Can you deheighten a spell's effect (not slot)?


Rules Discussion


If I know a spell that has certain heightened effects, can I choose to cast the spell using a lesser version of its effect?

For most spells, this is a fairly useless question, since heightened effects either include previous effects or are straight upgrades.

The spell that spurred this question though is Dimension Door, which at 5th level gains a significantly increased range and easier requirements, but comes with a one hour cooldown.

If I'm a Wizard who prepared Dimension Door in a 5th level spell slot, or a Sorcerer who learned Dimension Door as a 5th level spell, can I choose to use the lesser version of the spell's effect instead?

This would also apply to spells like Lock (can you forgo the material cost of the heightened version if you cast it from a second level spell slot?) or something like Aerial Form, which ties specific sizes to specific versions of the spell.

The only passage I've been able to find that talks about anything like this in the CRB reads:

Heightening Rules wrote:
Some heightened entries specify one or more levels at which the spell must be prepared or cast to gain these extra advantages. Each of these heightened entries states specifically which aspects of the spell change at the given level. Read the heightened entry only for the spell level you’re using or preparing; if its benefits are meant to include any of the effects of a lower-level heightened entry, those benefits will be included in the entry.

Which suggests that RAW if the heightening effect doesn't specify that you get to choose, you're stuck with the top level version. That seems weird to me though so I figured I'd ask.


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The answer would seem to be no. There is no choice presented by heightening, it only ever talks about heightened effects as being automatically applied.

I don't necessarily like it, but that is the way I read it. Which does kind of suck if you wanted to cast Aerial Form to be a Bird for scouting purposes, but wanted to cast it from a 5th level slot for counteract purposes. Or you just forgot to prepare a 4th level version that day.

Kinda hard to scout out the enemy as a bird the size of a troll without tipping them off.

I would probably allow a character to purposefully "under cast" a spell as a house rule. I don't see a reason not to, they are just getting a weaker effect for a higher slot. The only benefit to doing so would be for dispel magic protection, but they would get that anyway if they used the "higher" effect.


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beowulf99 wrote:

The answer would seem to be no. There is no choice presented by heightening, it only ever talks about heightened effects as being automatically applied.

I don't necessarily like it, but that is the way I read it. Which does kind of suck if you wanted to cast Aerial Form to be a Bird for scouting purposes, but wanted to cast it from a 5th level slot for counteract purposes. Or you just forgot to prepare a 4th level version that day.

Kinda hard to scout out the enemy as a bird the size of a troll without tipping them off.

I would probably allow a character to purposefully "under cast" a spell as a house rule. I don't see a reason not to, they are just getting a weaker effect for a higher slot. The only benefit to doing so would be for dispel magic protection, but they would get that anyway if they used the "higher" effect.

I mean to be fair you're pretty suspicious even with the lower level version. A 6 foot tall eagle or parakeet isn't normal.


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If you can't de-heighten, then Wild Shape, which auto-heightens, puts tight constraints on your options. And the wording there is quite specific about moving up the chain, so there'd have to be a guiding principle. Losing an option because you're now better at an ability seems wrong. It's not you're trying to get the higher level benefits in a lower form, you might just want that lower form you could do just the other day.

I mean, would you be obliged to take a flying form for Pest Form when you cast it at 4th? And at 5th, doesn't it seem like both the lower options would be open to you, since you aren't casting a 1st or 4th level version at that point?

Also, a Balor's Dimensional Dervish becomes useless since their lowest Dim Door is 5th, yet they're supposed to be bopping around in battle like a Dervish?

I can't think (yet) of any abuses by letting the caster (using the same resource) couldn't choose a lesser version, yet there's much wonkiness if one can't.


What are the rules for taking an intelligent item through a dimension door?


krobrina wrote:

What are the rules for taking an intelligent item through a dimension door?

I would allow de-heighten. I see no reason not to, and it would make some spells weird if you couldn't.

I assume you mean, "Can an intelligent item decide to be unwilling against an effect that indicates willing, or allows a save when unwilling?"

