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Making an attack is a standard action.
With a normal melee weapon, you can strike any opponent within 5 feet. (Opponents within 5 feet are considered adjacent to you.) Some melee weapons have reach, as indicated in their descriptions. With a typical reach weapon, you can strike opponents 10 feet away, but you can’t strike adjacent foes (those within 5 feet).
Striking for damage with punches, kicks, and head butts is much like attacking with a melee weapon, except for the following:
Attacks of Opportunity
Attacking unarmed provokes an attack of opportunity from the character you attack, provided she is armed. The attack of opportunity comes before your 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.
An unarmed character can’t take attacks of opportunity (but see “Armed” Unarmed Attacks, below).
“Armed” Unarmed Attacks
Sometimes a character’s or creature’s unarmed attack counts as an armed attack. A monk, a character with the Improved Unarmed Strike feat, a spellcaster delivering a touch attack spell, and a creature with natural physical weapons all count as being armed.
Note that being armed counts for both offense and defense (the character can make attacks of opportunity)
Unarmed Strike Damage
An unarmed strike from a Medium character deals 1d3 points of damage (plus your Strength modifier, as normal). A Small character’s unarmed strike deals 1d2 points of damage, while a Large character’s unarmed strike deals 1d4 points of damage. All damage from unarmed strikes is nonlethal damage. Unarmed strikes count as light weapons (for purposes of two-weapon attack penalties and so on).
Dealing Lethal Damage
You can specify that your unarmed strike will deal lethal damage before you make your attack roll, but you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll. If you have the Improved Unarmed Strike feat, you can deal lethal damage with an unarmed strike without taking a penalty on the attack roll.
With a ranged weapon, you can shoot or throw at any target that is within the weapon’s maximum range and in line of sight. The maximum range for a thrown weapon is five range increments. For projectile weapons, it is ten range increments. Some ranged weapons have shorter maximum ranges, as specified in their descriptions.
An attack roll represents your attempts to strike your opponent.
Automatic Misses and Hits
A character who can make more than one attack per round must use the full attack action (see Full-Round Actions, below) in order to get more than one attack.
Shooting or Throwing into a Melee
If you shoot or throw a ranged weapon at a target engaged in melee with a friendly character, you take a –4 penalty on your attack roll. Two characters are engaged in melee if they are enemies of each other and either threatens the other. (An unconscious or otherwise immobilized character is not considered engaged unless he is actually being attacked.)
If your target (or the part of your target you’re aiming at, if it’s a big target) is at least 10 feet away from the nearest friendly character, you can avoid the –4 penalty, even if the creature you’re aiming at is engaged in melee with a friendly character.
Fighting Defensively as a Standard Action
When you make an attack roll and get a natural 20 (the d20 shows 20), you hit regardless of your target’s Armor Class, and you have scored a threat. The hit might be a critical hit (or “crit”). To find out if it’s a critical hit, you immediately make a critical roll—another attack roll with all the same modifiers as the attack roll you just made. If the critical roll also results in a hit against the target’s AC, your original hit is a critical hit. (The critical roll just needs to hit to give you a crit. It doesn’t need to come up 20 again.) If the critical roll is a miss, then your hit is just a regular hit.
A critical hit means that you roll your damage more than once, with all your usual bonuses, and add the rolls together. Unless otherwise specified, the threat range for a critical hit on an attack roll is 20, and the multiplier is ×2.
Exception: Extra damage over and above a weapon’s normal damage is not multiplied when you score a critical hit.
Increased Threat Range
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.
Increased Critical Multiplier
Some weapons deal better than double damage on a critical hit.
Spells and Critical Hits
Cast a Spell
Most spells require 1 standard action to cast. You can cast such a spell either before or after you take a move action.
To cast a spell with a verbal (V) component, your character must speak in a firm voice. If you’re gagged or in the area of a silence spell, you can’t cast such a spell. A spellcaster who has been deafened has a 20% chance to spoil any spell he tries to cast if that spell has a verbal component.
To cast a spell with a somatic (S) component, you must gesture freely with at least one hand. You can’t cast a spell of this type while bound, grappling, or with both your hands full or occupied.
To cast a spell with a material (M), focus (F), or divine focus (DF) component, you have to have the proper materials, as described by the spell. Unless these materials are elaborate preparing these materials is a free action. For material components and focuses whose costs are not listed, you can assume that you have them if you have your spell component pouch.
Some spells have an experience point (XP) component and entail an experience point cost to you. No spell can restore the lost XP. You cannot spend so much XP that you lose a level, so you cannot cast the spell unless you have enough XP to spare. However, you may, on gaining enough XP to achieve a new level, immediately spend the XP on casting the spell rather than keeping it to advance a level. The XP are expended when you cast the spell, whether or not the casting succeeds.
