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I know this sounds really obvious, but it also seems a little crazy in context, so I'm confirming just in case my players call me on it. The PCs will soon face an anaxim which has the following natural attacks:

Melee Attacks

  • 2 spinning blades that each deal 2d6 points of damage
  • 2 slams that each deal 2d6 points of damage
  • 1 shocking touch that deals 2d6 points of damage that's a touch attack but does not, apparently, deal electricity damage

Ranged Attacks

  • 6 spikes that each deal 2d6 points of damage and possess a 120 ft. range increment
  • 1 electricity ray that deals 10d6 points of electricity damage that's a ranged touch attack with no listed range increment (therefore presumably limited to line of effect)

I've advanced the monster a few Hit Dice and customized its lackluster feat selection so that it has the the feats Multiattack (MM 304), Improved Multiattack (Dungeon #109 49), and, of course, Elusive Dance (Dragon #333 88), but I want to make sure that when the creature makes a full attack, it'll be the cyclone of lightning and spiky bits that I expect it to be.

So, when a creature that possesses natural ranged attacks takes the full attack action, can the creature employ both its natural melee attacks and its natural ranged attacks?


Note: Don't feel bad for the PCs! They're level 20 with only about 4 sessions left in the campaign, and very few as-published monsters challenge them. And don't feel bad for the anaxim, either. Its feats are well-spent on access to nutty planar touchstone site stuff through the Sandstorm feat Touchstone (53) and other special abilities like the Complete Champion feat Trickery Devotion (63). It'll be a hoot.

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There is absolutely nothing in the rules that would suggest such a limitation, that I can tell. However, I note that the full-attack entry for the anaxim is

2 spinning blades +43 (2d6+12/19-20(plus 1d6 on critical)) melee, 2 slams +35 melee (2d6+6), shocking touch +35 melee touch (2d6+6); or electricity ray +35 ranged touch (10d6 electricity), 6 spikes +30 ranged (2d6+12) (120 ft. range increment)

The fact that all the melee attacks are listed, and then that entry is ended with a semicolon, and then all the ranged attacks are listed after an “or,” suggests to me that at least someone thought melee and ranged attacks would be happening separately.

Maybe the author merely made an assumption about not wanting to provoke attacks of opportunity, or something. Or maybe the author thought that simply sticking a semicolon and an “or” in the full-attack section was good enough to imply an exceptional limitation on the anaxim. But with the notoriously unreliable status of creature statblocks in 3.5e, I wouldn’t tend to give one the weight of rule, particularly when what it seems to be implying is something that would be exceptional for that creature. Without seeing such a limitation in the text, I would not apply it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This might seem crazy but what if the or is strictly an option to choose between the two shock attacks and the semi-colon is just... misused? \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 2 '17 at 18:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LegendaryDude Totally conceivable. Unfortunately, the one-line full-attack entry just isn’t enough to be sure. Whatever the author was or wasn’t going for, they should have spelled out in the text. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 2 '17 at 18:58
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I do not believe the anaxim can employ both melee and ranged attacks interchangably in a single full round attack, it should be one or the other.

Full Attack (emphasis mine):

2 spinning blades +43 (2d6+12/19-20(plus 1d6 on critical)) melee, 2 slams +35 melee (2d6+6), shocking touch +35 melee touch (2d6+6); or electricity ray +35 ranged touch (10d6 electricity), 6 spikes +30 ranged (2d6+12) (120 ft. range increment)

However, I am not convinced the answer is true for all creatures and this is based on my counter example, beholder (MMp26, weirdly not in SRD; again emphasis mine):

Full Attack: Eye rays +9 ranged touch and bite +2 melee (2d4)

This speaks to a (pretty clear IMO) difference between "and" and "or" to me so my answer is "It depends on the creature".

More opinion based, I also think there's a clue in the number of melee (5) vs ranged (7) attacks the anaxim get on a full attack. Were they interchangable, would it be based on the main attack started (and why does that make any sense)? If not, why not get 7 attacks every time? If so, am I supposed to count each ranged attack as 1/7th of a full round and each melee attack 1/5th? For fractions would I round?

While D&D is complex, I don't think the intention is for this level of complexity, basically a math equation to figure out how many attacks I might get depending on what I do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I get what you’re saying about the “and” vs. “or” thing, but I am not following your complexity argument at all. The argument would be that an anaxim would get 12 attacks, 5 melee and 7 ranged, each turn. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 2 '17 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ weirdly (see faq 2) \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Mar 2 '17 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I didn't even consider that because then the or is basically ignored. I acknowledge your point about inconsistencies in 3.5 but I follow the written rule to my demise so if someone says "that or means nothing" I won't believe them [tho I'll let the judge have their way]=) \$\endgroup\$ – joedragons Mar 2 '17 at 21:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, the official rules of 3.5 state very explicitly that text trumps tables, and the text does not describe any such limitation anywhere, so arguably in the strictest sense the “or” does mean nothing because it contradicts the text and the text has primacy. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 2 '17 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Respectfully sounds like foddar for your answer. I don't really want to debate in comments (or at all). \$\endgroup\$ – joedragons Mar 2 '17 at 21:23

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