Flaming Sphere & Invisibility effects

GlassEye

Community Supporter
Simply, does directing a Flaming Sphere into a square occupied by an opponent count as an attack with regard to negating one's own invisibility?
 

Systole

Community Supporter
From this thread: http://paizo.com/forums/dmtz2d5l&page=1?Flaming-Sphere-and-Invisibility

I don't see whats so hard here. Part of the reason for invis dropping is game balance. [...] Creating a rock floating above someones head and then letting gravity take over is CLEARLY an intent to attack and cause damage to someone. That would drop your invis just as if you had created a rock and then picked it up and threw it. Same as cutting a rope to drop an anvil. You are targeting someone directly waiting for the correct time to cut the rope. An attack role will be made against your intended target. Sounds like an attack to me.
The wording is ambiguous, and people have been arguing over it for years now. Is this indirect harm, or an attack? It seems to me that sending your big fiery ball of death at someone is a hostile act that would cause the Invis to drop. I would go with Rule Zero on this one.
 
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From this thread: paizo.com - Rules Questions: Flaming Sphere and Invisibility



The wording is ambiguous, and people have been arguing over it for years now. Is this indirect harm, or an attack? It seems to me that sending your big fiery ball of death at someone is a hostile act that would cause the Invis to drop. I would go with Rule Zero on this one.
Interesting reasoning in the quote you used, but I don't quite agree with that person's reasoning, as it would make summoning a creature also cause to drop invisibility, since there is little difference between cutting a rope to drop an anvil and calling a creature to do your dirty work for you. I'd personally be inclined to put flaming sphere on the same side as summoned creatures; you personally aren't directly interacting with the foe, but rather the creature/sphere. The other examples given in the person's example would have to be on a case by case basis.
 
Caveat: my opinion
A flaming sphere breaks invisibility. "The sphere moves as long as you actively direct it (a move action for you); otherwise, it merely stays at rest and burns." Therefore, it is an active action to control it.

A summoned monster is not an active action to direct it, necessarily. You can be at zero HP, summon an elemental, and then drop unconscious from the stress of casting. Because you didn't give it a different command, the elemental then takes it upon himself to move and attack that which he believes to have been your opponent. *It is hand waved that he does know who are your allies and who are your opponents, same as a bless spell knows.

Applying that to the sphere, since if you fell unconscious, the sphere could not attack, it is considered a directed attack by you, which breaks the invisibility. And if you don't like that logic, "rolls in whichever direction you point" pretty much says the sphere has to see you pointing somewhere for it do go do its work. :p

As to the "cutting a rope to drop an anvil" argument, well, again, that is kind of hard to do while unconscious, so I would call that an active attack as well.
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
I'm with Systole and SK on this one. Cutting the rope and directing the sphere both require active intervention on the part of the PC. Summoned creatures have a level of self direction that distinguishes them from the other two examples.

To clarify: My "vote" is that Flaming Sphere (and any other spell effect that requires active direction to cause harm) breaks invisibility.
 

jkason

Visitor
I'm with Systole and SK on this one. Cutting the rope and directing the sphere both require active intervention on the part of the PC. Summoned creatures have a level of self direction that distinguishes them from the other two examples.

To clarify: My "vote" is that Flaming Sphere (and any other spell effect that requires active direction to cause harm) breaks invisibility.
If the comparable act is cutting a rope, then we're missing this part of the spell description:

Thus, an invisible being can open doors, talk, eat, climb stairs, summon monsters and have them attack, cut the ropes holding a rope bridge while enemies are on the bridge, remotely trigger traps, open a portcullis to release attack dogs, and so forth.
Emphasis mine. The spell explicitly says that cutting a rope to cause something to fall that hurts your enemy, or even triggering a trap you set, are NOT direct attacks, and you get to stay invisible. Didn't want my confusion on the rules to inadvertently make invisibility less useful than normal. :)

Of course, neither of those acts are spells. I'd been thinking along the lines of what SS21 was saying, that the sphere was effectively a burning summons in the round after it's cast. In my head, at least, 'spell attack' involved the area and effect as you cast it. My thought was: casting the spell while invisible would break invisibility, but going invisible after casting it and only directing it wouldn't.

Mind you, SK makes a perfectly valid point vis-a-vis other summons' ability to act independently. I think that's the distinction I was looking for to explain why Flaming Ball Summons was different than Lantern Archon Summons as regards invisibility, and given that it seems reasonably consistent to treat Flaming Sphere directed into an occupied square as an attack for purposes of removing invisibility.

