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The Secrets of Magic spell read the air reads in part

You also gain a +1 status bonus on your next Diplomacy check to Make an Impression on those creatures present when you cast this spell, as long as the check occurs during the duration of the spell.

Said duration is one minute, which happens to also be the absolute minimum time required to Make an Impression. Absent class feats that specifically change this rule, Casting a Spell is obvious to anyone who can see or hear the caster, and I've had a lot of trouble imagining how this spell could actually be used.

A conversation starts, a cleric decides that they would like to favorably impress someone they are talking to, they start chanting and gesturing and divine light fills the room, and then somehow people who were indifferent are going to let this obvious lunatic proceed directly to trying to impress them?

All the scenarios I can imagine involve subterfuge powered by Conceal Spell or equivalent. Am I misunderstanding something? Should the spell be run as an exception to the usual rules? What options am I missing?

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3 Answers 3

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Possibly non-intrusive components

The first paragraph of the cantrip seems to be describing what the somatic and verbal components of the spell are:

You take a deep breath as you survey a social situation, showing courtesy to all around you as your intuition swiftly picks up clues about social contexts and unspoken assumptions of behavior. Your body language subconsciously changes to take advantage of this information and use it in your own interactions with those creatures.

Note that there is a "verbal" element ("the deep breath") and a somatic element ("body language changes", "showing courtesy to all around you").

Given this, and two reasonable assumptions:

  1. It's clear the designers wanted this to be a useful cantrip - why would they have made it otherwise? Conceal Spell is a Wizard feat, and Wizards can't cast this cantrip without multiclassing, so it's highly unlikely it was intended to work only with Conceal Spell.
  2. In a high-magic fantasy world, it's probably not a social faux paus to cast magic around other people anyway. It's one thing if the magic targets someone (where they would feel the effects), but given this magic targets only yourself, it seems like it'd cause as much offense as casting Purify Food and Drink would.

It's okay to cast this spell in a social situation around other people. There's a RAW argument to be made that these components, while obviously noticeable, are nothing "disruptive" (see the quote from the cantrip), and RAI it seems clear that the goal of the spell is to be able to use it in social situations.

NB: Glad-Hand

If you're worried about the duration being a problem (it shouldn't be with the ruling this answer argues for), you could always check out Glad-Hand. It allows you to try to make an immediate, quick impression.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Was also thinking of Glad-Hand, but the line about only working on "those creatures present when you cast this spell" makes me think that wouldn't work to avoid this problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought about this too, if the first paragraph maybe is intending to describe how you cast the spell, so it would not be perceptible; but in other spells I checked, the description was the effect of the spell, and chapter 7 says "A horizontal line follows saving throws and duration, and the effects of the spell are described after this line", so I think this cannot descibe the components part during casting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 19:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @brandon yeah, it's not a very useful combo, but for some reason if you're worried about Making an Impression taking more than a minute (it is at least 1 minute), then it makes Read the Air actually usable. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Recognizing a cantrip like this is really easily available to anyone with even basic magical training in PF2e (see Recognize Spell, a level 1 skill feat), whereas Counterspelling is much much more difficult. I don't think the 5e assumption can carry over here. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 17:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've accepted this answer because it's the consensus answer and because I think that the other answers leave the spell pretty much useless. It's not obviously correct, but it is supportable. \$\endgroup\$
    – darch
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 8:10
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The spell is difficult to use if you cannot conceal it

I don't think you misunderstand anything. As you correctly observe, casting spells without license by others in a social environment is going to be at least awkward, if not seen as a hostile act. Likewise the rules are explicit about spellcasting being observable. The text for Verbal components says:

You must speak them in a strong voice, so it’s hard to conceal that you’re Casting a Spell.

And the Conceal Spell feat likewise states that "material, somatic, and verbal components are usually noticeable".

You have some other side benefits in that you Recall Knowledge using Society as part of casting the spell, but that is something you also could do without the spell, and casting a spell in polite society for that purpose would be just as problematic as casting it to influence someone, as your counterparts do not know what you are up to.

This spell only does make sense in a social situation. To deploy it usefully, you will pretty much need to combine it with some means that allow you to cast a spell without observers noticing, such as the Conceal Spell feat.


PS. I first thought, like in this answer, that maybe the introduction of the description following after the horizontal line is depicting the casting of the spell, so it would be innocuous

You take a deep breath as you survey a social situation, showing courtesy to all around you (...)

but the Reading Spells section in Chapter 7, Spellcasting (p. 306) explains:

A horizontal line follows saving throws and duration, and the effects of the spell are described after this line.

so unfortunately, I think this description must pertain to the effect of the spell, and not to the verbal and somatic components for casting it.

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Where Spellcasting is Allowed

Many folks might react poorly to some cleric or bard chanting and clearly casting a spell in their presence socially, but with the fairly magical default Pathfinder 2e setting it makes sense that even trepidatious observers might let it slide with no bolt of lightning or other overt effect on another creature.

Describing the spell's effects as "reading the air" may just strengthen a commoner's belief that casters are a bit odd, or make perfect sense to the gathered conclave of other spellcasters.

Even in social situations where some spellcasting might be allowed however, it's likely imposing to continue casting as it becomes disruptive to the larger scene. Chanting in a strong voice isn't exactly conducive to casual conversation, though bards can substitute the Verbal component with instrument playing.

For other cases, as you've mentioned there's the option for concealing the spellcasting if you're a witch or wizard. This is available for any character with 14 Intelligence via multiclass archetype, costing 2 class feats.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any published (in rulebooks or AP's) that actually reference NPC's reactions to spellcasting? Citing something would help this answer a lot, I think. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 1:47

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