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Sutra Magic

“I paint the symbols heaven, earth, wind, water, mountain, fire, thunder, and lake. The ancient child asks, ‘What do you see?’ I see a circle of jade.”

– From the Tao te Ching

Sutras are sacred stories, prayers, or other lessons and expressions of the universe. They are often written on paper charms, called ofuda, in order to ward against, reveal, bind, or punish otherworldly creatures referred to as “infernals” (see below). Ofuda (with the proper sutras) sanctify places and can also be used as good luck charms. The power granted to an ofuda comes from the sutra written on it by its creator. The sutra is a universal truth expressed as a prayer; as such, sutras are tied to both the runes of creation and the Green.

Ofudas let sutras draw on the power of these universal forces to produce a variety of effects. It is not enough to simply know how to write a sutra to make its power work; one must also understand it and believe in its principles and in what it teaches before the power of the sutra will empower an ofuda. What’s more is that not just any believer can find themselves with the ability to use a sutra. The power of the universe reveals itself only through the self. Even then, not many sutras can be learned or comprehended until one experiences life through the fullness of time and exposure to the world.

Sutras are used by those versed in the theological practices that gave rise to them. Over time, certain religions acquired the practice from others. In the Lands of the Jade Oath, these faiths are Bodhism, Taoshidaoism, Kami-do, Upanishandism, ancestor worship, animism, and shamanism. Sutras are a cosmic truth related to the Green, the power of runes, and the ch’i that flows through the world. Those who can perceive and tap into the power of the Green (druids and rangers), and their faith (clerics, inquisitors, monks, oracles and paladins) have the potential to learn sutras (see the Sutra Caster feat). Priests, monks, and other dedicated followers of the religions use sutras as a means to teach and learn the lessons of their faith. They ward off and even combat the malicious presence and activities of mischievous spirits and the antithesis of their faiths, the infernals.

Infernal creatures and spirits cannot create ofuda or cast sutras.

Learning Sutras

To begin learning sutras, a character must first take the Sutra Caster feat. A character may learn one sutra per two sutra caster levels, with a maximum number learned equal to twice her unenhanced Wisdom bonus (minimum of 1). The character does not learn bonus sutras due to a high ability score. The character does not automatically learn new sutras; she must find them, understand them, and finally, commit them to memory. The exceptions to this rule are feats or special class abilities.


For purposes of Sutra magic, “Infernals” includes all creatures not native to this world or not otherwise naturally tied to it and whose presence in this world is not sanctioned by the Celestial Bureaucracy. This includes creatures that are descended from other infernals, like bakemono, but have since become native to this world. In official Pathfinder Roleplaying Game terms, “infernals” includes all creatures of the following types and subtypes:



Useful Names

Ghohei A specially prepared staff consisting of a stick of wood with two strips of paper attached to it.

Misogi A purification ritual Ooharai – Exorcism

Ofuda A paper that carries a sutra Norito – Shinto chant

Sutra A magical prayer or invocation

Daily Sutras

A character may cast a number of sutras per day equal to her Wisdom bonus. If the character has levels in a sutra casting class, then she adds +1 for every four levels in a sutra casting class. Having the Sutra Caster feat does not make the character a spellcaster.

Sutra Caster Level

The sutra caster level is equal to the character’s total levels in any sutra casting classes. For any levels in other classes, every 3 class levels counts as a single sutra caster level. Spellcasting classes count every 2 spellcaster levels as a single sutra caster level (see chart below). If multi-classed, then add the effective sutra caster levels from each of your classes together to determine your total effective caster level.

Table: Sutra Caster Level
Character Level Effective Sutra Caster Level
Sutra Caster* Arcane Spellcaster** Non-Spellcaster
1st 1st 1st 1st
2nd 2nd 1st 1st
3rd 3rd 2nd 1st
4th 4th 2nd 2nd
5th 5th 3rd 2nd
6th 6th 3rd 2nd
7th 7th 4th 3rd
8th 8th 4th 3rd
9th 9th 5th 3rd
10th 10th 5th 4th
11th 11th 6th 4th
12th 12th 6th 4th
13th 13th 7th 5th
14th 14th 7th 5th
15th 15th 8th 5th
16th 16th 8th 6th
17th 17th 9th 6th
18th 18th 9th 6th
19th 19th 10th 7th
20th 20th 10th 7th

* Sutra caster classes include all classes with divine spellcasting and monks.
** Alchemists are included with arcane spellcasters for the purpose of determining your effective sutra caster level.

