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The specific example is from a Pathfinder session I was playing in last night. A foe was floating in the air 30' above the ground. I was considering casting Stone Call. The spell has a 40' radius and 20' height cylinder as the area of effect.

I wanted to cast it with a point of origin in the air so the creatures would take the bludgeoning damage (2d6), so at 40' for example. The GM thought that perhaps that would not work because the cylinder must have the bottom on the ground. We didn't really get too far into the discussion because our cleric killed the creatures before it got around to me, but it seems a point that could come up again.

The only description the rules state for cylinder is "When casting a cylinder-shaped spell, you select the spell's point of origin. This point is the center of a horizontal circle, and the spell shoots down from the circle, filling a cylinder. A cylinder-shaped spell ignores any obstructions within its area." This doesn't specifically call out whether that point of origin can be above the spell's listed height or not.

Now this particular spell leaves debris on the ground below it making for difficult terrain for 1 round/level. So there are too basic questions in cases like this:

  • Can the point of origin be above the spell's listed height?

  • If so, in spells such as this one, would the ground below still have the debris/difficult terrain since ground level wasn't within the spell's area of effect?

The spell Ice Storm is another good example of this situation.

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1 Answer 1

If a restriction was intended, it should have been written

There is no rule, that I can see, that backs your DM’s intuition up; by the rules, it appears that you can cast these in the air. In most cases, I think that probably makes more sense; it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me that any of these things would have a maximum height in the first place (aside from the maximum distance your magic could reach).

But your DM has a point too: it’s really weird to imagine a storm of ice or rocks floating in the air, with none of that debris extending down past the height of the cylinder. Again, why I think having a limited height in the first place is weird. That said, this is magic: that ice and those rocks explicitly disappear after the spell wears out. Apparently, that includes ice or rock that falls outside the area of the spell. A weird interaction that should have been explicitly explained, but near as I can tell, that’s what the rule says.

In short: the rules are unambiguous (no restriction is listed, so none exists), but unclear (it’s not immediately obvious that there isn’t a restriction). A lot of Pathfinder, sadly, is like that (and a lot genuinely is ambiguous). Paizo would argue that this is what Rule 0 is for, and that a DM should just make a call. Personally, I think Rule 0 should be for customizing the game and making it cool, not fixing Paizo’s editorial failures, but whatever. The point is, “rules-as-written,” the spell can be cast in the air. Your DM, under the rules, has the authority to change that if he likes.

The spell definitely only affects the ground inside the area

If the spell is allowed to be cast in the air, ground is never inside the area, so it doesn’t get affected.

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