Spells with Attack Rolls and Covering / Harrying Fire


Rules Questions


Starfinder Superscriber

Someone on the SF Discord asked about the idea of using Telekinetic Projectile to perform the Covering/Harrying Fire actions in combat. Looking into it, I'm not sure whether or not this is allowed.

After digging through the magic and spells section, I was able to find this:

The SRD wrote:
Spells with Attack Rolls: Some spells require an attack roll to hit. For these spells, you don’t need line of sight to the target, but you still need line of effect. These spells can score a critical hit just as a weapon can, and deal double damage on a successful critical hit. If one of these spells has a duration, it refers to the duration of the effect that the attack causes, not the length of time that the attack itself persists.

Both the Covering and Harrying Fire actions only refer to 'Ranged Attacks', so I think this may be legal.

There's nothing explicit I can find (in that section or elsewhere) that would allow or disallow someone to use TP or Energy Ray or some other spell to do Covering/Harrying Fire. It makes sense to me that someone should be able to do so (I mean, an Energy Ray is basically a level 1 laser pistol, and I think a rock coming at you like a bullet would be pretty harrying), and I'd almost certainly rule that way at my table. But I'm hoping for something more conclusive.

So, in general, can Spells with ranged attack rolls be used with Covering/Harrying Fire?


I'm going to say no, since the wording is actually "You can use your standard action to make a ranged attack that provides covering fire for an ally" for covering fire, and the same except harrying instead for harrying fire.

Liberty's Edge

To expand on Pantshandshake's comment, if a character is using their standard action to make a ranged attack, they can't use their standard action to cast a spell.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Gary Bush wrote:
To expand on Pantshandshake's comment, if a character is using their standard action to make a ranged attack, they can't use their standard action to cast a spell.

Yeah, unfortunately, Ranged Attack is a subtype of the Attack action, which is different from the Cast a Spell action. These kinds of semantics are eminently frustrating, but I've got to agree. RAW you probably can't do it...

That said, I'd allow it in a heartbeat because it's dope, and otherwise, it would be a little like saying "Nah, it says you can make a ranged attack, not shoot your gun".


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Superscriber

Here is the quoted rules text for covering/harrying fire:

Quote:
You can use your standard action to make a ranged attack that provides covering fire for an ally.
Quote:
You can use your standard action to make a ranged attack that distracts a foe in your line of effect.

There's nothing in either line that says, "with a weapon", just spend a standard action and make a ranged attack.

Here is quoted rules text for Telekinetic Projectile (emphasis added).

Quote:
You fling an object weighing up to 5 pounds (less than 1 bulk) at the target, making a ranged attack against its KAC.

The already quoted rules text in the first post describes attacks with spells as being like a weapon.

You're spending a standard action and making a ranged attack.

That's all you have to do for both the harrying/covering fire.

I'm not arguing that it's explicitly allowed, I'm arguing that I'm not seeing anything that either explicitly allows or disallows it. If someone has something somewhere that says, "this only works with weapon attacks" or something that even implies it, I'd say you're all right, but right now, it's ambiguous enough that I think it's essentially a DM call.

While I'm perfectly happy to make that call (and allow it), that's not what I'm asking.


Because the attack with the spell is part of casting the spell.

You can't cast a spell, and then use a standard action with the spell's ranged attack. Because you've already used your standard action to cast said spell.

Liberty's Edge

Range Attacks, page 245 wrote:
With a ranged weapon, you can shoot or otherwise attack a target that is within the weapon’s maximum range and in your line of effect (see page 271). You add your Dexterity modifier to your ranged attack rolls, but not to your ranged damage rolls.

A ranged attack is defined as using a ranged weapon. Telekinetic Projectile is not a ranged weapon but a spell that makes a ranged attack. These are different things and therefore the spell can't be used Covering/Harrying Fire.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Starfinder Superscriber
Quote:
Because the attack with the spell is part of casting the spell.

And the attack with the weapon is part of firing the weapon which requires its own standard action. By that logic, you couldn't use harrying fire with a ranged weapon, because it takes a standard action to make a ranged attack and you wouldn't have a standard action left to make the harrying fire. Obviously, that isn't the case. You're making the ranged attack as part of the harrying fire. The question is, does the source of that ranged attack matter, and I don't see anywhere in the rules text for covering/harrying fire where it does.

Quote:
A ranged attack is defined as using a ranged weapon.

And the section on casting spells describes attack spells as being like weapons, and the specific spell explicitly describes making a ranged attack with the spell (regardless of what ranged attack says).