GMG PG. 88 "Item Agency" wrote:

ITEM AGENCY

As a default, intelligent items have control over all their
own magic, meaning an intelligent magic weapon could
deny the effects of its fundamental and property runes
if it so chose, and intelligent items perform their own
activations when they wish. Intelligent items can typically
use 3 actions per turn, acting on their partner’s turn. These
actions don’t count toward their partner’s 3 actions. They
have a reaction if any of their activations requires one.
Beyond denying magic effects and communicating
their displeasure, intelligent items can usually influence or
hinder their partners only in subtle ways. If the item is a
weapon or tool necessary for an action (like thieves’ tools),
it can at least be disruptive enough to make its partner take
a –2 circumstance penalty to associated checks, much as if
the partner were using an improvised weapon or tool. If
an intelligent item can have a greater effect, such as seizing
control of its partner’s body for a time, the intelligent
item’s entry includes those abilities.

It depends on your GM's interpretation of a "subtle" hindrance I suppose.

What does that have to do with the topic at hand though?


beowulf99 wrote:
krobrina wrote:
What are the rules for taking an intelligent item through a dimension door?

I assume you mean, "Can an intelligent item decide to be unwilling against an effect that indicates willing, or allows a save when unwilling?"

1) Is it a creature, because you cannot take creatures through a dimension door with you.

2) I thought balrogs had an intelligent weapon but I was thinking of Warhammer (the game by Games Workshop).


krobrina wrote:
beowulf99 wrote:
krobrina wrote:
What are the rules for taking an intelligent item through a dimension door?

I assume you mean, "Can an intelligent item decide to be unwilling against an effect that indicates willing, or allows a save when unwilling?"

1) Is it a creature, because you cannot take creatures through a dimension door with you.

2) I thought balrogs had an intelligent weapon but I was thinking of Warhammer (the game by Games Workshop).

Ah, it is not called out as a "creature" specifically, and generally is treated as an item for things like that I suppose. They do have agency, but it is inherently limited, and tends to only effect it's own magic rather than outside magic.

I would say that without a specific ability to resist such a spell, or some factor that the GM decides makes the item REALLY not want to follow along, it would just be treated as a standard item in such a situation.


Castilliano wrote:
If you can't de-heighten, then Wild Shape, which auto-heightens, puts tight constraints on your options.

Note the OP isn't asking about using a lower spell slot than your maximum.

The OP is asking about the case where you use the maximum spell slot but still want the spell to have the effects of a lower slot.

(My answer would be "no, but that sounds like a cool specialist metamagic feat")


Zapp wrote:
Castilliano wrote:
If you can't de-heighten, then Wild Shape, which auto-heightens, puts tight constraints on your options.

Note the OP isn't asking about using a lower spell slot than your maximum.

The OP is asking about the case where you use the maximum spell slot but still want the spell to have the effects of a lower slot.

(My answer would be "no, but that sounds like a cool specialist metamagic feat")

Before you correct someone, Zapp, and I've noticed this on many threads with you, you might want to verify you understand what they're writing.

Wild Shape auto-heightens because it's a Focus Spell, meaning there are no slots involved. I have no clue how you misinterpreted that as if I was talking about using lower spell slots for a Focus Spell. I wasn't.

If Wild Shape only can be used at full power (i.e. you must be Huge when you hit 9th and use it for Animal Form), than that's a severe drawback which also makes little conceptual sense. Becoming better at Wild Shaping shouldn't cut you off from shapes you could take the day before.
It also makes little mechanical sense in a few areas too, as pointed out.


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

Based on numerous examples (balors, wildshape, etc.) I believe that the intent is that you can choose to downgrade. I would certainly rule as such in my games.

I don't currently see much RAW support for it though.


Agreed with most of what was said here. RAW doesn't seem to support it (it's not even really ambiguous IMO), though there's some evidence that it may have been intended to work that way. For games like PFS, I'd have to rule that you can't, but for any other sort of game, I'd probably rule that it was fine.


Castilliano wrote:

Before you correct someone, Zapp, and I've noticed this on many threads with you, you might want to verify you understand what they're writing.

Wild Shape auto-heightens because it's a Focus Spell, meaning there are no slots involved. I have no clue how you misinterpreted that as if I was talking about using lower spell slots for a Focus Spell. I wasn't.

