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If I am using a bow against an enemy who is in melee combat with an ally of mine, I get a -4 on my attack roll, unless I have the precise shot feat. (See page 184 in the Core Rules.

  1. Do I suffer the same penalty when casting a Ray of Frost? (Consistency would say yes, but the text seems to only talk about shooting / throwing and not casting?)

  2. If the ally and I were both in melee combat with my target, would I still get a penalty? (Probably yes, as the text doesn't mention at what range I am.)

  3. If it were just me in melee with the enemy, would I still get a penalty?

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1 Answer 1

From Pathfinder Core Rulebook, p136 (emphasis mine):

Weapon Focus (Combat): Choose one type of weapon. You can also choose unarmed strike or grapple (or ray, if you are a spellcaster) as your weapon for the purposes of this feat.

1) Rays (not other ranged spells, just rays) count as ranged weapons for the purposes of feats like Weapon Focus and for the purposes of firing into melee. You do take the penalty when firing into melee with a ray, but you can also take the Precise Shot feat to remove this penalty.

2) By the rules, yes; however, I think a strong case can be made to the DM that you shouldn't take the penalty, because you're not firing into a melee, you're already inside the melee. It's probably not a good way to avoid the penalty, though, since you'll be provoking attacks of opportunity.

3) No, you would not take the penalty if you're the only one in melee with the enemy. The penalty applies when you attack "a target engaged in melee with a friendly character". Madness & clones aside, you are not your own friend or ally, so if it's just you then there are no friendly characters in the melee.

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Yup that all makes sence. I am planning on starting a magus and using opening volley with ray of frost and spell combat and are likely to be in melee range most of the time. –  Duncan Jun 16 '12 at 17:22
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One other side note on #2&3: when using a range weapon or casting a spell when you are in melee with an enemy, you will provoke an attack of opportunity. While this is not the penalty originally referenced, it is an important risk to be aware of. –  Tyri Jun 18 '12 at 16:14
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1) A little support from the Pathfinder FAQ. I think it seems to indicate that all rays should be treated as weapon attacks in all situations. For 2) and 3) I completely agree with Oblivious Sage. –  Rantar Jun 18 '12 at 19:04
    
Useful note on ranged touch attacks +1 –  Rob Jun 19 '12 at 9:56
    
Doh, forgot about the ranged attacks as well as casting a spell provoking ... not as if I have been playing this game for 30 years. cheers for the help. –  Duncan Jun 19 '12 at 16:48
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