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There are several crystal attacking powers for psions. They inflict damage along the lines of slashing and piercing.

The incorporeal subtype says this:

An incorporeal creature has no physical body. It can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons or creatures that strike as magic weapons, and spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural abilities. It is immune to all nonmagical attack forms. Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it has a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source (except for positive energy, negative energy, force effects such as magic missile, or attacks made with ghost touch weapons). Although it is not a magical attack, holy water can affect incorporeal undead, but a hit with holy water has a 50% chance of not affecting an incorporeal creature.

The psionic crystal type (Complete Psionics p. 79) says this:

METACREATIVITY AND DAMAGE REDUCTION Any damage-dealing metacreativity power that specifies piercing, slashing, or bludgeoning damage does not automatically overcome a creature’s damage reduction. Such powers include crystal shard (EPH 89), hail of crystals (EPH 111), swarm of crystals (EPH 134), burrowing bonds (page 79), and crystalstorm (page 81).

We are using magical transparency rules. So what gives? Does a crystal manifested as an attack that then vanishes constitute one of those attacks with a 50% chance of passing through, as with the other spell attacks, or is it considered a real non magical non spell attack that simply fails 100% of the time?

Does a psionic power have to apply Power Resistance=Yes in the descriptor in order to get that 50% chance of doing damage to incorporeal creatures?

Here's the power that came into question:

Crystal Shard Metacreativity (Creation)

Level: Psion/Wilder 1

Display: Auditory and material

Manifesting Time: 1 standard action

Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Target: Ray

Duration: Instantaneous

Saving Throw: None

Power Resistance: No

Power Points: 1

Upon manifesting this power, you propel a razor-sharp crystal shard at your target. You must succeed on a ranged touch attack with the ray to deal damage to a target. The ray deals 1d6 points of piercing damage.

Augment: For every additional power point you spend, this power’s damage increases by 1d6 points.

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Damage Reduction is not the same thing as the Incorporeal Subtype's immunity to damage.

Power Resistance and its magic equivalent Spell Resistance are wholly different from both.

The short version is:

  • Damage Reduction (DR) reduces the amount of damage that a creature takes from weapon-like attacks.
    • Frequently, DR can be overcome by some combination of factors; it's written as "DR {amount}/{stuff that bypasses DR}" (eg., "DR 5/-" is 5 points of DR that nothing bypasses, "DR 5/magic" is 5 points that a magic weapon-like attack will bypass, and "DR 5/magic and cold iron" is 5 points of DR that can only be bypassed by a weapon-like attack that is both magical and cold iron; "DR 5/magic or cold iron" would allow a non-magical cold iron weapon to bypass the DR or any magical weapon to bypass it).
    • DR reduces the amount of damage that an attack does, to a minimum of zero (eg., an attack that does 3 points of damage against a foe with DR 5/- would do zero damage).
    • DR applies against weapon-like attacks; that is, any attack or effect that deals bludgeoning, piercing, and/or slashing damage.
  • An Incorporeal creature's immunity to damage is not DR; rather, it's an ability that acts similarly to DR but is much better.
  • Spell Resistance and Power Resistance represent a creature's ability to shrug off magical effects; the caster (manifester) needs to succeed on a caster level check to affect the creature at all. It's written as "SR {caster level check DC}".

Crystal Shard does not offer PR, so those rules don't affect the question of its effect on incorporeal creatures. It's a weapon-like attack (since it does piercing damage), so DR would apply. It's also a "spell" (using magical transparency), so the incorporeal creature's immunity to mundane damage does not apply; the 50% chance of not taking damage does, however, unless the manifester has some method of bypassing it (similar to the Ghost Touch weapon ability).

Short version: Crystal Shard will hurt Incorporeal Creatures 50 percent of the time that the ranged touch attack hits (there are probably caveats about a specific creature, though, because it's D&D).

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