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Chapter 10: Magic and Spells

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 328

Casting Spells

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 330
When your Starfinder character casts a spell, she is harnessing the latent magical energy that permeates the universe to achieve specific, measured effects. Whether you’re playing a mystic or a technomancer, or a character who has gained the ability to manipulate magical energies through some other more unusual means, casting a spell in Starfinder follows one basic process, as described below. A cast spell always has obvious effects that are noticeable by nearby creatures; it is not possible to clandestinely cast a spell. For information about casting a spell as a spell-like ability, see Spell-Like Abilities on page 262.

Choosing a Spell

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 330
The first step in casting a spell is to choose which spell to cast. Your class’s Spells section describes which class’s spell list you can choose from, how to determine the number of spells you know, and at which levels you can learn new spells. You also might know spells from a different source, in which case that source provides the details you need to know.

When you cast a spell, you can select any spell you know, provided you are capable of casting spells of that level or higher. Casting a spell counts against your daily limit for spells you cast of that spell level (your “spell slots”), but you can cast the same spell again if you haven’t reached your limit. For more information on how to choose which spells your character can access, see your class’s information on spells.

Spell Level, Caster Level, and Spell Slots

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 330
Once you’ve chosen a spell to cast, take note of its spell level, and then determine the caster level at which you cast it. A spell’s spell level (also referred to as simply “a spell’s level”) defines at what class level you can cast the spell. In the case of variable-level spells, the spell’s level determines the spell’s exact effects (see Variable-Level Spells below). On the other hand, the caster level at which you cast a spell governs many aspects of how the spell works, often including its range and duration. The following sections further describe and differentiate spell level and caster level.

Some of the rules in this chapter make reference to spell slots. The number of spell slots of any given level that you have is equal to the number of spells of that level that you can cast each day (for details about exactly when you regain your daily spell slots, see Regaining Daily-Use Abilities and Spells on page 262).

When the rules say you must have an available spell slot, it means that you can’t have cast all of your spells per day of that level. When the rules say that you lose a spell slot or the spell fails, that means that you have expended one of the total number of spells of that level that you can cast per day.

Spell Level

A spell level expresses a spell’s relative power. A spell’s level is listed in its spell description directly to the right of the spell’s class icon, and it may vary by class. For example, it is possible for a spell to be a 2nd-level spell for a mystic but a 3rd-level spell for a technomancer. In some cases, a spell’s level is listed in its description as “—”. This means you must gain access to the spell through a class feature and can’t add it as a spell known through the normal progression of learning spells.

Unlike your caster level, which you can always choose to lower, a spell’s level is static unless it is a variable-level spell.  

Variable-Level Spells

A variable-level spell is a spell that has different effects depending on the level of the spell slot you use to cast it. The spell description of a variable-level spell lists the spell level as a range (“1–6” for example) and notes how the spell’s effects change when cast at different spell levels.

When you learn a spell that can be cast at variable spell levels, you gain the ability to cast it at the spell level you know and at every level below that. For example, let’s say Keskodai is a 9th-level mystic who has mystic cure (which is a variable-level spell that can be cast at spell levels ranging from 1st–6th) as a 2nd-level spell known. When Keskodai chooses to cast mystic cure, he can cast it as a 1st-level or 2nd-level spell. His caster level is still 9th, regardless of the spell level at which he casts the spell. Keskodai can’t cast mystic cure as a 0-level spell (since mystic cure doesn’t have a 0-level version) or as a 3rd-level spell (since he doesn’t know mystic cure as a 3rd-level spell). The effect of mystic cure when Keskodai casts it is detailed in the spell’s description and depends on the spell level at which he chose to cast it.

If you know a variable-level spell and later select it again as a higher-level spell known, you can immediately select a new spell known to replace the lower-level version of the variable-level spell. For example, when Keskodai becomes a 10th-level mystic, he selects mystic cure as a 4th-level spell known. He also immediately selects a new 2nd-level spell known to replace the 2nd-level version of mystic cure. He can now cast mystic cure as a 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd-, or 4th-level spell.