If Wild Shape only can be used at full power (i.e. you must be Huge when you hit 9th and use it for Animal Form), than that's a severe drawback which also makes little conceptual sense. Becoming better at Wild Shaping shouldn't cut you off from shapes you could take the day before.
It also makes little mechanical sense in a few areas too, as pointed out.

I was talking in the general sense.

Since there is no provision for avoiding or suppressing the auto-heightening of focus spells, you need a houserule in order to use it as if it was cast at a lower spell slot level.

(I'm not saying such a houserule would be irresponsible - quite the contrary. Just that you need one if we're having a formal RAW discussion)


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Wild Shape seems to make a pretty compelling RAI argument, since RAW seems to be largely silent - it can't have been the dev's intent that high level Druids lose the ability to turn into small animals.


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MaxAstro wrote:
Wild Shape seems to make a pretty compelling RAI argument, since RAW seems to be largely silent - it can't have been the dev's intent that high level Druids lose the ability to turn into small animals.

It doesn't sound like it should be intentional. I agree with the above statements that losing access to options as your spells get stronger doesn't make a lot of sense.

But the excerpt from the heightening section I quoted in the OP also seems kind of unambiguous at the same time.

I'm not even sure Wild Shape itself is a ton of help, because there's a distinct difference in language between Wild Shape's heightening effect ("you can also") and Animal Form's "Your battle form is."


Squiggit wrote:
MaxAstro wrote:
Wild Shape seems to make a pretty compelling RAI argument, since RAW seems to be largely silent - it can't have been the dev's intent that high level Druids lose the ability to turn into small animals.

It doesn't sound like it should be intentional. I agree with the above statements that losing access to options as your spells get stronger doesn't make a lot of sense.

But the excerpt from the heightening section I quoted in the OP also seems kind of unambiguous at the same time.

I'm not even sure Wild Shape itself is a ton of help, because there's a distinct difference in language between Wild Shape's heightening effect ("you can also") and Animal Form's "Your battle form is."

I have to disagree here.

Wild Shape wrote:
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.


Another example I think is helpful:
A 13th level Druid has Wild Shape at 7th level; uses it for Animal Form, and the language sorta forces it to be 7th level.
Is it now a 5th level version heightened by 2? 4th by 3? 3rd by 4?
Obviously it can be any, and that the choice should be the caster's.

Same if using a normal 7th level slot for Animal Form. You don't have to (nor is there a way outlined to) predesignate which level is the base which you've heightened to 7th. The spell could be any of them.

So why not the same when it's memorized at 5th? Or auto-heightened to 5th?


I mean technically a 7th level Animal Form only gives you the base effects of Animal Form, they are just harder to Counteract.

CRB 299 wrote:

Heightened Spells

Both prepared and spontaneous spellcasters can cast a
spell at a higher spell level than that listed for the spell.
This is called heightening the spell. A prepared spellcaster
can heighten a spell by preparing it in a higher-level slot
than its normal spell level, while a spontaneous spellcaster
can heighten a spell by casting it using a higher-level
spell slot, so long as they know the spell at that level
(see Heightened Spontaneous Spells below). When you
heighten your spell, the spell’s level increases to match
the higher level of the spell slot you’ve prepared it in or
used to cast it. This is useful for any spell, because some
effects, such as counteracting, depend on the spell’s level.
In addition, many spells have additional specific
benefits when they are heightened, such as increased
damage. These extra benefits are described at the end
of the spell’s stat block. Some heightened entries specify
one or more levels at which the spell must be prepared
or cast to gain these extra advantages.
Each of these
heightened entries states specifically which aspects of
the spell change at the given level. Read the heightened
entry only for the spell level you’re using or preparing;
if its benefits are meant to include any of the effects of
a lower-level heightened entry, those benefits will be
included in the entry.

Other heightened entries give a number after a plus
sign, indicating that heightening grants extra advantages
over multiple levels. The listed effect applies for every
increment of levels by which the spell is heightened above
its lowest spell level, and the benefit is cumulative. For
example, fireball says “Heightened (+1) The damage
increases by 2d6.” Because fireball deals 6d6 fire damage
at 3rd level, a 4th-level fireball would deal 8d6 fire
damage, a 5th-level spell would deal 10d6 fire damage,
and so on.

