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The spell Sanctuary says that the spell is broken if the subject attacks. It also states that the subject can use "non-attack spells" without breaking the spell. What I'm confused about is what exactly counts as a non-attack spell.

Clearly, a spell that needs an attack roll (say, Scorching Ray) counts as an attack spell. I'd guess that any spell that causes damage would count as well, though I'm less clear on that point. What about spells like Command, or Calm Emotions, which can be used to gain an advantage in combat, but are not actively hostile? What about Murderous Command, which doe not damage and doesn't require an attack, but is clearly hostile in intent?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

This question is often asked with respect to Sanctuary, Protection from Evil, and other effects that refer to an "attack."

Luckily the core rules answer this in the Special Spell Effects section of the Magic rules.

Attacks

Some spell descriptions refer to attacking. All offensive combat actions, even those that don't damage opponents, are considered attacks. Attempts to channel energy count as attacks if it would harm any creatures in the area. All spells that opponents resist with saving throws, that deal damage, or that otherwise harm or hamper subjects are attacks. Spells that summon monsters or other allies are not attacks because the spells themselves don't harm anyone.

So since anything that provokes a saving throw counts, Murderous Intent counts as an attack spell.

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