Caster Level

Your caster level (or CL) represents your aptitude for casting the spells you know, and it is equal to the total number of levels you have in spellcasting classes. For characters with a single spellcasting class, this is equal to your class level in that class. 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. If you wish to cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, you must decide this before you make any other decisions about the spell’s effects. Once a spell has been cast, the spell effect has a caster level that is equal to the caster level at which you cast the spell. Many of a spell’s effects are based on the spell’s caster level.

In the event that a class feature or 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 any caster level checks you attempt (see below) and DCs based on caster level (such as the DC to dispel your spells).

Caster Level Checks

The rules sometimes require you to make a caster level check. To attempt a caster level check (such as to overcome a creature’s spell resistance), roll 1d20 and add your caster level.

Concentration and Interrupted Spells

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 331
To successfully cast a spell, you must concentrate. The length of time you must concentrate to cast a spell is specified in the Casting Time entry in the spell’s description. Your foes can interrupt your spellcasting in a few ways, as described below.

The concentration required to cast a spell is sufficient to cause you to briefly lower your defenses. If a foe threatens the space you are in, casting a spell provokes an attack of opportunity unless the spell specifies otherwise. For more on attacks of opportunity, see page 248.

Normally, you can concentrate even in a distracting situation, but if you’re casting a spell and you take damage from either a successful attack that targeted your AC or from an effect that you failed a saving throw against, the spell fails.

You are most at risk of taking damage while casting when a spell’s casting time is 1 round or longer, you have provoked an attack of opportunity, or a foe readied an action to attack you when you began to cast. However, if you are taking ongoing damage (such as if you are bleeding or on fire), your spells are not disrupted in this way.

If you ever try to cast a spell in conditions where the characteristics of the spell can’t be made to conform, the spell fails. For example, if you try to cast a spell that targets a humanoid on a non-humanoid, the spell fails.

Concentrating In Harsh Environments

If you attempt to cast a spell in environmental conditions that make spellcasting impossible, the spell fails. You can typically cast spells in bad weather or when your ship is making tricky maneuvers, but at the GM’s discretion, if you are subject to extremely violent motion (such as an earthquake) or extremely violent weather (such as a hurricane), you can’t concentrate to cast spells. For more information on environments and their rules effects, see page 394.

The Spell's Result

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 331
For details about a spell’s range, targets, and other mechanical details, see the spell descriptions on pages 340–385, where the details of Starfinder’s spells are presented. Once you know which creatures (or objects or areas) are affected, and whether they have succeeded at their saving throws (if any were allowed), you can apply whatever results a spell entails. Spell effects tend to vary by school, which are also described in School and Descriptor on page 333.

Many common spell effects are described in Defining Effects beginning on page 268.


Some spell descriptions refer to attacking. All offensive combat actions, even those that don’t damage opponents, are considered attacks. Anytime you would need to make an attack roll to determine whether your spell hits a target, you are considered to be making an attack.

Even an effect that is inoffensive or beneficial to some affected creatures still counts as an attack if it would be considered offensive to any affected creature. Spells that deal damage, spells that opponents can resist with saving throws (and that are not harmless), and spells that otherwise harm or hamper subjects are attacks.

Bringing Back The Dead

Magic and technology can restore slain characters to life. Bringing someone back from the dead involves magically retrieving his soul and returning it to his body.

Negative Levels: Any creature brought back to life by raise dead usually gains 2 permanent negative levels (see page 252 for more information on how negative levels work). These levels apply a penalty to most rolls until removed through spells such as restoration.

There is an exception to this rule, though. If the character was 1st or 2nd level (or CR 2 or less for a monster) at the time of death, instead of gaining negative levels, the character’s Constitution score is permanently reduced by 2 (or its Constitution modifier is permanently reduced by 1 for a monster).

Preventing Revivification: Enemies can take steps to make it more difficult for a character to be returned from the dead using normal magical means. Keeping the body of a deceased individual, for instance, prevents others from using raise dead to restore the slain character to life. Additionally, finding a way to capture the slain creature’s soul prevents any sort of revivification unless the soul is first released, since raise dead and similar magic works by returning the deceased individual’s soul to his body.