Effective Spell Level

The effective spell level of a sutra is bases on the character’s sutra caster level (see Table: Sutra Caster Level). The Save DC is 10 + effective spell level + the character’s sutra casting ability score modifier (usually Wisdom). This is also important when casting a sutra defensively or in difficult circumstances. When adjudicating a Concentration check for casting a sutra, use the effective spell level in place of the spell level when determining the saving throw DC.

The effectiveness and general power level of a sutra is based on the effective spell level that is derived from the sutra caster level of its caster. The effective caster level is often used to determine one aspect of the sutra’s variables at the time of casting; usually damage or duration. Other variables are decided by the sutra caster level of its caster and/or the caster’s sutra ability modifier. Damage If the sutra inflicts damage, how much damage the sutra causes should always be the variable determined by the effective spell level.

Sutra Caster Level Effective Spell Level Max Sutras Learned*
1st-2nd 1st 1
3rd-4th 2nd 2
5th-6th 3rd 3
7th-8th 4th 4
9th-10th 5th 5
11th-12th 6th 6
13th-14th 7th 7
15th-16th 8th 8
17th-18th 9th 9
19th-20th 9th 10

* Use this value or your unenhanced Wisdom modifier times two, whichever is lower.


Certain faiths, notably Kami-do and certain Bodhist sects, write sutras on strips of paper, wood, cloth, or metal to create an ofuda. The ofuda holds no mystical power until a sutra is written on it. When writing a sutra onto an ofuda, it is inscribed with a series of mystic runes and symbols known as “brilliant jade script”. The brilliant jade script is only part of a sutra, the part that defines it as to what type it is; a sort of prefix to a mystic formulae. When the sutra is spoken aloud at the moment the ofuda is cast, investing the power of the sutra into the ofuda, is when the mystical formulae of faith and universal truth becomes complete – awakening the true power of the sutra. Sutras written on ofuda come in three general types: charm, punitive, and warding.

Omamori can also bear either the descriptor of a charm or of a warding sutra.

Charm Ofuda

Most ofuda combat the menace of infernals or evil spirits, but charms can be used for good fortune and to provide blessings to both heroes and the common folk. Charm ofudas are empowered with sutras that grant special luck, insight, or abilities to those who carry them. These ofuda are always beneficial and are carried by those who benefit from their use. They usually have a single target and seldom have area effects. The person that both bears the ofuda and is designated by name on it is always the target. These are usually, but not always, carried by someone other than the caster and activated by the bearer. Some, like the fiery pearl sutras, are only activated by the caster. The power of the sutra’s effect is determined by the effective spell level invested into the charm ofuda.

Count the sutra that is invested into the ofuda as if cast for the day when created. An individual who receives an ofuda at the time the caster casts the sutra is the only individual who can activate the ofuda from that moment on. Charm ofuda that bestow an immediate effect typically activate by burning them or activate with a spoken prayer that causes them to be consumed in a small, spontaneous combustion. Charm ofuda granted to someone else count against the caster’s daily limit. Charm ofuda always have a duration of less than 24 hours. This type of sutra will not work if the bearer is an infernal creature.

Punitive Ofuda

These ofuda punish the infernals and spirits who invade the middle kingdom by causing them damage, pain, or even inflicting special conditions. These ofuda can temporarily bind infernals or spirits as detailed in their description. Use these ofuda directly against their targets. They can have either a single target or an area effect. Punitive ofuda are empowered with sutras that have an immediate effect upon an enemy, often causing damage to their targets or otherwise acting like evocations or immediate abjuration effects. They can also have the effect of paralyzing or controlling a singular creature.

Punitive ofuda are cast as a standard action, usually to harm an opponent and usually an infernal. They take effect immediately upon being cast and thrown, when they fly towards the intended target. The paper strips resist the strongest natural winds and even circumvent obstacles in their path on their way to strike their designated target. Single target punitive ofuda require a successful ranged or melee touch attack to hit and take effect. These ofuda never have a permanent duration.

