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I already know that if you take multiple "acts" while in a threatened square, you provoke multiple attacks of opportunity (for example, if you drink a potion and then move out of a threatened square) from creatures that can make multiple attacks of opportunity.

Rules Compendium (page 18)

Moving out of a threatened square can provoke attacks of opportunity, as can being in a threatened square while performing an act that requires focused attention.

Rules Compendium (page 19)

Some abilities allow you to make more than one attack of opportunity per round. Most such abilities, unless they say otherwise, don’t let you make more than one attack for a given opportunity. If the same opponent provokes two attacks of opportunity from you, however, you could make two separate attacks of opportunity. Each provoking act represents a different opportunity.

What I want to know is, does a single "action" that involves multiple "acts" that provoke an AoO actually provoke multiple AoOs from the same creature?

For example, if I'm threatened by a creature that can make multiple AoOs in a round (such as through the Combat Reflexes feat) and I cast a spell (with a casting time longer than a swift action) that also requires a ranged attack (such as with the Scorching Ray spell), does that creature get to make two AoOs against me? If the spell requires multiple ranged attacks (again, like with Scorching Ray), do each of those ranged attacks provoke yet another AoO?

I would think we should first ask whether the ranged attack from such a spell is part of the same "opportunity" as the casting of that spell. If so, I would think the answer to my initial question is "no". That is, that the entire opportunity either "provokes" or "doesn't provoke" as a set of boolean "ORs". I guess the key issue then is to ask what defines an "opportunity". Logic would imply that an "opportunity" is anything that happens at a specific instant in time, but I've searched the Rules Compendium and the June 2008 Official FAQ but I can't seem to find anything that unambiguously defines an "opportunity" (please use quotes from specific sources).

Originally I thought that you could define an "opportunity" as a specific action (such as a standard action), but you can't really define it that way because while that might work for standard actions a full attack (a full-round action) can involve multiple "acts" that reasonably might provoke multiple AoOs (such as making multiple attacks with a ranged weapon).

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Yes. Say for instance a creature in melee casts a spell that requires a ranged touch attack, it would provoke two attacks of opportunity, one for the casting of the spell and one for the ranged attack in melee.

You still can make only one attack of opportunity for each opportunity that your foe gives you. For example, if you have Combat Reflexes and a Dexterity score of 15 you can make up the three attacks of opportunity each turn. You could make all three of them against the same foe, provided that the foe does three different things that provoke attacks of opportunity. (Link)

While the example from the article doesn't specify the situation I've outlined above it clearly states that though each individual opportunity does not provoke more than once, you can make multiple attacks against a creature provided they offer multiple opportunities.

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    \$\begingroup\$ updated answer with link to article. Also, its not entirely relevant because its a different system but theres a FAQ for the pathfinder RPG that does call out this specific situation. paizo.com/products/btpy88yj/… \$\endgroup\$ – Mr Tumnus Apr 15 '15 at 23:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Read the section on holding the charge. A second opportunity is demonstrated (one for casting the spell and one for delivering it as an unarmed attack), all from one 'standard action'. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Apr 16 '15 at 4:36
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Great question. No. However, an opportunity does not necessarily equal an action, like a standard action or full round action.

While the only example explicitly called out is

Moving out of more than one square threatened by the same opponent in the same round doesn’t count as more than one opportunity for that opponent.

According to the table, Standard Actions, casting a spell and an unarmed melee attack both provoke attacks of opportunity. This is called out specifically.

Combat: Casting a Spell

Touch Attacks

Touching an opponent with a touch spell is considered to be an armed attack and therefore does not provoke attacks of opportunity. However, the act of casting a spell does provoke an attack of opportunity. Touch attacks come in two types: melee touch attacks and ranged touch attacks. You can score critical hits with either type of attack. Your opponent’s AC against a touch attack does not include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. His size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) all apply normally.

Why would they carefully point out that the unarmed melee touch attack does not provoke if the action of casting a spell and the action of attacking are indeed viewed as one opportunity? I think this is pretty solid evidence they are at least intended to be viewed as separate opportunities.

When a character performs a bull rush as part of a charge, even though this takes a full-round action, several opportunities could arise; moving out of another enemy's threatened square, the attempt itself (if the character didn't have Improved Bull Rush), and on success, moving with the target provokes as normal for movement.

With regard to multiple attacks, it is the attack listed in the table, not the action required to make the attack that provokes.

So while I say No, with the example you listed, yes, casting the spell and each ranged attack would be an opportunity that provokes, even though one standard action is required to cast the spell and target (perhaps multiple) opponents.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The touch spell thing has more to do with the concept of "holding the charge", in that you are not considered armed normally but when you're holding the charge on a touch-range spell, you are then considered "armed" and thus don't provoke an AoO. There's no such statement for ranged attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Emrys Ternal Apr 16 '15 at 6:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ The section on touch attacks seems to have hit the nail on the head. I believe your interpretation is correct, they do go through the trouble of saying "Touching an opponent with a touch spell is considered to be an armed attack and therefore does not provoke attacks of opportunity", why would they bother listing that qualifier if it wasn't relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Mr Tumnus Apr 16 '15 at 17:41
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You provoke an Attack of Opportunity, only once, when the rules say you do

The text in the Rule Compendium is clear; you only provoke an AoE once for every opportunity. The question, as you say, is what an "opportunity" is.

The rules on AoE list this, however. What primarily causes an Attack of Opportunity is:

  • Moving
  • Performing a Distracting Act [1]

The first is not relevant to this question. The second refers specifically to the table of actions listed on P141 of the PHB; specific actions cause an attack of opportunity, only when it is listed as such. The relevant text there is that the action (if listed as such) "provokes an attack of opportunity"; so only once.

Exceptions

While the above is the general rule, D&D is a game of exceptions, and there are various class abilities that also cause attacks of opportunities.

Furthermore, as per the Rules Compendium, attacking with a ranged weapon also provokes an Attack of Opportunity, even if the action it is associated with does not (such as Full Attack):

You provoke attacks of opportunity when firing or throwing a ranged weapon.

As far as I can tell, this is missing from the PHB and the SRD. Note, however, that this only applyies to ranged weapons; your example of a spell attack therefore only provokes one attack of opportunity, since it does not involved a ranged weapon attack[2].

[1]: The Core Rulebook, SRD and Rules compendium slightly differ in the terminology and specific lists of actions, but the basic principle is the same in each.

[2]: While the Rule Compendium does describe how spells may "function like weapons in certain aspects", it consistently describes them as "weaponlike", not weapons - and then enumerates specifically how they function like weapons (specifically, that you are allowed to use specific feats with them). As such, they don't count as "ranged weapons" for the purpose of AoE's.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Complete Arcane and Rules Compendium both specify that weapon-like spells (read: those that use an attack roll) count as weapons for most purposes. I would read this as one of them. Can you address that somehow? Otherwise, I think this conclusion is inaccurate. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 31 '18 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I tried to address the concern in my edit. As it's not directly related to the answer, I thought it fit best as a footnote. \$\endgroup\$ – Danny Cuppen May 31 '18 at 20:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, well, unfortunately I don’t find that convincing, personally. Perhaps others will. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 31 '18 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Huh. I'm all for a literal reading of the text—that can be fun—, but is this answer saying that the description of weaponlike spells in the RC is an exhaustive description of weaponlike spells that's supposed to be read in isolation, and weaponlike spells ignore all other rules for making attacks? So, for example, a target of a weaponlike spell (except a ray) doesn't gain a bonus to AC from cover? Likewise, feats like those listed on RC 132 yet not listed there can't affect weaponlike spells? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 1 '18 at 2:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan, the spells in question still make ranged (or melee) attacks, and use all the rules for those. That has always been the case. The question at hand is, do those spells count as weapons for all rules or not. As for feats like the ones on 132, unless those new feats mention that they can apply to weaponlike spells, I would say they do not. There are weapon-feats that can't apply to weaponlike spells, after all (for example Weapon Specialization). \$\endgroup\$ – Danny Cuppen Jun 1 '18 at 4:45

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