Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Today I was reviewing my sorceress spell list for before our game tonight, and I came to the description of the 1st level spell "Touch of Gracelessness", specifically the text that describes the effect.

According to the online SRD it reads as follows:

The target takes a penalty to its Dexterity equal to 1d6+1 per two caster levels (maximum 1d6+5). This penalty cannot drop the target's Dexterity score below 1

I've been leaving this spell on the side because recently we've been facing undead creatures and other foes that are immune to ability damage, but I just noticed that it is called a "penalty", and doesn't mention it being ability damage per se.

So the question is this: Is the dexterity penalty caused by Touch of Gracelessness ability damage, ability drain, or just a penalty that cannot be avoided by immunity to such effects?

share|improve this question
Oh, I should have read more carefully. So it has no type (therefore it applies to everyone) and it can stack with itself, since the spell doesn't indicate otherwise. Neat. Now I only need to get me Extend Spell =P – Cryptangel Aug 2 '14 at 23:27
Yeah, just remember that the spell itself can't reduce scores to zero. It can make people easier to hit, reduce their ranged to-hit, but it can't immobilize them. And if you have them at one dex, any amount of ability drain less than the penalty effectively does nothing. – Arkhaic Aug 2 '14 at 23:31
I understand. Thanks for the clarification. – Cryptangel Aug 2 '14 at 23:45
@Cryptangel I'd have to do more research to confirm it works this way in Pathfinder, but I'm pretty sure penalties don't stack with themselves if from the same source (in this case, that source is the spell touch of gracelessness); instead, only the biggest penalty applies. – Hey I Can Chan Aug 3 '14 at 1:54
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Penalties, as Arkhaic mentions,

are numerical values that are subtracted from a check or statistical score. Penalties do not have a type and most penalties stack with one another.

but ability damage and drain are explained as follows:

Some attacks or special abilities cause ability damage or drain, reducing the designated ability score by the listed amount. Ability damage can be healed naturally. Ability drain is permanent and can only be restored through magic.

Creatures who are immune to ability damage, ability drain, or both aren't also automatically immune to penalties to their ability scores.

That doesn't mean the spell touch of gracelessness works on undead creatures, though; the spell has an entry of Saving Throw: Fortitude partial, and undead creatures possess

Immunity to any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless).

share|improve this answer
I see, I see. So undead in particular do are immune to this spell effects, but it is not because of the type of the effect, but because the fort save – Cryptangel Aug 2 '14 at 23:37
@Cryptangel Yes. Undead can take penalties to any ability score but can't suffer ability damage to their physical ability scores nor drain to any ability scores, so they, for example, still take a penalty to Dexterity when entangled... unless the effect trying to cause that condition requires a Fortitude saving throw and didn't also affect objects. Yeah, I know. – Hey I Can Chan Aug 2 '14 at 23:44
lol. But I guess it has a certain logic to it, since entangle is physically restraining the creature and the penalty comes from that, and not from a magical effect. Oh well, at least this spell is going back in the casting rotation for all those pesky electricity-immune creatures we've been encountering lately. Thanks again ^_^ – Cryptangel Aug 2 '14 at 23:49

Penalties are not ability damage or ability drain. Penalties reduce the check or ability score, generally stack, and are described as follows:

Penalty: Penalties are numerical values that are subtracted from a check or statistical score. Penalties do not have a type and most penalties stack with one another.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.