Archives of Nethys

Pathfinder RPG (1st Edition) Starfinder RPG Pathfinder RPG (2nd Edition)

All Rules | Downtime Rules

Chapter 8: Tactical Rules / Defining Effects


Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 268
Some effects cover a defined area. Sometimes an effect’s description indicates a specially defined area, but usually an area falls into one of the categories discussed below. Regardless of the shape of the area, you select the point from which the effect originates, but otherwise you don’t control which creatures or objects are affected. The point of origin of an effect is always a grid intersection, meaning the point where four squares touch on a tactical battle map.

When determining whether a given creature is within the area of an effect, count out the distance from the point of origin in squares, just as you would do when moving a character or when determining the range for a ranged attack. The only difference is that instead of counting from the center of one square to the center of the next, you must count from intersection to intersection. You can count diagonally across a square, but keep in mind that every second diagonal counts as two squares of distance. If the far edge of a square is within the effect’s area, everything within that square is within the effect’s area. If the effect’s area touches only the near edge of a square, however, things within that square are unaffected by the effect.

Burst, Emanation, Or Spread

Most effects with an area function as a burst, an emanation, or a spread. In each case, you select the effect’s point of origin and measure its area from that point.


A burst effect applies to whatever is in its area when it comes into effect, including creatures that you can’t see. It doesn’t affect creatures with total cover from the burst’s point of origin, and its effects don’t extend around corners. The default shape for a burst effect is a sphere, but some burst effects are specifically described as cone-shaped. A burst’s area defines how far from the point of origin the effect extends.


An emanation effect functions like a burst, except that the effect continues to radiate from the point of origin for the duration of the effect. Most emanations are cones or spheres.


A spread effect extends out like a burst, but it can turn corners. You select the point of origin, and the effect spreads out to a given distance in all directions. The effect can extend around corners and into areas that you can’t see. Calculate distance using the actual distance the effect travels, taking into account turns the effect takes and counting around walls and corners, not through them. You must designate the point of origin for such an effect, but you need not have line of effect (see page 271) to the entirety of the effect’s area.

Cone, Cylinder, Line, Or Sphere

Most effects with an area have a particular shape.


A cone-shaped effect extends away from you in a quartercircle in the direction you designate. It starts from any corner of your square and grows wider as it goes. Most cones are either bursts or emanations (see above), and thus won’t go around corners.


With cylinder-shaped effects, you select the effect’s point of origin. This point is the center of a horizontal circle at a height designated in the effect’s description, and the effect drops down from the circle, filling a cylinder. A cylinder-shaped effect ignores any obstructions within its area.


A line-shaped effect extends away from you in a line in the direction you designate. It starts from any corner of your square and extends to the limit of its range or until it strikes a barrier that blocks line of effect (see page 271). A line-shaped effect applies to all creatures in squares through which the line passes.


A sphere-shaped effect expands from its point of origin to fill a spherical area. Spheres can be bursts, emanations, or spreads.

Shapable (S)

If an area or effect entry ends with “(S),” you can shape the effect. A shaped effect or area can have no dimension smaller than 10 feet. The “areas” of many effects are given as cubes to make it easy to model irregular or three-dimensional shapes. Three-dimensional volumes are most often needed to define areas and effects in space.


An effect can have a unique area, as defined in its description.

Areas With Targets

Some effects have areas that target creatures or objects within the specified area. Unlike for targeted effects (see Target on page 272), you do not get to select which creatures are affected; the effect affects all creatures or objects of some kind in the specified area.

If an effect restricts which targets are affected (for example, it affects only living creatures), then creatures in the effect’s area that are not of the appropriate type do not count against the number of creatures affected.

Subjects Of Effects

If an effect targets creatures or objects directly, the result travels with the subjects for the effect’s duration. If an effect targets an area, it stays within that area for its duration; creatures become subject to the effect when they enter the area but are no longer subject to it when they leave.