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The Chain Spell feat (Complete Arcane p76) can be used with:

Any spell that specifies a single target and has a range greater than touch...

What counts as a spell that specifies a single target? Does a ray that can only affect one creature count? What about a spell that can only affect one creature if cast at a particular caster level? (1 creature per 5 levels for example)

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The only spells that are valid for use with Chain Spell are targeted spells that only target a single creature and have a range greater than Touch. A targeted spell is one with a "Target" line in its description.

As a few examples, feeblemind is valid because its description says:

Range: Medium (100 ft + 10 ft/level)

Target: One creature

Or blindness/deafness:

Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Target: One living creature

Other spells which affect a single subject but are not targeted, such as enervation, cannot be used with Chain Spell. Nor can spells like slay living which target a single creature but have a range of Touch.

This was clarified in a FAQ entry on 5/20/2008, though it's no longer directly available due to several revisions to Wizards' website:

Can you use the Chain Spell metamagic feat on a spell with the ray effect type?

To use the Chain Spell metamagic feat, the spell you are applying it to must have a target entry in its spell description. Most rays do not have a target entry and cannot have the feat applied to them.

Spells can have one of three "what it does" parts to their description: Effect, Area, and Target.

Effect spells bring something into existence, however briefly, such as a summoned creature, wall, or a ray. Directly offensive Effect spells generally require attack rolls and don't allow saves to resist them. They can also be aimed at creatures you cannot perceive, provided you pick the right square.

Area spells affect the entire indicated area/volume, barring obstructions, regardless of your ability to perceive creatures or objects in the area. They generally allow saves and don't require attack rolls.

Target spells directly target specific subjects and don't require attack rolls unless their range is Touch. You cannot cast them on creatures you cannot perceive, even if you know what square they are in, unless you can also touch them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure about slow? It seems to specify one or more targets not solely one target. That is, just because the caster can opt to target only one subject doesn't mean the spell specifies a single target. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 30 '17 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not convinced that "[a] spell that specifies a single target" is only spells with a target line. Rays that can affect a single creature seem to specify a single target. Example of one that mentions targeting: langour (SpC 130): "You must succeed on a ranged touch attack with the ray to strike a target. This ray causes creatures it hits..." (This is actually the spell that this question sprang from) \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Apr 30 '17 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus RAW, it's only spells with a Target line. RAI, this is to prevent, among other things, having to roll and resolve 9-21 attack rolls, to say nothing of the abuse a chained disintegrate would cause. \$\endgroup\$ – Karelzarath Apr 30 '17 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus If a druid can modify with the feat Chain Spell the spell languor, can the druid likewise modify blinding spittle (SpC 32)? Because that is worth doing. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 30 '17 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Read DMGII, p42 re: Chained Enervate. There's precedent in the rules for this. Regarding the blinding spittle? It appears to specify a single target with a range greater than touch... that's not bad for a 5th level slot. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Apr 30 '17 at 22:30
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Yes...er, No... er, what?

This feat has sparked debate for several years. The core of the matter is the definition of "...specifies a single target..."

There are those that rule that this is a requirement that there be a 'Target: one [something]' line in the spell's description, and those that contend that any spell that has a range greater than touch and can affect only a single target qualifies.

With the traps on p.42, the Dungeon Master's Guide II (2005), supports the argument that ray spells qualify. Some of these traps use spells named "X" enervation:

Enervation/Energy Drain Traps

\begin{array} \ \text{CR} & \text{Spell} & \text{No. of Rays} & \text{Negative Levels} & \text{Caster Level} \\ \hline ... \\ 7 & \text{empowered } enervation & 1 & 1\text{d}4+1/2 & \text{11th} \\ 9 & \text{chained } enervation\text{*} & 1 & \text{1d4 (primary), 1d2 (secondary)} & \text{15th}\\ ... \end{array} *While this version of the trap fires only a single ray, the primary ray branches out from the first target, striking all other creatures within 30 feet of the first. These secondary targets, if struck, gain only half as many negative levels as the primary target.

Chained Enervation Trap: CR 9; magical device; proximity trigger (target within 60 ft.); automatic reset; spell effect (enervation, 15th-level wizard, Atk +14 ranged touch, 1d4 negative levels at fi rst target, Atk +14 ranged touch, 1d2 negative levels at every creature within 30 ft. of first target)...

The use of both Empower Spell and Chain Spell, while not using the word metamagic, is strongly implied, due to the spell naming convention and even italicization. This would seem to have settled the issue.

Then, three years later, after the release of 4th edition, the Main D&D 3.5 FAQ, produced this entry in the very last, June 30, 2008, revision (p39):

Can you use the Chain Spell metamagic feat on a spell with the ray effect type?

To use the Chain Spell metamagic feat, the spell you are applying it to must have a target entry in its spell description. Most rays do not have a target entry and cannot have the feat applied to them.

(Note the 'Most rays'...)

