Actor pointer

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Actor pointers are used to keep track of an actor's relationships with others, such as which one spawned them, or which ones they spawned.

Target, master and tracer

There are 3 main pointers pointers thgat are available to all Actor classes, both in ZScript and DECORATE:

  • target
  • tracer
  • master

ZScript, however, offers a plethora of other pointers, both for actors and for more specific classes.

These pointers are used differently, depending on which type of actor they're used in:


  • target: A projectile's target is not the actor that it will seek after. Instead, this is the actor who fired the projectile (though a little counter-intuitive at that).
  • tracer: This is used only if the projectile has the +SEEKERMISSILE flag. It will lock onto an enemy and seek towards whoever is in this field.
  • master: Unused.


  • master: Unused by default. Can be set if the monster was spawned using A_SpawnItemEx with the SXF_SETMASTER flag, or is transferred over with the SXF_TRANSFERPOINTERS flag.
  • target: This refers to whom the monster is chasing and will attack when called upon with A_Chase.
  • tracer: Unused.

Special cases

Many special actors have different handling for these pointers which do not fit in the generic categories above. They include:

  • Anything that explodes will use its target as the source responsible for damage inflicted by the explosion.
  • SpawnShot (A_SpawnFly and A_SpawnSound will move it towards its target, not its tracer as with other projectiles).
  • Archvile (A_VileTarget assigns its tracer to the spawned ArchvileFire, and A_VileAttack detonates the fire)
  • MinotaurFriend uses the tracer pointer to keep track of the player who summoned it.
  • HolyTail (A_CHolyTail uses the tracer pointer to manage its trail).
  • Lightning and derived classes use the tracer, target and lastenemy pointers to manage cohesion between the various components of the lightning column.
  • Dragon (its dedicated movement functions use the tracer fields as path nodes for its navigation)
  • TeleportFog uses the actor who teleported as the target.

This list is not exhaustive.


ZScript can utilize all of the above mentioned DECORATE pointers (target, master and tracer), but also features a wide range of unique pointers. In addition, custom pointers can be declared.

Some of the most commonly used pointers in ZScript are:

  • self
Can be used by any ZScript class and points to the class itself.
  • owner
Used by inventory items and anything that inherits from them. This pointer refers to the actor that is holding the item.
  • invoker
Appears in the context of classes based on StateProvider, of which currently there are only two: Weapon and CustomInventory. This pointer is used in the states of those classes (outside of the Spawn state, which is used while the Weapon/CustomInventory is simply a pickup in the world) and action functions defined in those classes (such as A_FireBullets). In the context of these functions, self becomes the PlayerPawn owner of the Weapon/CustomInventory, while invoker points to the Weapon/CustomInventory itself.
  • player
Used by the PlayerPawn class and poitns to the related PlayerInfo struct. PlayerInfo itself features a lot of unique pointers.
  • mo
Used by the PlayerInfo struct, and points to the PlayerPawn actor attached to it.

Pointers in ZScript can (and often need to) be stringed together. For example, to access the currently selected weapon from an inventory item, owner.player.readyweapon is needed.

When killed, this version of Imp will spawn another Imp which has 500 health, is twice as slow and appears twice as big:

class DoomImpEnhanced : DoomImp replaces DoomImp
		#### # 0 
			Actor foo = Spawn("DoomImp",pos);
			if (foo) //it's important to null-check the spawned actor, just in case
			{ = 500;
				foo.scale *= 2;
				foo.speed *= 0.5;
		#### # 1 A_FadeOut(0.01);

Note, this doesn't cause recursive spawning of DoomImpEnhanced, because the Spawn function in ZScript by default spawns a specific class forcefully, ignoring Actor replacement rules.

