What is a Free Hand? (and TWF Precise Strike)

Rules Questions

2 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

The concept of a "free hand" still raises questions. I believe that a "free hand" means an empty hand, a hand literally not holding anything. So, the hand you used for spellcasting and/or unarmed strikes is free, and if you use is to Deflect Arrows, it's still a free hand for Crane Wing.

My first argument is the first occurrence of the concept of a free hand: the Deflect Arrows feat from the Core Rulebook.

You must have at least one hand free (holding nothing) to use this feat.

Every ability requiring a "free hand" or an "empty hand" written after the Core Book has had no definition attached, because it's a common-sense, natural-language term, and it has already been defined in the core book.

In a rules post, Sean K. Reynolds points out that a free hand is not necessarily a passive hand:

[url=http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2kahk?Dervish-Dance-Precise-Strike-and-touchy-issues#7 wrote:
The concept of the [Duelist] prestige class is that you have one hand free. That doesn't prevent you from making unarmed strikes or claw attacks, as your hand is still empty. It would prevent you from using a spiked shield, as your hand is not empty.

And now that Precise Strike from the Duelist (and therefore, the Swashbuckler) can explicitly be used with TWF, as long as restrictions are obeyed, what are the possibilities?

*Thorn Bracers are piecing and leave you a free hand, but are not PFS legal.
*Dwarven Boulder Helmet is a hands-free light weapon, but not piercing.
*The Sea-Knife is a light slashing weapon, so it can't be used with Slashing Grace. It's hands-free, but requires you to fly or be prone.
*The Barbazu Beard is also slashing and (too) light for Slashing Grace.
*The Blade Boot is piercing and hands-free.
*The Cestus is Piercing and leaves your hand free.
*Spiked Armor and Spiked Gauntlets use your hand for attacks, but the hand is still free (not holding anything)
*Claws are light and slashing
*Bite attacks are light piercing weapons
*Unarmed strikes can be made piercing with an Emei Piercer, Boar Ferocity, Hamatulatsu Strike or Snake Style.

So, a 3rd level Swashbuckler who picked up a bite attack somewhere can easily do 3 attacks per round that each get Precise Strike (at -2, -2 and -7 to hit, but still.)

FYI, natural attacks and TWF do not interact, your hypothetical attacks would be at -2/-2/-5 for penalties assuming the TWF feat.

A problem I see is that natural attacks are not (AFAIK) light or one-handed weapons. In fact, precise strike specifically mentions that natural attacks can't be used with it.

Precise Strike (Ex): At 3rd level, while she has at least 1 panache point, a swashbuckler gains the ability to strike precisely with a light or one-handed piercing melee weapon (though not natural weapon attacks), adding her swashbuckler level to the damage dealt. To use this deed, a swashbuckler cannot attack with a weapon in her other hand or use a shield other than a buckler. She can even use this ability with thrown light or one-handed piercing melee weapons, so long as the target is within 30 feet of her. Any creature that is immune to sneak attacks is immune to the additional damage granted by precise strike, and any item or ability that protects a creature from critical hits also protects a creature from the additional damage of a precise strike. This additional damage is precision damage, and isn't multiplied on a critical hit.

So, it looks like from your list:

Blade Boot
Spiked Armor/Gauntlets
Unarmed Strikes

However, in general I think it's personally more advantageous to simply use a buckler in your off-hand to shore up your AC even further. You already have competitive damage with two-handed weapon wielders.

The other issue you run into is that the thread you quoted is from 2009.

Before the infamous physical versus metaphysical "off-hand" hand debacle.

As a GM, I interpret most uses of the word hand to mean "off-hand". Not physical hand, because it's far more balancing to the game as a whole.

So I don't think it's as clear and obvious as you want it to be that you can combine TWF with Precise Strike.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

So, I am not even going to try and parse the text here. What I can do, however, is say that SKR doesn't even work for Paizo anymore, and the current Development Team has a track record of opposing your reading.

I can say with probably 95% confidence that the RAI of Precise Strike is that the bonus damage applies only if you make attacks with a single weapon and don't carry a shield other than a buckler. The phrase "free hand" was poorly chosen, but yeah, disallowing twf and/or additional natural attacks is almost certainly what they intend.

Claxon wrote:
A problem I see is that natural attacks are not (AFAIK) light or one-handed weapons. In fact, precise strike specifically mentions that natural attacks can't be used with it.

Well cover me in eggs and flour and bake me in the oven for 20 minutes!

Claxon wrote:

The other issue you run into is that the thread you quoted is from 2009.

Before the infamous physical versus metaphysical "off-hand" hand debacle.

I vaguely remember there being a huge debate on the point, but the outcome has not been entered into the FAQ, and forum search tools fail me.

Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

oh god, i don't want another like 200-400 post thread on hands...

ask your GM, end of story.

some will say the hand can't be used at the same time as your weapon, some will say your hand can't be used during that round, and other people will say your hand is always free.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

This is something that depends on the circumstances. Ask your GM. However, the design team generally rules with an implication that a "free hand" means a hand not carrying anything that is also available to perform actions with. For example, if your hand is shackled to a bed, it's not a free hand, despite being empty. No sensible GM would say you could use Deflect Arrows or cast somatic spells with that hand.

If I were your GM, I'd say that your claw hand isn't free while you attack with it. If you TWF with a rapier and a claw, the rapier benefits from Precise Strike but not the claw. However, armor spikes and boot knives are fine.

I'm having trouble finding the original thread. Here was a thread discussing that original thread.

Basically, the whole point of the original thread was that it created a difference between physical hands and hands of efforts, or metaphorical hands. The basic idea was that you couldn't use more than two hands of effort to do stuff. Which meant you couldn't use a two handed weapon and two weapon fight, as it would require at least 3 hands worth of effort.

As an outset of this, it is often debated any time the word "hand" come up whether it means physical hands or metaphorical hands of effort.

In this particular case, I believe the point of the way it was written was to try to prevent any sort of TWF, but they way they wrote it leaves some vagueness. However, if you interpret hands to mean hands of effort than it fits with what the developers most likely originally intended.

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