FAQ: Does Synaptic Pulse Affect All Creatures, or Only Enemies?


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Thread title. Posting this to request for FAQ/errata, since I am well familiar with the arguments on both sides and some official clarification (or an official "flavor text" policy) is I think needed.

Liberty's Edge

I second the likely need to incorporate a unified "flavor text" policy for ALL printings of the rules and hopefully folded into the 2nd Printing of the CRB.

Something as simple as this type-a-thing to denote the description text/sentence at the beginning of most Spells/Items/Feats which do NOT have a mechanical bearing on the effect of the selection would be a great start. This seems like it would probably require some manual adaptation of the text as written in SOME cases but defining what is and is not mechanically relevant to an option is probably important if both are included in the description.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Themetricsystem wrote:


Something as simple as this type-a-thing to denote the description text/sentence at the beginning of most Spells/Items/Feats which do NOT have a mechanical bearing on the effect of the selection would be a great start.

The lack of clear delineation could, on the other hand, be intentional.

PF1 has little blurbs about the feat in a distinct and separate section from the 'benefit' text. Moving away from that going into PF2 could very well be a conscious decision and tell us that none of the text is intended to be ignored and that the parts of the text without explicit rules meaning are there to inform and contextualize the rest of the text.

I'm personally a fan of clear, concise rules, but I think it's worth noting that this distinction between the 'fluff' section of a feat and the 'crunch' section of the feat is a distinction that we've created on the forums and isn't one that, to my knowledge, has ever been reflected in developer discussion of how feats work.

My point is, the notion that we need to more clearly separate the relevant and irrelevant portions of a feat's requires us to take the fact that there is relevant and irrelevant text as a given, and I'm not sure that's necessarily how the developers built PF2.

Silver Crusade

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I agree with Squiggit. It is TOTALLY clear what this spell does. The whole "flavor text" argument is arrant nonsense.

All the words matter. Its as simple as that


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That's not a valid reading. If all the words matter, the statements are contradictory.

Liberty's Edge

I agree the Statblock formatting of the Spell effect is at odds with the Description of who it affects.

The Description indicating it affects enemies is in clear contradiction with how Area Spells function when there is no Target Line in the statblock.

Either the word "enemies" was missed in an editing pass on the Spells chapter, they neglected to add a Targets Line in the Spell Statblock, OR this represents a unique Area Spell with no Target listed that is SUPPOSED to affect enemies exclusively something distinct to this spell only.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Themetricsystem wrote:
this represents a unique Area Spell with no Target listed that is SUPPOSED to affect enemies exclusively something distinct to this spell only.

Horrific Visage and Dirge of Doom are both AoEs that specifically effect enemies too.

So no, not unique.


Yes. They both say "foes", not "each creature". They are also both Focus spells, which seem to have a slightly different format, likely due to different teams working on them.

Silver Crusade

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Aratorin wrote:
That's not a valid reading. If all the words matter, the statements are contradictory.

Agreed. I was wrong above.

But I think the solution is to not write contradictory text, NOT to favour one bit of text over another.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Where'd the FAQ button go?


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Ravingdork wrote:
Where'd the FAQ button go?

I wish there was an FAQ button so I could find out where the FAQ button was...

Sovereign Court

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pauljathome wrote:

I agree with Squiggit. It is TOTALLY clear what this spell does. The whole "flavor text" argument is arrant nonsense.

All the words matter. Its as simple as that

If it was totally clear, people wouldn't be arguing about it :)

As is, the text is inconsistent ("your enemies", "all creatures"). And that's confusing.


Ascalaphus wrote:
pauljathome wrote:

I agree with Squiggit. It is TOTALLY clear what this spell does. The whole "flavor text" argument is arrant nonsense.

All the words matter. Its as simple as that

If it was totally clear, people wouldn't be arguing about it :)

As is, the text is inconsistent ("your enemies", "all creatures"). And that's confusing.

