Haunting Mists is a 2nd level spell for Wizards, Sorcerers, Bards and Witches. It seems a pretty nice spell, with some good effects. The spell does some Wisdom damage, however, and I am unsure on how to interpret this, since it seems different from other Fog-Like spells.

An illusion of misty vapor inhabited by shadowy shapes arises around you. It is stationary. The illusory mist obscures all sight, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet. A creature 5 feet away has concealment (attacks have a 20% miss chance). Creatures farther away have total concealment (50% miss chance, and the attacker cannot use sight to locate the target). All creatures within the mist must save or take 1d2 points of Wisdom damage and gain the shaken condition. The shaken condition lasts as long as the creature remains in the mist.

Emphasis mine.

The bolded text says that all creatures on the within the fog must save or take 1d2 points of Wisdom damage. OK. I get that. However...

  • How many times this damage happens? At first I thought that this would deal 1d2 Wis damage only once, but then I looked at other Fog Spells (Notably Cloudkill) and started wondering if this damage happens only once or every turn that the creature remains inside.
  • If this damage happens only once, what happens to a creature that leaves the Haunting Mists, and then enter it again?

Ongoing Research:

Haunting Mists says it is a Figment, however Figment Spells can't do damage:

Figments and glamers cannot cause damage to objects or creatures, support weight, provide nutrition, or provide protection from the elements

While Haunting Mists in fact do damage:

All creatures within the mist must save or take 1d2 points of Wisdom damage

So, it seens to me that:

  1. Or Haunting Mists type is wrong, and it should be a Conjuration Spell, or

  2. It subschool is wrong, and it should be Shadow instead of Figment, since Shadow Illusions can do real damage. Note that while this spell use the Shadow Descriptor, it is not a Shadow Illusion, and that makes no sense, but go figures!


6 Answers 6


Looking deep into the spell

The spell states that it is an illusion (figment) [fear, shadow] spell, meaning that it has two parts the [fear] and the [shadow]. The spell goes on to describe that the shadow part has a quality that obscures vision and provides concealment, that much is understood. The fear portion of the spell is the "Illusion of misty vapor inhabited by shadowy shapes that arises around you". The (figment) tells us this "A figment spell creates a false sensation. Those who perceive the figment perceive the same thing, not their own slightly different versions of the figment. It is not a personalized mental impression." This tells us that the spell does not change, and that the shadowy images and shapes that dwell within the mist do not change or get worse, they are the same for everyone.

This means that the spell is not doing physical harm to your body, but instead the images are scaring you mentally (The wisdom damage). It is not a gaseous vapor that you are inhaling every 6 seconds, it is a shadowy illusion spell that has a specific impression meant to mentally scar you. You are either fooled by it or you are not. You don't simply believe that the shadowy shapes and misty vapor is indeed a spell fooling you one second, and six seconds later completely believe they are real. Cloudkill requires a save every round because you are still subjecting your body to the poisons, the illusions on the other hand are figments, they do not physically harm your body.

Fear effects are compounding.

The bottom of the spell description states that "All creatures within the mist must save or take 1d2 points of Wisdom damage and gain the shaken condition." Under the fear description (page 563 cr) it states "In most cases, the character makes a Will saving throw to resist this effect, and a failed roll means that the character is shaken, frightened, or panicked.", it goes on to say that "Fear effects are cumulative, a shaken character who is made shaken again becomes more frightened, and a shaken character who is made frightened becomes panicked." This addresses the "shaken" part of the fear spell.

Final Conclusion

A creature would only make a save. If they fail their save, they are mentally scared and take 1-2 points of wisdom damage on top of being shaken for as long as they remain in the mist. Leaving the mist after failing a save would mean that the character still keeps the wisdom damage, but loses the shaken effect. Should they re-enter it, they would inherit their last fear effect (Shaken, Frightened, Panicked). Fear effects are disbelief based, which means that the second a character makes a successful Will save, they no longer have to make another save, they already know that the spell is just an illusion.


