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When casting Prayer, you give your allies a bonus and your foes a penalty on most rolls. Now, assuming you get to choose who your allies and foes are, can a creature tell which one you've designated him?

Example: I'm an evil cleric working with other evil characters. I decide they've outlived their usefulness, so I cast Prayer to give them a penalty hoping they die in combat (or I kill them, whatever). My question is if they can tell that I'm giving them a penalty, rather than a bonus since they think I'm their ally (and I was until recently).

Conversely, would foes realize I blest them and maybe not hit me in the face?

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A creature doesn't know if it's affected by spell unless the spell says so; likewise, a creature doesn't know how a spell is affecting it unless the spell says so

A creature can identify the spell prayer as the spell's being cast with a Spellcraft skill check (DC 18), and, if a creature also has a way to sense the spell prayer in the first place (e.g. the creature uses the spell detect magic), a creature can identify the spell prayer after the spell's in place with a Knowledge (arcana) skill check (DC 23).1

However, lacking explicit text that says otherwise, creatures targeted by a spell don't know they've been targeted by a spell, nor do affected creatures know they're affected by a spell.

If that seems a bit unfair, it is, but, also, most of the time it won't matter. If a target knows it's been targeted or if an affected knows it's affected, that's fine because the target or the affected isn't likely long for this world anyway. However, in a campaign comprised of backstabbing PCs, playing from the beginning that many spells have no obvious effect at all is probably a good idea.

The GM can implement setting-dependent rules governing casting a spell or a spell's effects

It's not like the spell is astral projection or anything, so here's the whole thing:

Prayer

School enchantment (compulsion) [mind-affecting]; Level cleric 3, paladin 3
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, DF
Range 40 ft.
Area all allies and foes within a 40-ft.-radius burst centered on you
Duration 1 round/level
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance yes

You bring special favor upon yourself and your allies while bringing disfavor to your enemies. You and each of your allies gain a +1 luck bonus on attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saves, and skill checks, while each of your foes takes a –1 penalty on such rolls.

Thus, without further information, if the GM says that the spell's somatic components include giving each ally a thumbs up and each opponent a thumbs down, then it'll be obvious to all what the caster's doing, but if the GM says a caster has a little heads-up display in which all of the various allies, enemies, and, perhaps, other participants appear and the caster mentally ticks off who is in each category...

Example

Character              Ally  Enemy
Abel the Wizard         X      —
Bob the Fighter         X      —
Orcs 1 through 59       —      X
Orc 60                  X      —
Orcs 61-87              —      X
Orc Warlord             —      X
Restov the Nightblade   X      —
That Dude over There    —      —

(Only the caster would see this.)

...then there's no way for those affected to know, short of the obvious: trial and error, an effect like the spell detect magic, and so on.

A DM could also say, for example, that targeted creatures briefly have yellow exclamation marks above their heads (or equivalent masses) or that affected creatures give off non-illuminating glows (e.g. red for enemies and blue for allies), but this is well beyond many spells' typical descriptions. A GM who deliberately adds such indicators is giving away many spells' targets and, possibly, their effects, but that might be exactly what such a GM desires.2


1 There's also the hostile tingle that a creature feels when it succeeds on a saving throw versus a targeted spell (which the spell prayer is not). More information on detecting targeted spells is covered in this related question.
2 In an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Second Edition game in which I played a wizard, the DM house ruled that the spell teleport emitted a loud pop both upon departure and arrival, making teleport ambushes not impossible but more difficult. Without a cleric in the party to cast silence, 15-ft. radius beforehand, we were limited in the usability of teleport to murder our foes. I didn't mind; back then, the spell teleport was a lot more dangerous to the caster, having the possibility of killing the caster outright.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you review this answer based on this FAQ item, and the info we got from ultimate intrigue (such as Subtle Enchantments). "However, lacking explicit text that says otherwise, creatures targeted by a spell don't know they've been targeted by a spell, nor do affected creatures know they're affected by a spell." \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jun 4 '19 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Sure. That FAQ entry—that, by the way, I despise as Orwellian in both its implications and its implementation—mentions nothing about the spell's target only the spell's caster. If, in your campaign, the "manifestation" (because there's a term the d20 System's never used before!) of a ranged and targeted spell may be a beam between caster and target, but in another's campaign it may just be near the caster a flash of light or a floating rune. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 4 '19 at 17:51
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First of all, I'm going to assume you are looking for an in character answer, as it will be fairly obvious to the players right away that they have to subtract from their dice rolls instead of add. (And if it's not obvious to them, things are going to get really confusing.)

But can a creature, in game, tell that they have been blessed with suck?

Dice rolls are a purely OOC mechanic, your characters have no idea that somebody rolled a 19 and still missed, they would have to go purely by the fact that they are having a harder time fighting, and if they notice or not will largely depend on how you explain a miss.

"You attack the goblin and you miss" is not going to trigger any warning bells from a creature. "You attack the goblin, but you fail to injure it because your hand slips and you almost lose your sword" is starting to sound a lot more like something fishy is up.

On the flipside, that Goblin might realize that he is suddenly lucky, but I highly doubt that he is going to be able to tell that is -your- doing. As far as any creature fighting you is concerned, you are an enemy, they don't know you are the reason they are suddenly lucky unless you can somehow telepathically explain it to them.

It seems more likely that enemies who suddenly find your "friends" blessed with suck would assume that their own deity is favouring them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So you're saying that the effects of this particular spell are subtle enough to go unnoticed. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jun 18 '15 at 7:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Its definitely something that you'd have to collaborate with the GM to do. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jun 18 '15 at 15:03

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