Actions In Combat

Actions in combat

Standard Actions
These are the basic things characters and creatures can do during a combat round. Basic attacks are covered under this type of action, as are the activation of normal items, devices and magical treasures. Most actions taken by combatants are standard actions, though timing or outside influences might change this status.

Making an attack is a standard action. There are three kinds of basic attack, namely melee, unarmed and ranged. Melee covers the use of close-combat weapons. Unarmed attacks are any offensive use of natural parts of a creature’s body; this covers everything from a laborer’s fists to a lion’s claws. Ranged attacks run the gamut from ray-type spells to more conventional weapons such as bows and slings.

Melee Attacks
With a normal melee weapon, you can strike any opponent within 5 feet. (Opponents within five 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 cannot strike adjacent foes, i.e. those within 5 feet.

Unarmed Attacks
Striking for damage with punches, kicks and head butts is much like attacking with a melee weapon, except for the following complications:

  • 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 cannot 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 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 offence and defense; the character can make attacks of opportunity if another person attacks them when unarmed.
  • 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 non-lethal damage. Unarmed strikes count as light weapons.
  • 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.

Ranged Attacks
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.

Attack Rolls
An attack roll represents your attempts to strike your opponent. Your attack roll is 1d20 + your attack bonus with the weapon you are using. If the result is at least as high as the target’s Passive Defense, you have hit them unless they then roll higher than your result with their Active Defense or Shield Defense check. An attack that hits deals damage, some or all of which may be blocked by armor.

Automatic Misses and Hits
A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on the attack roll is always a miss. A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a hit, in that it automatically beats any Active Defense check or Shield Defense check. A natural 20 is also a threat—a possible critical hit. This is another notable exception to the natural 1 and 20 rules.

Damage Rolls
If the attack roll result equals or exceeds the target’s Passive Defense and is not itself exceeded by the target’s Active Defense check or Shield Defense check, the attack hits and you deal damage. (Note that when the attack roll equals the Active Defense or Shield Defense check, the attacker wins.) Roll the appropriate damage for your weapon. That amount of damage is deducted from the target’s current hit points and marked on his character sheet as a wound of that many points. If the target is wearing armor, he is allowed to make a Coverage check to see if his armor intercepts any of the damage.

Multiple Attacks
A character that 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 are aiming at, if it is 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 are aiming at is engaged in melee with a friendly character.

  • Precise Shot:
    If you have the Precise Shot feat you do not take this penalty.

Fighting Defensively as a Standard Action:
You can choose to fight defensively when attacking. If you do so, you take a –4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to Active Defense checks for the same round. If you have a shield, you may choose to fight defensively with it. You take a –4 penalty on all attacks in the round to gain a +2 coverage bonus to all Shield Defense checks made in the same round. Essentially, you hide more of your body behind your shield, which makes it harder for you to hit opponents but harder for opponents to hit you. This coverage bonus also applies to passive shield coverage that round, for which see above under Shields.

Critical Hits:
When you make an attack roll and get a natural 20 (the d20 shows 20), you hit regardless of your target’s Passive Defense, Active Defense or Shield Defense and you have scored a threat. The hit might be a critical hit (or ‘crit’). To find out if it is 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 exceeds the result your opponent rolled for Active Defense or Shield Defense, your original hit is a critical hit. (The critical roll just needs to hit to give you a critical hit. It does not 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 x2.

  • Exception:
    Extra damage over and above a weapon’s normal damage is not multiplied when you score a critical hit. This includes additional dice from magical effects or class features such as Sneak Attack.
  • 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 does not 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:
    A spell that requires an attack roll can score a critical hit. A spell attack that requires no attack roll cannot score a critical hit.

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.

  • Note:
    You may make Active Defense checks while casting Witchcraft or Hekau spells or praying for miracles. You cannot make Shield Defense checks while casting Witchcraft or Hekau spells, though you can make Shield Defense checks while praying for miracles.

