Breath of life


Rules Discussion


Can this spell be used on one self?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

You would have to be both about to die and conscious to cast.

Scarab Sages

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HammerJack wrote:
You would have to be both about to die and conscious to cast.

That's a good point. So Wounded 2 and hit with a crit that would put you below zero?


I have been interpreting the trigger as going to zero, but it seems on closer reading that the trigger means that the target is about to die by going to Dying 4 (for most targets). I was letting my players use it to keep someone on their feet (barely) if they went to zero in the fight, but it looks like it would be more limited than that.

With that interpretation, I would say you could use it on yourself in very limited circumstances, like Wounded 3 and taken to zero. You wouldn't be able to take reactions while unconscious.


Was trying to answer the original question when I noticed that I don't understand what the spell actually does.

What does the trigger "A living creature within range would die." and the effect "You prevent the target from dying and restore Hit Points to the
target equal to 4d8 plus your spellcasting ability modifier." achieve?

For all creatures that do not use wounded and dying conditions the answer is simple. Get reduced to zero, use Breath of Life, not dead.

But what about somebody that is already wounded 2 and just received a crit that takes him to zero?

My best guess is that this is a "ups, zero but not really zero" ability, i.e. you would go to zero as far as the starting point for the spells healing is concerned but you would not occur the additional 2 dying conditions because you were never actually critted down to zero. Otherwise the spell would do nothing and you would still die because of dying 4 despite having positive HP.


Ubertron_X wrote:

Was trying to answer the original question when I noticed that I don't understand what the spell actually does.

What does the trigger "A living creature within range would die." and the effect "You prevent the target from dying and restore Hit Points to the
target equal to 4d8 plus your spellcasting ability modifier." achieve?

For all creatures that do not use wounded and dying conditions the answer is simple. Get reduced to zero, use Breath of Life, not dead.

But what about somebody that is already wounded 2 and just received a crit that takes him to zero?

My best guess is that this is a "ups, zero but not really zero" ability, i.e. you would go to zero as far as the starting point for the spells healing is concerned but you would not occur the additional 2 dying conditions because you were never actually critted down to zero. Otherwise the spell would do nothing and you would still die because of dying 4 despite having positive HP.

You can't have the Dying Condition and positive HP at the same time.

CRB Pf 619 wrote:

Dying

You are bleeding out or otherwise at death’s door. While
you have this condition, you are unconscious. Dying always
includes a value, and if it ever reaches dying 4, you die. If
you’re dying, you must attempt a recovery check (page 459)
at the start of your turn each round to determine whether
you get better or worse. Your dying condition increases by 1
if you take damage while dying, or by 2 if you take damage
from an enemy’s critical hit or a critical failure on your save.
If you lose the dying condition by succeeding at a
recovery check and are still at 0 Hit Points, you remain
unconscious, but you can wake up as described in that
condition. You lose the dying condition automatically and
wake up if you ever have 1 Hit Point or more.
Any time
you lose the dying condition, you gain the wounded 1
condition, or increase your wounded condition value by 1
if you already have that condition.


Aratorin wrote:
You can't have the Dying Condition and positive HP at the same time.

That is not the question. The question is when this spell triggers and what it actually does. Because in order to die you need to have dying 4, however the spell does not make any statement about your conditions, just about HP healed. So what kind of Schroedingers character are you? Dying 4 to trigger the spell or Wounded X after it was triggered?


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Ubertron_X wrote:
however the spell does not make any statement about your conditions, just about HP healed.

It heals your HP.

Your HP is now > 0.
You no longer have Dying.
That's it.


Draco18s wrote:
Ubertron_X wrote:
however the spell does not make any statement about your conditions, just about HP healed.

It heals your HP.

Your HP is now > 0.
You no longer have Dying.
That's it.

Yes, but you need to have "impending" dying 4 at some point, else you would not qualify for the spell trigger and could use the reaction. Perhaps this is a non-native speaker issue but for me the process of dying and the dying condition itself are not the same.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Sounds to me like your flow goes something like this.

1. The target creature is at 0 HP and Dying 4. Normally, this is the part where they would become Dead.

2. Breath of Life is cast as a reaction. Breath of Life prevents the target creature from becoming Dead, as they normally would.

3. Breath of Life restores HP to the target creature. The process of being healed above 0 HP causes them to be conscious and Wounded, instead of unconscious and Dying, the same as if a creature with Dying 2 received a Heal spell.


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Reactions are allowed to alter or negate the circumstances that triggered them when that is the point of the reaction.

That is this case. Something must be happening that is going to mean a dead character if it isn't stopped, and this reaction is allowed to result in the "paradox" of having prevent the impending death that triggered it.


I agree with @Hammerjack and @thenobledrake , however I am still unsure if dying for this spell is only when you would reach dying 4 (as in you are really really really about to die) or if you can already use it at dying 1 (aka you "just" have the dying condition)?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The trigger is not that the creature has the dying condition but "A living creature within range would die."

This says to me that you can only use the spell at what would be the moment of death.


