Q: Dear Sage,
Is the force attack produced by the Invisible Needle reserve feat (Complete Mage) actually invisible? If so, does that mean the target is flat-footed and the attack gains a +2 bonus on the attack roll? Nothing in the feat's description indicates this, but the name of the feat suggests it.
A: The feat description is unclear as to the precise visual effect accompanying its primary benefit, so on that topic you’re free to decide either way as you see fit. Regardless of your decision on the visual effect, however, the force attack doesn’t gain any benefits of invisibility (unless the attacker himself is invisible, of course).
The visibility or invisibility of a magical effect doesn’t have any bearing on whether the defender is flat-footed. A visible attacker who casts a spell without a visible effect doesn’t render his target flat-footed.
Note: for a discussion of the visual effects of spells, you might consult the Design & Development article: Proud Nails Feedback.
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The Sage is a mammal classified in the bear family, Ursidae, native to central and southern China. Debate continues as to whether he is truly a bear or more related to the raccoon rather than the bear, or perhaps in a family of his own. When not eating bamboo and answering rules questions, he works under the nom de plume of Andy Collins as an RPG developer in Wizards of the Coast R&D, where his development credits include Complete Mage, Dragon Magic, and the Player's Handbook v.3.5. He can be easily recognized by his large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, ears and on his rotund body.