Before setting out on a dangerous journey with her companions, Mialee sits in her study and opens her spellbook. First she pages through it, selecting the spells that she thinks will be most useful on her adventure. When she has chosen the spells she wants (which could mean choosing the same spell more than once), she meditates on the pages that describe each one. The arcane symbols, which she has penned by hand, would be nonsense to anyone else, but they unlock power from her mind. As she concentrates, she all but finishes casting each spell that she prepares. Each spell now lacks only its final trigger. When she closes the book, her mind is full of spells, each of which she can complete at will in a brief time.

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.

Cutting across the categories of arcane and divine spells are the eight schools of magic. These schools represent the different ways that spells take effect. This chapter describes the differences between the eight schools of magic. In addition, it provides an overview of the spell description format, an extensive discussion of how spells work, information about what happens when magical effects combine, and an explanation of the differences between the kinds of special abilities, some of which are magical.

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.

How Does Spellcasting Work?

Spells operate in different ways depending on the type of spell you’re casting. Here are three basic examples.

Charm Person: Tordek is bullying some goblins into revealing the whereabouts of their camp when Mialee casts Charm Person on one of them. The DM rolls a Will saving throw for the goblin against Mialee’s save DC of 13 for her 1st-level spells, and the save fails. Mialee is a 1st-level wizard, so for the next hour the goblin regards her as his friend, and she gets the information out of him.

Summon Monster I: Lidda is fighting a hobgoblin, and Mialee casts Summon Monster I to conjure a celestial dog. She can have the dog materialize in any location that she can see within 25 feet. She chooses to have it materialize on the opposite side of the hobgoblin from Lidda. One round later, when Mialee is finished casting the spell, the dog appears. It attacks immediately and gets a +2 bonus on its attack roll because it is flanking the hobgoblin. On Lidda’s next turn, she makes a sneak attack against the hobgoblin and kills it. The dog disappears at the start of Mialee’s next turn because Summon Monster I lasts only 1 round for a 1st-level caster.

Burning Hands: Mialee wants to cast Burning Hands on some Small centipedes, and she wants to hit as many of them as she can. She moves to a spot that puts three centipedes within 15 feet of her, but none next to her, so they can’t attack her while she is casting casting. She chooses a direction and casts her spell. A cone of magical flame shoots out 15 feet, catching the three centipedes in its area. Mialee’s player rolls 1d4 to see how much damage each centipede takes and gets a result of 3. The DM makes a Reflex save (DC 13 for one of Mialee’s 1st-level spells) for each centipede, and only one succeeds. Two centipedes take 3 points of damage each and drop. The lucky one takes half damage (1 point) and survives.

Casting a spell can be a straightforward process, such as when Jozan casts Cure Light Wounds to remove some of the damage that Tordek has taken, or it can be complicated, such 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 the while avoiding the attacks of the nagas’ troglodyte servants.

Choosing A Spell

First you must choose which spell to cast. If you’re a cleric, druid, experienced paladin, experienced ranger, or wizard, you select from among spells prepared earlier in the day and not yet cast. If you’re a bard or sorcerer, you can select any spell you know, provided you are 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.

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, resist energy protects a creature from fire, cold, or other energy types. You choose when you cast the spell which energy type 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 spell level, but you can cast the same spell again if you haven’t reached your limit.


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 (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 the spell. If while trying to cast a spell you take damage, you must make a Concentration check (DC 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 when you 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 + 1/2 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 a spell with no saving throw, it’s the DC that the spell’s saving throw would have if a save were allowed.

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: You must make a Concentration check if you try to cast a spell in 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. In either case, 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 while you’re affected by a spell with similar effects (such as Entangle), you must make a DC 15 Concentration check 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 then 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 you 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 you can counter Reduce Person with Enlarge Person.

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 the spell description).

Caster Level

A spell’s power often depends on its caster level, which for most spellcasting characters is equal to your class level in the class you’re using to cast the spell. 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 you choose 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).

In the event that a class feature, domain granted power, or other special ability provides an adjustment to your caster level, that adjustment applies not only to effects based on caster level (such as range, duration, and damage dealt) but also to your caster level check to overcome your target’s spell resistance and to the caster level used in dispel checks (both the dispel check and the DC of the check). For instance, a 7th-level cleric with the Good domain casts spells with the good descriptor as if he were 8th level. This means that his Holy Smite deals 4d8 points of damage, he rolls 1d20+8 to overcome spell resistance with his good spells, and his Protection From Evil spell resists being dispelled as if it had been cast by an 8th-level spellcaster.

