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When I use Shatter in the second way, targeting just one object, does it break the object entirely or act like sunder attack? The wording in the third paragraph is a bit confusing to me. It seems that the damage there is listed for creatures only, while the first paragraph states "sunders object".

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It seems that the single-target shatter is meant to behave just like the multi-target shatter, except that it's more potent, in exchange for having only one target.

Here's the full extract of the spell from the Pathfinder PRD:

Area or Target 5-ft.-radius spread; or one solid object or one crystalline creature

Saving Throw Will negates (object); Will negates (object) or Fortitude half

[…] Used as an area attack, shatter destroys nonmagical objects of crystal, glass, ceramic, or porcelain. All such unattended objects within a 5-foot radius of the point of origin are smashed into dozens of pieces by the spell. Objects weighing more than 1 pound per your level are not affected, but all other objects of the appropriate composition are shattered.

Alternatively, you can target shatter against a single solid nonmagical object, regardless of composition, weighing up to 10 pounds per caster level. Targeted against a crystalline creature (of any weight), shatter deals 1d6 points of sonic damage per caster level (maximum 10d6), with a Fortitude save for half damage.

Breaking this down into your distinct options: you can choose whether to use the spell as an area attack against many objects, or to target a single object. Or, you can target a crystalline structure.

Whether you target multiple objects or one, the spell seems like it should affect objects equally: non-magical objects shatter. There's no suggestion in the second paragraph that it should handle objects any differently when they're single-targeted.

The difference with the single target version is the larger weight limit (10 pounds per level instead of 1 pound per level), and the removal of the composition restriction (you can target stuff other than crystal, glass, ceramic, or porcelain). That means you can use the single target Shatter on an unattended suit of platemail or a steel vase, whereas the area version would not affect either. Since the object must be nonmagical, it won't get a save, and will be shattered.

Lastly and entirely separately, if you single target a crystalline creature, it takes the damage noted with save for half.

Given these conclusions about the spell's behaviour, it appears all of this confusion could have been avoided by shifting the line break between those paragraphs to sit just one sentence later, like so:

Used as an area attack, shatter destroys nonmagical objects of crystal, glass, ceramic, or porcelain. All such unattended objects within a 5-foot radius of the point of origin are smashed into dozens of pieces by the spell. Objects weighing more than 1 pound per your level are not affected, but all other objects of the appropriate composition are shattered. Alternatively, you can target shatter against a single solid nonmagical object, regardless of composition, weighing up to 10 pounds per caster level.

Targeted against a crystalline creature (of any weight), shatter deals 1d6 points of sonic damage per caster level (maximum 10d6), with a Fortitude save for half damage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't see any basis for your claim that single-target objects should be affected the same as those in an area. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 3, 2014 at 0:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whereas I think it's obvious. The spell works the same each way, only the target changes, and damage is added for a critter. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Dec 3, 2014 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ YogoZuno, do you mind if I make an attempt at modifying how you present these assertions? I would be heavily editing the last paragraph. For the record I find this reasoning pretty sound. (If you'd rather I didn't, I will leave this be. I might attempt the same in the form of my own answer or something.) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2014 at 0:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Go for it - if you can make it clearer, it's to everyone's benefit. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Dec 4, 2014 at 3:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan That modification at the end was not an attempt to make the prior points more plausible - they're intended to already be plausible by that point, derived from the original text. That modification was to point out that such a small change would have avoided all the confusion to begin with. (Either way, the points stand without it.) I've attempted to clarify that. Now, if you disagree, I guess that's that, but let's avoid an argument in comments that'll get itself deleted. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2014 at 6:30
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I agree, the paragraph is confusing. Basically, it deals with two entirely separate cases, so far as I can tell, and sticks them in the same paragraph without any indication that a transition is being made, which is very misleading and confusing.

So there are three separate effects: shatter as an area-effect, shatter targeted against an object, and shatter targeted against a crystalline creature. The first is clear, written in a separate paragraph and everything. The latter two are lumped together in a confusing way.

Worse, it’s still unclear what happens even if you extricate this mess.

We have this in the intro:

Shatter creates a loud, ringing noise that [...] sunders a single solid, nonmagical object

A successful sunder attempt deals damage; shatter does not indicate how much damage is dealt. In fact, in its own “detailed” entry it doesn’s even mention sundering:

you can target shatter against a single solid object, regardless of composition, weighing up to 10 pounds per caster level.

That’s purely targeting information; no idea what on earth happens to the target.

In particular, it is unclear if this should work like the first option:

Used as an area attack, shatter destroys nonmagical objects [...] All such objects [...] are smashed into dozens of pieces by the spell.

Or like the third option:

Targeted against a crystalline creature (of any weight), shatter deals 1d6 points of sonic damage per caster level (maximum 10d6), with a Fortitude save for half damage.

Ultimately, this one is going to have to be up the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Because shatter doesn't say anything about the sunder being an attempt or having any way to fail, it seems to me that it's more of a fait accompli: it has the effect of automatically sundering the item to the fullest extent possible. (The difference between that and the first option would then be merely that it can target noncrystalline items, which is arguably sufficient.) \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Dec 5, 2014 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanTuggy A “successful sunder” doesn’t mean you’ve broken it, though, it means you hit, and dealt damage. I agree, the sunder would just happen, but it’s not at all clear if that means that the sunder “succeeds” and deals damage, or “succeeds” and furthermore destroys the item entirely. Also, as mentioned in previous comments (now deleted), the line about sundering doesn’t actually matter: the spell would still be ambiguous if it weren’t there at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 5, 2014 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I read it, it's a successful sunder attempt that means you hit and deal damage. d20srd.org/srd/combat/specialAttacks.htm#sunder uses "attempt" a fair amount. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Dec 5, 2014 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanTuggy possible, but not definitive, so it's still ambiguous. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 5, 2014 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ This literally happened to me this evening. My Masterwork Longbow was targeted by Shatter. However, the text doesn't explicitly states what actually happens to such an object. Does nothing happen (using the 'Will negates (object)' text as a basis for this decision), does it gain the broken condition, or is it destroyed? There seems to be no reasonable other alternatives for this usage of the spell. Fwiw, my DM gave my character a will save (although the DC seemed sketchy) and the object automatically gained the broken condition. Another shatter spell targeting it would have destroyed it \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2015 at 0:19

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