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The Draconic Breath [Draconic] feat (Complete Arcane) allows a Sorcerer to spend a spell slot to use a breath weapon as a standard action. This is a supernatural ability and the damage and save DC is calculated based on the level of the spell slot spent.

The 7th-level Transmutation spell animate breath (Draconomicon, updated for Spell Compendium) creates a construct/elemental out of the user's breath weapon. Neither version explains directly whether or not the Draconic Breath feat counts as a valid breath weapon for this purpose, though the Draconomicon states:

Casting this spell is a standard action, which includes using your breath weapon.... it immediately takes animate form and attacks. It does not form as a cone or a line, and does not deal damage when it is used to cast this spell,

The Spell Compendium version says

For this spell to function, you must have a breath weapon, either as a supernatural ability or as the result of casting a spell such as dragon breath

Furthermore, both versions of animate breath define the range as "Personal" and the target as "You/Your breath weapon," without defining where the animated breath appears.

This leaves me with a couple of questions:

  • Can Draconic Breath be used with animate breath to create a construct or elemental?

  • Do you have to use an additional spell slot to activate Draconic Breath in addition to the one for Animate Breath, or do you use one (7th-level) spell slot for both?

    If two spell slots must be used, is there a requirement or limitation on the spell slot used for Draconic Breath for Animated Breath to function?

  • If using the Spell Compendium version of Animate Breath (which doesn't base the construct's stats on the strength of the breath weapon), will using a low-level spell slot for Draconic Breath produce the same result as using a high-level spell slot?

  • If you have the Dragonheart Mage prestige class from Races of the Dragon, does its increased Draconic Breath damage dice affect the animated breath's statistics?

  • Can you spawn the animated breath anywhere in the area the regular breath weapon would have affected, or must it materialize adjacent to you, or somewhere else?

I'm sorry if the length of my post is off-putting, but I want complete information for the sake of my 3.5 Edition character build.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good first question. Welcome to the site. I have tried to make your question a bit more readable and remove some unnecessary details. If you don't like it, feel free to roll back using the revision history (You can access this by clicking on "edited X ago" below your post). \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Oct 17 '15 at 11:47
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It's usually best to use the most recent printing of anything, and that means using the Spell Compendium version the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell animate breath [trans] (SpC 11):

For this spell to function, you must have a breath weapon, either as a supernatural ability or as the result of casting a spell such as dragon breath (page 73). When you successfully cast this spell, you imbue the energy of your breath weapon with coherence, mobility, and a semblance of life [for 1 round/level].

Emphasis mine, and I'll address that shortly. One should also use the Races of the Dragon version of the feat Draconic Breath (102):

As a standard action, you can convert an arcane spell slot into a breath weapon. The breath weapon is a 30-foot cone (cold or fire) or a 60-foot line (acid or electricity) that deals 2d6 points of damage per level of the spell slot you expended to create the effect. Any creature in the area can make a Reflex save (DC 10 + level of the spell used + your Cha modifier) for half damage. This is a supernatural ability.

Emphasis mine, and there are two ways of reading that emphasized text.

  1. The creature takes a standard action to convert an arcane spell slot into a breath weapon and uses that breath weapon as part of the same standard action used to convert the slot.

    This reading means the breath weapon the feat grants can't be targeted by the spell animate breath. The spell slot is converted into a breath weapon that's instantly used, and, prior to that conversion (if the creature has no other breath weapon) the creature has no breath weapon to target with the spell animate breath. I assume this is the feat's typical reading.

    Hence a caster could no more cast the spell animate breath on this reading of the breath weapon granted by the feat Draconic Breath than he could cast animate breath on the breath weapon generated by the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell firestride exhalation [conj/evoc] (Dragon Magic 67).

  2. The creature takes a standard action to convert an arcane spell slot into a breath weapon, and, afterward, the creature can take a standard action to employ the breath weapon.

    This reading is extremely legalistic, and it's unlikely this was feat's intent, but this reading does allow the spell animate breath to be cast on the feat Draconic Breath's breath weapon (even if the breath weapon is made available through expending a 0-level spell). This reading also removes the utility value (such as it is) of being able to spend spell slots to make breath weapons that hurt foes right now. (The creature is essentially forced to take two rounds to use its breath weapon. And, no, that's not a delay expressed in rounds.)

    Under such a reading the DM must determine if the creature possessing the feat can either take only one standard action to convert one spell slot into one breath weapon or take several standard actions to convert several spell slots into several distinct breath weapons. Essentially, the DM must determine if the feat is a switch or a dial. (This DM recommends a dial.)

The spell animate breath fails if the caster lacks a breath weapon

Although the spell's duration is 1 round/level, the spell animate breath nonetheless requires the caster to cast it on the caster's breath weapon. Otherwise, the spell fails. The typical reading of the Draconic Breath feat has the feat supplying a momentary breath weapon that's used in the same round upon exchanging the spell slot for the breath weapon, leaving no time for the spell animate breath to be cast.