There is no 7th level heightened effect for Animal Form, and you ignore all of the lower heightening effects. You have to cast a spell at exactly the heighten level to get those effects. Animal form would need to read "Heightened(5th+)" for you to get any of those effects past 5th.

This poses a problem for spells that auto heighten to levels that have no effect, but solves the Dimension Door issue quite nicely. If you want it to be harder to counteract, without making you immune, you just cast it at 6th level.


Aratorin wrote:

I mean technically a 7th level Animal Form only gives you the base effects of Animal Form, they are just harder to Counteract.

CRB 299 wrote:

Heightened Spells

Both prepared and spontaneous spellcasters can cast a
spell at a higher spell level than that listed for the spell.
This is called heightening the spell. A prepared spellcaster
can heighten a spell by preparing it in a higher-level slot
than its normal spell level, while a spontaneous spellcaster
can heighten a spell by casting it using a higher-level
spell slot, so long as they know the spell at that level
(see Heightened Spontaneous Spells below). When you
heighten your spell, the spell’s level increases to match
the higher level of the spell slot you’ve prepared it in or
used to cast it. This is useful for any spell, because some
effects, such as counteracting, depend on the spell’s level.
In addition, many spells have additional specific
benefits when they are heightened, such as increased
damage. These extra benefits are described at the end
of the spell’s stat block. Some heightened entries specify
one or more levels at which the spell must be prepared
or cast to gain these extra advantages.
Each of these
heightened entries states specifically which aspects of
the spell change at the given level. Read the heightened
entry only for the spell level you’re using or preparing;
if its benefits are meant to include any of the effects of
a lower-level heightened entry, those benefits will be
included in the entry.

Other heightened entries give a number after a plus
sign, indicating that heightening grants extra advantages
over multiple levels. The listed effect applies for every
increment of levels by which the spell is heightened above
its lowest spell level, and the benefit is cumulative. For
example, fireball says “Heightened (+1) The damage
increases by 2d6.” Because fireball deals 6d6 fire damage
at 3rd level, a 4th-level fireball would deal 8d6 fire
damage, a 5th-level spell would deal
...

Hmm. I definitely see what you are saying, but I feel like that is even worse than not being able to choose a "heightened" version in practice. But you make a point, the RAW does seem to indicate that this is true.

Animal Form uses the heightened entries to improve the statistics of your form. If this is the intent, then casting Animal Form, or using Wild Shape, at 6th (Spell level) or above would actively make your form weaker than it was at 5th, excepting only it's counteract DC.

And that makes very little sense to me, especially for Wild Shape Druids who are, in theory at least, getting better at controlling their shape. Why would they spike in strength halfway through their progression, then immediately revert to their original "power"?

I suppose you could argue that taking the various other "form" power feats for Druid can fill in the gaps, but what if you had a Druid who preferred the shape of a specific animal?

What about spells like Acid Splash? Would this mean that at 3rd it would gain the benefits for 3rd level heightening, but then revert back to it's "standard" version at 4th?

This cannot be the intended effect.

Edit: Sorry Aratorin, noticed after the fact that you kind of addressed the auto-heightening thing in your post, but early morning (for me) brain skipped over that bit. I think it should be discussed further however.


I agree that it's probably (definitely even) not intended, and is completely inane, but I just happened to notice it while looking at this issue, and it definitely seems to be the RAW.

beowulf99 wrote:
What about spells like Acid Splash? Would this mean that at 3rd it would gain the benefits for 3rd level heightening, but then revert back to it's "standard" version at 4th?

As ridiculous as it sounds, that does appear to be how the rules are written. Fortunately we already have entire threads dedicated to pointing out that it's a terrible spell anyway. :-)


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Thankfully RAW says to override RAW if it doesn't make sense or leads to situations which obviously go against the intentions of an ability.
So I'll follow RAW and do that.


Castilliano wrote:

Thankfully RAW says to override RAW if it doesn't make sense or leads to situations which obviously go against the intentions of an ability.

So I'll follow RAW and do that.

I'd agree when it comes to the above Acid Splash examples. That obviously goes against the intentions. However, I don't think that "spells must be cast at their highest possible heightened level" necessarily obviously goes against intentions. There's arguments to be made both ways there. Also, it's very possible it could be Wild Shape that needs changing, and not the general rule there.

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