The timing of this edit to the FAQ, enmeshed with the 4th edition release, had some folks at the time either scratching their heads or gnashing their teeth.


The FAQ is a debated issue in itself, even here on RPG.se, with all answers there appearing to say that the FAQ is suggestions and . Of them all, only mxyzplk's answer seems favorable to the FAQ...


What's the answer?

Unfortunately, neither the FAQ nor the DMG II are primary sources for the Chain Spell feat, nor do they purport to be errata for it.

Both rulings have merit, and it must be up to the DM to decide what's better for the game.

Personally, I favor the permissive usage evidenced in the DMG II; so most ray spells could qualify for the feat.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1ed but I'ma say 1 thing. I promise. Applying the Chain Spell feat to a spell with an Effect entry—like a ray but others, too—makes my brain hurt. (I've yet to find a spell with an Effect entry and a Target entry, by the way.) It seems like it'd be then okay for a caster to apply the feat Chain Spell to a summon monster spell if the caster swears that the summoned monster will only attack one dude. Allowing the feat to work this way seems to unnecessarily broaden the feat's mandate so much that it becomes unmanageable and overly reliant on DM fiat for edge cases. That is all. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 2 '17 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan "...find a spell with an Effect entry and a Target entry..." Platinum Ray, in Dragons of Faerûn on p117 is one example. And I don't see how summon monster specifies a target...but this needs Role-playing Games Chat I think. (That's GenChat...but I'd be happy to get a room) \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus May 3 '17 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Man, I don't like breaking promises! ;-) The spell platnium ray does, indeed, have an Effect entry, but that entry is Effect: ray so it's just repeating what we already knew! Because spells with Effect entries "create or summon things rather than affecting things" (PH 175) (emphasis mine), applying the feat Chain Spell to spells with Effect entries remains, to me, highly suspect. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 6 '17 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Plat. Ray has a Target entry (the very thing being requested). All Ray spells appear to have an effect entry. And what does 'affecting things' have to do with 'specifies a single target'? \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus May 6 '17 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ My apologies—I was looking at platinum ray from the wrong direction. Anyway, my point was A spell that creates an effect—which, by definition, doesn't affect things—can't itself specify a target. That is, the effect the spell creates can have a target (like, for instance, the spell scrying), but the actual spell doesn't. If you've a spell that creates an effect like a lightsaber, casting lightsaber modified by the feat Chain Spell can't make multiple lightsabers for your friends nor, after beheading one stormtrooper's hand, does it cause a squad of troopers' heads to fall off. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 6 '17 at 21:10
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Hm. This feat definitely seems limited in scope, according to the RAW. It seems to only really apply to those spells it mentions in the description, like Cause Fear or others like it. Certain spells have in their description something like

Target: One living creature with 5 or fewer HD

This seems like the qualifier that has to be there for Chain Spell to work, but that really only applies to a few spells.

For things like rays, Scorching Ray for example, this feat seems like it wouldn't work, as Scorching Ray cast with multiple rays at a higher CL designates multiple targets or an effect, not the single target that the feat asks for as a qualifier.

Effect: One or more rays

Perhaps this is to be resolved by the DM or by the players, but here are a couple of (potential) solutions for your consideration.

  1. Fire all the rays at a single target. Higher damage, and could arc based on that heightened damage number, perhaps requiring a ranged touch attack for each enemy arced to.
  2. Fire only one ray, thereby only designating a single target. Weaker, but fits better into the feat description.
  3. Don't allow rays. Since they specify multiple targets, they do not fit into the feat description at all. This is the most limiting and "letter of the law" solution, but it's a solution nonetheless.

Being more 'lax about the rules could be more fun, just remember to be consistent.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not all rays specify multiple targets; single target rays include dimensional anchor and enervation, for example. (PS, I didn't downvote you; I'm just arguing. Your Answer is well written, but doesn't deal with these, as far as I can tell) \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Apr 30 '17 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it's a single target ray, then that's easier to rule. If it can only ever target one person, then deal with it as a single-target spell. Chain spell works if a) the spell only targets one enemy and b) the spell has a range extending further than touch. \$\endgroup\$ – Lum May 1 '17 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ While any ray spell has an Effect: Ray, the ray specifies a target, and in my thinking that'd mean that it can be used with Chain Spell due to its specifying a single target (sort of). \$\endgroup\$ – Lum May 1 '17 at 0:12
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A good rule of thumb is this: "Target" spells do not miss -- targets are automatically affected by the spell, though they might get a saving throw depending on the spell's description. If you have to roll an attack (such as ray spells), then the spell is not targeted. Instead it is producing an effect that the wizard has to aim (so it is not the spell that targets, but the wizard casting it).

For chain spell, you can cast it on anything that has "Target:" in the description as long as what comes after "Target:" is singular and has no option for multiple targets. So "Target:" could be "one creature" or "one object," but it could not be "one or more ..." or "one X every Y levels" or "every X," so on and so forth. Also the "Range:" must be something other than "Touch."

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