Spell Components
Characters using the Witchcraft and Hekau skills, as well as characters using the Prayer skill in conjunction with the Work Miracle class feature, can all work magical effects. When produced by Witchcraft or Hekau, these are called spells; when delivered as an answer to prayer, these are called miracles. Miracles are a form of magic that is delivered directly from the deity in response to prayer and require no components, though ritual preparations can improve the chances of the prayer being answered. See the section on Ritual Preparations in the Magic chapter for further details. To pray for a miracle, you do not need to speak aloud, though it is more efficient. As with the usual modifiers that apply to a Prayer skill check (see the Ancient Skills chapter for more details), a silent prayer gives a –2 penalty to the Prayer check, as the Gods are less likely to hear you. Miracles are prayed for as a standard action, though you can make ritual preparations that take longer than the prayer itself. To cast a spell with Witchcraft or Hekau, you need to be able to move your hands in arcane gestures and speak in a firm voice. If your hands are bound or your mouth gagged, you cannot cast spells with Witchcraft or Hekau, with the exception of the evil eye spell. Witchcraft spells can be fuelled with herbs. If the caster of a witchcraft spell wishes to use herbs, she must have them to hand. Occasionally, spells will have large, bulky components, such as a ritual mask.

You must concentrate to cast a spell or pray for a miracle. If you cannot concentrate you cannot cast a spell or pray for miracles. If you start casting a spell or praying for a miracle but something interferes with your concentration, you must make a Concentration check or lose the spell or miracle. The check’s DC depends on what is threatening your concentration; see the Concentration skill. If you fail, the spell does not take effect or the prayer is disrupted and the miracle does not occur. A failed spell has a variable cost; see the Magic chapter for more details. A failed prayer for a miracle, as with all such attempts, has no hit point cost but does increase the DC of the next attempt.

Concentrating to Maintain a Spell
Some spells require continued concentration to keep them going. Concentrating to maintain a spell is a standard action that does not 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.

Casting Time
Most spells have a casting time of 1 standard action. A spell cast in this manner immediately takes effect if the check is successful.

Attacks of Opportunity
Generally, if you cast a spell or pray for a miracle, you provoke attacks of opportunity from threatening enemies. The sustained concentration necessary draws your attention away from the battlefield, which allows nearby opponents a chance to take a swing at you. If you take damage from an attack of opportunity, you must make a Concentration check (DC 10 + points of damage taken + effect save modifier) or lose the spell.

Casting and Praying on the Defensive
Casting a spell or praying for a miracle while on the defensive does not provoke an attack of opportunity. It does, however, require a Concentration check (DC 15 +effect save modifier) to pull off. Failure means that you automatically fail the Witchcraft, Hekau or Prayer skill check.

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.

  • Touch Attacks:
    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 may not defend against a touch attack usefully with Shield Defense; a touch attack that is intercepted with a shield actually counts as a hit. He may only evade the attack with Active Defense. As always, if you fail to beat his Passive Defense with a touch attack, you miss. Your opponent does not make a Coverage check for his armor or passive shield use, as armor and shields are ineffective against touch attacks. He may, however, make a Coverage check if he is partly protected by a deflection effect or physical cover, such as a wall.
  • Holding the Charge:
    If you do not 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 are not considered armed and you provoke attacks of opportunity as normal for the attack. (If your unarmed attack or natural weapon attack does not 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 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.

  • Spell-Like Abilities:
    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 save modifier) fails, you cannot use the ability, but the attempt counts as if you had used the ability.
  • Supernatural Abilities:
    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.
  • Extraordinary Abilities:
    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 actions that cannot be disrupted, do not require concentration and do not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Total Defense
You can defend yourself as a standard action. You get a +4 dodge bonus to your Active and Shield Defense checks for 1 round. Your Defense improves at the start of this action. You cannot 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 cannot 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 cannot use this action to start or complete a full attack, charge, run or withdraw.

Move Actions
With the exception of specific movement-related skills, most move actions do not require a check. As the title of this type of action suggests, all move actions centre around locomotion or body movements, though not all of them involve a character physically moving from its current location.

The simplest move action is moving your speed. If you take this kind of move action during your turn, you cannot also take a five foot step. Many non-standard modes of movement are covered under this category, including climbing up to one-quarter of your speed and swimming up to one-quarter of your speed.