As Hammerjack says, if the spell meant to invoke the dying condition as part of the trigger then it would have used that wording rather than the wording it does have.


Ok, having clarified this you could indeed use it on yourself if you are just wounded 2 or 3 and would be ending up on dying 4 by normal means?

What happens with this spell when you are about to die because your dying value reaches 0 because of the doomed condition?


Ubertron_X wrote:
What happens with this spell when you are about to die because your dying value reaches 0 because of the doomed condition?

You die anyway because Doomed is the more specific rule since this spell doesn't create an exception to it.


thenobledrake wrote:
Ubertron_X wrote:
What happens with this spell when you are about to die because your dying value reaches 0 because of the doomed condition?
You die anyway because Doomed is the more specific rule since this spell doesn't create an exception to it.

Are you sure? On one hand we have a general rule for the doomed condition, on the other hand we have a specific spell that does say: if you are about to die, you don't die.

Not asking to challenge you, just to double-check the line of reasoning.


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Ubertron_X wrote:
What happens with this spell when you are about to die because your dying value reaches 0 because of the doomed condition?

If you're Doomed, then hit points can't save you.

You're about to die.
Breath of Life triggers and heals you to positive HP and you lose any Dying condition.
Doom says "meh, you die anyway."
You die.


What about taking massive damage?
The rule says: "You die instantly if you ever take damage equal to or greater than double your maximum Hit Points in one blow."

So, Breath of Life would trigger even if the caster is the one taking the massive blow; but it would be interesting to know if curing part of that damage would help them or not.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Megistone wrote:

What about taking massive damage?

The rule says: "You die instantly if you ever take damage equal to or greater than double your maximum Hit Points in one blow."

So, Breath of Life would trigger even if the caster is the one taking the massive blow; but it would be interesting to know if curing part of that damage would help them or not.

I think technically it would work. There's nothing that I'm seeing which prevents it. How I think it SHOULD work is that if the 4d8 you roll on Breath of Life would bring you under the massive damage threshold, you live. If it doesn't, you die. Otherwise the spell can save you from 10,000 damage from, like, a nuke or something. That's silly.


I'm with Captain Morgan on that particular edge case.


Death from massive damage while high enough level to cast a 5th level spell is a wild edge case.

Bare minimum you'd have to be a frail elven sorcerer with the divine spell list and take more than 100 damage in a single hit. That's like critical failing a save against the breath weapon of the scariest dragon within the encounter building guidelines.

Pretty sure if that ever happens while I'm actually running a session I'll give the player a gold star and let their character survive, even if it is literally 10,000 damage they've managed to take in one go.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
thenobledrake wrote:

Death from massive damage while high enough level to cast a 5th level spell is a wild edge case.

Bare minimum you'd have to be a frail elven sorcerer with the divine spell list and take more than 100 damage in a single hit. That's like critical failing a save against the breath weapon of the scariest dragon within the encounter building guidelines.

Pretty sure if that ever happens while I'm actually running a session I'll give the player a gold star and let their character survive, even if it is literally 10,000 damage they've managed to take in one go.

Massive damage is still worth considering, since "a creature you want to live would die from massive damage, while you are high enough level to cast Breath of Life" is much less of an unlikely case.


HammerJack wrote:


Massive damage is still worth considering, since "a creature you want to live would die from massive damage, while you are high enough level to cast Breath of Life" is much less of an unlikely case.

I'm not sure I follow... you mean a mount or something like that?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Or a civilian caught in the middle of things. If you have a situation where you're defending or rescuing people, they aren't going to necessarily be anywhere near your level.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Massive damage seems like it would absolutely count. If an attack would hit you for a billion damage and you get breath of life cast on you, you survive and have 4d8+mod HP. I don't see any reason why it wouldn't/shouldn't work that way.

Anything that would leave a creature Dead that isn't disintegrate or a death effect is a valid trigger to use breath of life, whether it's from failing a death save, getting hit while at dying 3, crit while wounded 2 or anything else.

For the OP, yeah it seems reasonable that if you're in a situation where you'd instantly die but are otherwise able to cast spells you could burn a reaction to cast it on yourself.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Fall damage can still hit massive damage into the higher levels. It is not very likely but I've been dangled off a thousand foot drop before.

Fall damage is weird though. For all falling does much more damage on average than it did in PF1, I think far fewer PCs will actually die from it.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'm not sold on the massive damage. Typically if something is doing hundreds or thousands points of damage the body is missing many critical parts that straight healing wont fix.

The same as if they died from a failed save against a vorpal sword.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

You are a good and holy caster arguing with your upset sister while srounded by gnomes. A house falls out of the sky and lands on your sister and all you can see is her ruby red slippers, quickly you cast breath of life, but the paste that was your sister fails to return .


Kennethray wrote:
You are a good and holy caster arguing with your upset sister while srounded by gnomes. A house falls out of the sky and lands on your sister and all you can see is her ruby red slippers, quickly you cast breath of life, but the paste that was your sister fails to return .