You guys might be right, and they might be using the same words to define two completely different things. My contention here is that, if that is the case, by using the same words without putting in an exception, they've made it ambiguous.


See, I disagree with Gary. Since they don't specify what kind of weapon you need to make the ranged attack with, a ranged attack is a ranged attack. Doesn't matter if it's a gun, a spell, a grenade, a throwing weapon, or a barstool you picked up. As long as you aren't striking someone with a melee attack, it's ranged.

However, you need a standard action to make said ranged attack. As long as you have something in your hands, or can get something into your hands with a move or swift action, you can use that standard action to make a ranged attack. That can be a regular attack, harrying/cover, or maybe even a combat maneuver.

However, you cast a spell with your standard action. Part of that standard action is making an attack with the spell. So, you cannot use a standard action to make a ranged attack with that spell, because that type of action is already gone.

If you had some way to gain an extra standard action, or some way to cast a spell as a move or swift action, then you could totally use the spell to harry or cover, as far as I'm concerned.

Liberty's Edge

As defined by the CRB, a ranged attack is made by a ranged weapon.

Spells can make a ranged attack, but since they are not ranged weapons, they can't do covering/harrying fire. A spell is not weapon. Weapons are defined on page 168 to 195 and it does not say that a spell is a weapon.

This may be more important for me because I play society so I can't change how the rules are written.

But for a home game, I can see favor that this would provide.


Starfinder Superscriber
Gary Bush wrote:
As defined by the CRB, a ranged attack is made by a ranged weapon.

You didn't cite a page, but the lack of inclusion of spells in one place doesn't equal exclusion of spells.

CRB p21 specifically includes spells for ranged attack rolls; "Ranged attack rolls, such as those made with projectile weapons and energy weapons, as well as some spells"

Gary Bush wrote:
This may be more important for me because I play society so I can't change how the rules are written.

Not exactly true. Society GMs cannot contradict the rules as outlined, but are completely empowered to allow things that are not specifically outlined. See Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide v1.0 p12:

Quote:
As a Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild GM, you have the right and responsibility to make whatever judgments, within the rules, that you feel are necessary at your table to ensure everyone has a fair and fun experience. This does not mean you can contradict rules or restrictions outlined in this document, a published Starfinder RPG source, errata document, or official FAQ on paizo.com. What it does mean is that only you can judge what is right for your table during cases not covered in these sources.

Its clearly neither written that spells with a ranged attack can or cannot be used. I'm certain that if a FAQ were published on this it would say that a spell with a ranged attack can work, but given how few of these questions get FAQ attention that's unlikely to happen.

I and most society GMs I've played with err on the side of which option leads to the most enjoyment at the table. Telling a player, "You're not allowed to do what you thought you could do because the rules don't specifically permit it" makes the game less fun for them.

I've had spells which don't normally require a ranged attack roll allowed for covering fire in society play. I had to make a ranged attack roll to precisely aim the spell, and it was allowed because I also had Energy Ray and a small arm but the cinematic of "Fabricate Scrap" raining trash down on them got a good laugh from the table and had minimal impact on the encounter otherwise.

But you have to be prepared for GMs who default to "no" so its a good idea to have a flare gun or pulsecaster pistol for such cases - and then avoid playing at their table in the future because they're clearly more interested in rules lawyering than making an enjoyable experience.

Liberty's Edge

Arc Riley wrote:
Gary Bush wrote:
As defined by the CRB, a ranged attack is made by a ranged weapon.

You didn't cite a page, but the lack of inclusion of spells in one place doesn't equal exclusion of spells.

CRB p21 specifically includes spells for ranged attack rolls; "Ranged attack rolls, such as those made with projectile weapons and energy weapons, as well as some spells"

Gary Bush wrote:
This may be more important for me because I play society so I can't change how the rules are written.

Not exactly true. Society GMs cannot contradict the rules as outlined, but are completely empowered to allow things that are not specifically outlined. See Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide v1.0 p12:

Quote:
As a Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild GM, you have the right and responsibility to make whatever judgments, within the rules, that you feel are necessary at your table to ensure everyone has a fair and fun experience. This does not mean you can contradict rules or restrictions outlined in this document, a published Starfinder RPG source, errata document, or official FAQ on paizo.com. What it does mean is that only you can judge what is right for your table during cases not covered in these sources.

It is funny, I thought we would have agreed on this one.

I quoted the CRB for ranged attack earlier. Here is what I said about 3 post prior to the one you quoted.

