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To cast a spell, the character 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, the character must concentrate to cast a spell—and it's hard to concentrate in the heat of battle. (See below for details.)

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

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

Spell Slots: The various character class tables show how many spells of each level a character can cast per day. The character always has the option to fill a higher-level spell slot with a lower-level spell.

Casting Time

The character 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 the character's turn in the round after the character began casting the spell. The character then acts normally after the spell is completed. A spell that takes 1 minute to cast comes into effect just before the character's turn 1 minute later (and for each of those 10 rounds, the character is casting a spell as a full-round action).

The character must make all pertinent decisions about a spell (range, target, area, effect, version, etc.) when the character begins casting.


A spell's range indicates how far from the character it can reach, as defined on the Range line of the spell description. A spell's range is the maximum distance from the character that the spell's effect can occur, as well as the maximum distance at which the character 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 the character.
Touch: The character must touch a creature or object to affect it.
Close: The spell can reach up to 25 feet away from the character. The maximum range increases by 5 feet for every two full caster levels.
Medium: The spell can reach up to 100 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

The character 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 have a target or targets. the character casts these spells directly on creatures or objects, as defined by the spell itself. The character must be able to see or touch the target, and the character must specifically choose that target. However, the character does not have to select the character's target until the moment the character finishes casting the spell.

If the character casts 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 the character ("Target: the character"), the character does 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 create or summon things rather than affecting things that are already present. The character must designate the location where these things are to appear, either by seeing it or defining it. Range determines how far away an effect can appear, but if the effect is mobile it can move regardless of the spell's range.

Ray: Some effects are rays. The character aims a ray as if using a ranged weapon, though typically the character makes a ranged touch attack rather than a normal ranged attack. As with a ranged weapon, The character can fire into the dark or at an invisible creature and hope the character hit something. The character doesn't have to see the creature he or she is trying to hit, as the character does with a targeted spell. Intervening creatures and obstacles, however, can block the character's line of sight or provide cover for the creature the character is 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 the character can't see. Figure distance by actual distance traveled, taking into account turns the spell effect takes.

The character must designate the point of origin for such an effect but need not have line of effect to all portions of the effect.

Area: Some spells affect an area. The character selects where the spell starts, but otherwise the character doesn'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, the character selects the spell's point of origin. The spell bursts out from this point, affecting whatever it catches in its area. A burst spell has a radius that indicates how far from the point of origin the spell's effect extends.

Cone: When the character casts a spell with a cone area, the cone shoots away from the character in the direction the character designates. A cone starts as a point directly before the character, and it widens out as it goes. A cone's width at a given distance from the character 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.)

Creatures: Some spells affect creatures directly (like a targeted spell), but they affect creatures in an area of some kind rather than individual creatures the character selects. The area might be a burst, a cone, or some other shape.

Many spells affect "living creatures," which means all creatures other than constructs and undead. If a spell has a limited amount of targets it can effect, it will ignore those that it cannot effect.

Cylinder: As with a burst, the character selects 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.

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 the character selects (as above, but affecting objects instead of creatures).

Spread: Some spells spread out like a burst but can turn corners. the character selects 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 takes.

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

(S) Shapeable: If an Area or Effect entry ends with "(S)," the character 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 it's not blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight.

The character must have a clear line of effect to any target that the character casts a spell on or to any space in which the character wishes to create an effect. The character must have a clear line of effect to the point of origin of any spell the character casts. 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 affected 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 the character's spell has a DC of 10 + the level of the spell + the character's bonus for the relevant ability. A spell's level can vary depending on the character's class. Always use the spell level applicable to the character's 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. Likewise, if a creature's saving throw succeeds against a targeted spell, the character senses that the spell has failed. The character does not sense when creatures succeed at saving throws against effect and area spells.

Voluntarily Giving Up a Saving Throw: A creature can voluntarily forego a saving throw and willingly accept a spell's result. Even a character with a special resistance to magic 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. If 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 Table: Items Affected by Magical Attacks 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 whatever damage the attack deals.

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.

Items Affected by Magical Attacks
Order* Item
1st Shield
2nd Armor
3rd Magic helmet
4th Item in hand (including weapon, wand, etc.)
5th Magic cloak
6th Stowed or sheathed weapon
7th Magic bracers
8th Magic clothing
9th Magic jewelry (including rings)
10th Anything else
*In order of most likely to least likely to be affected.

Spell Resistance

Spell resistance is a special defensive ability. If the character's spell is being resisted by a creature with spell resistance, the character 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.

The defender's spell resistance rating is like an AC against magical attacks.

The Spell Resistance line and descriptive text of a spell tell the character 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 the character knows which creatures (or objects or areas) are affected, and whether those creatures have made successful saving throws (if any), the character can apply whatever results a spell entails.

Many spells affect particular sorts of creatures. These terms, and terms like them, refer to specific creature types that are defined by these rules.


Once the character has determined who's affected and how, the character needs to know for how long. A spell's Duration line tells the character 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 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.

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

Concentration: The spell lasts as long as the character concentrates on it. Concentrating to maintain a spell is a standard action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity.

