anywhere that we can find? I looked for it myself and didn't see it.

Is it ridiculous that in such a scenario a cantrip without an attack roll that you wish to be non lethal could be cast to knock an opponent out with no penalty whatsoever???


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Goldryno wrote:
It would be logical and make sense that only attacks where you make an attack roll can be non-lethal but is this actually stated anywhere that we can find? I looked for it myself and didn't see it.

It's in the rules for nonlethal damage where it tells you how you can deal it: full stop. If it's not in the requirements, you can't. Note that it also requires a weapon, so very few spell attacks would be able to use that rule. [Hand of the Apprentice and Spiritual Weapon is about all I can think of]

Goldryno wrote:
Is it ridiculous that in such a scenario a cantrip without an attack roll that you wish to be non lethal could be cast to knock an opponent out with no penalty whatsoever???

In a situation that you want to cast a cantrip to deal non-lethal, the way to do that would logically be to use a spell that deals nonlethal by default: Daze, for instance, had the nonlethal trait so if that kind of damage is important to you it might be something you want to take.

Horizon Hunters

"Nonlethal Damage
Source Core Rulebook pg. 453
You can make a nonlethal attack in an effort to knock someone out instead of killing them (see Knocked Out and Dying on page 459). Weapons with the nonlethal trait (including fists) do this automatically. You take a –2 circumstance penalty to the attack roll when you make a nonlethal attack using a weapon that doesn’t have the nonlethal trait. You also take this penalty when making a lethal attack using a nonlethal weapon."

I think I was looking at a more general definition of attack but I think that you are right and it is probably best to go with an interpretation of actions with the Attack trait.

What's funny is that this does open the door for a Non-Lethal Disintegrate spell. A spell that would not force the dying condition but would still would turn a knocked out target into dust.


graystone wrote:
[Hand of the Apprentice and Spiritual Weapon is about all I can think of]

Actually I'd house rule that you could also do non-lethal damage with Weapon Storm, granting a +2 to Reflex saves for those in the area.

Horizon Hunters

Oh and point I forgot to mention: I agree it has to be an action with an attack trait preventing a great deal of abilities from being non lethal, but although it mentions weapons I do not believe a weapon is necessary to make a non lethal attack RAW.


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I guess I get hung up with the idea that just because Cantrips are automatically heightened, it doesn't mean they *must* be cast at that highest level.

Every other spell or metamagic ability that heightens or allows you to heighten spells states the keywords "can" (optional), indicating to me that heightening is always an option. Does it require you to prepare a spell in a higher slot, learn it at that level, or designate it as a signature spell? Yes.

Can you heighten spells to levels that don't provide a specific listed benefit? Yes. (Lookin' at you, Magic Missile at even levels).

Cantrips are heightened automatically, yes, but nowhere does it say you absolutely need to cast it heightened. The automatic or given is that Cantrips heighten, not that they are locked in at the highest level.

Would that not then indicate that you have access to the earlier versions of the Cantrip (or Focus Spell in some cases)?

Is it a niche thing, yes. But the argument that "Why would you ever *not* cast a Cantrip at its highest level?" is not a valid position for the question in play.

In fact, one of the examples I think some people are looking over is in how Wild Shape is worded.

Core Rulebook pg. 401 wrote:
You infuse yourself with primal essence and transform yourself into another form. You can polymorph into any form listed in pest form, which lasts 10 minutes. All other wild shape forms last 1 minute. You can add more forms to your wild shape list with druid feats; your feat might grant you some or all of the forms from a given polymorph spell. When you transform into a form granted by a spell, you gain all the effects of the form you chose from a version of the spell heightened to wild shape's level. Wild shape allows you to use your own shapeshifting training more easily than most polymorph spells. When you choose to use your own attack modifier while polymorphed instead of the form's default attack modifier, you gain a +2 status bonus to your attack rolls.

If you used Wild Shape and wanted to pick a Medium animal due to space constraints, if you used the Focus Spell at Character Level 8, meaning level 4 for the spell, you are forced to use either the options from pest form (say, in the case of recon) or you must be Large, since any form chosen from Animal Form is heightened to match your Wild Shape. At level 4, Animal form states:

Animal Form wrote:
Heightened (4th) Your battle form is Large and your attacks...

Uh oh. You wanna be a small animal that has at least a little more hardiness to it so your scouting mission doesn't end in you getting squashed? Say a bear or cat, but you're in a narrower hallway? Looks like you don't GET a choice. Period. So unless you could choose at what level you cast Focus Spells or Cantrips, your options through odd loopholes get pidgeon-holed.

Heaven forbid they release more spells that all work off each other's heightened level or level in general (i.e. Glyph of Warding, you can nevere put a Cantrip in a glyph, even though wands, items, scrolls, etc. can all house cantrips of various levels) and it causes you to be unable to choose the options you want, just like the Druid here. You can craft specific levels of spells intro scrolls and the like, so does that mean a high level wizard or sorcerer can only *ever* make Cantrips at their highest level?

None of it adds up.


th3razzer wrote:

I guess I get hung up with the idea that just because Cantrips are automatically heightened, it doesn't mean they *must* be cast at that highest level.

Every other spell or metamagic ability that heightens or allows you to heighten spells states the keywords "can" (optional), indicating to me that heightening is always an option. Does it require you to prepare a spell in a higher slot, learn it at that level, or designate it as a signature spell? Yes.

Can you heighten spells to levels that don't provide a specific listed benefit? Yes. (Lookin' at you, Magic Missile at even levels).

Cantrips are heightened automatically, yes, but nowhere does it say you absolutely need to cast it heightened. The automatic or given is that Cantrips heighten, not that they are locked in at the highest level.

Would that not then indicate that you have access to the earlier versions of the Cantrip (or Focus Spell in some cases)?

Is it a niche thing, yes. But the argument that "Why would you ever *not* cast a Cantrip at its highest level?" is not a valid position for the question in play.

In fact, one of the examples I think some people are looking over is in how Wild Shape is worded.

Core Rulebook pg. 401 wrote:
You infuse yourself with primal essence and transform yourself into another form. You can polymorph into any form listed in pest form, which lasts 10 minutes. All other wild shape forms last 1 minute. You can add more forms to your wild shape list with druid feats; your feat might grant you some or all of the forms from a given polymorph spell. When you transform into a form granted by a spell, you gain all the effects of the form you chose from a version of the spell heightened to wild shape's level. Wild shape allows you to use your own shapeshifting training more easily than most polymorph spells. When you choose to use your own attack modifier while polymorphed instead of the form's default attack modifier, you gain a +2 status bonus to your attack rolls.
If you used Wild Shape and...

As a correction: Cantrips and Focus Spells cannot be affixed, crafted, or made into wands/scrolls and the like.

However, the previous points do hold true.

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