The Spell: Blindness/Deafness

OK, I had a situation on Tuesday night’s Pathfinder game (which almost ended as a TPK) where the Necromancer of the party succeeded at casting the Blindness/Deafness spell on a Sorcerer that was the main enemy in the fight.  Before we proceed, let us get the definitive Pathfinder rules from the PRD and reproduce them here…


School necromancy; Level bard 2, cleric 3, sorcerer/wizard 2
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target one living creature
Duration permanent (D)
Saving Throw Fortitude negates; Spell Resistance yes
You call upon the powers of unlife to render the subject blinded or deafened, as you choose.
Blinded: The creature cannot see. It takes a –2 penalty to Armor Class, loses its Dexterity bonus to AC (if any), and takes a –4 penalty on most Strength– and Dexterity-based skill checks and on opposed Perception skill checks. All checks and activities that rely on vision (such as reading and Perception checks based on sight) automatically fail. All opponents are considered to have total concealment (50% miss chance) against the blinded character. Blind creatures must make a DC 10 Acrobatics skill check to move faster than half speed. Creatures that fail this check fall prone. Characters who remain blinded for a long time grow accustomed to these drawbacks and can overcome some of them.
Deafened: A deafened character cannot hear. He takes a –4 penalty on initiative checks, automatically fails Perception checks based on sound, takes a –4 penalty on opposed Perception checks, and has a 20% chance of spell failure when casting spells with verbal components. Characters who remain deafened for a long time grow accustomed to these drawbacks and can overcome some of them.

OK, so they are the official rules from the PRD and essentially from the books too.  On Tuesday the Necromancer cast this spell as one of his initial tasks and succeeded in blinding the big bad sorcerer lady who had already taken down two of the party.  The questions I am about to raise look to the basic heart of the magic system and casting a spell and I would dearly like to get an answer to this question nutted out as it troubles me.

Such a powerful spell…Photo by Vassil; licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Does a magic user need the power of sight to target an enemy?

Many of you are probably gut reacting and rolling your eyes at such a stupid question but let me go into a little more specifics here.  The sorcerer of the piece was a tattooed sorcerer archetype and thus had a familiar that was out and about.  Now the familiar cannot be the eyes directly for the caster but they do share an empathic link.  The familiar was moving to the opponents after she was struck blind and I was allowing this empathic link to guide such spells as Magic Missile which have an automatic hit proponent to the spell.

Let us look to the official rules about aiming a spell first.

Aiming a Spell

You must make choices about whom a spell is to affect or where an effect is to originate, depending on a spell’s type. The next entry in a spell description defines the spell’s target (or targets), its effect, or its area, as appropriate.
Target or Targets: Some spells have a target or targets. You cast these spells on creatures or objects, as defined by the spell itself. You must be able to see or touch the target, and you must specifically choose that target. You do not have to select your target until you finish casting the spell.
If the target of a spell is yourself (the Target line of the spell description includes “You”), you do not receive a saving throw, and spell resistance does not apply. The saving throw and spell resistance lines are omitted from such spells.
Some spells restrict you to willing targets only. Declaring yourself as a willing target is something that can be done at any time (even if you’re flat-footed or it isn’t your turn). Unconscious creatures are automatically considered willing, but a character who is conscious but immobile or helpless (such as one who is bound, cowering, grappling, paralyzed, pinned, or stunned) is not automatically willing.
Some spells allow you to redirect the effect to new targets or areas after you cast the spell. Redirecting a spell is a move action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

So it specifically states in this rule that the target must be able to be seen or touched.  Well, that leads me to ask the question, if a fighter has a chance with a blind swing of a blade or a blind shot with an arrow, shouldn’t a magic user be able to shoot blindly with a chance to hit also?  The rules for blind attacks in combat are quite lenient in this regard in that you pick a square or direction (depending on your focus) and make a swing.  If there is a valid target then there is still a 50% miss chance.  I think this is very lenient as I would argue that the confusion of a melee makes things a lot more difficult to determine than that.

So I can see that maybe spells that rely on ranged attacks to hit magically should perhaps be considered under those rules.  Spells that do not require an attack roll perhaps should be unavailable to the magician (such as Lightning Bolt for example) but something that calls on that attack perhaps should.

Then you have to think about area of effect spells too like Fireball.  Shouldn’t the mage be able to hurl out a fireball and say to the GM “I toss a fireball 50 feet in front of me” and have it explode?  Or is that power of sight something other than just an estimating tool.  Is a 50′ estimation from a mage them actually picking out a space with their eyes and willing the magic energy there.

I really want to hear some ideas about this from you.  This is a second level spell that effectively rendered a 9th level sorcerer useless (lucky for the party or it would have been a TPK – as it was they permanently lost two of the four members).  It is such a powerful spell and when it comes off it is absolutely a coup for the party.  In the end the Sorcerer was abandoned by her shipmates (she was the Captain of a pirate ship) and she chose death by swallowing down a poisoned sea urchin rather than the death of a thousand cuts the Necromancer was delivering.  Two of the party were dead and one unconscious but stable leaving only the Necromancer to fight the blind Sorcerer and the Necromancer had no useful spells!

So let me know.  How would you have handled this?  Should I just apply the blanket rule: Can’t see, can’t touch, can’t cast as suggested or are there circumstances where you think this is unfair and should be bent like I did with the Magic Missiles?  Until next time, keep rolling!

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