All About Actions

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

One of the most important aspects of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is combat. Monsters and villains are a very real threat that adventurers have to deal with on a daily basis, and quiet negotiation is rarely the answer. When talking fails, swords are drawn and combat is joined. In Pathfinder First Edition, combat could become rather bogged down just by the weight of options available. Time and time again, we heard new players talk about the complexity of the action system, how it made the game slow down as players looked to eke the most out of their turns.

Basically, the previous system was a barrier, and so it should come as no surprise that we are looking at ways that we can simplify it to make the game run more smoothly and intuitively. The hard part was making sure that the versatility of the old system was still present, while cleaning up the overall experience. We want your turn in combat to be exciting and full of interesting choices. We want you to be elated by coming up with just the right combination of actions to win the day. We just don't want those choices to be hedged in by a number of complex categories.

Seven Types

Before I explain the new way of doing things, it might be good to look back to find some perspective. The previous edition of Pathfinder featured seven distinct action types: free, full-round, immediate, move, standard, swift, and a nebulously defined “other” category. These helped to curb what a character could do and encouraged varied tactics to get the most out of your round. In particular, the immediate action was of interest because it was something you could do outside your turn.

This approach has served us well over the years, but we have long looked for better ways to accomplish some of the same goals with a more intuitive system.

Three Actions

It's your turn. You get to take three actions. That's it. You want to move three times? Done. Instead you want to move once, draw your sword, and attack? No problem. How about attack three times? Go ahead (but you'll take an increasing penalty for each additional attack). With only a few notable exceptions, most things in the game now take one action to accomplish. Opening a door, drawing a weapon, reloading a crossbow, moving up to your speed, raising your shield, taking a guarded step, swinging your greataxe—all of these and much more take just one action to perform.

There are, of course, some exceptions. A few things don't take an action at all, like talking or dropping a weapon. Conversely, most of the spells in the game take two actions to cast, although some can be cast quickly, such as a heal spell that targets yourself. Many of the classes can teach you specific activities that take two more actions to perform. The fighter, for example, has a feat that you can select called Sudden Charge, which costs two actions but lets you to move twice your speed and attack once, allowing fighters to get right into the fray!

One Reaction

One aspect of Pathfinder First Edition that was important to us was the ability to occasionally, if the circumstances were right, act outside your turn. While this was most often a simple attack of opportunity, we saw this as a way to add a whole new dimension to the game.

So now, all characters get one reaction they can take when the conditions are right.

Reactions always come with a trigger that must occur before the reaction can be taken. Let's say you're playing a paladin with a shield and you have spent an action to defend yourself with that shield. Not only does this boost your Armor Class; it also allows you to take a special reaction if you are hit by an attack. This shield block reduces the damage taken by an amount up to the shield's hardness!

Not everybody will have a reaction they can use during combat, but you can always ready an action that allows you prepare a special action that you can take later if the conditions you specify are met. You might ready an action to attack the first orc that walks around the corner, allowing you to make a strike if that happens before your next turn.

Finally, some monsters have reactions they can take as well. While some have simple reactions that allow them to attack those who drop their guard while adjacent to them, others have wildly different abilities. An earth elemental, for example, can spend its reaction after being hit to crumble into a pile of rocks, burrowing down into the ground for safety.

The New System in Practice

The three-action-and-a-reaction system really has done a lot for gameplay around the office. Turns are quite a bit more dynamic. The breadth of options now compete with each other, not based upon what action type they are, but instead on their merits in the current combat situation. Concentrating on a spell might be vital, but not if you need to move away, draw a potion, and drink it. Maybe you could wait to drink it until your next turn to keep the spell going, or maybe you could not move and hope the monster does not eat you.

Most importantly, taking your turn in Pathfinder is now filled with a wide variety of possibilities, allowing you to get the most out of your time in the spotlight, while still keeping the game moving and engaging.