Warding Ofuda

Warding ofuda keep evil spirits and infernals from the people, places, and things that bear them. They can bind infernals to them. Less often, these ofuda might keep something bound within a person or creature. Warding ofuda can defend against the attacks of infernals and sometimes offer protection against other mystical forces. These ofuda are defensive in nature, or keep something away, or confine things within the place or object to which it is attached. Some warding sutras act immediately, while others may not be activated until the target of the warding comes into contact with it or its area of effect.

Touch the ofuda to the surface, object, or creature that will serve as the center of the area of effect. Once touched to a surface and cast, it cannot be moved until its duration expires or it is dispelled. If a creature triggers more than one warding ofuda, only the most powerful one takes effect. The others are triggered, but have no effect.

Determine the most powerful by the effective spell level of the invested sutra. If the effective spell levels are the same, then the higher sutra caster level prevails. If the sutra caster levels are the same, then determine which caster has the higher sutra casting ability score (usually Wisdom). If the more powerful ofuda still cannot be determined, randomly determine which one takes effect first.

Omamori (Sutra subtype; Talisman Ofuda)

An omamori is a special subtype of ofuda that bears the enchantment written upon it for as long as the caster chooses to maintain it. Omamori means “honorable protector”. These sutra are always charm or warding ofuda. Punitive ofuda can never be an omamori. Omamori are usually held in a cloth amulet covering that encloses papers or pieces of wood with the sutra written on it. Omamori are considered magic items and count as either an amulet or ring for the purposes of determining the magic item body slot it occupies depending on where a bearer keeps it (i.e. tied to the neck, wrist, or even tied to a held or worn item). Omamori always last for 24 hours. An omamori can be maintained by the sutra caster for as many days as he desires, but he must continue to maintain it every day. He must make the decision to maintain it every morning as he regains his allotted number of sutra castings per day. The caster need not concentrate on or touch an omamori again in order for it to continue working, as long as he has maintained it and it lasts. This type of sutra will not work if the bearer is an infernal creature.

Creating an Ofuda

Creating an ofuda requires two rounds and material components in the form of paper, ink, and brush or stylus (these materials may be substituted by a resourceful character, if they are deemed suitable by the GM). A character can have a total number of ofuda prepared and/or in effect at any given time equal to either her Knowledge (religion) or Knowledge (runes) skill rank, whichever is higher. This means that the character need not create an ofuda each time she casts them if she has already prepared the one she wants to cast. Ofuda do not activate until the caster properly casts the sutra into the ofuda (a standard action). Additionally, the ofuda prepared do not all have to be different; any number of those sutras written by the casting character’s hand can be the same. Infernal and spirit creatures cannot create ofuda or cast sutras.

Sutra Format

Every sutra is described using a standard format. This section discusses that format, and the finer points of how sutras and the ofudas they are written on work.

Descriptor Options

Evil Descriptor Option

If a target creature has the evil subtype, the blessed energy of the sutra burns into its vile flesh. It takes a number of points in sacred damage equal to the caster’s sutra casting ability modifier every round after the first that a sutra affects it (such as Celestial Bindings).

Good Descriptor Option

Any Good subtype creature heals from a positive energy sutra used on it.

Name: This is the name by which character knows the sutra.

Descriptors: First is the type of sutra followed by any applicable descriptors—terms such as “sonic” or “fire” that quantify a sutra’s effect—are listed next [in brackets].

Sutra Type: charm, punitive, and warding. The sutra might also be of the talisman subtype.

Descriptors: acid, air, cold, curse, darkness, dragon, earth, electricity, fear, fire, force, giant, language-dependent, light, mind-affecting, negative energy, metal, plant, positive energy, sonic, teleportation, truename, water, and wood.

Casting Time: The time required to cast a sutra (see below).

Range: The maximum distance from the character at which the sutra can affect its target.

Target or Targets/Effect/Area: This entry lists the number of creatures, dimensions, volume, or weight the sutra affects. The entry starts with one of three headings: “Target,” “Effect,” or “Area.” If the target of a sutra is “You,” the caster does not receive a saving throw, and spell resistance does not apply. (These sutra descriptions omit the “Saving Throw” and “Spell Resistance” parameters.)