Yeah, if you believe in RAW, it affects all creatures. But, I’m not sure whether the intention is to target enemies or not.


pauljathome wrote:

I agree with Squiggit. It is TOTALLY clear what this spell does. The whole "flavor text" argument is arrant nonsense.

All the words matter. Its as simple as that

It is very much not clear, as the spell description says "all enemies" in one sentence and "each creature" in the next. We can argue 'til the cows come home about whether the first sentence is intended to be flavor text without rules implications or not, but we wouldn't get anywhere. Hence the appeal to devs to straighten it out.


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RAW, both conflicting sentences can be true - all creatures includes all enemies after all. The confusion comes from what is (probably) flavor text using rules language.


I believe that RAW, Synaptic Pulse does in fact target every creature in its area. My reasoning? It lacks a "Targets" parameter and in the rules we have:

CRB PG. 304 "Targets" wrote:

Spells that affect multiple creatures in an area can have

both an Area entry and a Targets entry. A spell that has
an area but no targets listed usually affects all creatures
in the area indiscriminately.

I believe that the "usually" in this quote is future proofing for spells that fit that bill, having an area but no Targets parameter, that specify within the spell what and who they target.

Another oddity I just thought about. Synaptic Pulse has both a Range and an Area... but is an emanation. Emanations are supposed to be measured from the Caster or a specific target, like with Circle of Protection.

CRB PG. 457 "Emanation" wrote:

An emanation issues forth from each side of your space,

extending out to a specified number of feet in all directions.
For instance, the bless spell’s emanation radiates 5 or more
feet outward from the caster. Because the sides of a target’s
space are used as the starting point for the emanation, an
emanation from a Large or larger creature affects a greater
overall area than that of a Medium or smaller creature. An emanation effect includes the
target of the emanation, but the creature creating the
effect can exclude the target if desired.

Perhaps we have a case where a spell was not fully updated? There is only 1 other spell that has both range and an Emanation, Divine Decree. Divine Decree specifies how it exempts certain creatures from it's emanation, which further indicates that Synaptic Pulse would effect every creature inside of it, friend or foe.

I just wonder why Paizo went with Emanations for these spells, rather than Bursts. Emanations are measured from the entire area of a square vs. a burst which is measured from a corner. Another issue I have is that these Emanations don't specify how many squares their center takes up. I assume you would use a single 5 foot square by default, since the emanation isn't coming from a specific creature.

TL;DR As worded, yes it effects everyone inside the area. But the area is weird, it should be a burst honestly and not an emanation. I would definitely like to see a developers comment on this one. Syn Pulse and Divine Decree are very odd as worded at the moment.


The worst spell for that is Dispel Magic.

"Targets 1 spell effect or unattended magic item"
"You unravel the magic behind a spell or effect."

And the only way to solve this complete contradiction is to consider one line as flavor text.

The thing is: First line is flavor text in most spells. And because it uses vernacular language, it's often messing up with the mechanics. Hence the fact that people dismiss it.

So, there's no discussion about what Synaptic Pulse does affect. There's a discussion about why Paizo continues to put flavor text in the middle of rule text.


I'm torn on the integrated flavor text issue. On one hand, spells and feats with integrated flavor text are more exciting to read (to me, anyway). On the other hand, it can lead to situations like this. Regardless that concern, it is unfortunate when flavor text is written with rules language as it makes the effect hard to deciper.

On the range/area thing, that is another quirky part of this spell. I assume it is supposed to be an emanation (and thus not have a range in the first place). The seems to jive better with the flavor of the spell. Of course, I can't be certain - it is possible it's supposed to work more like a fireball (that would be really weird though as the caster would get caught in the area of the spell)


Henro wrote:
(that would be really weird though as the caster would get caught in the area of the spell)

Because you are your own ally, if the spell only affects enemies, you will not be affected thou


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Cornebre wrote:
Henro wrote:
(that would be really weird though as the caster would get caught in the area of the spell)
Because you are your own ally, if the spell only affects enemies, you will not be affected thou

You are NOT your own ally: that was PF1.

