4
\$\begingroup\$

For example, let’s say that you’re casting a spell with a long cast time (say, 24 hours). And that you have a contingency spell on you that triggers near the end of the casting, or that someone buffs you, and it raises your effective caster level. Which caster level is used for determining spell modifiers such as damage, range,...? Is it the level when you started casting, or the level when you finished casting?

\$\endgroup\$
10
\$\begingroup\$

Caster Level is checked at the end of a spell's casting time.

The SRD's entry on casting spells says:

A spell that takes 1 round to cast is a full-round action. It comes into effect just before the beginning of your turn in the round after you began casting the spell.

and

A spell that takes 1 minute to cast comes into effect just before your turn 1 minute later (and for each of those 10 rounds, you are casting a spell as a full-round action, just as noted above for 1-round casting times).

and

You make all pertinent decisions about a spell (range, target, area, effect, version, and so forth) when the spell comes into effect.

Since most of those "pertinent decisions" are linked to caster level (eg., a range of X feet per CL), it would seem that CL is checked (for the purposes of "range, target, area, ..." when the spell comes into effect.

Thus, the caster would be able to use the higher CL when determining the range and such.

However, as @Hey I Can Chan pointed out, losing a caster level may prevent the spell from coming into effect (even if concentration is maintained, which I will assume from here on). The relevant text (SRD link) is:

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.

which provides some ambiguity as to whether a caster who has lost a key CL (ie., the CL that grants access to that level of spells) would be able to bring a spell into effect.

There's an easy reading of RAW that implies that a 9th level wizard casting Summon Monster V who lost a CL (and, thus, was effectively 8th level) would lose the spell: the decision about which caster level to use would seem to be one of those "pertinent decisions" that's made when the spell comes into effect and, since the wizard can no longer choose to cast with CL9, the 5th level spell can't be cast at a high enough CL for them "to cast the spell in question".

On the other hand, the wizard (presumably) isn't choosing to cast the spell at CL8, they're being forced to do so.

Upon consideration, I think that this GM would go with the former: that CL is chosen when the spell comes into effect and the caster no longer having a high enough CL to cast the spell would cause it to be lost. This contradicts my previous conclusion, that the caster would get to keep the spell, on the theory that the availability of an appropriate spell slot was checked when the casting began.

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Where I hit a wall was with this: "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" (PH 171). While the caster hasn't chosen to lower the caster level of the spell, the caster level of the spell has still been lowered, and that seems to lead, instead, to the spell having no effect. Could this answer accommodate or refute that? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 7 at 1:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a very good point that I hadn't fully considered. I could read it either way (the afflicted caster didn't choose to lower the CL, but they also can't choose to use the minimum CL). I'll have to think on that one. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Feb 7 at 8:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that spells never actually define what caster level is “high enough for you to cast the spell in question.” We all just assume that the necessary caster level is the same as the caster level you would have at the level you first get access to that level of spells—nothing actually says that. There are a number of relevant examples that seem to confirm this intuition (e.g. magic item values), but overall it really is something of a significant gap in the written rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 8 at 4:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan: I disagree weakly: I think the (eg.) Assassin PRC supports that interpretation with the "When the assassin gets 0 spells per day of a given spell level" bit, differentiating between "0" ("can cast spells of this level if smart enough") and "—" ("can't cast spells of this level"); similarly, Spell Completion items and "a character must be of high enough level in the right class to cast the spell already" vs. Spell Trigger's "[a]nyone with a spell on his or her spell list". … not spelled out explicitly, but I think it's the best ("only"?) interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Feb 8 at 6:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I'd say this bit from the epic rules is pretty strong evidence (emphasis mine): "Spells with an effective level of 10th or higher are possible at epic levels. Because these spell slots aren’t automatically gained at a particular level like 0- to 9th-level spells are, they don’t have a minimum caster level. For this reason, the minimum caster level for any spell of 10th level or higher is set at 11 + spell level." \$\endgroup\$
    – Yopi Lapi
    Feb 8 at 6:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .