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Some magic weapons have special abilities such as flaming, where it does extra damage on a hit. Since it's elemental damage, would just the extra damage be dealt on contact?

For example, would an attack that doesn't beat AC but does beat touch AC deal just the extra damage? Would a successful combat maneuver count as a hit for the purpose of the extra damage?

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Rules as written: No

Though you won't see any rule saying "you cant do this", Pathfinder works with rules that say "you can do this". If it doesn't say you can do something, then you can't do it or will have to ask your GM. It's a game of exceptions. We have general rules, and exceptions to those rules, which in their turn have their own exceptions and so on.

The weapon must deal damage. Even if said damage is reduced to zero by other means (ie: damage reduction or stoneskin). "Contact" is ambiguous because it could then be used with touch attacks (not allowed), or weapons that deal no damage, like nets (again, not allowed).

Why aren't you allowed to use them with touch attacks? Because touch attacks deal no damage that can be improved, The same is true for a flaming net, though iv seen people rule that a flaming net would burn every turn that the target is entangle, and also have seen it being ruled that the new wielder of the weapon is the entangled target, who can turn it off again. A net also never gains the extra points of damage when you make it magical, just the attack bonus.

Weapon enchants are all a little ambiguous and vague, even in Pathfinder Society, so you will have to talk to your GM about what you can or cannot do before investing your money on them. But i know of at least one item that allows elemental damage with touch attack: Deliquescent Gloves

So, if you were allowed to cause flaming/frost/shocking/corrosive damage on touch attacks, you wouldnt need to specify it when you have one item that allows using touch attacks to deliver the special damage. And we would see a lot of people with +1 weapons full of enchants attacking touch AC and dealing a lot more damage, they all would focus on two-weapon fighting and disregard their attack bonus completely, because even a dragon has a touch AC no greater than 12.

The rules of combat state that you hit the Armor Class to land a damaging blow to the target. A touch attack is a special exception to this and isn't a damaging attack.

Let's read touch attacks:

Touch Attacks

Some attacks completely disregard armor, including shields and natural armor—the aggressor need only touch a foe for such an attack to take full effect. In these cases,

So we can see that for touch attacks to work, the rules must specify that all you need to cause damage is land a touch attack on your target, like happens with touch spells (Example: Shocking Grasp), which is not the case for Flaming/Shocking/Frost/Corrosive, Bane, +1/+2/+3 and so on.

Another exception is the Gunslinger class, that can hit with guns on a ranged touch attack if the target is within the first range increment. Gunslingers, then, could use flaming effects on their weapons even with touch attacks.

So, let me sum this up:

All weapons must hit the target's AC, not their Touch AC, unless specified otherwise (like a net needing only to hit touch AC to entangle someone).

If you somehow managed to convince your GM otherwise, be prepared for a s***storm, with monsters grappling you with touch attacks, draining levels, causing diseases, etc.

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Mechanics

Upon command, a flaming weapon is sheathed in fire that deals an extra 1d6 points of fire damage on a successful hit.

To start, "on a successful hit" means "on a successful hit [with this weapon]."

Second, "a successful hit" means something specific: You've made an attack roll, and exceeded your target's armor class.

Put these two together, and you can see how it works from a mechanical perspective. If you hit, you add a d6 to the damage you deal from the attack. You don't get any kind of special touch attack, because the item doesn't say it behaves like that.

Combat Maneuvers do not deal damage (see sidebar, below). Attacks which deal no damage cannot have their damage increased, according to a side note under Actions in Combat:

Though options that increase damage don't cause attacks to deal damage if they wouldn't otherwise do so (such as Vital Strike and trip).

With no damage to increase, the Flaming ability has no mechanical effect.

So, mechanically, flaming simply adds a d6 to the weapon's damage. Your d8 longsword is now a d8 + d6 longsword that's a bit of a headache against creatures with resistances. No more, no less.

Sidebar: Combat Maneuvers

Using a very literal interpretation of the rules in the SRD, Combat Maneuvers use an attack roll, and attack rolls state that they deal (weapon) damage.

However, a side note under Actions in Combat calls out Trip as an attack that deals no damage.

Trip just uses the default Combat Maneuver rules, so the intent appears to be for Combat Maneuvers to not deal damage.

Perhaps the printed rules are clearer. If so, I'd love a quote!

Roleplaying

All of the above having been said, the effect does describe a weapon that is literally wreathed in an elemental aura. Your DM may allow you to use that to good effect during roleplaying interactions.

For example, you might force someone's hand onto the Flaming blade during a torture scene, or dip your Frost dagger into a beverage you'd like to cool down.

Your DM may also allow you to perform some improvised attacks with your magic weapon. A touch attack to inflict your elemental damage (no weapon damage, no strength mod, etc.) would probably not be too powerful (and is in line with spells such as Shocking Grasp).

This isn't a defined maneuver within the game and requires the DM's okay to use, but probably wouldn't be too much of an issue.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 3 '15 at 17:20

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