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Mastering the Wild

Spells of the Wild

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 156
The might of magic is a great force of change and power, and most adventuring parties count one or more spellcasters among them. Since spells cover an incredible range of possibility, defining “wilderness spells” is a broad subject. In this section, spells accessible to nature-themed classes such as druids and rangers receive special attention. Spells that assist in navigating the less settled regions of the world and those that manipulate weather or terrain are also explored in greater detail.

Intrigue in the Wild

Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Intrigue features a section called Spells of Intrigue. Applications of several intrigue-themed spells listed in Ultimate Intrigue are also appropriate for wilderness campaigns. In order to focus on spells more specific to wilderness adventuring, this book purposefully avoids spells that were already covered in Ultimate Intrigue. Intrigue-themed spells that are particularly appropriate for wilderness-heavy campaigns but were covered in Ultimate Intrigue include the following: blood biography, commune with nature, create treasure map, detect poison, find the path, locate creature, speak with animals, speak with plants, and stone tell.

Low-Level Play (Levels 1–6)

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 156
Many wilderness-appropriate spells are available as early as 1st level. These low-level spells are often disregarded, as many of them can be substituted with class abilities, equipment, and skills. Still, low-level spells (those of 3rd level and lower) can remain useful at high levels, especially because highlevel characters can cast them far more frequently.


Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 156
The benefit of many low-level conjuration spells is that they grant a wider range of versatility, letting the characters focus the spending of their hard-earned gold on items with effects that can’t be replicated, rather than on mundane equipment.

Create Food and Water: As a 3rd-level cleric spell, create food and water is one of the most obvious choices for those looking to bypass some of the rigors of wilderness survival. The Survival skill often eclipses the worth of this spell, as succeeding at a simple DC 10 check allows for a character to provide food and water for herself without needing to expend a 3rd-level spell slot. At 5th level, it’s not unlikely that a party member can regularly succeed at the DC 16 Survival check required to feed himself and three other party members. Imposing heavy penalties on Survival checks to get along in the wild is one way of making create food and water more valuable, and such adjustments are entirely appropriate in wasteland environments.

There are several other ways to prolong the usefulness of create food and water. Armed with knowledge that the party will be entering a particularly inhospitable region, characters might want to stock up on conjured food and water. Repeated castings of create food and water can provide numerous meals, and by spending a few days, a party can create a stockpile of rations for a trip. Combined with the fact that purify food and water can be cast an unlimited number of times per day, stockpiling food and drink with these castings is an economically savvy way of saving both gold and hunting time.

Mount and Phantom Steed: Few wilderness areas are entirely amenable to or completely inhospitable to mounts. Open groves and wildlife paths where mounts can roam free crisscross dense forests, while deserts often contain escarpments of jagged rocks that confound the most sure footed of creatures. The mutable nature of these wilderness regions makes the ability to summon a temporary mount particularly helpful. For routine journeys, mount can conjure a single mount for a character or be repeatedly cast to provide mounts for a whole party. Higher-level spellcasters benefit more from phantom steed, especially at 8th level, when the steed starts gaining extra movement-related abilities.

Neutralize Poison: First accessible by low-level druids, neutralize poison is useful as both a method of healing poison and a means to prevent poisoning from occurring in the first place. Using the spell as a means of detoxifying a creature is its most efficient application, since one casting of the spell prevents that creature from poisoning targets at all. It’s also possible to use this spell to remove a poison applied to an object or from food or drink. The use of neutralize poison in this manner doesn’t guarantee success, and it can be interesting to keep the DC of the targeted poison unknown, leaving the efficacy of a given casting in question.

At a cost of 11,250 gp, a wand of neutralize poison makes for a practical, if unusual, weapon. When added into the arsenal of mobile melee classes, specifically those with ranks in Use Magic Device or supplementary spellcaster levels, such wands can be used to disable the poisons of wilderness-dwelling creatures. The forfeiture of an attack in order to strike a foe with a poison-neutralizing wand could mean the difference between life and death for a character who is facing repeated applications of poison.


Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 157
There are only a few low-level divination spells specifically related to wilderness environments. Characters often ignore these spells, and instead they rely on class abilities or skills to replicate their effects. Introducing NPCs with access to these spells can highlight their utility to PCs who might otherwise see these spells as extraneous.

Detect Animals or Plants: This spell has a much larger range than detect evil, beginning with a minimum area of a 440-foot cone. This spell also requires thinking of a specific kind of animal or plant, making it very specialized in its application. Further, it grants the caster the ability to see the current condition of a target, rather than just a sense of the creature’s total power. A handy application of this spell is to monitor the health of allies, such as animal companions or plant creatures such as ghorans and vine leshys.

Detect Snares and Pits: As a concentration effect, this spell is more useful in low-stress situations. It cuts down on some of the monotony of having PCs attempt repeated Perception checks, but the spell’s specific detection parameters mean that some skill checks are still required.


Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 157
Low-level enchantment spells that are appropriate for wilderness campaigns most often focus on the manipulation of animal minds. Keep in mind that animals are often simple creatures, with simple thoughts driving their actions—drinking, eating, and sleeping being at the forefront of an animal’s mind. Due to having average or lower Wisdom scores, certain kinds of animals can be especially prone to being affected by these spells.

Animal Messenger: This spell compels a Tiny animal to venture to a designated area, likely with an item in tow. The longer casting time of the spell makes it useless in combat situations but incredibly helpful in other situations. Delivery of an item via animal messenger isn’t guaranteed, as the animal could be waylaid by other creatures or potentially find itself unable to follow directions to the intended area. As with most spells, it’s important to understand that a PC shouldn’t be penalized for the casting of such magic. If you, as the GM, decide to have an animal messenger fail to reach its intended destination, consider rewarding the PCs in another way. For example, the animal messenger might have been consumed by a local predator, and by finding the slain messenger, the PCs uncover the predator’s stash of claimed trophies.

Calm Animals, Charm Animal, and Dominate Animal: Spells that can adjust the attitudes of animals have obvious uses as deterrents when traversing through wilderness environments. Simply calming or charming animals is often sufficient to travel through an area without harassment, while more powerful spells such as dominate animal can be used to deal with more dangerous or more immediate threats. Another insidious use of this magic is to subvert the loyal animal companions of foes. The ability to charm or dominate an animal companion of an opponent can significantly reduce the challenge of an encounter, while simultaneously presenting that foe the moral quandary of how to handle its wayward companion.


Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 158
The wilderness is a place of constant change, so it’s no surprise that most wilderness-appropriate spells come from the transmutation school of magic. These spells not only mutate the caster and her immediate surroundings but also are highly sought-after ways to control plant life. As plants are universally immune to mind-affecting effects, it falls to transmutation spells to grant a modicum of control over these creatures, providing an analogue to spells commonly found in the enchantment school.

Diminish Plants: This spell controls the vegetation in a specific area. The prune growth option for this spell is an effective counter to spells such as entangle and wall of thorns, granting the caster some combat control in addition to straightforward utility. Using this spell also allows for the creation of open areas more amenable to mounts or other big creatures. The secondary use of diminish plants, the stunt growth option, is most effective as a narrative tool. Spiteful PCs seeking to punish an enemy druid might decide to use this effect on the druid’s preferred territory. Conversely, an enemy druid might wrack the PCs’ homeland with several castings of this spell, potentially leading to starvation in the face of reduced crop yields. PCs who have left their homeland for a prolonged period of time might be drawn back after hearing word that a magically induced famine has taken hold, only to find that the cause was a previous foe from the campaign!

