Ranged attack requires clear ruling.


Rules Questions

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Liberty's Edge

Last night at the gamming table we ran into a situation that really warrants the question of bonuses and penalties. The situation is that a ranger was firing into combat in which his path went straight through the ranger’s animal companion (M) square. The ranger has precise shot and point blank shot and was within 30ft. What bonuses to AC does the target get and what penalties does the ranger take. The DM was giving victim +4 because of the soft cover of the animal companion. Since ranger had feat did not take -4 to attack. Ranger ended up missing by 2 so in 3.5 he would have hit his animal companion. If the target is getting ac from the animal companion and he missed by that bonus does the arrow hit the companion. When firing into combat is it really an 8 difference without feats.

A clear ruling on the scenario would be great. (Display proof if able)

Thank you in advance


Well, the enemy gets +4AC from soft cover.

prd wrote:
Soft Cover: Creatures, even your enemies, can provide you with cover against ranged attacks, giving you a +4 bonus to AC. However, such soft cover provides no bonus on Reflex saves, nor does soft cover allow you to make a Stealth check.

You do not hit your companion on a miss, I don't think that was a rule in 3.5 either. It's a good house-rule, but I would only do it on natural 1's.

So, assuming that the companion was adjacent to the target, and in-between
you and the target, then yes the target gets +4AC, and you would take -4 attack if you do not have precise-shot, so -8 total. Since you have that lovely precise-shot, your target simply gets +4AC.

Hope that helps.

Edit:Here's a link to the combat section of the prd, you'll have to scroll about 3/4 of the way down for cover rules

Sovereign Court

pusillanimous puker wrote:

Well, the enemy gets +4AC from soft cover.

prd wrote:
Soft Cover: Creatures, even your enemies, can provide you with cover against ranged attacks, giving you a +4 bonus to AC. However, such soft cover provides no bonus on Reflex saves, nor does soft cover allow you to make a Stealth check.

You do not hit your companion on a miss, I don't think that was a rule in 3.5 either. It's a good house-rule, but I would only do it on natural 1's.

So, assuming that the companion was adjacent to the target, and in-between
you and the target, then yes the target gets +4AC, and you would take -4 attack if you do not have precise-shot, so -8 total. Since you have that lovely precise-shot, your target simply gets +4AC.

Hope that helps.

In 1st-2nd ed. ranged misses in melee could result in you hitting an unintended target. To me this is a glaring omission in the 3.5/PF rules, unless I have missed something. When creatures are close together ducking and swinging during melee and you fire into that then it makes sense that you are likely to hit the *wrong* target if you miss. Under the current rules archers can be over powerful in these situations. I have a house rule that if you miss by so many points then you have a chance of hitting an opponent. I include size, proximity in the calculations. For example if a PC is using a reach weapon and its opponent is effectively 10' away from his attacker(ie. it hasn't managed to close within the reach area to 5' where it can strike the PC then the miss chance of hitting the PC by accident is increased.


not exactly true... in 1e and btb 2e you could not choose who to shoot at when shooting into melee, you simply shot and who your arrow struck was determined randomly.

For example say Arlo the 1e Elf Fighter is decides to shoot his bow one of the three orcs attacking Chandra the 1e Human Cleric in melee combat. since there are 4 of them and they are all roughly the same size the DM numbers them 1 through 4 (Chandra is 1, the first orc is 2, the second orc is 3 and the third orc is 4) and rolls a 4 sided die, that is the one the attack is rolled against. If some of the combatants are much larger then the others it then the odds of hitting them increase... for examople if Chandra was engaged with an orc and an ogre the break down might be like this Chandra 1, orc 2, ogre 3-4...

In 3.0e there existed a rule that if you shot into a melee and missed you might hit somebody else in the melee instead. This was specifically removed by the game designers in 3.5 because they thought that it punished those people who chose to try to make an archer too much (and PF has followed the 3.5 track in that there is no chance to hit a person in melee with the target on a miss).

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cwslyclgh wrote:

not exactly true... in 1e and btb 2e you could not choose who to shoot at when shooting into melee, you simply shot and who your arrow struck was determined randomly.

For example say Arlo the 1e Elf Fighter is decides to shoot his bow one of the three orcs attacking Chandra the 1e Human Cleric in melee combat. since there are 4 of them and they are all roughly the same size the DM numbers them 1 through 4 (Chandra is 1, the first orc is 2, the second orc is 3 and the third orc is 4) and rolls a 4 sided die, that is the one the attack is rolled against. If some of the combatants are much larger then the others it then the odds of hitting them increase... for examople if Chandra was engaged with an orc and an ogre the break down might be like this Chandra 1, orc 2, ogre 3-4...

In 3.0e there existed a rule that if you shot into a melee and missed you might hit somebody else in the melee instead. This was specifically removed by the game designers in 3.5 because they thought that it punished those people who chose to try to make an archer too much (and PF has followed the 3.5 track in that there is no chance to hit a person in melee with the target on a miss).

Unfortunately, I no longer possess my 1-2ed rulebooks so I was going from 20 years of memory ;) Nevertheless do you agree that shooting into close melee does require some rule as to the potential to hit an unintended combatant. I know 3.0 had the rule and I never understood why it got removed in 3.5/PF. After all the missile has to go somewhere, it might miss everyone, true, but it could also hit someone else.


I do actually agree that there should be some sort of possibility for an arrow fired into melee to hit an unintended target... but that is just another of the realism aspects that the game designers have sacrificed on the altar of 'game balance'.


cwslyclgh wrote:
I do actually agree that there should be some sort of possibility for an arrow fired into melee to hit an unintended target... but that is just another of the realism aspects that the game designers have sacrificed on the altar of 'game balance'.

Well, I remember reading somewhere that the -4 from attacking into combat was due to the fact that you were taking extra care not to hit allies (after all, they're already getting the +4 from cover in some cases, right?).

