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... The way to trigger an AoO is by taking an action. Once you've taken that action, even if doing so ends up having no mechanical effect, you can't pretend you didn't take that action.
Ugh, that's exactly what I'm saying. If there is no mechanical effect, then I consider it not having ever really taken the action, even if it triggered something else. None of the definitions around actions include not doing or performing something, or just trying to do something. So if you end up not really doing or performing anything, it's not an action. Remembering that it triggered and AoO doesn't make you go back and relabel it as an action.
I don't have to go back and reconcile the triggers to the AoO. Nothing is making anyone do that.
That's what others are inventing, some overall checking system that says you have to go back and make sure it all could have played out in a step-by-step way. That's the invention.
I bolded the error you are making. There is nothing in the rules that allows you to consider an in-progress action as "not having ever really taken the action". Yes, there are ways to interrupt the in-progress action so that you effectively do nothing with it but it is still an in-progress action.