  • Accelerated Climbing:
    You can climb one-half your speed as a move action by accepting a –5 penalty on your Climb check.
  • Crawling:
    You can crawl five feet as a move action. Crawling incurs attacks of opportunity from any attackers who threaten you at any point of your crawl.

Draw or Sheathe a Weapon
Drawing a weapon so that you can use it in combat or putting it away so that you have a free hand, requires a move action. This action also applies to weapon-like objects carried in easy reach, such as wands. If your weapon or weapon-like object is stored in a pack or otherwise out of easy reach, treat this action as retrieving a stored item. If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you may draw a weapon as a free action combined with a regular move. Drawing ammunition for use with a ranged weapon (such as arrows or sling bullets) is a free action.

Ready or Loose a Shield
Strapping a shield to your arm so that you can make Shield Defense checks or unstrapping and dropping a shield so you can use your shield hand for another purpose, requires a move action. If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you can ready or loose a shield as a free action combined with a regular move. Dropping a carried (but not worn) shield is a free action.

Manipulate an Item
In most cases, moving or manipulating an item is a move action. This includes retrieving or putting away a stored item, picking up an item, moving a heavy object and opening a door. Examples of this kind of action, along with whether they incur an attack of opportunity, are given in the Actions in Combat table above.

Direct or Redirect a Spell
Some spells allow you to redirect the effect to new targets or areas after you cast the spell. Redirecting a spell requires a move action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity or require concentration.

Stand Up
Standing up from a prone position requires a move action and provokes attacks of opportunity.

Mount/Dismount a Steed
Mounting or dismounting from a steed requires a move action.

  • Fast Mount or Dismount:
    You can mount or dismount as a free action with a DC 20 Ride check. Your armor check penalty, if any, applies to this check. If you fail the check, mounting or dismounting is a move action instead. You cannot attempt a fast mount or fast dismount unless you can perform the mount or dismount as a move action in the current round.

Full-Round Actions
A full-round action requires an entire round to complete. Thus, it cannot be coupled with a standard or a move action, though if it does not involve moving any distance, you can take a five foot step.

Full Attack
If you get more than one attack per round because your base attack bonus is high enough, you must use a full round action to get your additional attacks. You do not need to specify the targets of your attacks ahead of time. You can see how the earlier attacks turn out before assigning the later ones. You must, however, make the attacks in order, from the highest bonus to the lowest. The only movement you can take during a full attack is a five foot step. You may take the step before, after or between your attacks.

Deciding between an Attack or a Full Attack:
After your first attack, you can decide to take a move action instead of making your remaining attacks, depending on how the first attack turns out. If you have already taken a five foot step, you cannot use your move action to move any distance, but you could still use a different kind of move action.

Fighting Defensively as a Full-Round Action:
You can choose to fight defensively when taking a full attack action. If you do so, you take a –4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to all Active Defense checks for the same round. You can opt to fight defensively with a shield, taking a –4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 cover bonus to all Shield Defense checks for the same round. You may not switch between these two modes of defensive fighting in the same round, though you may change tactics from round to round.

The extra attack granted by the Cleave feat or Great Cleave feat can be taken whenever they apply. This is an exception to the normal limit to the number of attacks you can take when not using a full attack action.

Cast a Spell
A spell that takes 1 round to cast is a full-round action. It comes into effect just before the beginning of your turn in the round after you began casting the spell. You then act normally after the spell is completed. A spell that takes 1 minute to cast comes into effect just before your turn 1 minute later (and for each of those 10 rounds, you are casting a spell as a full-round action). These actions must be consecutive and uninterrupted or the spell automatically fails. When you begin a spell that takes 1 round or longer to cast, you must continue the invocations, gestures and concentration from one round to just before your turn in the next round (at least). If you lose concentration after starting the spell and before it is complete, you lose the spell. You only provoke attacks of opportunity when you begin casting a spell, even though you might continue casting for at least one full round. While casting a spell, you do not threaten any squares around you. This action is otherwise identical to the cast a spell action described under Standard Actions.

