A guide to NWN’s Silence spell, it’s counters, and a new discovery

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  • #1136
    Orion

    A self-targeted silence spell, creating a silence aura around my character. Any enemy spellcasters within the circle will not be able to cast any spells with a verbal component, unless they are able to resist its effects. (NWN: EE, PGCCv3 module, slightly edited to demonstrate circle size).

    Summary version:

    • There are around three hundred spells in NWN, but nearly every single spell has a verbal component, even epic spells, and are vulnerable to silence.
    • Silence is best used by clerics and bards with sufficient levels in those classes.
    • Silence is best self-targeted or targeted on allies/summons. There is no failure and a mobile silence aura is created.
    • A self-targeted or ally targeted silence spell creates a large silence aura without failure which can nullify enemy spellcasters in many circumstances. Enemy spellcasters usually are dangerous opponents who need to be nullified and defeated quickly so this is very useful.
    • A self-targeted silence spell usually prevents spellcasting by the player character as well, however the effects of silence on the player character are prevented if a player character can cast ethereal visage, mantles or globes before a self-targeted silence spell. This creates a self-silence aura but the character is not silenced. This means the player character preserves the ability to cast spells and use bard song while having a silence aura active. This is highly recommended if one does not have auto-silent feats.
    • There are some circumstances where enemies are protected against silence including spell resistance, spell mantles, globes, ethereal visage and silent spell/auto-silent feats. Careful judgement should be made if a self-targeted silence spell is the correct strategy to use. Against an enemy with a spell mantle active, the spell mantle should be removed (with a breach scroll or wand), or the player character should hide until the mantle expires, before affecting the enemy with the silence aura.
    • Being intentionally Silenced is usually detrimental by preventing verbal spellcasting and feats. However it provides 100% sonic immunity, and prevents being detected with the Listen skill, which is situationally useful in some circumstances.

    Casting Ethereal Visage (or Mantles/Globes) before a self-targeted Silence spell creates an effective large 5 meter radius Silence Aura, but the spellcaster is unaffected by the Silence and can still cast spells and use Bard Song, while enemy spellcasters will be usually be silenced by the aura and unable to cast spells unless they have protections. Highly recommended to use this strategy. (Source NWN: EE, WoG PW).

    Acknowledgement:

    I wish to thank TheSquid for many suggestions and corrections for this guide.

    The Silence Spell

    The Silence spell is a level 2 bard or cleric spell that prevents all spells with a verbal component within a large (5-meter) radius from being cast unless the spellcaster can resist or bypass its effects.

    Nearly every spell in NWN has a verbal component. There are only four spells with no verbal components and can be cast through silence. These spells are clarity, ethereal visage, lesser dispel and ray of enfeeblement.

    All Epic spells (ie. Epic Mage Armor, Epic Warding, Hellball) also cannot be cast while silenced as well. Certain feats including Bard Song, Curse Song, Divine Might, Divine Shield, Cleric Domain Powers, Divine Wrath cannot be used while silenced.

    As a result the Silence spell can almost completely nullify spellcasters, unless they have certain protections in place. In NWN  spellcasters present one of the greatest threats in the game and usually need to be dealt with as soon as possible.

    Silence is generally only useful on characters with sufficient Bard or Cleric levels (ie at least 10 caster levels, for a 10 round duration Silence). Silence has a duration of 1 round / caster level. Silence Wands and Scrolls only have 3 caster levels, and therefore only last three rounds, of which one round is used up to use the item, therefore UMD users only really get 2 rounds where an enemy is silenced before they can fight back. As a result, Silence is best used by characters with reasonable Bard or Cleric levels.

    Silence also provides sonic damage immunity, useful against enemies who deal sonic damage (ie. Enemy weapon properties, Wounding Whispers, Deafening Clang), and silenced creatures cannot be ‘listened’ (but can be spotted).

    The best use of the Silence Spell, is to self-target it or target it on allies

    The initial temptation is to target the Silence Spell on an enemy. However for the spell to be successful a will save and spell resistance check is made. Once that enemy is dispatched the Silence Aura disappears. So by targeting an enemy, the silence spell could fail, and it will disappear once that target is removed.

    However if the Silence Spell is self-targeted or targeted on allies, the spell will always succeed in being cast and will always create the large 5-meter radius Silence Aura which is the most useful component of the silence spell. The character or silenced ally can then move up to any spellcaster in question and nullify their spellcasting capabilities for the duration, unless they have certain protections and counters in place, which I will describe shortly. For a spellcaster with poor physical prowess and heavy reliance on spells this will essentially mean they will be easily dispatched.

    My Bard has cast a self-targeted silence spell, creating a silence aura. This very difficult enemy spellcaster cannot cast any verbal spells, is very vulnerable without any spell protections, and is easily dispatched. (NWN: EE, WoG PW server, slightly edited to hide the identity of the enemy to avoid spoilers)

    My near pure battle cleric has high caster levels, and the silence aura created penetrates past the enemy’s spell resistance protections, making the enemy cleric (in red) unable to cast spells. I put the enemy cleric at low enough health to try to flee to cast a healing spell outside my silence aura, allowing me an attack of opportunity and further damage, and my character  and associated silence aura chases preventing the intended spellcasting. (Source NWN EE, WoG PW, slightly edited with GIMP to improve clarity)

    Allies can include summons. So one could cast Silence on a powerful summon, and direct that summon to engage in combat with the enemy. The challenge is in controlling the summon’s AI sufficiently to make it work. Attack Nearest (“V – W – E” is the keyboard verbal shortcut for this) is the best command to use, while your character is invisible or sanctuaried. Your character can then be free to cast spells without being silenced while your opponent cannot.

    The best target is a player controlled party member (such as a Fighter, Monk, Barbarian) who does not use spells or bard song, and can run in with impunity without being detrimentally affected. In fact such a character receives bonuses, by being immune to sonic damage, and being unable to be detected with the Listen skill (although the character could be detected with Spot).

    Counters to the Silence Spell

    There are certain situations where the Silence spell is countered:

    • Spell resistance, particularly if the players Caster Level is not high
    • Ethereal Visage
    • Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Globe of Invulnerability
    • Lesser Spell Mantle, Spell Mantle and Greater Spell Mantle
    • Silent Spell and Auto-Silent spell feats
    • Enemies with Lesser Dispel memorised (low levels only)
    • Crafted Magic – including enemies with Wands of Dispel Magic, Scrolls of Greater Dispelling or Mordenkainen’s Disjunction, Scrolls of Greater Sanctuary

    A brief explanation of Caster Level is if one has ten cleric levels the character has CL 10, if they have twenty cleric levels CL 20 – the more the better.

    If the enemy has enough spell resistance that the silence aura cannot penetrate then silence will not be effective.

    If the enemy is protected by Ethereal Visage, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Globe of Invulnerability, Level 2 spells will not affect the enemy, and the Silence aura will not be effective.

    If the enemy is protected by a Spell Mantle, then it will absorb 2 spell levels, and prevent the Silence Aura from working.

    If the enemy has the Silent Spell Feat and/or Auto-Silent they can cast spells without verbal components. The exception are Epic Spells – no Epic Spells can be cast when silenced, even with Auto-Silent III they cannot be cast.

    Lesser Dispel does not have a verbal component, and at low levels, this spell be cast through a silence aura to dispel it. However Lesser Dispel cannot remove a caster level 15 or higher Silence spell.

    Crafted magic such as Mordenkainen’s Scrolls can be cast without a verbal component to remove the player’s Silence Aura. Scrolls of Greater Sanctuary can protect the enemy mage, become undetectable (unless one has proper True Seeing) and escape the Silence Aura, and once repositioned, fight back.

    My Cleric/Sorcerer only has twelve levels of Cleric, and only has a spell penetration of 12+1d20. So her Silence Aura (white dotted circle) is unable to penetrate this enemy drow’s spell resistance which is likely 40 or higher, and in this area she was unable to prevent enemy spellcasters from casting spells. (NWN: EE, WoG Server)

    Dealing with such counters

    Spell resistance can be dealt with by having high caster levels, spell penetration feats and potentially lowering spell resistance with Breaches and Mordenkainen’s Disjunction (if the character has UMD or arcane casting).

