Magus: spellstrike and combat maneuvers


Rules Questions


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A friend of mine came up with a question: can a magus that is holding the charge make a combat maneuver and doing so also deliver his helded spell. Like, if I have shocking grasp and I trip my opponent, do I deliver the spell as well?

Sczarni

You do with Sunder, but I'm uncertain with Trip or Disarm because those maneuvers normally don't deal damage on their own.

Sczarni

Also, any of those three maneuvers can be made in place of a melee attack, so no need to hold the charge.


I would say you can, for any maneuver that is weapon-based.

HOWEVER, I would treat it as discharging by touching the opponent, as opposed to landing a solid, melee hit on them. And thus you would *not* get the weapon's crit range as a benefit. Note that, as far as I know... maneuvers always "crit" on a 20 only, regardless of the weapon's properties. And while sunder, unlike all other maneuvers, actually deals hit point damage that could potentially benefit from a crit... it's targeting an object, which you cannot critical hit. And the spell would be targeting the object just as the attack did, not the creature holding/carrying it.

So the normal benefit of spellstrike, using the weapon's crit range, would not apply. Arguably, you can't crit with the spell at all when delivering a spell strike via a maneuver.


I'm not interested in critical. I would like to understand that part. With spellstrike I can deliver the spell via weapon, if I can do it with maneuvers I add the bonus of the weapon of applicable with the maneuver I'm trying. I imagine that the question is more general: can you perform a combat maneuver with a helded touch spell discharging it?


I see no reason why not, so long as the combat maneuver states that it substitutes for an attack. So, disarm, sunder, or trip should work, so long as you're using the weapon to do it (and thus risking reversal, in the case of disarm and trip).


Blackstorm wrote:
I'm not interested in critical. I would like to understand that part. With spellstrike I can deliver the spell via weapon, if I can do it with maneuvers I add the bonus of the weapon of applicable with the maneuver I'm trying. I imagine that the question is more general: can you perform a combat maneuver with a helded touch spell discharging it?

I would say yes.

In any case, the answer to that and the spellstrike-held example in the OP should be the same for everyone, either yes for both or no for both.


StreamOfTheSky wrote:

I would say yes.

In any case, the answer to that and the spellstrike-held example in the OP should be the same for everyone, either yes for both or no for both.

Obviously. Anyway I suppose I have to ask to my dm. Seems no clear rules here. So i'll let to adjudicate this rule to him.


From what I recall, energy attacks only deal 1/2 damage to objects so using a touch spell to sunder an object is unlikely assuming 1/2 damage and object hardness.

Sczarni

Indeed, but if you're Sundering with an Adamantine weapon, which you should be, you ignore hardness less than 20 and only have to deal with half energy damage.

Paizo Employee Design Manager

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Hmmm... The Tripping Staff feat says "Special: If you are a magus with the staff magus archetype, you can use spellstrike on any trip combat maneuver you make with the staff."
This would kind of imply that normally you could not deliver a spell via a trip attempt.


Ssalarn wrote:

Hmmm... The Tripping Staff feat says "Special: If you are a magus with the staff magus archetype, you can use spellstrike on any trip combat maneuver you make with the staff."

This would kind of imply that normally you could not deliver a spell via a trip attempt.

True, such statements usually mention an exception to a rule--but not always. In a case where the language states that you can do something and a redundancy implies that you cannot, I'll go with the statement over the implication unless there's a compelling reason to do otherwise.

Dark Archive

You can definitely use spellstrike with disarm, trip, or sunder attempts. That tripping staff business wouldn't be the only piece of dead rules text in Pathfinder. It was likely designed by a freelancer who didn't realize that this trick could be done with the rules anyway, and then missed in editing. The disarm magus is actually a favourite build of mine.

Important to note: sunder will discharge the spell effect on the item sundered (as the rules for sunder specifically designate that the weapon takes the damage), whereas disarm and trip will discharge it against the targeted creature.

Also important to note: combat maneuver checks are attack rolls. When you use a weapon, feat, spell, or class ability that modifies an attack roll in some way, it affects your CMB in the same way it would a normal attack. Thus, your weapon's crit range absolutely applies, as does your bonus to hit against metal with shocking grasp, etc. Any GM who says otherwise is enforcing a house rule.


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As far as I know, the question of delivering touch spells through maneuvers has never been definitivly answered. It's not just a question for the magus, anyone can deliver touch spells through an unarmed strike, and use an unarmed strike to perform a maneuver.

The critical rule is CRB p. 186: "Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge." Your answer will mostly hinge on how you read "normal" in that context. Is a trip maneuver a normal attack? Some think yes, some think no, I know of no official answer.

A Magus with spellstrike has it a bit easier to argue his part, as spellstrike says "...a magus can make one free melee attack with his weapon (at his highest base attack bonus) as part of casting this spell." No "normal" there. However, the next sentence goes "If successful, this melee attack deals its normal damage as well as the effects of the spell." That makes it clear that an attack that deals damage was meant, which Trip and Disarm are not.
So it's up to the DM. Personally, I'd say the devellopers didn't think of this option when designing those rules. So don't try to interprete to much into the text.

Regarding spellstrike with sunder, I see no reason to believe that the spell wouldn't be subject to hardness when delivered through an adamantine weapon. The hardness would not apply to the weapon damage, but it would apply to the spell, because those are two different things. It would be like claiming that because energy damage ignores Damage Reduction, a weapon delivering an energy spell should ignore a monsters damage reduction for its weapon damage. Not so, those are two separate damages, and they should be checked separately for resistances, hardness, DR etc. I'd even say that if there is a touch spell that does damage suseptable to DR (don't know if there is), delievering it to an enemy with DR would mean the DR reduces the weapon damage and the spell damage separately.

