In the pathfinder ruleset, some spells are defined as harmless. These spells offer a save to resist, but are generally harmless in the first place.

According to the d20pfsrd, harmless is as follows:


The spell is usually beneficial, not harmful, but a targeted creature can attempt a saving throw if it desires.

By this, it sounds like you are forced to make a save, even if you don't want the benefit. So if you don't want a cure spell, you don't have to take it...but only if you make your save.

I have this situation in my game:

Person A Is casting haste, and is able to select every member in the party to be a part of this spell. Person B does not want haste. Can't they just refuse to allow the spell to take place? I was under the impression that harmless spells are, more or less, a choice. If you do not want the beneficial effects of said spell, you can opt to refuse it.

I ask more or less because the wording of the harmless spell suggests that you can refuse it...but you have to make your save first. This seems odd, asking someone to make a save versus haste, in order to NOT get the benefits. It seems like you are asking a person if they want ice cream, and if they say no thank, you are telling them...too bad, you are getting it anyway unless you make the save.


1 Answer 1


You still need to make a saving throw to resist a spell. The rule about accepting beneficial spells is essentially a variant wording of the "you can choose to fail a saving throw". rule.

Harmless spells usually have a positive effect, so you usually want to fail your saving throw and have them affect you, but they are still magic and they are still trying to do something to you, whether you accept them freely or not.

A clean example here might be Cure Wounds. To a human, it's a harmless spel that restores their wounds; something you usually want to accept. But you might want to try and resist it for whatever reason (most likely paranoia; since you likely only have the caster's word that it's really what he's casting)

But to an Undead, it's not a harmless spell at all. The Undead is almost certainly going to want to try and resist the spell, because it can destroy it. It would be very strange to say that an Undead can just refuse to accept the spell. It's also very strange to say that the Human can refuse to accept that very same spell when the Undead cannot.

The most logically consistent way to model "refusing/accepting magic" is by using the "you can voluntarily fail your saving throw" setup, where you can freely let something affect you, but can resist if you feel the need.

Alternatively, compare casting a Cure spell not with someone asking "do you want ice-cream?" but rather with someone emptying a bucket of water in your general direction shouting "this will help". You can let it, or you can try to get out of the way, but once the water is out of the bucket, you can't refuse it anymore. The spell, once cast, is going to try and do it's thing; you can try to resist it, but you can't just refuse the magic itself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That makes more sense when you put it that way. Still kind of wonky, telling someone they must take something they don't want, provided its beneficial, but the notion of comparing it to 'it's a spell, it's going to happen, whether you want it to or not' makes it easier to swallow. So let me throw this out there. To continue the notion of 'Person A does not want to accept spells from Person B' would a viable solution in a mechanical sense be to invest in an item that offers spell resistance? It would work on the same notion, right? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2016 at 9:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not weird; it's physics. You can "not want" a bullet in your chest all you want, it's still going to happen. Physical forces don't care about intentions or desires, they just do what they do. Spells, once cast, are also physical forces (in a way). And yes, Spell Resistance will help you with resisting spells. Keep in mind, SR will resist ALL spells targeted on you whether you like it or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Dec 10, 2016 at 10:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not all spells (there are notably many spells that don't care about your spell resistance, only your save result (sometimes not even that)), but many of them. If you pick up SR, @RuleofThree, it would be a good idea to learn everything you can about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Firebreak
    Dec 10, 2016 at 10:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just want to mention that for the example with Cure Wounds spell the target is creature touched which gives you an extra chance to avoid it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ling
    Dec 12, 2016 at 8:28

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