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I am playing with a group of relatively new players aside from one and the DM, and while another character and I seem to be contradicting each other, we have both been told we are right. What we don't understand is what bonuses are added to an attack roll to see if the blow will hit, and what is added to a damage roll to see how much damage is dealt.

In this example, here are my character's stats and weapon of choice:

  • Initiative modifier: +5 = +5 [dexterity]
  • Attack (handheld): +6/+1 = 7 [base] -1 [strength]
  • Weapon Finesse: +12/+7 = 7 [base] +5 [dexterity]
  • Attack (unarmed): +6/+1 = 7 [base] -1 [strength]
  • Attack (missile): +12/+7 = 7 [base] +5 [dexterity]

Light Crossbow [1d8, crit 19-20/x2, range inc 80 ft., 4 lb, piercing]

As I'm wielding a crossbow, would I add my attack missile bonus (+12) to my attack roll to see if I get past the AC, or to the damage roll to see how much damage I deal?

My apologies for the confusing question. I'm afraid I don't have anything other than online resources, which don't seem to cover this specific detail of where to add the attack bonus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, the online texts and the actual books are quite different. Although the rules are the same, the books are written as teaching documents, while the online text is a reference for those who already know how to play and it's hard to learn how to play from it. Now that the question has been cleared up I expect this will be reopened and a helpful answer posted for this one point of difficulty, but I strongly recommend getting a copy of at least the Player's Handbook — it will make your learning experience much easier and more pleasant, and answer many questions you will have. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 27 '14 at 6:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I will certainly look into it. A promise would probably be seen as empty to you, but I've asked for some books for christmas and will look over my list to make sure I specify a player's handbook, as I think you're right in saying that this is something that would help my learning and teach me the rules better than online sources. I hadn't actually realized how different the text to the online sources could be, thank you for pointing that out. (Also, thank you for the edit.) \$\endgroup\$ – Donvex Nov 27 '14 at 6:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem! It's a common enough mistake, as the writers of the online text (aka System Reference Document aka SRD) never thought it would get used alone and never thought to include text mentioning its limitations. I'm afraid I may have written too sternly there; but all's well that ends well I guess. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 27 '14 at 6:27
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As I'm wielding a crossbow, would I add my attack missile bonus (+12) to my attack roll to see if I get past the AC, or to the damage roll to see how much damage I deal?

The listed missile attack bonus is used to determine if you hit something; it's added only to your attack rolls. The damage rolls are determined seperately. For a crossbow, by default the damage is only the flat roll from the weapon.

You add the magical enhancement bonus, if it has one, to both the attack roll and the damage.

It's even weirder for bows. When shooting with a bow, you also attack with the listed missile attack bonus, but you have to use your strength modifier on the damage roll if it is negative. Which means with a bow your character would deal -1 damage because of low strength, but a high strength character would not add his strength to the damage roll unless it's a special (expensive) Composite Bow.

Hope this helps clear it up a little.

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The Absolute Basics

At its most basic, the game works like this.

  • When making a melee attack, add the creature's base attack bonus and the creature's Strength modifier to the result of 1d20. If this attack roll equals or exceeds the foe's Armor Class, the creature hits and deals damage. Roll the weapon's damage and add the creature's Strength modifier. This is the damage dealt to the foe.
  • When making a ranged attack with a ranged weapon, add the creature's base attack bonus and the creature's Dexterity modifier to the result of 1d20. If this attack roll equals or exceeds the foe's Armor Class, the creature hits and deals damage. Roll the weapon's damage. This is the damage dealt to the foe.
  • When making a ranged attack with a thrown weapon (including a sling), add the creature's base attack bonus and the creature's Dexterity modifier to the result of 1d20. If this attack roll equals or exceeds the foe's Armor Class, the creature hits and deals damage. Roll the weapon's damage and add the creature's Strength modifier. This is the damage dealt to the foe.

After that, it's all exceptions.