Targets
Source Core Rulebook pg. 454
"You are not your own ally."


Yes... my bad. ^^'
BUT! You are not your own enemy!


Even though you are not your own ally, you are probably not your own enemy either. Doesn't really matter though in this case.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In the past (PF1), fluff text was included before the stat block of a feat or spell.
The thing about enemies is in the actual spell description paragraph. It's not in a little snippet before the spell stat block or anything.
It says enemies in the area. Allies are not in the area, because they're not included.
I think to pick it apart and say this or that part of the spell description is or isn't fluff text is overthinking it.
It says enemies. I'd go with enemies.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Actually that is a good point - if Synaptic Pulse doesn't affect only enemies, then it definitely affects the caster.

That would make it one of the worst spells ever written.

So one way or another, some errata is clearly not a bad idea.

...Where did the FAQ button go?

Liberty's Edge

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MaxAstro wrote:
...Where did the FAQ button go?

Great question, honestly I still maintain that the Golem needs to hire somebody whose sole job is to review already published material with the guidance of the community and its customers so they can organize the areas of question for inclusion in a FAQ or set them up for Errata. Somebody who can connect with the different teams, be it the designers, the editors, the orignal authors as well as the creative designers to get the most authoritative answers possible to improve the product.

Having someone working away at this in their own right instead of it being a thing that only happens when something is really-and-truly borked would go a long way towards the overall fitness of the otherwise extremely well-codified system. I know hiring someone full-time for this may not seem like the most efficient use of payroll but it would go a LONG way towards improving lines of communication between the publisher and the customers.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
MaxAstro wrote:
Actually that is a good point - if Synaptic Pulse doesn't affect only enemies, then it definitely affects the caster.

Nah, the errata changed that:

Quote:
Page 457: In the Emanation section, add the following sentence to the end. “An emanation effect includes the target of the emanation, but the creature creating the effect can exclude the target if desired.”


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MaxAstro wrote:
Actually that is a good point - if Synaptic Pulse doesn't affect only enemies, then it definitely affects the caster.

Not as an emanation, no. Emanations do not include the caster unless they will it (CRB 457)

Edit: Oh that was part of the errata? AoN can be tricky for this kind of thing sometimes.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
SuperBidi wrote:
The worst spell for that is Dispel Magic.

Dispel magic is fine. The spell explicitly tells you what you can target with it and elaborates on that.

Synaptic on the other hand causes confusion because of back to back sentences that suggest different things. The comparison doesn't hold.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Thanks for reminding me of the errata on emanations.

That does then bring up the further question though, of why the spell has a Range?


MaxAstro wrote:
That does then bring up the further question though, of why the spell has a Range?

That is probably a mistake of some sort. Perhaps as other people have suggested it's a holdover from the playtest.


MaxAstro wrote:

Thanks for reminding me of the errata on emanations.

That does then bring up the further question though, of why the spell has a Range?

"If the spell originates from your position, the spell has only an area; if you can cause the spell’s area to appear farther away from you, the spell has both a range and an area."

Also see Pass Without Trace [4th]: "The spell has a range of 20 feet and an area of a 20-foot-emanation, affecting up to 10 creatures of your choice within that area."

EDIT: or Divine Decree, "Range 40 feet; Area 40-foot emanation" or Circle of Protection "Range touch; Area 10-foot emanation centered on the touched creature"

So it's possible to have an emanation that doesn't emanate from you but from a square within range: the main different from a burst is how you determine the area affected.


Huh, I believed that emanations could only originate from the caster. Maybe I was wrong? If I was then wouldn't "An emanation effect includes the target of the emanation, but the creature creating the effect can exclude the target if desired." mean that the caster would be affected by their own emanation unless they are the center of it?


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

If ever there are two possible interpretations of a rule, and one makes sense, while the other doesn't make sense (or otherwise causes hardship), then the one that makes sense is likely the correct interpretation.