    Ethereal Visage, Globes of Invulnerability and Mantles can be removed with Breaches, Greater Dispelling or Mordenkainen’s Disjunction. These could be memorised Greater Dispelling spells, Scrolls of Breach, Wand of Lesser Spell Breach or Scrolls of Mordenkainen’s Disjunction. Or having a teammate spellcaster who can cast these spells.

    Mantles can be reduced by using the silence aura and moving to the enemy and moving away repeatedly to lower the mantle by two spell levels each time. The character is vulnerable when doing this movement and I think a breach would be preferable.

    Silent Spell and Auto-Silent Spell Feats cannot be countered and another strategy will have to be implemented to deal with the spell caster.

    Lesser Dispel cannot remove a caster level 15 or higher silence spell, and is countered at higher levels.

    Crafted magic cannot be countered but the silence aura can be resistant to dispelling with high caster levels. Greater Sanctuary can be breached with an area of effect Mordenkainen’s Disjunction scroll, or enemies can be damaged with area of effect spells (Bards are usually not direct damage dealing spell casters), but the mage will not be targetable with physical attacks.

    Dealing with being silenced while using a self-targeted Silence Aura

    Ordinarily when using a self-targeted Silence aura, the character cannot cast spells, use Bard Song, or other feats like Divine Might/Turn Undead. One could work around this in a couple of ways:

    Cast all necessary spells and then Silence last

    A cleric should cast Divine Power, Divine Favor, Battletide and other buffs, cast summons if relevant and then cast Silence last before charging in, that way the cleric benefits from the spell buff effects.

    Bards can use a similar strategy (ie Haste, War Cry, Dirge), although they also have Ethereal Visage and can be potentially free to cast spells with a silence aura (see next section).

    Casting spells while using a self-targeted Silence Aura

    Casting Ethereal Visage/Globe of Invulnerability/Mantles before a Self Targeted Silence

    This is my discovery, and a self-targeted silence aura can be created without the spellcaster affected by the silence, if they are protected with Ethereal Visage or one of the other spells before the self-targeted silence is cast. The character is then free to cast spells, use Bard/Curse Song while having a Silence Aura nullifying enemy spellcasters.

    This is one of the most powerful strategies a Bard can have against spellcasters, and I would highly recommend it. Cast a Haste Spell beforehand, and one will be running at rapid speed to nullify an enemy spellcaster in the right circumstances.

    My character casts Ethereal Visage then Silence on herself. She has a silence aura created (which works against enemy spellcasters) but she is unaffected by the spell. She can then use Bard/Curse Song (top picture) and cast spells such as Ice Storm (bottom picture) without being affected by the silence aura. (Source NWN: EE, PGCCv3 module, edited with GIMP).

    Using a spell mantle or globe of invulnerability scroll before a self targeted silence spell will also work in a similar way, enabling the character to cast spells/use bard song/divine might while having a large silence aura to nullify enemy spellcasters. (NWN: EE, WoG PW)

    If Ethereal Visage, Mantles or Globes expire or get dispelled/breached before the Silence Aura expires, the character is not silenced, because the silence check is only on casting the initial silence spell for the character with the aura.

    Silent Spell/Auto Silent Feats

    A character with Silent spell can cast some spells while Silenced. A character with Auto Silent 3 (usually a Cleric, Bards find it hard to obtain Auto Silent 3) can cast any spell while Silenced. An Auto Silent 3 strategy is definitely useful against enemy silences, and can work to be able to cast spells while being silenced, however Ethereal Visage or other spells (ie Mantles through UMD on a cleric) using the strategy I have described could allow for spell casting while having an active self-targeted silence aura.

    #1139
    Aquarius

    Your discovery is very interesting, an provides a reason for taking lv 5 bard spells (greater dispelling won’t matter that much in eic levels).

    Guide is smooth and easy to read, great job!

    P.S.: another counter to silence spell could be…..to use a Greater Sanctuary scroll and get out of the aura. If I recall correctly, at least one of the bosses in the server we play uses this strategy…

    #1140
    Orion

    Hi Aquarius, great comment on Greater Sanctuary scrolls, they are certainly a way for mages to escape Silence Auras. I’ve added this to the guide.

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