Secondary question, though: Flaming Sphere doesn't need a target to move. Does directing it to move in a direction where you have no way of knowing if it will encounter another creature constitute an attack? If Nathan can't see what's standing in the line of the flaming sphere (due to a darkness effect or the other creature being invisible), is he attacking when he randomly guesses a direction? If so, is he also attacking if he randomly selects a direction and guesses wrong (he's hoping to hit someone, but no one's there)?

I suspect it's probably simpler to flatten things out and say 'if you hurt something with flamey, it's an attack,' but since we have the discussion going, I'm curious. :)
 
My personal opinion is if you're going to start splitting hairs at that level, you may as well tell players that any action they take beside moving is going to break invisibility and get rid of the spell entirely. The nuance of whether you have to move it or if it moves on it's own is simply asking for even more headaches by adding even more corner cases that you then have to deal with with increasingly silly and flimsy reasoning. Especially since I don't see how a magic spell is going to be able to tell friend from foe, it's just not worth the hassle even if it is probably technically correct from a strict rules standpoint. Illusion spells are supposed to require creativity to use, and a ruling like that simply tells people to skip them entirely.
 
Sorry if I seem annoyed, but after reading the linked thread, I think that if people have that much problem with invisibility, they need to just ban it from the game and be done with it. There was way too passive aggressive "reasons" for why it doesn't work for this and it doesn't work for that. I'm at a point with spells like that that if as a DM you' don't want to deal with them, ban them outright and save everyone the headaches; that passive aggressive bs and splitting hairs about the precise terminology of the precise wording used doesn't help anyone.
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
Sorry, SS, but I don't really see my reasoning as splitting hairs. And it fits within the logic presented by jkason as well.

If my character cuts a rope in order to drop an anvil on a foe's head, that's the same thing as swinging a sword to hit that foe, or throwing a rock. He's using a tool to directly harm someone, and he has to make an attack roll using his own abilities/BAB/whatever.

If he directs an already present sphere of flame to roll over a foe, that's the same as summoning a sphere of flame (a fireball) to fill the space inhabited by the foe. In both of those cases, the originator of the action is using a tool to try to cause direct harm to someone else. The thing doing the harming is in the direct control of the person who wants to do that harm. To say otherwise would mean that casting Fireball doesn't break invisibility - after all, he's simply summoning a great heaping mass of flame that happens to be in the same space as that occupied by his enemies. That's not an attack, right? (Now I'm splitting hairs . . . :D)

If he cuts the ropes to drop a bridge - and all of the foes upon it - he's not using a tool to cause direct harm because in that case, it's not the tool that's causing the harm, it's the fall. If he summons a monster to attack, it's the monster that does the attacking. Yes, it's at his direction, but it's still the monster that's attacking. He's not swinging anything, he's not trying to hit anyone on the head with an anvil, throwing a rock, trying to hit anyone with a rolling ball of flame. It's the monster trying to do the hitting. To say otherwise leads to the reasoning that if my PC makes an Iron Golem, and then the Iron Golem attacks someone who enters the room he set it to guard (with specific instructions that the Golem attack anyone who entered the room), the PC's invisibility is broken even if he's a hundred miles away.

In the case of a trap it's a little more blurry, but to my way of thinking the distinction is still clear. Although my PC triggers the trap, once it's triggered it's no longer under his control, and any attacks made use the traps stats, not my PCs.

So it looks to me like if an attack is made, and that attack directly uses the originating character's stats and abilities for resolution, it breaks invisibility.

OK, maybe it is splitting hairs :D. But at some point, somewhere, there has to be a line drawn. I haven't read the discussions on the Paizo boards, but it seems like on this issue there will always be debate about just where that line is and discussion is the only way to make that decision. The folks who are in favor of making invisibility more powerful do just as much hair splitting as those who want it limited.

And banning invisibility works for home games, but in a shared world that's not really an option.
 
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Systole

Community Supporter
We're basically arguing about the Three Laws of Robotics. And Asimov himself wrote a story about how flawed the damn things are. Whether directing a Flaming Sphere counts as a hostile action or whether it counts as indirectly causing harm can be argued either way. In the event where the wording sucks, it comes down to a judgment call.

My feeling is, sending your fiery ball of flaming death at someone is sufficiently hostile to warrant breaking invisibility. But if you want to rule it the other way, I could really give a rat's ass. It's not game breaking either way. And I'm speaking as someone who spent four pages arguing about a +1 trait bonus to Perception.
 