One way you could house-rule the situation is that anyone can opt to not take this -4 penalty to attack - even if you don't have precise shot. Then, if you miss the attack by 4 or less, it hits your ally. Precise shot now allows you to ignore possibility of hitting allies.

Of course, this will tend to help the bad guys more than the PCs since they tend to have less regard for their friends in battle.


Tem wrote:


Well, I remember reading somewhere that the -4 from attacking into combat was due to the fact that you were taking extra care not to hit allies (after all, they're already getting the +4 from cover in some cases, right?).

One way you could house-rule the situation is that anyone can opt to not take this -4 penalty to attack - even if you don't have precise shot. Then, if you miss the attack by 4 or less, it hits your ally. Precise shot now allows you to ignore possibility of hitting allies.

Of course, this will tend to help the bad guys more than the PCs since they tend to have less regard for their friends in battle.

Which is why they're the BAD guys. And the -4 for being careful not to hit allies makes perfect sense. Precise shot negating that as well - it's like SWAT/Anti-Terror units training to shoot around hostages. Which, by the way, they actually do - one method I've seen involves a metal silhouette of a hostage with a round plate mounted over it's shoulder or next to it's head. That small plate is the target. The trooper is drilled to draw their weapon and fire multiple rounds into the target without hitting the silhouette. Not easy, but damned impressive one they do it.

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Tem wrote:
cwslyclgh wrote:
I do actually agree that there should be some sort of possibility for an arrow fired into melee to hit an unintended target... but that is just another of the realism aspects that the game designers have sacrificed on the altar of 'game balance'.

Well, I remember reading somewhere that the -4 from attacking into combat was due to the fact that you were taking extra care not to hit allies (after all, they're already getting the +4 from cover in some cases, right?).

One way you could house-rule the situation is that anyone can opt to not take this -4 penalty to attack - even if you don't have precise shot. Then, if you miss the attack by 4 or less, it hits your ally. Precise shot now allows you to ignore possibility of hitting allies.

Of course, this will tend to help the bad guys more than the PCs since they tend to have less regard for their friends in battle.

Yes there are feats for superb archers and I'm happy with those (They bring to mind Legolas in Lord of the Rings, esp. the movie version). I can't remember where in the PF Core rulebook that the -4 penalty was discussed in this vein, though I do not doubt it does. Nevertheless this rule is a little fudged. The -4 would actually make it even less likely to hit the intended target, and as I have already said (see post above) the missile does not disappear (unless it is a special arrow that disappears magically if it misses its intended target), it's got to go somewhere. The 1-2nd ed rules stated by cwslyclgh were still a little fudgey too. A better rule would give more chance of hitting those closest or concealing the target than those not.


Marcus Aurelius wrote:
Tem wrote:
cwslyclgh wrote:
I do actually agree that there should be some sort of possibility for an arrow fired into melee to hit an unintended target... but that is just another of the realism aspects that the game designers have sacrificed on the altar of 'game balance'.

Well, I remember reading somewhere that the -4 from attacking into combat was due to the fact that you were taking extra care not to hit allies (after all, they're already getting the +4 from cover in some cases, right?).

One way you could house-rule the situation is that anyone can opt to not take this -4 penalty to attack - even if you don't have precise shot. Then, if you miss the attack by 4 or less, it hits your ally. Precise shot now allows you to ignore possibility of hitting allies.

Of course, this will tend to help the bad guys more than the PCs since they tend to have less regard for their friends in battle.

Yes there are feats for superb archers and I'm happy with those (They bring to mind Legolas in Lord of the Rings, esp. the movie version). I can't remember where in the PF Core rulebook that the -4 penalty was discussed in this vein, though I do not doubt it does. Nevertheless this rule is a little fudged. The -4 would actually make it even less likely to hit the intended target, and as I have already said (see post above) the missile does not disappear (unless it is a special arrow that disappears magically if it misses its intended target), it's got to go somewhere. The 1-2nd ed rules stated by cwslyclgh were still a little fudgey too. A better rule would give more chance of hitting those closest or concealing the target than those not.

Unless of course the -4 represents the archer's attempt to shoot around his allies, aim "high", and use a relatively "safe" shooting line - ie someone isn't directly past his target. Meaning if he misses, the arrow whizzes past and hits a wall or lands in the grass or dirt.

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Lyingbastard wrote:
Tem wrote:


Well, I remember reading somewhere that the -4 from attacking into combat was due to the fact that you were taking extra care not to hit allies (after all, they're already getting the +4 from cover in some cases, right?).

One way you could house-rule the situation is that anyone can opt to not take this -4 penalty to attack - even if you don't have precise shot. Then, if you miss the attack by 4 or less, it hits your ally. Precise shot now allows you to ignore possibility of hitting allies.

Of course, this will tend to help the bad guys more than the PCs since they tend to have less regard for their friends in battle.

Which is why they're the BAD guys. And the -4 for being careful not to hit allies makes perfect sense. Precise shot negating that as well - it's like SWAT/Anti-Terror units training to shoot around hostages. Which, by the way, they actually do - one method I've seen involves a metal silhouette of a hostage with a round plate mounted over it's shoulder or next to it's head. That small plate is the target. The trooper is drilled to draw their weapon and fire multiple rounds into the target without hitting the silhouette. Not easy, but damned impressive one they do it.

Have you ever tried to shoot a bow? They don't work like rifles that use rifling to make the bullet spin so it can overcome the need for the shot to be angled in order to hit. Even the most advanced modern bows use by expert toxologists require skills different to those using a firearm.

I've fired various types of medieval bows and none of them are easy to aim and don't have all the clever sighting mechanisms of modern bows. In addition you might not believe how much upper body strength is required to pull back the string (and I'm not talking about composite bows here either). Even the best archers can miss and missing by a fraction can make a difference when firing at say medium range.

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Lyingbastard wrote:


Unless of course the -4 represents the archer's attempt to shoot around his allies, aim "high", and use a relatively "safe" shooting line - ie someone isn't directly past his target. Meaning if he misses, the arrow whizzes past and hits a wall or lands in the grass or dirt.