Duration: How long the effect(s) of the sutra last (see below).

Saving Throw: Whether a sutra allows a saving throw, the type of saving throw, and the effect of a successful saving throw.

Spell Resistance: Whether targets resist this sutra with spell resistance (SR), a special defensive ability.


This portion of the sutra description details what the sutra does and how it works. Occasionally the first sentence is italicized and is generally intended to be flavorful descriptive text, followed by actual rules mechanics in further paragraphs.

Casting an Ofuda

To cast a prepared ofuda requires a standard action. The character needs to say a prayer over the ofuda and make a concentration skill check – provided the situation warrants it – while the caster calls upon the sutra that will empower the ofuda. Casting the sutra requires 5 components; being in the right state of mind is the mental component, reciting the sutra is the verbal component, using the ofuda is both the material and focus component, and touching it or throwing it at its target is the somatic component. Additionally, the character must concentrate to cast a sutra just as a spellcaster must concentrate during the casting of a spell. See below for details. If the character should ever fail her concentration check, then she fails to cast the ofuda. Unsuccessfully cast sutras do not count against the remaining number the character can cast that day, but failure to cast a sutra does consume the ofuda it was written on.

Casting Time

The casting times for sutras work like a spell or spell-like ability.


A sutra’s range indicates how far from the character it can reach, as defined on the “Range” line. The range works in the same manner as that of any spell or spell-like ability. A sutra with range “Touch” only requires a touch attack (see Touch Sutras below).

Aiming an Ofuda

Aiming an ofuda requires a ranged touch attack with the following exceptions. Ofudas can strike incorporeal creatures that are considered to be infernals or spirits. Unless specified otherwise, sutras cast against creatures that are not infernals or spirits do only half damage before saving throws (halved again if saving throws are successful). Non-infernal and non-spirit creatures receive a +5 bonus on saving throws against sutras. Undead with Channel Resistance that are aware of the attack can add it to their touch attack AC to dodge the ofuda; they may also add their Channel Resistance to any saving throw to resist the effects of the sutra. This represents their resistance to the divine power of the sutra as the imbalanced nature of their ch’i repels it.

Line of Effect

When thrown, an ofuda mystically flies to strike its target. The character must have a clear line of effect to any target or to any space in which she wishes to create an effect. This works the same as for any spell or spell-like ability that requires a line of effect.

Saving Throw

Most harmful sutras allow an affected creature to make a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect. The “Saving Throw” line defines the type of saving throw the sutra allows (if any) and describes how saving throws against the sutra work. This works the same as with any spell or spell-like ability and applies equally well to saving throws made for items.

Spell Resistance

Spell resistance applies to sutras, so a caster must succeed on a caster level check to overcome the spell resistance of the target creature. Sutras have an effective caster level equal to the caster’s sutra caster level.

The Sutra’s Result

Once the character knows which creatures, objects or areas are affected, and whether successful saving throws (if any) were made, she can apply the sutra results. Many sutras affect particular sorts of creatures, such as infernals.


Duration for sutras vary. They may use the same increments as spells, or they may use variable increments called Time Units (see chart below). The duration for a sutra using Time Units add the sutra’s effective spell level plus the character’s casting ability score modifier (usually Wisdom) and multiply it by the Time Unit appropriate for their sutra caster level. For example, a 7th level monk with a Wisdom modifier of +3 would cast a Grounding Charm for 6 minutes (effective spell level is 4 + 3 from the sutra casting ability score modifier times).

Casters determine some durations by effective spell level at the time the sutra is cast. Punitive sutras typically have a short or instantaneous duration. Warding and charm ofuda have a longer duration, sometimes just short of a day in length. Omamori last as long as the caster expends the required daily castings of his sutras to maintain them, though he need not concentrate on the omamori afterward.

