Magic - Casting Spells

From PHB

Casting a spell can be a straightforward process, as when Jozan casts cure light wounds to remove some of the damage that Tordek has taken, or it can be complicated, as when Jozan is attempting to aim an insect plague by ear at a group of nagas who have hidden themselves in a deeper darkness spell, all while avoiding the attacks of the naga's troglodyte servants.

Choosing a spell

First choose which spell to cast. A cleric, druid, experienced paladin, experienced ranger, or wizard selects from among spells prepared earlier in the day and not yet cast (see preparing wizard spells, and preparing divine spells). A bard or sorcerer can select any spell he knows, provided the character is capable of casting spells of that level or higher.

To cast a spell, you must be able to speak (if the spell has a verbal component), gesture (if it has a somatic component), and manipulate the material components or focus (if any). additionally, you must concentrate to cast a spell - and it's hard to concentrate in the heat of battle. (see concentration for details.)

If a spell has multiple versions, you choose which version to use when you cast it. you don't have to prepare (or learn, in the case of a bard or sorcerer) a specific version of the spell. for example, endure elements protects a creature from fire, cold, or other attack forms. you choose when you cast the spell which element it will protect the subject from.

Once you've cast a prepared spell, you can't cast it again until you prepare it again. (if you've prepared multiple copies of a single spell, you can cast each copy once.) if you're a bard or sorcerer, casting a spell counts against your daily limit for spells of that level, but you can cast the same spell again if you haven't reached your limit.

Spell slots: the various character class tables show how many spells of each level a character can cast per day. you always have the option to fill a higher-level spell slot with a lower-level spell. for example, a 7th-level wizard has at least one 4th-level spell slot and two 3rd-level spell slots (see wizard). However, the character could choose to memorize three 3rd-level spells instead, filling the 4th-level slot with a lower-level spell. Note that a spellcaster who lacks a high enough ability score to cast spells that would otherwise be his or her due still gets the slots but must fill them with spells of lower level. For example, a 9th-level wizard who has an intelligence of only 14 cannot cast a 5th-level spell but can prepare an extra lower-level spell in its place and store it in the 5th-level spell slot.

Casting time

You can cast a spell with a casting time of 1 action as a standard action, just like making an attack.

A spell that takes 1 full round to cast is a full-round action. it comes into effect just before the beginning of your turn in the round after you began casting the spell. you then act normally after the spell is completed. a spell that takes 1 minute to cast comes into effect just before your turn 1 minute later (and for each of those 10 rounds, you are casting a spell as a full-round action).

You must make all pertinent decisions about a spell (range, target, area, effect, version, etc.) when you begin casting. for example, when casting a summon monster spell, you need to decide where you want the monster to appear.


A spell's range indicates how far from you it can reach, as defined on the range line of the spell description. a spell's range is the maximum distance from you that the spell's effect can occur, as well as the maximum distance at which you can designate the spell's point of origin. if any portion of the spell's area would extend beyond the range, that area is wasted. standard ranges include:

Personal: the spell affects only you.

Touch: you must touch a creature or object to affect it.

Close: the spell can reach up to 25 feet away from you. the maximum range increases by 5 feet for every two full caster levels.

Medium: the spell can reach up to too feet + 10 feet per caster level.

Long: the spell can reach up to 400 feet 40 feet per caster level.

Unlimited: the spell can reach anywhere on the same plane of existence.

Range expressed in feet: some spells have no standard range category, just a range expressed in feet.

Aiming a Spell

You must make some choice about whom the spell is to affect or where the effect is to originate, depending on the type of spell.

Target or targets: some spells, such as charm person, have a target or targets. You cast these spells directly on creatures or objects, as defined by the spell itself, you must be able to see or touch the target, and you must specifically choose that target. For example, you can't fire a magic missile spell (which always hits its target) into a group of bandits with the instruction to "strike the leader" to strike the leader, you must be able to identify and see the leader (or guess which is the leader and get lucky. However, you do not have to select your target until the moment you finish casting the spell.

If you cast a targeted spell on the wrong sort of target, such as casting charm person on a dog, the spell has no effect.

If the target of a spell is yourself (target: "you"), you do not receive a saving throw, and spell resistance does not apply. The saving throw and spell resistance lines are omitted from such spells.

Effect: some spells, such as summon monster spell, create or summon things rather than affecting things that are already present. You must designate the location where these things are to appear, either by seeing it or defining it (such as "the insect plague will appear 20 feet into the area of darkness that the nagas are hiding in"). Range determines how far away an effect can appear, but if the effect is mobile (a summoned monster, for instance) it can move regardless of the spell's range.

Ray: Some effects are rays, such as in the spell ray of enfeeblement. You aim a ray as if using a ranged weapon, though typically you take a ranged touch attack rather than a normal ranged attack. As with a ranged weapon, you can fire into the dark or at an invisible creature and hope you hit something. You don't have to see the creature you're trying to hit, as you do with a targeted spell. Intervening creatures and obstacles, however, can block your line of sight or provide cover for the creature you're aiming at.

If a ray spell has a duration, it's the duration of the effect that the ray causes, not the length of time the ray itself persists.

Spread: Some effects, notably clouds and fogs, spread out from a point of origin to a distance described in the spell. The effect can extend around corners and into areas that you can't see. Figure distance by actual distance traveled, taking into account turns the spell effect rakes. You must designate the point of origin for such an effect but need not have line of effect to all portions of the effect (see below). Example: obscuring mist.

Area: Some spells affect an area. You select where the spell starts, but otherwise you don't control which creatures or objects the spell affects. sometimes a spell describes a specially defined area, but usually an area falls into one of the categories below.