In the thick of melee when people are moving all the time. A round is very short period of time (six seconds). He could spend ages trying to aim his hit at -4 and still end up hitting an unintended character. I don't think the -4 rule is particularly well thought out. It's a fudge. A better way is to rely on the skill of the archer and subtract from his to hit -4 but if he misses then he still can hit an unintended character, based on a rule system.


If you really want the chance to hit your allies in a melee situation, or even intervening allies giving your target soft cover, you should take a look at how these things work in GURPS, as it will help you come up with a good start to base house-rules. However, keep in mind, combat in GURPS is much more deadly than it is in d20 systems: an "epic" character with hundreds of sessions of experience is almost as vulnerable to being killed with a single hit as a brand-new character.

Keep in mind, many of the things you may complain about being arbitrary and unrealistic in pfrpg are that way specifically to create an experience of becoming super-humanly powerful as your character becomes more experienced. Tread lightly when saying "this is unrealistic," because after you scrutinize the whole system with this mindset, you are left with nothing.


If the soft cover gives a bonus and the attack missed be cause of cover then the attack stuck cover isn't an unfair ruling. The attack still needs to hit the cover AC to do damage.

As for the "realistic" tag Mr. Fishy still stands on err on the side of logic. Elves can cast spells, but rocks don't roll up hills. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, total denial of basic physical reality and science is some thing else. If you arguement begins with magic or elves you probably don't have an arguement.


My argument has nothing to do with magic. The system is based entirely in unreality, even if your characters don't have, nor ever experience spells, spell-like abilities or supernatural abilities. Simply the idea that characters gain hit points each level is far beyond reality. The most bad-ass ultimate fighter in the world is as sure to die from a sledge-hammer to his head as a pimply-faced 98 lb. teenager. House-rule whatever you want, but just don't look for reality in PFRPG, you won't find it. If you want real, play GURPS, but get used to running away, or get used to dying.

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I'll just say whatever you decide make sure it is consistent. Ranged touch spells should hit other targets (the lich's disintegrate). Melee attacks with reach that miss due to soft cover should hit them (the ogre skewers the worg) etc. Personally, I just think that'd be a lot of work that would slow the game down even more, especially at higher levels where it's already slow enough).

Ranged attacks never have felt realistic to me, so I just hand wave it away. I remember in 3.5 some people calculated the speed of a maxed-out range archer's arrows and they were well past the speed of sound, given that they'd always reach their destination in 6 seconds. So, yea... I avoid that can of worms. O_O


Yes, I have fired a bow. I was at one point good enough to earn an Archery merit badge in scouts, I've used a 60lb draw english-style bow (D shaped yew bowstaff but only 4 foot, not six) to put a bodkin arrow through 18ga mild steel at 30 feet.

A lot of the factors you're mentioned are essentially already included. The moving around and being blocked by your ally? +4 to AC and -4 to strike. Precision Shot means you're a marksman who has concentrated on hitting moving targets (because in game terms, all targets that aren't specifically stationary are moving), or in this case, making a difficult shot. Yes, they're both moving, but not round and round in circles, nor are they identical sizes. Chances are the bobbing and weaving are, like in a boxing match, trending in one direction or another over a relatively small area. If they don't move enough to change squares, then they're stationary enough to draw a bead on. After all, you're not trying to shoot under your friend's armpit to hit their enemy direct in the heart, you're just trying to hit them at all. Essentially, you can take it as read that your character, with their level of experience and feats, is skilled enough to accurately gauge the situation and not act intentionally stupid.

Could I do it? No, I'm very much out of practice. Could a skilled bowman? Absolutely - there are exhibition archers out there who earn their living making ridiculously tricky shots.

There are points where you have to figure all the tiny factors cancel each other out.


I don't think adding the chance of hitting an ally while shooting into melee is a good idea, but a chance to hit soft cover is. Whatever the soft cover is, between you and your target, you could say that on a natural 1, roll to hit it. Or, if you miss the original target's AC, apply that same roll to the soft-cover target, sorcerer beware of my arrow. Something along those lines, as simple as possible.


pusillanimous puker wrote:

Well, the enemy gets +4AC from soft cover.

prd wrote:
Soft Cover: Creatures, even your enemies, can provide you with cover against ranged attacks, giving you a +4 bonus to AC. However, such soft cover provides no bonus on Reflex saves, nor does soft cover allow you to make a Stealth check.

You do not hit your companion on a miss, I don't think that was a rule in 3.5 either. It's a good house-rule, but I would only do it on natural 1's.

So, assuming that the companion was adjacent to the target, and in-between
you and the target, then yes the target gets +4AC, and you would take -4 attack if you do not have precise-shot, so -8 total. Since you have that lovely precise-shot, your target simply gets +4AC.

Hope that helps.

Edit:Here's a link to the combat section of the prd, you'll have to scroll about 3/4 of the way down for cover rules

This might sound like a stupid question, but my interpretation of this rule is that the Player Character who is making the ranged attack takes a -4 based on the fact that their ally is providing the enemy with soft cover. As I read this you don't give the enemy +4 AC and also take a -4 to hit. The two numbers are synonymous. The soft cover rule is invoked because the player character's ally is providing it. The "Shooting or Throwing into Melee" section is a quick summary of the rules that are later explained much more in depth in the "Cover" section of the combat modifiers. Am I wrong on that, or is there really a -8 to hit based on the +4 from soft cover, and the -4 from shooting into melee?

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Mabven the OP healer wrote:
My argument has nothing to do with magic. The system is based entirely in unreality, even if your characters don't have, nor ever experience spells, spell-like abilities or supernatural abilities.

So we suspend some belief in magic, yet even magic has some reference to logic or there would be no range specifiers no damage ranges specified or anything else. Magic still has to follow some essential logic, albeit not real-world logic where we don't have magic, but logic nonetheless.

