Assuming a target of a Pathfinder spell did not see/hear/notice a caster casting the spell, do they know/feel they were targeted?

Is it relevant if the spell worked or not, if a save was involved (either successful nor not)? Does it depend on the spell?

Example: A cleric casts detect evil through a door. What do the NPCs on the other side know now?


3 Answers 3


A creature knows when it succeeds on a saving throw against a hostile spell possessing no physical effects that targeted the creature, but the creature can't identify the spell without a Knowledge (arcana) skill check

  • A creature that succeeds on its saving throw against a spell that targets it feels "a hostile force or a tingle, [yet it] cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack." (My house rule allows this "hostile tingle" to occur even if the spell has physical effects, in contrast to the game saying such a tingle occurs only against spells possessing "no obvious physical effects.")
  • If a creature that's targeted by a spell makes a Knowledge (arcana) skill check (DC 25 + spell level) the creature can identify a spell that just targeted the creature. Spells that don't target the creature—for example, many area spells—don't allow a creature to make this check.

For example, the spell detect evil is an area spell that doesn't target creatures and doesn't grant a saving throw. A typical creature just doesn't know if it's in the area affected by the spell detect evil.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like they also don't necessarily know who casted it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 1, 2015 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user3735278 You are correct, sir. They do not. (Note that the question posits that the targeted creature can't see the caster casting the spell. Otherwise, most spells have components that make their casting obvious, so if someone nearby wiggles his fingers while speaking strange words in a firm voice while manipulating the heart of a hen and, when he's done, you feel a hostile tingle, bet it was that dude who tried something fishy rather than the barmaid.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 1, 2015 at 18:23

It depends on how the spell manifests

Detect Evil is not a Scrying spell, though it has a chance of working through one (emphasis mine).

As with all divination (scrying) spells, the sensor has your full visual acuity, including any magical effects. In addition, the following spells have a 5% chance per caster level of operating through the sensor: detect chaos, detect evil, detect good, detect law, detect magic, and message.

In that case,

A creature can notice the sensor by making a Perception check with a DC 20 + the spell level. The sensor can be dispelled as if it were an active spell.

By itself, Detect Evil provides no saving throw for a possible detection or counteraction. The spell description also does not mention any light, sound, sensation, or other kind of detectable sense.

More generally, if the spell describes nothing detectable manifesting, your target won't be aware. Evocation spells have spectacular manifestation of their spell energy, while Illusion spells could completely obscure their manifestation (to avoid disbelief).

Now take Message for example. It has a duration of 10 minutes, before which you have to appoint your targets. But as long as you do not whisper any words to these targets in those 10 minutes, they have no way of knowing they are being targeted by Message. Like Detect Evil, the spell description does not mention any light, sound, sensation, or other kind of detectable sense. Message does not provide a saving throw, nor is there a spell resistance.


According to a relatively recent—and widely unpopular—entry in the FAQ, all spells have manifestations that make it possible for anyone to know that a spell has been cast. A spell's manifestation can be disguised, hidden, or removed only by a caster that has one of the new feats or special abilities that does that.

It's hotly debated whether a spell's manifestation allows onlookers also to identify the spell's caster or if a manifestation simply indicates that a spell's been cast.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer would be improved by adding a link to the FAQ where this was clarified. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim C
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour! I edited this answer to include the FAQ entry and did some tidying up. I hope that's okay. However, I'm not entirely sure the answer's relevant here: the question asks "Assuming a target of a… spell did not… notice a caster casting the spell, do they know… they were targeted?" That is, the question isn't Do all spells have manifestations? but Does a victim know he's been targeted by a spell? and I don't think this FAQ entry's addressing that. However, thank you for this info—I was unaware of it!—, thank you for participating, and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, 2015 doesn't really sound recent. You will notice that this behavior is also expected when reading the rules clarifications on Ultimate Intrigue (2016), should you want to include that in your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras You follow this more closely than I. Was this some designer's personal pet peeve or just another case of Pathfinder's quasi-Orwellian stance of It's always been this way, gentle readers, but you just never noticed? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Huh. That strikes me as very odd in a The rules don't say I can't kind of way. That is, I always assumed that spells are cast in a universal magic language (q.v. read magic) that let those skilled enough identify those words as a spell. Likewise, I always assumed that a spell's gestures are specific to the spell, and that's why folks who can see somatic components can identify spells. An alternative didn't even occur to me. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 15:26

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