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My party recently ran into a Bodak. One of it's nastiest features is it's Death Gaze (Su) gaze attack which causes:

1d4 negative levels, 30 feet; Fortitude DC 18 negates. The save DC is Charisma-based. A humanoid slain by a bodak’s death gaze rises as a bodak 24 hours later. This is a death effect.

Are the negative levels bestowed by this attack temporary (as per the Energy Drain universal monster rules) or are they automatically permanent?


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Thanks everyone my thoughts were exactly along the same lines as both answers. Our group currently considers negative levels to be permanent unless stated otherwise which is the opposite of what I believe the rules state. I'm glad I'm not alone ;-) – Vethrun May 13 '13 at 13:43
up vote 3 down vote accepted

When it comes to negative levels, I default these levels to being temporary unless there is an explicit description of them being permanent. As it stands, negative levels already have a chance of becoming permanent:

If a negative level is not removed before 24 hours have passed, the affected creature must attempt a Fortitude save.... On a success, the negative level goes away with no harm to the creature. On a failure, the negative level becomes permanent.

In the case of the Bodak, I believe they are specifying the "Death Effect" as a mini bonus to get around things that are immune to energy drain.

The key spells here are the following:

Some notes:

  • Death Ward grants a bonus on saves vs. the effect. Had it been "Energy Drain", Death Ward would have prevented it all together.
  • Even if the save fails, Death Ward suppresses the negative levels while it is active.
  • A failed save by a PC will require a Restoration be cast on them. Cost is a 100gp diamond, might be worth seeding this somewhere, especially with multiple Bodaks.
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This is a nice unambiguous quote. Can you stick a citation on it so we know the exact sourcing? – SevenSidedDie May 3 '13 at 17:40
Done, the quote is actually in the description for Energy Drain. – Gates VP May 3 '13 at 20:47

I don't believe the highlighted text about the attack being a Death effect make any difference on how the attack works. It's just there to interact with other effects, such as Undead and Constructs being immune to Death effects.

Nothing in the Bodak entry implies that this attack follows energy drain rules as such, except for the use of the term negative levels. The Glossary in the Core Rulebook has a section entitled Energy Drain and Negative Levels, implying they are separate but related effects. Energy Drain inflicts Negative Levels, but Negative Levels could be caused by some other abillity, as in this case, or from Raise Dead.

The last paragraph in the Glossary entry talks about how some abillities can also inflict permanent Negative Levels. I take this to mean that Neagtive Levels are, by default, temporary.

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I'm not aware of any case in 3.5 where any distinction is made between negative levels and energy drain, for what it's worth. It's possible that there are things I'm unaware of, or that Paizo added such things. Completely agree that they are never automatically permanent unless it explicitly says so. Might be worth mentioning that the [Death] descriptor doesn't really have anything to do with this one way or the other. – KRyan May 3 '13 at 1:58
Actually, Raise Dead applies Negative Levels without actually being an Energy Drain (at least in PF - don't recall for sure about 3.5). – YogoZuno May 3 '13 at 2:44
In 3.5 they weren't really the same as negative levels, more like lost levels that you just had to start over. Negative levels that became permanents were lost in much the same way, but really stopped being thought of as "negative levels" at that point. But then the rules weren't super clear on this point and it's a matter of semantics. Sounds like Paizo's changed some of it around anyway. – KRyan May 3 '13 at 3:27

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