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I'm not sure how the Still Spell feat works, so please help me by explaining this example.

A sorcerer with the Still Spell feat has his hands tied, and wants to cast a spell like disintegrate.

  • Can he do this? If so, how? (Explain the process and the mechanics of the action, please.)
  • If not, why not?
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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

If it's Disintegrate? No, you still can't cast it.

Distintegrate's casting requirements are the following:

Components: V, S, M/DF

  1. V = Verbal. This is no problem, as the Sorceror can speak.
  2. S = Somatic (hand gestures). Still Spell removes this requirement, so being tied up is not a hinderance.
  3. M = Material. This is a specific item that you have to have in hand, usually from a Spell Component Pouch. The problem is with his hands tied, the Sorceror has no way to take the necessary item out of the pouch to use it. Due to this, the spell can't be cast.

That's as per this rule:

To cast a spell, you must be able to speak (if the spell has a verbal component), gesture (if it has a somatic component), and manipulate the material components or focus (if any)

The feat Eschew Materials would remove the Material requirement, at which point the spell could be cast.

You can cast any spell that has a material component costing 1 gp or less without needing that component. (The casting of the spell still provokes attacks of opportunity as normal.) If the spell requires a material component that costs more than 1 gp, you must have the material component at hand to cast the spell, just as normal.

A spell that did not have a M component in its stat block wouldn't have that issue, and you could use just Still Spell to cast it.

Can you Aim It With Your Hands Tied?

Distintegrate's text says this:

A thin, green ray springs from your pointing finger. You must make a successful ranged touch attack to hit.

Still Spell removes the Somatic component of casting the spell, but nothing in it's text says that it removes the need to aim the spell or the mechanism by which you do that. So by RAW, you would still have to use your finger to aim the spell, with your hands tied.

If your hands are tied in front of you, it wouldn't be that hard. If your hands are tied behind your back, it's going to be pretty tricky as you can't see what you're pointing at. In that case I'd use the rules for Total Concealment (50% chance to miss whatever you're aiming at). This raises the issue of figuring out how you're tied up, which is quite possibly something that wasn't thought about if nobody described it and a Use Rope skill check was used to do it.

The other interpretation is that the finger pointing is just part of the Somatic component (hand gestures) required to cast the spell. If you interpret it such that it is, then Still Spell also removes the pointing requirement, and you would aim some other way. Probably by eye contact. You'd still have to make a ranged touch attack, as per the spell description.

In either case, penalties for being tied up might apply depending on how well you're tied (a fully bound character is Helpless and has an effective Dexterity of 0, which is a -5 on the attack roll). If they just secured your hands, a lower or perhaps no penalty would apply, that would be a DM judgement.

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50% miss chance with Disintegrate? Hilarity ensues. –  C. Ross Oct 4 '13 at 19:48
The bit about your finger is just a description of the somatic component. The Still Spell feat trumps this, and you can target spells even if they're purely mental actions. –  starwed Oct 4 '13 at 21:24
@starwed Okay, I've done an edit to add in both rule interpretations. Hopefully that's more workable for people. :) –  Tridus Oct 5 '13 at 2:42
If I took Still Spell and then my GM was like "oh well you can't reach your material components so neener neener" we'd be having a problem. –  mxyzplk Oct 11 '13 at 1:04
@mxyzplk I'm sure that happens a lot, but it's how the rules work. Ignoring cheap material components entirely is pretty sound advice though. Everyone is happier that way. –  Tridus Oct 11 '13 at 1:21

There is one real blind spot in the RAW on this issue that requires interpretation. Is the act of pointing that is decribed in the spell description that spell's somatic component? Most (if not all) Ray spells include some description of the spell coming from a finger or hand, and all have somatic components.

In fact, here's how the SRD describes somatic components. Emphasis mine:

Somatic (S): A somatic component is a measured and precise movement of the hand. You must have at least one hand free to provide a somatic component.

If you count finger pointing as part of the spell's somatic component, then Still Spell allows the spell to be channelled through some other part of the body. You could argue that the caster loses their Dex bonus to the ranged touch attack for being bound (and/or add in a "DM's Helper" -2 penalty). This is how I, personally, would rule this, as I think, RAI, part of the appeal of Still Spell is to be able to cast spells while being otherwise prevented from movement (such as being bound).

If the caster is bound in such a way that prevents the caster from turning around before firing the spell off, then any targets behind the caster benefit from Total Concealment.

Total Concealment: If you have line of effect to a target but not line of sight he is considered to have total concealment from you. You can’t attack an opponent that has total concealment, though you can attack into a square that you think he occupies. A successful attack into a square occupied by an enemy with total concealment has a 50% miss chance (instead of the normal 20% miss chance for an opponent with concealment).

If you think the spell has to be cast through the finger, Still Spell or no, then I would follow Tridus's answer pretty much to the letter.

Of course, this all presumes the caster has the materials in hand (or Eschew Materials) and isn't also being gagged (or also has Silent Spell).

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From the Disintegrate Spell Description:

A thin, green ray springs from your pointing finger.

A very strict interpretation would be that the ray leaps from your finger even with a Still Spell Feat. However I think the intent of the spell is that the caster points where they want it to go and therefore some other form of "targeting" would be used. Maybe a glance in the direction desired?

If the character has a Disintegrate Spell prepared with the Still Spell Feat (or more likely, a Sorcerer with an available spell slot), I would rule that anywhere they could see they could send the Disintegrate ray.

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