Burst: As with an effect, you select the spell's point of origin. the spell bursts out from this point, affecting whatever it catches in its area. For instance, if you designate a four-way intersection of corners to be the point of origin of a dispel magic spell, the spell bursts in all four directions, possibly catching creatures that you can't see, because they're around the corner from you. A burst spell has a radius that indicates how far from the point of origin the spell's effect extends.

Cone: when you cast a spell with a cone area, the cone shoots away from you in the direction you designate. A cone starts as a point directly before you, and it widens out as it goes. A cone's width at a given distance from you equals that distance, its far end is as wide as the effect is long. (a 25-foot-long cone is 10 feet wide at 10 feet of its length and 25 feet wide at its far end.) Example: cone of cold.

Creatures: Some spells affect creatures directly (like a targeted spell), but they affect creatures in an area of some kind rather than individual creatures you select. The area might be a burst (such as sleep), a cone (such as fear), or some other shape. Many spells affect "living creatures," which means all creatures other than constructs and undead. Sleep, for instance, affects living creatures. If you cast sleep in the midst of gnolls and skeletons, the sleep spell ignores the skeletons and affects the gnolls. The skeletons do not count against the creatures affected.

Cylinder: As with a burst, you select the spell's point of origin. This point is the center of a horizontal circle, and the spell shoots down from the circle, filling a cylinder. Example: flame strike.

Emanation: Some spells, such as silence, have an area like a burst except that the effect continues to radiate from the point of origin for the duration of the spell.

Objects: Some spells affect objects within an area you select (as above, but affecting objects instead of creatures).

Spread: some spells spread our like a burst but can turn corners. You select the point of origin, and the spell spreads out a given, distance in all directions. figure distance by actual distance traveled, taking into account turns the spell effect rakes. Example: fireball.

Other: A spell can have a unique area, as defined in its description.

(S) Shapeable: If an area or effect entry ends with "(S)," you can shape the spell. A shaped effect or area can have no dimension smaller than 10 feet. Many effects or areas are given as cubes to make it easy to model irregular shapes. Three-dimensional volumes are most often needed to define aerial or underwater effects and areas.

Line of effect: A line of effect is a straight, unblocked path that indicates what a spell can affect. A line of effect is canceled by a solid barrier. It's like line of sight for ranged weapons, except its not blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight. You must have a clear line of effect to any target that you cast a spell on or to any space in which you wish to create an effect (such as conjuring a monster). You must have a clear line of effect to the point of origin of any spell you cast, such as the central point of a fireball. For bursts, cones, cylinders, and emanating spells, the spell only affects areas, creatures, or objects to which it has line of effect from its origin (a burst's point, a cone's starting point, a cylinder's circle, or an emanating spell's point of origin).

An otherwise solid barrier with a hole of at least 1 square foot through it does not block a spell's line of effect. Such an opening makes a 5-foot length of wall no longer considered a barrier for purposes of a spell's line of effect (though the rest of the wall farther from the hole can still block the spell).

Saving Throw

Most harmful spells allow an affected creature to make a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect. The saving throw line in a spell description defines which type of saving throw the spell allows and describes how saving throws against the spell work.

Negates: This term means that the spell has no effect on an effected creature that makes a successful saving throw.

Partial: the spell causes an effect on its subject, such as death. A successful saving throw means that some lesser effect occurs (such as being dealt damage rather than being killed).

Half: The spell deals damage, and a successful saving throw halves the damage taken (round down).

None: No saving throw is allowed.

Disbelief: A successful save lets the subject ignore the effect.

(Object): the spell can be cast on objects, which receive saving throws only if they are magical or if they are attended (held, worn, grasped, etc.) by a creature resisting the spell, in which case the object gets the creature's saving throw bonus unless its own bonus is greater. (This notation does not mean that a spell can only be cast on objects. Some spells of this sort can be cast on creatures or objects.) A magic item's saving throw bonuses are each equal to 2 + one-half its caster level.

(Harmless): The spell is usually beneficial, not harmful, but a targeted creature can attempt a saving throw if it wishes.

Saving throw difficulty class: A saving throw against your spell has a DC of 10 + the level of the spell + your bonus for the relevant ability (intelligence for a wizard, charisma for a sorcerer or bard, wisdom for a cleric, druid, paladin, or ranger). A spell's level can vary depending on your class. for example, fire trap is a 2nd-level spell for a druid but a 4th-level spell for a sorcerer or wizard. Always use the spell level applicable to your class. Succeeding at a saving throw: a creature that successfully saves against a spell without obvious physical effects feels a hostile force or a tingle, but cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack. For example, if you secretly cast charm person on a character and his saving throw succeeds, he knows that someone used magic against him, but he can't tell what you were trying to do. Likewise, if a creature's saving throw succeeds against a targeted spell, such as charm person, you sense that the spell has failed, you do nor sense when creatures succeed at saving throws against effect and area spells.

Voluntarily giving up a saving throw: A creature can voluntarily forgo a saving throw and willingly accept a spell's result. Even a character with a special resistance to magic (for example, an elf's resistance to sleep effects) can suppress this if he or she wants to.

Items surviving after a saving throw: Unless the descriptive text for the spell specifies otherwise, all items carried and worn are assumed to survive a magical attack. I a character rolls a natural 1 on his saving throw, however, an exposed item is harmed (if the attack can harm objects). The four items nearest the top on the table below are the most likely to be struck. Determine which four objects are most likely to be struck and roll randomly among them. The randomly determined item must make a saving throw against the attack form and take what ever damage the attack deals (see strike an object). For instance Tordek is hit by a lightning bolt, and gets a natural 1 on his saving throw. The items most likely to have been affected are his shield, his armor, his waraxe, and his stowed shortbow, (he doesn't have a magic helmet or cloak, so those entries are skipped.)

If an item is not carried or worn and is not magical, it does not get a saving throw. It simply is dealt the appropriate damage. Magic item saving throws are covered in the Dungeon Master's guide.

