The 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell indifference [ench] (Tome and Blood 92 and—so far as I'm aware—never reprinted), in part, says

This spell drains emotion from the creature touched. The subject becomes immune to fear and compulsion effects of 2nd level or lower and gains a +4 circumstance modifier on saving throws against fear or compulsion effects of 3rd level or higher. Furthermore, morale bonuses or penalties do not affect the subject while the spell lasts.… (92)

How does this spell interact with effects that lack a spell level?

For example, a creature that's immune to fear can't be intimidated (Player's Handbook 77). Would the subject of the indifference spell be immune to Intimidate skill checks made to demoralize the subject?

Note: Why, yes, I am looking for inexpensive alternatives to feats—like the Player's Guide to Faerûn regional feat Fearless (38)—that smart NPCs can use to defend themselves against the feat Imperious Command. The spell indifference has several advantages over other low-level (hence inexpensive) spells I've found like the remove fear spell, but I'm unsure of how the indifference spell works in this regard and wondering if guidelines exist for adjudicating this kind of corner case. I am aware that as the DM, I can make "minor adjustments" to unresvised material for my campaign as per the Dungeon Master's Guide on Why a Revision? (4), but I'd rather have community input before ruling unilaterally. Also, if it turns out that the indifference spell is useless against mundane fear effects, I'll pose another question; answers to this question are a lousy venue for a list of methods to hinder the feat Imperious Command.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I know that Ravenloft makes a clear distinction between magical and mundane fear when dealing with abilities and mechanics, but that's specific to the setting and might not help you here. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Jul 3, 2018 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras That's… interesting. If you don't opt to couch that very carefully as an answer drawn from a licensed product rather than an official source, I'd still be interested in a page reference here in comments. (I'd be especially interested if the Ravenloft rules you know of were 3e or 3.5; unlike a lot of publishers, the Ravenloft dudes revised the campaign setting in light of the 3.5 revision.) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2018 at 13:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ 3.0 Ravenloft Campaign Setting p42, on paladin's aura of courage (they are immune only to magical fear). pg101, Remove Fear applies to Fear and Horror saves (a mechanic from this campaign setting) and magical fear effects. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Jul 3, 2018 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ There have been two official 3.5 versions of Ravenloft. Do you have a preference in which one you want quotes from? \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jul 6, 2018 at 1:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Suggestions for improvement welcome. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2018 at 8:07

1 Answer 1


There are a few ways to read this.

Due to the preponderance of things which are referenced but never defined in the game, there are a few ways this could go:

Method One

Things without a spell level are considered lower than 'x' spell level.

This method would wind up including all non-magical sources and effects, which is somewhat shaky as the spell only seems to reference magical sources. This would also bring up the debate about 0 and null/nonability not being the same thing in the rules, not to mention potentially opening a can of worms in rules interpretations. Furthermore, I can't recall offhand any mentions in the rules that imply that non-magical is supposed to be equivalent to spell level 0.

Method Two

Intimidate skill checks are not a "fear and compulsion effect of 2nd level or lower".

This method assumes that non-magical effects would have been mentioned if the spell was meant to cover it, and the spell text apparently only counters magic-based effects due to the level reference. This is the interpretation closest to RAW and the least shaky.

Method Three

The level referenced in question was intended to be Character level and not Spell Level.

In which case this becomes a rather weak spell. This is a very Rules-As-Interpreted version, and is rather questionable as it is not supported in the rest of the text, but could be workable.

Method Four

The level referenced in question was intended to be both Character level and Spell Level.

This is also a "RAI" interpretation, but with the added benefit of resolving the question of non-magical effects being affected or not. However, it would still be of fairly minimal usage, though the bonuses are nice.

Most likely, Method Two is the correct interpretation. Generally speaking, things only do what they say, and don't do what they don't say. Powers and Spells and the Transparency rules are other examples of things which only do what they say, and don't do what they don't say.

Another way of looking at this would be to check if there are any other 2nd level spells which grant complete immunity to all versions of something, magical and non-magical.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that RAW #2 is least shaky, when the spell was published, there simply weren't any mundane fear effects—the Intimidate skill, for example, couldn't be used to demoralize. That's why I was looking for guidelines for adjudicating the spell. It seems weird to hold the spell responsible for the designers' lack of foresight; I mean, look at that fluff text: "This spell drains emotion from the creature touched," but a big dude all up in his grill? All that emotion comes flooding back? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2018 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, Method One is pretty easy to play if you limit the lenient interpretation to just this specific spell effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Jul 7, 2018 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I think Frightful presence (Ex) is a mundane fear effect, was it absent in 3.0? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7, 2018 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp While both a 3e and 3.5 dragon's frightful presence inflict conditions that are typically created by fear effects, a dragon's frightful presence isn't itself called out specifically as a fear effect. Instead, folks are unsettled by the dragon's frightful presence. (I really have no idea if that was a deliberate choice on the part of the Monster Manuals' authors nor had I ever noticed this quirk before!) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 8, 2018 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan SRD at least lists Frightful presence as a form of fear. It explicitly says all of them are fear effects. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 8, 2018 at 16:13

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