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Reading tons of guides on several classes, many touch on an interesting route of debuffing, namely fear-stacking. However, other than other bonuses in 3.5e, it is not clear to me which fear effects stack and which don't. I play a Dread Necromancer, and want to know if Fear Aura stacks with itself.

From Heroes of Horror, pg. 86:

Fear Aura (Su): Beginning at 5th level, a dread necromancer radiates a 5-foot-radius fear aura as a free action. Enemies in the area must succeed on a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 her class level + her Cha modifier) or become shaken. A creature who successfully saves cannot be affected by that dread necromancer’s fear aura for 24 hours.

This basically means that, as long as the creature fails its save, you can keep spamming your Fear Aura on them, but does it stack with itself? How can I see if a source of Fear stacks with other sources, or itself? Would it stack with, for instance, Intimidate?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The general rule is that effects from the same source do not stack and effects of different kinds and from different sources do stack unless otherwise specified. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Dec 14 '15 at 8:02
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It's true, fear effects are cumulative. Any two separate (and successful) fear effects grant a greater fear effect unless noted otherwise. The key here is to determine whenever Fear Aura, used on different rounds, counts as two different effects. First, the rules on this ability in SRD are so vague you'd think WotC have never intended it for players' use:

Fear Aura (Su)
The use of this ability is a free action. The aura can freeze an opponent (such as a mummy’s despair) or function like the fear spell. Other effects are possible. A fear aura is an area effect. The descriptive text gives the size and kind of area.

So, what we're left is the description from Heroes of Horror, and it doesn't say anything on the matter... At least, directly. However, there is ONE sentence in its description that allows us to pass the judgement upon this particular conundrum:

A creature who successfully saves cannot be affected by that dread necromancer’s fear aura for 24 hours.

What does it mean? No matter how many free action a Dread Necromancer spends on his target, if it saves once, it's immune for 24 hours (instead of requiring a new saving throw each free action/each round). What does that mean?
It means that the Fear Aura ability is, in fact, a continuous, through toggled at-will effect that DN can switch on/off. Which means, it's practically the same "casting" of a fear effect, so it doesn't stack with itself.

Rather, throw a Fear spell - or yeah, Intimidate - as your standard action and enjoy watching your opponents being frightened/panicked/cowering.

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