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Frostburn p.76 introduces the harpoon as an exotic ranged weapon. It has some special rules attached to it.

If it deals damage, the harpoon lodges in an opponent who fails a Reflex saving throw (DC 10 + the damage dealt). [...] The harpooned creature can pull the harpoon from its wound if it has two free hands and takes a full-round action to do so, but it deals damage to itself equal to the initial damage the harpoon dealt.

It seems that when you deal precision damage (sneak attack, skirmish...), this damage is added to the DC of the Reflex saving throw and the damage when removing the harpoon. Is this correct or are there some rules regarding precision damage I am missing?

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I am reading this the same way that you are. If you inflict high damage then the Reflex save is difficult and they take the damage all over again when they remove the harpoon (unless they make the DC 15 Heal check when removing). There is no reason to believe that "precision" damage is any different to that caused by high strength, or Favoured Enemy or anything else.

Thinking about it logically - hit them somewhere vital (ie using precision damage) and it will be more likely to stick in and will cause more damage when you pull it out.

Edit: Following feedback, I have looked at the wording of Sneak Attack (the rogue's attack deals extra damage...), Skirmish (She deals an extra 1d6 points of damage on all attacks...), Favoured Enemy (a +2 bonus on weapon damage rolls...) and strength modifiers for thrown weapons (The wielder applies his or her strength modifier to damage dealt by thrown weapons...). I cannot see a definitive way to separate "precision" additions to damage to other additions to damage, noting that all of this damage would be counted as "piercing" damage.

The original question did not ask whether energy damage (eg from a +1 flaming harpoon) should be added to the Reflex save DC and/or dealt to the victim again when removing a harpoon. RAW it appears that energy damage should be treated the same as any other additional damage (eg Flaming - A flaming weapon deals an extra 1d6 points of fire damage on a successful hit). However, I suggest as a DM that this is not RAI - as noted above, all the non-energy damage is piercing with a logical link to the "lodgement" chance of a harpoon and subsequent additional damage from removing a barbed item.

Overall, the harpoon appears to be a powerful weapon in the hands of a Scout and/or Rogue, especially at low levels. This power level is somewhat offset at higher levels by the wielder being limited to one attack per round, as a full attack action is not possible and as written the harpoon can only be used as a ranged weapon.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm imagining a counterargument like While the harpoon deals damage, you are dealing the precision damage, making it so any extra damage wouldn't count. Could this answer address that? (Should it be more difficult to extract a +1 flaming harpoon? I mean, were I on the receiving end, I'd certainly hope not!) Full Disclosure: In a campaign I'm running there's a harpoon-tossing rogue PC; this has yet to come up (as a master of masks, the harpoon—specifically the arctic harpoon (Races of Faerûn 155, 156)—is the least of our exotic weapon worries!), but I'm invested nonetheless. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 20 '18 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan have edited to look at the points you have raised. Would certainly be looking at some house rules if someone wanted this in a campaign I was running, as the listed rules are silent on some key elements eg why is it not possible to stab someone with a harpoon as a melee attack same as with any other spear? \$\endgroup\$ – KerrAvon2055 Jul 21 '18 at 0:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant meta: Don't signal your edits in text. - "Stop using the "Edit:" syntax of forums. We have explicit revision histories on everything, so everything should read as if the best version was the first version." You should edit out the note and update the answer as a whole to be the best/"final" version of the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 26 '18 at 1:28

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