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Free Actions - Grab, Trip, and Redirect Attack

Rules Questions

7 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

A group I play with has had some disagreements about how the Grab and Trip monster abilities should work. Last campaign I was playing a Druid who wildshaped into stuff with Grab a lot and had a hyena animal companion with the Trip ability. I tried to use these on AoOs, but the DM ruled you can't use combat maneuvers during an AoO. Checking online I found out that the situation was more complicated and that many or most people felt that you shouldn't be able to use the Grab and Trip abilities on an AoO because they require a free action and you presumably can't perform free actions other than speaking when it is not your turn. The DM seemed to agree with this assessment, and the matter was temporarily settled.

It is some months later now, and I'm the DM for one of our current campaigns. One of the most memorable combat abilities that the DM from the above debate used against us was the rogue talent Redirect Attack. It made such an impression on me that I decided to add this ability to an enemy NPC. When I went to paste the ability into the stat sheet for the monster I noticed that Redirect Attack also requires a free action to use.

If you can't use Redirect Attack when it is not your turn it would be a fairly useless ability. I guess it would basically only trigger when you are hit by an AoO. Maybe it is unfair to call that "useless", but I can't believe that it would be the way the designers intended this ability to work, and I can't imagine it is the way most groups play it.

What do folks think, should the use of Redirect Attack be limited to when it is the Rogue's turn? If not then should the Grab and Trip monster abilities work when it is not the monster's turn?

PRD wrote:

Redirect Attack (Ex): Once per day, when a rogue with this talent is hit with a melee attack, she can redirect the attack to strike at an adjacent creature with a free action. The creature targeted must be within melee reach of the attack that hit the rogue, and the creature that made the attack against the rogue must make a new attack roll against the new target.

Grab (Ex) If a creature with this special attack hits with the indicated attack (usually a claw or bite attack), it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity...

Trip (Ex) A creature with the trip special attack can attempt to trip its opponent as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity if it hits with the specified attack. If the attempt fails, the creature is not tripped in return.

A similar case is Rock Catching that Giants have.
If you strictly apply 'Free Actions on your Turn' it's useless unless somebody happens to Ready to Attack you ON your own turn, or somehow Ranged Attacks you as an AoO. I don't believe that's the intended scope of the abilities... And I don't believe that Bestiary Trip and Grab are intended to be so limited either, although that's what RAW says.

Relatedly, there was a question of if you can draw arrows (free action taken as part of attack) off your turn, which also runs into the 'Free Actions off your Turn' issue. James Jacobs ruled you can draw as many Arrows as you want to (i.e. if you can make X ranged AoOs due to special ability, you can draw X arrows). I'm uncomfortable about that just because there is no rules-based reason to distinguish between that case, the other cases mentioned, and all other Free Actions. Personally, I had ruled that you CAN'T draw arrows off your turn (thus, you are limited to one knocked arrow which you drew at the end of your turn).

I recommend hitting the FAQ button.


I for one would love to see some official word on this one - Could a critter with trip/grab use it during an AoO? What about a fighter/monk/whatever with improved trip?

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

FWIW, there are many instances in this game where "free action" is used to mean "free action, even outside of your turn". They are not labeled as such, so you have to consider each one fairly carefully.


Except we DO have a term for "free action used outside your turn". It's called an Immediate Action.

I'm of the school of thought that Grab or Trip (as a monster ability) SHOULD be usable as part of an AoO...but RAW disagrees. It then becomes a case for Rule 0. If you like it to work that way in your game, then it works that way in your game. Just make sure the players understand that up front.

IMHO, the text for Redirect Attack should be errata-ed to say "as an immediate action", because it very clearly would only work (by RAW) if you readied an action to use it. And that would make it a completely useless ability.

indivar wrote:
What about a fighter/monk/whatever with improved trip?

No. Improved Trip and Improved Grapple are NOT the same as the Monster Abilities Trip and Grab. With the Improved X Feats, you have to make a Combat Maneuver Check IN PLACE OF an attack. The Monster Abilities happen IF an attack hits. There's a distinct difference.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber immediate action is a swift action used outside your turn. Those are limited to once a round. Free actions aren't.

Exactly Cheapy much like the hotly debated free action of drawing an arrow with regards to snapshot(FAQ states arrows can be drawn outof turn) lack of text for out of turn use isn't the same as text saying you can't use it out of turn.


I realize you can only use a single immediate or swift action once per round. The point is, a free action, no matter how many you use, is limited to YOUR TURN. Drawing arrows out of turn has been FAQ-ed to show it's an exception to the free action rule.

