[RPG] Does a paralyzed druid in air elemental form using whirlwind fall down from the sky


I assume Yes, but can't find an answer in Pathfinder rules.

Best Answer

Note: This answer was accurate when originally posted in Feb. 2015. In Dec. 2015, the Pathfinder FAQ was updated with this exchange that says, in part, "Magical flight doesn’t act any differently [from mundane winged flight], even for paralysis, as it [i.e. magical flight] isn’t a purely mental action." Also see this answer.

A paralyzed druid in air elemental form doesn't fall unless the form has wings

Unfortunately, Pathfinder doesn't classify a creature's flight as winged or not winged, but in this case one can take refuge in the air elementals' official description, which says that

the exact appearance of an air elemental can vary wildly between individuals. One might be an animated vortex of wind and smoke, while another might be a smoky bird-like creature with glowing eyes and wind for wings.

However, many more depictions adhere to the former description rather than the latter, showing air elementals as cloud-like or (obviously far superior) tornado-like creatures.

Go, Monsoons!

An air elemental such as the one above wouldn't fall when paralyzed:

A paralyzed character is frozen in place and unable to move or act. A paralyzed character has effective Dexterity and Strength scores of 0 and is helpless, but can take purely mental actions. A winged creature flying in the air at the time that it becomes paralyzed cannot flap its wings and falls. A paralyzed swimmer can't swim and may drown. A creature can move through a space occupied by a paralyzed creature—ally or not. Each square occupied by a paralyzed creature, however, counts as 2 squares to move through.

Emphasis mine, and noteworthy for not mentioning the effect of paralysis on flight by non-winged creatures, which, presumably, means such creatures remain aloft despite paralysis.

By the way, the special ability whirlwind has no impact on this because...

If the creature has a fly speed, it can continue to fly at that same speed while in whirlwind form.

The air elemental can only fly anyway.

Establishing Air Elementals

The DM must rule that either a druid who uses his special ability wild shape to assume the form of an air elemental can vary that shape (ahem) wildly (as is the case of the official description) or a druid who uses his special ability wild shape to assume the form of an air elemental assumes the form of the same air elemental each time. In the second case, the DM must also rule if the druid picks the initial form or if the DM does.

Knowing this is useful for a druid in general. If the druid becomes the same air elemental (or tiger or tendriculos or whatever) each time the druid uses wild shape this could, in some campaigns, be a liability... or, at least, make the druid's life more complicated. I suggest the DM aim for consistency across the board when adjudicating this aspect of the special ability wild shape.

The problem with the skill Fly

A flying creature makes Fly skill checks to perform a variety of aerial tasks including to hover (DC 15). A paralyzed creature's effective Dexterity score drops to 0, and that likely gives even the most flight-savvy creature pause when making a Fly skill check. This isn't that much of a concern to the druid, however, because absent from the previously linked description, the Paizo SRD description of the skill Fly includes this text:

You can attempt a Fly check to perform the same maneuver on subsequent rounds. [Note: Hover is a maneuver.] If you are using wings and you fail a Fly check by 5 or more, you plummet to the ground, taking the appropriate falling damage....

To my knowledge, the game does not otherwise address the effect of a failed Fly skill check made to hover and therefore also leaves unaddressed the effect of a failed Fly skill check made to hover by a paralyzed wingless creature.

In other words, spare the DM some grief and don't wild shape into an air elemental with wings.