It does state that fear spell are compounding, and fear effects go from Shaken to Frightened, Frightened to Panicked. As a DM you could have players make multiple saves should they fail their first one to determine if the level of fear increases, but that is part of the spell is only in place should they already have the shaken condition. The Figment part of the spell suggests that because the spell does not change, the player would not take consecutive wisdom damage, the damage is already dealt upon seeing the shadowy shapes. It is up to you as a DM to decide the final ruling.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Haunting Mists don't allow a Disbelief save, so I don't think that "not believing it" is an option on this spell. If you save, you avoid only the Wis damage, but not the Concealment that it provides. Of course, I can be wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Jun 17, 2014 at 11:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Will saves are for mind effecting things. You are making a will save because the mist is "An illusion of misty vapor inhabited by shadowy shapes" The shadowy shapes are what scar you and cause the wisdom damage, the cloud obscures your vision like any other form of mist. \$\endgroup\$
    – DanceSC
    Jul 2, 2014 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the spell required a fortitude save, you would need to make multiple saves. It is a will save, which means that the fog is only the cause of the concealment, the shadowy images are what do the wisdom damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – DanceSC
    Jul 2, 2014 at 18:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Your interpretation of Will saves is narrower than their actual definition. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 2, 2014 at 18:55
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @DanceSC I... don't think that saves work really like that. Do you have any reference to that? \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Jul 2, 2014 at 19:07

There are a few ways I would approach this.

Assuming the damage repeats

A quick calculation would indicate that the damage is almost certainly intended to apply once.

A third level wizard could cast this spell with a DC of 16, or higher. The spell lasts 3 minutes. If a creature within the spell's effect had to save every round, it would take perhaps 8 failed saves to defeat the creature.

At higher levels the save DC would increase, albeit slightly slower than an opponent's likely will save. The average wisdom score increases somewhat less quickly, meaning that a 2nd level spell becomes a very useful tool against a huge variety of opponents, throughout the game.


Comparing to Cloudkill, a 5th level spell. Cloudkill does constitution damage, and huge monsters have large constitution scores. Also it explicitly states that the damage repeats, whereas Haunting Mists doesn't.


As a creature has already made a save against the spell, and there is no explicit mention otherwise, I believe it is sensible that the effect does not apply again. (I find this fictionally satifying, too, a character leaving, composing themself, then re-entering)


Caution, opinion

Pathfinder, in general, consists of a set of rules, and abilities that provide exceptions to them. Therefore, it is not completely impossible that the Subschool descriptions are a set of base assumptions, for instance to stop devious players from applying a spell in a way that is inconsistent with its intended power. Thus, the designers have provided a spell which violates these assumptions, similar to how a character with Improved Grapple doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity for using that combat maneouvre, despite the rules saying that using it does.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with HM is that you can simply walk away from it and avoid the damage. Also, Cons Damage have a way higher value than Wis Damage, and Cloudkill can't be barred by Fear Immunity, like Hauting Mists (aparently) can. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Jul 3, 2014 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Con damage is, I agree, worse in many ways. Haunting mists is a 2nd level spell, whereas Cloudkill is 5th, Cloudkill should be a lot better. Also, wis damage reduces your will save, leaving you more vulnerable to other effects. Your point about being able to move out of the mist is countered by the fact that cloudkill has a set movement pattern, so you couldn't (for instance) use it to bar an entrance or provide longer-term cover. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Jul 3, 2014 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ HM does 1d2 Wis damage. Cloudkill is instakill for 1-3 HD, Save or Die for 4-6 HD, and 1d4 Cons damage above that. Oh, and it also have a way higher CD (being a 5th level spell). If you let a Cloudkill roll down a movimented street, you will kill almost everyone on the first round of contact. It is far, far, far better than HM. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Jul 3, 2014 at 13:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, that's clear. I mean that Cloudkill is way more powerfull than HM than even you said. I'm inclined to rule that HM deals damage only once, I just don't want to miss a detail that says otherwise. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Jul 3, 2014 at 16:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ThalesSarczuk if you are the DM you are able to rule it however you feel. Just want to mention though, that wisdom damage is pretty significant. Classes that need it require it to cast spells, and those that don't risk hitting 0 quicker. It is not like constitution where every class has it at either a secondary or third highest stat. Also: A figment spell creates a false sensation, it is not damaging objects or creatures, it is messing with your mind. \$\endgroup\$
    – DanceSC
    Jul 4, 2014 at 9:20

The way I have ruled it is that you must keep taking damage from the illusion till such time that your character knows it is an illusion. That is to say that you must make a save throw successfully or you will take damage, but once you have successfully made the throw, you know the illusion is safe and therefore do not take anymore damage from it. As for the class and subclass, I never really noticed that.