And, actually, lack of text IS the same as text saying you can't do something. If the RAW doesn't explicitly state you can do something, you can't do it. Period. Therefore, when RAW says free actions can only be taken on your turn, that means ALL free actions can ONLY BE TAKEN ON YOUR TURN. When there's an exception to that rule, it will be explicitly stated in either the rules, errata, or the FAQ.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Yes, exactly. RAW free actions can only be taken on your turn, except for talking (which, amusingly creates a loop hole where you can do other free actions when using the talk-free action, since you can take free actions on other turns).

But a not-insignificant number of contributors used "free action" in the sense that it can be used out of turn, which is incorrect.

So for some abilities you need to think a bit.


Yes, many abilities require some thought. However, when a question is presented for a ruling per RAW, I feel obliged to give it as such. Just because many contributors misused the term "free action" doesn't change the rules.

As I mentioned in my first reply, I believe Trip and Grab SHOULD be usable during an AoO. I houserule them that way in my games, and I encourage every other GM to do so as well. But it's a houserule, no matter how you slice it.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Fair enough. I just feel obliged to let people know the intention if it differs from the written word.

Two things i want to point out.

1. Free actions take even less effort than Immediate actions.

2. There isn't a general rule banning all free actions from out of turn. There is a specific rule that allows one of the only 4 listed to be used out of turn.


talonhawke wrote:
2. There isn't a general rule banning all free actions from out of turn. There is a specific rule that allows one of the only 4 listed to be used out of turn.

Which, by extension, means it's the ONLY free action allowed to be used out of turn. Unless an official source changes that, or adds to it, the RAW say you can only use free actions on your turn. As a general rule, you can only take actions on your turn...ANY actions. Anything you do out of turn is an exception to the rule that you take actions on your turn, such as talking, drawing any number of arrows, Attacks of Opportunity, immediate actions, etc.

As far as RAW vs. RAI, that's a long and tedious argument that will never have satisfactory results for anyone. But, that's the beauty of RPGs in general and PF can use the rules you like, modify the ones you think are decent, and ignore the ones you hate. I will NEVER tell you you're doing something "wrong" if playing with that "something" keeps the game enjoyable for you and your gaming friends. On the Rules Questions Messageboard, though, RAW is king. You have to know what the rules actually say to figure out how to modify them to your liking.

Very true which means I need to work on a list of abilities that need to be posted so the devs can look over them and straiten out which ones can and cannot be used out of turn.


Talonhawke wrote:
Very true which means I need to work on a list of abilities that need to be posted so the devs can look over them and straiten out which ones can and cannot be used out of turn.

I can get behind that wholeheartedly!!!

This seems like a pretty good discussion so far. Clearly you shouldn't be able to take every free action you might want when it isn't your turn since otherwise you could 5 foot step out of range as a free action while you're being attacked. When some special ability like Redirect Attack triggers an action it seems to me like you should be able to take that action even if it isn't your turn though, almost like an AoO. I guess that there's no such thing as "triggered actions" in the rules though.

I'll go ahead and add the Rock Catching rules Quandary mentioned:

PRD wrote:
Rock Catching (Ex) The creature (which must be of at least Large size) can catch Small, Medium, or Large rocks (or projectiles of similar shape). Once per round, a creature that would normally be hit by a rock can make a Reflex save to catch it as a free action. The DC is 15 for a Small rock, 20 for a Medium one, and 25 for a Large one. (If the projectile provides a magical bonus on attack rolls, the DC increases by that amount.) The creature must be aware of the attack in order to make a rock catching attempt.

That's a weirder but slightly different case in some ways since making a saving throw isn't typically an action and is certainly something you can usually do even while it isn't your turn. If you just deleted all of the bolded text I think these abilities might be less controversial. Adding that "This doesn't count as an action" might be more clear though. I notice that Deflect Arrows has some language like that.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm thinking that, even by RAW, the trip or grab ought to be allowed. It isn't that free actions are specifically only permitted on your turn, but rather, that free actions are performed as a part of some other action:

prd wrote wrote:

Free Action: Free actions consume a very small amount of time and effort. You can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally. However, there are reasonable limits on what you can really do for free, as decided by the GM.

I think that this suggests that free actions can be taken whenever a character is permitted to take an action. This might occur on their turn, but might also occur in response to an AoO. An analogue of this situation might be the drawing of a weapon during the course of a move action.

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