I feel really silly asking about this, but I cant seem to locate the rules for what bonuses you get when attacking with touch attacks or ranged touch attacks. I have always played in pathfinder that melee touch attacks use your BAB + Str, and ranged touch attacks use BAB + Dex. But I cant actually find rules which says this is how it works.

There are a number of questions (1,2,3) which asks a similar question, but I dont feel like they are asking what I am or have been answered incorrectly.

On the combat rules page we have the following subsections which could relate:

  • Attack Roll, this specifically talks about weapons. Touch spells are not actually weapons and thus are not affected by these rules. This is also where melee attacks are defined as BAB + Str, and ranged attacks as BAB + Dex.
  • Attack, talks about "armed" unarmed attacks, this says that a spell caster delivering a touch spell counts as an armed attack.
  • Touch attacks, mentions that they are attacks and they make a touch attack roll (either ranged or melee), but the link points back to this paragraph. It then goes on to say what things make up an AC against touch attacks, but not what actually gets used for the attack roll.
  • Casting a spell, has a subsection called "touch spells in combat" but no direct link. It says to touch an opponent, you must succeed on an attack roll. Which is the first link I detailed.

Under the magic rules page we have

  • Range, which is where we find out the rules that touch spells can be critical hits on natural rolls of 20, but fail to mention any bonuses to the roll, but never actually mentions an attack roll.
  • Aiming a spell, it first talks about the target(s) of the spell but does not talk about the attack roll. A little bit down it also talks about rays, spread, and area.


Some effects are rays. You aim a ray as if using a ranged weapon, though typically you make a ranged touch attack rather than a normal ranged attack. As with a ranged weapon, you can fire into the dark or at an invisible creature and hope you hit something. You don't have to see the creature you're trying to hit, as you do with a targeted spell. Intervening creatures and obstacles, however, can block your line of sight or provide cover for the creature at which you're aiming.

But nowhere does it actually mention what is used for these attack rolls. Im pretty sure that I am just being overly picky about wording, but I would rather make sure I am not missing the rules somewhere.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Please don't answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Nov 21, 2016 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because well some spells are weapons, not all of them are. So simply classifying them all as weapons is incorrect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Nov 22, 2016 at 6:05

2 Answers 2


Ranged attacks always use the dex modifier and melee attacks always use the strength modifier unless another ability overrides this.

Examples for overrides would be weapon finesse and its ilk for melee or the guided property.

Attack Bonus (PRD)

Your attack bonus with a melee weapon is the following:

  • Base attack bonus + Strength modifier + size modifier

With a ranged weapon, your attack bonus is the following:

  • Base attack bonus + Dexterity modifier + size modifier + range penalty

Even if this only talks about weapon attacks it is the general rule for making attacks.

This is further clarified under touch attacks in the combat section:

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, the attacker makes a touch attack roll (either ranged or melee). When you are the target of a touch attack, your AC doesn't include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. All other modifiers, such as your size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) apply normally. Some creatures have the ability to make incorporeal touch attacks. These attacks bypass solid objects, such as armor and shields, by passing through them. Incorporeal touch attacks work similarly to normal touch attacks except that they also ignore cover bonuses. Incorporeal touch attacks do not ignore armor bonuses granted by force effects, such as mage armor and bracers of armor.

Emphasis mine.

The closest official answer you will find to this question is part of an FAQ post about bonuses and penalties to spells and SLA that mention weapon attacks:

In general, special abilities that require attack rolls benefit and suffer from all modifiers affecting attack rolls even if those modifiers mention weapon attack rolls


The ranged touch attack has the same bonuses as using a ranged weapon without any modifiers, so it is true that you would use your BAB + Dex bonus score to try and hit with the attack; The difference is that you make this roll against the targets touch AC, which is different from their full AC bonus, unless some other rule overrides this.

In addition, you cannot make multiple ranged touch attacks per standard action or free action, even if your BAB is high enough that it would usually grant you multiple attacks, with each subsequent attack incurring a penalty of -5 to your BAB; this only works for standard attacks, not for touch attacks, regardless of type.

Also, ranged touch attacks still fail if the target cannot be touched, even if you fire it into the dark and hope to hit something - if it would hit something that cannot be touched, the attack has no effect.


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