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So, I'm looking for both a RAW and RAI ruling here. General DM advice/houserules would be appreciated as well, especially if you have experience with similar scenarios.

About to start a campaign, and one of my players is looking at playing the Picaroon Swashbuckler archetype, which is focused around the idea of wielding a rapier in one hand and a pistol in the other. As such, he wants to be able to get into melee range (5 ft), stab with his sword, then fire his gun.

Now, there are rules regarding firing a ranged weapon while being threatened (you take an attack of opportunity) and for firing a ranged weapon into a melee (-4 to attack rolls unless the enemy is 2 size categories larger, in which case it's a -2). He's already planning to take some feats that'd remove the Attack of Opportunity (Point Blank Master), but we're unsure if the rules for firing into a melee still apply when you yourself are in the very same melee (after all, since you're in it, no one can step in your way). This is especially uncertain if the enemy is engaged in combat with an ally of yours as well as you (say, you're flanking the enemy with one of your allies). He also is frustrated with how difficult it is to pull off the character concept and how many rules he has to fight to make it work at all (and even then, feels that he'll be underwhelming).

Is there any rules specifically for firing into a melee that you yourself are in? If not, should I waive the rule regarding the attack penalty so long as he is in melee?

Thank you for the assistance

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Related to sword and pistol fighting. (Alert: Not much is.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 2 '15 at 4:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Firing into close combat in Pathfinder \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Sep 2 '15 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your player can always take Precise Shot in addition to Point Blank Master, to eliminate all of these penalties. Seems like a natural feat progression for a Picaroon Swashbuckler. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Henderson Sep 3 '15 at 13:09
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d20SRD:

Shooting or Throwing into a Melee

If you shoot or throw a ranged weapon at a target engaged in melee with a friendly character, you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll. Two characters are engaged in melee if they are enemies of each other and either threatens the other. (An unconscious or otherwise immobilized character is not considered engaged unless he is actually being attacked.)

You are fine given this definition of melee. Note it says "with a friendly character," which doesn't reasonably include yourself. (You are your own ally wherever that appears in the rules, but they specifically do not say "ally" in this rule.) It also doesn't include two enemies fighting each other. If you and another friendly are in melee however, it counts, as you have to be as careful not to shoot them as if you were at range (if not more so).

Therefore the RAW is that no, there is not a penalty when using e.g. Point Blank Master when it's just you in melee with an opponent. All this seems to jibe with the intent of the rule, which is "instead of making you roll to hit your buddy when you miss, like we did in previous editions, you get a penalty when doing something risky to emulate being more careful."

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