Sutra Caster Level Sutra Duration (Time Units)
1st-6th rounds
7th-12th minutes
13th-18th 10 minute increments
19th-20th hours

Touch Sutras and Holding the Charge

If the character doesn’t discharge a touch sutra on the round she casts it, she can hold the discharge (called “hold the charge”) indefinitely. If the character touches anything with her hand or an ofuda while holding a charge, the sutra discharges. If the character casts another sutra, the touch sutra dissipates. This works just like using a touch spell, except that the sutra charge is contained within the ofuda it is cast upon and not within the caster himself. It is possible to disarm the caster if it can be done without touching the ofuda directly. The creature making the disarm attempt will activate the sutra and suffer any effects generated by that sutra if they fail a disarm attempt. The caster cannot give the sutra to another to activate it. As soon as the caster releases the sutra or ofuda for any reason prior to touching it to a target, then the power contained within immediately dissipates.

Caster Level Checks

Some sutras may require the caster to overcome some force—usually another sutra, spell, or caster. Caster level checks work the same for sutra casters as they do for spellcasters. Use the sutra caster level when determining the result of a caster level check.

Concentration Checks

Casting a sutra is similar to casting a spell, though how powerful the sutra is depends upon the sutra’s effective spell level. If the character is threatened while casting the sutra, she may cast defensively. Sutra casters suffer from the same penalties that spellcasters do when making concentration checks. Use the effective spell level in place of spell level when determining the DC for any concentration checks.


Like certain spells, some sutras have special effects that occur if the caster knows the target’s truename. Other sutras require the use of the target’s truename. Anytime a sutra-caster incorporates a target’s truename, the saving throw DC (if any) for the sutra increases by +1. Furthermore, incorporating the truename of the intended target into the making of the ofuda grants a +2 insight bonus to any concentration check made to cast the sutra. That particular ofuda can only be used against the intended target whose truename is written on it.

Counterspelling and Dispelling Sutras

Sutras cannot be counterspelled; however, sutra effects with ongoing durations can be dispelled normally using dispel magic. Use the sutra caster level as the spellcaster level for the caster level check.

Ofuda as Magic Items

Ofuda created by a sutra caster with an appropriate item creation feat (any except that ofuda can never be crafted as arms or armor) can create longer lasting effects. Creating an ofuda as a magic item does not count against the sutra caster’s daily limit of sutras. When creating ofuda with item creation feats, the following exceptions apply: Ofuda always have the x2 item creation modifier. Punitive ofuda can never be made as a constant item. Treat the sutra caster level as the spellcaster level for the purposes of creating and pricing the item. The effective spell level equals the spell level for the purposes of creating and pricing the item.

Positive Energy Sutras

Sutras that deal positive energy damage heal creatures with the Positive Energy subtype.

Sutra Ability Score

Usually this is the character’s Wisdom bonus, but the inquisitor, oracle, and paladin classes use Charisma.

Creating New Sutras

If a GM or player wishes to create a new sutra for an ofuda, three key points to remember when creating sutras is that they should be primarily useful against infernals and spirits, all sutras should be made to be useful at all levels, and that it should be equivalent in power to spells of its effective spell level. Scaling the damage, duration and its primary effects are the primary means of accomplishing this.

The first step is to decide its type: charm, punitive, or warding.

Charm ofuda never inflict damage.

Punitive ofuda are always offensive and take effect right away, usually targeting only creatures; specifically infernals and/or spirits. Punitive ofuda that target a specific target with a melee touch attack should inflict damage equal to 1d8 per effective spell level + sutra ability modifier. Punitive ofuda that target a specific target with a ranged touch attack inflict damage equal to 1d6 per effective spell level + sutra ability modifier. Punitive ofuda that inflict damage to all targets within an area, but allow a saving throw for partial damage should inflict damage equal to 1d8 per effective spell level + sutra ability modifier. Punitive ofuda that inflict damage to all targets within an area, but do not allow a saving throw for partial damage should inflict damage equal to 1d4 per effective spell level + sutra ability score modifier.

Warding ofuda are almost never offensive and are usually meant to be set up for use later, such as in a trap or via a defensive field or ability. Warding ofuda only inflict damage when certain conditions are met. Warding ofuda that inflict damage upon an area should inflict damage equal to 1d6 per effective spell level + sutra ability score modifier. Warding ofuda that can inflict damage on only one, specific target should inflict damage equal to 1d8 per effective spell level + sutra ability score modifier. A higher die of damage may be used to affect only a certain type of opponent or has some other type of restriction (such as when used against infernals), but damage against other creatures should be two steps lower than that damage or even nonexistent. (For example, an area-effect attack that inflicts 1d8 against all infernals in the area of effect, but only inflicts 1d4 or just half damage against all other creatures in the area.)


