It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written a Skilled article, but I believe this one is appropriate for players both new and old: actions. While full-round, standard, and move actions are certainly the most important, there are several other types that regretfully get lumped together, their rules forgotten or confused for other things entirely. I hope to shed some light on these.Actions are how your character interacts with combat, and I feel that it’s best to view them as a type of currency that replenishes on your turn.
Imagine, if you will, at the beginning of your turn, you receive a Standard Action, a Move Action, and a Swift Action.
- You can take any or all of these before ending your turn, in whatever order you like.
- You can ready any of these three actions at the conclusion of your turn (though you do so at the expense of shifting your initiative).
- You can combine your Standard Action and Move Action into a Full-Round action.
- You can substitute your Standard Action for an additional Move Action.
- You can substitute your Swift Action as an Immediate Action, which can be used at any point that you are not flat-footed.
So, what are Free Actions? Per the PRD, “Free actions don’t take any time at all, though there may be limits to the number of free actions you can perform in a turn.” Free Actions are a technically limitless resource, at your GM’s discretion, and include things like dropping an item, falling prone, or speaking. There are a handful of class abilities that use Free Actions, such as a Barbarian’s rage ability.
Then what’s a five-foot step? A five-foot step is a Miscellaneous Action that can be taken if “you don’t perform any other kind of movement”. It’s not a Free Action or a Swift Action… it exists as its own ability that can be used based on how you used your Move Action.
This brings us to Swift Actions. Swift Actions are limited to one per turn and cannot be substituted for. Your character’s Swift Action can be spent as an Immediate Action, though the two actions use the same “currency”. This may cause some complications, as there are certain class abilities that utilize Swift and Immediate Actions as their driving force. Some limitations include:
- A Paladin uses Swift Actions to perform both lay on hands (on themselves) and smite
- A Swashbuckler uses an Immediate Action to riposte on a successful parry, limiting them to one per round
- A Warpriest uses Swift Actions for fervor, sacred weapon, and sacred armor
- An Investigator using inspiration on a saving throw must use an Immediate Action
Be weary of the action your ability requires — you don’t want to leave yourself open for catastrophe because of a miscalculation of your action economy.