With a normal melee weapon, a character can strike any enemy within 5 feet. (Enemies within 5 feet are considered adjacent to the character.)
A character capable of making more than one melee attack per round must use the full attack action (see Full-Round Actions, below) in order to make more than one attack.
Fighting Defensively: A character can choose to fight defensively while making a melee attack. If the character does so, he or she takes a –4 penalty on his or her attack in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to Defense in the same round.
Striking for damage with punches, kicks, and head butts is much like attacking with a melee weapon, except that an unarmed attack deals nonlethal damage. Unarmed strikes count as light melee weapons (for purposes of two-weapon attack penalties and so on). The following exceptions to normal melee rules apply to unarmed attacks.
Attacks of Opportunity: Making an unarmed attack against an armed opponent provokes an attack of opportunity from the character attacked. The attack of opportunity comes before the character’s attack. An unarmed attack does not provoke attacks of opportunity from other foes, nor does it provoke an attack of opportunity from an unarmed foe.
“Armed” Unarmed Attacks: Sometimes a character or creature attacks unarmed but the attack still counts as armed. A creature with claws, fangs, and similar natural physical weapons, for example, counts as armed. Being armed counts for both offense and defense—not only does a creature not provoke an attack of opportunity when attacking an armed foe, but a character provokes an attack of opportunity from that creature if the character makes an unarmed attack against it. The Combat Martial Arts feat makes a character’s unarmed attacks count as armed.
Unarmed Strike Damage: An unarmed strike from a Medium-size character deals 1d3 points (plus the character’s Strength modifier, as normal) of nonlethal damage.
A character can specify that his or her unarmed strike will deal lethal damage before the character makes his or her attack roll, but the character takes a –4 penalty on the attack roll because he or she has to strike a particularly vulnerable spot to deal lethal damage.
With a ranged weapon, a character can shoot or throw at any target that is within the ranged weapon’s maximum range and in line of sight. A target is in line of sight if there are no solid obstructions between the character and the target. The maximum range for a thrown weapon is five range increments. For weapons that fire projectiles, it is ten range increments.
A character capable of making more than one ranged attack per round must use the full attack action (see Full-Round Actions, below) in order to make more than one attack.
Shooting or Throwing into a Melee: If a character shoots or throws a ranged weapon at a target that is engaged in melee with an ally, the character takes a –4 penalty on his or her attack roll because the character has to aim carefully to avoid hitting the ally. Two characters are engaged in melee if they are enemies and they are adjacent to one another. (An unconscious or otherwise immobilized character is not considered engaged unless he or she is actually being attacked.)
If the target is so big that part of it is 10 feet or farther from the nearest ally, the character can avoid the –4 penalty, even if it’s engaged in melee with an ally.
Because of the weapon’s unwieldy shape and size, an attacker using a longarm takes a –4 penalty on attacks against adjacent opponents.
Fighting Defensively: A character can choose to fight defensively while making a ranged attack. If the character does so, he or she takes a –4 penalty on his or her attack in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to Defense in the same round.
Since the character only needs to touch the enemy, he or she makes a touch attack instead of a regular attack. Touching an opponent with a touch spell is considered to be an armed attack and therefore does not provoke attacks of opportunity when it is discharged on an armed opponent. However, the act of casting a spell does provoke attacks of opportunity.
Touch attacks come in two types: melee touch attacks (for touches made with the character’s hand) and ranged touch attacks (for touches made with projectile and ray effects). The caster can score critical hits with either type of attack. The opponent’s Defense against a touch attack does not include any equipment bonus or natural armor bonus. The opponent’s size modifier and Dexterity modifier both apply normally.
Instead of attacking, a character can use his or her attack action simply to defend. This is called a total defense action. The character doesn’t get to attack or perform any other activity, but does get a +4 dodge bonus to his or her Defense for 1 round. The character’s Defense improves at the start of this action, so it helps against any attacks of opportunity the character is subject to while performing his or her move action.
Start/Complete Full-Round Action
The “start/complete full-round action” attack action lets a character start undertaking a full-round action (such as those listed on Table: Actions in Combat) at the end of his or her turn, or complete a full-round action by using an attack action at the beginning of his or her turn in the round following the round when the character started the full-round action.
Start/complete full-round action cannot be used with a full attack, charge, run, or withdraw action.