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ACTIONS IN COMBAT

The fundamental actions of moving and attacking cover most of what a character wants to do in a battle. They're described here. Other, more specialized options are touched on in Table: Actions in Combat, and covered in Special Initiative Actions and Special Attacks.

The Combat Round

Each round represents about 6 seconds in the game world. A round is an opportunity for each character involved in a combat to take an action. Anything a person could reasonably do in 6 seconds, a character can do in 1 round.

Each round's activity begins with the character with the highest initiative result and then proceeds, in order, from there. Each round of a combat uses the same initiative order. When a character's turn comes up in the initiative sequence, that character performs his or her entire round's worth of actions. (For exceptions, see Attacks of Opportunity and Special Initiative Actions.)

For almost all purposes, there is no relevance to the end of a round or the beginning of a round. A round can be a segment of game time starting with the first character to act and ending with the last, but it usually means a span of time from a certain round to the same initiative number in the next round. Effects that last a certain number of rounds end just before the same initiative count that they began on.

Table: Actions in Combat
Attack Actions
Attack of Opportunity1
Attack (melee)No
Attack (ranged)Yes
Attack (unarmed)Yes
Attack (aid another)No
Bull rush (attack)No
Escape a grappleNo
Feint (see the Bluff skill)No
Ready (triggers an attack action)No
Make a dying character stableYes
Attack a weaponYes
Attack an objectMaybe2
Start/complete full-round actionVaries
Total defenseNo
Use a skill that takes an attack actionUsually
Move Actions
Attack of Opportunity1
Move your speedYes
Use a piece of equipmentNo
Climb (one-quarter speed)No
Climb, accelerated (one-half speed)No
CrawlNo
Draw a weapon3No
Holster a weaponYes
Move a heavy objectYes
Open a doorNo
Pick up an objectYes
Reload a firearm with a box magazine or speed loaderYes
Retrieve a stored objectYes
Stand up from prone, sitting, or kneelingNo
SwimNo
Use a skill that takes a move actionUsually
Full-Round Actions
Attack of Opportunity1
Bull rush (charge)No
ChargeNo
Coup de graceYes
Full attackNo
Overrun (charge)No
RunYes
WithdrawNo
Extinguish flamesNo
Use a skill that takes a full roundUsually
Reload a firearm with an internal magazineYes
Free Actions
Attack of Opportunity1
Drop an objectNo
Drop to prone, sitting, or kneelingNo
SpeakNo
Action Type Varies
Attack of Opportunity1
Disarm4Yes
Grapple4Yes
Load a weaponYes
Trip an opponent4No
Use a feat5Varies
No Action
Attack of Opportunity1
DelayNo
5-foot stepNo

1 Regardless of the action, if a character moves out of a threatened square, the character usually provokes an attack of opportunity. This column indicates whether the action itself, not moving, provokes an attack of opportunity.

2 If the object is being held, carried, or worn by a creature, yes. If not, no.

3 If the character has a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, he or she can combine this action with a regular move. If the character has the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, he or she can draw two light or one-handed weapons in the time it would normally take to draw one.

4 These attack forms substitute for a melee attack, not an action. As melee attacks, they can be used once in an attack or charge action, one or more times in a full attack action, or even as an attack of opportunity.

5 The description of a feat defines its effect.

Action Types

The four types of actions are attack actions, move actions, full-round actions, and free actions. In a normal round, a character can perform an attack action and a move action (or two move actions; a character can always take a move action in place of an attack action), or a character can perform a full-round action. A character can also perform as many free actions as the GM allows.

In some situations (such as in the surprise round) a character may be limited to taking only a single attack or move action.

Attack Action

An attack action allows a character to do something. A character can make an attack, use a skill or a feat (unless the skill or feat requires a full-round action to perform; see below), or perform other similar actions. During a combat round, a character can take an attack action and a move action. A character can take a move action before or after performing an attack action.

Move Action

A move action allows a character to move his or her speed or perform an action that takes a similar amount of time. A character can move his or her speed, climb one-quarter of his or her speed, draw or stow a weapon or other object, stand up, pick up an object, or perform some equivalent action (see Table: Actions in Combat).

A character can take a move action in the place of an attack action.

If a character moves no actual distance in a round, that character can take one 5-foot step before, during, or after the action.

Full-Round Action

A full-round action consumes all a character's effort during a round. The only movement the character can take during a full-round action is a 5-foot step before, during, or after the action. Some full-round actions do not allow a character to take a 5-foot step. A character can also perform free actions (see below) as the GM allows.

Free Action

Free actions consume a very small amount of time and effort, and over the span of the round, their impact is so minor that they are considered free. A character can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally. However, the GM puts reasonable limits on what a character can really do for free. For instance, dropping an object, dropping to a prone position, speaking a sentence or two, and ceasing to concentrate on a magic spell (if magic is available in the campaign) are all free actions.

Attack Actions

Most common attack actions are described below. More specialized attack actions are mentioned in Table: Actions in Combat, and covered in Special Attacks.

Melee Attacks

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.

Unarmed Attacks

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.

Ranged Attacks

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.

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 a move action at the beginning of his or her turn in the round following the round when the character started the full-round action.

If the character starts a full-round action at the end of his or her turn, the next action that character takes must be to complete the full-round action.

Total Defense

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.

Move Actions

With the exception of specific movement-related skills, most move actions don't require a check. In some cases, ability checks might be required.

Movement

The simplest move action is moving the character's speed. If a character takes this kind of move action during his or her turn, the character cannot also take a 5-foot step.

Many nonstandard modes of movement are also covered under this category, including climbing and swimming (up to one-quarter the character's speed), crawling (up to 5 feet), and entering a vehicle.

