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Most versions of D&D have some version of the gate spell, as well as other means of creating “portals” between planes.

Usually the spell descriptions contains language similar to this from 5th Edition:

Travel through the portal is possible only by moving through its front. Anything that does so is instantly transported to the other plane, appearing in the unoccupied space nearest to the portal.

It sounds as if “anything” is supposed to be an object. But perhaps a spell would count, too? Is a cone of cold a “thing”? What about an intangible targeted spell, like dominate person?

In short, can magic be cast through a planar portal, whether from gate or other spells?

If there’s a difference between how D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder handle things, that’s worth including.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm guessing that (at least for 3.5 vs. 5e) this is really multiple questions (relevant meta). Perhaps consider narrowing this one down to just one edition, and asking about others as separate questions if you're interested there too? \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Nov 11 '17 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ RE: "Ideally, I’m hoping for answers that cover multiple versions of D&D or Pathfinder." Is this just idly curiosity or is there a larger plan afoot, like some sort of giant fantasy crossover? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 11 '17 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 - According to that meta, it’s fine to have D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder in the same question, so I’ll edit to have only those. \$\endgroup\$ – Obie 2.0 Nov 11 '17 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan - I was inspired by this question. If magic can’t pass through planar portals, you can set up a wall of force, say, on the demiplane side of the portal, and it can’t be affected from outside (and entry becomes impossible, if you don’t leave enough space for someone to get in). Plus, it’s a pretty obvious question, and I haven’t been able to find an answer for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Obie 2.0 Nov 11 '17 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related and also related. However, as this is specifically about spell effects, you might also be interested in this more recent question. (Also, I'm not entirely sure if Pathfinder has yet to detail Forgotten Realms-style portals yet, so answers may be stuck addressing just the spell gate for that game.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 11 '17 at 20:59
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No (Portal with one exception), and Yes (Gate but with conditions).

The 3.5e power Psychoportive Shelter and the spell Rope Trick both contain language to the following effect:

Spells cannot be cast across the extradimensional interface, nor can area effects cross it.

Portals lack this language in their descriptive text, being based on the Teleport Without Error effect. However, portals are defined as being "creature-triggered", and cannot be triggered by an unattended object. Spells are not usually considered objects, per se, but they are definitely not creatures; with the exception of a living spell, perhaps.

Effects such as Gate also lack this language. However, they are explicitly defined as a two-way opening that remains open so long as the caster concentrates (unless using the 'calling' feature), and anyone or anything can pass through. In saying this it is also important to note that things do not 'automatically' pass through (such as ambient environment) so something like a spell effect would have to have an area the eclipses the gate's claudication from the front or be deliberately aimed through. (The basis for things not automatically passing through is found in the Underdark book, where it mentions that only after hundreds of years without proper maintenance do gates begin to 'leak'.)

As such, I believe that mechanically speaking, Portals will not allow a spell to cross (unless it is a living spell that counts as a creature), and that Gates will allow a spell effect to cross over, but only if it passes through the 'front' as defined in the spell description AND the gate effect is not being used in 'calling' mode.


Note that spells that are currently active and affecting creatures prior to passage are not affected either way when passing through a portal or gate. This could make for some interesting initiative and order of action arguments, so be prepared for that angle.


Having said that, it would certainly be interesting if a spell passed through at the exact same time along with a creature for plot reasons, which would probably have a DC of at least 35 to pull off the precision required (basing this off the DC for hitting and splitting an arrow already in a target), so keep that option in mind when making your decision.

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Yes, but not most of it

So what do you need to cast a spell? You need Line of Effect, and you need to fulfill any special requirements of the spell (having targets, or a maximum range, or components, or picking the version of the spell coming into effect, etc).

It's pretty easy to tell if you have line of effect. You have line of effect if you have line of sight and nothing's in the way. Most portal-y things work this way when 'open', so you're probably good. That means, barring any special properties of the portal (like banning magic across the threshold like rope trick) or special requirements of the spell, you're good. Unfortunately most spells have a particularly troublesome requirement: Range.

So, you're standing somewhere in a dark underground passage and there's this portal to Hell and you see a cactus a bit of a ways in and so you say to yourself "Boy, that looks to be about 120' feet away, I should have no problem fireballing that cactus from here", but you are wrong! See, while the cactus may look like its just a hop skip and a jump across the border, in actuality it is only the magic of the portal that allows you (and other stuff) to cross an immesurable gulf and enter the realm on the other side. How far is Hell from the Material Plane? It's not a distance, certainly not in any real quantity like 'feet' or even 'miles'. Your fireball can only target things within several hundred feet-- the catcus, close as it may seem, is immeasurably further away than that. Unless a portal specifically says it alters how magic ranges work, what matters is not how many feet of movement it would take to get somewhere but how close the origin point of a spell actually really is for real (take that, Special Relativity!). Unless you believe regular portals actually move the planes around and rip them apart the way, say, precipitate complete breach et al. do, there's no way the actual objective position of that hell-cactus is within a real number of feet of you.

Basically, this means that any spell with a finite numeric range is out (and 'Unlimited' was already out, of course). Spells with a range of 'touch', however, or a range of 'see text' with text that doesn't limit their range prohibitively can be cast across planar gateways, by default. Additionally, the effects of spells can certainly pass through a Gate-like portal, provided the portal has no statement preventing that and those effects don't need to remain within the spell's range (like the fire of a fireball unfortunately does). Indeed, Gate itself says:

You could position a gate in a hallway in order to absorb any attack or force coming at you by shunting it to another plane. Whether the denizens of that plane appreciate this tactic is, of course, another matter.

Magic that isn't spells is mostly in the clear, of course, with magic swords and golems and rivers and the like seeming not to have any trouble going through planar gateways.


Disclaimer: While this answer addresses the general case of portals in general, almost all actual portals and portal-like thingies in 3.x contain language preventing the use of spells across their border, directly or indirectly. It is only in the generic Gate-like portal system asked about that this default is relevant.

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