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From the PFSRD for the Oathbow magic item:

Of elven make, this white +2 composite longbow (+2 Str bonus) whispers “Swift defeat to my enemies” in Elven when nocked and pulled. Once per day, if the archer swears aloud to slay her target (a free action), the bow's whisper becomes the shout “Death to those who have wronged me!” Against such a sworn enemy, the bow has a +5 enhancement bonus, and arrows launched from it deal an additional 2d6 points of damage (and ×4 on a critical hit instead of the normal ×3). After an enemy has been sworn, the bow is treated as only a masterwork weapon against all foes other than the sworn enemy, and the archer takes a –1 penalty on attack rolls with any weapon other than the oathbow. These bonuses and penalties last for 7 days or until the sworn enemy is slain or destroyed by the wielder of the oathbow, whichever comes first.

The oathbow may only have one sworn enemy at a time. Once the wielder swears to slay a target, he cannot make a new oath until he has slain that target or 7 days have passed. Even if the wielder slays the sworn enemy on the same day that he makes the oath, he cannot activate the oathbow's special power again until 24 hours have passed from the time he made the oath.

This makes it pretty specific that the oathbow wielder has to be the one to slay the target, or suffer the penalties for a week. If you are up against a single opponent in melee, and someone else in the party slays your sworn target, do you suffer penalties for a week until you can reswear against something else?

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By the wording of the item, yes. If one of your allies slays your target, then, by RAW, you have a bunch of penalties for 7 days.

However, that's not super satisfying, and punishes you for using the feature of your bow. I'd suggest talking to your GM about it, and suggesting that it should be broadened to allow yourself or your allies to slay the target in order to fulfill your oath.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest not swearing oaths against squishy targets or binary-status creature types and only use it for hard-to-kill foes. \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Mar 3 '15 at 6:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest killing any party member inconsiderate enough to get between you and your sworn enemy. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 3 '15 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're that worried about it, you could simply parse the sentence differently. You get the penalties until either he is "slain" or "destroyed by the wielder". Nothing says "by the wielder" has to apply to both "slain" and "destroyed". It's a perfectly valid reading of the sentence for it to only apply to the action closest to it. You wouldn't be able to get around making a new Oath for a week, though. And it'd take a lenient GM to let you do this since the second paragraph is more clear. \$\endgroup\$ – claudekennilol Mar 4 '15 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @claudekennilol If the oathbow's wielder parses the syntax to that degree, the DM may rule that living creatures must be slain (i.e. made to have the condition dead) while nonliving creatures must be destroyed (cf. constructs, undead). (Yeah, I, too, wish there were a standard adjective for forever incapable of taking actions.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 6 '15 at 11:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @claudekennilol If you're gonna go that far, why stop there? Claim that the entry is in Llahehrese instead of English, and in Llahehrese, means "This bow does whatever the holder wants, whenever he/she wants it." The strong resemblance to English sentences is just a coincidence. You're already getting a DMG thrown at you, what difference does it make if it gets thrown a bit harder? \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Mar 6 '15 at 14:54

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