Mabven the OP healer wrote:


Simply the idea that characters gain hit points each level is far beyond reality. The most bad-ass ultimate fighter in the world is as sure to die from a sledge-hammer to his head as a pimply-faced 98 lb. teenager.

It is and it isn't. Hit points are an abstraction for the progression of the PC by experience of his/her adventures and the things he/she learns therein. They are a measure of the overall temper of the character versus his/her combatants. Now the unreal bit is the fact that the PC is generally a hero/antihero and his/her toughness is partly due to the fact that heroes can and do overcome monsters that the average person could never do. If he/she is hit by a ranged attack he/she takes damage, but not to the extent that an average person would. Call it silly if you like but that is what the game PF is all about - i.e. your characters have the chance to become heroes and in so doing attract the attention of higher powers who love heroes (Examples such as Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Heracles, Perseus, Arthur, Merlin spring to mind). It doesn't make a good yarn if Heracles fell off a cliff and died. Even those heroes that do come to a tragic end are already foretold by the gods that they will do so only when so and so conditions are met (i.e. Achilles, Macbeth), but people still remember Achilles and Macbeth.

Mabven the OP healer wrote:


House-rule whatever you want, but just don't look for reality in PFRPG, you won't find it. If you want real, play GURPS, but get used to running away, or get used to dying.

I'm not even suggesting that we use catastrophic rulings for damage. Critical hits cover that nicely, I just would like to see a little reasonable game realism when it comes to shooting into a melee.

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Lyingbastard wrote:

Yes, I have fired a bow. I was at one point good enough to earn an Archery merit badge in scouts, I've used a 60lb draw english-style bow (D shaped yew bowstaff but only 4 foot, not six) to put a bodkin arrow through 18ga mild steel at 30 feet.

A lot of the factors you're mentioned are essentially already included. The moving around and being blocked by your ally? +4 to AC and -4 to strike. Precision Shot means you're a marksman who has concentrated on hitting moving targets (because in game terms, all targets that aren't specifically stationary are moving), or in this case, making a difficult shot. Yes, they're both moving, but not round and round in circles, nor are they identical sizes. Chances are the bobbing and weaving are, like in a boxing match, trending in one direction or another over a relatively small area. If they don't move enough to change squares, then they're stationary enough to draw a bead on. After all, you're not trying to shoot under your friend's armpit to hit their enemy direct in the heart, you're just trying to hit them at all. Essentially, you can take it as read that your character, with their level of experience and feats, is skilled enough to accurately gauge the situation and not act intentionally stupid.

Could I do it? No, I'm very much out of practice. Could a skilled bowman? Absolutely - there are exhibition archers out there who earn their living making ridiculously tricky shots.

There are points where you have to figure all the tiny factors cancel each other out.

So how do you account for less skilled (feat enhanced) characters should be treated? I have GM'd some players who have done some incredibly rash things in combat. It still doesn't answer the question as to what happens to the erring missile. Are everybody's skills and feats good enough to avoid the off course projectile. I'm not convinced. Besides I'm not saying that the missile that misses it's target should do anything more catastrophic than deal damage to some other creature, and I do agree that GMing extra rules concerning this (esp at high levels) would make combat even more work, but I think archers are getting off too lightly.


Guys, my ranger who can fire multiple arrows in a single draw needs more realistic rules to cover his ability to not hit his friends.

Do you see what might be wrong with this?

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ProfessorCirno wrote:

Guys, my ranger who can fire multiple arrows in a single draw needs more realistic rules to cover his ability to not hit his friends.

Do you see what might be wrong with this?

No a Ranger that can do that is wading in feats anyway so his chance of missing are miniscule, if he does then other rules may apply.


MendedWall12 wrote:

This might sound like a stupid question, but my interpretation of this rule is that the Player Character who is making the ranged attack takes a -4 based on the fact that their ally is providing the enemy with soft cover. As I read this you don't give the enemy +4 AC and also take a -4 to hit. The two numbers are synonymous. ...

Am I wrong on that, or is there really a -8 to hit based on the +4 from soft cover, and the -4 from shooting into melee?

Not a stupid question, but yes, you are wrong.

There is a -4 penalty to hit for shooting at a target who is engaged in melee (the target threatens an enemy or is threatened by an enemy). If you also have a creature standing directly between you, that adds a soft-cover bonus to the targets AC.

One is to account for shooting carefully into a complex situation (melee combat). The other is to account for having to shoot around something in the way (much as you might have trouble shooting around a wall). When both apply, there's not much chance of hitting usually.


Majuba wrote:
MendedWall12 wrote:

This might sound like a stupid question, but my interpretation of this rule is that the Player Character who is making the ranged attack takes a -4 based on the fact that their ally is providing the enemy with soft cover. As I read this you don't give the enemy +4 AC and also take a -4 to hit. The two numbers are synonymous. ...

Am I wrong on that, or is there really a -8 to hit based on the +4 from soft cover, and the -4 from shooting into melee?

Not a stupid question, but yes, you are wrong.

There is a -4 penalty to hit for shooting at a target who is engaged in melee (the target threatens an enemy or is threatened by an enemy). If you also have a creature standing directly between you, that adds a soft-cover bonus to the targets AC.

One is to account for shooting carefully into a complex situation (melee combat). The other is to account for having to shoot around something in the way (much as you might have trouble shooting around a wall). When both apply, there's not much chance of hitting usually.

Which means, without precise shot, there's no point in taking archery feats for 9/10 combat situations presented in the APs, and it significantly weakens archery as a whole. Having a built in -8 to hit, which takes 2 feats (Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot) just to buy down to a -4 effectively, and requiring different ability scores for hit and damage as well as a special weapon type (composite +x) to be even nominally effective, on top of provoking AoO from every shot, seems a bit much.