If damage is not an effect, then duration is the best variable to use. If the duration should be short because the sutra would be too powerful with a long duration, then give the sutra a duration in rounds equal to its effective spell level. Otherwise, use Time Units (see above) plus the sutra caster’s ability score modifier.

Saving Throws

All saving throw Difficulty Classes to avoid or reduce the effects of a sutra are 10 + effective spell level + the sutra caster’s sutra casting ability modifier.

These are only the broadest of guidelines. Use the existing sutras as examples.

Sutra Scrolls

Source Sutra Scrolls Copyright (c) 2010-2012 Necromancers of the Northwest, LLC

In the same way that a wizard or sorcerer can create a scroll using standard magic, so can a sutra caster create special ofuda that store the power of the sutra contained within for an extended period of time, and which can be used by characters other than the creator.

Physical Description: In many ways, a sutra scroll is identical to a standard ofuda used for casting sutras. A sutra scroll is a slip of paper, usually only two or three inches wide and rarely more than a foot long, which is covered in very delicate calligraphy. The paper and ink of a sutra scroll are usually of much finer quality than that of a standard ofuda, and it is not uncommon to see them with gold-embossed borders or ink that is made from ground-up gemstone dust to produce writing that sparkles and shimmers in unusual colors.

Activation: To activate a sutra scroll, the activating character must read it aloud. Any character that can see and read the writing on the sutra scroll can activate it. Unlike standard scrolls, the writing does not usually need to be deciphered, unless the creator specifically wrote it in a language that the user does not speak. Activating a sutra scroll requires no material components or focus. Activating a sutra scroll is subject to disruption just as casting a sutra normally would be.

Unlike standard scrolls, sutra scrolls can be activated by almost anyone. It does not matter if the creator is a divine or arcane spellcaster, and the user does not even need to be able to cast sutra magic on his own. The only requirement to cast a sutra from a sutra scroll is that the user possesses the requisite ability score. In order to activate a sutra scroll, the user must have either a Wisdom or Charisma score equal to 10 plus the effective spell level of the sutra inscribed on the sutra scroll.

If the user has the requisite ability score, he must make a Knowledge (religion) or Spellcraft check (the user chooses which skill to use) as a standard action in order to successfully activate the sutra scroll. The DC for this check is equal to 10 + the sutra caster level associated with the sutra scroll to be activated. If the check succeeds, the sutra takes effect as though it were cast by someone with the same sutra caster level and relevant ability score modifier as the sutra scroll‘s creator. If the check fails, nothing happens, and the user can try to activate the sutra scroll again on the next turn.

Unlike standard scrolls, a sutra scroll is not automatically created with the lowest possible caster level required to cast the sutra. Rather, the creator can choose what sutra caster level, and, by extension, what effective spell level, the sutra is inscribed at. A higher sutra caster level produces more powerful effects, but it is more costly to create and more difficult for others to use. A character cannot create a sutra scroll with a higher sutra caster level than he himself possesses.

Creation: To create a sutra scroll, a character needs a supply of choice writing materials, including fine paper and high-quality ink, the cost of which is subsumed in the cost for scribing the sutra scroll: 25 gp x the sutra’s effective spell level x the creator’s sutra caster level. All writing implements and materials used to scribe a sutra scroll must be fresh and unused. A character must pay the full cost for scribing each sutra scroll.

The creator must know the sutra in question, and must expend one of his unused sutras per day. If the sutra in question has a costly material component or focus, the creator must provide that, as well (a material component is consumed in the process, but a focus is not). Scribing a sutra scroll requires one hour per effective spell level of the sutra to be inscribed.

Item Creation Feat Required: Scribe Scroll.

Skill Used in Creation: Spellcraft, Craft (calligraphy), Profession (scribe), or Knowledge (religion).

Example Sutra

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Sutra magic copyright 2010 Frank Car, All rights reserved, Author Frank Carr