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I'm playing a Pathfinder adventure path as a magus, and the last couple of boss fights have ended with me making critical hits with the spell shocking grasp.

In the first instance, fighting a necromancer, I got a natural 20, confirmed the critical hit, and dealt a boatload of damage (about 60 points of electricity damage plus my weapon's damage). The GM ruled that the boss was vaporized, the boss's equipment destroyed. That was annoying as we wanted to search his equipment for clues, but it was a natural 20, so whatever. The party paladin even lectured me about using excessive force, the irony making everyone chuckle.

Tonight's boss went down to another this-time-not-a-critical-hit shocking grasp that dealt less damage against what I believe to be a higher CR foe. Again the GM ruled that the boss was obliterated and all his stuff destroyed.

Now, I'm aware of Rule Zero, but the GM isn't super familiar with Pathfinder and has said that if he gets anything wrong the players should point it out. I'm almost certain that just killing someone with magic doesn't destroy all their gear, but I can't find a good source to back me up.

I know that with a fireball, for instance, a natural 1 on a saving throw risks damaging one equipped item, and the fireball will damage unattended items. Conversely, the spell disintegrate specifically does not harm a subject's equipment. Is there a general rule about energy damage killing a creature also destroying its equipment?

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Pathfinder's rules for damaging objects says:

Attended (Held/Wielded etc.) Items: Unless the descriptive text for a spell (or attack) specifies otherwise, all items carried or worn by a creature are assumed to survive a magical attack. If a creature rolls a natural 1 on its saving throw against the effect, however, an exposed item is harmed (if the attack can harm objects).
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So the worst that could happen, is that one item might get damaged or destroyed.

And that's only on a spell that allows saving throws (which Shocking Grasp doesn't), and only if the creature rolls a 1 on their save.

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Adeptus's answer addresses how Damaging Objects occurs during saving throws, but to take this a step further: no even more general rule exists. That is, no general rule says that a creature's gear is destroyed when the creature dies. For example, a creature's gear should be recoverable after the creature's killed by the spell shocking grasp (the spell not even allowing a saving throw) just as the creature's gear should be recoverable had the creature been sworded to death. Neither grasp nor blade says anything about vaporizing a monster (and its stuff!); another effect must cause such a vaporizing, not the shocking grasp spell.

Really, when the game leaves something unsaid, that's usually code for nothing special happens. Since the game doesn't say anything special usually happens when a creature is killed, the creature leaves behind its stuff (and, typically, its corpse, too). One of Pathfinder's premises is that adventurers kill things and take their stuff, and our murderhobos can't take that stuff if instead that stuff for no reason melts, turns to vapor, or whatever when an enemy is defeated.

In other words, unless the GM has instituted another effect and hasn't told you about it, you're right. If the GM says you should point out when he's doing something wrong now's the time because the GM is doing this wrong. Obviously, you can be kind about this, like pointing out the error in private or in a personal email to him that directs him to your question. Rarely is it a good idea to embarrass or humiliate the GM; GMing is hard enough already.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that even if he said explicitely that he want you to point things out that doesn't mean you have to do that without diplomacy. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Oct 12 '16 at 9:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme Of course. I thought that was assumed? I mean, politely mentioning to the GM that the GM has inaccurately assessed the game's mechanics is one thing, while getting right up into the GM's grill and screaming that he's wrong is another entirely. Seriously, should I add that one should also play nice? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 12 '16 at 9:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem^^ I just read your answer with a naive point of view and "you're right, and if the GM says you should point out when he's doing something wrong, now's the time because the GM is doing this wrong" feels quite aggressive. I know it's only a subjective reading and from other of your answers I know that it's not what you actually suggest, but I guess someone new here could read it as it. No big deal, really ! \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Oct 12 '16 at 9:25

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