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If the caster of a Sending spell knew the target in life - and succeeded in contacting someone on another plane - could the spell function if the target became a Petitioner ?

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3 Answers 3

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Yes

Sending allows you to "contact a particular creature with which you are familiar". The question stipulates that caster was familiar with the creature in life, so the two questions we must answer are:

  • is a petitioner a creature?
  • if so, are they the same creature they were before becoming a petitioner (that is, are they still the "creature with which you are familiar")?

Is the petitioner a creature?

Becoming a petitioner is "just" acquiring a template:

“Petitioner” is an acquired template that can be added to any creature whose soul migrates to one of the Outer Planes following its death (henceforth referred to as the base creature). The petitioner uses all of the base creature’s statistics and abilities except as noted below.

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Size and Type: The creature’s type changes to outsider. It loses all subtypes. Its size does not change.

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Skills: Petitioners lose all skill ranks they possessed as mortals. As a 2 HD outsider, a petitioner has 12 skill ranks it can spend on skills (with a maximum of 2 ranks in any one skill), and gains bonus skill ranks as appropriate for its Intelligence. Unlike most outsiders, petitioners do not gain an additional 4 class skills beyond those available to all outsiders.

-- Bestiary 2 (also, PFSRD)

Nothing in the petitioner template would indicate that becoming a petitioner means that the creature is no longer a creature; if that were the case, the type change should include that, if nothing else. Further, the "skills" section reinforces the interpretation that a petitioner is still a creature: they must be, since they're a 2HD outsider that gets skill points based, partly, on their int.

So, a petitioner is still a creature. One hurdle down. But, are they the same creature?

Is the petitioner the same creature?

The Petitioner template says nothing about becoming a different creature - in fact, they: retain "fragments of [their] memories from life". Further:

Creatures who die, become petitioners, and then return to life retain no memories of the time they spent as petitioners in the afterlife. A petitioner who dies is gone forever...

The petitioner retains fragments of their memories, and they can return to life. If they were a different creature, there's no reason to believe that they'd retain any memories from life. Further: were they a different creature, there would be no sense in talking about their returning to life.

Additionally, petitioners "are the souls of mortals brought to the Outer Planes after death in order to experience their ultimate punishment, reward, or fate." If the petitioner is not the same creature that they were in life, there would be no sense in talking about their punishment, reward, or fate: a petitioner being rewarded or punished for what some other creature did in life would make no sense in the cosmic order.

Finally, the PathfinderWiki entry on souls states that:

At the end of the creature's mortal life, its soul leaves its body and manifests in the Ethereal Plane, beginning its journey with other souls via the River of Souls

The creature's soul - which, since the petitioner is now an outsider and, thus, no longer has a body/soul duality - journeys via the River of Souls. That is, the creature follows the River to wherever the cosmic order (overseen by Pharasma, of course) directs it.

So, yes: a petitioner is a creature and is the same creature that it was in life.

But...

However, petitioners only retains fragments of its memories. A petitioner on the receiving end of a sending spell may not remember who the sender is, nor what the context of the message may be. Even if it does, it won't necessarily remember the answer to any particular question; getting information from a petitioner this way is not a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let's assume that the Petitioner could be contacted multiple times so that the caster could explain who they are. By your answer it could be said that the same Petitioner should still be able to tell what they are experiencing in that moment, whether they are aware of their condition or not and similar present informations, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Snakehelm : I see nothing that would prevent that, provided the planar barrier allowed the spell through, Pharasma didn’t block it, etc.. Note that I didn’t look into Pharasma’s home plane to see if it specifically blocked Sending (or if she did there), given the assumption in the question that the spell could get through. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 19:15
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No

Setting aside Petitioner's statistics for a moment, the answer can be found in the lore about what a Petitioner is (conveniently up on the Wiki). Specifically

Once a soul becomes a petitioner, it is irrecoverably altered. At this point, the soul's relationship with its mortal vessel fully ends—a petitioner gains a new physical body formed of quintessence and can never be resurrected into its previous mortal form.

The Petitioner is not the same creature as the soul that makes it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While it's a valid interpretation, I think that the emphasized part is talking more about the body (or matter) instead of the soul and/or identity. So I dunno, but that definitely helps. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you connect the dots a bit more on why the soul's being irrecoverably altered and its relationship to its mortal vessel ending means it's a new creature? Ship of Theseus issues abound in the implications of both (eg., to what extent must something be irrecoverably altered before it's a new thing? and, when reincarnated or resurrected - which the petitioner template says can happen - is the newly alive creature somehow a different creature again?). \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think I can prove it any more than I could SoT. But that's what the lore text means to me. Mechanically, your answer is probably correct since they made it a template for some god-awful reason. But it removes everything that the creature was in life, so I'd think that becoming a Petitioner marks the point that a creature stops being what it was. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose I could try to angle it from the fact that the creature was dead and not Resurrected, but that sounds weak to even try. Might give some GM's cause. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 22, 2021 at 16:41
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I can see both sides of this and don’t have a specific actual ruling I can find but I’mma just lay out my thoughts on it.

In favor of it working I would say that since Petitioner is just a template added to a creature after death and as such it is the same base creature then yes, sending should work if you were familiar with it in life. Though whether the Petitioner is still familiar with them is up for debate as they hold on to only fractions of their memories from life.

Against it working would be that the spell Speak with Dead exists and I would say supersedes Sending in this particular purpose so you may not want to muddle up the effects of spells because if so then Sending just becomes inarguably superior to Speak with Dead except in the cases where you don’t know the deceased.

So all in all I guess my take is, depends on how liberal the DM wants to be to allow different spells to achieve similar results but I would be very stingy on what constitutes “being familiar with a creature” for the allowance of Sending in this way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand the point about Speak with Dead, but IMO it's kinda of a non-problem. First of all, Sending is a higher level spell, which already justifies it being superior. But there is also the fact that, while Speak with Dead allows a saving throw for different alignments, Sending can just be ignored. Of course there are also the facts that you'd need a corpse to cast Speak with Dead, while Sending does not have that limitation, or the knowledge of the creature (which remains the same as in life for Speak with Dead), so those are also factors to determine the effectiveness of the spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 23:55

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