Kobold Press

Ask the Kobold: New Saves and Line of Effect

Skip WilliamsQ: Does a suggestion spell leave the subject any way to evade the spell’s effect? Once the subject fails the save, the spell works continuously and the subject seems to have little recourse. In a recent session, a player character gave an opponent (an active combatant in an encounter) a suggestion to “stand still and don’t move!” I gave the enemy a new save whenever the party attacked or tried to attack, and the opponent finally made the save. Anyway, this seems overpowered for a fairly low-level spell…

Once it affects a subject, a suggestion spell does not allow the subject a save to throw off the effects as some other enchantment spells (such as dominate person) do. As with any lower-level enchantment spell, however, there are some pretty strict limits on what you can do with a suggestion spell.

A suggestion allows you to prompt the subject to follow some simple course of action that seems reasonable to the subject at the time you cast the spell. Standing still in the middle of the battle is a tad beyond reasonable. I suppose a suggestion to “hold your ground” might work in a battle, but the subject can do that just by staying in an area; the subject could otherwise fight on unhindered.

A suggestion spell also has a variable duration: 1 hour/level or until completed. Once the subject completes the action you’ve prompted, the spell ends. In the case of “hold your ground” that’s probably one round of combat. Of course, you could set some end condition, such as “hold your ground until all the enemy is defeated.” On the other hand, a subject following such a suggestion probably won’t be too restricted when it comes to actions. The subject likely would remain in the general location where the spell was cast, neither retreating from it nor advancing out of it (but free to move around in it) until all the subject’s foes fall in battle or retreat.

Q: The deathwatch spell allows you to sense the status of all nearby creatures. The spell description says emanation so is it blocked by a sheet of glass? Should I also assume that it requires line of sight? If it does require line of sight, can a rogue hiding in the shadows stay undetected? This seems like it could be an extremely powerful spell depending on the interpretation.

A deathwatch spell creates a cone-shaped emanation, 30 ft. long. As with any emanation spell, the effect continually radiates from the spell’s point of origin (in this case, the spellcaster). The spell must have of line of effect (not line of sight) to any creature whose status it reveals; the emanation does not extend anywhere line of effect is blocked. (See below for comments regarding line of effect.)

If you can see or touch a creature within the emanation, you know its status. If you cannot see or touch a creature, all you know is that creature’s status. You don’t know where it is. If there are several unseen, untouched creatures in the emanation, you know each creature’s status, but not which status goes with which creature.

What’s Line of Effect?

Nearly all spells require a clear line between the spell’s caster and the spell’s point of origin, and between the point of origin and any place where the spell’s effects extend. Often, the caster and the point of origin are the same.

Line of effect and line of sight are very similar; both are straight lines, traced from one grid intersection to another. It takes a solid barrier to block line of effect, whereas anything that obscures vision blocks line of sight. It’s possible for a barrier to block one and not the other. For example, a pane of clear glass won’t block line of sight (because you can see through it) but it will block line of effect (because it’s solid).

A solid barrier with a hole of at least 1 ft. square through it does not block a line of effect. In general, a barrier must be an object that fills a square on the battlefield or runs along the edge of a square. A creature generally does not block line of effect (because it will not completely fill a space).

To determine if line of effect is blocked, locate the point where the spell is cast, which must be an intersection on the grid; the point can be a grid intersection of any square the caster occupies. Most GMs that I know require you to pick a grid intersection along the outer edge of the space the caster occupies and trace a straight line to the place where the spell is aimed. This can be another grid intersection (in the case of an area spell) or a creature or object (in the case of a spell with a target). If the caster aims the spell at a target, trace a line of effect to any grid intersection in the space the target occupies.

If you cannot trace any line from the caster to the target or aiming point without passing through a solid barrier, line of effect is blocked. The spellcaster is allowed the try different combinations of casting points and aiming points to find an unbroken line of effect.

When tracing line of effect from a spell’s point of origin to any place inside the spell’s potential area, use the same process, except that the spell’s point of origin can’t change once the caster chooses it.

Q: Does a suggestion spell leave the subject any way to evade the spell’s effect? Once the subject fails the save, the spell works continuously and the subject seems to have little recourse. In a recent session, a player character gave an opponent (an active combatant in an encounter) a suggestion to “stand still and don’t move!” I gave the enemy a new save whenever the party attacked or tried to attack, and the opponent finally made the save. Anyway, this seems overpowered for a fairly low-level spell.