Well, that about wraps up our in-depth look at the new action system for Pathfinder. Come back on Friday for a blog post looking into all of the spoilers from the first part of the Glass Cannon Network's podcast of their playtest of the game. In addition, if you want to see the game yourself, and maybe even get a chance to play, stop by Gary Con this weekend, where we will be running a number of Pathfinder charity games, raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project!

Jason Bulmahn
Director of Game Design

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Tags: Pathfinder Playtest
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6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

As some have pointed it this sounds like it comes from Action Economy in Pathfinder Unchained?


7 people marked this as a favorite.

Depending on the amount of actions, this actually makes turn optimization a lot more deep. Love this though!

Liberty's Edge

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Can you clarify the "increasing penalty," Jason? The podcast made a three-attack sequence sound more like 0/-5/-5 but this blog seems to be saying something closer to 0/-5/-10. Can you sort that out?

Grand Lodge

6 people marked this as a favorite.

I like this action and reaction concept. (Okay, as a wizard I want to be able to cast a spell and destroy my foes in one action, but I will grudgingly accept doing it in two actions). Getting the combat down pat in PF has been an ongoing pain due to so many things falling into swift, immediate, full-round, move, or standard actions or being able to substitute for another type of action. Streamlining the combat sequence was something I hoped would be taken care of in 2.0 and on the surface it seems as if it has been.

I am really looking forward to August 2nd. Full speed ahead and embrace the change!

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If crossbows need an action to reload, what about bows?


6 people marked this as a favorite.

Why does it take 3 actions to accomplish what you could do in 1 in 1E? (Draw weapon, move, leap)

That doesn't sound like "giving me the most out of my time" at all.

Why are fighters the only ones able to make an AoO?


Okay. I'm down for this. So ready for the playtest!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm super excited for this!


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ok that sounds a lot like StarFinder, so that's a good thing. Plus being able to do more than a single attack if you feel your stats are good enough seems reasonable. PLUS gods willing, it'll drop that stupid "fighting with a two-handed weapon, free action to release grip, cast spell, grab two-handed weapon again as a swift action, have a 10 foot threatened area" crap that I see the theory crafters doing.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

Seems like a good upgrade. The example of the shield block reminded me of Runequest. I like the option of an an active shield block.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Looking forward to GaryCon!!!


Interesting. I'm sure things are going to be excellent and practical in 2E. I really looking forward to see all the reaction the rogue and the rangers are going to get.

Liberty's Edge

I wonder if you'll have to raise you shield every round or just once

Silver Crusade

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

This is such a fantastic change. As someone who regularly teaches the game to new players, a simplified action economy is going to do wonders for that. This is an exciting update.


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Hmm, so with the 3 action system, I can now do 3 actions that were swift actions before. In pathfinder you cant do 3 swift actions, which is dumb since they supposed to take "less" time. For instance, you can't use two spring loaded wrist sheaths in the same round. But with the 3 action system, you could write the wrist sheath to say something like... "drawing the item and using it only takes 1 action." So, in theory you could wrist sheath a dagger into your hand and attack as 1 action and then wrist sheath a potion into the other hand and drink it as your 2nd action.

I'm sure it will take some balancing, but this system does sound like it will have some great potential.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I like the sound of this system a lot. I can see being able to do a lot with it.

Jason how does each attack action get affected by 2 weapon fighting? Is it one attack with one weapon each action and you have to trade out between the different hand? I.e. 3 actions 2 weapon fighting 1st left 2nd right 3rd left. Or do you get extra attacks from the off hand?


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Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
GreyWolfLord wrote:
As some have pointed it this sounds like it comes from Action Economy in Pathfinder Unchained?

I think it is, with the main changes being that the game and classes are actually built with this version instead of it being an option to add in that doesn't quite fit with everything.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This could actually make the chase mechanic a lot more interesting due to the flexibility of actions.

Run to a building (1 action), leap 10ft up to an open window (1 action), jump through the window (1 action).

Scarab Sages

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Is there a feat, like combat reflexes, that adds to the number of reactions one can take? Or will it always be just one (at least in the CRB?)