Gary Bush wrote:
Range Attacks, page 245 wrote:
With a ranged weapon, you can shoot or otherwise attack a target that is within the weapon’s maximum range and in your line of effect (see page 271). You add your Dexterity modifier to your ranged attack rolls, but not to your ranged damage rolls.
A ranged attack is defined as using a ranged weapon. Telekinetic Projectile is not a ranged weapon but a spell that makes a ranged attack. These are different things and therefore the spell can't be used Covering/Harrying Fire.
Arc Riley wrote:
Its clearly neither written that spells with a ranged attack can or cannot be used. I'm certain that if a FAQ were published on this it would say that a spell with a ranged attack can work, but given how few of these questions get FAQ attention that's unlikely to happen.

I believe it is clearly written what a ranged attack is. Curious what your read on it is given the page quoted.

The page you quoted is from the section on dexterity and what the modifier from that applies toward. I believe the rule on page 245 is more specific and does not contradict the rule on page 21.

Arc Riley wrote:
I and most society GMs I've played with err on the side of which option leads to the most enjoyment at the table. Telling a player, "You're not allowed to do what you thought you could do because the rules don't specifically permit it" makes the game less fun for them.

I agree with this one on principle. However, if a GM allows players to do things that are against how the rules are articulated it can equally ruin the fun for those players who have an understanding of the rules that are similar as the GM. It is a fine line.

Arc Riley wrote:
But you have to be prepared for GMs who default to "no" so its a good idea to have a flare gun or pulsecaster pistol for such cases - and then avoid playing at their table in the future because they're clearly more interested in rules lawyering than making an enjoyable experience.

I believe I give my players an enjoyable experience while being fair and open to creative ideas. If someone does not want to play at my table, I am not going to get upset about it. I have not had someone walk away after learning I was the GM. We use Warhorn to manage our tables so people may avoid me and I not know it.

And it is the GMs job to be the rules judge. I try to know all the rules but that is not possible. If my understanding is incomplete or flat out wrong, I will (and have many times, especially with Starfinder) changed how I handle something.

This is why I am active in the rules section. To increase my understand of the rules.

Anyways, look at at the page of the CRB I quoted for a second time and give your opinion if, in this case, ranged attacked is pretty well defined.


Starfinder Superscriber

Sorry for the wording on this Gary, that wasn't intended to come off as directed at you personally but rather me indirectly venting about a local GM.

Gary Bush wrote:
I quoted the CRB for ranged attack earlier. Here is what I said about 3 post prior to the one you quoted. (...)

Thanks for the page #, I see where you got that viewpoint.

I don't believe the descriptions in this section were intended to be exhaustive. It clearly is not exhaustive because the spell descriptions specifically state that when you cast it you make a ranged attack:

Telekinetic Projectile: "You fling an object weighing up to 5 pounds (less than 1 bulk) at the target, making a ranged attack against its KAC"

Covering Fire: "You can use your standard action to make a ranged attack that provides covering fire for an ally."

Harrying Fire: "You can use your standard action to make a ranged attack that distracts a foe in your line of effect."

Neither say that a ranged weapon is required, why would it matter? It doesn't specify whether the attack needs to be physical or energy, or even that the ranged attack could otherwise do damage (eg, if they're immune to the damage type).

They require only that as a standard action a ranged attack be made against AC 15 - and even that isn't a complete definition as we see in the Wisp Ally spell description.

If the rules don't specify that a player can't, then the GM can rule that it can and I think clearly should in this case. Since there's little to no mechanical advantage to casting a spell vs firing a cheap flare gun, why not say yes?


Starfinder Superscriber
Quote:

I don't believe the descriptions in this section were intended to be exhaustive. It clearly is not exhaustive because the spell descriptions specifically state that when you cast it you make a ranged attack:

Telekinetic Projectile: "You fling an object weighing up to 5 pounds (less than 1 bulk) at the target, making a ranged attack against its KAC"

Covering Fire: "You can use your standard action to make a ranged attack that provides covering fire for an ally."

Harrying Fire: "You can use your standard action to make a ranged attack that distracts a foe in your line of effect."

Neither say that a ranged weapon is required, why would it matter? It doesn't specify whether the attack needs to be physical or energy, or even that the ranged attack could otherwise do damage (eg, if they're immune to the damage type).

This was precisely the logic presented to me by a new player who was looking for help building a mystic on the SF Discord, and it made perfect sense to me (I'm kind of ashamed I didn't notice it first). Because of the ambiguity, I'm inclined to say that RAW can be interpreted either way. I'd allow it in a home game, but I was hoping for something explicit somewhere that I could point to in the rules and say, "Yay!" or "Nay!" Especially if/when I start running society games, and especially for answering other player's questions.