Use Special Ability
Using a special ability is usually a standard action, but some may be full-round actions, as defined by the ability.

Withdrawing from melee combat is a full-round action. When you withdraw, you can move up to double your speed. The square you start out in is not considered threatened by any opponent you can see and therefore visible enemies do not get attacks of opportunity against you when you move from that square. (Invisible enemies still get attacks of opportunity against you and you cannot withdraw from combat if you are blinded.) You cannot take a five foot step during the same round in which you withdraw. If, during the process of withdrawing, you move out of a threatened square (other than the one you started in), enemies get attacks of opportunity as normal. You may not withdraw using a form of movement for which you do not have a listed speed. Note that despite the name of this action, you do not actually have to leave combat entirely.

  • Restricted Withdraw:
    If you are limited to taking only a standard action each round you can withdraw as a standard action. In this case, you may only move up to your speed rather than up to double your speed.

You can run as a full-round action. (If you do, you do not also get a five foot step.) When you run, you can move up to four times your speed in a straight line (or three times your speed if you are in heavy armor). You lose any Dexterity bonus to Active Defense unless you have the Run feat. A run represents a speed of about 12 miles per hour for an unencumbered human. You can run for a number of rounds equal to your Constitution score, but after that you must make a DC 10 Constitution check to continue running. You must check again each round in which you continue to run and the DC of this check increases by 1 for each check you have made. When you fail this check, you must stop running. A character that has run to his limit must rest for 1 minute (10 rounds) before running again. During a rest period, a character can move no faster than a normal move action. You cannot run across difficult terrain or if you cannot see where you are going.

Move Five Feet through Difficult Terrain
In some situations, your movement may be so hampered that you do not have sufficient speed even to move five feet (a single square). In such a case, you may spend a full-round action to move five feet (1 square) in any direction, even diagonally. Even though this looks like a five foot step, it is not and thus it provokes attacks of opportunity normally.

Free Actions
Free actions do not take any time at all, though there may be limits to the number of free actions you can perform in a turn. Free actions rarely incur attacks of opportunity. Some common free actions are described below.

Drop an Item
Dropping an item in your space or into an adjacent square is a free action.

Drop Prone
Dropping to a prone position in your space is a free action.

In general, speaking is a free action that you can perform even when it is not your turn. Speaking more than a few sentences is generally beyond the limit of a free action. Roughly speaking, if a phrase takes longer than 6 seconds to say, it requires a standard action to complete, but this is a matter for a Games Master’s discretion.

Cease Concentration on Spell
You can stop concentrating on an active spell as a free action.

Miscellaneous Actions

Drop to the Floor
You may drop to the floor as a free action; this makes it harder for a ranged attack to hit you, though you cannot easily fight while prone. If you are attacked at a point in the combat when you are allowed your Dexterity bonus to Active Defense, you may drop to the floor in response to an attack, even if it is not your turn. This action grants you a +4 dodge bonus to your Active Defense against that one attack alone. Lying prone increases your Passive Defense against most ranged attacks (see Combat Modifiers below) but you do not adjust your Passive Defense until the attack is resolved.

Take Five Foot Step
You can move five feet in any round when you do not perform any other kind of movement. Taking this five foot step never provokes an attack of opportunity. You cannot take more than one five foot step in a round and you cannot take a five foot step in the same round when you move any distance. You can take a five foot step before, during or after your other actions in the round. You can only take a five foot-step if difficult terrain or darkness does not hamper your movement. Any creature with a speed of five feet or less cannot take a five foot step, since moving even five feet requires a move action for such a slow creature. You may not take a five foot step using a form of movement for which you do not have a listed speed.

Use Feat
Certain feats let you take special actions in combat. Other feats do not require actions themselves, but they give you a bonus when attempting something you can already do. Some feats are not meant to be used within the framework of combat. The individual feat descriptions tell you what you need to know about them.

Use Skill
Most skill uses are standard actions, but some might be move actions, full-round actions, free actions or something else entirely. The individual skill descriptions tell you what sorts of actions are required to perform skills.

Actions In Combat

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