Items Affected by Magical Attacks
3rdmagic helmet
4thitem in hand (including weapon, wand, etc.)
5thmagic cloak
6thstowed or sheathed weapon
7thmagic bracers
8thmagic clothing
9thmagic jewelry (including rings)
10thanything else
*In order of most likely to least likely to be affected.

Spell Resistance

Spell resistance is a special defensive ability if your spell is being resisted by a creature with spell resistance, you must make a caster level check (1d20 + caster level) at least equal to the creature's spell resistance rating for the spell to affect that creature. Te defender's spell resistance rating is like an AC against magical attacks. The DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE has more details on spell resistance.

The spell resistance line and descriptive text of a spell tell you if spell resistance protects creatures from it. In many cases, SR applies only when a resistant creature is targeted by the spell, not when a resistant creature encounters a spell that is already in place.

The terms "object" and "harmless" mean the same thing as for saving throws. A creature with spell resistance must voluntarily drop the resistance in order to receive the effects of a spell noted as harmless without the caster level check described above.

The Spell's Result

Once you know which creatures (or objects or areas) are affected, and whether those creatures have made successful saving throws (if any), you can apply whatever results a spell entails.

Many spells affect particular sorts of creatures. Repel vermin keeps "vermin" away, and calm animals can calm down "animals, beasts, and magical beasts." these terms, and terms like them, refer to specific creature types that are given for each creature in the Monster Manual.


Once you've determined who's affected and how, you need know for how long. A spell's duration line tells you how long the magical energy of the spell lasts.

Timed durations: Many durations are measured in rounds, minutes, hours, or some other increment. When the time is up, the magic goes away and the spell ends. If a spell's duration is variable, such as for power word, stun or control weather, the DM rolls it secretly.

Instantaneous: The spell energy comes and goes the instant the spell is cast, though the consequences of the spell might be long-lasting. for example, a cure light wounds spell lasts only an instant, but the healing it bestows never runs out or goes away.

Permanent: The energy remains as long as the effect does. This means the spell is vulnerable to dispel magic. Example: secret page.

Concentration: The spell lasts as long as you concentrate on it. Concentrating to maintain a spell is a standard action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity. Anything that could break your concentration when casting a spell can also break your concentration while you're maintaining one, causing the spell to end (see Concentration, below). You can't cast a spell while concentrating on another one. Sometimes a spell lasts for a short time after you cease concentrating. For example, the spell hypnotic pattern has a duration of "concentration + 2 rounds." In these cases, the spell keeps going for the stated length of time after you stop concentrating. Otherwise, you must concentrate to maintain the spell. But you can't maintain it for more than a stated duration in any event.

Subjects, effects, and areas: If the spell affects creatures directly (for example, charm person or sleep), the result travels with the subjects for the spell's duration. If the spell creates an effect, the effect lasts for the duration. the effect might move (such as a summoned monster chasing your enemies) or remain still, such effects can be destroyed prior to when their durations end (such as fog cloud being dispersed by wind). If the spell affects an area, such as silence does, then the spell stays with that area for the spell's duration. Creatures become subject to the spell when they enter the area and become no longer subject to it when they leave.

Touch spells and holding the charge: if you don't discharge a touch spell on the round you cast the spell, you can hold the discharge of the spell (hold the charge) indefinitely. You can make touch attacks round after round. You can touch one friend (or yourself) as a standard action or up to six friends as a full-round action. If you touch anything with your hand while holding a charge, the spell discharges. if you cast another spell, the touch spell dissipates.

Discharge: a few spells last for a set duration or until triggered or discharged. For instance, magic mouth waits until triggered, and the spell ends once the mouth has said its message.

(D): If the duration line ends with "(D)," you can dismiss the spell at will. You must be within range of the spell's effect and must speak words of dismissal, which are usually a modified form of the spell's verbal component. If the spell has no verbal component, you dismiss the spell with a gesture. Dismissing a spell is a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity a spell that depends on concentration is dismissible by its very nature, and dismissing it does not require an action (since all you have to do to end the spell is to stop concentrating).


As mentioned above, a spell's components are what you must do or possess to cast it. A spell's components line includes abbreviations that tell you what type of components it has. Specifics for material, focus, and XP components are given at the end of the descriptive text. Usually you don't worry about components, but when you can't use a component for some reason or when a material or focus component is expensive, then they count.

V (Verbal): A verbal component is a spoken incantation. To provide a verbal component, you must be able to speak in a strong voice. A silence spell or a gag spoils the incantation (and thus the spell). A spellcaster who has been deafened has a 20% chance to spoil any spell he tries to cast if that spell has a verbal component.

S (Somatic): A somatic component is a measured and precise movement of the hand or some other part of the body you must have at least one hand free to provide a somatic component.

M (Material): A material component is a physical substance or object that is annihilated by the spell energies in the casting process. Unless a cost is given for a material component, the cost is negligible. Don't bother to keep track of material components with negligible cost. Assume you have all you need as long as you have your spell component pouch.

F (Focus): A focus component is a prop of some sort. Unlike a material component, a focus is not consumed when the spell is cast and can be reused. As with material components, the cost for a focus is negligible unless a specific price is listed. Assume that focus components of negligible cost are in your spell component pouch.

DF (Divine Focus): A divine focus component is an item of spiritual significance. The divine focus for a cleric or a paladin is a holy symbol appropriate to the character's faith. For an evil cleric, the divine focus is an unholy symbol. The default divine focus for a druid or a ranger is a sprig of mistletoe or some holly. If the components line includes F/DF or M/DF, the arcane version of the spell has a focus component or a material component and the divine version has a divine focus component.