Quote:
Since there's little to no mechanical advantage to casting a spell vs firing a cheap flare gun, why not say yes?

There is a mechanical advantage here (if allowed), especially for Mystics, as it allows them to function pretty fully at level 1 without wasting any credits on ranged weapons or ammunition. While I personally don't see that as broken, some others might disagree, especially if the 'casters' vs 'non-casters' problems start creeping back into the system.


well, I'd advise them to still get a pistol...
range of 25ft+5/2lvls isnt nearly as good as range 80ft...

Liberty's Edge

Arc Riley wrote:
Sorry for the wording on this Gary, that wasn't intended to come off as directed at you personally but rather me indirectly venting about a local GM.

No worries! :)

Arc Riley wrote:
If the rules don't specify that a player can't, then the GM can rule that it can and I think clearly should in this case. Since there's little to no mechanical advantage to casting a spell vs firing a cheap flare gun, why not say yes?

I have gone back and forth on this question. For me, it comes down to wording found on page 245 that says a ranged attack has to use a ranged weapon. But guess what? There is no good definition of weapon!

So Yea, GM call and I am good either way.

Liberty's Edge

A thought occurred to me.

Look at Jolting Surge, pg 363 wrote:
You touch a target with a device you’re holding that uses electricity, requiring a melee attack against the target’s EAC. Alternatively, you can instead touch an electrical device a target is wearing (or a target that is an electrical device, such as a robot) with your hand, gaining a +2 bonus to your attack roll. Either way, if your attack hits, the electrical device surges out of control, dealing 4d6 electricity damage to your target.

Since the spell calls for a melee attack, would the character add their strength modifier to the damage? Or only to the attack roll?


Looks like you found basically the same kind of question we started with. I'd say yes, you add your strength bonus to the attack roll. And then I'd say no, you wouldn't add it to your damage. Initially I figured no, because the spell is doing the damage, and not your strike. Then I found this:

"When you hit with a melee or thrown ranged weapon, add your Strength modifier to your damage roll’s result. However, do not add your Strength modifier to the damage of your grenades and nonthrown ranged attacks."

So I guess we come back to 'a spell is not a weapon'?


Starfinder Superscriber
pithica42 wrote:
There is a mechanical advantage here (if allowed), especially for Mystics, as it allows them to function pretty fully at level 1 without wasting any credits on ranged weapons or ammunition. While I personally don't see that as broken, some others might disagree, especially if the 'casters' vs 'non-casters' problems start creeping back into the system.

Seriously, you're worried about level 1 PCs gaining some small tactical advantage in not having to purchase a 90 credit flare gun and a few 5 credit flares?


Starfinder Superscriber

I am not. I said that I don't personally see that as broken (or, to be clear, even a real problem, especially given the small ranges).

I'm saying that I think some people might be worried, given historical 'wizard hate' in general internet land. To some people almost any advantage a spellcaster has over a non-spellcaster is evidence that they're broken and need to be nerfed.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
pithica42 wrote:

I am not. I said that I don't personally see that as broken (or, to be clear, even a real problem, especially given the small ranges).

I'm saying that I think some people might be worried, given historical 'wizard hate' in general internet land. To some people almost any advantage a spellcaster has over a non-spellcaster is evidence that they're broken and need to be nerfed.

The correct solution to problem players is not to change the rules. The correct solution to problem players, is to chastise them and kick them out, if necessary.

Liberty's Edge

Pantshandshake wrote:

Looks like you found basically the same kind of question we started with. I'd say yes, you add your strength bonus to the attack roll. And then I'd say no, you wouldn't add it to your damage. Initially I figured no, because the spell is doing the damage, and not your strike. Then I found this:

"When you hit with a melee or thrown ranged weapon, add your Strength modifier to your damage roll’s result. However, do not add your Strength modifier to the damage of your grenades and non-thrown ranged attacks."

So I guess we come back to 'a spell is not a weapon'?

For me, a spell is not a weapon. But there is really not a clear "A weapon is ..." statement that I can find.

I personally am not comfortable saying that a spell is weapon for the purposes of these things that affect weapons.

Additionally, because of the lack of language stating that a spell in question is a weapon for the purposes of X or Y, we can't really say that a spell is a weapon.

It does make it easier to say that a spell is not a weapon.