Revivification against One’s Will: A soul can’t be returned to life if it doesn’t wish to be. A soul automatically knows the alignment and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it, which may be a reason it refuses to return.

Combining Magic Effects

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 332
Spells or magical effects usually work as their descriptions state, 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.

Duplicate Effects

Spells and effects that provide bonuses or penalties to attributes such as attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws usually do not stack with themselves if multiple effects would apply to the same attribute. More generally, two bonuses of the same type do not stack even if they come from different spells or from effects other than spells (see Bonuses on page 266).

However, damage from multiple spells that deal damage is always cumulative.

Different Strengths

In cases when two or more spells produce identical effects in the same area or on the same target, but at different strengths (such as one spell granting fire resistance 5 and another granting fire resistance 10), only the one with the highest strength applies. If a previously cast spell lasts longer than a more recently cast spell producing the same effect, and the most recent version expires, the previously cast spell resumes its effect for the remainder of its duration.

Multiple Mental Control Effects

Sometimes magical effects that establish mental control render each other irrelevant, such as spells that remove the subject’s ability to act. For example, a creature under the effect of a hold person spell cannot be compelled to move using a dominate spell, because the hold person effect prevents the creature from moving.

Mental controls that don’t remove the target’s ability to act don’t usually 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 attempt opposed Charisma checks to determine which one the creature obeys.

Countering And Negating

Some spells can be used to counter other specific spells, as noted in their spell descriptions. For instance, you can use slow to counter a casting of haste. This works exactly like the counter effect of the dispel magic spell (see page 351), except you don’t need to attempt a caster level check; if the target is in range, the spell is automatically countered and fails.

Many times, these same spells note that they negate one another as well. This means that a successful casting of one spell on a target under the effects of the second spell undoes those effects, and the effects of the first spell don’t occur.

Special Abilities

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 332
A number of classes and creatures gain the use of special abilities, many of which function like spells. A special ability is either a spell-like ability, a supernatural ability, or an extraordinary ability. See Special Abilities on page 262 for more information.

Spell Description Format

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 332
The descriptions of Starfinder’s spells are presented in a standard format, as shown in the sample spell description on page 333. Each category of information found in the spell descriptions is explained and defined in the appropriate sections that follow the sample (along with references for further information). Not all Starfinder spells contain each boldfaced entry heading listed in the sample, but for purposes of completeness, all entry headings used in the various spell descriptions are included. The sample also includes either typical language found in most spell entries or a summary of what the entry typically contains.

Spell Name

The first line of every spell description gives the name by which the spell is commonly known. A spell’s name generally indicates what effects it creates or how it manipulates its area or targets.

Spell Level

The spell level for each class that can cast the spell (typically a number between 0 and 6 that indicates the spell’s relative power) is listed directly to the right of each class icon. Variable-level spells express their levels in a range. See Spell Level and Variable- Level Spells on page 330 for more details.

School And Descriptor

Beneath the spell’s name is an entry listing the spell’s school of magic. Nearly every spell in Starfinder belongs to one of eight schools of magic. A school of magic is a group of related spells that work in similar ways. In rare cases, a spell harnesses the power of all of the magic schools. In this case, the spell’s school is listed as “universal.”

Many spells have one or more descriptors. These can affect how the spells interact with other magic and effects, and some descriptors have specific rules associated with them. See Descriptors on page 269 for more information.


Abjurations are protective spells. If an abjuration creates a barrier that keeps certain types of creatures at bay, that barrier cannot be used to push away those creatures. If you force the barrier against such a creature, you feel a discernible pressure against the barrier. If you continue to apply pressure, the spell ends, even if the spell would normally work or its normal duration has not yet elapsed.


Conjuration spells bring creatures, objects, or energy (potentially including healing energy) into being or transport them to new locations. A conjured creature or object must arrive in an open location on a medium capable of supporting it. It can’t appear inside another creature or object. The conjured creature or object must appear within the spell’s range, but once conjured it does not have to remain within the range.


Divination spells enable you to learn long-forgotten secrets, predict the future, find hidden things, and pierce deceptive spells. In most circumstances, attempts to use divination magic to glean information about events during the Gap fail.