Your reasoning on this particular instance isn't all that much of a stretch, even if I don't personally agree with it, but some of the folks on the other thread never let up even when presented with other scenarios with other edge spells. Every single time, they insisted that one must follow the absolute literal reading of the spell, which has problems of it's own, such as how to explain how the spell is supposed to recognize between friend and foe that finely. That is the part that annoyed me, and the reason I tend to dislike the path that using your logic sets up. It's not bad in and of itself, but it tends to lead either to further headaches as each side is forced to cut the edge thinner and thinner or everyone ignoring large chunks of the rulebook because no one can agree on how to interpret them, and it's easier simply not to deal with it. Whereas grouping Flaming Sphere with the other summons does nothing to add to the overall power of either spell (or if it does, let's face it, Flaming Sphere tends to need it), stays within the intent of the spell, and provides a more compromise friendly solution, even if it isn't the absolutely technically accurate one by RAW. Neither solution is better in the immediate instance, but one does better of keeping long term peace on terms that both player and DM can agree on.
 

Scott DeWar

Prof. Emeritus-Supernatural Events/Countermeasure
possible resolution

We may need our own LPF house rule on these situations on a case by case review.

This one my require an addm to this spell stating [as an example only] where casting this spell will most certainly dispel invisibility, but not greater invisibility, directing it by a caster who went invisible after casting it [will not / will] dispel invisibility.

thoughts?
 

GlassEye

Community Supporter
Wow, I had no idea this was such a contentious topic. I appreciate all the discussion so far. I admit I was expecting a much simpler 'This is the rule' sort of response rather than a debate that has no clear answer. Personally, I'm ok with leaving the ultimate answer up to the DM and player using the effects to work out. I think having to rule/notate spell effects such as SDW has suggested would get too unwieldy fairly quickly.
 
I must admit that I probably wouldn't be as concerned if I didn't have a wizard that is likely going to have to depend on invisibility a fair bit to survive. With no AC and limited HP, it's one of the wizard's primary defenses against both magic and mundane attacks. Trying to tell a player that he can either defend himself but be largely useless to the rest of the party unless he wants to spend all his time buffing or actually help the party in combat by dealing with foes while leaving himself open for a counter attack is not going to go over well. Asking a fighter to make that decision would never even considered, but defining an attack that widely is going to do precisely that for a wizard or anyone else who relies on invisibility to be effective. Yes, there are other defenses, but invisibility is one of the few that breaks up both line of sight and effect for direct target spells while also protecting against regular attacks, so any ruling that limits the usefulness of invisibility limits the number of safe, but still useful, actions considerably. In the end, it's not the ruling of the immediate case that bothers me, it's the logic that is used, which can be problematic at higher levels, when the wizard really does need that for defense just to maintain basic usefulness.
 

GlassEye

Community Supporter
There is a lot that can be done to lessen the viability of invisibility: See Invisibility, Invisibility Purge (both low level spells that aren't unreasonably expensive as wands), for example. For the non-magical a simple bag of flour will help find the invisible creature. A high Perception skill helps pinpoint the location (made easier if the caster casts spells with verbal components). At higher levels a spellcaster should graduate to Greater Invisibility and not worry about breaking invisibility when casting spells. Invisibility is good but I wouldn't base my entire defense on it.
 
There is a lot that can be done to lessen the viability of invisibility: See Invisibility, Invisibility Purge (both low level spells that aren't unreasonably expensive as wands), for example. For the non-magical a simple bag of flour will help find the invisible creature. A high Perception skill helps pinpoint the location (made easier if the caster casts spells with verbal components). At higher levels a spellcaster should graduate to Greater Invisibility and not worry about breaking invisibility when casting spells. Invisibility is good but I wouldn't base my entire defense on it.
I never said it would be the only defense, but as one of the few that can seriously hinder any direct attack, magic or mundane, it is certainly an important one. Greater Invisibility is great in immediate combat, but not for much else; it's duration and the same casting time means that often regular invisibility is still a better overall choice for those not wanting to directly attack their foes. The fact that there are enough other ways to counter invisibility without having to make a ruling that a spell effect can break invisibility even in rounds after it's been cast, especially when combined with an extremely broad definition of what constitutes an attack, makes the particular logic here just seems a bit too much for me personally. It's no one aspect, but rather, the whole effect, both short term and long term, that is just a little bit too much of a power play on the DM's side; there are better tools to limit invisibility that have much less collateral issues.
 

jkason

Visitor
Wow, I had no idea this was such a contentious topic.
Neither did I, or I'd probably not have asked over in the original game thread. I just thought it was a slightly odd case.

