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Are the effects of the spell Control Weather mobile with the caster, or does the caster need to use a standard action repeatedly to change the area of effect?

For example, say that the caster is aboard a ship that is becalmed, so he or she casts the spell to summon a strong wind. After 20 minutes (10 minutes casting time and another 10 minutes for the spell to take effect), the ship begins to move at 9mph.

If the 2 mile radius circle is mobile, then the ship will continue to move at 9mph for the duration of the spell (4d12 hours) and the spellcaster need not do anything further (unless a change of wind direction is required).

However, if the radius is stationary, then at 9mph the ship will reach the edge of the radius in only 13 minutes. The caster will need to use a standard action every 3 minutes to change the center of the area of effect so that the ship doesn't run out of puff.

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To agree with the litany of "DM Decision" answers, you could make it require a Spellcraft roll to move the area of effect. Of course, this may open the door for the players to want it for other spells. –  CatLord May 12 '12 at 15:26

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The Pathfinder, or "3.5++", Control Weather strongly implies that the effect is stationary and is explicitly stated as centered on the caster's position for a two mile (three mile for Druids) radius (4 mi/6 mi diameter).

Moreover, PF states: "You change the weather in the local area." I believe this is additive to the centered on caster and makes the effect explicitly stationary.

Though the GM may always allow some interpretation, as @Pellanor suggested. I certainly would not say "No." Instead, maybe a "Yes, but... you must make a Will Save or other concentration save, should the caster cross half the radius in overland/sea movement, to move the spells area of effect (at an appropriate DC accounting for lapses concentration or possible interruptions)."

Update The BECMI spell from the Rules Compendium, Weather Control reads very differently than Pathfinder. Specifically, there is no Control Weather spell and the Area of Effect and duration are both significantly limited in size and by caster focus. Additionally, the spell allows specifically for movement with the caster:

This spell allows the magic-user to create one special weather condition in the surrounding area (within a 240 yard radius). The spell caster may select the weather condition. The spell only works outdoors, and the weather will affect all creatures in the area (including the caster). The effects last as long as the spellcaster concentrates, without moving; if the caster is being moved (for example, aboard a ship), the effect moves also.

The "select[ed]... weather condition" includes the following on sea-borne casting:

High Winds: No missile fire or flying is possible. Movement reduced to half normal. At sea, ships sailing with the wind move 50% faster. In the desert, high winds create a sandstorm, for half normal movement and 20' visibility.

This finding effectively invalidates my below thoughts on "bring science to the table" however in context of how the spell has evolved and how it is cited to work in 3.5 and Pathfinder, it is still valid. YMMV.

Considering the purpose of the spell in context, to move a ship and not lose "puff," the GM should probably rule on this, possibly accounting for prevailing weather in the area. If the science were at play, the area of high pressure and temperature differentials created by the caster, thus moving the air from a high to low pressure zone, may move with the prevailing winds outside the area of effect.

Combining elements of both rules for a house ruling appears to be an acceptable option. Various "retro-clones" of OD&D simply allow for significant GM fait... sorry, discretion in range, duration, and by absence, mobility.

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"Stationary and centred on the caster" may sound unambiguous, but it doesn't account for the fact that many casters have legs and could easily walk three miles before the spell ends. If the effect is stationary, this would mean that the caster is no longer at the centre of the effect - and if the spell moves to stay centred on the caster, then it's not stationary. Which is it? –  GMJoe May 9 '12 at 6:34
I'm fairly certain that description only states that the spell is created centered on the caster. @Azeari may only want a ruling on the spell manifestation. The description does not suggest mobility with the caster, for the reason that standing at the forecastle, arms wide, hair (and beard?) bellowing around his/her face as the wind fills the sails behind him/her in a chant of "I'm the Master of the Weather" is not going to move a 4 mile wide atmospheric event. At the point of manifestation, IHMO, the event becomes subject to the prevailing weather. As I pointed out: "Yes, but..." –  javafueled May 9 '12 at 14:00
I guess if it was supposed to move with the caster, then it would be an emanation, like Magic Circle against Evil –  Azeari May 11 '12 at 1:07
@javafueled I agree that the spell description only states that the effect is created centred on the caster. It leaves what happens afterwards ambiguous. The spell has a non-instantaneous duration, and the spell decription states that the caster can change the weather further throughout that duration, but whether the radius of the effect if fixed on a point in space or a person isn't said. (CONT) –  GMJoe May 11 '12 at 7:16
Gentle reminder: Be nice. everyone. –  C. Ross Sep 20 '13 at 22:46

The rules are clear, despite claims to the contrary.

Spell effects are, by default, stationary. Specific wording to the contrary is necessary to make them mobile. The effect of control weather is that it changes the weather in the area around you at the time of casting, and this lasts for 4d12 hours (8d12 for a druid).

To be mobile, it would have to state that it moves with you, that you can move it with some kind of action, or that you gain for the duration the ability to change the weather around you, rather than simply changing the weather around you once for the duration. It does give you the ability to change your choice of weather as a standard action for the duration, but this is not the same: it explicitly changes only the choice of weather, rather than continually updating the entirety of the spell’s effects (like position).

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Unfortunately there is no clear cut ruling in either direction, this is up to the individual DM to interpret.

It would make sense to me that the spellcaster would have to continual adjust the control of the weather while moving, so I would rule that a standard action would be required every 3 minutes. Of course it also makes perfect sense for the effect to just naturally travel with the caster. Ultimately I would go for whatever makes for a more interesting story. If the players are in a rush, then requiring the caster to go the night without sleep to maintain the spell helps add to the drama and sense of urgency.

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This has come up in our Pathfinder pirate game and I noticed there were some rulings in the Skull & Shackles Player's Guide that were interesting clarifications on the Pathfinder spells

  • Control Winds just makes a stationary cylinder. I had been playing it as the winds move with your ship, but the S&S Player's Guide explicitly says "The area of winds created by this spell does not move with a ship."
  • Control Weather makes a circle centered on you. This is the same wording as locate object and I would think it does mean it moves with you.

We have house-ruled that Control Winds goes with you because otherwise it's a spell of so limited utility that no one would bother to memorize it, and as a 7th level spell I would certainly assume Control Weather does.

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So far as I can tell, the rules are ambiguous. I suggest that the weather should move with the caster. After all, there's precedent in fiction for mages controlling ships using magical winds, and that's the only spell in the core rules that supports it.

Given that there are very few other practical adventuring uses for the control weather spell, it's even possible that this is one of the spell's intended purposes. It's hard to say for sure, though.

EDIT: Ah, I see the comments have been deleted. Long story short, this answer is wrong. I thought it seemed reasonable when I first posted it, but was subsequently persuaded otherwise by very convincing and reasonable arguments. I'll leave it here so that people can read it and know that it's wrong, though.

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