Spell Failure

If you ever try to cast a spell in conditions where the characteristics of the spell (range, area, or the like) cannot be made to conform, the casting fails and the spell is wasted. For example, if you cast Charm Person on a dog, the spell fails because a dog is the wrong sort of target for the spell.

Spells also fail if your concentration is broken and might fail if you’re wearing armor while casting a spell with somatic components.

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 were allowed), 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 and magical beasts. These terms, and terms like them, refer to specific creature types.

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 spell descriptions 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 considered 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 I and similar spells are not attacks because the spells themselves don’t harm anyone.

Bonus Types: Many spells give their subjects bonuses to ability scores, Armor Class, attacks, and other attributes. Usually, a 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 (bonus types are covered in detail in the Dungeon Master’s Guide). 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.

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 or her new (reduced) level and the minimum needed for the next one. If the character was 1st level at the time of death, he or she loses 2 points of Constitution instead of losing a level.

This level loss or Constitution loss cannot be repaired by any mortal means, even Wish or Miracle. A revived character can regain a lost 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 character attempting to revive it and may refuse to return on that basis. For example, if Alhandra the paladin is slain and 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 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. For example, two Bless spells don’t give twice the benefit 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 the 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; see Bonus Types, above). 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 not stack with the bonus you get from a Bull’s Strength spell.

Different Bonus Names: The bonuses or penalties from two different spells stack if the modifiers 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 on saves against spells cast by evil creatures. A character under the influence of spells 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 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, only the best one applies. For example, if a character takes a –4 penalty to Strength from a Ray Of Enfeeblement spell and then receives a second Ray Of Enfeeblement spell that applies a –6 penalty, he or she takes only the –6 penalty. Both spells are still operating on the character, however. If one Ray Of Enfeeblement spell is dispelled or its duration runs out, the other spell remains in effect, assuming that 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 her into a goldfish. The Shapechange spell is not negated, however, and since the Polymorph spell has no effect on the recipient’s special abilities, the wizard could use the Shapechange effect to take any form the spell allows whenever she desires. If a creature using a Shapechange effect becomes petrified by a Flesh To Stone spell, however, it turns into 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 subject 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 that goal. In this case, the Geas/Quest spell doesn’t negate Charm Person, but it does reduce 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 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. For example, when two Fireballs strike a same creature, the target must attempt a saving throw against each Fireball and takes damage from each according to the saving throws’ results. If a creature receives two Cure Light Wounds spells in a single round, both work normally.

Special Abilities

Medusas, dryads, harpies, and other magical creatures can create magical effects without being spellcasters. Characters using magic wands, rods, and other enchanted items, as well as certain class features, can also create magical effects. These effects come in two types: spell-like and supernatural. Additionally, members of certain classes and certain creatures can use special abilities that aren’t magical. These abilities are called extraordinary or natural.

Spell-Like Abilities: A dryad’s Charm Person effect and the Greater Teleport ability of many devils are spell-like abilities Usually, a spell-like ability works just like the spell of that name. A few spell-like abilities are unique; these are explained in the text where they are described.

A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus or have an XP cost. The user activates it mentally. Armor never affects a spell-like ability’s use, even if the ability resembles an arcane spell with a somatic component. A spell-like ability has a casting time of 1 standard action unless noted otherwise in the ability or spell description. In all other ways, a spell-like ability functions just like a spell.

Spell-like abilities are subject to spell resistance and to being dispelled by dispel magic. They do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated, such as an Antimagic Field. Spell-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.

Some creatures are actually sorcerers of a sort. They cast arcane spells as sorcerers do, using components when required. In fact, an individual creature (such as some dragons) could have some spell-like abilities and also cast other spells as a sorcerer.

Supernatural Abilities: A dragon’s fiery breath, a medusa’s petrifying gaze, a spectre’s energy drain, and a cleric’s use of positive or negative energy to turn or rebuke undead are supernatural abilities. These abilities cannot be disrupted in combat, as spells can, and they generally do not provoke attacks of opportunity. Supernatural abilities are not subject to spell resistance, counterspells, or to being dispelled by Dispel Magic, and do not function in areas where magic is suppressed or negated (such as an Antimagic Field).

Extraordinary Abilities: A rogue’s evasion ability and a troll’s ability to regenerate are extraordinary abilities. These abilities cannot be disrupted in combat, as spells can, and they generally do not provoke attacks of opportunity. Effects or areas that negate or disrupt magic have no effect on extraordinary abilities. They are not subject to dispelling, and they function normally in an Antimagic Field. Indeed, extraordinary abilities do not qualify as magical, though they may break the laws of physics.

Natural Abilities: This category includes abilities a creature has because of its physical nature, such as a bird’s ability to fly. Natural abilities are those not otherwise designated as extraordinary, supernatural, or spell-like.

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