Are lights created by Dancing Lights spell one effect or many?

Role-playing Games Asked by annoying imp on December 1, 2020

In a game I played recently our group encountered shadow drakes. What interests me is their Stigian Breath ability.

Stygian Breath (Su)
As a standard action, a shadow drake can exhale a ball of black liquid that explodes into a cloud of frigid black mist. This attack has a range of 60 feet and deals 2d6 points of cold damage (Reflex DC 12 half) to all creatures within a 5-foot-radius spread. The mist snuffs out light sources
in the area effect, extinguishing nonmagical light sources and dispelling light spells of 1st level or lower[…]

With one use of this ability our DM dispelled my Dancing Lights, while, being "torch version", it didn’t fit into 5′ radius spread.

His reasoning was, the ability says it dispells a spell, not a light source.

I sayed, what gets dispelled is always an effect of the spell, not a spell, so it is important what number of lights fits into an area, created by Stigian Breath.

But then I realized, maybe all four lights are a single effect? Unlikely, but why not? We resumed play with all lights dispelled, but the question still stands.

One Answer

This GM would've only dispelled magical torch effects in the breath weapon's area

I think the shadow drake's supernatural ability stygian breath should've only dispelled the dancing lights effects that were in the area of the stygian breath ability. The Pathfinder Core Rulebook FAQ on Dispelling has a Dispel Example section that says

You are a 5th-level wizard, your opponent is a 6th-level sorcerer. On her turn, the sorcerer casts slow and targets 6 of your allies; all 6 of them fail their saves and are slowed. On your turn, you cast haste and target 5 of your allies; this automatically dispels (no caster level check needed) the slow spell on those allies, leaving them without the effect of slow or haste (your 6th ally is still affected by slow). Note that this does not merely suppress the slow effect for the duration of your haste—the effect is completely dispelled on those 5 allies. Note that it doesn't matter if the target would normally get a saving throw or spell resistance to negate or avoid the spell used to dispel (such as casting slow to dispel an already-caste haste); to speed up gameplay and prevent lopsided applications of this sort of dispelling, the "diametrically opposed" spell automatically dispels its opposite, regardless of the desires of the creature affected by the opposite.

(Emphasis mine.) That is, a spell that has multiple targets and that affects individual targets can be dispelled on each target individually. By extension, then, a spell that creates multiple effects can have each separate effect it creates dispelled separately.

That is, in the same way that a dispel magic spell that successfully affects one creature brought forth by a summon monster spell does not affect the other creatures brought forth by that same summon monster spell, dispelling one torch created by the dancing lights spell shouldn't dispel the entire dancing lights spell. (Note that I would've ruled that the stygian breath ability must encompass that dancing lights spell effect's point of origin for it to be affected, but I don't have the map that tells me if that happened in your game. The stygian breath ability dispels based on the source of the magical light—where its coming from—not based on the magical light that radiating from that source!)

If the GM angles for consistency, the GM's ruling should lead to an entire spell being dispelled if only one part of a spell is dispelled. And this should lead to a ruling that sees dispelling one creature's slow spell with a haste spell dispels that same slow spell on all affected creatures, which is contrary to the rules.

Correct answer by Hey I Can Chan on December 1, 2020

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