Its fine, no one liked her anyway.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Vorpal is a death effect, which breath of life explicitly doesn't work on.


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Kennethray wrote:
Typically if something is doing hundreds or thousands points of damage the body is missing many critical parts that straight healing wont fix.

That's not how Hit Points work in Pathfinder 2nd edition, nor how they have worked in any version of Pathfinder or D&D which precedes it.


Ugh. I've been allowing this spell to trigger when a PC is knocked into negative HP numbers! It didn't occur to me that "death" was Dying 4. I kept thinking that there must at least be a loss of actions or something.

I think there have been at least 4 combats where the battle would have been far different except for the fact that the fighter didn't go down when reduced to zero.


Gray wrote:

Ugh. I've been allowing this spell to trigger when a PC is knocked into negative HP numbers! It didn't occur to me that "death" was Dying 4. I kept thinking that there must at least be a loss of actions or something.

I think there have been at least 4 combats where the battle would have been far different except for the fact that the fighter didn't go down when reduced to zero.

Worth knowing that negative HP isn't a thing, either! You just stop at 0, Dying and Wounded handle that idea.

Also, regarding all the edge case things like massive damage and Doomed, I don't think "You prevent the target from dying" is especially unclear or general. If massive damage would kill you, it doesn't, and then you get some healing. If Doomed would instantly kill you, it doesn't, and then Doomed...doesn't go away because you didn't die, and then you die again, whoops.

Far from homebrewing to make sure massive damage can do its dirty work, that denial kind of feels like an unintended interaction, because the Doomed condition isn't listed as or alongside death effects and Disintegrate spells. At the same time, it's thematically appropriate and an exceptional edge case, I suppose...

Anyway, I came here to say that I think Breath of Life is intended to pretty much save people from anything that would kill them except what's listed in its description. And Doomed, I guess.


Personally I have consciously been allowing 'when a creature would die' to be triggered by a creature dropping to 0 and gaining the Dying condition. I think of BoL as a spell to instantly undo a KO, whether that is temporary or permanent, so I don't like that the spell as written would force the fallen character to wait through several rounds of bleeding out before they can be saved from death. On the other hand, assuming the caster still has a few uses of Heal kicking around, it's probably a much more effective use of slots to still save BoL until the penultimate moment of certain death, but if the party finds it expedient to slap that undo button I see no obvious balance issues.

On the other hand, this ruling still has never come up because the only people who might have been a target for this spell have either been an NPC struck by a critical disintegration, have taken a (non-fatal) KO while the cleric was incapacitated from casting in some way, or been the cleric himself (poor, poor Arthur... he lives, but his beak may never be the same).

Which brings me back to OP's original question. Can a caster about to die target themselves? A strictly legalistic reading suggests that the target, "A creature within range [who] would die" technically yet lives in that liminal moment between 'confirmed to be on the threshold of death from that last blow' and 'actually fully completely dead'. On the other hand, the target has a) been hit, b) taken damage, c) hit 0 hp, d) in in the process of both falling unconscious and increasing their Dying value to 4 or more.

I have tended to lean toward 'no' for essentially the reasons above--to cast this on yourself, you have to take fatal damage and have the ability to cast the spell in the very instant between being stuck by a fatal attack and instantly dying from that same attack, before falling unconscious (presuming you were conscious in the first place of course, that's an obvious no if you were already KO'd before you died)

(aside, I noticed a bit of thread necromancy, but I didn't realise we were still only 2 posts deep into the reanimation process XD)


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Alfa/Polaris wrote:
Gray wrote:

Ugh. I've been allowing this spell to trigger when a PC is knocked into negative HP numbers! It didn't occur to me that "death" was Dying 4. I kept thinking that there must at least be a loss of actions or something.

I think there have been at least 4 combats where the battle would have been far different except for the fact that the fighter didn't go down when reduced to zero.

Worth knowing that negative HP isn't a thing, either! You just stop at 0, Dying and Wounded handle that idea.

Also, regarding all the edge case things like massive damage and Doomed, I don't think "You prevent the target from dying" is especially unclear or general. If massive damage would kill you, it doesn't, and then you get some healing. If Doomed would instantly kill you, it doesn't, and then Doomed...doesn't go away because you didn't die, and then you die again, whoops.

Far from homebrewing to make sure massive damage can do its dirty work, that denial kind of feels like an unintended interaction, because the Doomed condition isn't listed as or alongside death effects and Disintegrate spells. At the same time, it's thematically appropriate and an exceptional edge case, I suppose...

Anyway, I came here to say that I think Breath of Life is intended to pretty much save people from anything that would kill them except what's listed in its description. And Doomed, I guess.

Yeah, I agree, and I don't have an issue with the rule. I just have 20+ years of other rules rolling around in my head, so it's hard to break old habits. I also don't stop the game much to look up rules. I just make a note to research later. In this case, I waited a while.

Grand Lodge

Just adding here why it says ‘about to die’ and not dying 4.

One of my characters has ‘Die Hard’ - been on dying 4 once and can tell the story.

I know most character will qualify in dying 4 but not all.

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