The Mortalbane feat (Book of Vile Darkness, p. 49) adds bonus damage to spell-like abilities when used on mortals:

A mortalbane ability is a damaging spell-like ability that deals 2d6 points of additional damage when used against living nonoutsiders, but only half damage (rounded down) against outsiders, undead, and constructs.

If applied to a spell-like ability that deals damage over time (such as a Truenamer's reversed Word of Nurturing, or a Freezing Fog spell that a creature has somehow acquired as a SLA), when does the bonus damage apply?

  • The first time the ability deals damage?
  • Added to every "tick" of damage?
  • Spread out over the duration of the damage?

(Tagging note: Mortalbane is 3.0 content, but I want to know how it works in 3.5, which allows 3.0 content by default as long as a newer version of it hasn't been published.)


2 Answers 2


There is no official guidance.

RAW, the feat adds 2d6 damage “when [the mortalbane ability] is used,” which certainly implies that it’s a one-time event that happens on the use of the ability, not each time damage is dealt. And that probably makes the most sense, balance-wise—damage-over-time effects are generally lower-damage up-front, but higher-damage in the long run, which mortalbane doesn’t mimic (it’s always 2d6 no matter what), so it might be a bit underpowered for such effects, but the opposite ruling could be quite overpowered (consider the thunderhead cantrip, which deals 1 electricity damage per turn).

  • \$\begingroup\$ It would apply only once because it applies to the effect only once, the spell damage like you mentioned in the thunderhead cantrip is Caster level, its only divided by many turns, so the damage would instead be Caster Level+2d6, altough if this spell allowed multiple targets meaning that every one of them would be affected by the Mortalbane feat once. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:17

Mortalbane is a tricky one, but it actually deals damage at every opportunity as worded. The reason is that it does not increase an ability's damage by 2d6, but rather it adds 2d6 damage to an ability when it is used against living nonoutsiders.

An easy way to look at this is with a warlock invocation, "chilling tentacles." It is pretty much the most complicated interaction that exists with mortalbane but beautifully demonstrates this concept:

  1. Tentacles are created, not summoned. Since the tentacle is created by the spell instead of being a pre-existing summoned creature, the tentacle's damage is increased by 2d6 whenever it attacks because that is when it is used (vs a summoned creature that would not have it's damage increased since the creature would not be created by the ability, but rather the transportation of the creature from its origin to its target, which is non-damaging)
  2. Whenever someone enters the area of this ability, they take additional damage from the cold aura. This aura will also deal an extra 2d6 cold damage from mortalbane per tick.

Imagine that a creature leaves the area of chilling tentacles and then re-enters it. Certainly, both the aura and the tentacles are being used against that creature again. Now from the ability's perspective, staying in the area or leaving/coming back are identical. The important thing is that it's the use of the ability to deal damage that matters, not the activating of the ability in the first place. A single ability that is use multiple times to deal damage will get much greater benefit from mortalbane than an ability that deals damage all-at-once.

That said, house rules are always the winners. If the dm wants to change mortalbane to "deal an extra 2d6 damage the first time it is used against a living nonoutsider," I wouldn't argue.

Link to my previous question on this same topic.

I wanted to add one more thought experiment just to evidence that the damage bonus (or penalty) is applied multiple times. If you have an undead creature being damaged by a mortalbane ability, and after taking half damage, the undead is affected by polymorph any object and turned into a living creature, the next application of damage (i.e. the next time the ability "is used against a living nonoutsider"), then it will take full damage plus 2d6 bonus damage.

Likewise, if a living creature was polymorphed to be non-living or an outsider, it would stop taking bonus damage and instead start taking half damage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The effect of a summoning spell is to summon a creature from another place. The effect of a creation spell is to create an entity directly. It's why a conjuration (creation) melf's acid arrow has stats based on the caster, but a conjuration (summoning) spell that uses an ability is based on the stats for the summoned monster. (edited: changed spell because I picked a bad example) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 6:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ d20srd.org/srd/spells/blackTentacles.htm It is conjuration (creation) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 6:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ It has area instead of effect. If Melf's Acid Arrow was a cone instead of a single arrow, it would have an area instead of effect, too. Anything that affects more than 1 in an area has area instead of effect. That is my point exactly, though. For a Conjuration (summoning) spell, the effect is a teleportation of a creature from somewhere else. For a conjuration (creation), the area/effect (depending on spell) is the actual spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 7:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 7:06

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