XP (XP cost): Some powerful spells (wish, commune, miracle) entail an experience point (XP) cost to you. No spell, not even restoration, can restore the lost XP. You cannot spend so much XP that you lose a level, so you cannot cast the spell unless you have enough XP to spare. However, you may on gaining enough XP to attain a new level, use the XP for casting a spell rather than keeping the XP and advancing a level. The XP are treated just like a material component - expended when you cast the spell, whether or not the casting succeeds.

Additional Optional Material Components

From Book of Exalted Deeds

Some good spell components are optional (and not specified as a component in any spell description). These components sometimes increase the potency of a good spell, and the component is consumed whether it helps or not. You can use only one optional component in the casting of a good spell, so using two couatl feathers, or a couatl feather and a lammasu claw, won't improve your chances.

As with any spell component, you must be touching an optional good spell component and have it displayed prominently for it to function. These optional components can only be applied to spells with the good descriptor.

Spell components that are derived from the body of a good creature must generally be freely given, not taken from a dead creature. Killing a good creature in order to harvest its parts or organs is an evil act, and often inflicts a curse or affliction upon the perpetrator, at the DM's discretion. Though these items must be freely given, they can still be sold, and thus have suggested market prices indicated. Most of the time, however, they are given as gifts and not sold.

Ambrosia (distilled joy)200 gp
Angel radiance20 gp
Blink dog tooth30 gp
Celestial blood20 gp
Couatl feather10 gp
Couatl scale16 gp
Lammasu claw30 gp
Lillend scale15 gp
Pegasus feather11 gp
Phoenix feather40 gp
Unicorn blood500 gp
Unicorn horn (sliver)55 gp
Unicorn tail hair25 gp

Ambrosia (Distilled Joy): A mysterious substance made from distilled joy, ambrosia is celestial food, the heavenly sustenance of Celestia. Created by means of the Distilled Joy spell, ambrosia can be used as a special spell component, in addition to the other uses mentioned in the spell description.
As an optional component, ambrosia automatically increases the effective caster level of a single good spell by +2. This increase doesn't stack with previous applications of distilled joy or any other bonuses to effective caster level.

Angel Radiance: Captured in glass by a special process known only to angels themselves, the radiance of an angel is a potent component. Used as a component for a Banishment or Dismissal spell, or a Dispel Evil spell used to drive a fiend back to its home plane, a phial of angel radiance increases the saving throw DC by +1. It also grants the caster a +1 bonus on her caster level check to overcome the target's spell resistance. Angel radiance sheds light as a torch.

Blink Dog Tooth: A spell to which this component is applied has a 50% chance to confer the ghost touch ability and negate miss chances due to blur, displacement, entropy, or phasing abilities.

Celestial Blood: If a spell to which this component is applied deals damage, there is a 30% chance that the spell deals an extra +2d6 points of damage to an evil target. The celestial who gave the blood must still be alive for this to function.

Couatl Feather: A spell to which this component is applied has a 35% chance to have its effective caster level increased by +2.

Couatl Scale: A spell to which this component is applied has a 30% chance to have its saving throw DC increased by +1.

Lammasu Claw: A spell to which this component is applied has a 25% chance to have any damage the spell deals increased by +10%.

Lillend Scale: If a spell to which this component is applied requires a Will save, there's a 40% chance that the saving throw DC is increased by +1. When the scale is used by a bard, the chance increases to 60%.

Pegasus Feather: If this component is used when casting detect good or detect evil, the caster learns the number of evil auras and the power of the most potent aura in the first round of concentration instead of the second, and the power and location of each aura in the second round instead of the third.

Phoenix Feather: A spell to which this component is applied has a 10% chance to remain prepared even after being cast. Casters who do not prepare spells gain no advantage from this component.

Unicorn Blood: The blood of a living unicorn is a powerful alchemical substance. It can be formed into a ravage (see Ravages and Afflictions) that saps the strength of evil creatures. Also, if a spell to which this component is applied requires a Fortitude save, there's a 40% chance that the saving throw DC is increased by +1. In either case, unicorn blood retains its potency only as long as the unicorn that gave it remains alive.

Unicorn Horn (Sliver): Removing a unicorn's entire horn kills it, but a unicorn may on rare occasions give a sliver of its horn to a favored ally. If a spell to which this component is applied requires a touch attack (melee or ranged), there's a 40% chance that the caster receives a +1 sacred bonus on the attack roll.

Unicorn Tail Hair: A spell to which this component is applied has a 20% chance to have its duration doubled.


To cast a spell, you must concentrate. If something interrupts your concentration while you're casting, you must make a concentration check or lose the spell. The more distracting the interruption and the higher the level of the spell you are trying to cast, the higher the DC is. (The DC depends partly on the spell level because more powerful spells require more mental effort.) If you fail the check, you lose the spell just as if you had cast it to no effect.

Injury: Getting hurt or being affected by hostile magic while trying to cast a spell can break your concentration and ruin a spell. If while tying to cast a spell you take damage, fail a saving throw, or are otherwise successfully assaulted, you must make a concentration check. The DC is 10 + points of damage taken + the level of the spell you're casting. If you fail the check, you lose the spell without effect. the interrupting event strikes during spellcasting if it comes between when you start and complete a spell (for a spell with a casting time of 1 full round or more) or if it comes in response to your casting the spell (such as an attack of opportunity provoked by the spell or a contingent attack, such as a readied action).

If you are taking continuous damage, such as from Melf's acid arrow, half the damage is considered to take place while you are casting a spell. You must make a concentration check (DC 10 + one-half the damage that the continuous source last dealt + the level of the spell you're casting). If the last damage dealt was the last damage that the effect could deal (such as the last round of a Melf's acid arrow), then the damage is over, and it does not distract you. Repeated damage, such as from a spiritual weapon, does not count as continuous damage.