Starfinder Superscriber

As stated in the rules I quoted in my original post. A spell (with an attack roll) is like a weapon, in the sense that it can score critical hits "as a weapon can". I think it's safe to infer from that that a spell is not a weapon, but is like one.

But again, neither harrying or covering fire require weapon attacks. There's no mention of using a weapon in either case, so I think a spell being or not being a weapon is beside the point.


Starfinder Superscriber
Gary Bush wrote:
It does make it easier to say that a spell is not a weapon.

The continued obsession with the "weapon" question is really perplexing to me.

Yes, in the Tactical Combat chapter under Standard Actions a ranged attack is stated that its made with a ranged weapon. However, it does not say that it can only be made with a ranged weapon.

These spells (Energy Ray, Telekinetic Projectile) very specifically state that you make a ranged attack. That extends the definition of what a "Ranged Attack" is to include those spells.

If you reject that logic because those spells are not offered as options under "Ranged Attack" on CRB p245, then you must also question whether Wisp Ally can actually provide Covering Fire or Harrying Fire as defined on CRB p246 and p247 since those definitions require a ranged attack, not simply sharing a square with a harmless glowing ball wizzing around.

But also, as I previously offered, other definitions of "Ranged Attack" specifically state that some spells make ranged attacks.


Why would I question what a wisp ally does? The spell says what it does. The rules could state that only a dinosaur standing on its head can provide covering fire, but the spell rules would still trump that.

And I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm in this discussion because:
A; I thought Pithica had some rules wrong, and I wanted to say my piece about it.
B; Anytime someone asks a question, if your answer is anywhere near 'that's not how it works, because I know it,' you owe it to yourself and the other person to actually research the thing.

So now we're here at 'a spell is or is not a weapon.' And we're here because, while I "know" that you don't add your str mod to spell damage from a melee touch, what if I actually read the rules and found that you do add it, as far as the written rules are concerned?

With all the things wrong, or at best unclear, in the CRB, why would we not want to have a civil conversation about how we think stuff works?


Starfinder Superscriber
Pantshandshake wrote:

And I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm in this discussion because:

A; I thought Pithica had some rules wrong, and I wanted to say my piece about it.
B; Anytime someone asks a question, if your answer is anywhere near 'that's not how it works, because I know it,' you owe it to yourself and the other person to actually research the thing.

I'm pretty sure Arc was replying to Gary, and I'm all but positive he meant no hostility to anyone (though, I don't like putting words in anyone's mouth).

And to be clear, I appreciate the contributions to the thread by everyone thus far, even those I disagree with. I'm still not seeing anything in the rules that clears this question up, one way or the other, but I'm fine with people disagreeing with me on that.


pithica42 wrote:


I'm pretty sure Arc was replying to Gary, and I'm all but positive he meant no hostility to anyone (though, I don't like putting words in anyone's mouth).

And to be clear, I appreciate the contributions to the thread by everyone thus far, even those I disagree with. I'm still not seeing anything in the rules that clears this question up, one way or the other, but I'm fine with people disagreeing with me on that.

For that B point, I was speaking about myself. My initial answer for both your and Gary's questions was 'No, because that's not how it works' with 0 backup. So I started reading stuff.

I don't consider anything in this thread hostile so far. Ridiculous sounding? Absolutely. But that's why there's a forum, so we can air our interpretations, and either hash out how things should work amongst ourselves or try to get a FAQ if that fails.


Starfinder Superscriber

That was directed to Gary but also I think you added tone to my last post that just wasn't there.

Pantshandshake wrote:
The rules could state that only a dinosaur standing on its head can provide covering fire, but the spell rules would still trump that.

So it really doesn't matter what CRB p245 details under "Ranged Attacks" because the spells' descriptions specifically state that they make ranged attacks.

I was specifically using Wisp Ally as another example of a spell description extending the definitions given in CRB p245-247.

Which brings me back to the question, why is what constitutes a weapon necessary for this question at all?


Starfinder Superscriber

I don't think it is.

The only argument I've seen that, I think, might be correct is the argument about using two standard actions (one to cast a spell and make a ranged attack, another to harrying fire and make a ranged attack).

However, since a ranged attack with a weapon normally requires a standard on its own, and harrying obviously allows that, I'm not sure this is a valid argument for why TP can't be used with Harrying/Covering Fire.

