Magic Overview

A spell is a one-time magical effect. Spells come in two types: arcane (cast by bards, sorcerers, and wizards) and divine (cast by clerics, druids, and experienced paladins and rangers). Some spellcasters select their spells from a limited list of spells known, while others have access to a wide variety of options.

Most spellcasters prepare their spells in advance - whether from a spellbook or through devout prayers and meditation - while some cast spells spontaneously without preparation.

Despite these different ways that characters use to learn or prepare their spells, when it comes to casting them, the spells are very much alike.

The eight schools of magic cut across the categories of arcane and divine spells. They represent the different ways that spells take effect.

Casting Spells

Whether a spell is arcane or divine, and whether a character prepares spells in advance or chooses them on the spot, casting a spell works the same way.

Choosing A Spell

First the caster must choose which spell to cast. If he's a cleric, druid, experienced paladin, experienced ranger, or wizard, he selects from among spells prepared earlier in the day and not yet cast (see Preparing Wizard Spells and Preparing Divine Spells).

If the caster is a bard or sorcerer, he can select any spell he knows, provided he is are capable of casting spells of that level or higher.

To cast a spell, the caster must be able to speak (if the spell has a verbal component), gesture (if it has a somatic component), and/or manipulate the material components or focus (if any), and he must concentrate (see below).

If a spell has multiple versions, the caster chooses which version to use when casting it. He doesn't have to prepare (or learn, in the case of a bard or sorcerer) a specific version of the spell.

Once the caster has cast a prepared spell, he can't cast it again until he prepares it again. (If he's prepared multiple copies of a single spell, he can cast each copy once.) If he's a bard or sorcerer, casting a spell counts against his daily limit for spells of that spell level, but he can cast the same spell again if he hasn't reached his limit.


To cast a spell, the caster must concentrate. If something interrupts his concentration while he's casting, he must make a Concentration check or lose the spell. The more distracting the interruption and the higher the level of the spell he is trying to cast, the higher the DC is. If the caster fails the check, he loses the spell just as if he had cast it to no effect.

Injury: If the caster takes damage while trying to cast a spell, he must make a Concentration check (DC 10 + points of damage taken + the level of the spell he's casting). If he fails the check, he loses the spell without effect. The interrupting event strikes during spellcasting if it comes between when the caster starts and when he completes a spell (for a spell with a casting time of 1 full round or more) or if it comes in response to his casting the spell (such as an attack of opportunity provoked by the spell or a contingent attack, such as a readied action).

If the caster is taking continuous damage, half the damage is considered to take place while he is casting a spell. The caster must make a Concentration check (DC 10 + 1/2 the damage that the continuous source last dealt + the level of the spell he's casting). If the last damage dealt was the last damage that the effect could deal then the damage is over, and it does not distract the caster.

Repeated damage does not count as continuous damage.

Spell: If the caster is affected by a spell while attempting to cast a spell of his own, he must make a Concentration check or lose the spell he is casting. If the spell affecting the caster deals damage, the DC is 10 + points of damage + the level of the spell he's casting.

If the spell interferes with the caster or distracts him in some other way, the DC is the spell's save DC + the level of the spell he's casting. For a spell with no save, it's the DC that the spell's save would have if a save were allowed.

Grappling or Pinned: The only spells the caster can cast while grappling or pinned are those without somatic components and whose material components (if any) the caster has in hand. Even so, he must make a Concentration check (DC 20 + opponent's grapple check + the level of the spell he's casting) or lose the spell.

Movement: If the caster takes any movement in the same round before casting a spell, even a combat stride, he must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + 2 per 5 feet of distance moved + spell level) or lose the spell.

Vigorous Motion: If the caster is 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, he must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) or lose the spell.

Violent Motion: If the caster is 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, he must make a Concentration check (DC 25 + spell level) or lose the spell.

Violent Weather: The caster must make a Concentration check if he tries to cast a spell in violent weather. If he is in a high wind carrying blinding rain or sleet, the DC is 15 + spell level. If he is in wind-driven hail, dust, or debris, the DC is 20 + spell level. In either case, he loses the spell if he fails the Concentration check. If the weather is caused by a spell, use the rules in the Spell subsection above.

Entangled: If the caster wants to cast a spell while entangled in a net or by a tanglefoot bag, or while he's affected by a spell with similar effects, he must make a DC 20 Concentration check to cast the spell or lose it.


It is possible to cast any spell as a counterspell. By doing so, the caster is 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, the caster must select an opponent as the target of the counterspell. He does this by choosing the ready action. In doing so, he elects to wait to complete his action until his opponent tries to cast a spell. (See Ready, under Special Initiative Actions, for more details.)

If the target of his counterspell tries to cast a spell, the caster makes a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + the spell's level) as a free action. If the check succeeds, he correctly identifies the opponent's spell and can attempt to counter it. If the check fails, he can't do either of these things.

To complete the action, the caster must cast a spell (which can be the same spell or another spell - see below). altering it slightly to create a counterspell effect. If the target is within range and the second caster succeeds on an opposed caster level check, 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.