Declaration and scope

Like all variables, pointers can be class-wide (class-scoped, i.e. available anywhere inside the class):

class MyClass : ParentClass
  Actor foo; // This pointer is available anywhere within MyClass
  ... // the rest of the code

...and local (i.e. available only within a specific code block/function):

class MyClass : ParentClass
  void MyFunction()
    Actor foo; // This pointer is available only within MyFunction()
    ... // the rest of the function

class MyActor : Actor
    PLAY A 10
      Actor foo; // This is only available within this anonymous function


In the examples above, the type of the pointer is Actor, which means it can point to a specific instance of an actor on the level. If a pointer is not only declared but immediately pointed to something, the Actor part can be replaced with let—this keyword sets the type automatically:

// Spawns a DoomImp at the same position as the calling actor
// and casts it to 'foo':
Actor foo = Spawn('DoomImp', pos);

// So does this:
let foo = Spawn('DoomImp', pos);

The type of the pointer doesn't have to be Actor; it can point to a more specific class, like Inventory. However, the majority of already existing pointers (like target/master/tracer) or pointers returned by common functions, like Spawn, are always implicitly Actor pointers. This means that these pointers will only give you access to functions, fields and properties defined in the Actor class, but not to the ones defined in its child classes like Inventory or Weapon. That's why for example this is not possible:

// This won't compile!

// This code tries to spawn a Soulsphere, and then
// increase its amount x2. This causes an error,
// because Spawn returns an Actor pointer, but the
// 'amount' field is only defined in Inventory and
// doesn't exist in Actor:
let foo = Spawn('Soulsphere', pos);
foo.amount *= 2;

To get around this limitation, you need type casting. Type casting lets you tell the engine that this specific actor is not just an Actor, but a more specific class. The syntax for this is:

SpecificClass ptr = SpecificClass(otherpointer);

// This is also valid and works the same way:
let ptr = SpecificClass(otherpointer);

This example implies that otherpointer is a generic pointer type (like Actor), and the author knows that it's actually an instance of SpecificClass, and tells the engine that ptr should become a pointer to SpecificClass. Doing this sets the type of ptr as SpecificClass (rather than Actor) and unlocks access to fields, pointers and functions defined in SpecificClass.

Note: while let ptr = SpecificClass(otherpointer) is valid, SpecificClass ptr = otherpointer is not valid and will not perform a cast. The casting itself is the SpecificClass(otherpointer) part.

To be able to spawn an item and modify its properties, it looks like this:

let foo = Inventory(Spawn('Soulsphere', pos));
// Null-check to make sure the cast didn't fail:
if (foo)
  foo.amount *= 2;

In the example above we can also cast the result of Spawn as Soulsphere, but since the field we want to modify it is defined in Inventory, not in Soulsphere specifically, we can cast to a more general class.

Casting combined with null-checking can also be used as a form of an inheritance check instead of the is operator:

let foo = Zombieman(target);
if (foo)
  // This code will only execute if the target pointer
  // points to a Zombieman, or an actor that inherits
  // from Zombieman.

Action functions, Weapon and CustomInventory

Classes based on StateProvider (currently this is Weapon and CustomInventory) have special handling of pointers within their states. With the exception of the Spawn state sequence (which is treated the same way as in any other actor), the state sequences of these classes have to interact with 3 different entities at the same time: the item/weapon itself; its owner (the player); the PSprite class which is responsible for handling the actual animations. As a result, pointers in these state sequences are treated as follows:

  • invoker — this is the item/weapon itself
  • self — this is not the item/weapon itself; this pointer actually pointers to the owner, i.e. the PlayerPawn that is currently using the item/weapon
This pointer can be strung together further: self.player will point to the PlayerInfo struct of the owner; will point to the owner again, but this time cast as PlayerInfo, not Actor.

The same rules apply to the functions defined with the action modifier. The majority of functions defined in the Weapon class are defined as action functions (for example, this applies to all). Within the context of those functions, invoker is the weapon, while self is its owner.