I have a couple of thoughts that I think might help (and possibly, keep in mind that I'm about to argue against my own character's power curve for whatever that's worth :) ). Let's see if I can articulate them well enough:

First, I think it's probably a good idea to discuss the conditions of 'mundane attack' versus 'spell attack' separately, since I do think the invisibility spell tries to break out what constitutes an "attacking spell" on its own. To that end, let me tackle this real quick:

If my character cuts a rope in order to drop an anvil on a foe's head, that's the same thing as swinging a sword to hit that foe, or throwing a rock. He's using a tool to directly harm someone, and he has to make an attack roll using his own abilities/BAB/whatever.

<snip>

In the case of a trap it's a little more blurry, but to my way of thinking the distinction is still clear. Although my PC triggers the trap, once it's triggered it's no longer under his control, and any attacks made use the traps stats, not my PCs.
I do think it gets really muddy if you say 'cut the rope on your anvil' is an attack, but 'push the button on your spiked wall trap' isn't. Since, really, an anvil hanging by a rope seems like a trap to me. A really simple, obvious trap, but a trap nonetheless. I'm a little hard pressed to see something other than semantics separating the act of cutting a rope to send your enemies into the ground and cutting a rope to send a large piece of ground into your enemies. I think cutting that rope falls under the same logic that the trap does. To my mind, for mundane attacks only, the rule seems to be: is the invisible character providing the direct force behind the attack? Yes = invisibility goes buh-bye. Throwing rocks, knives, arrows, or swinging fists, swords, or really hard peanut brittle are all attacks. Using gravity, springs, cogs, etc which you incite by your action to in turn provide damage through another means don't. i.e., if there's a step between you and the damaging factor, you're still invisible. In the mundane world, that's enough to filter off the 'hostile energy' that makes invisibility cranky.

If we say that, I can only think of one real hair-split condition: what's the difference between cutting the rope and holding the rock in your hands when you let it drop? And even then, I think the fact that the damaging object was in direct contact with your hands prior to its assault makes for some reasonably consistent logic (for a value of logic where 'magic that gets mad when you attack' is a given).

Now, ignore all the mundane arguments when it comes to spells. Spells have / break special rules, so I think looking at them separately is probably a much safer option. And I think we can use their special rules / categorizations to draw what might be a reasonable line at least as far as this spell is concerned. Sure, a spongy fire ball that rolls around for several rounds bears a decent resemblance to, say, a summoned fire elemental. Both move against your foes and set them ablaze if you want them to.

However, Flaming Sphere isn't a Conjuration (summoning) spell. That very narrow school / subschool combo appears to have its own special 'pass' when it comes to whatever magical aggression instability is inherent in Invisibility and Vanish. It's probably safest just to say 'Conjuration (summoning) excluded' when you start the discussion, I think, for that reason.

Flaming sphere, on the other hand, is an Evocation [energy type]. We should pick something in its school to compare it to, instead, I think. I realized Call Lightning makes a good example: You cast it once, but then you can use it to move electricity about over several rounds and hurt people / damage objects. It doesn't roll about like a Flaming Sphere, but I think it's a reasonable approximation, and it's Evocation [energy type], as well. I don't think anyone would argue calling a lightning bolt in subsequent rounds is a clear attack. I think the only difference, then, is that the flaming sphere is moving horizontal instead of vertical. And without the special hall pass of a specialized school / subschool, that means it breaks your invisibility if the damage you're doing is to a creature.

Gah. I hope that made a modicum of sense.
 
Sure, a spongy fire ball that rolls around for several rounds bears a decent resemblance to, say, a summoned fire elemental. Both move against your foes and set them ablaze if you want them to.

However, Flaming Sphere isn't a Conjuration (summoning) spell. That very narrow school / subschool combo appears to have its own special 'pass' when it comes to whatever magical aggression instability is inherent in Invisibility and Vanish. It's probably safest just to say 'Conjuration (summoning) excluded' when you start the discussion, I think, for that reason.