I think the answer to this question may lie in the description itself.

"An illusion of misty vapor inhabited by shadowy shapes arises around you. It is stationary. The illusory mist obscures all sight, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet. A creature 5 feet away has concealment (attacks have a 20% miss chance). Creatures farther away have total concealment (50% miss chance, and the attacker cannot use sight to locate the target). All creatures within the mist must save or take 1d2 points of Wisdom damage and gain the shaken condition. The shaken condition lasts as long as the creature remains in the mist."

Emphasis mine.

It states there that the shaken condition only remains while still instead the mist, it doesnt say the creature continues to take wisdom damage. Like has been pointed out in the comments, cloudkill specifically states anything still inside the cloud takes continual damage.

"This spell generates a bank of fog, similar to a fog cloud, except that its vapors are yellowish green and poisonous. These vapors automatically kill any living creature with 3 or fewer HD (no save). A living creature with 4 to 6 HD is slain unless it succeeds on a Fortitude save (in which case it takes 1d4 points of Constitution damage on your turn each round while in the cloud).

A living creature with 6 or more HD takes 1d4 points of Constitution damage on your turn each round while in the cloud (a successful Fortitude save halves this damage). Holding one's breath doesn't help, but creatures immune to poison are unaffected by the spell.

Unlike a fog cloud, the cloudkill moves away from you at 10 feet per round, rolling along the surface of the ground.

Figure out the cloud's new spread each round based on its new point of origin, which is 10 feet farther away from the point of origin where you cast the spell.

Because the vapors are heavier than air, they sink to the lowest level of the land, even pouring down den or sinkhole openings. It cannot penetrate liquids, nor can it be cast underwater."

Emphasis mine

So based on comparing similar spells, if the dmg was to be taken each round, it would say so in the spell.



The wisdom damage is only applied when the foe enters the cloud.


  1. The spell didn't states that repeated saves are necessary. IMHO their is a general rule to be applied in this situation: "If the text doesn't say it, it doesn't do it!"
  2. It's a spell of second level, it would be quiet easy to trap and disable/kill someone by reducing the wisdom to 0 which will lead to imbalanced behavior. One could also have a look at other second level illusion spells like Jitterbugs or Mad Hallucination. Taking them as reference it seems quiet fair to only apply the wisdom damage once.
  3. As you mentioned, it's a figment spell and the following sentence explains the wisdom damage done by it:

    [...]these spells are useful for confounding foes[...]


After leaving the area of effect and reentering it the wisdom damage will occur again because a new save is required. That's because the RAW (see Subjects, Effects, and Areas section) says:

Creatures become subject to the spell when they enter the area and are no longer subject to it when they leave.


Going to throw my proverbial hat into the ring here.

When comparing the spell to Cloudkill, a spell that explicitly states that if something stays in the area of effect for more than one round, I'm going to say that the wisdom damage is non-stacking based on the following:

Wisdom is commonly treated in Pathfinder as your character's ability to make rational decisions on the fly based on information available to them.

The damage they take to wisdom is a side effect of the Haunting mists spell which causes fear. The character fails their save, they are shaken ( which is a fear effect, albeit to a lesser degree when compared to frightened or panicked ) their ability to make further decisions is hampered by their fear, hence the wisdom damage.

Being in the cloud doesn't progress your fear from shaken, to frightened, to panicked. Therefore the wisdom damage from the spell Haunting mists does not stack. Only increasing levels of fear would alter your ability to make decisions based on your wisdom score.


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