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In one of my recent games a friend brought an enlightened fist (Complete Arcane) to the table: while I'm glad he is showing to like it, I also think to understand where the build is pointing, and although this is perfectly fine I have to admit I don't know exactly how to behave when his unusual class feature (hold ray) will start to interact with split ray.

Split ray: You can cause any ray spell to fire one additional ray beyond the number normally allowed. The additional ray requires a separate ranged touch attack roll to hit and deals damage as normal. It can be fired at the same target as the first ray or at a different target, but all rays must be aimed at targets within 30 feet of each other and fired simultaneously. A split ray spell uses a spell slot two levels higher than the spell's actual level.

Hold Ray (Ex): At 7th level or higher, an enlightened fist can cast any spell that produces a ray effect as a touch spell instead. The spell's range is reduced to touch, and its Effect entry is replaced with "Target: Creature touched." She can deliver the spell with a touch attack or with a normal attack, and she can hold the charge as with a normal touch spell. An enlightened fist can combine this ability with arcane fist (see above) to deliver a ray-effect spell as part of an unarmed full attack action.

Arcane Fist (Su): Beginning at 3rd level, an enlightened fist can spend one of her daily stunning attempts to cast and deliver a touch spell as part of an unarmed full attack action. She can choose to deliver the touch spell with any single unarmed strike attack she makes during the action.

So let's say this enlightened fist uses Enervation (ray, 4th level) but as a splitted ray spell, effectively using a 6th level spell slot. And assume he wants to deliver it as part of a full attack action. How to handle it? Does he deliver a "ray" each meelee attack until discharged, or both with one attack? And if so, the extra ray must be rolled after the fist attack, separated from the rest of the attack rolls?

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The long and short of it is this: how does the DM want this to work? Because the actual rules simply don’t answer how it should work, and the DM is going to have to make a choice.

Specifically, here are several questions about hold ray we don’t have the answer to:

  1. Does “any spell that produces a ray effect” include spells that produce more than one?

  2. Does losing the “Effect: One or more rays” line from the statblock of multi-ray spells, as hold ray would have us do, cause the spell to lose that concept of being multiple rays, even if the spell’s description still mentions it?

  3. What does it mean to “deliver the spell” when the spell usually consists of several separate rays?

Plus a question about Split Ray:

  1. Does Split Ray itself change the Effect line of ray spells from “Effect: Ray” to “Effect: Two rays,” or do metamagic feats not edit the spell rules in that manner, as hold ray does?

And the rules don’t answer any of that. If 1. is “No,” then the rest of the hold ray questions are moot since multi-ray spells don’t work (but per 4., Split Ray could be different!). If 1. is “Yes,” then the others are just fractal pits of increasing ambiguity no matter how you answer them. Reasonable readings of the rules could include:

  • Multi-ray spells are simply ineligible for hold ray in the first place.

  • Multi-ray spells can be held, but if you do, you lose all the effects of the extra rays, and your touch attack is just equal to a single ray.

  • Multi-ray spells can be held, and furthermore, if you do, your one touch “delivers” the effect of all the rays at once.

Absurdly, the one thing that there really is no support for is the one I think is most reasonable, which is:

  • Multi-ray spells can be held, and are just converted into an equal number of touches that you have to make normally (arcane fist will help with that).

Nothing says that, and that seems too much to read into “deliver the spell,” and hold ray’s “Target: Creature touched” doesn’t match that of actual multi-touch spells like chill touch, which use: “Targets: Creature or creatures touched (up to one/level).” So the rules don’t really allow for this possibility. But it seems most sensible to me.

Finally, on top of all of those options, there is the possibility that the answer to 4. means Split Ray doesn’t work like a regular multi-ray spell, and instead does something different. If that is the case, then how hold ray works with multi-ray spells normally doesn’t matter, because Split Ray is different. In other words, no matter which of the possibilities above you go with, you also could choose to have Split Ray work like this:

  • Split Ray’d spells can be held, in which case they become one touch and one ray as separate attacks. This is still eligible for arcane fist; you would just fire off a ray in addition to all the attacks in your full attack (one of which also carries the spell effect as a touch).

But the reality is, hold ray isn’t defined for these cases. The rules don’t cover it. We have this ambiguity because the authors and editors of Complete Arcane neglected to consider the possibility and address it.

So the DM has to make a call. Personally, I would say Split Ray works just like other multi-ray spells, which can be held and converted into a multi-touch spell. Which is, ironically, the one ruling that isn’t supported by the rules, but in my opinion it is the best one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the last bullet in particular as it supports the convention of applying (nonsequentially so simultaneously) metamagic to the underlying and unmodified spell. (There are no locate city bombs in my campaigns, either.) The Split Ray feat isn't seeing the hold ray ability coming online before the Split Ray feat; the two effects happen simultaneously upon casting the spell therefore don't interact. The ability does what it says, and the feat does what it says. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6, 2023 at 3:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree converting multi-ray/split ray'd spell into multi-touch spell sounds as the most convenient way for general ruling it, i fear a scenario where is very likely to end up with more touch attacks to deliver than regular attacks, like with scorching ray paired with the twin spell feat. For this reason only i think that probably, of all the options you suggested, the best to cover this (to avoid any any possible exception) is your last: to just fire off as many rays is needed in addition to all the attacks in the full attack (one of which also carries one ray effect as a touch). \$\endgroup\$
    – BigMike
    Aug 6, 2023 at 10:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BigMike For what it’s with, having more touches than attacks is normal for multi-touch spells. Casting chill touch as a standard action normally gets you just one touch with it during that action. You just hold the remaining charge and use it up on a later turn or turns. Also, Twin Spell is a different situation, since that is two separate castings of the spell, instead of one casting modified to shoot two rays. In the Twin Spell case, the rules are pretty clear that you can choose to use hold ray or not independently for each casting, maybe needing spell flower to use it on both. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 6, 2023 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I see... Good point, thanks for this second hint as well. What can i say... it's a shame the rules can't help much, I was hoping there was something that i missed. Anyway, at the end of the day, if the rules don't clearly cover something, fall back on "what would be good for the game?" might be the best choice after all - that, in my games, often means to avoid unnecessary rolls that could slow down the combat, so I think I'll go with the "multi-ray/split ray'd spells works the same and are converted into multi-touch spells". Thanks for the kind answers! :) \$\endgroup\$
    – BigMike
    Aug 7, 2023 at 21:36

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