Pathfinder Advice: Inventive Use for Mid-Level Spells

Adventuring at any level is a tricky business. Death is a constant companion and often the only thing separating a PC from its cold embrace are his wits and cunning.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


Last week, I posted several inventive uses for low-level spells.This week, it seemed natural to examine some mid-level spells.

Stone Shape: This seemingly innocuous spell has so many uses an inventive player can get some serious mileage out of it. (Note, however, because this spell has so many uses, it’s more open to GM adjudication than most.) Your GM might not be happy with some of these tactics:

  • Fly above a foe and stone shape a block out of the ceiling. The block plummets to the ground, squishing whatever stands beneath. (In 2nd edition, I killed a red dragon using this technique!)
  • Create a pit full of dust by casting stone shape on the floor. Characters falling into the pit may suffocate before managing to climb out. (At the very least, they will be vulnerable to attacks of opportunity as they struggle to escape). For extra, bonus points  cast it directly below a foe.
  • If your foes must climb up (or down) stairs to reach you, use stone shape to turn it into a slide when they are halfway down. They’ll likely slip and fall, landing prone at the bottom of the slide.

Explosive Runes: This handy spell has several uses. Cast it on several scrolls and keep them about your person. You can do any of the following with the scrolls:

  • Throw the scroll behind you to throw off (or blow up) pursuing enemies (assuming they can read and understand a dropped scroll might be valuable).
  • Nail the affected scroll to the door of the room in which you are resting. Monsters are bound to look at the scroll before opening the door. The ensuing explosion should give you and your companions enough time to muster a defence before the scorched and singed monsters stagger through the door.
  • If you encounter guards in the dungeon, loudly state you are on their master’s business and the scroll you carry gives you authority to act in his name. Offer to let them read it, if they don’t believe you…

Fire Trap: This defensive spell has similar applications to explosive runes:

  • Cast fire trap on an escape pouch (preferably containing a couple of flasks of alchemist’s fire) and throw it behind you when you want to get away from a fight. Hopefully, a pursuer will stop to open it, and immolate itself.
  • Use fire trap to defend your camp. Cast it on a door (in a dungeon) or tent flap (in the wild) and anyone not attuned to the trap passing through the portal will detonate  it — giving you warning of their approach.
  • Cast the spell on a small box, scroll case or pouch. Keep it safe, and use it as a “gift” if negotiations with a dungeon denizen are going badly. The resultant explosion will no doubt surprise and injure your foe. You might even get a surprise round!

Secure Shelter: At first glance, secure shelter does one thing only: it creates a comfortable cottage in which to rest. However, the spell has several combat applications that often go unnoticed:

  • Casting secure shelter so it blocks a corridor gives you valuable time to run away. It can also block off one flank so you can focus on foes coming from another direction. (It can also be used as a strongpoint or fallback position). Note that due to the long casting time, this is best done before combat begins.
  • Secure shelter creates a sturdy cottage, which with its arcane lock protected shuttered windows and door is hard to get into (or out of). This can make it an excellent — if temporary — prison.
  • One of the problems adventurers often face is what to do with rescued prisoners. Leaving them in a secure shelter while the party continues its explorations is much better than leaving them huddled in some corridor or other unsafe locale.

Help Fellow Gamers

Do you have other inventive uses for mid-level spells? Share what they are in the comments below and help your fellow players survive where others would fall.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

5 thoughts on “Pathfinder Advice: Inventive Use for Mid-Level Spells”

  1. i like it, but in both d&d and pathfinder, secure shelter take 10 minutes to cast, and if you have time to cast it to block a path, you can come up with better options or simply continue fleeing as you are pretty far ahead. (10 minutes is 100 rounds mind you). but this stuff is great, gonna have to keep it in mind when i play a caster!

  2. Love these kinds of articles! Note, however, that (at least in Pathfinder and 3e) Stone Shape has a range of Touch, so some of these uses maybe dramatically endanger the caster.

  3. Stone Shape to build pits? At level 5 when you get the spell you can shape 15 cu ft of stone, and by level 20 you can shape 30 cu ft of stone. By contrast, the inside of my refrigerator measures at 25 cu ft of space. So… how exactly are you creating pits with this spell?

    Some examples:
    At level 5 your pit could be a 5 ft x 5ft square (medium creature) and about a 7 inches deep, maybe enough to trip someone?

    At level 20 you could get that square down to just over a foot deep. Impressive.

    Even with a flexible GM that would allow you to pull out a 3ft x 3ft square (Dex save would be pretty easy I imagine, most adventures wearing armor and a backpack could just barely squeeze into it) you’d get a hole just over 3ft deep at level 20.

    I just can’t see how this spell is making pits. Am I missing something?

  4. Explosive Runes might work in the way you describe so long as you have a neutral to evil alignment. Doubt a good character would go around leaving explosive runes anywhere a commoner might pick it up, or attached to a door that anyone walking around might read it.

  5. I noticed all these spells are being used to run away from things. Stone Shape to create a pit or a slide for those chasing you, Explosive Runes hoping someone chasing you will read it, Fire Trap hoping someone chasing you will open it, Secure Shelter to block a corridor so you can run away…

    I’m noticing a theme. You should try picking up vanish or invisibility or something – stick around for a minute and see what happens man. Your GM is probably wondering how to keep you around long enough to engage in a fight!

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