So far, this looks good though.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Is light/agile/superstabby weapons do get reduced penalties for additional attacks, I hope that they don't end up overpowering other weapon choices. Once you are able to stack up enough per hit bonus damage I could see that being problematic.

Also gishes may have an advantage over mundanes if they deal damage with an attack, then cast to deal damage and don't eat the iterative attack penalty on the spell.


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I was excited by this idea yesterday, but, “move once, draw your sword, and attack,” and, “move away, draw a potion, and drink it,” seem like the definition of 'action' is going to be pretty pedantic. Three actions is still better than two, and I'm still watching with interest, but this post has made me more trepidatious, rather than less.

...Trepidatious is totally a word, Paizo forum spellchecker.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I would be shocked if there didn't end up being a hundred ways to combine/reduce/otherwise screw with the simple action economy.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
This is such a fantastic change. As someone who regularly teaches the game to new players, a simplified action economy is going to do wonders for that. This is an exciting update.

Yes, I agree! I’m looking forward to trying it out!


6 people marked this as a favorite.

This is the change I am most excited about!

Cast a spell and swing an axe at someone in the same round? Yes please!

Draw a potion, move to your downed ally, and administer it, all in the same round? F'ing finally!

Demoralize someone with Intimidate, and then hit them with a spell while their saves are down? That is so cool!

Start up Inspire Courage and stab someone with your rapier simultaneously? That just makes sense!

I really hope this is implemented well.


Is charging not a thing anymore (as in gaining a +2 to hit and -2 to AC) since you now can move, attack?
Can you draw a weapon as part of a "move" action?
Is there anything to reduce x-bow loading times?
Can you move as part of casting Touch spells using the spells action?


I am absolutely loving what I am hearing! Keep this up, Paizo!


6 people marked this as a favorite.

wait, the 'reaction' is class based and not, say, roleplay based? I can't really decide WHAT my reaction is but have to select from a list of reactions available for the class I play? Do I understand that correctly? (might be the language barrier, who knows?)
I'm sorry, but if that's the case, that is extremely limiting, I don't see much fun in that


Nemo_the_Lost wrote:

I was excited by this idea yesterday, but, “move once, draw your sword, and attack,” and, “move away, draw a potion, and drink it,” seem like the definition of 'action' is going to be pretty pedantic. Three actions is still better than two, and I'm still watching with interest, but this post has made me more trepidatious, rather than less.

...Trepidatious is totally a word, Paizo forum spellchecker.

I believe the site just uses whatever your browser is set to. For me, armor shows up as incorrect despite it being the common spelling in much of Paizo's text. (Armour does not)

Shadow Lodge

4 people marked this as a favorite.

I am increasingly concerned about the viability of shields in this edition. They already see little play, as getting that extra damage is usually the optimal way to play, but giving up an entire attack just to get a small bonus, especially when you already had to move to keep up with the retreating foe who s still casting at you every round, sounds tedious and like a restriction one martial characters.

Liberty's Edge

willuwontu wrote:
Is charging not a thing anymore?

Kind of. It takes all three actions to move twice your speed and attack, just like charging takes a full round action. The difference would be that you don't get the bonus to attack or penalty AC, and that you don't have to move in a straight line.

Quote:
Can you draw a weapon as part of a "move" action?

From the podcast, it looks like you can't, but the three actions means you can still move, draw a weapon, and attack, just like in PF1, it's just that movement and drawing the weapon are two separate actions instead of one.

Shadow Lodge

11 people marked this as a favorite.
Hythlodeus wrote:

wait, the 'reaction' is class based and not, say, roleplay based? I can't really decide WHAT my reaction is but have to select from a list of reactions available for the class I play? Do I understand that correctly? (might be the language barrier, who knows?)

I'm sorry, but if that's the case, that is extremely limiting, I don't see much fun in that

My concern is that you are exactly right, and it seems that way from the Podcast. Also, from the podcast, it appears only fighters get AoOs as of right now. This looks to be a very limiting factor right now.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
coxey292 wrote:
I am increasingly concerned about the viability of shields in this edition. They already see little play, as getting that extra damage is usually the optimal way to play, but giving up an entire attack just to get a small bonus, especially when you already had to move to keep up with the retreating foe who s still casting at you every round, sounds tedious and like a restriction one martial characters.

