Protection, it’s for your own good, or “How Abjuration spells saved my life”
Hello everyone, and welcome to the first in what I hope to be a series of 9 articles covering the basics of each of the various school of spells for a Sorcerer, Wizard or other Arcane caster in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, focusing on the spells available in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook (and possibly any that stand out from elsewhere).The goal for each of these is to provide you with a quick overview of useful spells at each level as well as the people who use these spells.
The goal for each of these is to provide you with a quick overview of useful spells at each level as well as the people who use these spells.
First up, the School of Abjuration. But what makes an abjurer? Well, the definition in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is “The Abjurer uses magic against itself, and masters the art of defensive and warding magics.” – so we have someone using magic to defend himself against magic, in various ways. And unlike many of the other arcane schools, Abjuration does not have any subschools (though the Abjurer itself has two specializations in the form of Banishment (focusing on removing summoned creatures) and Counterspell (focused on countering spells as they are cast, rather than a direct defense).
So, which spells stand out?
Well, one of the first spells that many casters pick up is Alarm. Alarm is useful in the right circumstances, but it requires a GM who has a nasty streak. By that, I mean that Alarm lasts 2 hours/level, so it only really truly becomes useful at level 4. This is because you need 8 hours of rest to regain hit points and spells, and this spell enables you to designate a small area where you’re safe as it wakes you when someone trespasses. Unfortunately the area is small, so it does not protect you from anyone wishing to harm you from a distance, but as it has a range, it does not have to be centered on you, so can use it as an early warning system, by sticking it in a cave-entrance or a similarly narrow location where anyone wishing to do you harm must come through.
Another spell that is perhaps too often overlooked is Endure Elements. This allows you to endure heat or cold, and avoid the environmental effects associated with them. This is, unfortunately, an often overlooked aspect of many games, so its usefulness depends upon your GM. If you have one that likes mixing it up with weather effects, then this spell is your friend. (It bears remembering that if you have resistance to cold or fire, you become immune to the environmental effects associated with them).
Protection from Evil/Good/Chaos/Law
Then we have the Protection from X spells, which are a bit of an odd one. On the one hand, they’re a good choice if you know what you’re facing alignment-wise, but they’re useless if you don’t. EXCEPT for one detail, the protection against mental control. That part of the spell applies regardless of the alignment involved, so it is possible for you to gain a second saving throw, suppressing the effect of the mental control for the duration of the Protection from X spell, which could potentially be a life-saver in situations where you or your allies get confused, dominated or otherwise controlled. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be in effect when the control takes place, so you can cast it as a reaction to your opponent’s actions or preemptively if you know what you’re facing. (This also goes for later iterations of this spell like Magic Circle against X and so on.)
Shield is the final useful 1st level spell, in that it gives you a shield bonus to your armor class, something you’d otherwise not be able to get as an arcane caster, as you do not have proficiency in Shield, and shields potentially interfere with your spells. All round, it’s a solid choice for defensive spell.
Protection from Arrows
Next up we have Protection from Arrows. This is both a great, and a bad, spell. It starts off great, giving you a DR 10/Magic, but unfortunately, unlike things like Shield and Protection from X, it rapidly loses its efficacy. The reason for this is simple: As you gain levels, it becomes more and more likely that your opponents have access to magical weapons, although it could be said that if you’re facing giants hurling rocks or similar opponents it’ll remain useful for a long time. The fact that it has a very long duration (1 hour/level) is also a point in its favor.
Resist Energy is another effective spell, but it is in effect Endure Elements writ large. It provides the same environmental protection, but also provides a damage reduction against a specific energy type. (Again, this also goes for later iterations of this spell).
Then there’s Dispel Magic. Contrary to most Abjuration spells, this is not a straight up defensive spell, but one that removes one effect. And that is the kicker and something a lot of people seem to forget. It removes only 1 effect, so if there are multiple layered effects, it removes only one of them. And since it has to be targeted, the caster must have been able to properly recognize the targeted effect. So a simple defensive measure against an otherwise excellent spell, is to simply put in more spells or use magic aura to make it appear as if there’s 2 (or more) spells in place, with it being the most powerful (and therefore most likely to be targeted by the dispel attempt). A much better choice is its bigger brother Greater Dispel Magic, in that it affects all the spells in one area, so isn’t fooled by misleading magic auras.
Nondetection is another strange one, in that it is not a directly defensive spell, and more likely to be used by NPCs than by PCs. This is because it prevents forms of detection and scrying of the recipient, such as by Detect Evil and Detect Magic. It is important to note, however, then in the case of the Detect X spells for the Game Master to present it as if the recipient simply is not of the alignment detected, so if someone casts Detect Evil, then play it off as the recipient being neutral or something similar. For other scrying spells, the best tactic is to play it off as if the recipient made their saving throw. After all, most people do not like to be watched.
Lesser Globe of Invulnerability
Lesser Globe of Invulnerability is probably one of the best spells on the roster, along with it’s bigger brother Globe of Invulnerability. This is because it takes all spells under a certain level (in this case, 3rd) and excludes the area of effect of the Globe (10-feet radius) from the area of effect of any of those spells. That means that it not only makes the characters immune to a spell but specifically excludes the area from the attacking spell. This means that not only are the people in the globe immune to the spell, but anything within the area is unaffected by the attacking spell, so a Flaming Sphere would not be able to exist within the globe, nor would anything within the area catch fire from it, a Lightning Bolt would harmlessly dissipate upon entering the globe and so on. This makes it a very effective defensive spell, and a must-have for Abjurers (and a lot of other casters for that matter). This, of course, also goes for Globe of Invulnerability.
Another spell to mention is Stoneskin. This, like Protection from Arrows, sounds great on the surface, but at the level where you can get the spell, it becomes increasingly likely that any attackers have adamantine weapons or do enough damage to power through. It’ll always remain somewhat useful however.
Spell Turning is another potentially great spell, in that it has a chance to turn back spells upon their original caster. Unfortunately, it is somewhat unreliable, as you can turn between 7 and 10 levels of spells back, meaning that it could fail when you most need it or least expect it. Unfortunately, you cannot use the Maximize Spell feat on it, but if you have access to a Metamagic Rod that uses that feat, this is a great candidate for it.
Dimensional Lock is a great defensive spell in that it prevents anyone from using magical means to enter the area of effect. The downside, of course, is that you cannot leave the area yourself with those means either, and it is not easily dispelled by yourself, short of using spells to do it.
Prismatic Wall/Prismatic Sphere
Prismatic Wall and Sphere are some of the best defensive spells out there, in that they are multilayered, and each layer needs to be destroyed separately (unless using specific spells or items to do so). Each field works in both a defensive and offensive manner, so they are great choices for a defensive measure.
The final spell worth mentioning in the Abjuration section is Mage’s Disjunction. Also known as “You did WHAT to my loot??!” – It is an excellent spell to take out overconfident opponents (especially cocky players, as each magic item needs to make a Will save or have their items be suppressed. Of course, on a natural 1, that item is destroyed. Make them roll enough dice and something will break). Just be careful with the overuse of this spell, no one appreciates losing their hard-earned equipment, but the timely use of it, could drastically alter the course of a battle.
And that is it for Abjuration. Next week, we’ll be looking at Conjuration spells. Let me know in the comments below of any creative uses you have found for Abjuration spells, or times where they have failed you dramatically.