Spell: If you are affected by a spell while attempting to cast a spell of your own, you must make a concentration check or lose the spell you are casting. If the spell affecting you deals damage the DC is 10 + points of damage + the level of the spell you're casting. If the spell interferes with you or distracts you in some other way the DC is the spell's saving throw DC + the level of the spell you're casting. For spells with no saving throw, it's the DC that the spell's saving throw would have if it did allow a saving throw.

Grappling or pinned: The only spells you can cast while grappling or pinned are those without somatic components and whose material components (if any) you have in hand. Even so, you must make a concentration check (DC 20 + the level of the spell you're casting) or lose the spell.

Vigorous motion: If you are riding on a moving mount, taking a bouncy ride in a wagon, on a small boat in rough water, below decks in a storm-tossed ship, or simply being jostled in a similar fashion, you must make a concentration check (DC 10 + the level of the spell you're casting) or lose the spell.

Violent Motion: If you are on a galloping horse, taking a very rough ride in a wagon, on a small boat in rapids or in a storm, on deck in a storm-tossed ship, or being tossed roughly about in a similar fashion, you must make a concentration check (DC 15 + the level of the spell you're casting) or lose the spell.

Violent Weather: If you are in a high wind carrying blinding rain or sleet, the DC is 5 + the level of the spell you're casting. If you are in wind-driven hail, dust, or debris, the DC is 10 + the level of the spell you're casting. You lose the spell if you fail the concentration check. If the weather is caused by a spell, use the rules in the spell subsection above.

Casting Defensively: If you want to cast a spell without provoking any attacks of opportunity you need to dodge and weave. You must make a concentration check (DC 15 + the level of the spell you're casting) to succeed. You lose the spell if you fail.

Entangled: If you want to cast a spell while entangled in a net or by a tanglefoot bag or affected by a spell with similar effects (animate rope, command plants, control plants, entangle, or snare), you must make a concentration check (DC 15) to cast the spell. You lose the spell if you fail.


It is possible to cast any spell as a counterspell. By doing so, you are using the spell's energy to disrupt the casting of the same spell by another character. Counterspelling works even if one spell is divine and the other arcane.

How Counterspells Work: To use a counterspell, you must select an opponent as the target of the counterspell. You do this by choosing the ready action. In doing so, you elect to wait to complete your action until your opponent tries to cast a spell. (You may still move your speed, since ready is a standard action.)

If the target of your counterspell tries to cast a spell, make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + the spell's level). This check is a free action. If the check succeeds, you correctly identify the opponent's spell and can attempt to counter it. (If the check fails, you can't do either of these things.)

To complete the action, you must cast the correct spell. As a general rule, a spell can only counter itself. For example, a fireball spell is effective as a counter to another fireball spell, but not to any other spell, no matter how similar. Fireball cannot counter delayed blast fireball or vice versa. If you are able to cast the same spell and have it prepared (if you prepare spells), you cast it, altering it slightly to create a counterspell effect. If the target is within range, both spells automatically negate each other with no other results.

Counterspelling Metamagic Spells: Metamagic feats are not taken into account when determining whether a spell can be countered. For example, a normal fireball can counter a maximized fireball (that is, a fireball that has been enhanced by the metamagic feat Maximize Spell) and vice versa.

Specific Exceptions: Some spells specifically counter each other, especially when they have diametrically opposed effects. For example, you can counter a haste spell with a slow spell as well as with another haste spell, or reduce with enlarge.

Dispel Magic as a Counterspell: You can use dispel magic to counterspell another spellcaster, and you don't need to identify the spell he or she is casting. However, dispel magic doesn't always work as a counterspell (see dispel magic).

Caster Level

A spell's power often depends on its caster level, which is generally equal to your class level. For example, a fireball deals 1d6 points of damage per caster level (to a maximum of 10d6), so a 10th-level wizard can cast a more powerful fireball than a 5th-level wizard can.

You can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level must be high enough for you to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level. For example, at 10th level, Mialee can cast a fireball to a range of 800 feet for 10d6 points of damage. If she wishes, she can cast a fireball that deals less damage by casting the spell at a lower caster level, but she must reduce the range according to the selected caster level, and she can't cast fireball with a caster level lower than 5th (the minimum level required for a wizard to cast fireball). Henner, a sorcerer, can't cast a fireball with a caster level lower than 6th (the minimum level required for a sorcerer to cast fireball).

Spell Failure

If you ever try to cast a spell in conditions where the characteristics of the spell (range, area, etc.) cannot be made to conform, the casting fails and the spell is wasted. For example, if you cast charm person on a dog (even a dog polymorphed into a human), the spell fails because a dog is the wrong sort of target for the spell.

Spells also fail if your concentration is broken (see Concentration) and might fail if you're wearing armor while casting a spell with somatic components (see Armor).

Spell Turning Mishaps

Casting a Spell Turning spell has additional dangers. If you and a spellcasting attacker are both warded by spell turning effects in operation, a resonating field is created with the following randomly determine results.

01-70Spell drains away without effect.
71-80Spell affects both of you equally at full effect.
81-97Both turning effects are rendered nonfunctional for 1d4 minutes.
98-100Both of you go through a rift into another plane.

Special Spell Effects

Many special spell effects are handled according to the school of the spells in question. For example, illusory figments all have certain effects in common (see Schools of Magic). Certain other special spell features are found across spell schools.

Attacks: Some spells refer to attacking. For instance, invisibility is dispelled if you attack anyone or anything while under its effects. All offensive combat actions, even those that don't damage opponents, such as disarm and bull rush, are attacks. Attempts to turn or rebuke undead count as attacks. All spells that opponents resist with saving throws, that deal damage, or that otherwise harm or hamper subjects are attacks. Summon monster and similar spells are not attacks because such spells bring combatants to you, but the spells themselves don't harm anyone.