Anything that could break the character's concentration when casting a spell can also break the character's concentration while the character is maintaining one, causing the spell to end (see Concentration, below). The character can't cast a spell while concentrating on another one. Sometimes a spell lasts for a short time after the character ceases concentrating. In these cases, the spell keeps going for the stated length of time after the character stops concentrating. Otherwise, the character must concentrate to maintain the spell, but the character can't maintain it for more than a stated duration in any event.

Subjects, Effects, and Areas: If the spell affects creatures directly, 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 or remain still. Such effects can be destroyed prior to when their durations end. If the spell affects an area, 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 the character doesn't discharge a touch spell on the round the character casts the spell, the character can hold the discharge of the spell (hold the charge) indefinitely.

The character can make touch attacks round after round. The character can touch one friend (or the character can touch his or her self) as a standard action or up to six friends as a full-round action. If the character touches anything with the character's hand while holding a charge, the spell discharges. If the character casts another spell, the touch spell dissipates.

Discharge: A few spells last for a set duration or until triggered or discharged.

(D): If the Duration line ends with "(D)," the character can dismiss the spell at will. The character 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, the character dismisses 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 the character has to do to end the spell is to stop concentrating).


A spell's Components line includes abbreviations that tell the character what type of components it has. Specifics for material, focus, and XP components are given at the end of the descriptive text. Usually the character doesn't worry about components, but when the character 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, the character 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. the character 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 the character has all components needed as long as the character has a 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 the character's 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 entail an experience point (XP) cost to the character. No spell, not even restoration, can restore the lost XP. The character cannot spend so much XP that the character loses a level, so the character cannot cast the spell unless the character has enough XP to spare. However, the character 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 the character casts the spell, whether or not the casting succeeds.


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

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

If the character is taking continuous damage, half the damage is considered to take place while the character is casting a spell. the character must make a Concentration check (DC 10 + one-half the damage that the continuous source last dealt + the level of the spell the character is 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 character. Repeated damage, does not count as continuous damage.

Spell: If the character is affected by a spell while attempting to cast a spell, the character must make a Concentration check or lose the spell being cast. If the spell affecting the character deals damage, the DC of the Concentration check is 10 + points of damage + the level of the spell the character is casting. If the spell interferes with the character or distracts the character in some other way, the DC is the spell's saving throw DC + the level of the spell the character is 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 the character can cast while grappling or pinned are those without somatic components and whose material components (if any) the character has in hand. Even so, the character must make a Concentration check (DC 20 + the level of the spell the character is casting) or lose the spell.

Vigorous Motion: If the character 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, the character must make a Concentration check (DC 10 + the level of the spell the character is casting) or lose the spell.

Violent Motion: If the character 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, the character must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + the level of the spell the character is casting) or lose the spell.

Violent Weather: If the character is in a high wind carrying blinding rain or sleet, the DC is 5 + the level of the spell the character is casting. If the character is in wind-driven hail, dust, or debris, the DC is 10 + the level of the spell the character is casting. The character loses the spell if the character fails the Concentration check. If the weather is caused by a spell, use the rules in the Spell subsection above.

Casting Defensively: If the character wants to cast a spell without provoking any attacks of opportunity, the character needs to dodge and weave. The character must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + the level of the spell the character is casting) to succeed. The character loses the spell if the character fails.

Entangled: If the character wants to cast a spell while entangled, the character must make a Concentration check (DC 15) to cast the spell. the character loses the spell if the character fails.


It is possible to cast any spell as a counterspell. By doing so, the character 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 character must select an opponent as the target of the counterspell. the character does this by choosing the ready action. In doing so, the character elects to wait to complete his or her action until the character's opponent tries to cast a spell. (The character may still move at normal speed, since ready is a standard action.)

If the target of the character's 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, the character correctly identifies the opponent's spell and can attempt to counter it. (If the check fails, the character can't do either of these things.)

To complete the action, the character must cast the correct spell. As a general rule, a spell can only counter itself. If the character is able to cast the same spell and has it prepared (if the character prepares spells), the character casts 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.

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

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

Caster Level

A spell's power often depends on its caster level, which is generally equal to the character's class level. The character can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level must be high enough for the character to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level.

Spell failure

If the character ever tries 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.

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

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. Certain other special spell features are found across spell schools. 

Attacks: Some spells refer to attacking. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

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. The spell fails if the target cannot understand the language being spoken by the caster.

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. 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 or her 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.

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.

More generally, two bonuses of the same type don't stack even if they come from different spells (or from effects other than spells). The character uses whichever bonus gives the character the better Strength score.

Different Bonus Names: The bonuses or penalties from two different spells do stack, however, if the effects are of different types.

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.

Same Effect with Differing Results: The same spell can sometimes produce varying effects if applied to the same recipient more than once. 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.

Multiple Mental Control Effects: Sometimes magical effects that establish mental control render each other irrelevant. 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 that have opposite effects apply normally, with all bonuses, penalties, or changes accruing in the order that they apply. Some spells negate or counter each other completely. 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.