Manipulating Objects

In most cases, moving or manipulating an object is a move action. This includes drawing or holstering a weapon, retrieving or putting away a stored object, picking up an object, moving a heavy object, and opening a door.

If the character has a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, he or she can draw a weapon as part of his or her normal movement.

Standing Up

Standing up from a prone, sitting or kneeling position requires a move action. It provokes an attack of opportunity from opponents who threaten the character.

Full-Round Actions

A full-round action requires an entire round to complete. If it doesn't involve moving any distance, a character can combine it with a 5-foot step.

Charge

Charging is a special full-round action that allows a character to move more than his or her speed and attack during the action. However, there are tight restrictions on how and when a character can charge.

Movement during a Charge: The character must move before his or her attack, not after. The character must move at least 10 feet and may move up to twice his or her speed. All movement must be in a straight line, with no backing up allowed. The character must stop as soon as he or she is within striking range of his or her target (the character can't run past the target and attack from another direction). A character can't take a 5-foot step during the same round as a full charge.

During the surprise round (or any other time a character is limited to taking no more than a single attack action on his or her turn) the character can still use the charge action, but he or she is only allowed to move up to his or her speed (instead of up to twice his or her speed).

Attacking after a Charge: After moving, the character may make a single melee attack. The character gets a +2 bonus on the attack roll. The character also takes a -2 penalty to his or her Defense for 1 round (until the beginning of the character's turn in the following round).

Even if the character has extra attacks, such as from having a high enough base attack bonus or from using multiple weapons, a character only gets to make one attack after a charge.

Instead of attacking the target, a character can attempt to push the target back. See Bull Rush.

Full Attack

If a character gets more than one attack per action because his or her base attack bonus is high enough, because he or she fights with two weapons, because he or she is using a double weapon, or for some special reason, the character must use the full attack action to get his or her additional attacks. The character does not need to specify the targets of his or her attacks ahead of time. The character can see how the earlier attacks turn out before assigning the later ones.

Full attack is a full-round action. Because of this, the only movement a character can take during a full attack is a 5-foot step. The character may take the step before, after, or between the attacks.

If a character gets multiple attacks based on his or her base attack bonus, the character must make the attacks in order from highest bonus to lowest. If the character is using two weapons, the character can strike with either weapon first. If the character is using a double weapon, the character can strike with either part of the weapon first.

Committing to a Full Attack Action: A character doesn't have to commit to a full attack until after the first attack. The character can then decide whether to make his or her remaining attacks or to take a move action. Of course, if the character has already taken a 5-foot step, he or she can't use his or her move action to move any distance, but the character could still draw or put away a weapon, for instance (see Move Actions, above).

Fighting Defensively: A character can choose to fight defensively when taking a full attack action. If the character does so, he or she takes a -4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to Defense in the same round.

Attacking with Two Weapons: If the character wields a second weapon in his or her off hand, the character can get one extra attack per round with that weapon. Fighting in this way is very difficult, however-the character takes a -6 penalty on the regular attack or attacks with his or her primary hand and a -10 penalty on the attack with his or her off hand. A character can reduce these penalties in two ways.

  1. If the off-hand weapon is light, the penalties are reduced by 2 each. (An unarmed strike is always considered light.)
  2. The Two-Weapon Fighting feat lessens the primary hand penalty by 2, and the off-hand penalty by 6.

Table: Two-Weapon Fighting Penalties summarizes the interaction of all these factors.

Double Weapons: A character can use a double weapon to make an extra attack as if he or she were fighting with two weapons. The penalties apply as if the off-hand weapon were light.

Table: Two-Weapon Fighting Penalties
CircumstancesPrimary HandOff Hand
Normal penalties-6-10
Off-hand weapon is light-4-8
Two-Weapon Fighting feat-4-4
Off-hand weapon is light and Two-Weapon Fighting feat-2-2

Run

A character can run all out as a full-round action. When a character runs, he or she can move up to four times his or her speed in a straight line. (The character does not get a 5-foot step.) The character loses any Dexterity bonus to Defense since he or she can't avoid attacks. However, the character gets a +2 bonus to Defense against ranged attacks while running.

A character can run for a number of rounds equal to his or her Constitution score, but after that the character must succeed at a Constitution check (DC 10) to continue running. The character must check again each round in which he or she continues to run, and the DC of this check increases by 1 for each check the character makes. When the character fails this check, he or she must stop running. A character who has run to his or her limit must rest for 1 minute (10 rounds) before running again. During a rest period, a character can move normally, but can't run.

A run represents a speed of about 14 miles per hour for an unencumbered human.

Withdraw

Withdrawing from melee combat is a full-round action. When a character withdraws, he or she can move up to twice his or her speed. (The character doesn't also get a 5-foot step.) The square the character starts from is not considered threatened for purposes of withdrawing, and therefore enemies do not get attacks of opportunity against the character when he or she move from that square.

If while withdrawing, the character moves through another threatened square (other than the one started in) without stopping, enemies get attacks of opportunity as normal.

Some forms of movement (such as climbing and swimming) require skill checks from most creatures. A character may not withdraw using a form of movement for which that character must make a skill check.

Miscellaneous Actions

Some actions don't fit neatly into the above categories. Some of the options described below are actions that take the place of or are variations on the actions described earlier. For actions not covered in any of this material, the GM determines how long such an action takes to perform and whether doing so provokes attacks of opportunity from threatening enemies.

Use Feat, Skill, or Talent

Certain feats, let a character take special actions in combat. Other feats are not actions in themselves, but they give a character a bonus when attempting something he or she can already do. Some feats aren't meant to be used within the framework of combat. The individual feat descriptions tell a character what he or she needs to know about them.

Most uses of skills or talents in a combat situation are attack actions, but some might be move actions or full-round actions. When appropriate, the description of a talent or a skill provides the time required to use it.