Is using a standard to cast a spell that throws a rock really all that different than throwing a rock yourself? The difference between harrying and normal attacks isn't in the action, it's in the intent (and therefore target AC). With a normal ranged attack you intend to cause harm. With a harrying attack, you intend the attack to distract. It's still the same attack action either way.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Much of how I view this question is tied to my personal view of the world. I don't like contradictions. I like things to be neat and orderly. And of course the world is not that way and neither is anything created by man!

That is why I look at the one definition I could find and that was for ranged attack. It says weapon. Combat is based around weapons. Magic can do things in combat but, to me, they are not weapons.

I can see both sides and have gone back and forth several times on how I feel about this. I think what will likely happen for me is that I will be presented by a player who does this and then I have come down a side and go with it.

Unless of course clearer direction is given.

And I believe we have had, and will continue to have, good discussion and debate about how the rules should be interpreted and applied.


@ Arc: I was speaking about Wisp Ally specifically saying harrying/covering fire in the spell, because that’s about as clear as something can be. I also believe you’re correct, in that harrying/covering fire shouldn’t care where the projectile comes from.

@ Pithica: I’ve been trying to figure out how to put this into words. So here’s some text!
A ranged attack is a standard action.
A harrying/covering shot is a standard action.
These are both ranged attacks. (I think we’re on the same page up to here.)
Now, take your impression of using a spell to do a harrying/covering shot, and apply it to a regular ranged attack from a gun. Can you fire your weapon, and do both a ranged attack dealing weapon damage, and a harrying/covering shot at the same time? (I’m hoping you say “No, those are two different standard actions.”)

To put it slightly differently:

Here is how I see the order of operations:
1. I declare my intent to cast a spell. A standard action is used, spellcasting begins.
2. Defensive readied actions take place.
3. Spell casting completes. I am now ready to choose my target for the spell. Now is when the spell description takes place. This is what allows me to target the spell, in whatever method is used for the spell (let’s say a ranged attack.)
4. This point here is where I would decide that the spell, instead of doing spell damage, is a harrying or covering shot. However, because I used my standard action at the beginning of my turn, I don’t have a standard action now to activate this other kind of ranged attack.


Starfinder Superscriber

Sorry in advance for my own text wall.

Pantshandshake wrote:
@ Pithica: I’ve been trying to figure out how to put this into words. So here’s some text!

I appreciate it. Ambiguity hurts me, in the feels. :)

Quote:


A ranged attack is a standard action.
A harrying/covering shot is a standard action.
These are both ranged attacks. (I think we’re on the same page up to here.)
Now, take your impression of using a spell to do a harrying/covering shot, and apply it to a regular ranged attack from a gun. Can you fire your weapon, and do both a ranged attack dealing weapon damage, and a harrying/covering shot at the same time? (I’m hoping you say “No, those are two different standard actions.”)

I agree, those are two separate standard actions. I'm also not trying to get both damage and the effects of covering/harrying fire from the spell, though, so...

Quote:

Here is how I see the order of operations:

1. I declare my intent to cast a spell. A standard action is used, spellcasting begins.
2. Defensive readied actions take place.
3. Spell casting completes. I am now ready to choose my target for the spell. Now is when the spell description takes place. This is what allows me to target the spell, in whatever method is used for the spell (let’s say a ranged attack.)
4. This point here is where I would decide that the spell, instead of doing spell damage, is a harrying or covering shot. However, because I used my standard action at the beginning of my turn, I don’t have a standard action now to activate this other kind of ranged attack.

That argument doesn't work for me, because by that same order of operations, you couldn't use a gun for harrying fire because the order would be the same.

1. I declare my intent to fire my gun. A standard action is used.
2. Defensive readied actions/reactions take place.
3. Firing my gun is complete now is when a 'ranged attack' is made.
4. Now I decide that my target isn't to damage but instead harry, however I used my standard action to fire my gun, so I don't have a standard left to activate harry.

Obviously, that can't be correct, right?

Instead, I propose that the order works like this.

1. I declare my intent to use harrying fire, I use a standard action (to fire/throw/shoot my weapon or cast my spell or take any other standard action that allows me to make a ranged attack, per the description of harrying fire) and make a ranged attack (all part of this same standard action).
2. Defensive readied/reactions take place (possibly interrupting me, in cases where that applies).
3. The rolls are made to see if I hit the AC15. (or whatever it is)

And to make this super clear, in case I gave the impression otherwise, I'm not arguing that the spell does damage in addition to getting the benefits of harrying fire in this way. It's one or the other.

I just fail to see how using a standard action to throw a rock is any different mechanically than using it to cast a spell that magically throws the rock. I should be able to use the rock the same ways tactically (to damage OR to harry) either way.