You must concentrate to cast a spell. If you can’t concentrate you can’t cast a spell. If you start casting a spell but something interferes with your concentration you must make a Concentration check or lose the spell. The check’s DC depends on what is threatening your concentration (see the Concentration skill). If you fail, the spell fizzles with no effect. If you prepare spells, it is lost from preparation. If you cast at will, it counts against your daily limit of spells even though you did not cast it successfully.
Concentrating to Maintain a Spell
Some spells require continued concentration to keep them going. Concentrating to maintain a spell is a standard action that doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. Anything that could break your concentration when casting a spell can keep you from concentrating to maintain a spell. If your concentration breaks, the spell ends.
Most spells have a casting time of 1 standard action. A spell cast in this manner immediately takes effect.
Attacks of Opportunity
Generally, if you cast a spell, you provoke attacks of opportunity from threatening enemies. If you take damage from an attack of opportunity, you must make a Concentration check (DC 10 + points of damage taken + spell level) or lose the spell. Spells that require only a free action to cast don’t provoke attacks of opportunity.
Casting on the Defensive
Casting a spell while on the defensive does not provoke an attack of opportunity. It does, however, require a Concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) to pull off. Failure means that you lose the spell.
Touch Spells in Combat
Many spells have a range of touch. To use these spells, you cast the spell and then touch the subject, either in the same round or any time later. In the same round that you cast the spell, you may also touch (or attempt to touch) the target. You may take your move before casting the spell, after touching the target, or between casting the spell and touching the target. You can automatically touch one friend or use the spell on yourself, but to touch an opponent, you must succeed on an attack roll.
Touching an opponent with a touch spell is considered to be an armed attack and therefore does not provoke attacks of opportunity. However, the act of casting a spell does provoke an attack of opportunity. Touch attacks come in two types: melee touch attacks and ranged touch attacks. You can score critical hits with either type of attack. Your opponent’s AC against a touch attack does not include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. His size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) all apply normally.
Holding the Charge
If you don’t discharge the spell in the round when you cast the spell, you can hold the discharge of the spell (hold the charge) indefinitely. You can continue to make touch attacks round after round. You can touch one friend as a standard action or up to six friends as a full-round action. If you touch anything or anyone while holding a charge, even unintentionally, the spell discharges. If you cast another spell, the touch spell dissipates. 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 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.
Dismiss a Spell
Dismissing an active spell is a standard action that doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity.
Activate Magic Item
Many magic items don’t need to be activated. However, certain magic items need to be activated, especially potions, scrolls, wands, rods, and staffs. Activating a magic item is a standard action (unless the item description indicates otherwise).
Spell Completion Items
Activating a spell completion item is the equivalent of casting a spell. It requires concentration and provokes attacks of opportunity. You lose the spell if your concentration is broken, and you can attempt to activate the item while on the defensive, as with casting a spell.
Spell Trigger, Command Word, or Use-Activated Items
Activating any of these kinds of items does not require concentration and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
Use Special Ability
Using a special ability is usually a standard action, but whether it is a standard action, a full-round action, or not an action at all is defined by the ability.
Using a spell-like ability works like casting a spell in that it requires concentration and provokes attacks of opportunity. Spell-like abilities can be disrupted. If your concentration is broken, the attempt to use the ability fails, but the attempt counts as if you had used the ability. The casting time of a spell-like ability is 1 standard action, unless the ability description notes otherwise.
Using a Spell-Like Ability on the Defensive
You may attempt to use a spell-like ability on the defensive, just as with casting a spell. If the Concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) fails, you can’t use the ability, but the attempt counts as if you had used the ability.
Using a supernatural ability is usually a standard action (unless defined otherwise by the ability’s description). Its use cannot be disrupted, does not require concentration, and does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
Using an extraordinary ability is usually not an action because most extraordinary abilities automatically happen in a reactive fashion. Those extraordinary abilities that are actions are usually standard action that cannot be disrupted, do not require concentration, and do not provoke attacks of opportunity.
You can defend yourself as a standard action. You get a +4 dodge bonus to your AC for 1 round. Your AC improves at the start of this action. You can’t combine total defense with fighting defensively or with the benefit of the Combat Expertise feat (since both of those require you to declare an attack or full attack). You can’t make attacks of opportunity while using total defense.
Start/Complete Full-Round Action
The “start full-round action” standard action lets you start undertaking a full-round action, which you can complete in the following round by using another standard action. You can’t use this action to start or complete a full attack, charge, run, or withdraw.