Specific Exceptions: Some spells specifically counter each other, especially when they have diametrically opposed effects.

Dispel Magic as a Counterspell: The caster can use dispel magic, greater dispel, or disjunction to counterspell another spellcaster, and he doesn't need to identify the spell the other person is casting. However, (greater) dispel magic doesn't always work as a counterspell (see the spell description). Disjunction, however, will always work.

Table 1 shows modifiers to the opposed caster level check to counter another caster's spell.

Table 1: Counterspelling

Countering spell is… CL Mod1
Same spell +6
Greater dispel magic +6
Dispel magic +4
Opposed spell (haste vs. slow) +4
Different spell, same school +2
Different school +0
Different level +/-2 per level1
Different type (e.g. arcane vs. divine) -2

1 If the countering spell is higher, it gains +2/level; if it's lower, it loses -2/level. This modifier applies even if the countering spell is a different level for each caster (hold person, e.g. - Clr 2 vs. Wiz 3).

For example: Herne (Clr 5) is casting hold person (L2 spell). Jasya the wizard (L7) wants to counterspell him. The DC is 11 + 5 = 16. If she uses…

Hold person, her check is 1d20 + 7 + 6 + 2 - 2 (same spell, 1 level higher, arcane vs. divine).

Charm person, her check is 1d20 + 7 + 2 - 2 - 2 (same school, 1 level lower, arcane vs. divine).

Fireball, her check is 1d20 + 7 + 2 - 2 (different school, 1 level higher).

Caster Level

A spell's power often depends on its caster level, which for most spellcasting characters is equal to his class level in the class he's using to cast the spell.

The caster can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level he chooses must be high enough for him to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level.

In the event that a class feature, domain granted power, or other special ability provides an adjustment to caster level, that adjustment applies not only to effects based on caster level (such as range, duration, and damage dealt) but also to the caster level check to overcome a target's spell resistance and to the caster level used in dispel checks (both the dispel check and the DC of the check).

Spell Failure

If the caster ever tries to cast a spell in conditions where the characteristics of the spell cannot be made to conform, the casting fails and the spell is wasted.

Spells also fail if his concentration is broken and might fail if he's wearing armor while casting a spell with somatic components.

The Spell's Result
Once the caster knows which creatures (or objects or areas) are affected, and whether those creatures have made successful saving throws (if any were allowed), the caster can apply whatever results a spell entails.

Special Spell Effects

Many special spell effects are handled according to the school of the spells in question. Certain other special spell features are found across spell schools.

Attacks: Some spell descriptions refer to attacking. All offensive combat actions, even those that don't damage opponents, are considered attacks, as are attempts to turn or rebuke undead and all spells that opponents resist with saving throws, that deal damage, or that otherwise harm or hamper subjects are attacks. Spells that summon monsters or other allies are not attacks because the spells themselves don't harm anyone.

Bonus Types: Usually, a bonus has a type that indicates how the spell grants the bonus. 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 racial bonuses, only the better bonus works (see Combining Magical Effects, below). The same principle applies to penalties - a character taking two or more penalties of the same type applies only the worst one.

Bringing Back the Dead: Several spells have the power to restore slain characters to life.

When a living creature dies, its soul departs its 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.

Hit Die Loss: Any creature brought back to life usually loses one Hit Die. If the creature was 1st level at the time of death, he or she loses 2 points of Constitution instead of losing a Hit Die.

This Hit Die or Constitution loss cannot be repaired by any mortal means, even wish or miracle. A revived character can regain a lost Hit Die level by earning XP through further adventuring. A revived character who was 1st level at the time of death can regain lost points of Constitution by improving his or her Constitution score when he or she attains a level that allows an ability score increase.

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 caster attempting to revive it and may refuse to return on that basis.

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 that effect. Several other general rules apply when spells or magical effects operate in the same place:

Stacking Effects: Spells that provide bonuses or penalties on attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and other attributes usually do not stack with themselves. More generally, two bonuses of the same type don't stack even if they come from different spells (or from effects other than spells; see Bonus Types).

Different Bonus Names: The bonuses or penalties from two different spells stack if the modifiers are of different types. A bonus that isn't named stacks with any bonus.

Same Effect More than Once in Different Strengths: In cases when two or more identical spells are operating in the same area or on the same target, but at different strengths, they overlap (only the best one applies).

Same Effect with Differing Results: The same spell can sometimes produce varying effects if applied to the same recipient more than once. Usually 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. Both spells are still active, but one has rendered the other useless in some fashion.
Multiple Mental Control Effects: Sometimes magical effects that establish mental control render each other irrelevant, such as a spell that removes the subject's ability to act. Mental controls that don't remove the recipient's ability to act usually do not interfere with each other. 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 with opposite effects apply normally, with all bonuses, penalties, or changes accruing in the order that they apply. Some spells negate or counter each other. This is a special effect that is noted in a spell's description.

Instantaneous Effects: Two or more spells with instantaneous durations work cumulatively when they affect the same target.

Spell Descriptions

Spells (Word doc)

Arcane Magic

Divine Magic


Special Abilities

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