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My party recently encountered a Flail Snail, and a question came up regarding its Warp Magic ability:

Warp Magic (Su): Anytime a spell targets a flail snail, there is an 80% chance that it produces a random effect instead of affecting the snail. Only spells that directly target the flail snail are warped; area effect spells are not affected. If a spell is warped, roll 1d10 and consult the following table.

  • 1–3 Spell misfires. For the next 1d4 rounds, the caster must make a DC 15 concentration check to successfully cast spells.
  • 4–6 Spell misfires. The creature nearest the flail snail is affected as if the spell had been cast on it instead.
  • 7–9 Spell fails. Nothing happens.
  • 10 Spell rebounds on caster (as spell turning).

The witch cast a slumber hex on the snail, which is a supernatural ability. Does the snail's warp magic ability apply in this case? I'm not sure this bestiary entry took hexes into account, but it seems that the intent is for all magic to have a chance of backfiring. Certainly all of the possible outcomes in the table could be applied.

Are there any rules anywhere for how hexes should be treated in these scenarios? Another example off the top of my head would be many constructs' magic immunity.

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3 Answers 3

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I play a witch in the Carrion Crown adventure path right now and have some experience with this. To play hexes right, you need to understand a lot of the fundamental game-term definitions very well.

Witches have various hexes, some of which are Extraordinary (Ex), some of which are Supernatural (Su), and some of which are Spell-like (Sp) in nature. These all interact differently with various kinds of resistances. In addition, many of the witch's best hexes are mind-affecting either explicitly (e.g. Evil Eye) or because the spell they duplicate is (e.g. Slumber).

(Ex) and (Su) abilites aren't affected by SR, dispels, golem magic immunity, etc. See the Special Abilities section for a rundown.

In your specific example, since Slumber is (Su), even though that's weird design because it's totally duplicating a spell, it doesn't by RAW run afoul of the Flail Snail's ability. And the snail is intelligent (sigh for creatures that have decent INT but are still just dumb beasts) so mind-affecting stuff would work on it, unlike vermin, constructs, and unintelligent undead. Slumber wouldn't work on a golem not because of its magic immunity but because it's mindless. Some GMs, like myself, would make an on-the-fly ruling about whether a given ability should count as a spell or not despite the lawyer reading - IMO one of the key intents behind no SR for (Su) powers is so dragon breath and other integral abilities function, not so you can cast a spell under a different rules-heading and have it work differently, and there's no reasonable expectation that everyone who ever writes a rules bit will elaborate on all the possible interaction options.

The spell-like hexes are a more debatable story because the rules are not always careful to specify "spell or spell-like ability", in my opinion because they already said "spell-like abilities work just like spells" - in fact, Dispel Magic clearly just refers to spells even though the Special Abilities section says spell-likes are dispellable. I would rule that spell-likes are affected by the snail's aura for sure as well as anything else that says 'spells'; that's the only solution that makes any kind of in-game-world sense.

Luckily Pathfinder isn't a computer program, any group is going to have to make judgement calls on some of these edge cases.

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Purely out of curiosity, what would your on-the-fly ruling be? –  Eric B Sep 25 '13 at 16:19
1  
On the slumber vs the snail? Oh it should totally proc the spell warp. If it was just SR I might let it bypass since "spell failed" is lame, but "monster gets to use its iconic ability to create an interesting effect" is super cool. An encounter with a flail snail where that ability doesn't proc is a waste. –  mxyzplk Sep 25 '13 at 18:43

In short: No

The witches ability slumber is a supernatural ability. This is clearly defined differently in the rules from a spell, which have their own set of rules.

As Warp Magic clearly states that:

Only spells that directly target the flail snail are warped

we can safely state that supernatural abilities do not trigger the Warp Magic effect.

To answer the other part of your question on how to treat hexes in this situation, if we look at the Golem's ability, Immunity to Magic, then we can see it explicitly states Golem's are not affected by Spells nor spell like abilities.

A clay golem is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance.

That would mean it is susceptible to supernatural ability. In your specific example though, you need to take into account the fact that the golem is a mindless automaton. Whilst they do have will saves, there is an argument (although no RAW rule) that they cannot be subject to mind affecting spells or abilities.

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The Snail's Warp Magic ability only affects Spells. Other forms of magic are not affected. That means most* of the Witch's hex powers are not affected. I do not think that is an oversight in the monster description, many other character classes have abilities marked (Su).

*All the core rules hexes are unaffected, there is some difference of opinion over whether powers from supplements marked (Sp) are affected. In any case, only 1 of these (Speak in Dreams) would be valid to target a Flail Snail, and it seems a very unlikely use of that hex (although perhaps fun).

Are there any rules anywhere for how hexes should be treated in these scenarios?

There is a table here that summarises the differences between various ability types and how they interact with rules affecting spells and magic.

Importantly for the Witch, an ability marked (Su) for Supernatural Ability is not affected by spell resistance, nor can it be dispelled. However, an anti-magic field would affect it.

Another example off the top of my head would be many constructs' magic immunity.

Golems are not usually immune to (Su) powers. Typically their magic resistance reads "golem is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance". So a Witch's hex powers might still work, provided their effects are not in the category of some other immunity that the construct has.

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