If you are holding the charge on a touch spell, will getting hit by melee, ranged attack, or spell dissipate the spell you're holding?

If it's a melee attack, does the attacker feel the effects of the spell you are holding?


3 Answers 3



The attacker is assumed to have avoided your hand, which is holding a charge of magical energy. You still hold the charge, he is not affected with it. Even if he Grapples you, he’s assumed to be holding your hand away, just as he’d be assumed to be holding a dagger away.

In general, you have to actively try to touch someone to trigger it. It requires an attack action on your part, an attack roll, and so on. In a Grapple, you have to win a Grapple check to get an attack.

A free, retributive effect like you propose is quite rare in 3.x, and usually quite weak. To be able to do it with just any touch spell is potentially overpowered and opens up shenanigans that are probably inappropriate.

The spell-storing property can, in Pathfinder, be applied to armor to do something similar, but

  1. It’s a special +1-equivalent property that has to be explicitly built into the armor

  2. Even then it’s limited to 3rd-level or lower touch-attack spells that are cast into the armor ahead of time, and in Pathfinder, at least, triggering the discharge requires an immediate action (in 3.5 the property was written before immediate actions were a thing and it wasn’t updated, but I’d recommend adding that houserule).

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for shenanigans :3 Theoretically any spell that can be accidentally discharged with a touch can function as a retributive effect. If the wording doesn't specifically restrict such an effect, yes, shenanigans would ensue. I would assume though that anyone using that for too much would be treated as cheesy players tend to be treated and left to stand alone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dorian
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, normally, if you're holding a charge, no one can make you "drop" that charge with attacks? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nerevar
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 13:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Nerevar Correct. The charge also does not require Concentration. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Touch Spells in Combat paragraph does say if you touch anything, it discharges...so, it depends on how you define 'touch' - only a hand? Any body part? Any unclothed body part? What about gauntlets? paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/combat.html#_touch-spells-in-combat \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 22:46
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @TimB The other reason is history: that line is a holdover from earlier editions, and never meshed with, made sense in, or was supported by the rules of 3.x. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 13:00

I would assume that when someone is holding a charge for a touch attack, the touch attack wouldn't do anything to an attacker normally. The only circumstance in which it might cause something is if they touched the hand holding the charge, or you touched them. An attacker with a weapon would most certainly not discharge the touch attack. The only time a touch attack's charge is dispelled is if the hand which holds the charge (or item or weapon in the case of channeling) actually touches a valid target.

Though that does bring up an interesting idea... Channeling a touch spell into your armor or shield as a defense, possibly even sending it through an opponent's weapon... Will have to look into the rules for channeling touch spells through items...

  • \$\begingroup\$ I know of two options for channeling spells through weapons during attacks in 3.5 (Smiting Spell and Arcane Channeling), and I know the Pathfinder magus can do something similar, so those would be places to look first. I really doubt any ability allows you to channel it through armor to produce a retributive effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well it's something to consider anyway. If it could be channeled as a touch attack, it can be discharged upon connecting with a valid target. Assuming the rules for discharging a channeled spell would function the same, touch attacks might even be used as a trap given the proper circumstances. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dorian
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Armor of spell storing will let you do that, with the added benefit of choosing on each hit if that's the one you wanna discharge on, instead of automatically discharging on the first \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthewNajmon I see; that's pretty interesting. I actually rather like the design on that one. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ This might be as simple as a disarm check to intentionally blow the charge. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 15:05


There is no actual difference between "I touch you" and "you touch me."

The rules say the spell discharges even if you unintentionally touch something. This means the caster can't actually control the discharge of the spell, they can only attempt to create the proper circumstances to get the spell to discharge on it's own.

Other answers talk about the hand, but the rules do not even mention the hand, neither directly nor by implication. The rules do not prevent you from making touch attacks with feet, knees, elbows, or any other body part.

A touch attack just represents an intentional attempt to contact the opponent, who naturally will avoid it, even if they had no clue why you were attempting to touch them (quite simply, if we are fighting and I try to poke you with my finger, you won't let me because you know my goal is to defeat you, therefore, anything I want to do is most likely a bad thing for you. This concept is an instinctual response.).

However, if the opponent has no idea you have a touch spell ready, they will not avoid touching you in a way determined by them (I.E. trying to punch you), even though they will avoid letting you touch them in they way you desire.

A touch spell only requires contact between caster and target. There is no actual difference in that contact from how the contact came about because either the two are in contact, or not. It is a binary situation.

Now, if the caster controlled the discharge of the spell, then one might argue they would need to ready an action to discharge it if touched, but since it is absolutely clear that the caster does not control the discharge, it both allows the retributive use but also makes the spell less useful because you can't do other stuff until the spell is discharged or dismissed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about if you touch yourself? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 15:50

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