Delivering touch attacks with natural weapons


Rules Questions


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Say I have claws as a natural weapon (e.g., I'm a shapeshifter ranger, or something similar).

Say also that I want to deliver a spell or spell-like ability that requires a touch attack (like shocking grasp or the shadow bloodline's shadowstrike ability).

Can I simply make a regular (non-touch) attack, and if I hit, the target takes the normal damage from my claws plus the effects of the spell? Or do I have to choose one or the other: claw attack or touch spell, but not both?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Michael Gentry wrote:

Say I have claws as a natural weapon (e.g., I'm a shapeshifter ranger, or something similar).

Say also that I want to deliver a spell or spell-like ability that requires a touch attack (like shocking grasp or the shadow bloodline's shadowstrike ability).

Can I simply make a regular (non-touch) attack, and if I hit, the target takes the normal damage from my claws plus the effects of the spell? Or do I have to choose one or the other: claw attack or touch spell, but not both?

You make an attack with the natural attack, if you hit you do damage for the attack and the spell is discharged into the target hit. Just remember you have to be 'holding the charge' IE have cast the spell previous to this attack, and that if you touch anything else the spell goes off.

"Holding the Charge: If you don't discharge the spell in the round when you cast the spell, you can hold the charge indefinitely. You can continue to make touch attacks round after round. If you touch anything or anyone while holding a charge, even unintentionally, the spell discharges. If you cast another spell, the touch spell dissipates. You can touch one friend as a standard action or up to six friends as a full-round action. Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge. In this case, you aren't considered armed and you provoke attacks of opportunity as normal for the attack. If your unarmed attack or natural weapon attack normally doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity, neither does this attack. If the attack hits, you deal normal damage for your unarmed attack or natural weapon and the spell discharges. If the attack misses, you are still holding the charge."


Michael Gentry wrote:

Say I have claws as a natural weapon (e.g., I'm a shapeshifter ranger, or something similar).

Say also that I want to deliver a spell or spell-like ability that requires a touch attack (like shocking grasp or the shadow bloodline's shadowstrike ability).

Can I simply make a regular (non-touch) attack, and if I hit, the target takes the normal damage from my claws plus the effects of the spell? Or do I have to choose one or the other: claw attack or touch spell, but not both?

The claw attack and the touch attack target different ACs.

If you had an ability like magus spellstrike you could use the spell through your melee attack (provided the melee attack actually hit)

It's interesting to think about tho.
If you had say a shocking grasp ready to release, and your claw attack didnt get through armor, but your attack 'touched the target' could you release the shocking grasp anyway?


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

Yes, you can do what you are saying.
For Holding the Charge that is 100% clear, the rules specifically discuss this.
For non-Held Charge Spells/SLAs, like Calcific Touch (which let you make 1 touch attack 1/round for duration)
it´s not as clear given the RAW on this (that Kolokotrani quotes) is under the ´Holding the Charge´ sub-section.

Calcific Touch options:

  • allow using Unarmed/Natural Attack to deliver effect, just like Held Charge spells
    (even though it isn´t subject to Held Charge rules, i.e. it doesn´t end if you cast a Spell)
  • treat as a Touch Attack like Monsters have listed on their Attack lines, which could be used in COMBO with normal attacks as a primary or 2ndary attack (though it doesn´t specifiy if it is normally a primary attack in the first place).
  • something completely different, and certainly not described well by the rules

    Koloko´s quoted the line:

    Quote:
    If you touch anything or anyone while holding a charge, even unintentionally, the spell discharges.

    Which I personally think is hugely unhelpful a line, ESPECIALLY given the rules are rather vague in many corner areas, as above. Does this mean moving, i.e. stepping on a new stone paver in the floor, discharges the spell? Nowhere does it give a physical localization of where the charge is, so there´s no reason to think that would´t count. Likewise, do Held Charges discharge if you are attacked? Who knows, that seems in line with normal English though.

    So I just ignore that line, and don´t find that doing so really makes the other parts not work.
    (any less than the problems they already have)


  • Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
    Quandary wrote:

    Yes, you can do what you are saying.

    I´m saying that as somebody who thinks many of areas of the Touch Attack wording could be cleaned up alot,
    but what you´re asking is pretty much 100% clear-cut.

    Cool, thanks. I thought there was a rule somewhere in the PRD, but I just couldn't find it.


    Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
    Pendagast wrote:
    Michael Gentry wrote:

    Say I have claws as a natural weapon (e.g., I'm a shapeshifter ranger, or something similar).

    Say also that I want to deliver a spell or spell-like ability that requires a touch attack (like shocking grasp or the shadow bloodline's shadowstrike ability).

    Can I simply make a regular (non-touch) attack, and if I hit, the target takes the normal damage from my claws plus the effects of the spell? Or do I have to choose one or the other: claw attack or touch spell, but not both?

    The claw attack and the touch attack target different ACs.

    If you had an ability like magus spellstrike you could use the spell through your melee attack (provided the melee attack actually hit)

    It's interesting to think about tho.
    If you had say a shocking grasp ready to release, and your claw attack didnt get through armor, but your attack 'touched the target' could you release the shocking grasp anyway?

    By raw no.

    "Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge...If the attack misses, you are still holding the charge."


    Kolokotroni wrote:
    Pendagast wrote:
    Michael Gentry wrote:

    Say I have claws as a natural weapon (e.g., I'm a shapeshifter ranger, or something similar).

    Say also that I want to deliver a spell or spell-like ability that requires a touch attack (like shocking grasp or the shadow bloodline's shadowstrike ability).

    Can I simply make a regular (non-touch) attack, and if I hit, the target takes the normal damage from my claws plus the effects of the spell? Or do I have to choose one or the other: claw attack or touch spell, but not both?