Right on buddy, get your wall going!

First, I didn’t mean to imply to want to harry and damage at the same time. My intent was to put a bunch of variables on the table and see where we diverge.

I also don’t really see a difference, mechanically, between throwing a rock and using magic to throw a rock. I also don’t see why a magically empowered projectile can’t harry or cover. Except for I tend to be a rules stickler.

So, I think where you and I aren’t seeing this the same way comes from spells and firing a gun being fundamentally different. In my mind, when you fire your gun it goes like this:
1. I spend my action to fire a gun as a ranged attack. In this case, it’s covering fire.
2. Defensive readied actions.
3. Gun fires.

The main difference being, when you spend an action to shoot a gun, you just shoot a gun. There’s no extra step where I prepare the gun and then choose a target. With magic, though, you spend an action to begin casting a spell. You can’t choose a harrying shot, because you don’t yet have anything to harry, or shoot, with. When the casting part finishes, now you have a projectile to make a ranged attack with. This is the part where you get to choose your target, as well (yes, you probably already chose a target. But until the spell is complete, you don’t need a target.)

I will say, right now, that this is a stupid bit of academic minutia. But I can absolutely see having this conversation, almost verbatim, with the technomancer in one of my groups.


Starfinder Superscriber
Pantshandshake wrote:
The main difference being, when you spend an action to shoot a gun, you just shoot a gun. There’s no extra step where I prepare the gun and then choose a target. With magic, though, you spend an action to begin casting a spell. You can’t choose a harrying shot, because you don’t yet have anything to harry, or shoot, with. When the casting part finishes, now you have a projectile to make a ranged attack with. This is the part where you get to choose your target, as well (yes, you probably already chose a target. But until the spell is complete, you don’t need a target.)

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Ready...Aim...Fire!"?

When you shoot a gun, you're taking a bunch of little actions in addition to just pulling the trigger.

If you want to be accurate/safe, that includes preparing the gun to fire and choosing a target as well as making a bunch of little predictions about where the target will be when the bullet reaches them, how the wind or gravity might affect the bullet, controlling your breathing, unsetting the safety, and maybe other stuff. Much of that isn't conscious but it's going on as you're firing the gun and trying to hit a target.

In SF, this process has been condensed/abstracted into a single standard action, called a ranged attack. Harrying Fire is just sort of a special kind of ranged attack, where instead of aiming for their body, you aim for the ground at their feet or something, in order to distract them. This process is again abstracted to a standard action. The same as aiming to hurt them.

You're right that there are a bunch of little actions for casting a spell. But, first, SF doesn't have Verbal/Somatic/Material components anymore, so we don't really know what those component actions are. For telekinetic projectile, it could be something as inane as imagining yourself firing a gun. And second, since they also abstracted all of that to a single standard action (for some spells), we can assume it's no more complicated/time consuming than the combination of actions one would use to fire a gun (or throw a rock/shuriken).

Since it's the same kind of action (standard) and results in the same kind of event (ranged attack), I'm suggesting that it can be used the same way as other kinds of standard+ranged attack combos can be used. Since Harrying Fire (and Covering fire) only list standard + ranged attack as their pre-requisite (with no caveat about weapons or spells), I'm inclined to believe that it works.

Quote:
I will say, right now, that this is a stupid bit of academic minutia. But I can absolutely see having this conversation, almost verbatim, with the technomancer in one of my groups.

You're absolutely right that this is academic. At this point I'm no longer trying to convince you that I'm right. I'm enjoying the discussion, and hoping for new information to show up. But I'll drop it in lieu of wasting anyone else's time.


C'mon, you can't bring real world interactions into SF. You know as well as I do how fast that breaks everything.

Also, way at the beginning, I had assumed you just didn't know what your were talking about, rather than actually having a thought out, reasonable explanation. So now I doubt either of us will ever convince each other. Been fun, though.


Starfinder Superscriber

There's one last counter-argument that I don't recall seeing on this thread (I may have missed it, its a long thread).

Spells create very specific effects. As a player and GM I wish that spells were far more versatile and I love it when players find creative new uses for them, especially my favorite spell: Token Spell.

However, the spell descriptions for the spells that provide ranged attacks do state that they do damage and do not specifically state that they can alternatively provide Covering/Harrying Fire. That's a valid argument (albeit, not one I agree with) a GM may lodge against this.

My counter-counter argument to this is that these spells specify that they're against a "target" which need not be an enemy. They could be an object, or in this case the air in front of an enemies face or feet (hence, AC15 vs enemy's AC).