Meld into Stone and Tree Shape: Hiding in blocks of stone or taking the form of a shrub allows for both intrigue and tense moments of avoiding a threat. PCs and NPCs can use these spells to perform highly effective spying on their enemies, with very few effects or spells being able to reveal the presence of a melded or shaped creature. True seeing or a similar effect could spell disaster for a stone-melded creature, and the destruction of the melded stone has immediate—not to mention mortal—repercussions. Be sure to reward the creative use of these spells when used by the PCs, but also make them aware of the dangers of using them, should the PCs come to rely on these spells as a guaranteed means for avoiding detection and spying on foes.

Pass without Trace: This basic 1st-level spell can defeat even the most dedicated of trackers. Pass without trace prevents being tracked by a Survival check or any other nonmagical means. Only spells such as locate creature are suitable for tracking creatures that have obfuscated themselves with pass without trace, and such spells aren’t readily accessible until later levels. Due to the difficulty in countering this spell at lower levels, the best point to take advantage of pass without trace is in the 4th- to 6th-level range, when the spell can affect all members of the average party and rangers gain access to the spell. At levels above that, the foes can use magical countermeasures to overcome pass without trace.

Plant Growth and Spike Growth: Control of the battlefield is essential when fighting in a wilderness environment. As many such environments lack manufactured cover and traps, it falls to magic to create such hazards. Plant growth can drastically cut down on targets’ maneuverability on a battlefield, allowing spellcasters to target enemies from afar, or even enhancing the effectiveness of spells such as entangle. Similarly, spike growth creates areas of damaging terrain that are difficult to bypass without some means of flight or levitation. In wilderness-heavy campaigns, these spells can be on par with other control-based magic, while in campaigns with only a smattering of wilderness, these spells operate best when taken in the form of one or more backup scrolls.

Quench: Often forgotten due to its specialized nature, quench can swiftly extinguish fire-based creatures, effects, and spells. The typical use of the spell is to put out nonmagical fires in its considerable area of effect (a minimum of 5 20-foot cubes at minimum caster level). A more potent use of the spell is to act as a dispelling effect on fire-based spells in its area. This allows the spell to be reserved and used to counter potent spells such as fireball or wall of fire, though only if a character expects such spells to be used. Using the spell on magic items that create or control flame can change the combat dynamic, especially if the effect is considerable (such as disabling the flaming burst ability from an enemy’s weapon). Creatures with the fire subtype are particularly vulnerable to quench, taking anywhere from 5d6 to 10d6 points of damage without any sort of save—a wand of quench is a potent weapon against such foes.

Stone Shape and Wood Shape: Building a bridge, creating a door, or manufacturing a barricade are all immediate uses for shaping magic such as stone shape and wood shape. The wording of these spells is very open to interpretation, granting a lot of leeway in adjudicating their effects. Unexpected barriers can change the dynamic of combat or wilderness exploration, so be sure to have a basic understanding of the consequences of using these spells in areas primarily made of stone or wood. Just as PCs can use these spells to upturn encounters, their adversaries can use these spells to surprise them in dynamic ways. The PCs might explore a chamber with one entrance only to be ambushed from a stone-shaped wall during their inspection of the area, or an NPC villain might allow half the party to go through an exit door before cutting it off with a well-timed casting of wood shape.

Water Breathing and Water Walk: Both of these spells accomplish different things, but they are similar in that they overcome an incredibly common wilderness impediment: water. Watery barriers can include a lake in the middle of a forest, rivers running between mountains, a series of flooded chambers in a cavern, treacherous swamps, and underground oceans. Water breathing can be split among numerous creatures effectively, allowing for long or quick treks underwater. Similar magic, such as aboleth’s lung or air bubble, can function in similar roles to water breathing at a lower spell level, albeit at reduced efficiency. Player characters often come to rely on these spells to traverse difficult environments, sometimes believing in a simple “cast and forget” mantra. Be sure to occasionally remind the PCs of their reliance on these spells, such as directing a casting of dispel magic in their direction. It’s best to give this kind of reminder in a situation where it’s possible to recover so that the potential for a more disastrous situation can loom large in the mind. Dispelling water breathing when the PCs are deep underwater and have no way to escape and no more ways to cast the spell can mean certain death, so you shouldn’t spring this tactic on players often—if ever!

