Let's say Alice, human magus 3, has just scribed an arcane scroll of shocking grasp using her Scribe Scroll feat. Alice suddenly feels malice toward her assistant, Bob the goblin.

Given the basic mechanism of Spell Combat:

As a full-round action, [a magus] can make all of his attacks with his melee weapon at a –2 penalty and can also cast any spell from the magus spell list with a casting time of 1 standard action.

Plus the following lines in the Using Items section of the Magic Items chapter (Core Rulebook 458):

Spell completion items are treated like spells in combat and do provoke attacks of opportunity.
Spell Completion: This is the activation method for scrolls. A scroll is a spell that is mostly finished. The preparation is done for the caster, so no preparation time is needed beforehand as with normal spellcasting. All that’s left to do is perform the finishing parts of the spellcasting (the final gestures, words, and so on). ... Activating a spell completion item is a standard action (or the spell’s casting time, whichever is longer) and provokes attacks of opportunity exactly as casting a spell does.

And the following line in the Activate Magic Item section of Actions In Combat (Core Rulebook 184):

Spell Completion Items: Activating a spell completion item is the equivalent of casting a spell. It requires concentration and provokes attacks of opportunity. You lose the spell if your concentration is broken, and you can attempt to activate the item while on the defensive, as with casting a spell.

Can Alice punch Bob in the face, then cast the shocking grasp spell she just scribed as part of spell combat?

  • \$\begingroup\$ You know what would be even more fun? The same question with Alice using the Spell-Scar arcana :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Luris
    Mar 16, 2016 at 14:58

4 Answers 4


Let's begin assuming you are casting off of a "scroll" in the form of a spell-scar. From the SRD:

The magus can use special scar-based tattoos called spell-scars on his skin to cast or prepare spells, much like scrolls. He can cast a spell from a spell-scar exactly like casting from a scroll; the ink and scars vanish when the spell is cast. The magus can also prepare spells from his spell-scars without expending them, similar to a wizard using the Spell Mastery feat.

The magus does not need to be able to see his spell-scar to use it. A magus has room on his skin for 18 total spell levels of spell-scars, which he can create using the rules for scribing scrolls (although they do not require the Scribe Scroll feat).

In this instance the "scroll" should be able to be used with spell-combat as it leaves your hand free for spell combat and it functions as casting a spell (see the sources cited in the question). I would note that while activating a scroll is a standard action, spell combat works with standard action spells (that being the whole point). Further from an RAI perspective it would be odd for this arcana (being a class feature of the magus) to not function with the primary feature of magi (Spell Combat).

Now let's assume that you are using a more traditional scroll and you can draw it as a swift action via some method (spring-loaded sheaths, being a tiefling, etc) or already have it drawn (because you theoretically could I suppose). Your hand is not precisely "free" but I would argue you can use spell combat anyway because of the existence of the Wand Wielder arcana which reads:

The magus can activate a wand or staff in place of casting a spell when using spell combat.

Two items of note:

  • An interpretation of the word "free" in several other answers implies the hand must be empty as opposed to free to cast the spell. This interpretation would render Wand Wielder useless as an arcana and so we can assume that "free to cast the spell" is the correct interpretation, in which case casting off of a scroll should still be fine.
  • There is no Scroll Wielder arcana. This is purely an RAI argument but one would assume there would be a Scroll Wielder arcana if scrolls didn't already work with spell combat.

tl;dr You should be able to cast from a scroll using spell combat assuming you didn't need to use a move action to draw it and that the spell is on your magus spell list.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The wording in those particular arcana represent specific cases that could easily be exceptions to the norm, rather than indicative of the norm. Particularly in the case of wand wielder. The spell-scar case is more convincing, but since it never mentioned spell combat at all, that’s far from a sure thing. I think your answer is claiming more certainty than the evidence presented warrants. The arcana you bring up are certainly interesting, and make a case for intent, but that case is basically circumstantial and hardly definitive. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan you are correct that there is no certainty in the answer to this question. To my knowledge there is no official ruling on it. Spell combat in general is the source of a few rules oddities (particularly the interaction with arcane mark for "twf"). At the end of the day this is probably an ask your GM question I as a GM would allow it for the reasons stated in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2016 at 16:28
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ And that’s fine, and it’s a good ruling for good reasons, but I feel that a reader who didn’t know better might read it and get the impression that your ruling is objective/canonical/certain/whatever. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 19, 2016 at 16:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan a fair point. I made edits to the effect of reducing the certainty of my statements. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2016 at 16:39

The fact that spell completion is always at least a standard action suggests to me that a magus cannot. But ultimately, this is pretty debatable: you have two competing exceptions of similar specificity.

Pathfinder is an “exception-based” ruleset, meaning they establish general rules (e.g. how long a spell takes to cast), and then specific cases create exceptions to those general rules (e.g. spell combat lets you cast spells quicker than normal, spell completion can make casting take longer than normal). A common way to determine which of two conflicting rules “wins” is “specific trumps general,” that is, the narrower rule is the exception.

