If an enemy is involved in melee combat with a friend would firing a ranged touch spell work just like firing an arrow and be subject to the shooting into melee penalty?

In other words, if the foe is directly in front of the caster and engaged in melee with a friend (who is on the other side) would the spell would have a -4 penalty on the attack roll?

Does this also apply if the friend is standing between you and the foe engaged in melee combat, thus providing soft cover. So would the penalty be -8 for the ranged touch spell?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm particularly interested in how soft cover plays into this. For one reason or another, we always use -4 regardless, but I'm not sure that's right. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8, 2014 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Touch attacks resolves as normal armed attacks, and scrolling down to the ranged touch attack rules, it says that they an AOO in melee as usual, so I'd include the -4 for firing into melee as usual too \$\endgroup\$
    – Einacio
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


Yes and yes

Ranged touch attacks are both ranged attacks and touch attacks. Rules for either apply to them (be careful about context, though; in some places “touch attacks,” may, in context, be talking only about melee). Rules for firing into melee or cover apply to them.

Note that touch attacks are much easier than regular attacks, particularly at higher levels where armor and natural armor tend to grow, and monsters in particular tend to get bigger, costing them size penalties and often Dexterity as well. By high levels, a touch attack at −8 is likely easier than a regular attack. Even at low levels, it might be true for the guy in full-plate.

So Precise Shot’s a pretty solid feat for people planning on shooting a lot of rays, but it’s not entirely required. You’ll hit a lot of those attacks even if you’re taking −4 or −8. But definitely worth taking if there aren’t particularly crucial feats you need to get.

Note that Point-Blank Shot, though a terrible feat on its own and almost-purely a tax on getting to the good stuff like Precise Shot, does apply to magical attacks (that meets its other conditions).

But you can easily skip both feats if you can get the rod of magical precision from Complete Mage. It provides the benefits of Precise Shot for 12,000 gp, but only for spells and spell-like abilities.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually you are incorrect. Precise shot is worded as such:You can shoot or throw ranged weapons at an opponent engaged in melee without taking the standard –4 penalty on your attack roll. a spell is not a weapon. The soft cover may apply \$\endgroup\$
    – Hellgoat
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 0:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Hellgoat Are we playing the actually game? Oh joy. For point of reference, “this answer is wrong” comments are basically useless, and not recommended. If you think an answer is wrong, downvote it and supply the answer you think is correct; let your answer make the counter-argument you’re claiming. In any event, the reference to Complete Mage clearly indicates that I thought this was a D&D 3.5e question rather than a Pathfinder question, but, since we’re playing the actually game, actually, rays are often considered weapons in Pathfinder, so yes, you are shooting a “weapon.” \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 4:27

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