Flaming sphere, on the other hand, is an Evocation [energy type]. We should pick something in its school to compare it to, instead, I think. I realized Call Lightning makes a good example: You cast it once, but then you can use it to move electricity about over several rounds and hurt people / damage objects. It doesn't roll about like a Flaming Sphere, but I think it's a reasonable approximation, and it's Evocation [energy type], as well. I don't think anyone would argue calling a lightning bolt in subsequent rounds is a clear attack. I think the only difference, then, is that the flaming sphere is moving horizontal instead of vertical. And without the special hall pass of a specialized school / subschool, that means it breaks your invisibility if the damage you're doing is to a creature.

Gah. I hope that made a modicum of sense.
That seems to the hangup. Some people see the flaming sphere in that light. Others, like myself, see it fitting much better fitting with fitting in with the summon spells. Once it's there, it's there for the duration as a solid object, unlike your example of Call Lightning, where the lightning bolt only exists from the time you call it to the time it hits the target. Second, I really fail to see how any movement occurs to be a factor; Whether you move it yourself, or the animal moves under his own power after you tell it where to go, the end result and the intent is the exact same. Same difficulties with the other examples they specifically call out. If you want to go by intent, than summon spells or cutting the rope on a bridge shouldn't count any different than a flaming sphere should, or as another example, spiritual weapon. In all cases, the force that is providing the damage is coming from something clear and distinct from the caster; the caster did an action to put bring that force into play, either by cutting the rope, or by casting a spell, or even moving an otherwise inanimate object around, but the caster is not the source of the damage in any of those examples; the object or animal is.

I think that your understanding of what counts for mundane purposes still matters greatly for spells. Personally I find that trying to treat magic and mundane as automatically different in all cases is a trap that causes most of the headaches people have with magic. Unless an individual spell/subschool specifically calls out something different, as far I'm concerned, it still follows the same rules as any mundane source.

Using the direct vs indirect comparison seems very much to be the intent of the invisibility spell, even if some of the wording is a bit ambiguous on that point, at least by my reading; I could care less about what constitutes an attack and what doesn't because the intent in almost all cases is the same - defeat the enemy. Regular invisibility is for indirect actions, and moving a large spongy ball of flame around is still indirect; greater invisibility is for direct actions. For those simply wanting to get into a advantageous position, and not needing the invisibility for anything else, Vanish lasts long enough to serve that purpose, and uses a lower spell slot to boot.

I approach spells as looking for the simplest solution first, and in this case, that solution is what is the caster directly doing? If the caster is acting directly on an opponent, regular invisibility will not hold. I still don't see how the spell can tell between Bull's Strength and Magic Missile, but whatever, I guess that's one point where I have to suspend logic to make the game more enjoyable for everyone at the table. If the caster is directly acting on a non-opponent, regular invisibility holds. An inanimate ball of flame is not an opponent, so it does not break invisibility. I really don't understand why people insist on making it more complicated by trying determine what constitutes an "attack" and what doesn't. Doing so adds nothing to the game, except argument, and I don't see why you would deliberately add that. If you try to use willfully and actively harming the enemy as the barometer, or start getting into secondary or chain reaction effects, than pretty much any spell, or mundane action, is going to drop regular invisibility, rendering it largely useless for anything but scouting, buffing, and healing, all of which are worthy enough in the right circumstances, but none of which are going to be worth an entire spell to boost them, even if taken as a group.

This does mean that at times, the spell is a bit more powerful than many folks like, but really, with all the counters that were pointed out up thread, the spell is still not all that particularly powerful for it's level, especially since many adventures take place in dungeons where it doesn't take long to figure out, to at least some degree, where the invisible creature is because there simply isn't that many places they could be. Sometimes I think that a large chunk of people would be happier just getting rid of regular Invisibility and keeping Vanish and Greater Invisibility, and they probably wouldn't mind it if those were removed either; most people won't actually say it out loud, but they don't like having to deal with the effect, in any form, or under any circumstances, and only tolerate because it's part of the D&D tradition.
 
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Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
An inanimate ball of flame is not an opponent, so it does not break invisibility.
A sword is not an opponent, so it does not break invisibility to swing it at an opponent. The user is not acting on the opponent, he's acting on the sword.

(This is not meant to be a snarky comment, but to illustrate my view - a caster wielding a ball of fire, directing it where to go, is the same as a fighter wielding a sword, directing it where to go.)

But it seems that what we have here is not a failure to communicate, but rather an irreconcilable difference in the way we view the matter.

It seems we need to either have the judges come to an arbitrary decision or leave it to the GM to adjudicate the matter in their individual games. My preference would be for the latter, but I'm good either way.
 

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