You're giving up a single attack with a -5 penalty to increase your AC by (at least) +2 against all attacks against you, and getting the option to have your shield soak one attack that hits you. That's not obviously bad, although it does suggest it's best for melee combatants who rush into groups and emphasize survivability over 1 vs. 1 DPS duels. But even in a 1 v 1 the AC plus optional DR might be better sometimes.


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Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

If I remember the podcast right

Spend 1 Action on Shield = +2 AC for the round and gain a Reaction that reduces the damage of one attack by 9

and I still get 2 attacks in that round
.
I think that is probably worth the trade of that 3rd attack at -5 to hit.

Ok my Shield is going to get battered as heck If I'm defending against an Ogre for a few rounds but the extra staying power is probably worth it.

hmmm...this also means that Parry with a weapon could be an action, maybe not as much as an AC bonus (if any, or maybe depending on the weapon) and getting that Block reaction but using your weapon instead of the shield.

Shadow Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Xenocrat wrote:
coxey292 wrote:
I am increasingly concerned about the viability of shields in this edition. They already see little play, as getting that extra damage is usually the optimal way to play, but giving up an entire attack just to get a small bonus, especially when you already had to move to keep up with the retreating foe who s still casting at you every round, sounds tedious and like a restriction one martial characters.
You're giving up a single attack with a -5 penalty to increase your AC by (at least) +2 against all attacks against you, and getting the option to have your shield soak one attack that hits you. That's not obviously bad, although it does suggest it's best for melee combatants who rush into groups and emphasize survivability over 1 vs. 1 DPS duels. But even in a 1 v 1 the AC plus optional DR might be better sometimes.

You are also giving up a huge amount of damage per hit, if damage works like PF1. A two handed build currently outpaces 1 handed by extraordinary margins. So you give up an attack, massive damage, and get +2 to AC, which is not a significant amount in comparison to the losses.

Liberty's Edge

coxey292 wrote:
I am increasingly concerned about the viability of shields in this edition. They already see little play, as getting that extra damage is usually the optimal way to play, but giving up an entire attack just to get a small bonus, especially when you already had to move to keep up with the retreating foe who s still casting at you every round, sounds tedious and like a restriction one martial characters.

One, not every enemy will be a mage, so when toe to toe with another warrior, sacrificing your -10 attack for more defense is a great option. Also, don't forget the shield block option, where raising your shield allows you to use a reaction to subtract its hardness from the damage of an attack against you. That's work against spells as well, I assume, so it's still good for chasing down mages.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

18 people marked this as a favorite.
Shisumo wrote:
Can you clarify the "increasing penalty," Jason? The podcast made a three-attack sequence sound more like 0/-5/-5 but this blog seems to be saying something closer to 0/-5/-10. Can you sort that out?

It's the latter (0/-5/-10). There may have been a mistake on that by one of the players.

(I'm very limited in my posting ability, as I'm currently at 35,000 feet)


RumpinRufus wrote:
Draw a potion, move to your downed ally, and administer it, all in the same round? F'ing finally!

I think my major issue is that I houseruled this sort of housekeeping ages ago without even realizing it. So the edition change doesn't seem like an improvement.

I absolutely agree that being able to take two "offensive" actions in the same round is an interesting change and one that I am curious to learn more about. For one thing, I don't see how this doesn't instantly make all prior work incompatible with 2nd Edition at a very basic level.

The Sideromancer wrote:
I believe the site just uses whatever your browser is set to.

So what you're telling me, Sideromancer, is that the fault lies not in my stars, but in myself? *eyebrows*

Sovereign Court

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Hythlodeus wrote:

wait, the 'reaction' is class-based and not, say, roleplay based? I can't really decide WHAT my reaction is but have to select from a list of reactions available for the class I play? Do I understand that correctly? (might be the language barrier, who knows?)