Enchantment spells affect the minds of others, influencing or controlling their behavior. All enchantments are mind-affecting spells and have that descriptor. Most enchantments are either charms or compulsions and have those descriptors. See Descriptors on page 269 for more information.


Evocation spells manipulate magical energy or tap an unseen source of power to produce a desired result created entirely with magic. Many of these spells produce spectacular effects, and evocation spells can deal large amounts of damage. Evocation spells often produce effects that manifest as various kinds of energy, or as an energy type of the caster’s choice, as noted in an individual spell’s description.


Illusion spells deceive the senses or minds of others. They cause people to see things that aren’t there, not see things that are actually there, hear phantom noises, or remember things that never really happened. By default, illusions create actual sensory stimuli in much the same manner as a hologram might.

Disbelieving Illusions: Creatures encountering an illusion usually don’t receive saving throws to recognize it as illusory until they study it carefully or interact with it in some fashion, which typically requires spending at least a move action focusing specifically on the illusion.

A creature that succeeds at its saving throw to disbelieve can tell the illusion is false (but still sees a visual illusion as a translucent outline). A failed saving throw indicates that a character fails to notice something is amiss. A character faced with proof that an illusion isn’t real needs no saving throw to disbelieve it. If any observer successfully disbelieves an illusion and communicates this fact to others, each such observer can attempt a saving throw to disbelieve with a +4 bonus.


Necromancy spells manipulate the power of death, unlife, and life force, including spells involving creating undead creatures.


Transmutation spells change the properties of some creature, thing, or condition.

Casting Time

Most spells have a casting time of one standard action. Others take 1 round or more, while a few powerful special abilities allow a character to cast a spell as a move action. A few reactive spells can be cast as reactions, but they are generally limited in nature, such as the 1st-level casting of flight.

When you begin casting a spell that takes 1 round or longer to cast, you must maintain your concentration from the current round to just before your turn in the next round (at least). If you lose concentration or take another action (even a reaction) before the casting is complete, the spell fails.

You make all pertinent decisions about a spell (range, target, area, effect, and so forth) when the spell comes into effect.

1 round: Casting a spell with a casting time of 1 round is a full action. The spell comes into effect just before the beginning of your turn in the round after you began casting the spell. You then act normally after the spell is completed.

1 minute: A spell that takes 1 minute to cast comes into effect just before your turn 1 minute later (and for each of those 10 rounds, you are considered to be casting a spell as a full action, just as noted above for 1-round casting times). These actions must be consecutive and uninterrupted; otherwise the spell automatically fails.


A spell’s range indicates how far from you it can reach. For more information on how ranges work, see Range on page 271.

Area, Effect, And Targets

When a spell you cast comes into effect, you must make choices about what the spell is to affect or where an effect is to originate, depending on the spell’s type. A spell’s description defines the spell’s area, its effect, or its target (or targets), as appropriate.


Some spells have one or more targets. You cast these spells on creatures or objects, as defined in the spell’s description. You must be able to see or touch the target (unless the spell has an attack roll; see Spells with Attack Rolls below), and you must specifically choose that target. You do not have to select your target until you have finished casting the spell.

If the target of a spell is yourself (which is the case for all personal range spells), you don’t receive a saving throw and spell resistance doesn’t apply. The Saving Throw and Spell Resistance entries are omitted from the descriptions of such spells.

Some spells restrict you to willing or unconscious targets. A creature can declare itself a willing target at any time (even if it’s flat-footed or it isn’t that creature’s turn). Characters who are conscious but immobile or helpless can still choose to be unwilling.

Many spells affect “living creatures,” which means all creatures other than constructs and undead (artificially created beings that are not undead or constructs are considered living for this purpose). Creatures in the spell’s area that are not of the appropriate type don’t count against the number of creatures affected.

Other spells allow you to target other categories of creatures or items, such as construct, corpse, or object. This works like targeting a creature, and the target’s spell resistance, if any, applies. See page 265 for more details.

Some spells allow you to redirect the effect to new targets or areas after you cast the spell. Redirecting a spell is a move action that doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity.

