I've been tinkering with a mischiveous little sorcerer build and I have come to a question I am unsure of. With my Elemental bloodline I can change the type of energy of any spell that does energy damage to my bloodlines chosen type, in this case fire. Shocking Grasp when attacking a target with a metal weapon or metal armor gives an +3 bonus to the touch attack. If my damage is fire, does this change? I believe RAW would imply no. However, I wanted more clarity.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Consider using the rules-as-written tag if you are asking about the strict interpretation of the rules-as-written \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2017 at 21:20

4 Answers 4



No, you still keep the +3. To compare, Scorching Ray, an otherwise fairly similar spell, mechanically(does elemental damage on a touch attack) does not GAIN +3 on to-hit for changing its damage to lightning.


Uhm, well, probably not.

By balance

You're paying for this specific combination of effects, and probably not gaining any significant benefit from it. On top of that, it sets an ugly houserule precedent. Do other touch-attack-based spells get a +3 on to-hit when they deal lightning damage? Scorching Ray does not. Deciding that Lightning damage, in general, gets a net +3 on to-hit rolls is a dangerous and unbalancing houserule that may or may not be worth having. Deciding that Shocking Grasp retains its bonuses as per RAW has very little effect on the overall game's balance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for this. I had the same take on this. In regards to RAI well. I mean you could technically always house rule some flavor and just change it to 1-3 dmg or so since you'd be flash heating the metal but its just one of those that's in need of a little attention as said it brings into question other spells and why don't thry do the same etc etc. I appreciate everyone chiming in here. Very helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tyrantis
    Apr 25, 2017 at 10:55

Yeah, this works. Changing the energy type of a spell merely changes the descriptor and any energy damage the spell deals. Technically, this varies by method of energy substitution, because there are no general rules and each ability defines how it works, but 1) I'm pretty sure they all work that way and 2) You're using the Elemental Bloodline's Bloodline Arcana, which definitely works that way.

There are a number of spells with interesting/counterintuitive effects when subjected to fire energy substitution. For example:

  • Chill Metal [Fire]
    • Damage is no longer negated by damage of the opposing type, Chill Metal [Fire] still creates ice blocks.
  • Polar Midnight [Fire]
    • Darkens the area, traps creatures in walls of ice that shortly become walls of steam lasting for 10 minutes, but nonetheless is helpless and unable to breathe, corpses are transmuted to ice and then rapidly melted.
  • Mythic Cone of Cold [Fire]
    • Mythic Cone of Cold partially encases its victims in ice, lowering their speed. Further castings melt and then replace the ice. [Cold] creatures are immune to the extra effects of this [Fire] spell, to which they are likely vulnerable.
  • Call Lightning Storm [Fire]
    • works better in the rain.
  • Fire Shield (chill variation) [Fire]
    • not equivalent to Fire Shield (warm variation)
  • Frost Mammoth [Fire]
    • is vulnerable to its own natural weapons
  • Freezing Sphere [Fire]
    • extra damage to [Water] creatures, freezes ships in place and starts fires on them at the same time, when striking water creates a layer of ice in addition to the fire damage.
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ hmm I'd take it on a case-by-case. Gads. Polar Ice, freeze then burn. Some of these need new names. Freezer Burn? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2017 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Definitely interesting. Obnoxious to pull off without new spell names and possibly a little house doctoring haha. Very good amusing choices. So absurd but by the book possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tyrantis
    Apr 25, 2017 at 10:58

Rules as written? Sure.

Rules as intended? Likely not. Shocking grasp is meant to take advantage of the fact that metal is an excellent conductor of electricity, and therefore is more likely to jump from your hand into the opponents body because of it.

Will it destroy game balance if you get to keep the +3 and change the element? Absolutely not, because in order to deliver shocking grasp you have to get in melee. As a Sorcerer. That's already like ten red flags for reasons why you shouldn't take a spell as a Spell-caster. Getting into melee is one. Using a spell slot for damage when your allies have perfectly good swords and bows is two.

The average damage for Shocking grasp (if it hits) at level 1 is 3.5 damage. The average damage for Acid Splash (if it hits) at level 1 is 2 damage. The former wastes a 1st level spell slot and requires you to get into melee. The latter can do it at 30 feet away.

For the same first level slot you could grease a square and make the thing you're targeting fall so they're flat-footed so rogues can apply sneak attack, or so fighters can more easily power attack.

You could cast mount, to give your allies a cover bonus to AC.

You could cast Ear-piercing scream for the same average damage of Shocking grasp but have a chance to apply the Dazed condition which will prevent your target from taking actions.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Metals are excellent conductors in general. Heat transfers through most metals very well. It's why metals tend to feel cold to the touch: heat energy transfers through it very quickly and easily, so you experience heat leaving your body much more rapidly than with, say, a wood surface. So if you just want to argue the +3 bonus on the conductivity, then fire and cold damage should be fine with retaining the bonus. And the speed of sound tends to be quite high as well (as it tends to be with solids), so it's sensible for sonic, too... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2017 at 0:00
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Ya get points for trying, Timmy, but the diffusion effects of the armor should apply to pretty much all of those examples. Of course, being an excellent conductor is precisely why metal armor should improve resistance to electricity... Physics in D&D and Pathfinder bears more relation to Hollywood than anything in the real world. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Nate
    Apr 24, 2017 at 6:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate all the feedback. My Gnome rocking the Pyromaniac alternate race trait tattooed sorcerer archetype will flourish from this as he roasts some pesky greenskin gobbies with a 3D6 "Burning" grasp. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tyrantis
    Apr 25, 2017 at 11:05

As written, yes.

But you have to look at the intention behind the rule. Why does Shocking Grasp give this bonus? Because metal conducts electricity.

So...if you want the plus 3 then, tweak it--make it a hybrid, where the conversion happens DURING the spell, so the conduction still happens, but it's "conductive fire" for just a moment, that happens to act like electricity.

Why? Because magic. That's why.

I think the DM should allow it for Pathfinder, because honestly, this one isn't a game-breaker. Sandwich covered the disadvantages of Shocking Grasp. This is basically something you pull out when you are desperate, not a go-to move, because no caster in Pathfinder (at low levels anyhow) should be gung-ho for melee. It's a neat thing that happens to be fire now, because you did pay for it, and here's your benefit. As long as it's comparable to other bloodline powers at that level (which it is) then you should be good.

  • \$\begingroup\$ (I mean, magus is a caster... and you generally want to be gung-ho for melee as a magus!) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2017 at 12:47

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