I'm sorry, but if that's the case, that is extremely limiting, I don't see much fun in that

Other than AoOs most immediate actions now are class based. Immediate action spells require you can cast spells which are a class feature. Several of the Swashbuckler deeds are immediate action and no other class has those options. So this is nothing new, it's just wrapped in a different package that is hopefully easier to open.

--School of Vrock

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

This looks promising, and I like how shields are being handled.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
coxey292 wrote:


You are also giving up a huge amount of damage per hit, if damage works like PF1. A two handed build currently outpaces 1 handed by extraordinary margins. So you give up an attack, massive damage, and get +2 to AC, which is not a significant amount in comparison to the losses.

With a -10 to your last attack(the third), a shield may be well worth it!!!


Hythlodeus wrote:

wait, the 'reaction' is class based and not, say, roleplay based? I can't really decide WHAT my reaction is but have to select from a list of reactions available for the class I play? Do I understand that correctly? (might be the language barrier, who knows?)

I'm sorry, but if that's the case, that is extremely limiting, I don't see much fun in that

Language barrier, in this instance, reaction is not referring to common English. It is a term used to define actions you can take outside of your turn in combat, think attacks of opportunity. It doesn’t mean “dude calls you green, what do you do”, it means “rogue, you invested in a class feat for this, your enemy tries to drink a potion, so you want to use your reaction to attempt to steal it out of his hands?” Hope that helps clarify.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
willuwontu wrote:
Is charging not a thing anymore (as in gaining a +2 to hit and -2 to AC) since you now can move, attack?

The fighter had a thing which let him move 2x his speed and make an attack as two of his actions, but I don't think there were bonuses or penalties. Didn't have to move straight either!

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Trastone wrote:


With a -10 to your last attack(the third), a shield may be well worth it!!!

In our sessions, it depends very much on what foes you are facing off against. Lesser minions are very "hitable" with that -10


Sayt wrote:
willuwontu wrote:
Is charging not a thing anymore (as in gaining a +2 to hit and -2 to AC) since you now can move, attack?
The fighter had a thing which let him move 2x his speed and make an attack as two of his actions, but I don't think there were bonuses or penalties. Didn't have to move straight either!

If I recall from the podcast, they still have a bonus on a charge.


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Nemo_the_Lost wrote:
For one thing, I don't see how this doesn't instantly make all prior work incompatible with 2nd Edition at a very basic level.

I think it just makes all prior work incompatible with 2nd edition, barring an effort made by the GM to convert material from one edition to the other (unlikely to be an easy process).

Starfinder for example can use Pathfinder monsters in drag and drop fashion, but they tend to be badly imbalanced unless the GM puts in some effort to do a proper conversion considering the new rules. Pathfinder 2E is going to be a similar situation.

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jason Bulmahn wrote:
It's the latter (0/-5/-10).

Ew


11 people marked this as a favorite.
Hythlodeus wrote:

wait, the 'reaction' is class based and not, say, roleplay based? I can't really decide WHAT my reaction is but have to select from a list of reactions available for the class I play? Do I understand that correctly? (might be the language barrier, who knows?)

I'm sorry, but if that's the case, that is extremely limiting, I don't see much fun in that

Honestly everything I've seen so far suggests that a LOT of material is being locked behind class gates.

And I am seriously not okay with that.

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Will there be "reaction" casting time spells?


4 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm excited for what three actions a round means for spells. Instead of a spell's power just being a function of its level you can easily make one, two, and three action spells.

Bless, for example, in PF1 is generally not castable in combat. It takes too long and provides too slight a bonus to be worthwhile. If Bless had only verbal components and was castable as 1 action it suddenly becomes a much more viable option.

The the Podcast the wizard casts a standard two action attack spell, but also manages to cast a quick minor defense cantrip with his third action.

Likewise a big devastating spell can be nerfed a little by pegging the cost at 3 actions. Instead of having 9 gradations of spell power, you have 30 (slow 1st level spells, normal 1st level spells, and quick 1st level spells for example for each of the 10 levels).

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