    The claw attack and the touch attack target different ACs.

    If you had an ability like magus spellstrike you could use the spell through your melee attack (provided the melee attack actually hit)

    It's interesting to think about tho.
    If you had say a shocking grasp ready to release, and your claw attack didnt get through armor, but your attack 'touched the target' could you release the shocking grasp anyway?

    By raw no.

    "Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge...If the attack misses, you are still holding the charge."

    Kolokotroni is correct that by RAW it is not possible for it to work this way.

    However, it does make sense to play it by levels of success. If your attack total is high enough to hit their touch AC but not their regular AC then you managed to touch them, just not get damage from your attack through.
    If you hit their regular AC then you touched them and got through their defenses to damage them with the attack.
    This is how I describe things happening in combat. If an attack is good enough to hit the target's touch AC but not high enough to get through their armor then I tell them that it glanced off of their opponent's armor.


    DrDew wrote:
    Kolokotroni wrote:
    Pendagast wrote:
    Michael Gentry wrote:

    Say I have claws as a natural weapon (e.g., I'm a shapeshifter ranger, or something similar).

    Say also that I want to deliver a spell or spell-like ability that requires a touch attack (like shocking grasp or the shadow bloodline's shadowstrike ability).

    Can I simply make a regular (non-touch) attack, and if I hit, the target takes the normal damage from my claws plus the effects of the spell? Or do I have to choose one or the other: claw attack or touch spell, but not both?

    The claw attack and the touch attack target different ACs.

    If you had an ability like magus spellstrike you could use the spell through your melee attack (provided the melee attack actually hit)

    It's interesting to think about tho.
    If you had say a shocking grasp ready to release, and your claw attack didnt get through armor, but your attack 'touched the target' could you release the shocking grasp anyway?

    By raw no.

    "Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge...If the attack misses, you are still holding the charge."

    Kolokotroni is correct that by RAW it is not possible for it to work this way.

    However, it does make sense to play it by levels of success. If your attack total is high enough to hit their touch AC but not their regular AC then you managed to touch them, just not get damage from your attack through.
    If you hit their regular AC then you touched them and got through their defenses to damage them with the attack.
    This is how I describe things happening in combat. If an attack is good enough to hit the target's touch AC but not high enough to get through their armor then I tell them that it glanced off of their opponent's armor.

    ya bet can he then release his held shocking grasp?


    DrDew wrote:


    However, it does make sense to play it by levels of success. If your attack total is high enough to hit their touch AC but not their regular AC then you managed to touch them, just not get damage from your attack through.
    If you hit their regular AC then you touched them and got through their defenses to damage them with the attack.
    This is how I describe things happening in combat. If an attack is good enough to hit the target's touch AC but not high enough to get through their armor then I tell them that it glanced off of their opponent's armor.

    that makes sense to me, too. a related issue came up in my game a few times. what happens to a held charge on a succeful comat maneuver check like grapple (or just being in a grapple), bullrush, overrun or trip (unarmed)? yet another blind spot so far...


    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
    Darth_Slanderous wrote:
    a related issue came up in my game a few times. what happens to a held charge on a succeful comat maneuver check like grapple (or just being in a grapple), bullrush, overrun or trip (unarmed)? yet another blind spot so far...

    All of those strike me as clear cases of "touching."


    SO, I know this is an old thread, but I have a very specific, very similar scenario, and I didn't want to clutter up the forum making a new thread.

    Bone Oracle with the Death's Touch Revelation gets a touch attack class ability. It's not an SLA, it's not a spell, but it is still a supernatural ability. The big crux is that I don't think it's a "held charge" ability, since it describes it as a "standard action."
    Claws from the Eldritch Heritage (Abyssal) feat.

    The upshot here is that my DM is willing to negotiate, and has already finger-wiggled that I could, in theory, use the touch attack in a Full Attack action, with normal iterative and TWF penalties.

    Mostly, I'm looking for opinions to establish a line of reasoning to go either direction.


    Zarius wrote:

    SO, I know this is an old thread, but I have a very specific, very similar scenario, and I didn't want to clutter up the forum making a new thread.

    Bone Oracle with the Death's Touch Revelation gets a touch attack class ability. It's not an SLA, it's not a spell, but it is still a supernatural ability. The big crux is that I don't think it's a "held charge" ability, since it describes it as a "standard action."
    Claws from the Eldritch Heritage (Abyssal) feat.

    The upshot here is that my DM is willing to negotiate, and has already finger-wiggled that I could, in theory, use the touch attack in a Full Attack action, with normal iterative and TWF penalties.

    Mostly, I'm looking for opinions to establish a line of reasoning to go either direction.

    Doesn't work. As a SU (Supernatural ability) they are strictly standard actions unless stated to be otherwise. General rule vs Specific Exception. As such you are using either the SU or making a full round attack. Touch attacks are pretty potent in that they allow you to ignore significant defenses (armor, natural armor, shield - what most creatures rely on) and being combined is pretty rare. There may be one or two situations in PFRPG where they are, but I cannot honestly think of one off the top of my head (the only thing that comes to mind is 3.5 spell which everyone considered broken).


    Yeah, that's basically what my GM and I concluded. However, the SPECIFIC fight I was asking about is a monk, so AC = Touch AC unless he chugs a potion of BS or MA.


    Zarius wrote:
    Yeah, that's basically what my GM and I concluded. However, the SPECIFIC fight I was asking about is a monk, so AC = Touch AC unless he chugs a potion of BS or MA.

    Irrelevant, you cannot base a game on corner cases, it ends up convoluted and difficult to maintain.


    Yeah, he and I pretty much ended up agreeing on that, too, so good to have it settled.

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