Note: the action modifiedr should not be confused with DECORATE action functions. In DECORATE terminology any function that can be called from an actor state is called an "action function"; in ZScript the majority of Actor functions are not defined as action, and don't need to be, and the action modifier only applies to functions where diferentiating between invoker and self is relevant. If a regular, non-StateProvider actor uses an action function, in it invoker and self will be identical.


Several DECORATE and ACS functions support custom retrieval and assignment of pointer values. The data location or method of retrieval is specified using named pointer selectors.

All pointers are automatically supported by all implementing functions, unless the function documentation specifies otherwise.


The following set of named values all indicate ways of retrieving an actor pointer from a source actor or a static context. The values are divided into categories, and the first selector applicable to the source actor is used. Selectors from different categories may be combined using BITWISE OR. (SELECTOR_A | SELECTOR_B)

Selector category 1: Player-only selectors

Players will use a pointer in this category if one is specified. Otherwise, a pointer from another applicable category will be used.

  • AAPTR_PLAYER_GETTARGET: Get the actor in the player's line of sight. Most target-specific functions use this approach to determining the player's target. This only works if the actor has the SHOOTABLE and SOLID flags, and also lacks the NOBLOCKMAP flag, much like A_JumpIfTargetInLOS.
  • AAPTR_PLAYER_GETCONVERSATION: Get the actor currently talking to the player. Best used from a Strife dialogue that gives a custom inventory item, or starts a script with ACS_ExecuteWithResult (as it processes immediately).

Selector category 2: Generic context selectors

Any actor (non-null) will use a pointer in this category if one is specified. Otherwise, a pointer from another applicable category will be used.

  • AAPTR_MASTER: Access the actor's MASTER pointer. (Players normally do not have masters.)
  • AAPTR_TARGET: Access the actor's TARGET pointer. (Players normally do not use this.)
  • AAPTR_TRACER: Access the actor's TRACER pointer.
  • AAPTR_FRIENDPLAYER: Access the actor's FRIENDPLAYER pointer.
  • AAPTR_GET_LINETARGET: Get the actor in the line of sight. This is similar to AAPTR_PLAYER_GETTARGET above, except it is used for non-player actors.


Note on retrieving TARGET information: Most functions use a special approach to find the target of a player; checking what they are aiming/looking at. This corresponds to AAPTR_PLAYER_GETTARGET. To make a single function that conforms to this standard, use the selector combination AAPTR_TARGET|AAPTR_PLAYER_GETTARGET. The most applicable method will be used (AAPTR_PLAYER_GETTARGET for any player).

Selector category 3: Static context selectors

Any specified pointer in this category will be used.

  • AAPTR_NULL: Return NULL.
  • AAPTR_PLAYER# (where # is a number in the range 1 - 8):
    • A static pointer to the player of that number. NULL if the player does not exist.

Scripting tip: AAPTR_PLAYER1 points to player 1. AAPTR_PLAYER1<<X (shift bits X up) points to player (1 + X). This fact can be applied in ACS loops if you need to reference each active player in sequence.

Selector category 4: Default

This selection is always implied, and applies if no other selection was made. To fully disable this, specify one static selection (as they always apply when specified), such as AAPTR_NULL.

  • AAPTR_DEFAULT: Returns the source actor itself (null if there is no source actor).


The following selectors expose fields for manipulation: AAPTR_MASTER, AAPTR_TARGET and AAPTR_TRACER.

Assignment operations will often, but not necessarily, prevent some assignments from occuring. Examples of such events are:

  • An actor pointing to itself
  • An infinite chain of references (two actors referencing eachother as master or target)

Prevention may involve cancelling the operation, or setting the pointer to NULL. Details on this should be included in the documentation of the individual function.

Revision information - assigning to pointers: Significant changes to this functionality are unlikely. Functions that support a set of selectors different from AAPTR_MASTER, AAPTR_TARGET, AAPTR_TRACER should list the supported features, along with any needed revision information.

See also