There are a number of specialty arrows listed under the martial weapons ammunition for use with bows. One of these is the dye arrow which allows you to target touch AC.

Dye Arrow

Firing a dye arrow is a ranged touch attack; a creature struck by a dye arrow takes no damage but is splashed with black, blue, green, or red marker dye (see Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting 213) sufficient to coat about 1 square foot.

Now, the arrow itself does no damage as its stated in the item description which I included above, but what about other sources of damage? Even before including POW stances, boosts, and strikes, we have deadly aim, weapon enhancement bonus and properties (like flaming), composite damage. Would these other sources of damage function or does the arrows it deals no damage override them?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Deadly Aim, at least, certainly won't apply due to the feat's restriction on touch attacks. It's highly unlikely that the others would apply either, but I'm having trouble finding sources to back that up. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 27, 2018 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BricktheToasted Good catch about deadly aim, I had forgotten that \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Oct 27, 2018 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


Sometimes no and sometimes yes

Probably the closest equivalent in spirit to the dye arrow is the net, a weapon that, on a successful ranged touch attack, has an effect yet deals no damage. A GM that's trying to determine if an effect should work in conjunction with a dye arrow should ask if he would allow the effect to also work in conjunction with a net.

Like the net, a dye arrow deals no damage. In fact, the dye arrow's described as not possessing a pointy bit at the end, and, like most arrows, a typical dye arrow is instantaneously destroyed upon making with it a successful attack. With that in mind, this GM would likely forbid any effect that he believed relied on the arrow dealing damage to generate that effect with a dye arrow. So, for example, in this GM's campaigns, a rogue couldn't deal her sneak attack damage with a dye arrow any more than a rogue could deal her sneak attack damage with a net.

However, this GM would allow magic weapon special abilities (e.g. flaming, shock) and other effects that activate merely on a successful hit to activate when used in conjunction with a dye arrow.

That is, in the same way that this GM would allow a successful attack with a +1 flaming net to deal its +1d6 points of extra fire damage to the gladiator's foe, an archer launching at her foes +1 flaming dye arrows could deal the extra +1d6 points of fire damage with that ammunition. (The typical PC archer will likely find regular arrows deal more damage, but if equipping peasants to combat El Guapo or whatever, +1 flaming dye arrows may be a thing.)

Note: In case the GM doubts the legality of the dye arrow, the Pathfinder version of the dye arrow—it having originally appeared in Paizo's OGL product Elves of Golarion whence d20PFSRD takes its dye arrow description—appears in the Alchemy Manual (21). Cost and description is largely unchanged from its original appearance.



It turns out the "Actions In Combat" rules text is pretty unambiguous on this.

...options that increase damage don’t cause attacks to deal damage if they wouldn’t otherwise do so (such as Vital Strike and trip).

Therefore, if the "attack" isn't going to do any damage in the first place, such as a combat maneuver or a dye arrow, nothing can add "additional" damage - there's simply no damage for you to add to.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a shame that Pathfinder's metarule that You can't add something to nothing isn't more well quantified than this but an excellent catch nonetheless. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 27, 2018 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Does this mean you agree that this answer is more accurate than yours? \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Oct 27, 2018 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan sadly, Paizo's rather ad hoc approach to their own rules leads to a lot of poorly quantified edge cases. The one thing they're consistent about is their inconsistency. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 27, 2018 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering More accurate? I'd say it's instead differently accurate. It cites a rule that my answer doesn't but this answer doesn't provide guidelines for general adjudication nor for dealing with effects that deal extra damage, only dealing with effects that increase damage. So while I upvoted it—as is my wont when somebody finds something I don't, especially if it may later inform my own answer!—, I think if I were GMing, this question arose, and I was presented with both answers, I'd find mine more useful. But you — as the asker — can do whatever you want! \$\endgroup\$ Oct 27, 2018 at 20:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I'm not entirely sure the difference between "extra" damage and "additional" damage is a meaningful one. It doesn't seem terribly unreasonable for a GM to declare that flaming, etc. can apply damage via non-damaging effects, but that would land firmly in the realm of houserules, from what I can tell. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 27, 2018 at 21:48

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