And besides, lets be real here: using these spells in this way is sub-optimal. If you're building a Mystic and you want them to provide this effect, learn Wisp Ally. One casting can provide automatic and continuous Covering/Harrying fire for 1 round/level, and even at level 1 its a guarantee vs difficult attack roll. At level 1, enemies generally have an easier AC so just target to do damage.


That's a good point, too, Arc. And you're correct, I don't think anyone brought that up.

What about something like magic missile, would you allow forgoing the auto-hit aspect to instead roll for harrying/cover fire?


Starfinder Superscriber
Pantshandshake wrote:
C'mon, you can't bring real world interactions into SF. You know as well as I do how fast that breaks everything.

Fair enough.

Quote:
Also, way at the beginning, I had assumed you just didn't know what your were talking about, rather than actually having a thought out, reasonable explanation. So now I doubt either of us will ever convince each other. Been fun, though.

Thanks? Yes, it's been fun.

Arc Riley wrote:
Spells create very specific effects. As a player and GM I wish that spells were far more versatile and I love it when players find creative new uses for them, especially my favorite spell: Token Spell.

Shameless self plug for a thread that never got any love: Token Spell

Quote:
However, the spell descriptions for the spells that provide ranged attacks do state that they do damage and do not specifically state that they can alternatively provide Covering/Harrying Fire. That's a valid argument (albeit, not one I agree with) a GM may lodge against this.

This is an answer I would accept against it. Of course the weapon descriptions for weapons state that they do damage and do not explicitly state that they can alternatively provide covering/harrying fire, so we're in another loop.

Quote:
And besides, lets be real here: using these spells in this way is sub-optimal. If you're building a Mystic and you want them to provide this effect, learn Wisp Ally. One casting can provide automatic and continuous Covering/Harrying fire for 1 round/level, and even at level 1 its a guarantee vs difficult attack roll. At level 1, enemies generally have an easier AC so just target to do damage.

Whether it's optimal or not depends on a lot of factors. How many fights do you have a day, how long do they last, how far are you from a store, how much money do you have to spend on ammo, how much better/harder do your party mates or summons hit versus you, et cetera.

Whisp Ally lasts for 1rnd/lvl. So at level 1 it costs you one of 3 of your 1st level slots and only lasts 1 round of a fight that may go 6 or 10 rounds. TP costs nothing other than a spell known and you can do it all day (but it costs you a standard and a chance at missing every round you want to use it).

I certainly wouldn't classify this as OP, mind you, but I wouldn't classify it as sub-par either, at least not at low levels.

Pantshandshake wrote:
What about something like magic missile, would you allow forgoing the auto-hit aspect to instead roll for harrying/cover fire?

I certainly wouldn't. I've contended all along that you have to spend a standard action and make a ranged attack. Magic Missile only does one of those, sometimes, and does neither of them sometimes, so I would argue that it can't work for this. I would argue that disintegrate does work, but you'd be insane to waste a disintegrate on harrying fire.


Starfinder Superscriber
pithica42 wrote:
Whether it's optimal or not depends on a lot of factors. How many fights do you have a day, how long do they last, how far are you from a store, how much money do you have to spend on ammo, how much better/harder do your party mates or summons hit versus you, et cetera.

Strategically, I've always viewed Covering/Harrying Fire as primarily useful against targets with an AC greater than 15 or which are immune to the type of damage. Ie, a tactic only really useful at higher levels.

Great case for this while running SFS #1-13 last week which I'll strive to be as spoiler-free as possible; in the final combat one of the big enemies had an energy immunity and the party included a mechanic with flying drone, both wielding small arms of the same energy type.

She therefore assumed that she had to focus on smaller enemies, but she and her drone could have provided Covering Fire and/or Harrying Fire for her allies to take advantage of that would have easily turned the tide of battle.

I almost broke my own rule in not providing tactical advice while GMing since this combat was nearly a TPK. It came down to a single D20 roll, and all the spellcasters had slots left even after 7 rounds.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pantshandshake wrote:
What about something like magic missile, would you allow forgoing the auto-hit aspect to instead roll for harrying/cover fire?

I am much more willing to allow Telekinetic Projectile to do Harrying/cover fire than Magic Missile because there is no roll to make the attack.

It would be a cool spell to tweak for Magic Missile to make an attack roll and thus harrying/cover fire. Maybe call it Magic Barrage?

Community / Forums / Starfinder / Rules Questions / Spells with Attack Rolls and Covering / Harrying Fire All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Rules Questions