A spell like the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell dragon breath [evoc] (SpC 73), with its 1 round/level duration, is a valid target of the spell animate breath, the spell dragon breath even stating that, after the spell's cast, the caster must take a standard action to use the breath weapon and then must wait 1d4 rounds before using the breath weapon again. Until the duration of the spell dragon breath expires, the caster has a for-reals honest-to-Pelor breath weapon, not a fleeting one like that afforded by the typical reading of the feat Draconic Breath.


  • Question: Does the prestige class dragonheart mage (Races of the Dragon 88-91) change the statistics of the variant Huge fire elemental created by the spell animate breath?
    Answer: No. The spell animate breath determines the variant Huge fire elemental's statistics, not the breath weapon employed to create it except insofar as dictated by the spell. Note: The prestige class dragonheart mage is, frankly, less than stellar, so allowing minor changes to the variant Huge fire elemental as a house rule shouldn't upset game balance significantly.

  • Question: Can the variant Huge fire elemental created by the spell animate breath be created anywhere within what would otherwise be the breath weapon's typical area or must the creature be created somewhere else?
    Answer: Absent a range, the most conservative house rule for determining where the spell's effect occurs is adjacent to the caster's space in an area sufficient to accommodate the newly created creature. Note: Using such a house rule, a caster that lacks sufficient space adjacent to him will see the spell's effect fail. The created creature won't, for example, break down walls purely as a result of its creation.

Note: A Huge elemental can be summoned using the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell summon monster VII [conj] (PH 287). While the spell animate breath has only somatic components and a casting time of 1 standard action, summon monster spells—because of their versatility and splatbook support—are usually far better choices for a sorcerer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The first three questions are about the Draconic Breath feat, not the dragon breath spell. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 17 '15 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan All fixed. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 17 '15 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Thank you for the detailed response, and I'll look for a different 7th-level spell to round off my list. If I had used it, though, other advantages of the animate breath spell over summon monster VII (besides the casting time and components) would have been that the Animate Breath construct couldn't be warded off by protection from evil or magic circle against evil effects, defeated by dismissal or banishment, or altered by spells like distort summons (Book of Vile Darkness), and they wouldn't have the elemental vulnerabilities of actual elementals. \$\endgroup\$ – FlameTroll Oct 18 '15 at 0:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FlameTroll You're welcome. Would that we all at level 14 face opponents who think that casting dismissal or banishment is a good use of their actions! :-) Point taken about protection from alignment effects, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 18 '15 at 0:45
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Draconic Breath gives a sorcerer a breath weapon. They have an unusual cost for using it (a spell slot, where most creatures with a breath weapon can just use it, maybe having to wait a little while before using it again), but it’s still a breath weapon that they have.

As such, it is absolutely a valid choice for animate breath. This does mean burning two spell slots, one to power the breath weapon and one to cast animate breath, but that doesn’t change anything.

The fact that Spell Compendium even explicitly notes that the dragon breath spell’s breath weapon is valid for animate breath is just extra confirmation: the dragon breath spell is quite similar to the Draconic Breath feat, in that it is “spend spell slot → use breath weapon.” If anything, the breath weapon from dragon breath is even more ephemeral, since that breath weapon literally only exists for the moment you’re using the spell, rather than being a thing you always have (but have to power with spell slots).

Since Spell Compendium is the latest version of animate breath,1 its version is the “correct” one,2 and since it doesn’t care anything at all about the stats of your breath weapon, there’s no need to use a higher-level spell slot to produce the breath weapon. Technically, even a breath weapon produced by a 0th-level spell slot (which would deal 0d6 damage) would qualify for animate breath, but I imagine just about every DM will require at least a 1st-level slot.

Correspondingly, however, dragonheart mage does nothing to improve matters. If you were using the Draconomicon version, then the dragonheart mage improvements would improve animate breath’s construct.

As for where the effect of animate breath appears, that is entirely unclear. Even calling and summoning effects (which this is not) lack a generic, default location for things to appear in; summon monster, planar binding, et al., those things all have Ranges that spell it out. The range on animate breath is Personal, because it’s affecting your breath weapon... but that leaves out where the creature version appears. Talk with your DM. The two options you lay out seem like the most sensible ones to me, but I don’t really know that one is a better choice than the other. Since breath weapons and this spell are quite weak, I’d probably just let you create the creature anywhere you could have breathed, but that’s me.

  1. Draconomicon came out in 2003, Spell Compendium in 2005. Draconomicon was actually one of the very first supplements for 3.5, even before Complete Warrior (which is often thought of as the first “real” supplement to the 3.5 PHB).

  2. The errata rules don’t actually specify this; instead they talk about the “primary” source, which is usually the first printing. However, Spell Compendium asserts its primacy, and most players grant it that status. Moreover, in the case of complete reprints (as opposed to simple mentions or derivative material), later printings might be primary; the FAQ suggests so.

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