Regarding the question of whether the critical range applies, opinions are devided. The spellstrike text says "This attack uses the weapon’s
critical range". "This attack", however, relates to the free melee weapon attack, it seems, and a maneuver attack doesn't seem to have a critical hit - it is an automatic success on a 20, but there is nothing about confirmation rolls etc, and it is not called a critical hit or threat, only a success. What happens on a 20 in a meneuver has its own text passage, so you can say the normal crit rules for attacks do not apply, being overwritten in this case, or still apply and this passage is just restating the general rule. Who knows.
So the question whether a maneuver delivering a touch spell, if possible, can crit, is so far beyond what the rules talk about that it is esoteric. Ask your DM or hope for an FAQ. But don't tell me the rules are clear one way or the other.

Dark Archive

harzerkatze wrote:

As far as I know, the question of delivering touch spells through maneuvers has never been definitivly answered. It's not just a question for the magus, anyone can deliver touch spells through an unarmed strike, and use an unarmed strike to perform a maneuver.

The critical rule is CRB p. 186: "Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge." Your answer will mostly hinge on how you read "normal" in that context. Is a trip maneuver a normal attack? Some think yes, some think no, I know of no official answer.

Eh, I guess I can see why people think that's ambiguous, but a "normal" unarmed attack can be used to make maneuvers, so whether the trip itself constitutes normal seems irrelevant to me. An official answer would be nice either way, I suppose.

harzerkatze wrote:

A Magus with spellstrike has it a bit easier to argue his part, as spellstrike says "...a magus can make one free melee attack with his weapon (at his highest base attack bonus) as part of casting this spell." No "normal" there. However, the next sentence goes "If successful, this melee attack deals its normal damage as well as the effects of the spell." That makes it clear that an attack that deals damage was meant, which Trip and Disarm are not.

So it's up to the DM. Personally, I'd say the devellopers didn't think of this option when designing those rules. So don't try to interprete to much into the text.

I'm not drawing the same conclusion here as you at all. "If successful, this melee attack deals its normal damage as well as the effects of the spell" doesn't in any way imply that the attack deals damage, only that damage is a likely enough outcome to warrant mentioning. The normal damage for an attack that doesn't deal damage is zero. It's entirely possible the developers didn't consider combat maneuvers too heavily when designing the magus, but there doesn't seem to be any ambiguity in the rules.

harzerkatze wrote:
Regarding spellstrike with sunder, I see no reason to believe that the spell wouldn't be subject to hardness when delivered through an adamantine weapon. The hardness would not apply to the weapon damage, but it would apply to the spell, because those are two different things. It would be like claiming that because energy damage ignores Damage Reduction, a weapon delivering an energy spell should ignore a monsters damage reduction for its weapon damage. Not so, those are two separate damages, and they should be checked separately for resistances, hardness, DR etc. I'd even say that if there is a touch spell that does damage suseptable to DR (don't know if there is), delievering it to an enemy with DR would mean the DR reduces the weapon damage and the spell damage separately.

I agree 100% with this. The spell should be subject to hardness. This is true when using spellstrike with a non-maneuver attack against an animated object, and there's nothing to indicate it wouldn't be true when sundering.

harzerkatze wrote:

Regarding the question of whether the critical l range applies, opinions are devided. The spellstrike text says "This attack uses the weapon’s critical range". "This attack", however, relates to the free melee weapon attack, it seems, and a maneuver attack doesn't seem to have a critical hit - it is an automatic success on a 20, but there is nothing about confirmation rolls etc, and it is not called a critical hit or threat, only a success. What happens on a 20 in a meneuver has its own text passage, so you can say the normal crit rules for attacks do not apply, being overwritten in this case, or still apply and this passage is just restating the general rule. Who knows.

So the question whether a maneuver delivering a touch spell, if possible, can crit, is so far beyond what the rules talk about that it is esoteric. Ask your DM or hope for an FAQ. But don't tell me the rules are clear one way or the other.

I actually don't think the rules could be clearer on this.

From the rules on combat maneuver bonuses (emphasis mine): "When you attempt to perform a combat maneuver, make an attack roll and add your CMB in place of your normal attack bonus. Add any bonuses you currently have on attack rolls due to spells, feats, and other effects. These bonuses must be applicable to the weapon or attack used to perform the maneuver. The DC of this maneuver is your target's Combat Maneuver Defense. Combat maneuvers are attack rolls, so you must roll for concealment and take any other penalties that would normally apply to an attack roll."

From the rules on attack rolls (again, emphasis mine): A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on an attack roll is always a miss. A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a hit. A natural 20 is also a threat—a possible critical hit (see the attack action).

From the rules on critical hits: Sometimes your threat range is greater than 20. That is, you can score a threat on a lower number. In such cases, a roll of lower than 20 is not an automatic hit. Any attack roll that doesn't result in a hit is not a threat.

The rules reiterate the text about natural 1s and 20s in the combat maneuver section, but not the part about natural 20s. This is unsurprising because under normal combat maneuver rules (sunder and certain grapple checks notwithstanding) threatening a critical hit doesn't actually do anything. The possibility of critting with a maneuever nevertheless exists since CMB checks are explicitly attack rolls and use the rules thereof.

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