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The rules state in Pathfinder that if someone is standing in the way of your ranged attack, that opponent gets soft cover, which is +4 AC. On top of this, the ranged attacker takes a -4 penalty to attack while attacking a creature in melee combat. So my question is this:

If someone is standing in the way of your ranged attack, AND the opponent you are attacking is in melee range, do you really take a -8 penalty to ranged attacks?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

Technically, soft cover is a bonus to your enemy's AC, not a penalty to you. But yes, effectively you have a net -8 to your ranged attack roll when there's someone in your way and your target is in melee. The Precise Shot feat mitigates the firing into melee penalty.

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My next question would be, is there any way through feats and what not, to nullify this completely? I know that Precise Shot will get rid of the -4 in to melee, but what about the rest of it? – RuleofThree Dec 9 '12 at 22:43
@RuleofThree If you have a next question, go ahead and ask a new question, rather than making this one broader. It's not like you have a limited allowance of questions or anything. – doppelgreener Dec 9 '12 at 23:13
And I'll add: while you're at it, accept this answer. It's a good one and directly and succinctly answers what you asked. – Jacob Proffitt Dec 9 '12 at 23:57

Yes, in general, untyped modifiers do stack, particularly if they affect different stats (like in this case, where Cover affects the enemy AC, and firing into melee is a penalty on the attack roll). In the same way, if the firer was also Dazzled and Entangled while firing into melee, the penalties for this would stack.

Precise Shot will remove the penalty for firing into melee, and is a must-have for any archer type of character. Improved Precise Shot, with much heftier requirements, will also remove the penalty for Cover. It is also possible to remove the Cover modifier by firing from a position where your ally is not in the way i.e. from the side, rather than from behind them.

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