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Absorb Spell (Su) is a class feature of the Spellthief (Complete Adventurer variant, p. 13) and it reads as follow:

Beginning at 7th level, if a spellthief makes a successful save against a spell that targets him, he can attempt to absorb the spell energy for later use. This ability affects only spells that have the spellthief asa target, not effect or area spells. A spellthief can't absorb a spell of a higher spell level than he could steal with his steal spell ability (see above).

To absorb a spell that targets him, a spellthief must succeed on a level check (1d20 + spellthief class level) against a DC of 10 + the spell's caster level. Failure indicates that the spell has its normal effect. Success means that the spellthief suffers no effect from the spell and can cast the spell later (or use its energy to cast one of his own spells known) as if he had stolen the spell with his steal spell ability. His normal limit of total spell levels stolen still applies.

At 20th level or higher, a spellthief can choose to use the stolen spell energy as an immediate action (see page 137), either to recast the original spell or to cast one of his own spells known using the stolen spell energy.

Let me pick these two phrases:

  • if a spellthief makes a successful save against a spell that targets him, he can attempt to absorb the spell energy
  • To absorb a spell that targets him, a spellthief must succeed on a level check

So, in order to absord the spell, you must succeed on a saving throw and then pass the level check.

What I do not understand is this part:

Failure [on the level check] indicates that the spell has its normal effect.

Does it refer to the fact that the spell complitely affects you even after a successful save?

or

Does it mean that if the spell's descriptor has somithing like "Saving Throw: Reflex half" then this halved damage (or effect) still applies?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please refrain from using square brackets in the title, especially at the end. Tgey are used to convey special messages, like [closed] \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot May 23 at 6:39
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The normal effect of a spell is to obey its saving throw rules. If one were to pass a saving throw and then fail a level check, it would be a penalty/abnormal effect if the save were to be simultaneously discarded. Ergo, the normal effect is the effect of the spell on successful save. In order to counteract the effect of the saving throw, the absorb ability would have to say one suffered the full effect of the spell as though the save had not been passed.

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It might mean either of those things. I don’t believe anyone will ever be able to tell you definitively what the author intended it to mean, because what was written is ambiguous, and there isn’t all that much external commentary on the spellthief (and none, to my knowledge, on absorb spell in particular).

From a balance perspective, seeing as you must have already passed your save, a class features that undoes that success and harms you—even when you fail to use that feature—is a terrible idea. And spellthief is a weak class (a very weak class), so it really needs all the help it can get. So I absolutely recommend to anyone and everyone that they go with the second interpretation, that it just means you take whatever effects the spell has on a successful save.

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