It doesn't make sense that the spell would hurt enemies and allies both (and possibly the caster, pre-errata) AND keep the caster from adjusting its positioning. As has been noted by many, that would make for a terrible spell!

It DOES make sense that the developers generally know what they're doing, and intended for it to only effect enemies.

Therefore, I believe the latter interpretation will eventually come out as being the correct one.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

This just gets thornier and thornier.

To wit: If it is possible to center the spell somewhere other than the caster, then the spell goes back in the trash pile because as soon as the spell is not centered on the caster, it affects the caster, errata or no - and the range being the same size as the emanation means there is no where you can center it that will not result in zapping yourself with it.


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Ravingdork wrote:
If ever there are two possible interpretations of a rule, and one makes sense, while the other doesn't make sense (or otherwise causes hardship), then the one that makes sense is likely the correct interpretation.

FWIW, here's the same spell in PF1:

Quote:

Range 30 ft.

Area 30-ft.-radius spread centered on you
Duration 1 round
Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

DESCRIPTION

You emit a pulsating mental blast that stuns all creatures in range of your psychic shriek for 1 round.


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Draco18s wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
If ever there are two possible interpretations of a rule, and one makes sense, while the other doesn't make sense (or otherwise causes hardship), then the one that makes sense is likely the correct interpretation.

FWIW, here's the same spell in PF1:

Quote:

Range 30 ft.

Area 30-ft.-radius spread centered on you
Duration 1 round
Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

DESCRIPTION

You emit a pulsating mental blast that stuns all creatures in range of your psychic shriek for 1 round.

Equally FWIW, here's the playtest version of the spell:

Quote:

Casting: Somatic, Verbal

Range: 30 feet; Targets: 30-foot aura
Duration: 1 round

You emit a pulsating mental blast through the minds of all enemies in the area, with effects depending on their Will saves.

Success: Slowed 1 for 1 round.
Critical Success: Unaffected.
Failure: Slowed 2 for 1 round.
Critical Failure: Stunned for 1 round.


MaxAstro wrote:
Equally FWIW, here's the playtest version of the spell:

IMO, that makes it seem like adding all creatures was intentional as it different from the playtest.

MaxAstro wrote:
To wit: If it is possible to center the spell somewhere other than the caster, then the spell goes back in the trash pile because as soon as the spell is not centered on the caster, it affects the caster, errata or no - and the range being the same size as the emanation means there is no where you can center it that will not result in zapping yourself with it.

Sounds like a good reason to not use the range unless it's more important to lose multiple enemy actions vs maybe losing your own.


Squiggit wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:
The worst spell for that is Dispel Magic.

Dispel magic is fine. The spell explicitly tells you what you can target with it and elaborates on that.

Synaptic on the other hand causes confusion because of back to back sentences that suggest different things. The comparison doesn't hold.

The spell explicitly tells you that it affects spell and effects but targets spells and items.

So, how do you handle that?
Ho, I know, you ignore the line of fluff text because it's fluff text.
Just do the same with Synaptic Pulse. Fluff text has to be ignored.

Liberty's Edge

Since there is no FAQ button, I will just post saying I support the request for a FAQ.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
SuperBidi wrote:
So, how do you handle that?

There's nothing to 'handle.'

The spell tells you what you can target and how it works. There's no contradictory language or omissions that make the text ambiguous.


I would also like to point out that since the Range and Area of the spell are the same, the caster can never not be within it's area (edit: Without Metamagic anyway). Aaaand to address being able to "not include" the caster...

Squiggit wrote:
Page 457: In the Emanation section, add the following sentence to the end. “An emanation effect includes the target of the emanation, but the creature creating the effect can exclude the target if desired.”

Synaptic Pulse doesn't have a target. At best you can argue that the square you decide to have the emanation begin in would be the target, but that doesn't have to be the casters space, nor any creatures for that matter.