Once it affects a subject, a suggestion spell does not allow the subject a save to throw off the effects as some other enchantment spells (such as dominate person) do. As with any lower-level enchantment spell, however, there are some pretty strict limits on what you can do with a suggestion spell.

A suggestion allows you to prompt the subject to follow some simple course of action that seems reasonable to the subject at the time you cast the spell. Standing still in the middle of the battle is a tad beyond reasonable. I suppose a suggestion to “hold your ground” might work in a battle, but the subject can do that just by staying in an area; the subject could otherwise fight on unhindered.

A suggestion spell also has a variable duration: 1 hour/level or until completed. Once the subject completes the action you’ve prompted, the spell ends. In the case of “hold your ground” that’s probably one round of combat. Of course, you could set some end condition, such as “hold your ground until all the enemy is defeated.” On the other hand, a subject following such a suggestion probably won’t be too restricted when it comes to actions. The subject likely would remain in the general location where the spell was cast, neither retreating from it nor advancing out of it (but free to move around in it) until all the subject’s foes fall in battle or retreat.

Q: The deathwatch spell allows you to sense the status of all nearby creatures. The spell description says emanation so is it blocked by a sheet of glass? Should I also assume that it requires line of sight? If it does require line of sight, can a rogue hiding in the shadows stay undetected? This seems like it could be an extremely powerful spell depending on the interpretation.

A deathwatch spell creates a cone-shaped emanation, 30 ft. long. As with any emanation spell, the effect continually radiates from the spell’s point of origin (in this case, the spellcaster). The spell must have of line of effect (not line of sight) to any creature whose status it reveals; the emanation does not extend anywhere line of effect is blocked. (See below for comments regarding line of effect.)

If you can see or touch a creature within the emanation, you know its status. If you cannot see or touch a creature, all you know is that creature’s status. You don’t know where it is. If there are several unseen, untouched creatures in the emanation, you know each creature’s status, but not which status goes with which creature.

What’s Line of Effect?

Nearly all spells require a clear line between the spell’s caster and the spell’s point of origin, and between the point of origin and any place where the spell’s effects extend. Often, the caster and the point of origin are the same.

Line of effect and line of sight are very similar; both are straight lines, traced from one grid intersection to another. It takes a solid barrier to block line of effect, whereas anything that obscures vision blocks line of sight. It’s possible for a barrier to block one and not the other. For example, a pane of clear glass won’t block line of sight (because you can see through it) but it will block line of effect (because it’s solid).

A solid barrier with a hole of at least 1 ft. square through it does not block a line of effect. In general, a barrier must be an object that fills a square on the battlefield or runs along the edge of a square. A creature generally does not block line of effect (because it will not completely fill a space).

To determine if line of effect is blocked, locate the point where the spell is cast, which must be an intersection on the grid; the point can be a grid intersection of any square the caster occupies. Most GMs that I know require you to pick a grid intersection along the outer edge of the space the caster occupies and trace a straight line to the place where the spell is aimed. This can be another grid intersection (in the case of an area spell) or a creature or object (in the case of a spell with a target). If the caster aims the spell at a target, trace a line of effect to any grid intersection in the space the target occupies.

If you cannot trace any line from the caster to the target or aiming point without passing through a solid barrier, line of effect is blocked. The spellcaster is allowed the try different combinations of casting points and aiming points to find an unbroken line of effect.

When tracing line of effect from a spell’s point of origin to any place inside the spell’s potential area, use the same process, except that the spell’s point of origin can’t change once the caster chooses it.

2 Replies to "Ask the Kobold: New Saves and Line of Effect"

Gabriel

May 20, 2010 at 9:13pm

Thanks for the recap on Line of Effect, reminded me of a few things my players were trying to abuse that don’t work.

azhrei_fje

May 29, 2010 at 9:32pm

Thanks, Skip!

I’m particularly appreciative of the _deathward_ discussion. I have players who want to use it as _detect creature_, _detect undead_, and so on. :-/

I’m still curious about the _wall of fire_ discussion in the Ask The Kobold thread and the graphic that Wolfgang said might make it into print…