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Angels in Pathfinder 1E all have the Protective Aura supernatural ability:

Protective Aura (Su) Against attacks made or effects created by evil creatures, this ability provides a +4 deflection bonus to AC and a +4 resistance bonus on saving throws to anyone within 20 feet of the angel. Otherwise, it functions as a magic circle against evil effect and a lesser globe of invulnerability, both with a radius of 20 feet (caster level equals angel’s HD). The defensive benefits from the circle are not included in an angel’s statistics block.

The defenses against evil creatures and effects make sense here. For non-evil effects, including those caused by the angel and its allies, the aura acts as by a globe of invulnerability:

An immobile, faintly shimmering magical sphere surrounds you and excludes all spell effects of 3rd level or lower. The area or effect of any such spells does not include the area of the lesser globe of invulnerability. Such spells fail to affect any target located within the globe. Excluded effects include spell-like abilities and spells or spell-like effects from items. Any type of spell, however, can be cast through or out of the magical globe. Spells of 4th level and higher are not affected by the globe, nor are spells already in effect when the globe is cast. The globe can be brought down by a dispel magic spell. You can leave and return to the globe without penalty.

Note that spell effects are not disrupted unless their effects enter the globe, and even then they are merely suppressed, not dispelled.

This interaction seems confusing, since many angels list beneficial touch spells of 1st-3rd level in their stat blocks. For example, an astral deva has a cure light wounds spell-like ability, which has a range of touch, but the globe of invulnerability would seem to "exclude" it. So how does this aura work in practice?

Does this aura prevent the angel and allies (within 20 ft) from casting any 1st-3rd level spells on each other? Can the angel benefit from its allies' 1st-3rd level spells like haste?

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Short Answers

  • How does the protective aura ability of an angel work in practice? Clumsily. So, so clumsily.
  • Does the lesser globe of invulnerability effect of the protective aura ability prevent the angel and everyone else within 20 ft. from casting 0–3rd level spells on each other? Yes, but it's Pathfinder so there're undoubtedly exceptions.
  • Can the angel benefit from allies' 0–3rd level spells that are cast within 20 ft. of it while the the lesser globe of invulnerability effect of the protective aura ability continues? No, but it's Pathfinder so there're undoubtedly exceptions.

Long Answer

Because the supernatural ability protective aura doesn't say that it's always active (cf. the supernatural ability truespeech that's also possessed by creatures possessing the subtype angel), the creature takes a standard action to activate the protective aura ability like it would any other unspecified supernatural ability (see here). Thereafter, though, the protective aura ability's defense against evil attacks and effects lasts indefinitely, but the protective aura ability's magic circle against evil effect has a duration of 10 min. per Hit Die of the creature, and its lesser globe of invulnerability effect has a duration of 1 round per Hit Die of the creature, and this latter's dismissible (see here).

(Some research shows that Pathfinder omits from its rules how to calculate the caster level of supernatural abilities, but it's a d20 System game there's an underlying formula: "Unless otherwise noted, a supernatural ability has an effective caster level equal to the creature’s Hit Dice" (see here). Is this oversight terrible? Yes, but it's not unprecedented: the game also forgot to include the burrow rules, for instance.)

With this in mind, an angel can take a standard action to dismiss the minor globe of invulnerability effect of its protective aura ability. (Or it can just wait until the duration expires, I guess.) Then the angel and others can freely use their spells and spell-like abilities within the area—relatively speaking, of course, while keeping in mind the other effects of the protective aura ability and any other abilities the angel may possess.

To be clear, after the minor globe of invulnerability effect ends, the angel can take a standard action to activate again the entire protective aura ability, restarting the ability's defenses against evil effect if it has been somehow ended, resetting the duration of (or restarting) the protection from evil effect, and restarting (or resetting the duration of) the minor globe of invulnerability effect.

You're absolutely right, though, that some of an angel's abilities probably just won't work while the angel's protective aura ability is fully operational. Likewise, its nearby enemies' and allies' spells and abilities also won't work. This may be a problem, but it shouldn't be an excessive one if everyone on Team Angel is prepared for it. You probably didn't call an astral deva because you needed a cure light wounds spell, for instance, and a GM may rule that the angel needs to reactivate the protective aura ability when it arrives anyway, the duration being relatively short.

Because this is enormously complicated and unmentioned by the ability, I agree with a previous answer (that has been removed) that it's unlikely that this is the way the protective aura ability is intended to work. (My wholly unsupported suspicion is that the author of the protective aura ability just didn't reread the lesser globe of invulnerability spell and instead worked from memory or house rules.) On the other hand, the protective aura ability as written is playable, albeit burdening the GM with some extra bookkeeping in already bookkeeping-heavy game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would not agree that the aura can be separated into different parts. Although it comprises multiple effects (which could also be stand-alone abilities) it’s one unique ability, after all. There cannot be parts of it active and others not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Sep 15, 2023 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Peregrin RE: "There cannot be parts of it active and others not." Then it can't be voluntarily ended unless the GM rules that the aura has all the properties of each of its individual effects—which seems an unlikely ruling. That would really be an oversight! \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2023 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ The angel must be able to turn the aura off, otherwise it makes no sense. There is another strange thing: in the 3.5 MM it says: "This aura can be dispelled, but the angel can create it again as a free action on its next turn." Considering that SU abilities normally can’t be dispelled, maybe they wanted to write: This aura can be dismissed, but the angel can create it again as a free action on its next turn. — Well, just a guess.... \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Sep 16, 2023 at 8:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Peregrin That's a really good guess, though! It's shameful that Pathfinder didn't take the opportunity to clarify that and, instead, simply omitted that. If you want a rueful chuckle (and who doesn't?) search the Book of Exalted Deeds for protective aura and pity the poor creatures who can activate but never deactivate their auras. Jeez, what a mess. I'll try to address this weirdness in this answer in a while—unless you want to address it in your own? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2023 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, please, go ahead, I'm not going to write an answer. Meanwhile, I also chuckled ruefully through the BoED and all those auras. Also interesting: a 5th level Risen Martyr (p 69) can even activate a protective aura that duplicates the "protective aura spell" — which unfortunately doesn't exist... \$\endgroup\$
    – Peregrin
    Sep 17, 2023 at 17:41

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