To me, you can't target a creature with synaptic pulse, so you cannot exclude any creature from synaptic pulse, including yourself.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

That would indeed be the strict RAW interpretation, I believe, beowulf.

Seems like there is general consensus at least that one way or another this spell is a mess.

And graystone, I can't really believe that the intent is for the caster to be affected in a common use case - especially since that is a "feature" that no other version of the spell had.

I'm 90% sure that the "range" entry on the spell is in error and should not be there.


MaxAstro wrote:

That would indeed be the strict RAW interpretation, I believe, beowulf.

Seems like there is general consensus at least that one way or another this spell is a mess.

And graystone, I can't really believe that the intent is for the caster to be affected in a common use case - especially since that is a "feature" that no other version of the spell had.

I'm 90% sure that the "range" entry on the spell is in error and should not be there.

That would fix a lot. A 30 foot emanation is a huge area, and extending that out to essentially 60 feet with the range feels unnecessary on most battle maps.

Additionally, I would like to see a targets parameter added, specifying exactly who is supposed to be effected. As it stands, this spell is a non starter for many casters, simply because the possibility of stunning yourself is fairly high.

Imagine a low wisdom high charisma bard trying to use this spell.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

If you remove the range tag, there's no need for a targets tag. Spells that create an emanation and don't list a target or have a range explicitly target the caster.

But it definitely does need to clarify the first two sentences contradicting each other.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Curiously, they JUST updated the FAQ/errata page for Starfinder, so I'm hoping and praying that the same is being done with PF2E, since something quicker than the one (1) errata document would be appreciated.

I also agree with Themetricsystem on hiring (or re-assigning, if hiring isn't possible) someone to focus JUST on FAQ/errata. I know they're focusing on writing new material like the APG and whatnot, but if the errors of the past books keeping piling up and don't get addressed, that's gonna spell trouble for Paizo whether they want to believe it or not.


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Hiring someone for FAQ/Errata probably isn't going to save as much work.

Most of the work is talking to the designers to determine their intent, and making sure that any changes you make do not affect the ability of a character to do what the designer wanted it to do. This needs the designer to be involved.

In this case, they could make a quick ruling for this one spell: enemies only/all. But that would have a knock-on effect with other spells, and other spells currently under development, that have similar wording. Was the occult caster also meant to be somewhat isolated? Bards are good urban solo infiltrators, and in combat might be flankers or back-rows, and occult sorcerors are childen of cthulhu raised by hag covens. They smell like fish and don't understand how personal space and tentacles interact.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Thank you krobrina. Always nice to see someone acknowledge that game design is, in fact, hard. :)


krobrina wrote:

Hiring someone for FAQ/Errata probably isn't going to save as much work.

Most of the work is talking to the designers to determine their intent, and making sure that any changes you make do not affect the ability of a character to do what the designer wanted it to do. This needs the designer to be involved.

If all they did is wrangle designers and coordinate input so everyone doesn't have to be in the same place at the same time during a bloodmoon to divine what everyone thinks it'd help a lot I think. If someone collects questions, prioritizes them and gets input from individual designers when possible and puts it all together into something easy to look over it takes less time to go over and review the issue leaving more time for creating new stuff. Add to that once they figure out what needs changing, you have to figure out how to fit it into the book within existing page counts.

I can see someone doing this full time and saving enough time to make it worthwhile. This is especially true now that there is no FAQ button in the forum to limit what you have to dig through to find things that need attention.


Pathfinder has a lot of dependencies. Changing the animal companion directly affects the Ranger and Druid and any other thing balanced around them.

You might be unable to consider these separately.

edit: This might require multiple designers to meet.

Silver Crusade

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CRB Pg 444 wrote:
Ambiguous Rules. Sometimes a rule could be interpreted multiple ways. If one version is too good to be true, it probably is.

Since it is clear that the words "all enemies in the area" and "Each creature in the area" are ambiguous, would changing the text "Each creature in the area" to "Foes in the area" be considered too good to be true?

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