I'm playing an archer right now, and I've come to accept that there is a fundamental disconnect in the way the rules go about "doing" ranged and melee combat, but in PF there are significant mechanical benefits to being an archer. I accept that RAW it seems -8 is in the cards, but it seems a bit much IMO, and keeps anyone not specialized in ranged combat from being able to use a bow/crossbow/thrown dagger/axe in a clutch situation, which seems unfair.

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meatrace wrote:

Which means, without precise shot, there's no point in taking archery feats for 9/10 combat situations presented in the APs, and it significantly weakens archery as a whole. Having a built in -8 to hit, which takes 2 feats (Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot) just to buy down to a -4 effectively, and requiring different ability scores for hit and damage as well as a special weapon type (composite +x) to be even nominally effective, on top of provoking AoO from every shot, seems a bit much.

I'm playing an archer right now, and I've come to accept that there is a fundamental disconnect in the way the rules go about "doing" ranged and melee combat, but in PF there are significant mechanical benefits to being an archer. I accept that RAW it seems -8 is in the cards, but it seems a bit much IMO, and keeps anyone not specialized in ranged combat from being able to use a bow/crossbow/thrown dagger/axe in a clutch situation, which seems unfair.

Nothing unfair about it. Ranged combat is tricky and requires training, so those not specialized in it shouldn't expect to be that good at it. There are plenty of feats that one can take to do the things you mention, and if you do them ad hoc then you're going to endure the penalty.


Marcus Aurelius wrote:


Nothing unfair about it. Ranged combat is tricky and requires training, so those not specialized in it shouldn't expect to be that good at it. There are plenty of feats that one can take to do the things you mention, and if you do them ad hoc then you're going to endure the penalty.

It does seem unfair to me.

My point is twofold. 1)EVEN those highly specialized in it (PBS, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Many Shot, WF Longbow, WS Longbow, Deadly Aim, etc) garner a penalty making them about as good as a level 1 commoner is at picking up a sword. 2)People who aren't highly specialized should not even ever try, which includes casters trying to use a ranged touch attack, a common tactic made futile without two combat feats.

My argument is that, in the least, precise shot should also negate the AC bonus for soft cover. This is a rule that sort of randomly cropped up recently which none in my gaming group(s) were even aware of, though they were all well aware of the firing into melee penalty. I do realize now that this particular rule is likely the reason for the creation of the new feat Improved Precise Shot, which one can't get until minimum 11th level as a martial character, and common med-BAB classes that take archery such as Bard will not get it until MUCH later.


Seriously, abandon the idea of realism. I do not play for realism, if I wanted a real-life experience, I would role-play 100 hours of weight-lifting and studying arcane tomes for every one hour of adventuring. Add whatever house-rules you think are going to be fun for your group and add to their absorption in the story, but if you worship at the altar of realism, you will spend more time adjudicating the results of a single second of combat than you will advancing the story line and having fun. You want to add a chance to hit an ally who is engaged in melee with your target? Great, do that, but if you want advice on how to achieve that effect realistically, you are playing the wrong game, and you are certainly on the wrong messageboard, as this one is dedicated to the rules as they are in the released material, and not to house-rules. There is a totally separate messageboard for that subject.


Lets not forget that the ally between you and your target is most assuredly not taking up exactly 5 foot x 5 foot x 5 foot of space, just as you aren't and just as the target isn't.

What we have here is a failure to apply the uncertainly principle. We know in general that each of the three creatures are in these 5x5x5 cubes... but not exactly where in relation to the other two creatures at any point in time. So at the time the shot is fired it is quite possible that the target is at the back corner of his square while the ally is in the opposite corner of its square and the archer is along one side of his square completely removing the ally from his attack line.

Since we can't account of the exact spacing instead we use an approximate rule of -4 to hit in melee and +4 to Ac from soft cover, with feats to negate this.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

The reason these penalties exist, by the way, isn't only because we're trying to be super-realistic about cover and the complexity of shooting arrows into melee, but is as much a balancing issue. If you're in melee with a target, that means the target can hit you back.

Being able to inflict damage at dozens or even hundreds of feet away from a target is a pretty good benefit over melee.

I don't expect this to really mollify folks who think the penalties are too high, of course, but it's something to keep in mind when you consider why melee attacks are easier to pull off.

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meatrace wrote:

It does seem unfair to me.

My point is twofold. 1)EVEN those highly specialized in it (PBS, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Many Shot, WF Longbow, WS Longbow, Deadly Aim, etc) garner a penalty making them about as good as a level 1 commoner is at picking up a sword.

Except that said commoner isn't going to fare well against any opponent unless the opponent is another level 1 commoner. I see your point about the archery feats being not equivalent to melee feats, that has been an issue for quite a while. But it is fixable. But that doesn't negate the fact that it is more difficult to use a bow effectively without training. Most commoners could pick up a dagger, for example and do some damage with it against others of his level, but if he'd never used a bow before it would take him a while to get used to handling it and much more training to become good with it. English yeoman, during the middle ages were required by the king's edict to practice with the longbow regularly, just in case they were needed for battle. Yeomen were given no edict in the practice of using swords etc. In fact hand to hand specialists were usually knights and sergeants at arms who were required to practice with martial weapons. Peasants fought with whatever they could get their hands on, and were usually thought of as arrow fodder by the lords.

meatrace wrote:


2)People who aren't highly specialized should not even ever try, which includes casters trying to use a ranged touch attack, a common tactic made futile without two combat feats.

If I remember correctly touch attacks by spellcasters bypass AC and only need to score a normal hit.

meatrace wrote:


My argument is that, in the least, precise shot should also negate the AC bonus for soft cover.

Agreed. There are certainly rules problems facing (highly skilled) ranged attackers at the moment. But you could tweak them for your own game or bring the issue up with the Powers that be at Paizo.

