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When casting a touch spell, I can leave the spell on my hand and deliver strategically. What happens when that same touch attack is enhanced with Reach metamagic? Lets say I cast Invisibility on an ally 30 feet away.

Did it leave a 'glamer sparks' along its path? Did it become an energetic projectile with explosions, or does it still behave like the original touch (except for the fact that it is now moving along a vector).

Assume that myself and my ally are concealed and hidden to the public (assume all my verbal and semantic components were executed unnoticed, so they didn't notice a creature lurking in the bushes), but my ray had to pass across a wide open roadway. Did the approaching carvan even have a chance to see anything? Do they get a spot check (to notice dancing lights or something like that)? (in my mind i am comparing to an Orb of Fire, where a bright flash of fire is likely to turn some heads).

The main idea is that I am well hidden in some bushes, and do not want to divulge my location, yet I want to deliver certain buffs to my rogue across the street.


My real confusion is regarding the "sparks and crackles" produced from this ranged-touch spell. Does the Invisibility happen silently, like it normally would as a touch, or is it preceded with a loud zap and bursting streak of light (like most rays do)? Is the caravan alerted to our presence, even if they can't find us; or do they have no clue about the suspicious happenings in the bushes just ahead.

Reach Spell: [...] The spell effectively becomes a ray, [...]

Effectively? I assume they were implying that mechanically it is a ray. But then how come they didn't simply say "spell becomes a ray". If the "Reach-spell" is effectively a ray, what exclusion is preventing it from being specifically a ray.


P.S. If Invisibility is not a good example of a touch spell turned range (for whatever reason), then how about the same scenario with Eyes of the Avoral. Or rather, a spell that wasn't "flashly" in its touch form (it does not give off any normal illumination, even in a completely dark room).

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One thing to note with your stealth spellcasting: a verbal component must be spoken with "a strong voice". That'll allow a Listen check at DC 0, which is the DC to hear people talking, to allow people to hear that you've cast a spell. –  DuckTapeAl Jun 24 '14 at 14:49
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@DuckTapeAI, assume the actual cast was concealed somehow (Silent spell or silence or whatever) –  user2097818 Jun 24 '14 at 14:58
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This issue precisely is why I wish spell blocks had an "Obtrusiveness" property... –  Ernir Jun 24 '14 at 16:30

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As I see it, there are two basic parts to this question: can you hold the charge on a Reach spell, and is the 'ray' made by a Reach spell visible?

To the first question: You cannot hold the charge on a Reach spell. A Reach spell is a ranged touch attack, and the rules for holding the charge specifically call out touch attacks, which are different. The relevant rules are:

Touch

You must touch a creature or object to affect it. A touch spell that deals damage can score a critical hit just as a weapon can. A touch spell threatens a critical hit on a natural roll of 20 and deals double damage on a successful critical hit. Some touch spells allow you to touch multiple targets. You can touch as many willing targets as you can reach as part of the casting, but all targets of the spell must be touched in the same round that you finish casting the spell.

Touch Spells and Holding the Charge:

In most cases, if you don’t discharge a touch spell on the round you cast it, you can hold the charge (postpone the discharge of the spell) indefinitely. You can make touch attacks round after round. If you cast another spell, the touch spell dissipates.

Since that passage only mentions touch spells, and not ranged touch spells, you cannot hold the charge on a Reach spell.

To the second question: Whether or not you can stealthily cast a Reach spell is pretty much entirely up to your GM. The description of Reach Spell says that the affected spell "effectively becomes a ray", which says to me that for all intents and purposes, you treat the spell like a ray.

The fact that it says "effectively becomes a ray" and not "becomes a ray" is a semantic difference that has no real meaning. There are no exclusions listed for why it says one and not the other, so it's likely that whatever designer wrote this feat liked the sound of "effectively" more than not, and his/her editor agreed. Since the feat doesn't list any ways that the spell doesn't work like a ray, it's a reasonable assumption that it always works like a ray.

If your GM says that Reach Spell rays are visible, then they are. The rules aren't terribly clear on whether rays in general are visible, but clues from flavour text and descriptions strongly imply that ray spells are visible to normal vision, and thus can be seen by anyone who is looking.

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Where do you get the quote that reach touch spells "effectively become a ray"? –  GreySage Jul 8 at 20:54
    
@GreySage ...the text of the feat? It's quoted in the question. –  DuckTapeAl Jul 8 at 22:54
    
Sorry, I thought you were talking about Pathfinder, I see it's 3.5e. My bad. That wording is absent from the Pathfinder feat. –  GreySage Jul 8 at 22:55

The ability to hold the charge is a property unique to spells with the Range: Touch property; when you apply a metamagic effect, properties of the spell change, so that, for example, reach invisibility has Range: 30 feet (and Effect: Ray). Since it no longer has Range: Touch, you cannot hold its charge.

In effect, instead of your hand having a charge of energy on it, that charge is projected outward from your hand in a ray: literally a laser beam of magic with which you must strike your target. Your arm is most definitely not “miraculously extended” as you suggest; the feat specifically states that it becomes a ray. Even if it didn’t, non-ray ranged-touch-attack spells exist, that (probably) still don’t involve your arm extending, though they aren’t explicit in what they do entail. They don’t allow holding a charge, either.

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If you were my DM, would that caravan get to roll a spot check in response to the ray? Can rays be invisible laser beams (infra red)? Do material spell compnents have anything to say about this? (a focus seems passive, but materials (especially regarding a touch) almost seem to imply "spell substance". –  user2097818 Jun 24 '14 at 14:55

In general all magic in D&D is assumed to be completely obtrusive unless the spell specifically says differently or you have taken feats (Silent Spell, Still Spell, Eschew Components) to mask its casting. And so distinct that someone with Spellcraft just looking at you can identify the exact spell cast (and identify a spell in place just by looking at it as well, as long as it's visible).

The question then is whether Extend Touch counts as a feat that conceals effects - I would say not, as it doesn't state a change to the visuals at all and it already has a bonus effect for the feat spend. You could try to come up with a homebrew "Invisible Ray" feat to try to add stealth in addition. You can't just "make a ray invisible" just like you can't just "cast a spell without gesturing," these kinds of things require a feat to do.

Of course if your GM is agreeable you can come up with a more Stealth/Bluff/etc. based "conceal a spell" ruleset, but that's outside the rules as written.

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