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This came up specifically in a discussion of the Tome of Battle Shadow Sun Ninja prestige class. One of his first abilities is Touch of the Shadow Sun, which deals Negative Energy damage, then Touch Attack again for Positive Energy in the next round.

If the energy supposedly affects all living things, can one of the energies be dissipated into, for example, a nearby tree to access the other at no penalty? This also leads to the question that if a divine caster can do burst area damage with these energies, could not a savvy tracker find a cleric by following the patches of growth in the ground (or areas of blight, accordingly)?

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At the risk of being silly, don't underestimate the utility of a bag of rats and undead bunnies. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Aug 23 '13 at 2:40

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“Creature” is a specific game term with a technical meaning, namely that it’s something with both a Wisdom and Charisma score. Anything without those (it’s impossible to have one but not the other) is not a creature, but an object. So you can have “living objects,” like your typical plantlife (as opposed to Plant-type creatures like treants). Most effects state that they affect creatures, so most spells do not affect typical (object) flora. Furthermore, you cannot typically damage objects with touch attacks:

Generally, you can smash an object only with a bludgeoning or slashing weapon.

Touch attacks aren’t bludgeoning or slashing, so they wouldn’t typically affect objects. Energy damage can sometimes damage objects:

Acid and sonic attacks deal damage to most objects just as they do to creatures; roll damage and apply it normally after a successful hit. Electricity and fire attacks deal half damage to most objects; divide the damage dealt by 2 before applying the hardness. Cold attacks deal one-quarter damage to most objects; divide the damage dealt by 4 before applying the hardness.

However, negative energy is not listed: it cannot damage objects, even living objects.

So while you can discharge Touch of the Shadow Sun by touching an object plant, it will have no effect, and no damage dealt means no healing on the next turn.

Spells that affect local flora state this explicitly. For example, see blight.

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Props for saving the trees. However, "negative" isn't commonly listed under the "energies," as that's typically for Energy Sub candidates. The pertinent piece might be a bit lower under immunities: "Objects are immune to nonlethal damage and to critical hits." –  LitheOhm Aug 25 '13 at 14:57
    
@LitheOhm 1. Negative Energy is energy damage; Energy Substitution is not the primary source on what is or isn’t energy damage. 2. Negative energy is lethal and doesn’t really have anything to do with critical hits. 3. Even if I stipulated to your arguments, the rules still say that only bludgeoning and slashing damage can typically damage objects, and no exception is made for negative energy anywhere. –  KRyan Aug 25 '13 at 15:17

Touch of the Shadow Sun (Su): A Shadow Sun ninja strikes a careful balance between light and dark, good and evil. Although your heart is dedicated to good, you know that the shadow of evil will always be a part of you. This realization, along with careful control of your ki energy, allows you to wield the energy of both the dark and light aspects of your being. This understanding and mastery allows you to deal damage with one attack, then turn and heal an ally with the reverse of that harmful energy. With a melee touch attack made as a standard action, you can deal negative energy damage equal to your base unarmed damage + your Wis modifier. Note that undead are healed by this attack, since it uses negative energy. In the round after you use this ability, you can touch a creature as a standard action and heal an amount of damage equal to the damage you dealt with your negative energy touch on the previous round. If the target of this healing touch makes no effort to prevent you from touching him, you can touch the creature as a swift action. You cannot use both aspects of this ability on the same round, nor can you use the negative energy touch again in a round after you have already successfully used it. After you channel negative energy into a creature, you convert that energy into a positive energy charge that prevents you from using the negative energy aspect of this ability until the positive energy has been discharged.

I look in vain to see where the negative energy touch has to be upon a creature, or anything specific. So, RAW, I would have to say yes, it would be legal. As to how much damage it would deal, how many HP does a tree have?

"How many HP does a tree have ?" D20SRD : The trunk of a typical tree has AC 4, hardness 5, and 150 hp. Medium and dense forests have massive trees as well. These trees take up an entire square and provide cover to anyone behind them. They have AC 3, hardness 5, and 600 hp. – Trajan

Thank you Trajan!

Also, blight specifically says that it damages plants because that is the only thing that it damages.

In response to your second question,

"This also leads to the question that if a divine caster can do burst area damage with these energies, could not a savvy tracker find a cleric by following the patches of growth in the ground (or areas of blight, accordingly)?"

For the instance you state above, I don't see why it would have to be a savvy tracker. "Hey, Bubba, look at this trail of dead stuff.....Lets see where it goes".

"One creature," "Creature touched," or "Creatures within x feet," as most do.

However, sense this effect only hits one specific life form, there would not be a large patches of blight. Thank you, KRyan!

The 3.5 Blighter Prestigious Class has a power called Deforestation that does specifically that.

Deforestation (Sp): A blighter can kill all nonsentient plant life within a radius of 20 feet per blighter level as a full-round action once per day. If a potentially affected plant is under the control of another (such as a druid’s liveoak or a dryad’s home tree), the controller can make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + blighter level + blighter’s Wis modifier) to keep it alive. Affected plants immediately cease photosynthesis, root tapping, and all other methods of sustenance. Like picked flowers, they appear vibrant for several hours, but within a day, they turn brown and wither. Except for plants selected by a controller, nothing can grow in a deforested area until it has a hallow spell cast upon it and it is reseeded.
Deforestation enables a blighter to cast her daily allotment of spells. This ability works in any terrain, but deforesting a sandy desert, ice floe, or other environment with only sparse vegetation does not empower the character to cast spells.

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The second part in particular is going to be thwarted by spells that specify "One creature," "Creature touched," or "Creatures within x feet," as most do. I'm still looking into the first part. –  KRyan Aug 23 '13 at 3:10
    
"how many HP does a tree have ?" D20SRD : The trunk of a typical tree has AC 4, hardness 5, and 150 hp. Medium and dense forests have massive trees as well. These trees take up an entire square and provide cover to anyone behind them. They have AC 3, hardness 5, and 600 hp. –  Trajan Aug 23 '13 at 11:57
    
@CrimRei: Finally found a rules citation that shows that negative energy cannot damage an object; updated my answer accordingly. You may want to update your answer in light of it. –  KRyan Aug 23 '13 at 23:06

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