Sovereign Court

Mabven the OP healer wrote:
Seriously, abandon the idea of realism. I do not play for realism, if I wanted a real-life experience, I would role-play 100 hours of weight-lifting and studying arcane tomes for every one hour of adventuring. Add whatever house-rules you think are going to be fun for your group and add to their absorption in the story, but if you worship at the altar of realism, you will spend more time adjudicating the results of a single second of combat than you will advancing the story line and having fun. You want to add a chance to hit an ally who is engaged in melee with your target? Great, do that, but if you want advice on how to achieve that effect realistically, you are playing the wrong game, and you are certainly on the wrong messageboard, as this one is dedicated to the rules as they are in the released material, and not to house-rules. There is a totally separate messageboard for that subject.

Hmm. I wasn't aware that you were a custodian of the posts on this messageboard. Tell you what, if you are, delete the thread, otherwise don't tell me or anyone else how we can and cannot discuss rules. This isn't about house rules, it's about issues that we have with the current rules system for ranged combat. So far you haven't added a single thing of substance except to tell us that we cannot try to maintain a semblance of logic in a fantasy game. We're not talking realism, we are talking about logic as it stands in a fantasy world. If you don't wish to bother with any form of logic in your game then fine. Your opinion was duly noted.

Sovereign Court

James Jacobs wrote:

The reason these penalties exist, by the way, isn't only because we're trying to be super-realistic about cover and the complexity of shooting arrows into melee, but is as much a balancing issue. If you're in melee with a target, that means the target can hit you back.

Being able to inflict damage at dozens or even hundreds of feet away from a target is a pretty good benefit over melee.

I don't expect this to really mollify folks who think the penalties are too high, of course, but it's something to keep in mind when you consider why melee attacks are easier to pull off.

That seems to me to be as good a reason as any for the restrictions on using ranged weapons, but it doesn't help me deal with the issue of what happens to an arrow fired into a melee that misses its intended target. It has to go somewhere.


Marcus Aurelius wrote:


If I remember correctly touch attacks by spellcasters bypass AC and only need to score a normal hit.

Nope, they have to hit a touch AC, which is typically much lower than a normal AC, but with a -4 for firing into melee and a +4 cover bonus to the opponent it becomes nigh impossible. Touch AC includes everything except armor, natural armor, and shield bonuses to AC. Let's examine an average level 7 wizard. I pick level 7 because then he gets Enervation which is a very potent ranged touch spell. Let's even say he has a pretty decent dex of 16 and the +3 BAB from his wizard levels. Touch ACs for monsters tend to be pretty low, but BBEG npcs tend to be decent. With a suitable dex (16 again) and, say, a ring of protection +2, an enemy caster will have a touch AC of 15. As it stands the wizard will hit on a 9 or better, which is decent. Oh but the party fighter is up in the caster's grill, so he has to take a -4 to the attack roll and quite possibly the BBEG also gets a +4 cover bonus to AC which counts towards his touch AC making it 19. Now the wizard can only hit on a 17 or better.

Now, granted, caster PCs who want to specialize in ray spells really ought to take point blank shot and precise shot, just as a fighter who wants to be an archer should take them. However both these conditional penalties, which stack, make it nigh impossible for anyone else to which eliminates a lot of versatility and fun in those roles.

I realize that you're more or less on my side in this I'm really just following through with my thought exercise in the situation and posting my results.


As I have said multiple times, take a look at the GURPS rules for ranged combat, there is a whole sequence of what happens when you fire at someone in combat and with other people intervening, all of which may be hit accidentally by your shot. I am sure with a little imagination you could adapt those rules to work in your pathfinder game. You may or may not like how that system handles it, but it is a place to start to achieve the result you seem to be striving for.

I do actually enjoy realism in role-playing games, but to scratch that itch, I play GURPS. It has a very different feeling, and combat creates a much more visceral reaction of fear, as death is always just a second away. But, when I want to feel epic, powerful and god-like, I play pathfinder, because that is what it is good for.

Also, my comment that you are on the wrong messageboard is not to be mean or try to tell you what to do, but to try and direct you to a forum where you might find people discussing the very subject with enthusiasm and practical advice.


James Jacobs wrote:

The reason these penalties exist, by the way, isn't only because we're trying to be super-realistic about cover and the complexity of shooting arrows into melee, but is as much a balancing issue. If you're in melee with a target, that means the target can hit you back.

Being able to inflict damage at dozens or even hundreds of feet away from a target is a pretty good benefit over melee.

I don't expect this to really mollify folks who think the penalties are too high, of course, but it's something to keep in mind when you consider why melee attacks are easier to pull off.

I understand this and mostly I agree. Even with these penalties the changes to PF have made archery a powerful damage dealing build as it logically should be. It just seems that, rationally, you're double-penalizing archers. The penalty to hit someone engaged in melee seems to come from the same thought process as that for the cover i.e. someone is in the way.

It would be the same if the rationale for power attack to hit penalty was a sort of reckless swing, and since its a reckless swing opponents also get a dodge bonus against it.

This on top of the other built-in penalties I've mentioned in previous posts means you have to HYPER specialize in archery to make it as effective as a melee fighter with a greatsword does with just power attack and cleave, and the only tangible benefit is being less likely to be hit IN MELEE, something wizards of a moderate level take for granted.

It's silly to argue reality in the face of game balance so I won't do so, and I agree balance should almost always trump realism. However, from a more simulationist perspective it makes sense that ranged weapons and reach weapons would be favored because they don't put you in harms way as much, but the piling on of penalties I imagine leads to a trend where only number crunching power gamers (like myself) who know how to game the system to eke out every last point of hit, can make it work.

Sovereign Court

meatrace wrote:
Marcus Aurelius wrote:


If I remember correctly touch attacks by spellcasters bypass AC and only need to score a normal hit.

