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When a spell is cast, can the caster choose to do damage lower than what is rolled? For example if 3d4 is rolled and the result is 8, can the player choose to inflict damage lower than what is rolled?

If yes, does this logic also apply for spell effects that are time based. e.g. the effect lasts 2d6 hours, can the caster choose to have the spell affect last for a shorter period than what is rolled?

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You cannot choose to do less damage

If you cast a spell dealing 3d4 and you get 12, you can't just decide to deal 6 damage instead.

But you can can cast a spell at a lower caster level

When you talk about 3d4 damage, I instantly picture a good ol' Magic Missile. Like many spells these can be cast at a lower caster level which will then reflect on their damage die (and their duration / range...)

Here is the rule as written (Emphasis mine) :

You can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level you choose must be high enough for you to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level.

So by casting at a lower caster level, you can deal 1d4 or 2d4 damage instead.

I think this achieves what you are looking for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not 100% sure if it's applicable, but in Complete Arcane (p. 176), it states that during nonlethal spell duels, energy/force/shadow spells can be "pulled" to deal half damage. It doesn't outright state if this is a property of the duels or a property of the spells, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Forrestfire Oct 3 '17 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is probably worth noting that the logic in question is aplicable for dismissable spells. You can roll 12 hrs on 2d6 and then dismiss the spell after 6 hrs. \$\endgroup\$ – Ols Oct 3 '17 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Forrestfire As per this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 3 '17 at 18:43
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Can you choose to do less damage?

Yes, you can using metamagic

If the purpose is to lessen or prevent damaging allies

  1. Subdual Substitution, you can deal everyone subdual damage and sort out the enemies as needed (tie up, maim, kill, etc).
  2. Sculpt Spell, allows you to change the shape of spells, potentially avoiding damaging allies altogether.
  3. Purify Spell, subjects of the spell won't take damage if they are good and will only take half damage if neutral. Ideal if your party is good aligned and your enemies are evil.

Casting at a lower caster level will allow you to reduce the overall damage dice if you are high enough level to be able to cast the spell at a lower caster level and if the spell in question has caster-level-dependent damage.

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People have answered your first question but nobody has answered the second part.

If yes, does this logic also apply for spell effects that are time based. e.g. the effect lasts 2d6 hours, can the caster choose to have the spell affect last for a shorter period than what is rolled?

I would venture to say no since variable length spells are supposed to be rolled secretly, without the spellcaster knowing the length.

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