Bonus Types: Many spells give their subjects bonuses on ability scores, Armor Class, attacks, and other attributes. Each bonus has a type that indicates how the spell grants the bonus. For example, mage armor grants an armor bonus to AC, indicating that the spell creates a tangible barrier around you. Shield of faith, on the other hand, grants a deflection bonus to AC, which makes attacks veer off. (see Magic Bonus types.) The important aspect of bonus types is that two bonuses of the same type don't generally stack. With the exception of dodge bonuses, most circumstance bonuses, and bonuses granted by a suit of armor and a shield used in conjunction by a creature, only the better bonus works (see Combining Magical Effects). The same principle applies to penalties - a character suffering two or more penalties of the same type applies only the worst one.

Descriptors: Some spells have descriptors indicating something about how the spell functions. For example, charm person is a mind-affecting spell (as noted in the line beneath the spell name). Most of these descriptors have no game effect by themselves, but they govern how the spell interacts with other spells, with special abilities, with unusual creatures, with alignment, and so on. For instance, the bard's countersong supernatural ability only works against language-dependent or sonic spells.

The descriptors are acid, chaotic, cold, darkness, death, electricity, evil, fear, fire, force, good, language-dependent, lawful, light, mind-affecting, sonic, and teleportation.

A language-dependent spell uses intelligible language as a medium. For instance, a cleric's command spell fails if the target can't understand what the cleric says, either because she doesn't understand the language the cleric is speaking or because background noise prevents her from hearing what the cleric says.

Bringing Back the Dead: Several spells have the power to restore slain characters to life. Divine spells are better at reviving the dead than arcane spells are.

When a living creature dies, its soul departs the body, leaves the Material Plane, travels through the Astral Plane, and goes to abide on the plane where the creature's deity resides. If the creature did not worship a deity, its soul departs to the plane corresponding to its alignment. Bringing someone back from the dead means retrieving his or her soul and returning it to his or her body

Level Loss: The passage from life to death and back again is a wrenching journey for a being's soul. Consequently, any creature brought back to life usually loses one level of experience. The character's new XP total is midway between the minimum needed for his other new level and the minimum needed for the next one. If the character was 1st level, he or she loses 1 point of Constitution instead of losing a level. This level loss or Constitution loss cannot be repaired by any mortal spell, even wish or miracle. Still, the revived character can improve his or her Constitution normally (at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th level) and earn experience by further adventuring to regain the lost level.

Preventing Revivification: Enemies can take steps to make it more difficult for a character to be returned from the dead. Keeping the body prevents others from using raise dead or resurrection to restore the slain character to life. Casting trap the soul prevents any sort of revivification unless the soul is first released.

Revivification Against One's Will: A soul cannot be returned to life if it does not wish to be. A soul knows the name, alignment, and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it and may refuse to return on that basis. For example, if Alhandra the paladin is slain and her archenemy, a high priest of Nerull, god of death, grabs her body, Alhandra probably does not wish to be raised from the dead by him. Any attempts he makes to revive her automatically fail.

If the evil cleric wants to revive Alhandra to interrogate her, he needs to find some way to trick her soul, such as duping a good cleric into raising her and then capturing her once she's alive again.

Combining Magical Effects

Spells or magical effects usually work as described, no matter how many other spells or magical effects happen to be operating in the same area or on the same recipient. Except in special cases, a spell does not affect the way another spell operates. Whenever a spell has a specific effect on other spells, the spell description explains the effect. Several other general rules apply when spells or magical effects operate in the same place:

Stacking Effects: Spells that give bonuses or penalties to attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and other attributes usually do not stack with themselves. For example, two bless spells don't give recipients twice the benefits of one bless. Both bless spells, however, continue to act simultaneously, and if one ends first, the other one continues to operate for the remainder of its duration. Likewise, two haste spells do not make a creature doubly fast.

More generally, two bonuses of the same type don't stack even if they come from different spells (or from effects other than spells). For example, the enhancement bonus to Strength from a bull's strength spell and the enhancement bonus to Strength from a divine power spell don't stack. You use whichever bonus gives you the better Strength score. In the same way, a belt of giant strength gives you an enhancement bonus to Strength, which does nor stack with the bonus you get from a bull's strength spell.

Different Bonus Names: The bonuses or penalties from two different spells do stack, however, if the effects are of different types. For example, bless provides a +1 morale bonus on saves against fear effects, and protection from evil provides a +2 resistance bonus to saving throws against spells cast by evil creatures. A character under the influence of a bless spell and a protection from evil spell gets a +1 bonus against all fear effects, a +2 bonus against spells cast by evil beings, and a +3 bonus against fear spells cast by evil creatures.

A bonus that isn't named (just a "+2 bonus" rather than a "+2 resistance bonus") stacks with any named bonus or any other unnamed one.

Same Effect More than Once in Different Strengths: In cases when two or more identical spells are operating in the same area, but at different strengths, only the best one applies. For example if a character adds 3 to his Strength score from a bull's strength spell and then receives a second bull's strength spell that adds 5 to his Strength score, the character receives only the 5. Both spells are still operating on the character, however. If one bull's strength spell is dispelled or its duration runs our, the other bull's strength spell takes over (assuming its duration has not yet expired).

Same Effect with Differing Results: The same spell can sometimes produce varying effects if applied to the same recipient more than once. For example, a series of polymorph spells might turn a creature into a mouse, a lion, and then a snail. In this case, the last spell in the series trumps the others. None of the previous spells are actually removed or dispelled, but their effects become irrelevant while the final spell in the series lasts.