Nope, they have to hit a touch AC, which is typically much lower than a normal AC, but with a -4 for firing into melee and a +4 cover bonus to the opponent it becomes nigh impossible. Touch AC includes everything except armor, natural armor, and shield bonuses to AC. Let's examine an average level 7 wizard. I pick level 7 because then he gets Enervation which is a very potent ranged touch spell. Let's even say he has a pretty decent dex of 16 and the +3 BAB from his wizard levels. Touch ACs for monsters tend to be pretty low, but BBEG npcs tend to be decent. With a suitable dex (16 again) and, say, a ring of protection +2, an enemy caster will have a touch AC of 15. As it stands the wizard will hit on a 9 or better, which is decent. Oh but the party fighter is up in the caster's grill, so he has to take a -4 to the attack roll and quite possibly the BBEG also gets a +4 cover bonus to AC which counts towards his touch AC making it 19. Now the wizard can only hit on a 17 or better.

Now, granted, caster PCs who want to specialize in ray spells really ought to take point blank shot and precise shot, just as a fighter who wants to be an archer should take them. However both these conditional penalties, which stack, make it nigh impossible for anyone else to which eliminates a lot of versatility and fun in those roles.

I wasn't aware of the ranged touch attack penalty, was that always in 3.5ed. or is it new to PF? For the life of me I'm sure we played it simply that it bypassed AC, it just needed to touch on a normal ranged attack roll, like a hand to hand touch attack. At least that's how we play it and it works out fine. Now if someone is obscuring the spellcaster's aim that's a different issue entirely.

meatrace wrote:


I realize that you're more or less on my side in this I'm really just following through with my thought exercise in the situation and posting my results.

Me too. Sometimes it's interesting to think through the logic behind rules, because if you don't you can be sure your players will ;) It is, however, a mightily difficult job trying to assure game balance, and I think PF is on the whole better in most ways than 3.5ed. Still, I imagine the Paizo PTB get to read our problems with the rules being played on the ground by GM's across the globe and maybe these discussions help them think about balance in future releases of the game.


I'll just point out that Improved Precise Shot is available to Rangers (the archtypical archers of the game) as early as 6th level, and without having to take Point Blank Shot. If you want to be good at archery, this is how you do it.

Sovereign Court

Mabven the OP healer wrote:


Also, my comment that you are on the wrong messageboard is not to be mean or try to tell you what to do, but to try and direct you to a forum where you might find people discussing the very subject with enthusiasm and practical advice.

OK I'll bite. So far this particular thread has been in your own very words a discussion "with enthusiasm and practical advice.". Are you reading the same posts I am. Debate is about disagreement and an attempt to find common understanding about a rule that we have an issue with, albeit in different ways. Note I said a rule. I am not telling people they should change the rules, and I certainly have no influence over what Paizo does or does not with its own system. But you are, with extreme effrontery, telling me and others that we are not discussing the issues concerning a published rule and are on the wrong messageboard! Are you on the same planet?

First you come in telling us all that we cannot use realism or rather apply logic to situations we believe require them, and when you lose that argument, and start telling us we are talking about houserules (when in fact we are simply saying we approach a rule "such and such" a way in our own games because we have a problem with the said rule).

Tell me. In your GURPs world, do apples fall off trees or do they float, does water flow uphill? I doubt it. So there is a kind of logic even in your GURPS world.

No-one can tell you what to write, but all you have managed to do is insult myself and other posters by telling us we aren't discussing the right thing in the right forum. Well it may be news to you, but we are so get used to it.


Marcus Aurelius wrote:
I wasn't aware of the ranged touch attack penalty, was that always in 3.5ed. or is it new to PF? For the life of me I'm sure we played it simply that it bypassed AC, it just needed to touch on a normal ranged attack roll, like a hand to hand touch attack. At least that's how we play it and it works out fine. Now if someone is obscuring the spellcaster's aim that's a different issue entirely.

I'm really confused and not sure what you're asking here. A touch attack is an attack against the target's touch AC, which is his normal AC minus armor, nat armor, and shield bonuses. It has always been such since 3.0, 10 years ago. Ranged touch attacks are also ranged attacks, and therefore incur benefits and penalties as such, which include the -4 for firing into melee and if someone is further in the way they get the +4 cover bonus to armor class.

Your language is very confusing. You use the terms "bypassed AC" if it bypassed AC you wouldn't need any attack roll, "needed to touch on a normal ranged attack roll", yes a ranged attack roll against the target's touch AC. Are you just unaware of the penalties for using a touch attack SPELL into melee, or were we not connecting on our earlier discussion of the difficulties of firing physical weapons into the same scenario?

EDIT: Upon closer inspection, it may be that not all ranged touch spells or effects garner penalties to attack and have targets that benefit from soft cover. Rays however, like the ray from Enervation, do.


Well, I in no way am trying to insult you, but this is text, and tone does not come across very well, so I will put it very explicitly. I am very sorry you feel insulted, I was simply trying to contribute to the conversation, but it seems I have failed. I do not wish to win an argument, but to add whatever I can from my own experience. This is obviously not useful to you, so I again apologize for disrupting your conversation on the subject.


The fact is that most of the posters here have no clue about archery I am guessing. When you hunt you don't aim at the whole deer or bear or whatever. You hit a target the size of a pie plate or smaller. I was an average archer at the local club here, and at less than 30 feet hardly ever missed by more than 3-5 inches if I missed at all. We hunted rabbit and birds as well as fish. All of these were moving targets and could easily be taken by amateurs. The penalties seem realistic to me, and I have no problem hitting a soft cover target when I roll a 1, but not on just any miss. You pick your shot, and a miss in melee means you hit armor or flew wide, high, low, or something else harmless.

Not all rules can be realistic, no matter what the game. Sometimes arrows break the sound barrier.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Marcus Aurelius wrote:
That seems to me to be as good a reason as any for the restrictions on using ranged weapons, but it doesn't help me deal with the issue of what happens to an arrow fired into a melee that misses its intended target. It has to go somewhere.

It does... but combat's already complicated enough. Tracking where arrows land or what they hit if they miss is too much extra fiddly work for my taste. It certainly doesn't add enough fun to the game to justify the extra work.