Whispering Wind: While sending requires 10 minutes to cast, whispering wind takes only a standard action. Use of this spell doesn’t guarantee a successful transmission though, as it requires the caster to be knowledgeable of a specific location within range, but even then, there’s no guarantee that the intended recipient is at the designated location. It’s also entirely possible that if the PCs find themselves camping at an easily identifiable landmark, they might become the unintended recipients of a whispering wind message. Mistakenly receiving a message in this manner could spark a new adventure or entire campaign, especially when you consider that whispering wind often revolves around the need to get a message out in a quick and urgent manner.

Mid-Level Play (Levels 7–12)

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 159
At the middle tier of spellcasting, many spells with wilderness themes revolve around control effects. While most of them have been previously detailed in Ultimate Intrigue (see Spells of Intrigue and thus are not covered below, mid-level divination spells are plentiful.


Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 159
Spells that protect against or repel all sorts of wilderness threats appear in this range.

Antilife Shell and Antiplant Shell: These are notable defensive spells because they don’t allow a saving throw to resist their effects. While spell resistance offers a means of defense against these spells, such an ability is almost nonexistent among plant creatures. Despite the lengthy 1-round casting time, successfully casting antilife shell can buy precious rounds of protection to cast other spells. Antiplant shell has a shorter casting time and a lower spell level, making it more useful when dealing with plant threats.

Repel Vermin: Repel vermin is similar to antilife shell, but it takes up a lower-level spell slot and requires less time to cast. While the field created by this spell can be bypassed with a successful Will save, it still deals damage to vermin managing to traverse it—a particularly powerful effect against large numbers of enemies with few hit points. Perhaps the most enticing use of repel vermin is its ability to diminish the effectiveness of vermin swarms.


Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 159
Conjuration spells fill a wide array of needs. This school of magic encompasses enhancement effects, teleportation effects, the conjuration of allies, and even the creation of permanent or temporary areas of terrain. Most of these spells really begin to show their usefulness at the middle levels of spellcasting.

Heroes’ Feast: Those partaking in a heroes’ feast receive powerful bonuses in addition to the normal benefits of eating and drinking. The combination of neutralize poison and remove disease in this spell is a particularly useful given the number of long-onset diseases and poisons in the wilderness. The spell does require a long casting time and consumption period to be effective; casting and consuming a heroes’ feast takes at least 70 minutes. The flaws of this spell become apparent when the PCs ambush enemies partaking in this spell or are attacked while consuming their own feast.

Transport via Plants and Tree Stride: A dependable means of transportation within a forested environment, tree stride combines the best of several spells, with temporary protection and stealth akin to meld into stone or tree shape. It also offers a wide array of travel distance, with even coniferous trees allowing for transportation range in excess of dimension door, assuming a suitable tree is within range. Transport via plants is similar to an upgraded tree stride, as it allows for theoretically limitless traveling distance on the same world, and it requires only a suitably sized plant with a matching species at the destination.

Wall of Stone and Wall of Thorns: Both of these spells allow for the creation of walls to divide a battlefield. Walls made of stone have the benefit of adjoining to existing stone—a plentiful terrain feature in most wilderness environs. Since this spell has a duration of instantaneous, wall of stone creates long-lasting defenses. Such walls can cut off tight-knit groups in confined areas, though creatures in the path of a forming wall can attempt a Reflex save to avoid entrapment. Wall of thorns creates a temporary effect, and while it doesn’t block off terrain as dependably as wall of stone, it covers twice the space of a stone wall and doesn’t allow a Reflex save. Wall of thorns can be used to deadly effect when sculpted to cover larger area. These walls can be combined with area effects, such as cloudkill or insect plague, to devastate foes.


Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 160
Mid-level transmutation spells produce a variety of effects. Many augment the capabilities of their casters, allowing for otherwise impossible physical feats. Some transmutation spells control nature and, by extension, operate as mind-affecting effects against plants while bypassing plants’ natural immunities to such effects. Other transmutation spells change vast swaths of terrain, allowing their casters to manipulate the wilderness in ways that range from battlefield needs to agricultural changes taking place over thousands of square feet of space.

Air Walk and Wind Walk: Air walk is an effective method of bypassing treacherous terrain. When a caster typically gains access to this spell, the duration of air walk is about only an hour, making it an effective tool for combat encounters but diminishing its utility for long-term travel. Another hindrance of air walk is that it affects only a single target, making it difficult to apply to an entire group without expending several spell slots. Wind walk, however, can grant a group the ability to traverse long distances over open air. As this spell allows for travel of 600 feet per round, it’s over 10 times as effective as spells such as fly and overland flight as a means of long-distance travel. However, wind walkers are particularly vulnerable to attack along the way if their movement can be curtailed with an obstruction. The caster must either dismiss the spell entirely or have everyone in the group to go through lengthy transformations back into their normal forms while being pummeled by attacks.

Command Plants: Similar in many respects to charm person, this spell entreats plant creatures to obey the spellcaster. As plants are normally immune to mind-affecting effects, this spell falls under the transmutation school of magic, meaning that feats such as Spell Focus (transmutation) apply to it. Two important differences between this spell and charm person, aside from the spell level and ability to affect plants, are the increased number of targets and no requirement that the caster has to know a language understood by the target.

Control Water and Control Winds: These spells are both broad in their effect, with uses beyond combat. The ability to control the speed of winds is a useful tool in hampering foes that rely on flight or ranged attacks. Remember that wind speeds can impose penalties on creatures’ Fly checks, with hurricane speed winds inflicting a massive –12 penalty. Manipulating water allows for access to otherwise inaccessible spaces and reveals secrets hidden in exceptionally deep areas of water. Aquatic creatures that rely on water for breathing and maneuverability can be significantly disabled by this magic. As a body of water can be lowered to as little as 2 inches deep, this spell can be a major threat to aquatic foes that don’t have base speeds.

Move Earth: This spell allows for the movement of various sorts of natural terrain, with the express purpose of digging or filling in dips in the earth. While it’s relatively useless once combat has begun, because of its long casting time, this spell is exceptionally handy for flattening terrain or otherwise adjusting it in preparation of combat. A common use for move earth is in the creation or deconstruction of natural cover as part of an ongoing siege.

Passwall: The bane of intrepid dungeon designers everywhere, passwall allows for the disruption of the expected path through a complex structure. Allowing the spell to assist in navigating hazardous terrain is important, but it should not come at the expense of storytelling or allow the characters to bypass important areas of exploration. When designing encounter areas, consider insulating critical areas with stretches of solid matter that extend 20 feet or farther, effectively inhibiting passwall from creating its passage into or out of key locations. Furthermore, as passwall is susceptible to dispel magic, a perfectly timed dispel effect can separate a party, potentially over several (possibly as-of-yet-unexplored) areas of a dungeon.

Reincarnate: The ability to reincarnate a deceased companion is often a mixed affair. Many adventurers see the use of reincarnate as a means of bypassing the costly raise dead (a 5th-level spell). Some even view the ability to return as a different race as a boon, especially in cases where the new race has powerful physical ability modifiers. It’s important to reinforce the monumental changes that a creature undergoes after being reincarnated, though. Former acquaintances and allies won’t recognize the reincarnated person, and depending on the nature of the new race, the reincarnated creature might find itself the subject of discrimination or even attacked on sight.