Here we have two exceptions, both narrower than the general rule, but neither clearly narrower than the other. In this case, the rules are ambiguous; you can only have a definitive rule by asking the GM for a ruling.

But for whatever reason, the minimum spell completion time of a standard action seems to be the “stronger” rule to me; without spell combat mentioning spell completion explicitly, I wouldn’t allow it to override that.

On the other hand, I think the spell completion rule is dumb. In 3.5, Rules Compendium changed the spell completion (and trigger) rules to make activation take exactly as long as the spell normally takes. Paizo, for whatever reason, has explicitly chosen to do the opposite, but I prefer the Rules Compendium rule and use it in my games.

Without the minimum casting time for spell completion, allowing them to work the same as the spell otherwise would, the conflict between the rules goes away. Without that, spell completion is casting, and thus compatible with spell combat. So under the Rules Compendium rule, the answer is unambiguously “Yes.” You do need a way around the hands required for spell combat (one for the attack and a second “free” for the casting) as well as the hands required for scroll use (i.e. a hand to hold the scroll), but the rules for how scrolls do and do not use your hands are another mess and beyond the scope of this answer. If nothing else, getting a third hand solves the problem.


I think the problem is more with the "This functions much like two-weapon fighting, but the off-hand weapon is a spell that is being cast" part of Spell Combat (which you left out of your question) than with the nature of the casting. Is there rules about how you physically read a scroll? Do you need to hold it? Can you punch someone with a hand holding a scroll while reading it?

I always thought of Spell Combat as casting while full-round attacking so I would say "No" to your question since Alice only have two arms, but it's not an universal interpretation (see this question)

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    \$\begingroup\$ You only need one hand to use the scroll, and once you have used it, it disappears -- leaving a free hand to, for example, deliver the touch spell you just cast. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2016 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LegendaryDude The scroll doesn't disappear. The text from the scroll does. You're still left with a blank piece of parchement. "The writing vanishes from the scroll when the spell is activated." (prd, magic items, scrolls) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2016 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @claudekennilol Dropping an object is a free action. It disappears from your hand as you drop the now blank, useless scroll on the ground. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2016 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LegendaryDude As did KRyan, you're also overlooking the basics. See my answer. And yes, it's a free action, but I was disputing your point that the scroll disappears. I never claimed anything like "it's not a free action drop something". \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2016 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @claudekennilol I'm not overlooking anything, just answering the questions asked on Luris' answer: "Is there rules about how you physically read a scroll? Do you need to hold it? Can you punch someone with a hand holding a scroll while reading it?" Please don't mistake my comments here as an answer to the original question. :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2016 at 14:49

Shortly the answer is no.

This functions much like two-weapon fighting, but the off-hand weapon is a spell that is being cast. To use this ability, the magus must have one hand free (even if the spell being cast does not have somatic components), while wielding a light or one-handed melee weapon in the other hand.

If you're activating a scroll in one hand as your spell hand, then it is not free. Even if you have a third hand that is free, the hand that is casting the spell must be free. So it simply doesn't work.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If Alice had a weapon in her other hand, it would be the right answer. But the OP stated she was unarmed. Do you have to cast the spell with the hand holding the scroll? One could imagine Alice holding the scroll in the right hand while casting with the left, then/while (depending on how you see Combat Spell) punching Bob with the right hand. Or Alice punching with the right hand, casting with the left, holding the scroll with a third hand or even reading it from a music-stand hung to herself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luris
    Mar 16, 2016 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Luris Spell combat involves exactly two hands regardless of how many other hands you may have. So if you're casting a spell with one hand, and your weapon is the other hand. Where is the scroll? If you're holding a scroll in your weapon hand you're not wielding your fist. If you're holding the scroll in your spell hand then it is not free. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2016 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are making a number of assumptions regarding the timing of scroll use, the number of hands available to the magus, and so on, that are not really part of the question. Yes, I ignored this line because it wasn’t relevant and just invites more confusion. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 16, 2016 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan My assumptions are a "level 3 human magus". They have 2 hands. Spell combat involves exactly 2 hands regardless of whether you have 2 or 30. You can't just ignore a pertinent paragraph in the text that describes exactly how a feature works "because it wasn't relevant" when it's the only thing that's relevant. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2016 at 15:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @claudekennilol A level 3 human magus can have a third hand, and that is relevant because a third hand could hold the scroll, leaving the other two for spell combat. Or the casting could use the same hand as the scroll, because the scroll disappears before you need it to be free—the timing is not clear. Or you hold the scroll in the hand you punch with, since absolutely nothing says you cannot do that. The point is, the free hand limitation on spell combat is not relevant here; there are ways around it, however you decide to rule that ambiguous mess. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 16, 2016 at 15:06

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