Your Case

The character you're describing has the ability scores Strength 8 and Dexterity 20 and a +6 base attack bonus (the class tables list this as +6/+1 because the character gains multiple attacks when he takes a full-round action to make a full attack). The character has the feat Weapon Finesse.

  • When making a melee attack, the character's base attack bonus of +6 and the character's Strength modifier is-1, therefore the character rolls 1d20+5. If this attack roll equals or exceeds the foe's Armor Class, the character hits and deals damage. Roll the weapon's damage -1 point of damage due to the character's Strength penalty. This is the damage dealt to the foe.

    Below are possible exceptions based on the information provided about the character. This is by no means comprehensive and can't possibly address every exception to the rules.

    • If the character attacks using a one-handed weapon, a one-handed weapon used two-handed, or a two-handed weapon that can't be used with the feat Weapon Finesse (weapons like this that can be used with the feat Weapon Finesse will say they can be used with the feat Weapon Finesse), the character's base attack bonus of +6 and the character's Strength modifier of -1 makes the character's attack roll 1d20+5. If this attack roll equals or exceeds the foe's Armor Class, the character hits and deals damage. The weapon's damage roll is the weapon's listed damage and a -1 penalty due to the character's Strength modifier.
    • If the character attacks using a light weapon or a weapon with which he can use the feat Weapon Finesse (e.g. rapier, spiked chain), instead of suffering a penalty to his attack roll for his Strength modifier, the character gains a bonus to his attack roll for his Dexterity modifier. The character's base attack bonus of +6 and the character's Dexterity modifier of +5 makes the character's attack roll 1d20+11. If this attack roll equals or exceeds the foe's Armor Class, the character hits and deals damage. The weapon's damage roll is the weapon's listed damage and a -1 penalty due to the character's Strength modifier.
    • If the character attacks using an unarmed strike and lacks the feat Improved Unarmed Strike, he can use the feat Weapon Finesse because an unarmed strike is considered a light weapon. The character's base attack bonus of +6 and the character's Dexterity modifier of +5 makes the character's attack roll 1d20+11. When he makes this unarmed strike, the character provokes an attack of opportunity from his foe. If the attack roll equals or exceeds his foe's Armor Class, he hits and deals 1d3-1 points of nonlethal damage--the -1 penalty to damage because of the character's Strength modifier.
    • If the character attacks using an unarmed strike, lacks the feat Improved Unarmed Strike, and isn't proficient with the unarmed strike (e.g. a druid who has not assumed alternate form using the supernatural ability wild shape, monk (although most DMs house rules say that monks are, in fact, proficient with the unarmed strike ), wizard), the character suffers a -4 penalty on attack rolls with the unarmed strike due to nonproficiency. The character's base attack bonus of +6, the character's Dexterity modifier of +5, and the character's -4 penalty for nonproficiency make the character's attack roll 1d20+7. When he makes this unarmed strike, the character provokes an attack of opportunity from his foe. If the attack roll equals or exceeds his foe's Armor Class, he hits and deals 1d3-1 points of nonlethal damage--the -1 penalty to damage because of the character's Strength modifier
  • When making a ranged attack, the character's base attack bonus of +6 and the character's Dexterity modifier is +5, therefore the character rolls 1d20+11. If this attack roll equals or exceeds the foe's Armor Class, the character hits and deals damage. Roll the weapon's damage. This is the damage dealt to the foe.

    At their most basic, attacks with crossbows--unlike with longbows and shortbows--do not apply a creature's Strength penalty to damage rolls. Crossbows--unlike composite longbows and composite shortbows--can't be modified to take advantage of a user's higher-than-normal Strength. Crossbows--unlike longbows and shortbows of all kinds--can't be used to make multiple attacks when the crossbowman has a +6 or more base attack bonus because of the time needed to reload them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Concise description of all (well, most) possible attacks, plus SRD reference. Good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Dec 3 '14 at 0:34

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