Repel Wood: This spell is particularly powerful in tight corridors. Wooden objects in the path of the spell are hurled away, moving 40 feet back from their current position. This includes items such as wooden armor, wooden shields, and wood-hafted weapons; these items often carry the wielder along with them. Creatures can opt to drop shields and weapons, but a creature wearing wooden armor (especially darkwood or ironwood-enhanced equipment) doesn’t have the ability to quickly remove the armor and is thus forced back with no saving throw or spell resistance. Note that the spell has no effect on most plants, since they are rooted to the ground, but it can be used to clear wooden blockages such as deadfalls.

Transmute Rock to Mud: Transforming large areas of unworked rock into mud creates effectively impassable terrain. Most creatures trapped in a transmuted area of mud reduce their base speed to 5 feet. Considering the vast area that even a minimum caster can affect, this mud acts as a slowing effect on all creatures without a means of flying or levitating. The most effective, and oftentimes unexpected, use of this spell is when it’s used on the ceiling of a cavern. Along with creating an area of mobility-restricting terrain, the collapsing mud deals a hefty sum of damage to creatures caught underneath the falling deluge. Keep in mind that transmuted mud can be dispelled, with effects similar to a casting of transmute mud to rock.

High-Level Play (Level 13+)

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 161
The most powerful of wilderness spells are few but incredibly varied. Some allow for the creation of powerful allies, while others have drastic effects over vast swaths of land.

Animate Plants: From the lowest level that a druid gains access to this spell, she can animate four Large plants or a single Gargantuan plant. Animated plants are simple to command and act as allies and distractions in combat. The alternative entangle effect of this spell is particularly useful, as it not only bypasses spell resistance but also acts as a 7th-level spell version of entangle that lasts for hours.

Changestaff: While animate plants creates a potential host of animated plants, changestaff creates a single powerful treant-like ally that, barring misadventure, lasts for hours. The treant created by this spell is particularly useful in demolishing objects and structures. The transformed treant’s innate rock throwing ability, teamed with its ability to ignore the hardness of structures, makes it particularly effective in laying siege to fortifications in all manner of terrains.

Control Plants: As this is a transmutation spell, it bypasses a plant’s normal immunity to mind-affecting effects. A plant creature can attempt a Will save to avoid being controlled, but the spell is not subject to spell resistance and has no shared-language requirement. As this spell lasts only a few minutes and doesn’t allow for self-destructive commands, it’s best employed as an equalizer when fighting multiple plant foes, enemies that have animated plants of their own, or foes that are plants (such as high-level ghorans or leshys).

Earthquake: Numerous different environment-dependent effects make earthquake an appropriate spell for wilderness-themed campaigns. The effect of this spell in caves is a true killer, as the rules for being trapped in rubble are exceptionally deadly to creatures that do not have high Strength scores or teleportation magic. Many of the aboveground effects have the potential to create rents in the earth that can trap opponents or seal away disarmed objects and other items. Regardless of its application, earthquake is often about sending a message to a foe—the dramatic sights created by this spell capable of awing even those familiar with magic.

Storm of Vengeance: A supernatural representation of nature’s ire, storm of vengeance is a powerful evocation that blankets a wide area in a growing tempest. Though the effects of the storm are potent, there are many things to consider when employing the spell. First, it requires concentration over several rounds to build up its power, which can be difficult to maintain while the caster is engaged in combat, especially since several of the effects of the storm cause damage, such as acid rain and hailstorm. As a result, the ideal application of storm of vengeance is from long range, with the caster far outside the storm’s effects.

Transmute Metal to Wood: An instantaneous effect, transmute metal to wood affects all metal items within a large radius. While the spell doesn’t allow any sort of saving throw, it does treat magic items affected by the spell as if they had significant spell resistance, meaning Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration increase the effectiveness of the spell by a wide margin. This spell also specifies that it affects only objects—so no using it against iron golems! Transmute metal to wood is at its best when employed by druids, as a druid often has few (if any) metal items in her possession, allowing the caster to center the spell on herself if threatened by numerous metal-clad foes. Teaming this spell with the repel wood is a powerful combo that keeps metal-wielding foes on the defensive.