The other day, a few others and I were playing Pathfinder and I have a question over tactic that I used.

Our GM threw slug/tentacle like creatures at us that began with attaching themselves to our bodies.

I am playing a Cleric, and I decided to use the ability "Bleeding Touch" as my initial attack, which requires a melee touch role. Since the creatures and I were already touching, I did not see the need to attempt a touch attack.

This is my first time ever playing a Cleric, so I may be misunderstanding the usage of this ability.

Since our GM is a fairly new GM, they did not know how to handle that kind of situation; however one of the players, who is an experienced GM, said it was up to the GM to allow it.

The GM allowed this, however I do not know if the official Pathfinder rules will allow this sort of tactic.

Does anybody have any thoughts on this?


4 Answers 4


My group usually agrees that you need to touch the target with your hand to cast a touch spell on them, which mitigates a lot of real stupidity that can happen when you're taking touch spells too literally, so we usually count stuff that's "attached" to you as having the grappled condition (even if they're too small to actually grapple you, in which case you don't have the grappled condition), which makes them easier to touch.

Our reasons for avoiding having touch spells auto-hit anything that's touching you are many, as we had to beat our heads against that wall several times before we got the point:

  • Spells that can target items would go off on your clothes or equipment.
  • Spells that can target creatures could be "stolen" by someone hitting you unarmed / using a non-weapon combat maneuver on you.
  • We once had a cleric die by casting cure light wounds on a sorcerer who was dropped to dying while holding the charge on a shocking grasp.
  • Speaking of cure light wounds, what about spells that can target you or someone you touch? You're always touching yourself, right? (please, no dirty jokes) How would a cleric ever cure someone else - or buff someone else, or even damage someone else - with a touch spell if they always hit the caster?
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    \$\begingroup\$ "We once had a cleric die by casting cure light wounds on a sorcerer who was dropped to dying while holding the charge on a shocking grasp." As soon as the sorcerer dropped to dying she was no longer holding the shocking grasp charge as she was no longer concentrating on it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @claudekennilol Holding the charge doesn't require concentration; in fact, the only ways to rid yourself of the charge listed in the rules are to cast another spell or discharge the touch spell on a target. As the sorcerer was dying and unconscious, he couldn't cast another spell to cause the charge to dissipate. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ That said, I'd probably also require touch by hand, just not for the same reason. In my mind, reaching out and touching the target is part of the somatic components (the gestures made while casting) of the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jhocking that is also a pretty good houserule, and is nearly "RAW" thanks to the line "You must be able to see or touch the target, and you must specifically choose that target." However, the Combat chapter says "If you touch anything or anyone while holding a charge, even unintentionally, the spell discharges." Although I could see casting on others or their gear without holding the charge not being affected by your gear or an enemy touching you. But we made the hand-rule after some ridiculousness with readied actions... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jhocking Hit the nail on the head - somatic component We had a house-rule for many years that "touch" spells required a specific kind of touching. Example: the custom sleep spell that required the caster to put his hand over the face of his target and say "sleep now" \$\endgroup\$
    – Signal15
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 14:47

According to d20PFSRD.com, the description does say "melee touch attack", however since they creature is already touching you, do you have to do anything?

I would look at it as DM discretion. If the creature is attached to you, perhaps you should get a bonus to touch it. Is it attached to your boot, your skin? All these factors will come into play.

Here is what I would do if I were the DM:

  • Creature is touching your skin: Allow it
  • Creature is touching armor, clothes, etc: +4 to +6 to touch it.

But all in all, it is probably something that should be discussed as a group and create a house rule for it.


I would say that restricting touch attack to "touching with a hand" is reasonable and, along with the clothes/armor bonus that Green Chili mentioned, you could also keep in mind "where" the creature is attached (depending on how detailed the GM gets).

For instance, if a creature is attached to the character's back, I would say that they'd actually have a penalty to touch it (-2 would be reasonable), and if it's on the front, they should have a bonus (as Green Chili mentioned).


As someone who has played a lot of grappling characters, casters and even grappling casters (favorite character ever!), the answer is actually simpler than it seems.

Short Answer: Yes. While grappling, touch attacks against your opponent automatically succeed.

Long Answer: Assuming you pass the concentration check (in order to cast a spell while grappled). You have a hand charged with a spell (spells always charge one hand unless otherwise specified). When casting a spell that requires a melee touch attack, the "attempt to touch" is always considered to be part of the standard action after the spell is successfully cast. So inside the grapple, touching the creature you are grappling with is free (as part of the spell) and easy (there is no way for a grappling creature to avoid a touch attach from another creature in the same grapple).

Touch spells can only be delivered by a caster's free hand. So if the caster has the "pinned" condition, they cannot cast or deliver a spell. If the caster is using both hands to climb a rope, or wield a sword and shield, or anything else that requires two hands, they cannot cast or deliver the spell.

Spells that are ranged touch attacks are almost always a ray, that emanate from the finger of one hand.

In addition, spells do not "misfire" on anything but the target that the caster intends to target. A long time ago, it was explicitly stated in the rules that the target of the spell is named during the verbal component of the spell. If there is no verbal component, then it is considered to be part of the training of the mage that he/she/it can hold the target firmly in their mind enough to deliver the spell to the intended target. So there is no way to steal a charged spell, cast it on yourself, etc.

Additional Info

From the way the question was worded, I suspect that the grappling portion of the combat might not have been handled correctly, so I'm throwing in a little extra info on how the grappling portion of the combat should play out:

First off, you need to know the grappling status of both the monster and yourself. In Pathfinder combat rules, pretty much any time two creatures are touching each other it is considered a grapple. The vast majority of the time, whenever there is a grapple, both creatures gain the "grappled" condition.

If the Slug/Tentacle monster was tiny like a leech, then it might have the "Attach" special ability. Which means that the monster gains the "grappled" condition but the player does not. Considering the original question, if the creature was "attaching itself to you" and you did not gain the grapple condition, then touch attacks would not automatically succeed. You would still need to roll against its touch AC. However the creature is grappled and loses its Dex bonus to AC and it cannot move, so it should be fairly easy to hit.

If it was super-gigantic like a Kraken, then it has enough appendages that the player gains the "grappled" condition but the monster does not.

But most likely the monster was normal or small size and attacked you (the player) with the "Grab" special ability, which means that it gets a free grapple attempt each time it performs a normal attack. That free grapple attempt is not an automatic success, it is a combat maneuver, and you get to roll your CMD (combat maneuver defense) against it. If you win, the grapple attempt fails and nobody is attached to anything. But for the sake of argument lets assume you failed your CMD, now both parties gain the "grappled" condition.

One of the things you can do while grappled is perform a standard action that only requires one hand. It explicitly lists "like casting a spell" in the rules. However, you need to make a concentration check against the monsters grappling CMB. If you fail, the spell "fizzles" (it is spent, but nothing happens)

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    \$\begingroup\$ As much sense as it would make for all of this to work as you described, he didn't ask how the rules should have been written. The rules clearly state you need a touch attack roll to hit a hostile creature with a touch spell, and while several exceptions to this exist in the rules, none of them are invoked by the 'grappled' condition. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 18:58

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