In any case... try not to get too defensive or insulting. It's just a game, after all! It's supposed to be fun, not stressful! :-)


James Jacobs wrote:

It does... but combat's already complicated enough. Tracking where arrows land or what they hit if they miss is too much extra fiddly work for my taste. It certainly doesn't add enough fun to the game to justify the extra work.

In any case... try not to get too defensive or insulting. It's just a game, after all! It's supposed to be fun, not stressful! :-)

Which reminds me of my other argument against these compounding penalties. Archery is also inordinately fiddly work. In melee? -4 to attack. Precise shot? Nevermind that penalty. Intervening creature(s)? +4 to their AC. Within 30 feet? +1 to hit and damage. Range increments, rapid shot, and deadly aim yikes!

Just sayin :)

Sovereign Court

Mabven the OP healer wrote:
Well, I in no way am trying to insult you, but this is text, and tone does not come across very well, so I will put it very explicitly. I am very sorry you feel insulted, I was simply trying to contribute to the conversation, but it seems I have failed. I do not wish to win an argument, but to add whatever I can from my own experience. This is obviously not useful to you, so I again apologize for disrupting your conversation on the subject.

Apology accepted. It just felt like you were telling us what we could and could not debate. I did, if you remember answer your worry that hitting other party members does not need to be catastrophic like it appears to be in GURPS (Which for the record I haven't played). PF and all D&D has been about heroes and antiheroes winning the day. That's what makes it fun. I have played something similar called Chivalry and Sorcery and that was much more dangerous, but then that particular game was firmly based in the medieval world with sorcery tacked on, therefore it's combat was more deadly. Nevertheless rules still need to be logical and fair for the sake of game balance. But high powered characters would rarely be killed by a low level creatures in PF due to the fact that the rule system doesn't promote this.

Game balance means simply that every character class and every monster with the same CR are equivalent in power. The hardest thing for any game designer is trading off powers between character classes to equalize them. Now if you love role playing, everyone should get a chance to shine. Hack and slash style games have always favored the fighters. This is the nub of the difficulty. Every group plays PF in different ways (so sometimes a GM needs to tailor the rules to fit his/her own game with fairness to all players). Its a tall order to fill.

Sovereign Court

meatrace wrote:
Marcus Aurelius wrote:
I wasn't aware of the ranged touch attack penalty, was that always in 3.5ed. or is it new to PF? For the life of me I'm sure we played it simply that it bypassed AC, it just needed to touch on a normal ranged attack roll, like a hand to hand touch attack. At least that's how we play it and it works out fine. Now if someone is obscuring the spellcaster's aim that's a different issue entirely.

I'm really confused and not sure what you're asking here. A touch attack is an attack against the target's touch AC, which is his normal AC minus armor, nat armor, and shield bonuses. It has always been such since 3.0, 10 years ago. Ranged touch attacks are also ranged attacks, and therefore incur benefits and penalties as such, which include the -4 for firing into melee and if someone is further in the way they get the +4 cover bonus to armor class.

Your language is very confusing. You use the terms "bypassed AC" if it bypassed AC you wouldn't need any attack roll, "needed to touch on a normal ranged attack roll", yes a ranged attack roll against the target's touch AC. Are you just unaware of the penalties for using a touch attack SPELL into melee, or were we not connecting on our earlier discussion of the difficulties of firing physical weapons into the same scenario?

EDIT: Upon closer inspection, it may be that not all ranged touch spells or effects garner penalties to attack and have targets that benefit from soft cover. Rays however, like the ray from Enervation, do.

Sorry I didn't intend to mean that touch attacks gained automatic hits, I meant they just needed to be able to touch the target for the effect to work. Can you tell I'm getting tired ;)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

meatrace wrote:

Which reminds me of my other argument against these compounding penalties. Archery is also inordinately fiddly work. In melee? -4 to attack. Precise shot? Nevermind that penalty. Intervening creature(s)? +4 to their AC. Within 30 feet? +1 to hit and damage. Range increments, rapid shot, and deadly aim yikes!

Just sayin :)

Which is why tracking where arrows land is the proverbial back-breaking straw. There's already enough going on with ranged combat.

Sovereign Court

James Jacobs wrote:
Marcus Aurelius wrote:
That seems to me to be as good a reason as any for the restrictions on using ranged weapons, but it doesn't help me deal with the issue of what happens to an arrow fired into a melee that misses its intended target. It has to go somewhere.

It does... but combat's already complicated enough. Tracking where arrows land or what they hit if they miss is too much extra fiddly work for my taste. It certainly doesn't add enough fun to the game to justify the extra work.

In any case... try not to get too defensive or insulting. It's just a game, after all! It's supposed to be fun, not stressful! :-)

I was trying very hard not to be insulting, but the tone taken by the poster in question was rather clumsy. I was being overly defensive, and you are right that the game is supposed to be fun, but when you have a group of highly intelligent players to manage it can also get very stressful, which is why I come to these boards for advice ;)

Anyway I have my answer and understand your reasoning behind it. It is true that it would add extra overhead to the published rules. I'll stick with my house rule on this to mollify my players.

Please accept my apologies for anything untoward I said earlier, and I have accepted his too.


The problem with demands of realism is that they're also so very specific.

Archers need to worry about hitting other people at a distance, but monks can punch through armor? Archers are given a completely random chance of hitting their ally, but people in melee have zero chance of missing and hitting their own allies on the side?

Demands for realism are never about realism, because it's never made to go both ways. It's the same thing that happens to crossbows and guns. Sure, force crossbows to have long, unusable loading times (for realism)...but continue allowing archers to fire three arrows from a single shot (because it's fantasy!)

It's a fantasy games. Allow things to be fantastic.


There is also the fact that an archer in a game like this, like one in a fantasy novel, is not just skilled at firing a bow; its his/her job, at the very least. Its not like someone that fired a bow a few times, or even a casual bow hunter. You life depends on you making your shots, and you train every day.
If you look at it that way, it may help. I agree overall that its just too much of a pain to track every fired arrow; my group uses natural ones as fumbles..thats enough for me.

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