Etheric Shards and defensive movements [SFS]


Rules Questions

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7 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

Yesterday I used the spell Etheric Shards, and something came up that I and the people at the table didn't really knew how to properly rule. I concerns a part near the end of the spell description.

Etheric Shards wrote:

You harden ethereal matter into interplanar blades that are invisible to those who cannot see into the Ethereal Plane. Movement through an area of etheric shards is halved, even for incorporeal creatures, and creatures entering a 5-foot cube filled with etheric shards take 1d8 slashing damage and must succeed at a Reflex saving throw or gain the bleeding 1 condition. The damage from this bleeding stacks with itself and other sources of bleeding. A creature that remains motionless within the area takes no damage, but such a creature is flat-footed unless it moves enough to defend itself, which forces it to take damage and attempt a saving throw.

Etheric shards are a magical trap. A creature trained in Mysticism and within 30 feet of the area can attempt a DC 35 Perception check to sense the shards. The shards cannot be disabled, but they can be dispelled.

Bolding mine. So what does that part actually mean?

1. If a creature does anything other than standing still and be flat-footed, it needs to make a save against the spell? So when it attacks with a gun, it first gets damage and needs to make a save?

2. If 1 is yes, then does it force a save for any action taken (move action to grab weapon, standard to shoot) or does it only trigger once.

3. What about being forced to make a reflex save (versus Grease or a Overheat), is that enough to trigger "defensive movement".

4. If someone falls prone (either by own volition or due to trip/Grease), does that trigger a reflex save?

5. What about spell casting? Is that enough movement to trigger. Because if yes, that is a serious debuff.

All in all, I guess the main question is: what is enough movement to defend oneself (and what is more than that, because it is set as a lower bar)? I mainly play Society, so "ask your GM" usually doesn't lead to any solutions. And although a Dev response is of course appreciated, they're probably too busy to answer (and I'm of course at the back of the question-line). So I am mostly hoping for a nice consensus or something like that.


I'm having a hard time parsing this. The spell contradicts itself a little and seems like it wants to use rules that are way more granular than Starfinder has. In a nutshell, its probably somewhat poorly written. I hit the FAQ button, everyone else should too.

So, here's what I think:
1: No.
2: No.
3: No.
4: Yes.
5: No.

For 1 through 3 (spoilered for length):

Spoiler:
Here's my problem with how granular this spell looks like it wants to be. There's a series of things a character can do with an action, but at the end of the day, a move action is a move action, regardless of what you did with it. Instead of telling us "If your character moves defensively" (which isn't a thing you can 'do,' it's just the opposite of being flat footed) this spell should be defining what actions will trigger the damage and save. Since it doesn't, I'd default to actual movement and choosing to not be flat footed while being attacked. TLDR; If the spell was meant to do 1d8 damage and proc a reflex save vs bleeding if you make an attack within the area of the spell, it would say that. It doesn't say it, so it doesn't do it.

For 4: Since we know an opponent moving a character provokes attacks of opportunity against the character, I'd say yes, falling prone would count as movement and trigger this spell, regardless of why the fall happened.

For 5: Spells in Starfinder don't have a somatic tag, casting should result in even less movement than an attack action, and I don't think an attack action triggers this spell, so I definitely don't think casting would trigger this.


It sounds like the character in the spell is making a choice to be flat footed or take damage... but that's not at all how the spell was written.

So, for now, I agree with pantshandshake.


Garretmander wrote:

It sounds like the character in the spell is making a choice to be flat footed or take damage... but that's not at all how the spell was written.

So, for now, I agree with pantshandshake.

Yeah, it really seems like what the spell 'wants' to do versus how it was written are kind of at odds. I think it would be neat if it worked the way its trying so hard to, but as it stands, there's just no way to boil down character actions to get there.

I'd also like to mention, 1d8 is super low damage. Pretty much anyone who took Enhanced Resistance is immune to this spell, aside from the halved movement. Hell, anyone who can reliably have at least DR 4/ is pretty safe.


Pantshandshake wrote:
Garretmander wrote:

It sounds like the character in the spell is making a choice to be flat footed or take damage... but that's not at all how the spell was written.

So, for now, I agree with pantshandshake.

Yeah, it really seems like what the spell 'wants' to do versus how it was written are kind of at odds. I think it would be neat if it worked the way its trying so hard to, but as it stands, there's just no way to boil down character actions to get there.

I'd also like to mention, 1d8 is super low damage. Pretty much anyone who took Enhanced Resistance is immune to this spell, aside from the halved movement. Hell, anyone who can reliably have at least DR 4/ is pretty safe.

I think the 1 stacking bleed damage is the point... still not a big threat unless you can trigger it many times a turn.


Doesn't bleed fall into the category of afflictions that don't happen if the triggering even doesn't hurt the character?


Pantshandshake wrote:
Doesn't bleed fall into the category of afflictions that don't happen if the triggering even doesn't hurt the character?

I'm not sure if it does or not. Though maybe one could make an argument that the trigger is 'failing a reflex save', not 'taking damage from this spell'. There is an 'and' there after all.

Dark Archive

Well, I'm glad we weren't the only ones who had trouble digesting this spell. Just a small summary for myself, to make sure I got this right (or so I can be corrected):

Etheric Shards triggers for every 5-ft square one moves into, dealing 1d8 slashing and triggering a reflex versus stacking bleed 1. Someone who stays inside a square with shards doesn't take damage from the spell as long as it stays inside said square (so attacking and such does not force a save). If the creature gets attacked, it needs to decide if it takes it flat-footed or not, and takes damage from the shards if it chooses the latter. Falling prone (either willingly or forced) triggers the shards as well.

The flat-footed part I got out of your spoiler, Pantshandshake. I assume it triggers only once a round in that case, and not at every shot taken at it (although amazing if it did, kinda looks to be a bit much).

Regarding the save versus bleed: at the table it was the consensus that in order to take the bleed, you first needed to go through the DR. We didn't know if that was the case. But a lot of effects are usually ruled this way, so we assumed this was the same out of ease.


There are abilities and such that make a target flat footed only vs that specific ability. This spell isn't worded that way, so I would presume if you decide to be flat footed you're flat footed until your turn comes up again. Although, bleeding doesn't usually stack, so maybe the intent is that you can be hit with this multiple times per round. Hard to say.

Regarding the bleed damage, I think bleed is one of the effects that requires whatever deals the bleed to actually damage you, like an injury poison or what have you. I'm not 100% on that being that actual rule for bleed.

I'd bring this up with your GM before the session really kicks off, see if they have an opinion about how it will work at their table.

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