SRD:Special Abilities Overview
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This category includes abilities a creature has because of its physical nature. Natural abilities are those not otherwise designated as extraordinary, supernatural, or spell-like.
A special ability is either extraordinary (Ex), spell-like (Sp), psi-like (Ps), or supernatural (Su).
Extraordinary abilities, though they may break the laws of physics, are nonmagical, don’t become ineffective in an antimagic field, are not subject to any effect that disrupts magic, and they generally do not provoke attacks of opportunity. They are, however, not something that just anyone can do or even learn to do without extensive training. Using an extraordinary ability is a free action unless otherwise noted.
Spell-like abilities are magical and work just like spells (though they are not spells and so have no verbal, somatic, material, focus, or XP components). They go away in an antimagic field and are subject to dispel magic and spell resistance (if the spell the ability resembles or duplicates would be subject to spell resistance). Usually, a spell-like ability works just like the spell of that name. A few spell-like abilities are unique; these are explained in the text where they are described.
A spell-like ability usually has a limit on how often it can be used. A spell-like ability that can be used at will has no use limit. Using a spell-like ability is a standard action unless noted otherwise in the ability or spell description, and doing so while threatened provokes attacks of opportunity. It is possible to make a Concentration check to use a spell-like ability defensively and avoid provoking an attack of opportunity, just as when casting a spell. A spell-like ability can be disrupted just as a spell can be. Spell-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.
For creatures with spell-like abilities, a designated caster level defines how difficult it is to dispel their spell-like effects and to define any level-dependent variables (such as range and duration) the abilities might have. The creature’s caster level never affects which spell-like abilities the creature has; sometimes the given caster level is lower than the level a spellcasting character would need to cast the spell of the same name. If no caster level is specified, the caster level is equal to the creature’s Hit Dice. The saving throw (if any) against a spell-like ability is 10 + the level of the spell the ability resembles or duplicates + the creature’s Cha modifier.
Some spell-like abilities duplicate spells that work differently when cast by characters of different classes. A monster’s spell-like abilities are presumed to be the sorcerer/wizard versions. If the spell in question is not a sorcerer/wizard spell, then default to cleric, druid, bard, paladin, and ranger, in that order.
Most psionic monsters have some number of psi-like abilities. These are very similar to spell-like abilities. Naturally, they are psionic and work just like powers. In some cases, a creature’s psi-like abilities (or abilities listed under a creature’s psionics entry) may include an effect that does not duplicate any listed power. For such abilities, simply use the existing spell description. Treat the creature’s manifester level as the caster level for the spell. The ability is still psionic in origin, so spells and powers that specifically affect psionic powers can negate or reduce its effects as they would any other psionic power. A few psi-like abilities are unique; these are explained in the text where they are described.
A creature with psi-like abilities does not pay for these abilities with power points and the abilities have no verbal, somatic, or material components, nor do they require a focus or have an XP cost (even if the equivalent power has an XP cost). The user activates them mentally. Armor never affects a psi-like ability’s use.
Psi-like abilities do not work in a null psionics field, are subject to being dispelled by dispel psionics and power resistance if the power or spell the ability duplicates would be subject to power resistance. A psi-like ability usually has a limit on how often it can be used. A psi-like ability that can be used at will has no use limit. Using a psi-like ability is a standard action unless noted otherwise, and doing so while threatened provokes attacks of opportunity. It is possible to make a Concentration check to use a psi-like ability defensively and avoid provoking attacks of opportunity, just as when using a power or casting a spell. A psi-like ability can be interrupted just as a spell can be. Psi-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.
All creatures with psi-like abilities are assigned a manifester level, which indicates how difficult it is to dispel their psi-like effects and determines all level-dependent variables (such as range or duration) the abilities might have. When a creature uses a psi-like ability, the power is manifested as if the creature had spent a number of power points equal to its manifester level, which may augment the power to improve its damage or save DC. However, the creature does not actually spend power points for its psi-like abilities, even if it has a power point reserve due to racial abilities, class levels, or some other psionic ability.
The DC of a saving throw (if applicable) against a creature’s psi-like ability is 10 + the level of the power or spell the ability duplicates + the creature’s Cha modifier. Remember to check the power’s Augment entry to see if the creature’s manifester level (and thus the effective power point expenditure) increases the DC of the saving throw. Changes to the effect’s save DC, damage, and so on are noted in the psi-like ability entry.
By default, supernatural abilities are magical and go away in an antimagic field. However, some creatures have psionic abilities that are considered supernatural. Psionic feats are also supernatural abilities. These abilities do not function in areas where psionics is suppressed.
Supernatural abilities of either type are not subject to spell resistance nor power resistance. Supernatural abilities cannot be dispelled and are not subject to counterspells. Using a supernatural ability is a standard action unless noted otherwise. Supernatural abilities may have a use limit or be usable at will, just like spell-like abilities. However, supernatural abilities do not provoke attacks of opportunity and never require Concentration checks. Unless otherwise noted, a supernatural ability has an effective caster level equal to the creature’s Hit Dice. The saving throw (if any) against a supernatural ability is 10 + 1/2 the creature’s HD + the creature’s ability modifier (usually Charisma).
See the tables below for a summary of the types of special abilities.
|Attack of opportunity||No||Yes||No|
|Dispel: Can dispel magic and similar spells dispel the effects of abilities of that type?
Spell Resistance: Does spell resistance protect a creature from these abilities?
Antimagic Field: Does an antimagic field or similar magic suppress the ability?
Attack of Opportunity: Does using the ability provoke attacks of opportunity the way that casting a spell does?
|Null psionics field||No||Yes||Yes|
|Attack of opportunity||No||Yes||No|
|Dispel: Can dispel psionics and similar powers dispel the effects of abilities of that type?
Power Resistance: Does power resistance protect a creature from these abilities?
Null Psionics Field: Does a antimagic field or similar psionics suppress the ability?
Attack of Opportunity: Does using the ability provoke attacks of opportunity the way that manifesting a power does?
System Reference Document → Special Abilities
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