One Effect Makes Another Irrelevant: Sometimes, one spell can render a later spell irrelevant. For example, if a wizard is using a shapechange spell to take the shape of an eagle, a polymorph spell could change the wizard into a goldfish. The shapechange spell is nor negated, however, and since the polymorph spell has no effect on the recipient's mind, the wizard could use the shapechange self effect to resume the form of an eagle (or any other form the spell allows) whenever he or she desires. If a creature using a shapechange effect is petrified by a flesh to stone spell, however, it becomes a mindless, inert statue, and the shapechange effect cannot help it escape.

Multiple Mental Control Effects: Sometimes magical effects that establish mental control render each other irrelevant. For example, a hold person effect renders any other form of mental control irrelevant because it robs the held character of the ability to move. Mental controls that don't remove the recipient's ability to act usually do not interfere with each other. For example, a person who has received a geas/quest spell can also be subjected to a charm person spell. The charmed person remains committed to fulfilling the quest, however, and resists any order that interferes with the quest. In this case, the geas/quest spell doesn't negate the charm person but reduces its effectiveness (just as nonmagical devotion to a quest would). If a creature is under the mental control of two or more creatures, it tends to obey each to the best of its ability (and to the extent of the control each effect allows). If the controlled creature receives conflicting orders simultaneously, the competing controllers must make opposed Charisma checks to determine which one the creature obeys.

Spells with Opposite Effects: Spells that have opposite effects apply normally, with all bonuses, penalties, or changes accruing in the order that they apply. This is a special effect that is noted in a spell's description.

Instantaneous Effects: Two or more magical effects with instantaneous durations work cumulatively when they affect the same object, place, or creature. For example, when two fireballs strike the same creature, the creature must attempt a saving throw against each fireball and takes damage from each according to the saving throws' results. If the same creature receives two cure light wounds spells in a later round, both work normally.

From Complete Arcane

More than the power of spells themselves, the methodology of spellcasting is the most important part of a caster's arsenal of arcane power. By employing feats to improve some element of spellcasting, a savvy caster can produce results far greater than the actual power of the spells being employed.

Invocations and Spell-Like Abilities

Many feats useful for spellcasters are equally useful for characters or creatures that employ invocations or spell-like abilities instead of spells. Spell-like abilities represent an innate magical talent that is part of a creature's essential nature, an expression of will or a mental action that resembles a spell in almost all ways.

Learning to wield a spell-like ability requires the same level of training or effort required to learn a physical task such as swimming, and is easy enough that any character or creature with a spell-like ability is assumed to have completely mastered the skill as soon as the spell-like ability is acquired. Using a spell-like ability requires concentration (possibly provoking attacks of opportunity), and, in the case of spell-like abilities that can be used only a certain number of times per day, requires the user to tap into a reservoir of magical power that must be replenished before it can be used again.

Invocations are also spell-like abilities. The only difference between invocations and other spell-like abilities is that invocations require somatic gestures and are therefore subject to arcane spell failure. (See Warlock Class) Warlocks and other creatures with spell-like abilities might find the following feats useful.

Combat Casting: This feat works equally well with spells, invocations, or spell-like abilities.

Spell Penetration: Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration have the same effect on invocations and spell-like abilities that they do on normal spells.

Weaponlike Spell Feats: A character who uses invocations or spell-like abilities might be able to take advantage of feats such as Weapon Focus or Precise Shot, as described under Feats and Weaponlike Spells. (The warlock's eldritch blast is weaponlike.)

Sudden Metamagic Feats: These metamagic feats don't require modified spell slots and so they work as well with spell-like abilities that don't have verbal or somatic components as they do with spells though Sudden Silent Spell doesn't apply and Sudden Still Spell applies only to invocations).

Creatures with spell-like abilities at a high enough level will find sudden metamagic feats less useful than the dedicated feats Empower Spell-Like Ability and Quicken Spell-Like Ability, as well as the Maximize Spell-Like Ability feat introduced in this chapter.

Other Metamagic Feats: Except as noted above, metamagic feats can't generally be used to modify spell-like abilities or invocations.

Caster Level

In the context of a feat or a prestige class requirement, a caster level prerequisite (such as "caster level 5th") measures the character's ability to channel a minimum amount of magical power. For feats or prestige classes requiring a minimum caster level, creatures that use spell-like abilities or invocations instead of spells use either their fixed caster level or their class level to determine qualification. For example, Craft Wondrous Item has a requirement of caster level 3rd, so both a 3rd-level warlock and a nixie (caster level 4th for its charm person spell-like ability) meet the requirement.

Spellcasting Level

Beyond the limits of magical power, a spellcasting level requirement measures the size and complexity of the spells that can be encompassed within a character's mind. As spells increase in level, they become exponentially more complicated, requiring a discipline of thought and an understanding of principles impossible for low-level characters to learn. Wizards master these advanced principles through careful study; sorcerers and other spontaneous arcane casters intuit what they need to know as their spellcasting experience grows.

Characters or creatures that use spell-like abilities or invocations never learn the arcane circumlocutions of logic and mental training necessary for advanced spellcasting. As such, requirements for feats and prestige classes based on specific levels of spells cast ("Able to cast 3rd-level arcane spells," for example) cannot be met by spell-like abilities or invocations - not even spell-like abilities or invocations that allow a character to use a specific arcane spell of the appropriate level or higher.

Specific Spell Requirements

A requirement based on a specific spell measures whether the character or creature in question is capable of producing the necessary effect, and as such, invocations and spell-like abilities that generate the relevant effect meet the requirements for specific spell knowledge. For example, a prestige class with a spellcasting requirement of "Must know (or be able to cast) darkness" is met by a warlock who chooses darkness as one of her invocations, or by any creature with darkness as a spell-like ability.

Weapon-Like Spells

Magic is the weapons, armor, and tools of the trade for an arcane caster, and an arcanist's selection of spell and the skill with which she wields them can define her even more distinctly than a master warrior's choice of tactics and blade.