Spells with Attack Rolls: Some spells require an attack roll to hit. For these spells, you don’t need line of sight to the target, but you still need line of effect (see page 271). These spells can score a critical hit just as a weapon can, and deal double damage on a successful critical hit. If one of these spells has a duration, it refers to the duration of the effect that the attack causes, not the length of time that the attack itself persists.


Some spells create or summon things rather than affecting things that are already present. You must designate the location where these things are to appear, either by seeing it or defining it. The spell’s range determines how far away an effect can appear, but if the effect is mobile, after it appears it can move regardless of the spell’s range. For clarity, some spells specify the type or size of effect created in a separate Effect entry.


Some spells affect an area. Sometimes a spell description specifies a specially defined area, but usually a spell’s area is described as a burst, emanation, or spread, and as a cone, cylinder, line, or sphere (see page 268). A spell’s area may also be shapable, which is indicated with “(S)” after the listed area.

Regardless of the shape of the area, you select the point where the spell originates. You don’t otherwise control which creatures or objects the spell affects; it affects all valid targets in the area. When determining whether a given creature is within a spell’s area, count out the distance from the point of origin in squares, just as you do when moving a character or 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 count from intersection to intersection.

You can count diagonally across a square, but remember that every second diagonal counts as 2 squares of distance. If the far edge of a square is within the spell’s area, anything within that square is within the spell’s area. If the spell’s area touches only the near edge of a square, however, creatures or objects within that square are unaffected by the spell.

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


A spell’s Duration entry tells you how long the magical energy of the spell lasts. A spell may also be dismissible, which is indicated with “(D)” after the listed duration. For more information, see Duration on page 270.

Areas, Effects, and Targets: If a spell affects creatures directly, the result travels with the target 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 an effect can be destroyed prior to the expiration of its duration. If the spell affects an area, then the spell stays within that area for its duration. Creatures become subject to the spell when they enter the area and are no longer subject to it when they leave.

Saving Throw

Usually a harmful spell allows a target to attempt a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect. The Saving Throw entry in a spell’s description defines which type of saving throw the spell allows (a Fortitude, Reflex, or Will saving throw) and describes how saving throws against the spell work, including for objects and harmless effects. Most often, a successful saving throw negates a spell’s effects, halves the damage it causes, allows the creature to suffer only partial effects of the spell, or allows the disbelief of an illusion effect (see Illusion on page 334). Your class’s Spells section describes how to calculate your spells’ saving throws. For more information on saving throws, see page 241.

Spell Resistance

Spell resistance, often abbreviated as SR, is a special defensive ability of many creatures that functions much like an Armor Class against magical attacks. If your spell targets a creature with spell resistance, you must attempt a caster level check (1d20 + your caster level); only if the result equals or exceeds the creature’s spell resistance can the spell affect that creature.

A spell’s Spell Resistance entry and the descriptive text of a spell description tell you whether spell resistance protects creatures from the spell. In many cases, spell resistance 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 for spell resistance as they do for saving throws (see page 241). A creature with spell resistance must voluntarily lower the resistance (a standard action) in order to be affected by such spells without forcing the caster to attempt a caster level check.

For more information on spell resistance, see page 265.

Descriptive Text

This portion of a spell description details what the spell does and how it works. If one of the previous entries in the description includes “see text,” this is where the explanation is found.

Spell Lists

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 335
There are dozens of spells available to spellcasters in the Starfinder RPG. The following pages present the spell lists for the mystic and technomancer. A superscript “R” (R) appearing at the end of spell’s name in the spell lists denotes a spell that requires an expenditure of Resolve Points to cast.

Order of Presentation: In the spell lists and the short descriptions that follow them, the spells are presented in alphabetical order by name except for those belonging to certain groupings. When a spell’s name begins with “lesser,” “greater,” or “mass,” the spell is alphabetized under the second word of the spell name instead.

Caster Level: A spell’s power often depends on caster level, which is the caster’s total number of levels in spellcasting classes for the purpose of casting a particular spell. A creature usually has a caster level equal to its CR (1st if a creature has a CR less than 1). The word “level” in the short descriptions that follow usually refers to caster level.