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Some of the racial spells, like Sow Thoughts, Aboleth's Lung, and Steal Breath, are quite good. However, I am unclear how, exactly, the racial restriction works. I understand it can be lifted with GM permission, but this question isn't about that.

  • If I'm a wizard or witch, and I encounter a member of the race willing to teach me the spell, can I learn it?
  • If I'm a wizard and I encounter a spellbook containing the spell can I learn it?
  • If I possess a Page of Spell Knowledge or similar for the spell, does said item grant access to the spell?
  • Do the spells have any protections against spell storing effects or duplication via e.g. Shadow Conjuration or Wish?

Basically: How, exactly are PCs of the 'wrong' race prevented from acquiring the effects of such spells?

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As far as I know, racial spells aren't actually defined anywhere, and so the following answer is entirely my opinion, well-reasoned though it may be:

For your examples, the answers are yes, yes, yes, and no.

Racial spells are only considered "default" or commonplace for characters of those races. This means that a human wizard can't select aboleth's lung as a "free" spell when leveling up, and that a human sorcerer could only select it if they had access to the spell somehow (such as studying with a spellcaster who had it). Divine casters would need to be at least made aware the spell exists before they request it from their deity. Basically any other means of learning a spell besides just leveling up should remain valid:

  • Learning the spell from a scroll, spellbook, or other spellcaster
  • Researching the spell independently
  • Identifying the spell as it's cast with a Spellcraft check (for casters who only need to be exposed to the spell, like sorcerers and most divine casters - this isn't comprehensive enough for a wizard to add the spell to their book0
  • Suffering the effects of the spell (for caster who only need to be exposed to it)
  • Learning about the spell from a magical source, such as speak with dead or via an outsider

All of these things constitute "GM permission". If the GM doesn't want you learning the spell, all he has to do is not introduce a gillman wizard with aboleth's lung in his spellbook. Not already knowing the spell exists, you couldn't really call up a water elemental or devil to ask about it directly, and the GM is in control of spell research as well. Buying a scroll of the spell is impossible if no one knows it to scribe them in the first place.

If the GM doesn't mind you learning it, then it's safe to assume that the spell has made it out of its circles and into a more general curriculum. It could be anywhere from as hard as actually going to a gillman village and buying a scroll (for an inflated price, even) or as easy as simply choosing the spell on level-up, depending on your GM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are a fair number of PC abilities that affect item and NPC existence/availability, so a PC with the right abilities (e.g. an optimized rogue) can decide that the party encounters a gillman wizard selling scrolls of the spell. This also indicates that party members aren't prohibited from teaching each other their racial spells. Still, this makes a fair bit of sense and answers the question so +1 from me, and we'll see if anything else comes along. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Sep 5 '15 at 17:08

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