Drawing life energy to cast arcane spells when not on the ground?

Afternoon all,

I’ve always played that drawing life energy to power arcane magic flows through the ground. Preservers are mindful of how much energy they draw, and do so sustainably, whereas defilers do not, and drain the land around them without a second thought. Either way, the life energy drawn flows through the ground.

But what if the arcane caster is flying, hundreds of feet above the ground? They cannot draw in life energy ‘through the ground’. Anyone have any nifty rules to handle this?

One option would be to treat the open air as spartan terrain, such as salt flats; there are some microscopic flora, so life energy is available, but sparingly so. But what if the caster is hovering only 10-20ft off the ground? To what extent can life energy be drawn through the ground, and then through the air?

Anyone thought about/solved/have thoughts on this?


I mean, AFAIK, its always depicted in the novels and adventures as going through the ground and then up into the casters’ hands, rather then through their feet/legs.

So, IMO, the power still has to travel through the air to your hands, be it a route of 2 feet or 200 feet. The question for me would be: does it take more energy to power a spell from in the air (as technically the plants are farther away, just like when casting your 4th spell in the same circle of defiled ground / does it take longer to draw the energy / is the potential defiling radius bigger (which are all kinda the same issue, mechanically resolved differently).

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You are able to harvest the energy regardless of distance, even on another plane. If that wasn’t the case, the mechanical burden on gameplay would just be ridiculous.

I agree, yet in a place with little plant life I would rule the drawing of energy would take much longer. In 3e terms a move or swift action(feat dependent.) In 5e, I would rule the use of a bonus action is required.

If on another plane that was like any other world I would rule as normal.

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In the books, Tristan can’t draw plant energy in the Bag of Holding/ Gray, and instead pulls it out of a spirit there, i believe. That’s likely the whole mechanical reason that you can pull arcane spell energy put of the spirits of the Gray (at least in 3e):

Per the 3.5e DS Rules, r7, pg 128 - The Gray:
“Since the Gray contains no plant life, wizards in the Gray cannot draw magic for their spells. Items that contain magical charges (rods, staves, wands and scrolls) still function, as the energy powering the magical effect is contained within the item.”

And Terrors of the Dead Lands, pg 8 - The Gray:
“Enhanced magic. In the Gray, a wizard can draw energy for a spell from an incorporeal undead (whether or not it has been forced into corporeal form). So potent is the undead that it acts as a battery of energy. As part of casting a spell, a wizard can make a touch attack against the undead, dealing 1d6 points of damage per level of the spell to be powered by its energy. This touch attack is a free action that provokes attacks of opportunity.”

I’m fine with casters pulling energy through space, to some degree: while standing on the ground, sure. While levitating 10ft off the ground, yes. While flying 200ft in the air … less so.

Taken to the extreme, allowing an arcane caster to draw life force through the air without restriction would mean an arcane caster stood in the middle of a barren desert could reach toward a verdant mountain two kilometres away and draw energy from plant life there freely.

I use a system whereby to preserve, a caster needs to succeed on an Arcana check against a DC equal to the ol’ Defiler Magical Destruction table in Defilers & Preservers – that cross references spell level vs. terrain type – and am leaning towards making the DC increasingly more difficult per distance above the ground.


Yah I would say that the caster would have to fly closer to the ground to draw energy for casting spells. The exact distance is up in the air of course (pun intended). I would probably be a bit flexible with the timing of drawing that energy though letting a caster draw and hold energy short term. Logically they are able to draw at least as much energy as needed to cast the highest level spell they are able to cast. Then you could possibly rule that they could cast a total number of spell levels up to that before they have to draw energy again, or something similar. Of course this has implications in other situations as well, but seems like a pretty reasonable idea, if you want to run with it. You could base the distance limit from the ground on caster level x10 or 20.

Personally I think I wouldn’t bother thinking about this limitation unless a character was really far from any life energy, like several hundred feet in the air or more. Which is similar to be ideas about being in truly desolate terrain such as an obsidian field or giant circle of ash from previous defiling.

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