Any spell that requires an attack roll and deals damage functions as a weapon in certain respects, whether the spells deals normal hit point damage, nonlethal damage, ability damage, or energy drain. Such spells can threaten critical hits, can be used in sneak attacks, and an be used with favored enemy damage bonuses. You can even use a number of combat-enhancing feats to improve the effectiveness of weapon-like spells as noted in About Feats

All such spells deal damage as spells, not weapons, so Strength modifiers to damage and magical effects that increase weapon damage (such as the bard's inspire courage ability and the prayer spell) don't increase damage from a weapon-like spell. Likewise, a weapon-like spell that deals normal damage can't be used to deal nonlethal damage or vice versa (except when modified by the Nonlethal Substitution feat or in accordance with the specific regulations of a nonlethal spell duel as described in Magic Contests.

Critical Hits

Unless the spell description says otherwise, a weapon-like spell threatens a critical hit on a roll of 20 and deals double damage with a critical hit, Only damage that the spell deals in the round it strikes is increased by a critical hit. For example, if you score a critical hit with Melf's acid arrow, only damage dealt in the first round of the spell's duration is doubled,

Some weapon-like spells depend on a saving throw to determine the damage doubled on a critical hit. For example, disintegrate deals 2d6 points of damage per caster level on a failed Fortitude save, but only 5d6 points of damage on successful save. If a critical hit is scored and the target makes its saving throw, it takes 10d6 points of damage; on a failed save, it takes 4d6 points of damage per caster level, and in both cases is disintegrated if reduced to 0 or fewer hit points by the spell.

Extra damage from a critical hit is of the same type the Spell deals normally. For example, ray of frost deals 1d3 points of cold damage, so a critical hit deals 2d3 points of cold damage. Likewise, a critical hit with an energy-draining spell deals twice its normal damage. A critical hit with an enervation spell bestows 2d4 negative levels, for example.

Spells that require attack rolls but do not deal actual damage cannot score critical hits. For example, ray of enfeeblement requires a ranged touch attack roll, but since the target of the spell takes a penalty to Strength (rather than Strength damage), the spell cannot score a critical hit. Chill touch, on the other hand, deals 1d6 points of damage and 1 point of Strength damage (not a Strength penalty) unless the target makes a Fortitude saving throw, and so would deal 2d6 points of damage plus 2 points of Strength damage on a critical hit with a failed save.

Sneak Attacks

Any weapon-like spell can be used to make a sneak attack, including ranged spells used against targets within 30 feet (just as with any other ranged sneak attack).

A successful sneak attack with a weapon-like spell deals extra damage of the same type as the spell normally deals. For example, a 10th-level rogue/3rd-level wizard who makes a successful sneak attack with Melf's acid arrow deals 2d4 points of acid damage, plus an extra 5d6 points of acid damage for the sneak attack (with the spell continuing to deal acid damage as normal in subsequent rounds). The exception is spells that deal energy drain or ability damage, which deal negative energy damage on a sneak attack, not extra negative levels or ability damage. For example, a 5th-level rogue/8th-level sorcerer who makes a successful enervation sneak attack bestows 1d4 negative levels and deals 3d6 points of negative energy damage.

If a sneak attack with a weapon-like spell results in a critical hit, the spell damage is doubled, but not the extra damage (as with any sneak attack critical hit).

Multiple Hits

Some weapon-like spells can strike multiple times in the same round. When the caster gets a bonus on damage with such spells (including sneak attack damage), the extra damage applies only to the first attack, whether that attack hits or not.

For example, a 7th-level sorcerer/3rd-level rogue with Point Blank Shot makes a scorching ray attack at less than 30 feet (two rays, each requiring a ranged touch attack roll and dealing 4d6 points of fire damage). If the first ray hits, it deals 6d6+1 points of fire damage (4d6 normal + 2d6 sneak attack + 1 for Point Blank Shot), while each subsequent ray deals only 4d6 points of fire damage whether the first ray hits or not.

From Sandstorm

The essence of heat and sand can, with the proper knowledge and methods, be forced to divulge an inherent power. In many cases, magic is the key that unlocks the door to that power, but sometime the abilities of the mind are equally valuable in focusing the energies hidden by the waste.

Drift Magic

Drift magic is the process of tapping the natural strata and tides of magic inherent in large collections of sand, and dust. Such gatherings speak to eons of time, weathering, and history. This power is not visible to the unpracticed eye, but for those with the appropriate sensitivity, even common sand is awash with potential that can be tapped to increase the effects of spells and produce special effects.

Learning Drift Magic: Knowledge empowers drift magic. A character must have taken the Drift Magic feat to gain any of the following benefits. With understanding, a character unlocks knowledge of the eternal desert. Drift magic is not a secret lore. In fact, information on the craft can be found in desert tombs, scrawled on crumbling papyrus, and in the dreams of those who sleep at the heart of a sandstorm.

Limitations of Use: Drift magic magic requires a connection to the waste, in the form of sand or other desert soil. In waste environments, the soil surrounding a character is sufficient to meet this requirement. When traveling in other environments, a practitioner of drift magic must carry pound of such material among her equipment.

Using Drift Magic: To use drift magic, a character must merely keep in mind her special knowledge of the desert. No checks are required. In natural areas of sand, dust, or ash, a practitioner can use drift magic as a free action. Other areas require the practitioner to expend a move action to utilize drift magic. Spells with a casting time of longer than 1 standard action cannot benefit from drift magic.

Bonus to Effective Caster Level: A practitioner of drift magic adds 1 to the effective level of any spell that has the earth descriptor or that deals dessication damage. Even if a spell meets both these criteria, the effective caster level only increases by 1.

Flaywind Burst: Characters with the Drift Magic feat can learn flaywind burst as a 4th level spell instead of a 5th-level one.

Magic in the Realms